Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rally cap

I love college football. Most autumn Saturdays I get comfortable in front of the TV around noon and try not to stir 'til bedtime.

It doesn't matter who's playing.

Today the
Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear really messed with my gridiron ritual. I clicked over to Comedy Central shortly after it began, meaning the visit to be brief, and I couldn't tear myself away.

I haven't laughed that hard in 30 years.

For me, the highlight was Yusuf Islam (f.k.a. Cat Stevens) singing "Peace Train"... until he was stopped by
Stephen Colbert, who presented Ozzy Osbourne... who belted out "Crazy Train" until his performance was interrupted by co-host Jon Stewart.

The duel continued until Stewart cajoled Colbert into climbing aboard a "Love Train," which was performed by... wait for it... the O'Jays.

Rallygoers' homemade signage deserves at least second billing. Three of my favorites:




The Stewart-Colbert event was one of those either-you-get-it-or-you-don't kind of things. I got a chuckle out of social activists' efforts to cast the rally as a sort of Hajj for progressives. Ditto pundits' stern-faced predictions about how the whole affair would come off. Now that it's done, attempts to analyze or critique it are likewise idiotic.

This was a big rally poking fun at big rallies, decorated with signs poking fun at political signs, glittering with stars poking fun at star power and medals poking fun at puffed-up awards. It was pure satire, pure entertainment, pure fun.

If you took it all seriously, you don't get it -- which probably means that you're still stewing about Yusuf Islam's appearance. And if that's the case, please click

I'll be watching college football.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A wedge for Jesus

If I'd stayed home late this afternoon I would've watched cable-news coverage of the plot to ship IEDs into to the U.S. via cargo planes. Problem was, the missus and I had an errand to run in Columbus.

Our only reliable source of news was the talk-radio station I'd listened to as
tornadoes approached Tuesday afternoon. Because that station leans hard right, it's also a reliable source of wingnut propaganda.

An ad for Republican Bob Gibbs, who's running against Democratic incumbent Zack Space to represent Ohio's 18th District, almost had me swerving off the Interstate. The spot was produced not by the candidate, but by the Faith & Freedom Coalition, one of those 501(c) "outside groups" that are dominating this election cycle.

The ad is among the scariest things I've heard during a very scary campaign season. Its closing line:
"Please, vote faith. Vote freedom. Because it's us versus them."
(Click here to launch an mp3 audio clip of a similar radio spot.)

The Faith & Freedom Coalition was founded by none other than Ralph Reed, who won't rest until the United States of America becomes a Christian theocracy. (Think Iran, but with crosses and better haircuts.)

Conservative Republicans only need apply, by the way. I mean, everyone knows that a Democrat can't be Christian enough and a liberal couldn't possibly love his country -- right?

Reed, who's been thumping his self-righteous tub for three decades, may be a friend to the faithful but he's an
enemy of freedom. He's intent on dismantling the Founders' wall of separation between church and state, attacking the foundation of our Republic and dividing The People in the name of his god.

"Faith and freedom" isn't an essential patriotic compound. Freedom favors no religion, party or ideology. Faith is the personal choice of an individual citizen who's free to practice that faith and to worship in a nation that allows for all faiths (including the choice of no faith).

Reed and his misbegotten coalition wield faith as a wedge and make Liberty their whore.

They've got the us-versus-them thing right, though. Independent citizen-patriots of many faiths, People from across the political spectrum, will defend their constitutional right to worship but we'll stand against their assault on freedoms that belong to all of us.

Four goblins

Here in our village, last night was Beggar's Night -- remember when it was called "trick or treat"? -- and we did our best to lure ankle-biters to our bowl of candy.

My wife transformed herself into a witch; I became a cat burglar. The image of a skull glowed through the glass of our front door, flanked by jack-o-lanterns carved by our spawns, and a life-size skeleton hung from the soffit.

Cobwebs and caution tape criss-crossed the porch. A boom-box blaring Bach organ preludes and fugues was a last-minute touch (and my idea).

Only four trick-or-treaters came a-calling, and two of those were from next door. Mrs. KintlaLake and I had a ball anyway, trading stories about going door-to-door when we were kids. We remembered coming home with candied and caramel-dipped apples, popcorn balls, cookies and brownies, all homemade.

Sadly, now everything has to be store-bought and sealed for your protection. It is what is is.

Despite the poor turnout at our door last night, we plan to do it up bigger and better next year. When it comes to holiday displays, in some ways skulls and ghosts really are more our style than Santa Claus and baby Jesus...

Pulse check: Campaign 2010
An Ohio Elections Commission panel ruled yesterday that an ad for incumbent
Gov. Ted Strickland, pointing out that challenger John Kasich earned an "F" from the National Rifle Association, is indeed accurate. The NRA has endorsed Strickland, grading him "A+."

The Kasich campaign continues to run radio spots touting an "A" grade from the NRA. The ads air in rural areas, of course.

It's that kind of year.

I was pleased to see that the same panel ruled that
Josh Mandel, Republican candidate for state treasurer, lied in a TV spot and two direct-mail ads that portrayed incumbent Kevin Boyce as a Muslim. Boyce, an African-American Democrat, is a Christian.

Sound familiar?

