Alternate title: CRUSHING THE OLIVE

My wife had a VERY BAD DAY at work and wanted to go to the Olive Garden for a relaxing dinner. Only it turned out badly.
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As you may know, the Olive Garden is a theme restaurant with identical menus and items of Italian style cuisine in every decent sized shopping district of the continental USA. Go there any mealtime and you are greeted with long lines because the food is reasonably good and usually done with excellent service. We have been going to Olive Garden for 20 years and know what to expect.

Correction: we thought we knew what to expect.

Now it seems that they are dropping their "old menu" in favor of a more "real Italian" menu. I hate to say it but this ain't fresh olives they are working with. They are toying with a tried and true system supposedly to make it better for the customers. They have managed to eliminate the cataloni and ravoli from the selection. We are really hacked about this because those were our favorite items.

The suggested replacement was some kind of cheese stuffed shells with roast beef and red-wine gravy. It tasted just like roast beef and gravy with cheese shells. When you are looking for pasta in the USA you aren't usually thinking of gravy-well we aren't. My point is I don't go to Olive Garden for "genuine" Italian cuisine. I go there for "Americanized cuisine that I like" and know. If I want "genuine" Italian I seek out a family restaurant not a chain! Only the people who think "Red Lobster" is a good place to get fish think that the OG is a "real" Italian restaurant (they are owned by the same parent company).

Then it hit me: the Breadsticks! The OG management aren't really interested in genuine Italian! If they were the first thing they would do is quit buying those tubes of bread with fake butter-garlic smeared on them and start serving fresh made loaves with olive oil and freshly crushed pepper to dip in! They are only interested in eliminating items off the menu that used to be $8-9 per plate and replace them with $11-14 items. Doing "real" Italian bread cost big bucks, especially in olive oil, which is suspiciously absent from their tables.

It's all about the money. Apparently Hospitaliano is a thing of the past, I look for this chain to wither on the vine and join other good restaurants in the graveyard of "fixed what wasn't broken" ideas.



Here is an old-style rant for you...

Let's say your name is Xxxxxx and you put you and your spouse's financial information on Lending Tree including both social security numbers and birth dates.

The loan officer who gets your information does what he gets paid to do: call you to confirm the information and make the offer. Only, you go on vacation after applying. For 5 days straight at slightly different times of the day you get a similar message "...regarding Lending Tree, please call..." from this guy. He is trying to catch you at home because you asked him to. When you get back from vacation you are annoyed at him for the messages.

How stupid are you, Xxxxxx?

First, you put your name and phone number and asked to be called. He did as he was told to by you. Yet you are frustrated and hang up on him? Is it really smart to hang up on a guy who is carrying your personal information in this day and age? Maybe he has a blog and will post all your important details for the whole world to steal your identities? (Which I would never ever do but there are some individuals who would!)

To vent, you call his boss. His boss says "sorry about your luck" and doesn't help. As soon as you get off the phone, that Loan Officer is patted on the back for doing his job by the boss and held up as the example to follow to the whole office. Is that really the outcome you wanted when you called his boss?

I know I feel better getting this off my chest.


No More FORDS for Tennessee


If you are wondering what could fuel such aversion to a family name look no further than the history of the Ford clan. I cannot say that Junior is actually guilty of any wrong doing in any way, shape, or form. However I can assert that the sins of the father truly do pass through family lineage and there are some serious issues with his family.

The core 20% democrats who'd vote for Ford's dog say the MAN is just out to get him. I say where there is smoke or an FBI warrant you had better expect some fire. No, there aren't any warrants for Junior yet, just for all of the fathers and uncles that he was raised by.

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Ironically, some Black publications are adamantly opposed to Ford too. They say his positions are too
  • conservative.
  • Is Junior a Liberal in conservative guise? Maybe there is such a thing as a new democrat but I smell a lot of pandering to the conservative voters of Tennessee.

    Guilt by association? Family profiling? Maybe I am doing these things. That doesn't mean I'm wrong!

    My ultimate point here is neither conservatives or liberals seem to trust this guy and perhaps with good reason.

    Suggested reading:
    Google search Operation Tennessee Waltz for his family's current troubles.
    USA TODAY FORD FAMILY ARTICLE for history of the clan, good and bad.

