January 31, 2008

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature-- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.- Rachel Carson

When I was younger it seemed to behoove me to gripe about winter and it's many uncomfortable facets. But as I've grown older my opinion of the season has changed. I even enjoy walking in the snow on those frigid days when the snow underfoot squeeks from the extreme cold. I even find a perverse sort of joy in the coldness of my automobile as I'm waiting for the engine to warm up and generate enough heat for the heater to work it's slow but certain magic before I reach my destination.

It's the certainty of change that is appealling to me. When the season seems to become intolerable, it will change. The most wonderful of all the seasons will be upon us in a little over two months. That season of renewal, in the reawakening of nature, the expanding of our world so to speak. We will start all over again the attempt to harness our little portion of the world into what we perceive as the perfect lawn or garden, and begin our battle that I personally seldom win with the noxious weeds. It's a battle I am prepared to lose, but for a while the battle is joined, me against nature, until, of course, nature wins. It's preordained.

While I spin my wheels in that annual battle I will have the game to spend my evenings with. The game? Baseball of course.

My wife will devote much of her time to growing the perfect tomato, and planting the latest show flower in her never-ending quest for the final piece of the flowergarden. It won't be the best because that would end the quest, the experimenting, the fun of it all. After all that's what it's all about, isn't it?

January 30, 2008

A couple columns in the current issue of Newsweek cause me concern. The first is the column of Fareed Zakaria World View. I remember Zakaria on the ABC Sunday morning show and was impressed then with his intelligence. Today's column is a little unsettling to say the least. I certainly won't say I understand all of it, but I do get the gist of it, enough to worry.

It explains that American profits are growing extremely slow in the USA, but surging by 15 to 20 percent abroad. Markets in China, India, Brazil continue to grow. These countries do not want us to fail so they lend us money. Our dollar keeps falling and our goods can sell for cheaper prices in other countries.

The oil rich countries are getting richer and more independent of the US. Bush went hat in hand to Saudi Arabia and asked them to lower the price of oil. He was brushed off by the oil minister.
Zakaria makes the blunt statement: The United States is in the beginning of a period of relative decline. This is not defeatism, it's math.

All of our presidents and candidates throw the bull in their speeches that we must become energy independent, but never do anything about it. Perhaps the time is now to see what our candidates really have up their sleeve in the way of a plan, before it's too late for us.

ALSO, in the Anna Quindlen column THE LAST WORD, she is asking the question, How Old is too Old? referring to John McCain. It's a valid question. But she makes a statement that McCain on the campaign trail answering a boys question about perhaps he was too old to run for president this way: "Thanks for the question you little jerk".


January 28, 2008

One thing that really galls me is what just happened between McCain and Romney. They hurl the worst epithet they can think of at each other, they called each other Liberal.

If you listen to these guys you'd think anyone other than them should wear a big red L on their chest. I cringe when I hear it. Especially when I hear it from McCain. What it brings to my mind is that they are becoming world class panderers, pandering for the conservative rights blessing.

McCain now labels himself a proud conservative. He's never been conservative enough for those he now panders for their approval. He has always been a moderate Republican, a vanishing breed for sure. I have always liked moderate Republicans, there have been some great ones in the past before it became a part of the Republican presidential litmus test to have to run the gauntlet of acceptability, acceptability from the conservative right that is. To become a first class panderer.

It makes me sick to see McCain doing what he is doing because he finds it necessary if he wants to win the nomination. He is a proud man, sometimes a flinty hard man, but never a panderer until now.

It's getting to that time of winter where I begin to get a little antsy waiting for Spring to arrive. According to my Baseball spring training countdown widget, it is 29 days until it begins; the spring thaw has not yet arrived, in fact the worst is yet to come with Febrary being the cruelest month in our winters with March always waiting, or lurking is a better word with a surprise or two in the way of snowstorms.

