Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Either you get it or you don't



Okay, so you think that "Chevy Runs Deep" commercial is sappy or cliché and yeah, maybe the acting won't win any prizes. But if you can't help dismissing it, whatever the reason, you don't get it.

You wouldn't give your right arm for just one more ride in your granddad's truck. You're an incurable consumer, buying shiny new stuff rather than maintaining or restoring perfectly useful old stuff. You'll probably never understand the satisfaction I get from paring an apple with my late father's pen knife, hauling brush in his old wheelbarrow or turning soil with the shovel he used in his own garden.

You haven't the faintest idea what a keeper is, do you?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Meteorology vs. melodrama

While waiting for the younger spawn to emerge from school on the first day of classes yesterday, I heard Rush Limbaugh nonsensically connect the dots -- from the perceived "hype" over Hurricane Irene to the media's allegiance to the Obama "regime."

It was like listening to a drunken college freshman use what he'd learned in Psych 101 to explain nuclear physics.

Moving on, he noted that Colin Powell said on Sunday that he hasn't yet decided who he'll vote for in 2012. Limbaugh then predicted that Powell again would vote for Pres. Obama because,
"Melanin is thicker than water."
The man knows his Dittoheads, I'll give him that. "Don't doubt me!" he bellows. "The fix is in!"

And indeed it is -- just don't tell Limbaugh's simple-minded poodles.

Getting back to Irene -- I'm no meteorologist, but I'm smart enough to recognize that forecasting weather, especially tropical systems, is an inexact science. Irene, like most hurricanes, bobbed and wiggled. It threatened to follow a path that could take an unprecedented toll in lives, livelihoods, property and infrastructure.

The worst didn't happen. Perfect hindsight, however, doesn't warrant indicting the press, forecasters or public officials for warning citizens of the scientifically reasonable chance that it could happen.

Yes, the media did inject unnecessary drama into the whole affair, but that's not unusual. They do it every day. It doesn't move me.

I do have a problem, though, with characterizing some as "ignoring" or "defying" official evacuation orders. Not the true idiots, people who went swimming in the surf as Hurricane Irene made landfall -- I'm talking about prepared, independent citizens who gauged the risks and responsibly chose to shelter-in-place.

Truth be told, the vast majority of folks who stayed put were guided by sentiment or ego, not by critical thought or common sense. The unprepared now complain that they're still stranded or that their power still hasn't been restored. And yes, even they deserve the right to ride out a big storm in their own homes.

Personally (and within reason) I would've done whatever it took to avoid becoming a refugee in my own land. That choice is neither ignorant nor defiant -- it's independent.

I spent 20-plus years of my life in southern New England. Often I ventured north into Vermont, New Hampshire and the Adirondacks of New York -- for the scenery, sure, but also because I was drawn to the region's independent spirit.

The remnants of Hurricane Irene unleashed catastrophic flooding on the area. Bridges I've crossed -- swept away. Streets I walked, the riverside restaurant where I savored morning coffee -- devastated. A friend's house perched on the bank of the Mad River, the place where I celebrated Independence Day a dozen years ago -- gone.

My heart aches for these Americans, and yet I have no doubt that they'll rebound and rebuild like the People they are.

Up there, see, especially in rural communities and small villages, independence wins out over drama -- every time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wallpaper: McGuffey Lane


Here's a page torn from my sketchpad -- a simple image, massaged a bit in Photoshop, becomes an appealing desktop background.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My sketchpad

My wife and I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to drop in on the annual Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival last night. It was no coincidence that McGuffey Lane occupied the main stage when we arrived, making this the second straight weekend that we've caught their act.

This time I wasn't there to photograph the performance. I left my pro gear at home but, as I often do, I brought along my digital pocket camera and snapped about a dozen images of the show.
A little silver PhD* camera naturally is less capable than a big black SLR with interchangeable lenses. It works well for documenting events and preserving memories, but even its best work should be passed through the filter of lower expectations.

Then again, because it's much smaller it's more likely to be carried. (That should sound familiar, by the way.) And "getting the shot" requires actually having something to shoot with.

