MsLaurel's Laconic Lounge

Tarot readers are people too. . . .
Has it really been since May 2008 that I have blogged on this site?  In the interim, I have nursed a dying cat, gone back to college (thank goodness for Stafford loans), signed about 3,000 e-mail petitions, and my other blogs (where I am not censored) have suffered neglect as well.

Just now, it is difficult to think of a topic worth writing-about, where I won't have to link to an outside source that I am quoting.  (I see that tempting link-creator still on my tool-bar.)  Even so, I would like to wave a big "hello " to anyone who happens to check this blog.  Like The Terminator, "I'll be back." 

Question for today:  When you think about the nature and the needs of human-beings, how "normal" is it for human needs to find fulfillment within our society?  Has "normal" social interaction become antagonistic to the needs of human beings?  Has this society become antagonistic to the needs and the survival of human-beings?  Are friendships and dating affected?  If so, what are the root beliefs, influences or causes that promote the abnormal "norm"?

(Until I can get a new ephemeris and get back on astrology, this is the best that I can do to keep you entertained --LOL!)  Live without fear.
Put It All Together:

A man in Southern California owns a car that is powered by solar energy. That photovoltaic system, installed on the roof of his garage, also powers his home and heats his hot water. Thus, he has no utility bills. If every home came with a photovoltaic system as standard equipment (to run the car and house on solar energy), houses would be off-the-grid.

Whole Foods in Providence, RI is powered by solar energy. If they can do that in New England, they can do that anywhere. Every commercial building could be powered by a photovoltaic system, as standard equipment.

Every car, house and commercial building in India and China also could be powered by a photovoltaic system. Sunlight is everywhere. It is free. What is not to like about that?

Why has this concept taken 30 years to emerge? Somebody wants to sell us the energy that we use. Somebody wants to sell us the fuel that we put into our cars. Texas Oil has been in bed with Detroit for ever.

I'm not sure what is stopping China and India; however, the money-saving impact of clean energy on their national health-care systems alone seems a huge incentive to take advantage of free sunlight and go photovoltaic (not to mention using wind and wave power).

After human energy needs have been met via alternative sources, using less energy, wasting less of what we make and use, and gradually down-sizing populations, there is that other energy need: Food.

Ten pounds of grain are required to make one pound of beef. It takes me one month to consume 10 pounds of beans and rice, my dietary staple, yet someone else might eat one pound of beef in one day.

Is the meat habit really worth the misery, the cruelty, the pollution, the clear-cutting of rain-forests and the squandering of months' and years' worth of grain to support herds instead of people?
The concept of "desire" and possessiveness aka "attachment" as being the source of suffering is a valid one in terms of status symbols, conspicuous consumption, materialistic competitiveness, mass marketing, general waste and the idea that they gave us in high school that a person's "thirst" for "goods and services" is never slaked.

In an idyllic world, one could say "I need a pair of shoes," and the shoemaker would say "Here you go." No monetary exchange is necessary, because everything is given freely --food, shelter, clothing, whatever. Simply express your need.

There is no need for attachment when all is given freely to everyone. The shoemaker makes shoes, because he enjoys it --not because he needs money for food. Making shoes is his Dharma.

You don't need to be Imelda Marcos and hoard a thousand pairs of shoes: You have access to shoes any time you want. There's no need for a closet full of shoes. When you need a pair, they're down the street.

That's just an analogy.

In the post-industrial-age world, we have to sell our time to buy the things we need to keep on living, so we can continue to sell our time in order to buy more things. That is a form of human suffering. How do we relieve our suffering? We buy more things.

Then, of course, the things we buy are made in sweat-shops that produce more human suffering than goods. The people who provide our services have to be underpaid so the stockholders can collect their dividends.

We're so used to it that we don't think about it, and we don't know that we are suffering and perpetuating suffering.

As for myself, I actually have all of the material things that I will ever need until the end of my life. It is only a matter of replacing something when used-up or worn-out. (Except books --my collection of books continues to grow, even though the important answers come from within, anyway.)

Even so, one has to keep the business growing, because rent and utilities go up every year, and when I retire --I'm on my own...
It's always something.

In his Introduction to The Four Noble Truths, the Dalai Lama (exiled religious leader of Tibet, which is NOT supposed to be a part of China) writes:

"I would like to further emphasize that when I say all religions have great potential, I am not just being polite or diplomatic. Whether we like it or not, the entire human race cannot be Buddhist, that is quite clear.

