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Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’

After many months of anticipation or annoyance, depending on who you talk, Wisconsin will finally figure out if the state truly does stand with Walker.  Tonight, for the second time in less than two years, Scott Walker is squaring off against Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett for the governorship for Wisconsin.  I know many of you reading know all the details regarding why this second election has been deemed necessary, but for those of you that don’t, here’s a little background. 

The whole drama began in February 2o11 when Scott Walker backed a bill that would, for all intents and purposes, castrate the public sector unions.  Their rights to collectively bargain pensions and health care would be purged and their current benefits would be cut.  We were told that to do this would save the state about 180 million dollars a year and would be the only alternative to mass layoffs of public sector employees.  Prior to a vote in the state assembly, the democratic senators fled the state to Illinois in protest.  In the days that followed thousands and thousands of people came from all over the state to protest what they felt was an unfair law that Scott Walker had concealed from his election.  It’s no overstatement to say that the eyes of the nation turned to Wisconsin to see how this episode would play out.  After several weeks of protest, on March 9th, 2011, a lone democrat was lured back to the capitol building under the guise of a talk.  As soon as he arrived, roll was called and despite his adamant protest, the bill was voted on and passed.  Shortly their after, the recall petitions for Walker and Republican members of the state senate began being passed around leading to the election tonight. 

Overhead view of hundreds of people wearing red for the Teachers' union, protesting against Walker's bill.

Now there are a number to details about this whole “recall” and all other recent “recalls” that have not quite sat well with me.  The first being is Wisconsin’s case, the one year waiting period before the gubernatorial recall petition can be started.  I don’t understand why, if a politician does anything that his/her constituents deems impeachable, that the entire process can’t start immediately.  In my opinion, this year waiting period has allowed many people to forget the crap that Gov. Walker and his Republican cronies pulled in the winter of 2011.  Remember his taped conversations with the billionaire Koch brothers, discussing whether or not to bring paid thugs to Madison to cause trouble in order to make the protesting lefties look bad?   That year encourages a politician to pull outlandish crap early on in their administration in hopes that later on people will begin to forget when the time comes to sign a petition or vote.

Another aspect of this “recall” that bothers me is that this isn’t a true recall.  I believe a recall should be a yes/no vote.  If the yes’ take the majority, then set up the primaries leading up to a final election where new candidates are involved.  Wisconsin isn’t the only state that gets it wrong when it comes to recall elections.  Let’s look back at California in 2000.  The backward rules in that recall election were that Grey Davis, in siting Governor, had to get 50% of the vote or more in order to remain in office.  If he received less than 50%, the person with the highest remaining percentage would be declared the winner.  Obviously, Mr. Davis didn’t get his 50%.  He did garner 42% of the vote, the highest of all those running.  Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger only received 22%.  So even though Grey Davis got the highest percentage of all those running and would have won if this had been a normal election, he lost because of these ridiculous recall voting laws.

No matter who wins tonight, I think it’s safe to say that Scott Walker has been a disaster as governor.  Things aren’t any closer to being better in Wisconsin then they were in November 2011.  In fact, depending on who you ask they may be worse.  Every day Scott Walker gets closer and closer to fitting the dictionary definition of a fascist.  Look it up, you’ll be surprised how close he fits.  On top of that he’s a liar. I’m sure most of you are familiar with his recent attempt to cover up the fact that Wisconsin is losing jobs, not gaining them in droves like his economic policy was supposed to do.  He’s also apparently an idiot.  By screwing public employees and teachers via his new colletive bargaining law, he was supposed to be saving the state many millions.  This extremely controversial law was supposed to eliminate the need for mass layoffs.  I wonder then, if Mr. Walker could explain why Menomonee Falls Public Works had to fire 8 employees earlier in May, reducing an already record low staff. 

English: Scott Walker, 45th Governor of Wisconsin

The truth is that this is all part of the plan of Mr. Walker and his lackies in the Republican party.  The aim of the goal is the eventual privatization of almost all public jobs.  What he and his friends don’t tell the public is that privatization in the long run actual costs the taxpayer more money in the long run, but that’s ok for him.  As long as big business is happy and giving to him and his friends campaigns, all is good, the public be damned.  The unfortunate thing about this whole mess is that, for the most part, the public is left unaware.  The mass media is silent.  It’s a shame that you have to stumble upon random blogs from random people in order to catch a glimpse of any honest questions and even the slightest bit of real truth.  Not the manufactured garbage on the local news and the stuff written in the local “liberal” rag.  I don’t think Tom Barrett is the answer, but he is definitely a step in a better direction in this media made event we’re calling a “recall”.