    Harry Ford Jr.

    Pretty boy Democrat Harold Ford Jr is a darling to the lefties in the upcoming election. The prospect of him replacing Frist has salivating dems writing checks from New York to California.
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    In a recent article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press they endorsed Junior(much to the surprise of some guy living under a rock in Australia who knows nothing about the political stance of the Times Free Press). Instead of writing the article themselves they asked a PR guy from Ford's office to do it for them. Bear with me as my questions will make it worth it. Let's read it and confirm that suspicion:
    Harold Ford Jr. for U.S. Senate

    Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., is one of five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, hoping, ultimately, to fill the seat of retiring Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Of the five, Rep. Ford is the most experienced, the most thoughtful and the most attuned to national issues. We recommend him as the Democratic standard-bearer in what promises to be one of the nation's most hotly contested U.S. Senate races of the fall.

    Rep. Ford, who has represented his West Tennessee district ably in the U.S. House since 1996, is a proven vote-getter. He's been returned to office four times by an average of 80 percent of the vote. The total is indicative of a wide appeal that transcends traditional party lines and voting patterns.

    Rep. Ford's attention to detail and understanding of the often arcane ways of the legislative branch make him an effective legislator. Moreover, a calm demeanor and refreshing willingness to work across party lines without sacrificing his party's ideals have made him a formidable presence in Congress. Those qualities, buttressed by his keen intellect and thoughtful stances on key national issues, validate his Senate candidacy.

    In a recent meeting with this newspaper's editorial board, Rep. Ford identified Iraq, immigration, health care, the energy shortage, the deficit and education as issues that must be resolved if citizens and the nation are to prosper. He is, of course, correct in that assessment, and his views on each are instructive.

    Rep. Ford voted for the Iraq war resolution but recognizes that the administration's war policies have gone terribly awry. Even so, he's opposed to an immediate pullout. He prefers a more measured approach that explores new policies to protect U.S. interests and lives while allowing Iraqis to build their own future. That's not a perfect answer but reflects the realities of a nasty, politicized war that continues to sap both the strength and treasury of the nation.

    His views on other pressing issues reflect a similar desire to focus on finding solutions rather than indulging in the finger-pointing that now passes for political debate in Congress. He would, for example, create incentives to improve vehicular fuel efficiency. He would couple them with increased research into the use of sun, wind, hydrogen and farm products as alternative sources of energy, rather than subsidize continued use of fossil fuel.

    Rep. Ford favors a balanced budget, health care initiatives that expand rather than reduce access, education policies that provide federal funding to cover federal mandates and an immigration policy that strengthens border controls and provides penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers.

    Generally, Rep. Ford's views reflect those of most centrist Democrats. The congressman rarely has deviated from that position during his public career. And while some Democrats might be troubled by his more conservative views on gun control, abortion, gay marriage and flag burning, he has been consistent on those issues as well. He's not changed long-held views to pander to a statewide electorate far more diverse than the voters in his congressional district.

    Rep. Ford has only token opposition in the primary and is expected to win the nomination handily. His real test will come in the November general election. There he'll face the winner of a bruising and divisive three-man GOP primary. Whatever the matchup in the fall, Rep. Ford will be a strong candidate. His possible opponents concede as much.

    Former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker has said, " ... he [Rep. Ford] will be a difficult candidate to beat." Ed Bryant has said, "Ford is formidable and should not be taken for granted." Both are correct.

    Tennessee Democrats, for the first time in recent election cycles, have the opportunity to nominate a strong, politically attractive candidate with a statewide constituency for U.S. Senate. We strongly endorse Rep. Ford for his party's nomination.

    Blah blah blah! Someone convince me that whomever wrote this was employed by the paper and not actively working for the Ford campaign? Ok, now that you survived that piece of yellow journalism let's ask some pertinent questions:

    I'm curious why we are so excited that the Times Free Press is endorsing Ford. That's kind of like saying we expect the sun to come up in a blue sky tomorrow isn't it? Have they ever endorsed a truly conservative candidate?

    Ford was for the war but is against how Bush is handling it: what exactly is his alternative plan since not pulling out is what is going to happen anyway? What in his infinite 20/20 hindsight will fix the victory we have already acquired but are just mopping up?