"Similarly, the whole of humanity cannot be Christian or Muslim, either. Even in India during the Buddha's time, the entire population did not turn to Buddhism. This is just a fact.

"Furthermore, I have not just read books about other religions but I have met genuine practitioners of other traditions. We have talked about deep, spiritual experiences, in particular the experience of loving kindness. I have noticed a genuine and very forceful loving kindness in their minds. My conclusion is therefore that these religions have the potential to develop a good heart."

What is wrong with the health care industry is the word “industry.” For obvious reasons, prevention and treatment of illness should not be motivated by profit: It is more profitable to relieve symptoms and the side-effects caused by the symptom-relievers, than it is to outright cure something once-and-for-all. Prevention of illness prevents profits. Period.

Science and medicine ought to be non-profit endeavors for the benefit of society. That doesn't mean that the scientists and health-care workers shouldn't be paid generously. What it means it that hospitals, medical supply and pharmaceutical companies won't be in business for the share-holders. No more pressuring the FDA to let them sell us drugs that might kill us, instead of producing adequate quantities of less-profitable flu vaccine, or finding the cure for HIV. No more filthy hospitals inadvertently spreading deadly, mutant “C – diff.”

Medicine ought to be socialized, to the extent that a person should not need private health insurance (another for-profit industry). Assuming that hospitals and HMOs are run as non-profit organizations and supplied by non-profit organizations, paying for health-services rendered could be arranged as a reasonable payment-plan, Medicare or Medicaid.

I would rather be paying for something that I actually had received, at the wholesale cost of services and materials, than be making ever-increasing, interminable payments against a future illness that might never happen –-to an insurance company that might not cover me completely anyway, or might sue me if I get a damages award after an accident (as if I hadn't prepaid them for my coverage.)

(Sun and Venus in Taurus, trine Jupiter in Capricorn, trine Saturn in Virgo)

Ordinarily, Venus and Sun in Taurus would go out and spend their "stimulus checks" on a hedonistic weekend for two --but not this time: Saturn-in-Virgo advises them to pay-down the credit cards, and Jupiter-in-Capricorn advises them to invest.

If Uranus-in-Pisces can get Capricorn-in-Virgo to shut up, there may be a chance of a compromise between investing and spending on something nice.

(Uranus in Pisces)

Uranus in Pisces poses an opportunity to rethink and revise our attitude toward dogma --in favor of empathy and compassion for all, not just "our kind."

Uranus also agitates, and the agitators have caused religious power-struggles (think church-and-state, Hammas VS Israel, Sunnis VS Shiites). Now that Pluto (in Capricorn) is retrograde, religious power-struggles should relax temporarily, until Pluto comes out of retrograde around September 9. Karmic, interpersonal power-struggles should subide also. (Don't think that the two sides aren't ploting.)

Uranus will give us a rest while retrograde between June 28 and November 27, a good summer for peace-talks.

(Mars in Cancer trine Uranus in Pisces)

Some may itching to move, relocate, redecorate or just get out of the house more. Others may find that circumstances (like foreclosure) have uprooted them.

(Neptune in Aquarius trine Mercury in Gemini)

Neptune has been hanging out-in Aquarius since for ever, and that is part of the reason why religion has sought-out or found itself in the media in recent years (think Reverend Wright, Catholic Church scandals, intelligent design controversy).

Now that Mercury has entered its natural position in Gemini, they're going to have their hands full getting Reverend Wright to put a sock in it, especially when the Moon is passing through a fire sign or an air sign, but the Reverend may begin to run out of gas as Mercury begins to slow, after May 18th (or the media may begin to lose interest in him).

When Neptune goes retrograde on May 24, followed by Mercury in retrograde on May 27, I would expect to encounter a lot less religious phenomena --including Reverend Wright-- in the media.
I just found this and had to share:
From Mother Jones magazine:

A Feminist Hears a Who

By Deborah Dickerson

"I was aghast to hear my four year old daughter playing with her dolls the other day. The dolls are not the problem; the story line was. Tuning in and out while she nattered on, I suddenly realized the dialogue went something like this:

"First Princess: 'Oh no! The evil witch is coming. We need Prince Sean!' (Sean is the boy she's all but stalking at preschool).

