Monday, July 14, 2008

A week, at random

The past week has been plenty eventful, but after last Monday's mad dash to the ER I haven't put together a train of thought that might, in my judgment, be worthy of a post.

Life is composed of small bits. Here are a few.

Ever since the major parties' presumptive nominees were decided, I've taken a purposeful break from this subject. I remain aware, just disinterested and more than a little fatigued.

That's bound to change as November approaches.

I'm still wary of Sen. Obama's reliance on entitlements and the threat he poses to our Second Amendment rights. Sen. McCain, preferable by comparison, concerns me -- I'm not convinced that his political résumé is much more than a paper trail, and I've noticed that his personality has a bad habit of trumping his judgment.

Don't talk to me about no-shot minor-party candidates, however righteous they may be, or the prospect of my abstaining on Election Day. Either approach would be akin to taking a principled drill to a lifeboat that's already leaking.

The prices of crude oil and gasoline continue their climbs, setting new records almost every day, and the equity markets can't seem to stop sliding in the opposite direction. Ordinary working Americans will tell you that nearly everything costs a lot more than it did a year ago.

As if increasing home foreclosures and the so-called "mortgage crisis" weren't disturbing enough, last week IndyMac Bancorp collapsed, one of the largest bank failures in U.S. history, and promptly was bailed out by the feds. Now Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is expected to ask Congress for the ok to buy unlimited stakes in the two biggest mortgage-finance companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- a pre-emptive bailout, ostensibly to help restore confidence in the American financial system.

Let's be clear about what's happening here: The U.S. government, itself crippled by self-inflicted deficits, presumes to buttress an economy that's spiraling out of control. As taxpayers and consumers, you and I will both foot that bill and pay an inestimable price.

Thud. Did you hear that?

Thud. Something smells funny in here.


I think it might be time to leave the mine.

Our garden is thriving. It's early, considering how late we planted, so I can't yet boast about harvesting bushels of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Still, the small plot has yielded more than satisfaction and therapy.

This year's crop of raspberries is a tart and tasty memory, but our blackberries are starting to produce. Sprigs of fresh spearmint have garnished glasses of homemade lemonade, and various young herbs have seasoned our meals.

While awaiting this year's bounty, we're already planning next year's garden -- a much larger plot in another area of our property. This fall we'll need to till and prepare the soil, and it'll require considerably more work than our current "kitchen garden." Ideally, we'll keep seeds from the produce we consume and start them indoors in the spring.

I predict that it'll be worth the effort.

My appreciation of simple things is no secret -- not in this blog, and certainly not in our household -- but last week I actually spoke these words to my wife:

"Don't worry about me going overboard on the whole primitive-skills thing, honey. Not until I finish programming my new cell-phone, anyway..."
I've been using Palm PDAs for ten years and mobile phones even longer. When my carrier contract came up for renewal last Sunday, I upgraded to a Palm Centro. Until now I'd resisted Treo-temptation, but having my familiar PDA and my phone in one nifty little package is, well, damned convenient.

I may burn in hell for saying this, but I'm really diggin' it.

Smaller bits
On Wednesday a neurosurgeon told our younger spawn, who'd expected to spend only a month convalescing from his bicycle accident, that he's sentenced to another two months in his corset brace. For a 13-year-old, I discovered, there's a fine line between disappointment and utter devastation. We're engaged in acquainting him with the difference.

We hosted a gathering of out-of-town relatives and friends on Saturday -- a typical Middle American cookout, nothing fancy. My kettle of beer-soaked bratwursts and August-vintage refrigerator pickles joined an array of meats, salads, beans and confections on a groaning buffet table. Sweet corn supplied by a local farmer, too. Fresh food, good company, great music and relaxed conversation made for a near-perfect day.

My wife and I went for a motorcycle ride yesterday, regrettably one of the few times we've ridden together this season. I won't try to explain either the logic or the joy of a meandering, stream-of-consciousness ride along rural roads on an oppressively muggy morning, never straying farther than ten miles from home, but it was as liberating as anything we've done in months.