Sunday, July 27, 2008

Water buffalo

In a typical neighborhood in America, a large van comes to a quick stop in front of a 2-story colonial. The grass is perfectly manicured, the morning paper is in the driveway behind the matching SUV's, but the family inside the house is distraught. A fellow with the look of a scientist leaps from the van and trots toward the house, he is followed closely by a film crew toting a small T.V. camera and a boom mic to lend authenticity to the endeavour. We pick up the audio after the scientist-like man has knocked on the door and it is being answered by the home owner.

"Oh thank goodness! The water buffalo whisperer is here."
"Hello folks, I understand you're having troubles with your water buffalo...can you tell me it's name?"
"Yes, she's named Shelly."
"That's a pretty Standard name... OK, What's the issue?
"Well, we've had her for a long time and just assumed things would always be the same with her; suddenly she became unreachable and there doesn't seem to be anything we can do to bring her back."
"Folks, you may have to face the real possibility that she's gone for ever, but we'll figure that out soon enough. I imagine you're feeling a bit of guilt over having taken her for granted for so long huh?"
"Yes, but our water buffalo support group has been helpful; we've realized that they were never meant to be in every home the way they are now...lots of countries don't have nearly the water buffalo per capita that we do in America."
"Is she drinking water folks?"
"No, but there's a common saying in the group, 'you can lead a water buffalo to water, but you can't make them last forever'."
"...heart warming; let's see what she has to say folks."
Making odd noises and hopping alternately on one foot and then the other, the whisperer attempts to make sense of the water buffalo's struggle.
In mid-hoppery, the spent buffalo keels over and ceases to exist.
"Well folks, you're going to have to find a replacement for her, and soon!"
"How can we possibly do that, water buffalo are all we've ever known!"
"May I suggest a replacement that is found locally and is in abundance in this area, and not one that has to be imported from across the world?"
"Get out you whispering menace! Anyone can come up with those kinds of plans...we just want an easy solution that you arrange for us...NOW!"
"Sorry folks, I'm not a miracle're gonna have to do some of the work yourselves. I've gotta go, I'm organizing a squirrel circus down the road a ways."
"...That's it, squirrels, they're everywhere! How do you make a squirrel a suitable replacement for a water buffalo?"
"They're smaller, so you have to get lots of them working together to get the same value from them, or you could adjust your expectations, accept that they are smaller and change what you expect from them."
"Thanks water buffalo whisperer, we'll try!"

And so, America slowly learned how to survive after the passing of water buffalo. Squirrels were eventually replaced by the ultimate renewable resource...rabbits.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Great Depression

The great depression was a turning point in our country's development; why is it that things have to get so bad before they get better? What's wrong with just keeping them evenly "okay", and why do some people have to suffer in order for others to prosper?

Usually I plan out my epiphanies carefully, but this one just up and hit me like a small brick: Oil prices dropped below $127/barrel, from over $140, and I could feel the relief in the idea that maybe things weren't so bad after all. I know they are, and I know that my industry has hard times ahead, but I was happy to put the blinders back on and feel some relief. I think they are more like filters than blinders because I am filtering out what I don't want to see in my direct path, and not blocking distractions in the periphery...that's the trouble with equestrian analogies, they are hard to accurately apply.

The world has changed, and even though you still hear people talk about a "good war to boost the economy," I don't think it will help. Rosie the riveter has been in a two income household since the late 70's, and eligible for combat duty for quite a while too...that leaves only the children at home to work in the factories while mom and dad are away reigniting the economy, add to that the lack of a good global-level villain and it becomes obvious that war is not the answer to bad times anymore.

That leaves us with responsible behavior and selfless thinking as avenues for change...we are in deep doodoo...a brief pause while I put on Vivaldi...suddenly I'm in a world of mandolins and pantaloons, where self absorbed people in castles enjoy the best things in life, even as the tax collector takes a few pennies from dirt covered peasants. Another small brick arrives unannounced; things have not changed in the history of humanity; we have always ridden the good times until they were long gone, and then, after discovering the true depth of the chasm we created, we begin to claw our way out and think how silly the generations before us were.