"Second Princess: 'Oh! She'll cut our guts out. Where are the boys? We need boys.'

"FP: 'Girls aren't strongly brave. We shall die! Who will save us? Oh! It's the prince. He'll save us.'

"All in a high-pitched and annoying ditzy soprano. It got so much worse than this, I had to sit her down for a chat. Where on earth was she getting this stuff?

"I pummel her and her 7-year-old brother with feminist analysis of every medium they encounter, from billboards to story books to cereal boxes. I'm a single mom with a freelance career; they watch me struggle and kick ass everyday, all without help from a 'prince.' Yet, my daughter argues furiously with me that only boys are strong and brave and tough. She was actually offended when I called her a tough cookie after she'd done something cool. 'I'm not tough, Mom! I'm a girl.' Yeah, and if I'm very lucky, someday I'll get to wipe the sweat from your brow as you push out a fetus as big as you were. Then we'll talk about tough.

"I know she's just trying to make sense of all the conflicting messages the world is lobbing at her, but overhearing her made me see just how naive I'd been to think my unrelenting feminist harangues would shield her from the world's low expectations of what she can do. Make her doubt herself, no matter what her actual accomplishments. Her four-year-old brain is telling her that she has to choose between feminity and strength. I know. She'll work it out over time. But, boy, was I freaked.

"I fight bigotry for a living; surely my kids would be immune to it, right? The light came on when I took them to the movies this weekend.

"God help me: it was 'Horton Hears a Who,' reimagined as misogyny. NPR's Peter Sagal said it best:

'In a new subplot added by the filmmakers, the mayor of Whoville has 96 daughters. He has one son. Guess who gets all his attention? Guess who saves the day? Go ahead, think about it, I'll wait....
'Here is a father with 96 daughters—96 amazing, beautiful, unpredictable, mysterious, distinct, glorious human beings—but gosh, what in the world is he going to care about? I know, let's give him a moody silent uninteresting offspring, but this one's got a Y chromosome...that'll be boffo box office!
'And there's this—not only does the movie end with father and son embracing, while the 96 daughters are, I guess, playing in a well, somewhere, but the son earns his father's love by saving the world. Boys get to save the world, and girls get to stand there and say, I knew you could do it. How did they know he could do it? Maybe because they watched every other movie ever made?'

"So where is my daughter learning to accept that she's weak, helpless, and second best? Everywhere."

First of all, I consider myself (for reasons that I won't delve into here) a progressive democrat. Having said that, let someone try to tell me that the press and Americans-in-general have too much freedom-of-speech and/or expression and that The Constitution needs to be changed accordingly –and just watch how conservative I get: The transformation will blow back your hair: Don't you even think about changing The Constitution to curtail freedom of speech! (Now, if you want to expand freedom-of-speech, I will at least listen. Perhaps that is my progressive showing.)

Another thing that brings out the conservative in me is this new term that I learned the other day: “Subrogation.” (Twenty years ago, you didn't hear about health-care-insurers practicing “Subrogation,” the the legal doctrine of substituting one creditor for another. )

Subrogation, applied to health-insurance contracts, means that Wal-Mart Health Insurance has the right to sue a brain-damaged quadriplegic for every penny of insurance benefits paid-out after the accident that caused the damage and paralysis –BECAUSE that quadriplegic happened to receive a damages settlement from elsewhere. It takes a judge to say “No, you can have only the full contents of her bank-account.” (See previous post, with article as reported by CNN.)

To my horror, a second article (from the Associated Press, see second previous post) revealed to me that Wal-Mart insurance is not the only health insurance company that makes use of “Subrogation.” A law-professor quoted in the AP article, called it “Free money. They [health insurance companies] want the free money.”

Pause for review: Health insurance premiums are paid. The money is then invested. (Think millions gathering interest in a diversified portfolio.) Many more people stay well and whole than file claims. When Jane Smith receives benefits, because she had to go to the hospital when that Semi crushed her car, this is a loss to the insurance company. Every company writes-off its losses against its profits on “IRS Schedule C, Profit and Loss,” so less taxes are paid.

Therefore, the insurance company collects: the premiums, the interest, the interest on the interest on the interest on the interest –AND they get a tax-write-off when they lose some. What more do they want? They want Jane Smith's settlement from the trucking-company that made her a brain-damaged quadriplegic, so they can recoup every penny of loss that they wrote-off on their taxes last year. Hello? HELLO?