Put another way -- if Jeff Cooper, quoted in Friday's post, had been a photographer instead of the Father of Modern Pistolcraft, he might well have said,
"Remember the first rule of photography: Have a camera."
So a point-and-shoot camera is, potentially, an EDC item. For the committed photographer, however, a high-quality PhD* has other, less obvious applications.

Photography's components -- composition, exposure, highlight and shadow, color, etc. -- are fundamental. Different equipment may render a given subject in different ways, but I've found that spending time with a pocket camera and then transferring lessons learned to a like-branded SLR (I choose Canon) to be extraordinarily helpful.

Most often I use the smaller camera to play around with composition. I bring the results of those tests back to my PC, looking for promising angles worth exploring with my SLR.

Essentially, it's equivalent to the artist's sketchpad.

That's what I did two years ago with the barns. I do it whenever I shoot a knife, a morning's harvest or other subject to accompany a post on KintlaLake Blog. It was my mission last night, too, as I captured McGuffey Lane's show from a band's-eye perspective.
The images I've posted here today document a scene but by no means are they great photos. That's ok by me -- the goal of the exercise was to create sketches, continuing my exploration of the medium.

*PhD = "push here, dummy"

Friday, August 19, 2011

EDC vs. EWC

The process of choosing EDC items is part-and-parcel of developing a preparedness mindset. Although I continue to fiddle with my own kit, it's changed little since last September.

I still carry a multi-blade pocketknife as well as a folding knife with locking blade, semi-auto pistol and spare magazine, flashlight, pry bar, wristwatch, cell phone, keys and wallet.

Preparedness isn't simply a collection of gadgets, of course, so cultivating the skills to use the tools I've chosen is essential. And beyond that, I must have the discipline to carry those tools -- ownership and mastery, indispensable though they are, become useless without possession. I believe it was Jeff Cooper who said,
"Remember the first rule of gunfighting: Have a gun."
For some time now I've been honing my discipline to carry not just every day, but everywhere practicable. I've found focusing on EWC (as opposed to EDC) to be an eye-opening exercise.

We humans are reasonable creatures -- that is, we tend to want good reasons to do stuff. I'm just walking to the mailbox, so do I really need a knife? Why should I bother to have a handgun on my belt while I'm sitting here at my desk? It's daytime -- what good is a flashlight?

Those questions don't reflect a preparedness mindset. Anyone who's moved past EDC to EWC understands what I'm talking about.

Choosing what to carry means choosing to carry it -- establish the reason and then (for the most part) dismiss it. And for me, choosing to carry an item means carrying it all the time.

Ok, not all the time. Carrying a knife or a firearm isn't permitted everywhere. And no, I don't carry my kit to bed or in the shower, but in both places they remain within arm's reach.

By the time that Mrs. KintlaLake and I are enjoying pre-dawn coffee and conversation on the patio, I'm carrying every item mentioned above. Likewise when I mow the lawn or walk the dogs, cook dinner or change the oil in the truck, ride my bicycle or water the garden.

All together now: Not just every day -- everywhere.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Walk-off, Homer

Despite the attention I've paid to Christine O'Donnell since she rose to notoriety 11 months ago, it's hard to overstate how insubstantial and inept she is. Politically she's like a gnat that's become separated from the swarm -- annoying and persistent, yet incapable of accomplishing anything of consequence.

Yesterday's performance is but the latest evidence.

O'Donnell's fans will agree with her claim that Piers Morgan's questioning was rude, typical of the dreaded Gotcha Lamestream Media. That perspective demonstrates three things: immaturity; a colossal ignorance of the role of a free press; and personal neuroses that likely include paranoia, or at least a raging persecution complex.

Together, they go a long way toward explaining some folks' attraction to an immature and clearly neurotic 41-year-old woman for whom persecution (so perceived) is a calling card.

As certain as I am of my armchair psychoanalysis, I'm veering out of my lane here. I do know a thing or two, however, about working with the news and entertainment media.

First of all, an interviewer is under no legal, moral or ethical obligation to address only topics that the interviewee wants to talk about. Yesterday O'Donnell showed her misconceptions (and her ass):
"Well, don't you think as a host, if I say this is what I want to talk about, that's what we should address?"
Any host who limits his questioning to agreed-upon topics is complicit in his guest's propaganda -- only amateurs, hacks and shills do that. They insult our constitutional right to a free and independent press.