It's funny that after all is said and done I still feel better that oil prices are down, my company's stock price is up and the rumble of large American engines fills the roads around here...things aren't so bad. I think I'll buy some stuff that I want but don't really need; wasn't that the point of the stimulus checks? just get out there and spend some money...good times for all. That idea came from the top level of our leadership...deep, deep doodoo.

With the rising sun the good things in life are visible again...they have nothing to do with money: The sounds of birds, the feel of dirt on bare feet, the smell of morning dew; life is good. I almost feel like going back and editing out the negative parts of this, the trouble with that would be that I would have to accept that I just wasted an hour, and there would be very little left to read.

I woke up with a headache at 4:20 and am just now feeling better. I think I'll go for a run now. The things that count really are good, and they always will be.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Pyranees Mountain Stage

I was watching the tour de France and accidentally had an epiphany; a rider began his attempt to outrun the peloton too early and was soon caught and passed by everyone...he thought he was ready for something that was still ahead of him and he should have waited for it.

As I watched this I realized that I made the same error last year. I thought I was ready to simplify my life and head towards retirement...I was not, and the peloton went flying by. I was a little down about it when I realized that I may have as many as 25 years left to prepare for retirement, so I spent a few months lamenting things...forget about lemons, anyone can make lemonade; life gave me spikes so I made a spike strip. I don't think I'll ever use it, but I felt that I had to do something productive with the spikes I was given just to put a positive spin on it.

In the tour there is always next year; in life there are decades worth of next years, so my minor misjudgement isn't that significant except for the pain of reprogramming my expectations. But, in the process of simplifying things I learned a lot about what's important to me, and one of the choices I made took me far from the most important thing... my kids. There isn't anything I can do about it right now; I'm almost caught up with the peloton and I don't care. I feel like quitting this race and just saying "hey, this wasn't important to me after bad. By the way, can you have a mortgage annulled?"

I'm going to drag my spike strip out in the night and leave it on the road in front of the the ensuing pileup I'll slip off the side of the road and through the woods; no one will notice I'm gone. No, I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to go to work and pay my bills and enjoy seeing the kids when I can; that's what adults do...stupid adults, stupid peloton. I think this analogy is played out so i will bid you adieu.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Selling off America

Let the games begin...

A Belgian company bought Budweiser; at least they have big horses.
The dollar is so weak that it's attractive to buy U.S. companies at ridiculously discounted rates...we're being exploited. Someone should do something about this, we have always been the ones that exploited weaker nations, and I for one do not like the roles being reversed. There must be someone who needs some exploiting besides us...we need a committee to investigate nations that are in worse financial straights than we are so we can try to redirect those greedy Belgians their direction. If we act now maybe we can save some of our other cherished icons like Phillip Morris, Jim Beam, Pizza Hut and Hot Pockets.

And now a word from a guest celebrity:
"Greetin's fellow Americans, I wanted to take this opportunity to say what a privilege it is to sell parts of our country to nations we once rescued from German occupationalizing. For those of you not familiar-like with sarcasm, that was a healthy dose of it. We need to progressify in the reformation of our world power status so we can once again, develop weaker nations. I believe that the answers to all our problems lie under several thousand feet of water off the Louisiana coast. Remember the "Pelican Brief?" It's like that but with no ecological to oil, the ecology is my number, I think one is's my number one concern, next to oil, so it's kinda like two but not."

Thank you oh honored scholar. So, you can see that it is clear that we must all unite, reunite really, and raise the status of America to Super Power once removed, then reinstated.

In case things go poorly, I lived in Germany and was married in Denmark; Belgium is like a second home to me really. I am always up for learning a new language as well. Guten abent.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hot, sticky, sweaty...ahhhhhhhhh.