(What if both insurers, the plaintiff's health-insurance and the defendant's insurance, have the same underwriters, are owned by the same umbrella-corporation? Could it happen?)

What this means to Jane Smith is that she now has little or no compensation left for her loss: Jane has lost quality-of-life, ability to support herself, ability to care for herself --ability to think, eat and pee under her own control. If her settlement-after-legal-fees was enough to support her on the interest, it may not be now. There may not be anything left of it now. Any assets that Jane Smith may have must be sold and spent, before Medicaid will help. (Medicaid is funded by our taxes, by us. We pay in the end.)

[If Jane (when she was healthy) had bought her own continuing-care insurance, that followed her from job to job, she would not now need to sell her house and go on Medicaid. After the accident is too late. Few people know about this insurance or can afford to do anything if they know.]

Mit Romney's solution to the uninsured was a form of mandatory, state-subsidized health insurance. My understanding of it was that Massachusetts residents were “free” to pick a provider –or to pay a fine at tax-time. This is The State mandating that the individual who intends to live in Massachusetts must carry health-insurance. People have compared it to carrying car-insurance.

Does your car insurance sue you for the money that it paid to you after your car was totaled? Do they want their money back when you get a settlement from somewhere else? (Maybe now they're getting ideas about “Subrogation” and will go after the maimed right along with the health-care-insurers. Maybe both insurance companies will be owned by the same investors.)

My point is that The State wants to force individuals to enter into these obviously shady, for-profit, private health-insurance contracts (unless The State outlaws “Subrogation”).

My opinion is: If The State is going to mandate it, The State should control it. If the health-insurance companies are going to grab-back what they paid and leave the mess to Medicaid, then: It should be “State of Massachusetts Health Insurance,” or “United States of America Health Insurance,” from the get-go. (My progressive is showing.)

Not all health insurance companies practice “Subrogation,” but you can bet that the affordable ones will.  Economically-challenged individuals, who are forced to sign-or-be-fined, won't be able to pick-and-choose, even if they bother to read the fine print.

In effect, The State is helping the health insurance companies to bilk “the little people” (just like Medicare “drug-reform” turned out to be welfare for the Pharmaceutical Industry). The mantra is “Insure everyone, and the cost of medical care will be lower for everyone.” (Now that I think of it, I have never come across an estimate as to how much lower. A $50 discount on an appendectomy is nice, but is it relevant?)

Indeed, the for-profit hospitals, medical-supply and pharmaceutical companies will get paid. They will continue to raise prices as high as they can. Their stock-holders will continue to prosper on the misfortunes of others.

Wal-Mart Drops Injured Worker Claim
AP NewsBreak: Wal-Mart Drops $400,000 Reimbursement Claim Against Injured Former Worker
April 01, 2008: 09:43 PM EST

"NEW YORK (Associated Press) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is dropping a controversial effort to collect over $400,000 in health care reimbursement from a former employee who is confined to a southeast Missouri nursing home since she suffered brain damage in a traffic accident.

"The world's largest retailer said Tuesday in a letter to the family of Deborah Shank it will not seek to collect money the Shanks won in an injury lawsuit against a trucking company for the accident."

"Wal-Mart has been roundly criticized in newspaper editorials, on cable news shows and by its union foes for its claim to the funds, which it made in a lawsuit upheld by a federal appeals court.

"Insurance experts say it is increasingly common for health plans to seek reimbursement for the medical expenses they paid for someone's treatment if the person also collects damages in an injury suit.

"The practice, called 'subrogation,' has increased since a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that eased it."

"The case put a spotlight on the growing use of reimbursement claims by health plans, experts say.

"Roger Baron, professor of law at the University of South Dakota and a specialist in health-plan law, said health plans have become 'very aggressive' about subrogation since the 2006 Supreme Court decision.

"'It's free money. They want the free money,' Baron said.

"Lynn Dudley, vice president for policy at the American Benefits Council in Washington D.C., said the negative publicity around the case was beginning to draw the attention of lawmakers who might want legislation to stop or limit subrogation.

"'Capitol Hill is paying attention,' Dudley said.