Mandel's latest TV spot ends with this line:
"For an honest treasurer with integrity: Josh Mandel."
My ass.

The OEC rulings, along with the facts they illuminate, probably come too late to do what they should -- buoy Strickland and sink Mandel. Besides, Americans don't seem to be big on facts these days.

Over in Delaware, the incurably insubstantial Christine O'Donnell is demonstrating that nutjob and nutcase can coexist in the same troubled head.

Recently, for example, O'Donnell admitted to paying half the rent on her townhouse with campaign funds. She says it's all perfectly legal. As it turns out, it's not.

In this political climate, it's hard to say how many votes (if any) that'll cost her. She still has a lock on paranoiacs and conspiracy junkies:
"[My opponents] are following me. They follow me home at night. I make sure that I come back to the townhouse and then we have our team come out and check all the bushes and check all the cars to make sure that -- they follow me."
That's what she told The Weekly Standard in September. What's more, she claims to have been the target of threats, vandalism and black-bag break-ins since her 2008 campaign (at least). I'm not sure that I believe a word of it, considering the source.

Like I said, it's that kind of year.

Same blog, new look
I used a pre-fab template when I
launched KintlaLake Blog back in March of 2008. Although I've tweaked it slightly from time to time, you've been seeing pretty much the same layout for about two years.

A couple of weeks ago I began to freshen things up around here -- colors and graphics, certainly, along with new information in the right-hand column.

Under the Links heading you'll find some of my favorite destinations on the Web, sites that I find useful. The Library section is a bookshelf of sorts -- links to words, images, videos, music and other works of significance or worth.

This is a dynamic place, not a static one, so KintlaLake Blog won't stay this way forever. I simply decided that it was time for a change.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bookending the storm

Dawn was different this morning. The
big blow stripped most of the remaining leaves from the trees around our house, treating us to sunup earlier than we've seen it in months.

We'll have our shade back again by next May.

A low-grade tornado did touch down four miles west of here yesterday afternoon, taking out a barn, and straight-line wind ripped the roof from a elementary school's gym 11 miles east. We were unscathed, save a neighbor's sweetgum limb that came down in our driveway. I'm reminded of similar
good fortune two years ago.

The older spawn had a bit part in yesterday's events. His car is out of commission (
again), so mid-morning I shuttled him to an appointment in Lancaster. To while away a half-hour of down-time, I skipped up the street to a small gun shop I'd been curious about.

The place was dingy, dusty, disorganized and crowded with all manner of stuff. Three old guys were working the counter, chatting with a handful of customers. Hundreds of long guns, most of them used, perched on racks lining the walls. A few six-foot showcases held knives and handguns of various ages and types.

Boxes of ammo were everywhere, placed with no apparent thought or logic. On a table in the middle of the shop, a grimy percolator burbled next to a stack of styrofoam cups.

What a find.

I didn't need anything, really, but the old-school atmosphere made me want to buy something, if only to mark my discovery. In a jumbled bin toward the back of the store I found a new Mag-Lite, a red 3-D model that looked like it had been there since the Reagan administration -- perfect. I grabbed a few boxes of 5.56x45mm (because a guy can't have too much) and stepped to the cash register.

"How much you want for this?" I asked the white-haired fellow behind the counter, holding up the flashlight.

He looked it over. "How 'bout $19.95?"

"Hmm," I said, feigning disappointment. "I was thinkin' closer to $15.95."

He scowled. "Fifteen bucks and not a penny less."

We grinned at each other and finished the transaction.

"We're just a
simple old gun shop," he said as he bagged my purchase. "Hell, we didn't even have to lock up the guns until a few months ago. Some kid started stealin' 'em."

I dropped off the 18-year-old at home an hour later, advising him to park his butt in the basement 'til after the storm passed. A friend joined him at the house as I left to pick up his brother at

The storm was nearing its crescendo when my cell-phone rang -- the spawn, calling to report that he and his friend, unable to contain their teenage curiosity, left the basement to watch the storm from the front porch. The wind pulled the door shut behind them, locking them out of the house during a tornado warning.


Mrs. KintlaLake and I, celebrating the fifth anniversary of the day we met, ended the stormy day with dinner at an all-you-can-eat buffet. We left the boys at home to carve their jack-o-lanterns.

Besides having a great time, we got our money's worth -- pictured at right is my second of three plates.

The best dish of all, however, was waiting for us when we got home: toasted pumpkin seeds, fresh from the oven.

Life is good. Our spirit thrives.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To tell the tale

The wind was blowing hard when I arrived at school this afternoon, about 20 minutes before the younger spawn customarily comes out to catch his parental bus. The moment that I shut the engine off, the tornado siren across the street began wailing.


A school staffer came out to the curb and went car to car, telling us that the school would hold
the students until the tornado warning passed. He invited us to wait out the storm inside the building.

I thanked him for the offer, which a dozen or so of my fellow pickup artists accepted, saying that I preferred to stay outside. As ever-stronger gusts rocked my TrailBlazer, the group disappeared behind the school's locked front door and it occurred to me that I might not have made the wiser choice.

Too late. The wind shifted from south to east and started to swirl. Then came sheets of rain, turning the sky a chalky gray and reducing visibility to near zero, thwarting my plan to seek cover if I spotted a funnel -- I couldn't see a thing.