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We have been wanting to do some major “spring” cleaning, but had a feeling it wouldn’t happen until at least April because of all the snow.  But Wisconsin got an unusual heat wave last weekend, so we decided to take advantage of this rare opportunity & get rid of some junk.  We donated 3 garbage bags worth of clothing & other stuff to Good Will.  We made $10 at Plato’s Closet, a second-hand store that buys gently-used clothes.  Obviously that isn’t a ton of money, but we’re happy we made anything since we’re not really the “hip” couple you may imagine!  We got rid of several boxes, clearing up our storage area & our closet actually looks neat now. 

Corey getting ready to tackle the storage area

No, we did not have a shopping spree, we're just getting rid of boxes!

The car packed with trash and cardboard to be recycled.

We realize that this is the first of many cleanings we’ll have in the next year & a 1/2.  We’ll have to challenge ourselves in terms of what we can and can’t live without.  It all comes down to “wants” vs. “needs.”  In a way, it’s kind of liberating!  What items do you think would be hard for you to let go?

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It was balanced when we put it up, but the kitties feel that the tree is their playground! See the little kitty in the corner?

I know we have been bad about blogging, but it wasn’t until my buddy Gillian sent me an email wondering how things have been that I knew it was time to drop a line.  Honestly, we’ve just been really, really busy!  I realize that’s no excuse for not staying on top of the blog, but that’s the problem with having a travel-oriented blog when we’re just saving right now. 😛 

Between work, Christmas shopping, planning for a trip to Raleigh and not to mention all the other normal parts of our daily routine – laundry, cooking, eating, sleeping, reading, crocheting – we’ve been busy & pretty exhausted as a result. 

Work, work, work: I have a huge project at work that needs to be done before we go out-of-town, so I’ve been working my butt off to make sure it gets done.  It’s not a very hard project, but it has me working in the vault, where there’s no insulation or heat, getting together contact information to send out invitations for a big event in February.  (If you’re new to this blog, then you should know that we live in Wisconsin & that we’ve been between 0 & 20 degrees F this past week – in other words it’s flippin’ cold back there!)  Then, there’s Corey with his 4, 10 hour days and his additional 8+ hour weekends tiling.  Friday was his 20th straight day of work!  I have no clue how he does it.  Luckily, that was his last tile job of the year & this week he only has to work Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday.

It hasn’t all been boring work stuff.  Here are some fun decoration photos.  Please note our ridiculous cats in the tree! 

Norma Jean

 

Silverstein

I made these cute little crochet ornaments, but the cats have decided that those are there only for their amusement!

Crochet Ornaments

On to the shopping portion: Shopping for my parents was easy.  We’re all so happy to see each other that the gift aspect really isn’t that important.  Can’t tell you what they’re getting, cause the read the blog!  Corey’s parents are another story.  We ask them what they want & they either say nothing or I’ll get back to you & never do.  So we end up hounding them for weeks until they finally make a decision.  And, that still leaves his brother, Jared & his aunt and you can’t forget that we also need to get at least 1 thing for each other.  This year we decided to get each other more Christmas presents than last year.  Last year we still hadn’t saved a dime, so in an attempt to get the ball rolling we decided to get our passports in order as a gift to each other.  This time around we put a $60 (ish) cap on the amount we could purchase on each other.  It’s always fun to get a surprise from your love on Christmas!

What’s a travel blog without a bit of travel?   We’ll be leaving for Raleigh on Christmas day.  My dad inadvertently taught me one of the best holiday travel secrets.  If you want to beat the crowds and have a better chance of getting to your destination on time, then you should travel on fill-in-the-holiday day!  The first time we went to Raleigh we left mid-week right after Christmas, thinking we’d be fine.  Boy were we wrong.  Our first flight was delayed, making us miss our second flight & flying to another city in hopes of catching the last flight from Newark to Raleigh.  Our original plan was to be in North Carolina at 1 PM, but we didn’t get there until 3 AM.  We would have made it there faster if we drove!  That’s not to say that everyone who flies on Christmas day travels worry/hassle free, but it seems to be a more relaxed bit of people traveling & in general the flights seem to be on time.  Anyway, we’ll spend this Christmas Eve at the Waller’s in WI & Christmas Day with the Davis family in NC. 