"Baron said Wal-Mart's size _ it is the nation's largest nongovernment employer, with over 1.3 million workers _ means that its willingness to compromise in an individual case may have a wider impact on reimbursement practices by other health plans.

"'I'm so pleased to see an element of reason because so much of this subrogation has been about just blindly going after the money,' Baron said."

If I clip a fingernail and hold it in my hand, I am holding a piece of matter. This piece of matter is made of molecules, the molecules are made of energy, and the energy is made of light –as particles and waves. So what is it that exists in-between the particles and waves of light, preventing them from dispersing, holding them in the pattern that is my clipped fingernail? That would be consciousness.

The Universe, then, is consciousness, ordering its light-particles into energy that coalesces into matter that becomes a planet or a grain of sand, an animal, a blade of grass or a tree. (Study question: Does the Universe care when you hurt a tree?)

Humans have referred to this consciousness as “Gaia, Tiamat, Nut, Ishtar, Asherah, Shakti, Danu, Freya,” and hundreds of other names. Consciousness by another name remains the same Universal Consciousness, sometimes referred-to as the “collective unconscious,” because It is the part of us that we humans (frontal-lobe- fixated creatures that we are) refer-to as our “unconscious.”

When we meditate, dream, have a premonition, become hypnotized or attempt to “divine” information from stones, sticks, ink-blots, Tarot cards, or the flight patterns of birds –-we are contacting our “unconscious,” that is a small component within the Universal Consciousness.

Now for a weak metaphor: A single ivy plant grows to cover an entire wall, yet it knows where its roots are, and it feels every tendril and leaf of itself. Now imagine that ivy going 3-Dimensional, to create an entire universe! I am one bud on one stem on one branch of that ivy. I cannot feel my neighbor-bud, except “through the vine,” but the ivy plant feels ALL of us.

Knowing this, I have two choices:

I can choose to forget about it. The Default System will be in-charge: The Universe will go on ordering its light, energy and matter into patterns; therefore, my unconscious will go on, ordering my light, energy and matter into patterns –and I will get what I get: If my unconscious programming is less than optimum, if I choose not to seek wisdom, then my karma and any unconscious life-lesson-contracts will find me (no matter where I go, there they'll be) and I will likely call it “bad luck” or “fate” when I find life hard to take.

A caterpillar may decide to lunch on a leaf of ivy –-that happens to be me.

[Note: This is no excuse for refusing aid and compassion to others obviously in the grips of “bad luck, fate,” or “unbearable life-lessons,” for compassion and right-action are lessons that all humans must learn. (Study question: Once individuals have internalized compassion and have evolved a social structure aligned with compassion and aid for all who desire it –will there be much need for it?)]

My alternate choice is to get in-touch with my unconscious via meditation, hypnosis, or dreaming. I can ask the Universal Consciousness to help heal my unconscious of faulty programming. (The unconscious never sleeps; it records every word that I say and hear, including TV commercials, sad songs on the radio and others' arguments that I “didn't hear,” because my frontal-lobe was paying attention to something else.) I can use my frontal-lobe to limit the amount of Negative Random Input (NRI) while maximizing the Intentionally Constructive Input (ICI) to which I expose my five senses and, therefore, my highly-absorbent unconscious.

Avoidance of NRI, maximization of ICI, and contact with the Universal Consciousness, is the basic drive behind the hermits, convents, monasteries, ashrams, etc. of the world. The challenge for the rest of us is to create a life of health, harmony, beauty and wisdom while living IN the world. For that, we need our unconscious to be aligned with absorbing ICI while creating harmony, health and beauty whenever possible –-and as free of NRI as possible.

If I try, I will succeed --in baby steps: My unconscious may direct my frontal lobe to notice and open-up to new information and new ways to improve my physical strength and health. (They say hypnosis can cure warts.) My emotional outlook may change so slowly that I won't notice it until years later.

How long does it take an ivy plant to cover a wall?

Eventually, my unconscious will stop holding-together this pattern of light, energy and matter that is my body. At that time, my frontal-lobe will cease to function, and my “unconscious” will return to the “collective unconscious” (Universal Consciousness, so-named, because my frontal-lobe lays claim to the status of “consciousness”) perhaps to begin ordering light, energy and matter into a new pattern for me to inhabit.

Rather than random or chaotic, I find life and the Universe to be organic.