So it is time for we natives of the midwest to sit back again and dream a little of our favorite summer places. For me one of those is a walking and/or biking path that runs between Mt. Vernon Ohio and Kenyon college in Gambier. The small river called Kokosing runs beside the wooded path that meanders through hillsides and over one-time railroad trestles and bridges. Deer can be seen from time to time appearing from the wooded hillside investigating we humans and then turning and scampering back into the woods. The walk is not too long, about three to four miles one way, but in the serene and peaceful surroundings in the beautiful springs we are blessed with and/or the brisk fall months it cannot be surpassed.

So for a little while longer I will think back on those times and dream of the times ahead when we can again walk and talk over our past and future. It's a wonderful setting in which to put everything into perspective or maybe nudging a little into the wishful kind of talk. But anyway my partner of these fifty-two years will be able to again walk the path, at least an abbreviated portion of it, as she has a surgically mended knee ready for a test drive on the walk.

I can't wait.

January 26, 2008

I received permission from Jim Kunstler to run his essay on the economy here on the Reader. You can find more of his stuff at www.kunstler.com

I run it because I too believe that we are on the verge of a huge calamity. Understanding is the first step in repairing the damage so read on.

Fullblown Panic

January 21, 2008

Knees knocked last week from sea to shining sea as the shape-shifting monster of economic reality cut a swathe of destruction through the markets and financial ranks. The exact nature of this giant beast still remained largely concealed in a fog of accounting gambits, policy blusters, and reporting dodges, but a few intrepid scouts who glimpsed the behemoth up close said it looked like Godzilla with Herbert Hoover's face.

George W. Bush, tried to appease the beast by offering each American adult the dollar equivalent of half a month's mortgage payment -- with the exhortation to drive forthwith to the nearest WalMart and blow it on salad shooters and plasma TV's -- but Hooverzilla just laughed at the offering and pounded the equity markets further into the dust of loss, while the "bank-like" guardians of wealth lay in the drainage ditches bleeding from their ears and eyes.

My favorite moment was seeing Treasury Secretary Paulson and one of his fellow shaved-head deputies at a press conference rostrum frantically trying to calm the news media rabble like a couple of extraplanetary high priests from a Star Trek episode -- the batteries having run down in their laser wands, and their incantations ("liquidity! liquidity!) veering into mystifying glossolalia.

I resort to such admitted extreme hyperbole because it may be the only language that an infotainment-drunk society can still process in the face of an epochal calamity that will transform the lush terms of everyday life as we've known it into something like a bleak surrealist landscape in the manner of Tanguy. That crashing sound out there is the armature of confidence needed to support an economy based on faith that borrowed money will be paid back. It's as simple as that. (Doesn't seem so exciting now, does it?)

The United States is so broke, its people at every level from the Federal Reserve on down don't know whether to shit or go blind. The homeowners cringing in the media rooms of their 5000-square-foot personal family resorts don't know how long they can stay put microwaving pepperoni hot pockets with the default clock ticking. The mortgage "servicers" don't know how they will persuade interested parties like, say, the Illinois State Cafeteria Workers' Pension Fund (holder of X-amount of mortgage-backed securities underwritten by, say, Merrill Lynch or Deutsche Bank) to foreclose on properties scattered everywhere from Key West to Bainbridge Island -- or if there is actually any legal mechanism known to man that would make it possible to "work out" the sliced-and-diced collateral. The millions of maxed-out credit card holders and the issuers of their plastic are stuck together paddling a leaky tub in a sea of troubles every bit as wide, deep, and polluted as the one the mortgage junkies and their enablers are sinking in. The developers of malls, office parks, and power centers are weeping into their filing cabinets as the harsh daylight of insolvency stops the orgy of "consumption" and the retail tenants pack up their unsellable goodies for the liquidators, and the rent checks stop arriving in the mail, and the notes on this mall and that mall enter the eerie realm of "non-performance." And, of course, there are the genius wonder boyz and Wall Street playerz whose algorithms and turpitudes underwrote the script of this horror show -- for all I know they'll end up laughing into sugary skull drinks on a beach in the Cayman Islands, or doing Chinese fire drills in federal prison (or simply ass-fucked on the granite countertops of their Tribecca aeries by mobs of angry, repossessed, swindled former American dreamers pouring into Manhattan from the tract house dormitories of New Jersey and Long Island).