(I could, however, hear my wife cursing my bullheadedness.)

I tuned the radio to a local all-talk station which had dumped Rush Limbaugh (alas, only temporarily) to cover the severe weather. Preempting the High Priest of Pomposity is always a good thing, but there was bad news, too: the National Weather Service had extended the tornado warning for another 45 minutes and the nastiest part of the storm was headed my way.


There was more wind, more rain and a lot more wondering what was hiding inside the clouds -- but no funnels.

The spawn came out a half-hour later than usual, telling a tale of hunkering in a hallway with his classmates. At the height of the storm, he said, the wind sucked open the back doors of the school.

And yes, I told him of his old man's (arguably) ill-advised decision not to join the smarter people indoors, urging him not to follow my example.

All together now: Do as I say...

Monday, October 25, 2010

'Life never gives you more leaves than you can handle'

(& other scattered thoughts from the weekend)

A meteorologist would call the past few days "unseasonably warm." We simply call it "Indian Summer."

Today it's breezy and, for late October, balmy. A gray sky hints at storms by afternoon.

(The image at right, by the way, clipped from Dan Beard's 1920 classic American Boys' Handy Book of Camp Lore & Woodcraft, is completely unrelated to anything in this post. I just happen to like it.)

This time yesterday I was chasing fallen leaves, racing a 1pm NFL kickoff. The younger spawn pulled gutter duty while I cleaned up the edges of the yard, alternating between vac and blower. Then I fired up our walk-behind mower and mulched (twice) the leaves that remained on the lawn. (Look for an upcoming installment of
Urban Resources inspired by the exercise.)

I finished my yard work by the middle of the first quarter of Browns-Saints. As a long-suffering Cleveland fan, I'm delighted to say that I got to watch the Browns answer the question, "Who Dat?"

It wasn't pretty, and nobody really believes that Cleveland is better than the defending NFL champs, but escaping the Superdome with a 30-17 win is worth celebrating.

It'd be unwise of me to gloat too much, though, since
Mrs. KintlaLake is a big Saints fan. In fact, three of her favorite teams -- WVU, LSU and New Orleans -- all lost over the weekend. (Her Colts didn't play.)

Ohio State, on the other hand, bounced back from last week's loss to obliterate Purdue on Saturday. The Buckeyes were up 42-0 at halftime, on the way to a 49-0 final. Nice recovery, guys.

My wife and older spawn watched the rout from our seats in
C Deck while I killed time outside The 'Shoe. I watched law-enforcement assets re-deploy (but not stand down) after ticketholders entered the stadium, taking special note of one particular piece of hardware.

You're looking at one of Big Brother's mobile cousins -- a compact, trailer-mounted surveillance rig equipped with a pair of pan-tilt-zoom cameras that can automatically track moving objects. It travels with its own on-board video server, and the communications dish atop the 30-foot telescoping mast can link to the state's new monitoring hub in Columbus.

It's good knowing that this sort of technology is out there -- I mean, it's better being aware that it's in use -- but it doesn't have me all paranoid or anything. Actually, I think it's pretty damned cool.

Mrs. KintlaLake and the 18-year-old emerged from the game asking for a snapshot with the stadium in the background. As I readied my camera, an older gentleman, walking alone, passed behind my subject. I did a double-take before calling out to him.


He stopped, turned and smiled. "Yessir?"

"Would you mind posing for a picture with my family?"

He graciously agreed, still smiling that smile. We shook hands as we parted, and I fumbled for something to say.

"Pay forward -- right, Coach?"

He cocked his head. "You bet, young man." He walked briskly away, waved over his shoulder and repeated the affirmation.

"You bet!"

On Homecoming Day at OSU, a day when Elvis starred in TBDBITL's halftime show, I wasn't the least bit surprised that the old Coach decided to make an appearance, too.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Short memory, off-balance

Juan Williams is a smart guy and one sharp journalist. He worked for The Washington Post for 23 years, joined FauxNews in 1997 and National Public Radio a couple of years after that.

Two of those employers are actual news organizations, at least. His presence at the third owes to his (relatively) conservative leanings. Of course, FauxNews sees him as (relatively) liberal.

Williams said this on Monday's edition of
The O'Reilly Factor:

"Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don't address reality. I mean, look Bill [O'Reilly], I'm not a bigot, you know the kind of books I've written on the civil rights movement in this country, but when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

"Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America's war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don't think there's any way to get away from these facts. But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it's not a war against Islam."

NPR promptly fired Williams, saying that his remarks on FOX were "inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR." Yesterday CEO Vivian Schiller told the Atlanta Press Club that Williams should consult "his psychiatrist or his publicist -- take your pick." Classy.

I hardly know where to begin. The best place, I guess, is with the words that got Williams canned:

"...when I get on a plane...if I see people who are in Muslim garb...I get worried. I get nervous."
I'm quite sure that's how he feels, just as I'm certain that he's not the only American who has the same reaction. His confession flies in the face of "political correctness," that's for damned sure, but it's also unbecoming of a black man who should know better than to perpetuate irrational fear.

His caveats notwithstanding, Williams would be wise to recall many whites' equally unreasonable fear of African-Americans, especially during his youth.