Get out your compass and find the SW sector of your home.  This is the relationship direction of the compass.  (You may also do this in your personal relationship sector, according to your kua number, if you know it.) 

Fill an attractive bowl or tray with 9 fresh garlic bulbs, 3 fresh ginger roots, and 9 fresh habaniero peppers.

Place the bowl or tray on a table, under a lamp with a red shade.
Leave the lamp on for at least 8 hours per day (can be compact fluorescent).
Give this experiment at lest one month to stimulate your romance chi.

When the habaniero peppers dry out, add 9 more.

(Someone in my other blog mentioned the number nine, so I thought I'd post this here, too.)

The number nine is the number of attainment.

Major Arcana #9 of the Tarot is The Hermit and relates to the number nine and the ninth house of the zodiac, which is ruled by Jupiter.

Jupiter and the ninth house represent the realm of higher education, inner exploration and expansion, attainment of wisdom, and also long-distance travel.

The Hermit carries a light that he shines before him, "shedding light on the subject," looking for the answers, and sharing his attained wisdom.

Dpending upon the context, The Hermit/#9 can symbolize a need to be alone to look within for answers, a person at a distance, a teacher, or the act of teaching/illuminating, or an inner/outer journey of some length.

Nine is a mystical number; because the sum of the digits of its products = 9:
9x2 = 18 and 8+1 = 9.
9x3 = 27 and 2+7 = 9.

Now that the yearly flying stars have changed, cures for the yearly afflictions (Three Killings, Five Yellow, Tai Sui/Grand Duke, and Broken Year) must be repositioned within the home or office.

Grand Duke aka Tai Sui:

The Grand Duke / Tai Sui, in 2008, occupies the North (actually only 7 degrees to the left and right of due North on your compass). This is because 2008 is the year of the Rat, and Rat's home direction is due North. This makes a good year for those born in Rat years; however, even they must avoid facing North while sleeping, sitting, standing, working or eating: Facing the Tai Sui is inauspicious; however, keeping the Tai Sui to one's back brings support and success.

Broken Year:

Those born in Horse years, the sign opposite the Rat, are said to be automatically facing the Tai Sui/Grand Duke in 2008; therefore, they have the “Broken Year” affliction. To mitigate this situation, a pendant featuring the Pi Yao or the Pi Xi or the 8-sided Taoist Ba Gua may be worn. Also, 2 Pi Yao and/or the image of a rat may be placed in the area of the home or office that is due South (Horse's home direction), 7 degrees to the right or left of due South.

The 8-sided Taoist Ba-Gua pendant draws the luck of the 8 directions to the wearer (but no large Ba-Guas are to be used indoors, as they work differently). The Pi Xi, Pi Yao and '08 Rat will mollify the Tai Sui and bring it's beneficial energy to the afflicted sector.

Yearly Five Yellow Star:

The Five Yellow Star will reside in the South sector for the entire year. Cure with a good-sized, metal wind chime featuring hollow tubes. Reinforce with a traditional Chinese sword-of-coins, if you like. Any metal objects placed here also will exhaust the 5-Yellow: Singing-bowls, metal bells, brass horses, brass lamps and candelabra, metal chairs and tables, a big bowl of loose change, a stack of pots and pans --are a few examples.

Provided that this is not the bedroom of a monogamous couple, a vase of fresh flowers or some live, potted plants (no thorns or cacti) can be kept in the South to control the 5-Yellow.

The Three Killings:

Also in the South this year is the affliction known as Three Killings. One avoids the Three Killings by never turning one's back to them. This year, one should not turn one's back to the South while sleeping, sitting, standing, working or eating. Also, place 3 Chi Lin in your South sector, along with a simple diagram called the “Ho Tu Grid.” (You can Google it, and copy the grid on a post-it note.)

This year, the yearly afflictions seem to be affecting the South simultaneously. It is important to keep the five Chinese elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood) balanced here: South naturally contains fire energy, and the 5-yellow brings in earth. Metal used to cure the 5-yellow brings in metal energy. Wood furniture, the color green and live plants bring in wood energy. Dark blues, black or a fountain can be used to bring in water energy (although fountains and aquariums must be kept out of bedrooms to avoid financial misfortune).

If a person has a kitchen or bathroom in the South, the afflictions get flushed or drained away (along with the rest of the flying-stars in the South, unfortunately). A closed closet, cupboard or cabinet will symbolically imprison the afflictions.

