Losing the training wheels

Tuesday, 26 October 2004, 13:30 | Category : Other Stuff
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It happened on an early spring day, one of those days that really starts the job of chasing winter’s chill away from your garden and your body. I was working in a front flowerbed, when Kristen, then about 5, came out of the house, jumped on her bike, and rode off down the street. She was out of the driveway before I realized I had never seen her do that before. Not in that fashion, anyway. The training wheels were still on the bike, and they had received plenty of use. But the training wheels weren’t touching the ground. She was past that. I asked my wife when Kristen had learned to ride without them, and she said she hadn’t. But there she was, cruising down the street. She’d figured it out, she was ready to go, and we hadn’t noticed the transition.

Kristen’s fourteen now, and she’s ridden off on many bicycles since then, literally and figuratively. If I could figure out a way to slow down the years, I would. The time is coming when she’ll be ready to ride off to find her place in the world, and I suspect I won’t see that coming any more than I saw that first ride coming.

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The Power Of Marketing

Thursday, 21 October 2004, 20:50 | Category : Other Stuff
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If, 10 years ago, you had asked the typical American auto shopper if they would be interested in a daily use vehicle that would weigh 5000-8000 pounds, be almost 20 feet long, and get 8-12 miles per gallon, the answer would have been a resounding “no”. The relatively few people driving Chevy Suburbans had good reason for driving those trucks, and were quite happy to exchange them for a smaller, more driveable car when the working day was done. But over the past decade, marketers have convinced us that not only are these trucks acceptable, they’re desirable to the point that we have to have them. And so we’re greeted each day by hundreds of these hulking behemoths, being ponderously navigated around grocery store parking lots and city streets by a lone occupant, often a woman, sucking gasoline at obscene rates. And just as often, we’re regaled by the drivers of these things complaining about how expensive it is to fill the tanks. And the worst part is that the biggest of these monstrosities are driven by welfare recipients – they would certainly claim otherwise, but the fact is that they were given a government handout, far greater than that given those “other” welfare recipients. So when you’re sitting in traffic trying vainly to see around the enormous hunk of metal next to you at the intersection, or waiting while the driver tries to maneuver it into a parking spot meant for a normal vehicle, comfort yourself with the thought that your income taxes quite possibly helped subsidize the price of that rolling obscenity.

Why I’m opposed to privatizing Social Security

Tuesday, 19 October 2004, 14:03 | Category : Politics
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Dave brushes by SS privatization while discussing the Dow’s slippage since last spring. I understand the rhymes, reasons, and rationales for privatizing Social Security. I understand the political/social theory behind giving people control of some or all of their SS retirement funds. I get all that. And I don’t oppose privatization on the basis of the need to fund current obligations from current contributions – although having a variable fund balance could create problems during down times. The reason I oppose privatization is that I don’t think the United States government – President, Senate, House of Representatives – or the American people generally have the political will to stand by while people who, come retirement time, have little or no retirement funds because of poor planning and allocations. Save me the “it’s their fault, they’ll just have to suffer” arguments. You know and I know that, when it happens, when aged parents hit the end and have nothing on which to retire, the line of people screaming for the government to do something will contain Democrats and Republicans in equal numbers. And the government will respond, because the images of grandmothers starving in the cold won’t be tolerated by the public. You can argue that their kids should foot the bill, you can argue that they should just have to keep working, but the reality is that the government will fund Social Security. It’s just that, under privatization, it will be an emotional response to a crisis situation, involving billions of tax dollars instead of worker contributions.

Dry no more

Sunday, 10 October 2004, 16:02 | Category : Weather
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T.S Matthew jumped up from the Gulf late in the week, and since Friday night he’s brought a soaking rain to central Mississippi. Rain that we badly needed. I’m writing this holed up in the screen porch I built a few years ago. It’s a perfect Sunday afternoon – I’ve got a small TV to watch the football games, a chaise lounge to kick back on, a good book to read when I decide to ignore the game for a while, and it’s just cool and breezy enough that a light blanket feels good. But what I’ve been listening to the past hour or so is the sound of a raint autumn afternoon. And it’s a complex set of sounds. The most obvious is the rain hitting the metal roof of the porch. But there are other strains playing in this symphony. The muted plunks of rain hitting soggy ground. The lighter sounds of rain on leaves. The wind blowing through those leaves. The drip of rain off he roof into the puddles that have formed. Ths splashing of rain on the surface of the goldfish pond beside the porch. And the deeper sound that somes when a stronger wind blows through more distant trees. If I concentrate, I can almost focus on one strain, but then the wind or rain picks up, or both, and the individual strain recedes again. Diminuendo, Crescendo. Perfect Sunday afternoon.

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Early Fall

Friday, 8 October 2004, 16:06 | Category : Gardening
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It’s been dry here. Really, really dry. Today was 35 days without rain – but it’s been raining some today! We should get a good soak tonight and tomorrow, just in time for the state fair. Because it’s been so dry, things have been on hold. My chrysanthemums have been budded out, but not blooming much. Maybe the rain will give them a push. Pineapple sage is blooming a little, but not like the display last fall. The main gardening event for me will be cutting down the Bradford pear in the front. I’ve decided it has to go – it’s been spreading too far, it has a double trunk that’s going to split eventually, and I’d rather go ahead and finish it so I can plan for next year’s sun garden, where it once was shady. Some azaleas will need to be moved, I think full sun will be too much for them. I hate losing the Bradford, it’s been a nice tree for us, but it’s gotten too big, and the trunk has probably already survived a couple of storms it shouldn’t have made it through. So, some time in the next couple of weeks, it will probably come down. I may wait to get one more season of crimson leaves out of it, but I’m really ready to move on. The tulip poplars in the back are already dropping their leaves, much earlier than last year. August was unusually cool this year, I guess that combined with the dry September flipped the switch. They start the sequence every year – tulip poplars, then the sycamores next door, then the Bradford pear, and last the enormous red oak in the neighbor’s yard. The last couple of years, the oak didn’t drop leaves until early December. I’m betting this year it won’t take that long.