See, there are no "gotcha questions" -- there are only questions that the subject doesn't want to answer (or hasn't prepared to answer).

We needn't look far to find an example of how to navigate a tough interview. Mark Sanford, the disgraced former governor of South Carolina, appeared live on Piers Morgan Tonight just two days before the O'Donnell debacle. I make no judgments about Sanford's marital infidelity, political ideology or religious faith, but during this minefield of an interview he conducted himself with grace and poise.

Second, when a public figure emerges after a long absence to do a round of interviews, everyone knows that they're promoting something -- a TV show, a CD, a tour or, in the case of Christine O'Donnell, a book. The trick, for an interview subject, is to make the viewer forget the self-serving promotion angle.

I always advise my spokespersons to focus on being poised and appealing, answer the questions and let the interviewer bring up the product. O'Donnell took the opposite approach:
"As I admit in the book..."
"As I, again, painstakingly detail in the book..."
"As I write in the book..."
"I wrote this book..."
"I address it in the book."
"Let's get the conversation back to the book."
"I'm here to talk about the book."
"What I'm trying to do is to promote a book."
In all, she reminded us about her new book 16 times -- and that in an abbreviated interview, for cryin' out loud. It was the only topic she was prepared to talk about, so she came off as a clumsy huckster.

Making my third and last point will require going back to the early part of yesterday's interview, before the conversation got contentious. Morgan had just played the infamous "I'm not a witch" campaign ad, calling it "creepy." O'Donnell, justifiably chagrined, admitted that the spot was a mistake:
"I listened to the so-called experts who had been losing election after election...listen to your gut...the experts aren't always experts."
Later in the interview, when the going got tough, we saw her glancing off-camera to her left -- either her "gut" was over on the other side of the studio or, more likely, she was taking cues from an "expert."

Shortly after that, she again looked off-camera and said,
"OK. I'm being pulled away."
Pulled by what, her gut? Apparently she's hired another expert who's as clueless as she is, one who willfully embarrassed their client.

A successful interview can pay big dividends in publicity -- but a good interview is, more than anything else, a test. As consumers of news media, that's what we should demand -- the tougher, the better.

We should praise media for administering those tests, recognize public figures who pass them and quickly write off whiny weaklings like Christine O'Donnell.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Breaking News: Bachmann's first endorsement

"I'm not talking about policies. I'm not running for office. Ask Michele Bachmann what she thinks."

(Former U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, just before her handlers pulled the plug on her interview today with Piers Morgan)



(Blogger's note: I've spent much of my professional life prepping public figures for media interviews, and I've done hundreds of interviews myself. Trust me, walking out -- a la Carrie Prejean and Christine O'Donnell -- does nothing to embarrass the host. It only exposes the interview subject as an assclown. KL)

Ok, now you're just makin' stuff up

The heretofore harmless "flash mob" phenomenon -- groups of people arranging to meet at specific times and places to burst into song, break into dance, etc. -- appears to have been co-opted by anarchists, criminals and other ne'er-do-wells.

That's life. It's the way culture evolves.

Last Thursday the folks who run BART, San Francisco's commuter rail line, were expecting just such a mob, reportedly to protest July's fatal shooting involving a BART police officer. In an effort to disrupt the protest, BART cut cell-phone service (including 911 service) on its train platforms for three hours.

If you ask me, that was a lousy idea -- BART had smarter options. What I find stranger, however, is the fallout. Take this reaction from Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
"It's very clearly a major First Amendment problem whenever a government agency takes it upon itself to simply prevent people from being able to speak."
Gene Policinski of the First Amendment Center seems to agree:
"If government was seizing printing presses to keep people from understanding or learning something, I think traditionally in this country that would just be beyond the pale. The question is, does a momentary disruption of cell phone service constitute that kind of level of government interference with speech?"
BART's Linton Johnson, responding to the criticism, offered this:
"There is a constitutional right to safety. A lot of people are forgetting the fact that there are multiple constitutional rights and are focusing solely on one."
I hardly know where to begin here. I guess I'll start with the text of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
I'll grant that we need to re-examine human, civil and constitutional rights in the context of a high-tech society but, the way I read the First Amendment, we aren't guaranteed cell phones and 911 service.