There's a lot to be concerned about out there. I don't mean to be too cute about it. But, as the master once said, nothing is funnier than unhappiness.

A whole closet full of "other shoes" is now waiting to be dropped. Surely the biggest clodhoppers in the closet belong to the hedge funds, representing trillions and trillions of dollar-denominated "positions" which, however hallucinatory, had previously yielded enough real "money" year-by-year to keep all the realtors and Humvee dealers in the Hamptons goose-stepping to Goldman Sachs's drumbeat. These "positions" can't help now from moving into counterparty crisis territory, especially as the bond insurers such as MBIA and Ambac go up in a vapor, and if that happens the damage could be so colossal globally that Stephen Hawking might have to be brought in to run the Federal Reserve.

This is going to be a rough week. Fastening your seat belts may not be enough for this ride. Better superglue yourselves to the floorboards and pray for God's mercy.
January 21, 2008 in Commentary on Current Events

January 24, 2008

This picture which appeared in http://shorpy.com (a great site if you've never been there) was taken in 1939. The comments on the site from viewers of the picture reminisced about building things with the Erector set, and also with Tinkertoys.

I had both toys and also Lincoln logs, another building toy. I never was then or in later life very handy with my hands like some of the viewers of the picture, but I enjoyed making whatever I could.

This toy and the others I mentioned are indicative of what we played with in those days. We had to use our imaginations a lot of the time, even though I was a dunce in the 'building trade', I remember spending many enjoyable hours.

Also notice the kids shoes, hard oxfords and not the sneakers of today.

January 23, 2008

I scanned an article in the latest issue of Harpers that asked the question, do we read as much as we used to? As I recall the article they say American reading topped out at around 1950, and from there on it has gone downward.

I myself don't read as much as I used to for a very good reason. We have added the Internet into our lives, and also have benefited from the invention of the remote control for our televisions. Both of which have added to our impatience in reading, and watching. We seem to want our entertainment and news in chunks, or as they call them news bites. Books take an investment of time and endurance. I read somewhere recently that reading a book is getting into the authors head, his thinking.

What is more beneficial to me, the book or the fast Internet and/or channel switching. Who knows. Not me that's for sure. I like them all a lot. I still love reading as much as I ever have, I just have to allot time in the late evening or in bed before I fall asleep to read. It takes me longer to read a book and I am surely more selective in my choices. I thank God for having a great library nearby.

Whichever you choose as your favorite delivery system of information you will be better off than you would be if you did not take advantage of any of them.

January 22, 2008

Did you watch any of the debate last night in South Carolina? I watched some of it, and they really went at it and each other. Have you decided on whom you would vote for? I really don't know who I will select. One good thing is there is no one I really dislike. I like all three of the democrats and a couple of the republicans. Huckabee is the most likeable to me, but we don't really pick a president that is most likeable, do we? If we select Hillary, what will they do with ex prez Bill? He won't go home, wherever that is. But we will get two for the price of one. I like Obama because I really think he is the one that can most claim the term change. I also like Edwards because I am from a blue collar family and he most espouses the working mans concerns. McCain is running his last campaign and I like him also, except perhaps he wants to extend the war for a hundred more years if necessary. I don't know how much of that is hyperbole, but I worry about it. Romney is the one I know least about, other than he is a successful business man and uber successful at whatever he does. I don't really worry about his religious affliliations. Do you? I though John Kennedy put that to rest when he made his speech about religion in the sixties.

January 13, 2008

I just purchased a new computer. That's the easy part. Now I must ponder the right way to transfer what I want from the old into the new. There is the old fashioned way I guess, pick and choose what to transfer, but that seems like it would take a very long time. Then there is something called Windows Easy Transfer. It seems like I have to purchase a specific cable and attach the old computer to the new computer, pick what I want to transfer from a menu of sorts, and let it fly. There is the expense of the cable, but this seems like the way to do it. It transfers email, bookmarks, and all the other stuff in a pretty short time, it says.