We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!!!!

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 We had our first couchsurfing (couchsurfing.org) experience last night.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it, couchsurfing is a way to meet other people who share their love for traveling and adventure.  There are 2 ways to do that: either travel to someone’s home or be a host.  Hosting can be offering up your couch for someone to spend the night(s) or you can just meet up for drinks.  At some point I think we will change our user settings so that our couch is available, but right now it’s just on the “meet for coffee or drinks” setting.    

Pauline

 

  So, it all started a week ago when a girl sent me a message asking if I wanted to hang out while she was in town.  I took a look at her profile, saw her references & decided to have her over for dinner.  Pauline is a student from Belgium who decided to come to Wisconsin for a bit before going back to school in a couple of weeks.  She arrived on August 10th & has already seen & done more than I have living here for 3 years!   

Pauline & I

 

  We had a good time talking to her about travelling, photography, biking & the weird laws that Americans have.  One example: getting in trouble for having an open container in your car.  If this same scenario happened in Belgium, as long as you weren’t drinking & driving, you’d be free to go on your merry way.  Here you’d go to jail for the night.  We don’t drink at all, which I thought she would find strange.  But Pauline said that compared to her hometown, people here hardly drink.  I found that funny, because people drink so much more here (in the Milwaukee area) than they do in Raleigh!  Anyway, it was just really nice to meet someone who was so nice & happy to meet new people.  Pauline said that it was refreshing to meet many Americans & be able to see that we’re not all loud, obnoxious & ignorant.   Overall, we had a great time & I hope that we’re able to hang out with her again before she leaves!   

Pauline, me & Corey

 

So, we have taken our first baby steps into the world of couchsurfing.  Pauline already knew the family she was staying with & they were having such a hard time understanding why she would meet with strangers in place she hasn’t been to before.  I think that Americans are taught not to trust anybody & always keep your guard up.  I’m not saying that every person we will encounter won’t be dangerous, but not every stranger is a criminal either.  I definitely want to have a few more visits like this before we decide to have people over for a weekend or more.  But, we have to start somewhere & in order to meet people we’re going to need to be more social.  Wish us luck!

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Starbucks in Brisbane

Image via Wikipedia

 

1a. Create a Budget: If you’re just one person this shouldn’t be as hard as it was/is for us.  Corey & I set aside some time to write out a list of all the things we spend money on throughout the month.  The list was a compilation of every expense from grocery shopping to Starbucks.  It helped show us where we were spending all of our money and the idea was to cut back on all of our spending.  It was clear that Target, Starbucks and the mall were holding us back from truly saving money.  So, our plan of attack was to just stay away from those places.  1b. Actually Stick to Said Budget: Cutting back on our spending was much harder than we had expected.  We actually sat down a year or so after the first budget session & started over.  We rewrote all the expenses because some stuff had changed, some for the better & some for the worse.  I had a new job & the money coming in had fluctuated & our rent had gone up.  We did a great job cutting back on Starbucks & while we weren’t going to the mall as much, when we’d go there, we’d splurge.  So, the second budget has stricter parameters & we even had it signed by a “notary” (aka: our best friend Lisa, who is supposed to reprimand us if we start to slip).   

2. Netflix: I know what you must be thinking, “you said save money!”  We knew we wanted to keep Netflix in our monthly expenses because we’re getting so much for our money.  We’re huge movie people – one of our friends actually refers to us as “movie elitists” – so it totally makes sense for people like us.  Our account is set up to get 3 movies at time & if we take advantage of it we end up watching at least 4-6 movies a week, that’s 16-24 movies a month.  Imagine how much that would be if we saw that amount of movies in the theater.  We do still go to the theaters, but we’re pretty good about 1 or 2 a month.   

Netflix

Image via Wikipedia

 

3. No Extravagant Eating: Another bad habit that we got into was eating out all the time.  There was a point where it was at least 3-5 times a week.  Sometimes it would just be fast food, but soon we got into a habit of ordering out from nice sit-down restaurants, which really starts to add up.  After re-evaluating the budget we made a plan to eat out once a week, twice if we planned to hang out with friends on a weekend.  I think we’ve been pretty good about that & I’m constantly on the search for new recipes.  By experimenting and cooking at home we’re able to save money & still have something new & interesting to eat.  