The freedom to speak and the ability to communicate are two very different things.


What's more, in this Nanny State of ours -- and let's face it, no state is nannier than the People's Republic of California -- government always will err on the side of public safety. That principle-of-power often is exploited and abused, of course, which explains how we end up with CCTV and other measures taken "for our own good."

Most of the time there's nothing good about it. BART could've (and perhaps should've) secured its platforms another way, some less oppressive way, but it didn't -- that's how it works these days. It's inescapable and here to stay. We'd best stop pretending otherwise.

Now, going back to BART's astounding contention:
"There is a constitutional right to safety."
That's just bizarre, even for California. Even for San Francisco, which has burdened us with the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Emiel Goldman Berman Feinstein Blum, it's truly bizarre.

Would somebody please show me where the hell in the Constitution we're guaranteed a right to safety? Anyone?

I know where these rumors get started -- namely in the anti-Liberty, pro-entitlements crowd -- and its home office undoubtedly is SF, PRC. But no matter how common it is, it's unfiltered bullshit.

In this debate, one argument strains credibility while the other side has none at all. I'm fooled by neither.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The circus comes to South Carolina

"Before we get started, let's all say 'Happy Birthday' to Elvis Presley today!

"Happy Birthday!

"We played you a little bit of 'Promised Land' when we pulled up. You can't do better than Elvis Presley, and we thought we would celebrate his birthday as we get started celebrating taking our country back to work!"


(Rep. Michele Bachmann, candidate for President of the United States, at a rally today in Spartanburg, South Carolina -- on the 34th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. This, fellow citizens, is the gaffe machine that won last weekend's Iowa Republican straw poll.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Forty-eight hours (illustrated)


In yesterday's much-ballyhooed (but patently inconsequential) Ames Straw Poll, Rep. Michele Bachmann won a squeaker over Rep. Ron Paul. Stealing a piece of their thunder, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas announced that he, too, wants to be President.

Never mind what you hear from giddy conservatives -- neither development heralds the defeat of Pres. Barack Obama. So far Bachmann and Paul have polled poorly in a hypothetical matchup with the incumbent, and Perry will show that he's incapable of shedding the perception that he's nothing more (or less) than George W. Bush II.

Worse, and despite thumping the "Liberty!" tub, all three of these GOP hopefuls pander shamelessly to (so-called) "social conservatives" -- white evangelical Christians, mostly, whose ideology couldn't be more antithetical to Liberty.

Barely a week before declaring his candidacy, Perry led 30,000 in a "Prayer-Palooza" at a stadium in Houston -- a sitting governor keynoting a camp meeting. Even Paul, arguably dean of the small-government movement, has been sucked into the anti-libertarian abyss on abortion and other issues.

Considering the weak Republican field, this is not good.


"I may not be the gearhead I used to be, but I'm still plenty redneck."

Those aren't my words -- they came from my smiling wife as we sat along a curb in nearby Reynoldsburg last night, joining thousands of others to watch the annual Mopar Nationals "Brice Road Cruise."

The air was thick with tire smoke. Some of the onlookers, many of them children, laid down patches of water on the pavement, hoping to lure a good burnout. Drivers were more than willing to oblige, a token police presence having little effect.

Either you get this sort of thing or you don't. We had a ball, and besides, dropping by the Brice Road Cruise was Mrs. KintlaLake's idea.

I married a redneck gearhead. Somebody pinch me.


Ohio's state flag appears on a new postage stamp, released on Friday. It's part of the "Flags of Our Nation" series and, since I'm a born-and-bred Buckeye, it's a source of pride.

Yet another harvest shot, this haul from midday today -- nine large cukes, five peppers, two Romas and five yellow pear tomatoes.

I'll end this roundup with the way our weekend began -- at the Huntington Park Hoedown, a benefit concert held Friday evening at the home ballpark of the Columbus Clippers.

We arrived at the will-call window just before the gates opened, fetched my media badge and my wife's field pass and made our way to the visitors' dugout to deposit my photo gear. Local solo artist Chris Logsdon took the stage first, followed by Jonalee White and her band. Both treated the crowd to typically great performances.