I'm excited about the new machine, it has a 500 GB hard drive, and this is going to be great, a 2GB memory. I currently have a 256MB ram. I should be able to see the difference in the response quite handily I think. Oh and a 20" flat screen, is that cool or what.

It won't get here for a few more days, so the wife and I have time to plan our change-over so hopefully it all gets done expeditiously and correctly the first time. If that happens it would be the first time everything went exactly as planned, but why not, maybe this will be that time.

January 3, 2008

After all the money spent, is there still no clear choice?

We here in the midwest are in the dog days of winter. It snows each day now and the temperatures are downright brutal. It's great days for the skiers in the area, they get to slide on the real stuff not the machine made kind of snow, but they must love it because when you're moving down that hill at a pretty good speed and the cold temperatures are enhanced by the wind factor it is reallllly cold. Not for me, but bless the skiers.

For me it is crank up the snow blower and clear my drive way time and then back in the warm house and into a book, or perhaps, or probably onto the computer. A nice, hot cup of new brewed coffee would hit the spot, and depending if I am dieting or not, a dessert of choice would be the topper.

Today is the Iowa caucus day, so that will be interesting later on tonight to listen to the talking heads trying to make sense out of what just occurred. If the pundits are right the day will end up with the top tier of candidates bunched together. Now isn't that a heck of a thing. After spending twenty six kajillion bucks they're just where they started, still trying to convince the people of Iowa this time, the rest of us later, that they each have the magic to lead us unscathed through the days ahead. I guess it's still a work in progress.

The goodwife is reminding me that she would like me to accompany her on a shopping trip. She has several gift certificates, now called gift cards, to redeem. I will of course because I like to make the goodwife happy and also it's a fifty-fifty chance that I might run across a place to relax and partake of a nice cup of coffee and a carefully selected yummy confection. So until next time from the heart of the country, have a safe and healthy day.

January 2, 2008


Well it's only about three hundred days until we make our decision about who will guide us through the next four years. Iowans are about to line up at the first primary, they call it a caucus, of the election year.

I have no idea yet who I would like to see get inaugurated next January, but I have a few people who I think are better qualifed. My favorite democrat is Joe Biden.

He has about as much of a chance as Ron Paul does, but I have seen him on innumerable talk shows on Sundays and he always is well informed about foreign affairs. He has years of experience and when moderators pull out their video tapes to check them against what Biden has said on a subject, he more often than not is on target with his evaluations. That is very important to me.

He knows all the players since he's been around so long. But his poll numbers have never exceeded single digits I don't believe. He's smart, also important. He may expound too long on a subject, but maybe he has a lot to say.

Whatever, as Roseann Roseann a dana the character on laugh-in used to say, he's the one I would like to see win, but maybe I will have to get a second choice ready. I certainly have enough time to think on it.

January 1, 2008

A New Year, A New Attitude

A new year, a clean slate, a time for personal renewal of the spirit, of the mind, we've heard it all before.

But from the old guys mouth to younger ears hear this. You only have one life to live so you better start enjoying this one, and a new calendar year is the time to do it, anytime is the time to do it.

What I speak of is attitude. It is the one thing you can change. It doesn't cost anything, you are the complete controller of your mind so you can't wait for someone else to do it for you, it's all up to you.

The old guy knows from experience that you have two ways to go. One, you can grumble about the hand you were dealt, my job stinks, everybody has more toys than I do, the list could go on forever, and it will make each day of your life a burden to bear.

On the other hand you can lighten the load by remembering that we personally cannot change much of what happens in our daily lives, what will be, will be. But we can change ourselves. Stop taking the worlds problems on your back, you didn't make them happen, and you can't do much of anything about them, so lighten up, if we can get through eight years of Mr. Bush..sorry that's a lame joke but you get the idea.

I personally know you can change your attitude and when you do each day will be happier, the rest of your life will be happier and it is a short life so start yesterday. It's easy, no cost, and your spouse and fellow workers will love you for it. Really.