Chinese New Year begins February 7th; that's New Year's Day for 2008, year of the Rat.

For luck in the New Year, the Chinese observe certain customs. Here are some of them:

On January 30th of this year (the 23rd day of the 12th month of the Chinese year), incense, cake, sweets, fruit, lian kuo*, and noodles and are laid out in the kitchen; because the kitchen-god ascends to heaven on that day, to report on the doings of the family. (It is thought that a kitchen-god with plenty of sweets in his mouth will have sweet things to say.)

On January 31st (the 24th day of the 12th month of the Chinese year), the same offerings are refreshed for the rest of the household gods, also in the kitchen, for the same reason.

On February 1st, now that the household-gods have left on their journey to heaven, the new year's cleaning can begin. (It is inauspicious to begin the cleaning before this time. Get someone to help you if your place is too big to get it all done before New Year's Eve, February 6th, because tired women are inauspicious on New Year's Eve!) The purpose of the cleaning is to revitalize the Chi within the home:

Closets and cupboards must be sorted and organized. Rooms must be scrubbed and vacuumed. The final step is the symbolic sweeping of all the floors with a broom that is then hidden and not used until after New Year's Day (Feb 7th) has passed. (Otherwise the luck is swept away.) Also inauspicious to use on New Year's Day are knives and scissors (they will sever the luck), so those get put away too.

New clothes, shoes, and Feng Shui items are bought during this time, and the kitchen is stocked –especially with sweets.

On February 6th, New Year's Eve (this year), 4 auspicious foods are prepared: Garlic (the Chinese word also means income), Onions (meaning wisdom), and cellery (meaning productivity) are bought and tied together. These vegetables should have some roots on them, symbolizing beginnings.

Salted fish are fried golden and tied together. Everything is then placed into the rice-jar. (With fish involved, I would suggest placing the rice-jar in the frige.) These items are then used to cook the New Year's Day Meal, Feb. 7th.

Getting back to Feb 6th, New Year's Eve: At 11:AM, three candles are lighted for the 3 Star-Gods (Fu Lu and Sau), to carry their energy into the New Year.

A home-cooked meal must be prepared for the household (and the ancestors who will be present in spirit). At dinner, the women must wear fine clothing and jewelery –the more jewelry, the more auspicious. (As stated previously, the women should not appear tired.) Everyone present must appear cheerful and optimistic.

At midnight, all lights are turned on (for a sudden surge of yang energy), all doors are opened to let in the luck of the New Year, and the children greet their parents with love and respect.

On New Year's Day, it is inauspicious to wish anyone a happy new year while they are in their bedroom.

(*I am still looking for a recipe for lian kuo.)

Time to switch to something easy –like The Infamous Stimulus Package.

It smells like another Bush handout –remember the first year he held office? This time, he's bribing the public to like the GOP just a little better.

If the economy is in trouble, then why wait for people to file income taxes? There are plenty of homeless people, who do not file income taxes, who need the food and shelter that money can buy in this economy –right now, in freezing January.

Homeless shelters are not-for-profit organizations that take donated money and spend it on food and supplies to care for homeless people. Perfect. Let's create jobs to establish and maintain shelters for homeless veterans, homeless children, homeless families, homeless mental patients, homeless unemployed, homeless-and-employed, and the homeless disabled.

While he's at it, His Relevancy can donate money to animal shelters (where it will be spent on food and supplies), or schools –like the ones down South where the sewage is backing up-- where it will be spent on books and repairs.

How about those food-stamps he wanted to cut a few years ago? Food stamps are spent on food. Mail them to every person registered with any kind of government assistance program. Distribute them at homeless shelters.

Oh, here's an idea:

What about not-for-profit government mortgages, modeled on the non-profit NACA (which offers only a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage @ 5%), for those who pay their rent on time but have not much savings (and for those who are in trouble with their sub-prime mortgages).

Mortgage interest could then fund any number of things: Social Security, schools, infrastructural repairs, more mortgages –for years to come, thus lengthening the economic stimulus.

For that matter, create jobs to repair the infrastructure and schools, and to research, develop, construct and maintain technology that would make most homes and buildings mostly energy-self-sustaining.

(Well, the utilities stock-holders wouldn't like that one much.)
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