McGuffey Lane, by far our favorite local band (and the source of our comp passes, by the way), was next on the bill and didn't disappoint. My wife and I adjourned to the parking lot for a smoke after their set.

When we returned, the reunited Exile was onstage. Of all the acts, we figured, this was the lone take-or-leave proposition.

Boy, were we wrong.

I don't remember the last time I was as blown away by a performance. I mean, here was an '80s pop-turned-country band showing chops that had the show's other musicians gathering, awestruck, behind the stage. Exile's a capella rendition of "People Get Ready," the Curtis Mayfield classic, had the ballpark so quiet I swear I heard the outfield grass growing.

Seriously, people -- if you have a chance to catch Exile live, with all five of its founding members, do it. I promise you won't regret it.

Hoedown headliner Pure Prairie League, over five hours after their sound check, closed the show with a high-energy set, including three of my favorites: "Early Morning Riser," "Two-Lane Highway" and, of course, "Amie."

Photographically the night had me wishing for faster glass and steadier hands. But incomparable music performed in a great venue, on a clear summer evening that saw a full moon rise over the Columbus skyline behind the stage -- it doesn't get better than that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Here's your sign

KintlaLake Blog often speaks to those who, like me, defend individual citizens' constitutional right to keep and bear arms. In this post, however, I want to address Americans who support gun control -- those who'd never consider owning a gun, who oppose individuals' possessing firearms, who believe that we citizens should rely solely on law-enforcement professionals for our defense.

Carrying a concealed handgun is legal here in Ohio, provided that the armed citizen possesses a valid state-issued permit. Even with a concealed-carry permit, there are certain "prohibited places" -- police stations, courthouses and government buildings, churches and school zones, among others, as well as any building or property displaying a sign like the one shown here (right).

If there's no such sign at the entrance of a facility, and as long as firearms aren't explicitly prohibited in the location by law, concealed carry of a handgun -- again, with a valid permit -- is allowed.

There's another sign (right) that's unofficial, voluntary and, because state law presumes permission without statutory or expressed prohibition, rare. It lets the public know that concealed carry not only is allowed -- it's (implicitly) welcome.

Mrs. KintlaLake and I exercise lawful concealed carry of our handguns, both here and in other states where an Ohio permit is valid. We abide by statutory prohibitions, which includes looking for no-guns signs and conducting ourselves accordingly. Typical of citizens who hold a concealed-carry permit, we obey the law.

If you're like most gun-control advocates I've encountered, you hold that laws allowing citizens to possess and carry firearms constitute a threat to public safety. The argument follows, then, that a building displaying a no-guns sign must be safer than one displaying the guns-welcome sign or no sign at all.

Now suppose you're strolling along a sidewalk in downtown Columbus, Ohio, when you hear a loud bang. At first you think it's a car backfiring, but then you hear several more -- bang, bang-bang...bang -- and you notice terrified people running in all directions.

"Gun!" screams a woman who knocks you off-balance as she barges past you. "Guy with a gun! Shooting people!"

You hear more gunshots. Two people fall to the ground, one of them less than a hundred feet in front of you. Just beyond, you see a man with a rifle.

You, of course, are unarmed. The police are nowhere in sight.

As you turn to flee, you notice two storefronts. Each has a sign posted on the entry door -- one prohibiting all firearms, the other welcoming their lawful carry. What do you do?

Remember, you truly believe that a place that bans guns is safer than allowing trained citizens to carry guns on the premises. You believe that laws and signs are your best defense.

You walk through the first door. Do you feel safe?

More to the point: Do think that crazed guy with the rifle -- or any other armed criminal -- gives a damn about laws and no-guns signs?

And do you, in that moment, still believe that you're safer seeking refuge where all law-abiding citizens voluntarily disarmed before entering, rather than choosing that "dangerous" place next door, where there just may be a responsible private citizen prepared for armed defense?


Look, I'll respect your choice not to own or carry a firearm -- the Second Amendment codifies a right, not a requirement -- but please, please stop trying to impose your ill-conceived rules on those of us who choose to lawfully take responsibility for our own defense.


"The philosophy of gun control: Teenagers are roaring through town at 90MPH, where the speed limit is 25. Your solution is to lower the speed limit to 20." (Sam Cohen)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Breaking it down

I'm not fond of mass e-mails. I don't encourage folks to send them to me, and it's rare that I pass them along.