Williams' human reaction is understandable, his independence and candor admirable. His common sense, however, needs a tuneup.

His memory could use a good stretch, too.

And then we come to NPR, which has been less than thrilled with Williams' commentary on FauxNews for a while now. Swamped by a wave of outrage over the firing, the network's ombudsman admitted that "NPR handled this situation badly."

No shit?

Unlike CNN's dismissal of
Rick Sanchez a few weeks ago, NPR's termination of Williams robbed it of an intelligent, thoughtful voice of reason -- a (relatively) conservative voice which brought respectable balance to the network's analysis. NPR willfully diminished itself and, as a result, insulted its listeners.

Williams, of course, got a shiny new contract with FauxNews, which insults us all.

Ultimately, I come down on the side of intellectual honesty and, by that measure, NPR falls short. I've ended my support of public broadcasting. It won't resume until NPR regains its balance.

Re-hiring Juan Williams would be a step in the right direction, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Today's crystals

"Republicans love America, they just seem to hate about 50 percent of the people who live in it. this country, they just somehow wish it were a different country."

"It feels to me like the right wants to take us back to a time in America that never really existed, and the left wants us to advance to a Utopian environment where no one can say anything about anybody...where we're all just worried about the fragility of stepping on each other's toes."
(Jon Stewart, on last night's edition of Larry King Live)

"It's freaking football. There are going to be big hits. I don't understand how they can do this after one weekend of hitting. And I can't understand how they can suspend us for it. I think it's a bunch of bullshit.

"You know what we should do? We should just put
flags on everybody. Let's make it the NFFL -- the National Flag Football League. It's unbelievable."
(Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears linebacker, to the Chicago Tribune, reacting to the NFL's announcement that it'll begin suspending players for flagrant hits to the head-and-neck area)

"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?"

"You're telling me
in the First Amendment?"

"I'm sorry I didn't bring my Constitution with me. Fortunately senators don't
have to memorize the Constitution -- can you remind me of what the [14th and 16th Amendments] are?"
Christine O'Donnell, GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate seat from Delaware, during Tuesday's debate with Democratic candidate Chris Coons, reminding us that while she may be entitled to run for office, she's anything but qualified to serve)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

'The Journey Continues...'

This music-slideshow just hit YouTube:

What a treasure -- those images of McGuffey Lane, from
roots to present day, collect vivid memories, special moments.

A good day, indeed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Palin nails 'Raese'

This afternoon, @sarahpalinusa tweeted:
Send GOP 2 DC 2 avoid PA econ disaster under Obama/Pelosi Cap&Tax;workers need Raese
Caribou Barbie endorses Republican candidate John Raese for the U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania.
Thing is, Raese is running for the Senate seat from West Virginia.

I'm guilty of typos and misspeaks myself, of course -- in fact, I just made a couple of beauties over on Facebook -- and I'm not sure that I could spell "Raese" without coaching from my Morgantown missus.

Not on the first try, anyway.

Then again, I'm just
singing in the shower here. The Queen of Denali, on the other hand, portrays herself (and, disturbingly, is seen by many Americans) as a "thought [sic] leader."

Look, I'm sympathetic to all of this anti-status quo, anti-incumbent stuff, but please, can't you Tea People put someone out front who isn't a total dipstick?


Catch that?

A number of KintlaLake Blog readers looked closely at an image in one of yesterday's posts, past those old pocketknives to the words on the page of my 1967 BSA Fieldbook.

To satisfy expressed curiosity, then, here's the paragraph appearing behind the knives (emphasis mine):
"Quality in a knife, an ax, or a saw--or any other tool--has to be judged on proper design, suitable material, and honest workmanship. To the expert, just 'hefting' a tool--trying its weight and balance--and running an eye along its edge tells him a lot. The maker's name may influence his opinion--some--but the test will be in the using: will the knife take and hold a keen edge, does the ax hang right and swing true, can a saw bite deep and smooth and not chatter or run out of the cut?"
The guidance is simple, practical, correct. I used that page quite intentionally, of course -- thanks for noticing.

Watch & learn
Last week my exasperated younger spawn came to me and said,
"I'll sure be glad when the election is over."
Like the rest of us, he's tired of being bombarded with political ads at every commercial break. This 15-year-old even acknowledged that the candidates' pitches are laced with half-truths and outright lies, and that they're not very helpful. (A budding critical thinker, that one.)

Before the conversation ended, I reminded him that what he's discovered isn't unique to political ads. Come November 3rd, when the television starts telling him what he craves for Christmas this year, I want him to notice that commercial ads do the same thing.

We'll wait to see if that sticks. Color me cautiously optimistic.

Affinity redux
Josh Mandel, a 33-year-old Republican from the Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst, wants to be our next State Treasurer. Mandel's bio, like every one of his campaign ads, leads with this factoid:
"Josh Mandel is a Marine intelligence veteran who served two tours in Iraq..."
I honor his military service, of course, but it doesn't qualify him to manage Ohio's $50 billion budget -- in fact, it's wholly irrelevant.

What's more, even though I'm not a veteran myself, I recoil from anyone who uses their military service as a gambit -- whether in politics, in business or in everyday conversation. Many vets see the tactic as diminishing their collective honor, and I agree.