The clouds settled in overnight and kept the temp up. I was a little tired when I began my run this morning but thanks to the humidity and warmth I warmed up and started sweating in about 28 seconds...roughly.The conditions that we have now are a recipe for sticky mornings, and I like recipes; you may want to write this one down.
1 part blazing hot day
1 part cumulus nimbus(cirrus is not recommended)
3 parts moisture laden air

Remove the heat of the day and let the evening to steep under a blanket of clouds. Allow 4-5 hours for humidity infusion and "Bam!" you've got a sticky morning; I'm actually getting used to it and enjoy it. I feel like I'm on a tropical vacation most of the time, except that there's no ocean nearby and lots of people chew tobacco and listen to country music instead of eating jerked chicken and listening to steel drums.

Not much else going on worth discussing. We spent the weekend transplanting roses, marigolds and spider plants that were around trees we're having cut down. It seems odd to go to great lengths to save month-old plants from being damaged while 20 year old trees are being destroyed...maybe we can get some speculators to come in and do some exploratory oil drilling around the yard too. Actually, I don't think we're too far from where the Clampetts came from, oil drilling may be the way to go...anything to destroy nature.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Belated understanding of a valid question that...

...was not understood to be so at the time. Several months ago I posted that I had been asked what the point of doing this was. At the time I was in the middle of adjusting to exposing my thoughts for the rare visitor to my spot to read, and caught up in the personal growth I was experiencing. Many months later I have realized that people like Hemingway and Cervantes are who they are for a reason, and I have been asking myself what is the point of doing this. I guess that my hope was to be able to write things that other people would enjoy and maybe appreciate, but that is a very difficult thing to achieve or verify. I read back over what I have written and I enjoy much of it and it makes me feel good to have done it, so I guess it has been worthwhile. Sometimes I would like to write things that will always be relevant and meaningful, like something my Grandma once told me when I had expressed regret over a life choice. It was written by John Greenleaf Whittier(sp?) and said something like: Of all sad words of tongue or pen, these are the saddest: what might have been.
That has always been meaningful to me. I read the rest of the poem and it was ok, but that part was awesome. There's another lesson: it doesn't all have to be perfect to be meaningful or enjoyable. I decided today that I would put on some Mozart and write something meaningful. Right off the bat it went awry as I chose Tchaikovsky instead, but I decided to push ahead and try to come up with something meaningful...yes, it's another list:
-Always check for toilet paper before you begin the task at hand.
-Never under estimate the power of a falling tree.
-Make sure you're alone if your fiber intake is way up for the day.
-Always think twice about only thinking once.
-People always notice a bad haircut.

Gotta go, my wife just got back from shopping and my unloading skills are needed.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Our First Independent 4th

I started the day with a patriotic run, and followed it up with some patriotic flapjacks. We ate at the Cracker Barrel, which is like a slice of Americana wrapped up in a cosy little breakfast joint. I had fresh "wild" Maine blueberry pancakes; in the last six months I have had the same thing there probably seven times. I began to wonder if they are really "wild" Maine blueberries...they have an awfully large supply of them, and Maine is not that big. They were good and I think that's what matters.
I read that red snapper is an endangered species, and yet many restaurants offer red snapper dinners...I think many are red snapper-like dinners. If whomever is eating it thinks it's red snapper and enjoys it, does it really matter? Legally I guess it does, but I would have ordered the pancakes even if they contained normal blueberries.
Next we went to BJ's's a costco knockoff...and asked if we could wander around and check it out before we decided if we wanted to belong. As we made our way through the first couple aisles I noted aloud that it was just like Costco and we didn't have to go through the whole store. I was quietly advised that that was precisely why we were going to enjoy it wife felt like she was back home in Washington and wanted to enjoy it for a while. I went to take a whiz and even the bathroom smelled like costco; the urinal cakes are very fresh smelling. We were missing the kids. Our daughter's at the coast for the weekend and unreachable, our son is heading to Fort Vancouver for the day, which is what we did as a family many times over the years... Costco-like familiarity was nice on our first independent independence day.

Growing up is hard.