Today I'll make an exception.

Maybe you've seen this already -- lopping eight zeroes from U.S. federal financials to illustrate what annual household finances would look like in proportion. To wit, I present the mythical "Jones" family:
Income (net): $21,700
Expenditures: $38,200
Borrowing: $16,500
Debt (total): $142,710
Obviously, any household with a balance sheet like that is living irresponsibly beyond its means. The Joneses, recognizing this, decide to cut this year's spending:
Reduction in expenditures: $385
That's absurd, of course -- but it's precisely what our elected officials are doing.

I've read commentary suggesting that the Jones analogy demonstrates the need to increase household income dramatically (that is, the U.S. government must impose onerous taxes). That misses the point by a country mile.

What the Obama administration calls "a balanced approach" -- reducing spending while increasing revenue -- truly is, in my view, the only intellectually honest solution to the debt-and-deficit problem. Still, a simplistic household analogy makes it clear that it's our spending that needs change -- revolutionary change -- and I have absolutely zero confidence that'll happen.

Our President, who's showing us that inspiration isn't the same thing as leadership, doesn't have the juice to do it. Congress isn't capable of it, and neither is a bipartisan "super committee," which is nothing more than a dysfunctional Congress en micro.

In any case, the entitlement-hungry masses wouldn't allow it.

I can't see the status quo lasting longer than a few years more -- and since the problems won't be fixed, American life as we know it could crumble. I can imagine order beginning to break down within a year and civil unrest becoming widespread within two.

Pessimistic? Damned right.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A handful of discoveries

It's a damp, overcast morning here at KintlaLake Ranch. Seems like a good time to catalog some unexpected finds.

In one of my Urban Resources posts I surveyed The Other Economy, that rich source of goods and services operating outside the conventional marketplace. My family and I have been "shopping the roadside" a lot lately, turning up bargain after useful bargain.

I've regretted parting with my Black & Decker Benchtop Workmate since leaving it behind when I moved back to Ohio ten years ago. Introduced in the late 1970s, the Benchtop model eventually was discontinued, so if I wanted to replace it I'd have to explore the secondhand market.

I discovered this one (above) earlier this summer at a garage sale halfway down a narrow alley in our village. Other than a few stains and a little rust, I found it in excellent condition, complete except for a pair of original-issue L-bolts that clamp it to a bench.

The price: just $3.00. Two carriage bolts, two flat washers and two wingnuts, purchased at the local hardware store, put it on my workbench for a grand total of four bucks.

Because a man can never have enough vises (or vices, for that matter), at another garage sale that same day I picked up this "hobby vise" (left) for two dollars. It clamps to the work-surface with a thumbscrew and will come in handy for a variety of small projects.

Speaking of The Other Economy, our village held its annual flea market last weekend. It's not a big event, just a coupla dozen canopied tables piled with household castoffs. My wife and I came home with a three-foot chocolate rabbit (brown plastic, actually) that'll grace our front porch next Easter, and a 1960s-vintage glass-and-chrome teapot. Together, the two items cost us two bucks.

I spent one more dollar, that on an old Boy Scout "contest medal." These awards were introduced in the late 1920s, as I understand it, but they'd been retired by the time I became a Scout myself.

Wanting to get a better fix on this medal's age, yesterday I examined it with a magnifying glass. Other than the word CAMPING cast into the front, the pendant bears no markings. Stamped on the clasp at the top of the ribbon, however, is PAT. NO. 2,795,064. A bit of web-sleuthing unearthed a copy of the original patent for the clasp -- applied for in 1953, granted in 1957.

So the clasp, at least, probably is as old as I am. A buck bought me a keeper and a pleasant exercise in discovery.

I love beer -- and I mean good beer. Sure, I'm willing to throw back my earthly portion of mass-produced barley pop, but I prefer beer that has actual flavor.

In a corner-store lager, for example, I enjoy an ice-cold Rolling Rock. If I had to choose a favorite, without a doubt it'd be Rogue Brewery Dead Guy Ale. And as you might expect, I'm especially partial to small-batch local brews, like those from Columbus Brewing Company.