Let's tell the truth about this -- Mandel is exploiting military service (as well as
resorting to bigotry and Islamophobia) because it works.

Affinity politics, closely related to the identity politics typified by Christine O'Donnell's "I'm you" strategy, relies on voters to make decisions based on irrational fears, superficial personal qualities and insignificant biographical bits. Sadly, that's how most American citizens choose elected officials, so Josh Mandel will win.

He just won't be getting my vote.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sharps: Of wallet cards & pocketknives

I can remember a time when a thing wasn't real until I had a certifying wallet card with my name on it. That was especially true when I was a Scout -- the Boy Scouts of America had a practice of handing out wallet cards for accomplishments of one sort or another, and yesterday I was reminded of two in particular.

In Cub Scouts, a Whittlin' Chip card conferred the privilege of carrying my very first pocketknife -- a Camillus official model, circa 1964.

Three years later a Totin' Chip card signified that I'd shown sufficient knowledge of (and responsibility with) knife and axe, granting me "totin' rights" for my BSA-edition Ulster.

It's hard to convey how important those
rites of passage were to me at the time. I'm sure I still have my "chips" tucked away somewhere, probably in a hand-laced leather wallet I made as a Cub Scout.

The knives themselves are close at hand.

You're looking at the first two pocketknives I ever owned. That's my Camillus in the foreground, the Ulster behind, resting on page 67 of my original BSA Fieldbook, 1967 edition.

Yeah, I tend to keep the good stuff.

That old Ulster, though I seldom carry it these days, came up in conversation with one of my high-school classmates
last month. His late father was our Scoutmaster, a good and patient man who imparted enthusiasm as well as wisdom. This master woodsman and gifted woodcarver had a great influence on me.

Now, 40 years on, I have the knowledge he shared and the simple edged tool I used to practice what he taught. At the same time, I acknowledge that Scouts in the UK are
explicitly prohibited from carrying knives, and on our own shores knife laws are getting more restrictive every day.

We must do whatever we can to hold on to our independent heritage and the legacy of personal responsibility we seek to pass on to the next generation. For my part, I'll also be holding on to those two old pocketknives -- both for what they are and for the boyhood milestones they represent.

Meghan McCain is not my hero

But when she's right, she's right:

"Christine O'Donnell is making a mockery of running for public office. She has no real history, no real success in any kind of business. And what that sends to my generation is one day, you can just wake up and run for Senate, no matter how [little] experience you have.

"It scares me for a lot of reasons, and I just know in my group of friends, it just turns people off, because she's seen as a nutjob."

That's what she said yesterday on ABC's "This Week." It's clear that Meghan McCain's got bigger (and more independent) balls than does Karl Rove, who last month tried to say the same thing before clamming up and scurrying back to the partisan fringe.

You go, girl.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


To the Ohio State Buckeyes football team: That's what it feels like to get your butt kicked.

It didn't matter what plays Tressel & Co. called, the Wisconsin Badgers were stronger, faster, quicker, meaner, better. Despite the Bucks' heartening third-quarter surge -- which made the game interesting if not respectable -- this was Wisconsin's night.

I'd like to say that being #1 was fun while it lasted, but it didn't last long enough to know for sure. Sheesh.

Beat Michigan, anyone?

Paying for our Dream

My generation, carrying the last banners of the Baby Boom, is facing reality: The American Dream isn't quite what we thought it'd be.

Prosperity once was grounded in opportunity, to each citizen according to ability, but our American Dream has become staked to ownership -- big house, luxury sedan, RV, bass boat and myriad other toys that money can buy.

What we've come to call "financial security" means taking two-week vacations, kicking back at the country club, sending the kids to college, living comfortably in retirement and all the rest.

Now the national economy has soured and our prospects have dimmed. For our children, the future looks even less rosy.

We blame government and banks, liberal Democrats and capitalist pigs, illegal immigrants from Mexico and opportunistic Commies from China, all the while denying the obvious: The U.S. economy has been undermined by The American Dream itself.

When we made the Dream about immediate personal acquisition, we begged for deregulation, easy credit, outsourcing and (because our actions speak louder than our words) corporate bailouts. The trade deficit balloons because we keep demanding something for nothing, cramming our lives with cheap imports.

Craftsmanship, quality and community don't serve our self-absorbed pursuit of getting more for less, so we're surrounded by shuttered businesses and abandoned houses. The staggering national debt is the product of our insistence that we're entitled not merely to the open door of opportunity, but to the final destination of prosperity -- without effort or sacrifice.

And by the way, we're pretty sure that our taxes are too high.

Assigning blame according to ideological stereotypes -- fat-cat conservatives blew up Wall Street and spendthrift liberals created The Entitlement Culture -- is manifest ignorance. Looking to either side of the political aisle for salvation is likewise idiotic.

We, the People, transformed The American Dream from beacon to time-bomb. Our short-sighted selfishness has weakened our nation's economic foundation -- perhaps irreparably.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Words & images

"You never let up, do you? You can't just let it set." (CNN's
Larry King to Academy Award-winning assclown Michael Moore. On last night's program King asked Moore to react to gripping video of the 33rd and last Chilean miner being rescued, prompting Moore to begin a harangue about the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.)