4. Read: This category isn’t just read, but draw, paint, build, work out, whatever it is that you like to do during your free time.  We both love to read, he works out & I enjoy painting & photography.  All of these things really help to get our minds off the trip.   I, especially, have a habit of over thinking things sometimes & the trip is always on my mind.  Doing these things helps me take a break & prevents me from worrying about stuff that’s in the future.  Plus, we’d rather spend money on books than on clothing that we don’t need and probably won’t bring with us once we leave.  

5. Cut out the Extras: This part is still a work in progress, but we have to start somewhere.  As most of you know this has been one of the hottest summers on record & Wisconsin is no exception.  While we love the heat & humidity, some nights have been a bit sticky, because we don’t have air conditioning & we don’t plan to get it.  It’s expensive & for us, it’s not a necessity.  I realize that some people can’t live without it, but we’re going to go without it on the road, so why not start now?  As I said earlier, we are movie junkies, so we’ve had to cut back on buying so many DVDs.  We still buy 1 or 2 here & there, but that’s a huge accomplishment from where we were, buying 10+ movies in one trip to the store.  Another extra that we’ll be getting rid of at the end of the year is our satellite.  Once our favorite shows have their season finales we’ll cut the cord.  One last guilty pleasure: tattoos!  We love body art & we both know that we’re going to have to wait for our next tattoo ideas, but it has been hard.  

Kryptonite

Image via Wikipedia

 

6. STAY away from the Mall/Target:  The only way to really stay strong is for us to stay away from these places.  We refer to Target as our Kryptonite & for that reason we only go there for the essentials: underwear, toiletries, socks, etc.  And, we’re not so bad at the mall, but all it takes is for one of us to slip & then we’re walking out of there with $300 worth of stuff we don’t need.  Stay away from your Kryptonite whatever it may be!  

7. Research for the Trip: Just as I need time to get away from the trip & the stress that comes with planning, I also need to research.  It helps me get an idea of all the places we’re going to go & it helps both of us prepare for all the things we need to do before we go: vaccinations, travel insurance, packing up the possessions we plan on keeping in storage.  Reading the experiences of other travellers is a way to live vicariously through their adventures & makes our trip seem not so far away.  If I’m researching I’m not thinking about spending money on frivolous things.  And, if I do see something that a traveller has that I think we may need, then that’s where the money goes: to a trip expense.  

So, that’s our list of the things we’re doing to save money & the items that we have had to cut down on.  Obviously, there are several other things you can do to save money: cut out smoking & drinking,which we don’t do, unplug your appliances if you pay your electric bill, which we don’t pay.  We really wanted this to be accurate to our lifestyle & to add those things to our list would make it seem like we had an easy time cutting back.  A lot of people that we have talked to are jealous & I want them to see that we’re not rich & with a lot of hard work & determination the trip of a lifetime is closer than you may think.   

So, what do you do to save money?  

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Like I said in our first post Corey was raised in Wisconsin & I was raised in North Carolina.  Corey grew up playing basketball & has always been a huge UNC fan.  His love for the team encouraged him to apply to schools in NC & that’s how he ended up going to Appalachian State University.  We met shortly after, dating on & off for a bit, always remaining close.  Once we realized that we were meant to be together Corey proposed, we had a short engagement, wed & got my things together to move to Wisconsin.

 

Corey still enjoys basketball along with football, baseball & golf.  We like to bike to stay active, but haven’t done it a lot this summer.  He loves finding new indie bands, reading & films.  

I played soccer for about 15 years recreationally, but haven’t touched the ball in a few years.  I love photography, reading, arts & crafts, indie music & films.

I went overseas in my junior year of college & fell in love with travelling & was happily surprised when Corey said he wanted to travel as well.  I started doing some research in 2006 about round the world travel & found that it actually could be done. 

Once we got settled in our new apartment in 2007 I had to find a job.  After several temp jobs – 5 in 2 years – I final found a good administrative job at a cemetery.  That’s when we began to save.  As long as our situation stays the same, no major car trouble, no major injuries, we’re on the right track to depart in 2012. 

Our biggest concerns are our cats, Norma Jean & Silverstein and saying good-bye to our family & our friends.  We don’t have to think about it now, but it’s a constant fear in the back of my mind.  

So, that’s a little bit about us.  If there’s anything else that you’re dying to know, please ask. 

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