Recently I learned of Rockmill Brewery, located in nearby Lancaster, and its Belgian-style ales. As the story goes, Rockmill's founder discovered that the well on his family's farm produced water with the same mineral content as that found in Wallonia, Belgium, and that served as the inspiration for four unusual ales.

Mrs. KintlaLake and I savored a bottle of Rockmill Dubbel over a plate of summer sausage, sharp cheese and apple slices (this isn't a beer one serves with nachos), and we came away truly amazed. It's strong (6% to 8% ABM), full-bodied and fruity, as well as pricey ($16 for a 22-ounce bottle) -- and worth every penny.

Great beer, brewed barely a stone's throw from home -- that's as good as it gets. There's a bottle of high-octane Rockmill Tripel in my fridge, and I can't wait to pop the cork.

Finally, of course, our vegetable garden offers up discoveries almost every day -- take this green-and-yellow beauty (below) that sprang from one of the "volunteer" vines I mentioned last week. At about 12 inches long, it's the largest gourd that's set (so far). Our unintentional crop continues to spread, so there will be more.

Monday, August 8, 2011

SHIFT_down

As every thinking person expected, our government's credit rating got dinged by Standard & Poor's. Moody's and Fitch, each of which has expressed formal pessimism about U.S. debt, now contemplate downgrades of their own.

What happens next? No one knows, and anyone who claims to know is guessing. These are uncharted waters, nationally and globally. Any honest analysis admits as much.

S&P, in explaining its rationale for the downgrade, judged the U.S.'s debt-to-GDP ratio to be unsustainable. It was the current political climate, however -- read, ineptitude and ideological inertia  -- that caused the agency to pull the trigger.

It would've been reasonable to hope (if not predict), then, that the feuding factions -- Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as well as the Obama administration -- would start acting like Americans for a change. No such luck.

On the weekly talk shows yesterday, partisan finger-pointing ruled, with each side flaming the other. Republicans blamed Pres. Obama. (Natch.) Sen. John Kerry and others test-flew a new Democratic Party talking point, calling S&P's action the "Tea Party downgrade" -- which is idiotic, of course, but unfortunately it'll probably catch on.

Surrogates for the White House busied themselves pitching rocks at S&P, calling it "amateurish" (among other things). That prompted this reaction from Sen. John McCain on Meet the Press:
"On the S&P thing, don’t shoot the messenger. Is there anybody that believes that S&P is wrong in their assessment of the situation -- of the fiscal situation of this country?"
That's the truth, as succinct as it can be. And until
Nixon-Ford-Carter-Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-
Congress-Bureaucracy Downgrade
fits easily on a bumper sticker, it'll have to do.

I spent ten years of my professional life in the corporate headquarters of two financial-services companies, the last four in the executive suite of a major player in the investment business, so I know something about the influence of agencies like S&P, Moody's, Fitch and Best.

I can say that in the private sector, a downgrade (or even a negative outlook) can suck the life out of a company. I also know that corporate instability -- the comings and goings of fund managers, for example -- can tip a ratings agency toward taking action. Finally, I can't recall a downgraded company that hasn't issued a press release saying that S&P (e.g.) is full of shit, abuses kittens, etc.

That's just the way it works.

After all that, the same question burns: So what's going to happen after this downgrade? The answer remains: We simply don't know. Common sense and convenient parallels, however, combine to offer us a few useful clues.

Interest rates are likely to rise for businesses and, consequently, for consumers. The recession is bound to deepen, and sharply. Depending on how bad things get, how long they stay that way and what cuts are announced in November, I envision civil unrest resembling what we've seen in the U.K. and Greece.

On the bright side, gas prices may come down -- maybe.

It's not the duty of citizens to save the nation's economy, but as much as possible, in my view, this is the time to renew our commitment to supporting domestic and local commerce. We should ignore the flailings of Wall Street and the wailings of its shills -- anyone who spews chestnuts like "historical performance" or exhorts us to "stay in the market" is a self-interested robot, not an expert and certainly not a friend.

And, of course, when Election Day rolls 'round, we must send incompetent incumbents packing.

Making wise choices now, deliberately, preparing for deteriorating economic and social conditions -- and I predict that they will deteriorate -- will give us the agility we'll need when the time comes to act in the interest of ourselves, our families and our communities.