"I find it abundantly disconcerting that we have this much in common with Wasilla...she's so far off the grid." (An unidentified female Delawarean, after she'd watched last night's debate between U.S. Senate candidates
Chris Coons and Christine O'Donnell.)

"He was a throwback, a traditional newsman who understood that he was the eyes and ears of his readers. His passing is a great loss to our newspaper and the community." (Editor Ben Marrison of The Columbus Dispatch, speaking of long-time columnist
Mike Harden, who died last night at 64. Read Harden's final column here and KintlaLake's personal favorite here.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hump Day roundup

Every so often I collect a few topics worthy of comment but resisting a single theme. This is one of those times.

Esperanza y acción
If you're not moved by what's going on right now at the San Jose mine complex in Chile, have someone check you for a pulse. As I post this, 17 of 33 trapped miners have been hauled to the surface.

It's absolutely riveting stuff.

After rescuers established contact with the miners some weeks ago, Jorge Galeguillos sent a letter up to his brother, a fellow miner. He wrote this account of the August 5th collapse:
"We had been up to the workshop and as we were driving back down, a slab of rock caved in just behind us. It crashed down only a few seconds after we drove past. Just ahead I saw a white butterfly. After that, we were caught in an avalanche of dirt and dust. I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. The tunnel was collapsing..."
In a culture as superstitiously Catholic as the Atacama region of Chile, that "white butterfly" is bound to become the next BVM-on-toast -- that is, people all over the world will see an angel in an insect.


Oh, don't get me wrong -- the tale of a butterfly flitting about deep underground is a real head-scratcher and, if it's true, it's pretty damned cool. I just don't feel the need to concoct divine explanations.

I'd rather marvel at the triumph of hope and, more important, the actions of men.

Perspectives on employment
Yesterday I ran across a couple of briefing papers from the Economic Policy Institute. EPI may be a left-leaning think-tank -- "Government must play an active role in protecting the economically vulnerable, ensuring equal opportunity, and improving the well-being of all Americans" -- but numbers don't take sides.

According to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, since the beginning of the recession the U.S. economy needed to add 3.4 million jobs simply to keep pace with population growth. Instead, we lost 8.1 million jobs -- which means that there's a gap of 11.5 million jobs.

Put another way, the U.S. economy would have to add 11.5 million jobs just to get back to December 2007 employment levels.

No one truly believes that those jobs will be coming back any time soon. I say that most won't come back at all.

We also could look at the ratio of job-seekers to available jobs -- currently 4.6-to-1, by EPI's estimate -- and other fascinating stats, but I'm going to toss three numbers into a context that's a bit easier to wrap our brains around.

Coming up with 11.5 million jobs (to achieve pre-recession payrolls, as noted above) is equivalent to employing the entire population of Ohio.

6.1 million American workers -- roughly equal to the population of Indiana, our 14th-largest state -- have been unemployed longer than six months.

26.3 million Americans are either unemployed or under-employed. Only one state's population (California, 33.9 million) exceeds that number, which is greater than the combined populations of Pennsylvania and Illinois.

That sure puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

Macro economy vs. Mike Rowe economy
Mike Rowe, like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, is an entertainer. Unlike those talk-radio blowhards, however, Rowe has a useful agenda, one that could actually benefit this country.

A couple of years ago, the likable host of Dirty Jobs conceived Rather than trying to describe his vision for the project, I'll encourage you to take ten minutes out of your life to watch Mike’s Mission Video -- it's well worth your time.

I happened to catch an
interview with Rowe on CNN yesterday afternoon, which is how I found out what (besides Dirty Jobs and Ford spots) he's up to. Here are a few snips.

"I don't know that we've lost the jobs so dramatically as we have lost touch with the people who do the jobs. But of course that's always the first step in marginalizing something. ... A growing skills gap, a crumbling infrastructure. And just a general dysfunctional relationship with dirt. There really are a couple of different pieces of this country that are not connected."

"...if we don't do something soon, we really are going to be dealing with fewer steam fitters and pipe fitters and electricians and plumbers and carpenters. And that's going to be a real, real problem."

"We've got this idea that a four-year degree is basically the only ticket to happiness and success. And when you celebrate one form of education at the expense of all the other ones, you really do the whole country a disservice. ... So many of the things we define as problems -- infrastructure, manufacturing, the skills gap, I think they're really symptoms of this larger problem that so many of us are just disconnected from the people who haul our water."

That's good stuff there, coming from a good guy. And it's not a bunch of ideological, anti-elitist bullshit, either -- it's pro-work.

Mike Rowe has a grip. I'm going to spend some more time over at and see what else I can learn.

Backyard wallpaper
Walking out into this morning's cool air and brilliant sunshine, I looked up through the canopy of our ash tree. I dashed back inside, grabbed a camera and managed to capture what I saw before the light changed on me. The image, below, is now the wallpaper on my PC.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This dog's day

My #2-ranked Buckeyes stomped Indiana yesterday. (Natch.) Michigan went down to rival Michigan State (for the third year in a row) and South Carolina upset #1 Alabama.

Now that's a good day.

The scribes and coaches who vote in the major polls must feel like they're stuck in a bad dream -- since 2003, OSU has squandered its high rankings and was embarrassed in its last two national-title games.