    Energy situation: what has Ford voted in favor of in the past that would reduce the US dependency on foreign oil? Even if we exponentially expanded alternative energy sources can we get away from oil in the next 100 years? Heck no!

    Immigration: DUH> anyone disagree (besides Barbara Boxer)?

    Balanced Budget and Healthcare: As Tenncare has taught us, open access and controlled spending do not happen in tandem. How does his plan rectify that with cutting taxes?

    Possibly outside of Van Hillary (sorry, that wasn't a nice joke) are any of the candidates stupid or is this glowing assertion of his intellect some kind of journalistic throwback to the racial mentality of the deep south (blacks aren't smart but great athletes). In all deference to what I do believe is an intelligent candidate in Junior I must ask him: Do you assume your voters don't know about your liberal record, the facts about energy, and that you are blustering against Bush to pander for votes?


    Parable Of Work

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    I find in my encounters that many individuals have a skewed idea of Jesus and what it means to be a Christian. These people can range from die hard "Bible Beaters" to the flaky self-fulfilled dunno if there is a God types. To be fair to the unbelievers, there are many times that Christians have given them good reason to question Jesus. It so works against our faith to have these confused and obfuscated ideas that I'm up to putting a few of them right.

    One of the topics that is so misunderstood is works. Here is a good parable:

    "What do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.'
    "And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went.
    "The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did not go.
    "Which of the two did the will of his father?"

    (In all fairness to the elders and priests of this story, in my questioning I have never heard a Mormon, nor most Christians answer this parable correctly.)

    They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. (Matthew 21:28-31)

    What does Jesus's response tell you? What it tells me is a reminder of what I already know: The GOD who made the heavens and the earth does not need my-or yours-or anyone's efforts. He is quite capable of getting the job done without my input-right?

    But Faith without works is dead! Exactly. Again why work is misunderstood!

    God does want us to work for him, but only with a willing heart. He can do anything but wants our help because we are willing to give. Those who have a willing heart will have works. The true Christian is one who is willing to work when needed. A true servant is not just one that is seen doing a tremendous amount of work out of sense of guilt.

    There are hard workers in some churches who think the building will fall down if they aren't there. If their heart is happy to work, great. If they are feeling obligated or guilted into the work then it is not what God wants. The true Christian wants to work but might not get anything done.

    God does not want or need a guilty worker.

    Of course, the difference between God's idea of "accomplishment" and man's are based on two entirely different time scales. We don't have to fly to Guatemala and build 1000 homes dressed in white uniforms with fancy underwear on to be good workers. God may use you to do something as innocuous as say hello to a stranger with a smile (who might be depressed thinking that no one notices them). He may use you to write a check to a non-profit and put it in the mail (who are at their wits end about a dollar amount the must have and don't know where to turn). You don't know what his goal is when you are obedient.

    Why would anyone think they could presume to know the mind of God in anything he does? That's why we have the Word and Jesus to work with.



    I'm working with LendingTree right now. I've found some interesting things you might also agree are lies.

    LENDING TREE LIE: "We don't charge you for the service."

    Bullcrap. There is a "Pricing Structure Tier" for closed loans charged to the lender. The fee is anywhere from $175 to $850 based on loan amount. If it ain't on the good faith, it's in the loan somewhere. If lending tree charges the company, who do you think pays the fee?

    LENDING TREE OBFUSCATION: "Get up front quotes on rate and pricing"

    What a load of fooey! First, Lending Tree only checks one credit bureau to determine your category. Most of the time this isn't a problem, for about 20% of the people out there will find their score on that bureau is nowhere near (either higher or lower) than the MID SCORE of all THREE bureaus. Not the average, rather the middle. It is possible to have a 700 score according to one bureau but your other two scores be 579, the difference between grade "A" paper and "C" paper.

    Second, any company worth its salt has an automated system to reply quickly with an attractive offer to get the borrower in the door. If the rate changes daily, that quote is essentially a lie or shot in the dark to get your attention. It definitely omits lots of fees. Again that quote assumes your score is accurate.

    I've quoted par (that means 0.00 yield premium paid to me) rates and 1% origination. I'm losing tons of business because I'm too honest and try to put all the fees on the good faith.

    It's enough to make me pull my hair out.