None of that matters this morning, and figuring out how the hell we'll beat Wisconsin at Camp Randall next Saturday night can wait 'til tomorrow. Right now, here in Buckeye Nation and beyond, what's important is this: We're #1!

* * *
Saturday also brought a few other reasons to smile, decidedly more personal reasons.

One of our neighbors, a kid who played his high-school football across the street, had himself a highlight-reel moment (pictured) in the first quarter of Bucks' 38-10 win over the Hoosiers.

Mrs. KintlaLake's WVU Mountaineers rolled UNLV, 49-10.

I attended OSU-Indiana with our 15-year-old, his first trip to The 'Shoe for something other than a Spring Game. Later I recounted the day's events to my wife, telling her what a great time the spawn and I had together.

"You got to see everything through the eyes of a child," she said, gauging the emotion in my voice.

"No, not exactly," I replied. "For the first time I got to see it through my father's eyes."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sharps: A good edge gets rolled

I'm still trying to sort out how I feel about Tuesday afternoon's news release from Benchmade:
Benchmade Knife Company Acquires Lone Wolf Knives
Acquisition Brings Breadth and Variety to Benchmade...
I'm glad for Benchmade, a solid company that has every reason to be proud of its success. Thing is, I'd developed an affection for Lone Wolf -- both the company and its products.

Early this year I had the pleasure of interviewing Lone Wolf Knives boss Jim Wehrs for a short-term project I was doing. His enthusiasm for the business intrigued me and his commitment to quality won my admiration. Not long afterward I bought one of his Eagle Talon "Double-Action" automatics.

To say that I'm thrilled with the knife is an understatement. Its blade is CPM-S30V stainless steel, the scales fiberglass-reinforced nylon. Pivot and lock are Swiss-watch precise. I love that it can be opened either via the auto mechanism or manually with the thumb stud.

The Eagle Talon auto is the perfect size for EDC (where the law permits). For comparison, I photographed it (ironically, perhaps) next to my Benchmade 556 Mini-Griptilian.

Anyway, back to the acquisition. I carry a Griptilian every single day and have no complaints, but when I heard that big Benchmade had swallowed much smaller Lone Wolf it gave me pause.

Even without knowing details about Lone Wolf's prospects or its financial condition, I'm saddened to see it absorbed by a larger competitor. I'm somewhat consoled, I guess, that at least it became part of another American knifemaker. I'll be interested to see what Benchmade does with the brand.

This is gonna sting

Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church have appeared before on KintlaLake Blog, to illustrate my view that
"Religious fundamentalism, regardless of the form it takes, decimates individual liberties, assaults the foundations of our society and threatens the country I love."
Now a lawsuit against Phelps and his relatives, radical fundamentalist Christians who protest at the funerals of our nation's war dead, has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The question before the court is whether there are limits on the First Amendment's protection of free speech, including vulgar, offensive and shocking speech.

I want to be crystal-clear here: I abhor Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church and everything they stand for. If I'm ever at a military funeral and God's Assholes do anything to desecrate our heroes' sacrifices, I'll join other honorable Americans in taking lawful action to prevent them from adding to a grieving family's pain.

The constitutional
principle at issue, however, stands on the side of the Westboro Baptist Church. In this citizen's opinion, the First Amendment doesn't permit me to silence another citizen's speech simply because it offends me.

If the Supreme Court were to rule otherwise, it might support our sensibilities but it'd be a huge blow to our liberties.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Urban Resources: The Other Economy

I spent my growing-up years living near a large community of Amish. Their buggies were common on our rural roads, and I often saw them tending their fields with teams of draft horses.

As a kid, naturally I viewed my Amish neighbors as isolated, plain and backward. My perspective evolved as I grew older, realizing that their simple life gives them a great measure of independence.

When a summer storm knocks out electricity to our "English" homes and businesses, the Amish are unfazed. It doesn't matter how much snow falls in the winter -- their lives go on unhampered, virtually without interruption.

When a farm implement breaks, an Amish man fixes it himself or solicits the help of another member of the community. If an Amish barn burns, the community musters to rebuild it in a single day.

Don't worry, I won't propose that KintlaLake Blog readers adopt the ways of the Amish. I will, however, suggest that we can learn from their self-sufficiency.

This installment of
Urban Resources isn't going to dwell on the concept of simplicity -- I'll talk more about that some other day. This time I'll focus on another way to pursue independence: the principle of doing business, as much as possible, in The Other Economy.

Just as the Amish aren't inconvenienced when our lights go out, so they're less affected by the ups and downs of The Economy. You and I, by contrast, live in a weakening commercial climate exacerbated by our own conduct, both as consumers and as citizens.

We must have New Stuff; we thrive on disposables. We crave The Next Big Thing as soon as it hits the market.

We shop The Web and hurtle out of town to get The Lowest Price at big-chain retailers, driving past struggling businesses in our own communities.

Worst of all, I think, we've allowed ourselves to be persuaded that we're hopelessly at the effect of The Economy.

We're not. The tools we need to move toward economic independence -- and to strengthen our communities -- are close at hand.

The Other Economy operates within every city, village, town and township. Its worldwide headquarters is in each and every home.

It's largely separate from The Economy we hear about every day. The Other Economy isn't listed on an exchange and it doesn't figure much in statistics like unemployment, consumer confidence or inflation. Taxpayers never have had to hand it a bailout.

The Other Economy doesn't presume to duplicate the insular (albeit not completely insulated) character of Amish communities, but here are some practices that we can bring into our modern society.

First, an attitude shift
Truth is, The Other Economy can't provide everything we want. Taking full advantage of it requires an
honest move from want-driven consumption closer to need-based consumption. As the saying goes:
Use it up, wear it out;
Make it do or do without.
Without that change in perspective this becomes, at best, merely a perfunctory exercise without any real benefit.

Oh, there's one more attitude thing: It's not your responsibility (or mine) to pull The Economy out of the ditch it's in.

'Commerce, close to home'
The most conventional aspect of The Other Economy is a commitment to doing business locally. I
wrote about that principle in the early days of KintlaLake Blog:
"As much as possible...I patronize local businesses, ideally independent shops in my township and town. My next preference is a 25-mile radius, followed by a 100-mile range and my state's borders."
That's easier said than done, of course, but acting on the intent to keep business within a certain radius (which will vary depending on where we live) is absolutely fundamental to the commercial vitality of our communities.

Used, not used-up
Here in the KintlaLake household we're big fans of buying used. In previous posts I've written about buying used
furniture, a used Spyderco Endura I, a used Estwing carpenter's hatchet and, out of dire necessity a couple of years ago, a used Chevy TrailBlazer.

Last summer we picked up a second SUV, a 2004 GMC Yukon XL with over 106,000 miles on the odometer. It's an absolute beast that quickly became my wife's daily driver.

Coincidentally (and sadly), buying the big Yukon now gives us two vehicles assembled in plants that GM closed on
December 23rd, 2008.

Whether shopping a car lot, an antique shop or a secondhand store, the key to buying used is avoiding items that are bona fide lemons, irreparable or well-and-truly huffed. That can be tricky at times, but a good used product often can be had less expensively than an inferior new item. And in the case of "pre-owned" vehicles, all that nasty
depreciation was somebody else's problem.

Shopping the roadside
Each region has its own name for these sales -- garage, yard, tag, rummage -- and we drive by them all the time. That's probably a good idea, since they're magnets for hoarders and full of useless junk.

Still, private sales can be a great source of decent used stuff. I suggest treating them like a trip to the grocery -- make a mission of it, shop from a list and buy with care.

Don't forget that roadside commerce also gives us orchard stores, farmers' markets and garden stands. Some of the best produce I've ever had came from a table under a tree in someone's front yard.

Bazaars of the bizarre
For the purposes of this discussion, I'll lump flea markets and eBay together into this category.

Flea markets these days make Wal-Mart look like Bloomingdales -- they're dominated by cheap Chinese junk -- but they still can yield a pearl or two. I've found good used garden tools at great prices, for example, at a weekly market south of here. I once saw a retired military truck there, a real steal of a deal that I wish I could've afforded at the time.

As for eBay, it's definitely a big part of The Other Economy, but rarely do I find true bargains there, nor does it satisfy my penchant for keeping commerce close to home. (craigslist is better for that, actually.) For the most part I limit my patronage of eBay to selling items that have some sort of recognized collectible value.

'Will work for...'
Bartering was part of my upbringing, though at the time I didn't have a name for it -- it's just what we did. My father often would work for local farmers in return for milk, cheese, meat or produce, even carpentry and masonry.

Over the years I've bused restaurant tables and mucked horse stalls, receiving my "payment" in the form of home-cooked meals. I've traded my writing for everything from herb plants to custom knives, my photography for
concert tickets and my graphic-design services for film and lenses.

One of my fellow
punkin' pickers last month was working for bow-hunting privileges on the farmer's land. With luck, he'll take a deer that'll help feed his family this winter.

And so on -- you get the idea. Bartering arguably is the lynchpin of The Other Economy.

Build a 'DIY bank'
The Economy generally expects us to be greedy, lazy, disinterested and have limited competence. Its success depends on impatient consumers farming-out even the simplest of tasks.

The Other Economy demands thoughtful participation; it cultivates independence and personal responsibility. It requires that individuals acquire, develop and share skills.

Every skill that we have goes into a "DIY bank" that (at a minimum) conserves our other resources. A skill can be bartered or "spent" in more conventional commerce. Skills, if practiced, don't lose their value -- they only appreciate.

It's never too late to learn how to repair plumbing, drive a tractor, fix a flat tire, change engine oil or sharpen lawn-mower blades. Saving money is only the beginning -- the right collection of skills, employed in the right community, can become a downright windfall.

Give it away
One important component of The Other Economy, the last I'll cover in this installment of
Urban Resources, is neither obvious nor is it typically quid pro quo -- the decidedly un-capitalistic practice of volunteering labor, goods and services.

I'm talking about doing something for a neighbor or for the community at large and expecting nothing in return. Fix a furnace or prune a tree. Mow the village green or cook a pot of chili for the township's firehouse. Don't advertise it -- pay forward:

"There is a force that makes us all brothers. None goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own."
See, what makes The Other Economy really hum is that it values principles that'd make Gordon Gekko sneer -- and that's precisely why, in my opinion, its time has come.