Thursday, January 07, 2010

Waiting for family 

I visit my parents often in the winter in Myrtle Beach.  It has an airport that reminds me of how the old Ontario, CA, airport was before LA County decided they wanted it to be the alternative to LAX and enlarged it without regard for passengers.  In the old days you walked in, through security, and outside to gates that had benches.  Myrtle Beach doesn't have you wait outside, but you still walk on tarmac and up trucked-stairs to the plane.  There is something very 1960s about it; you expect an airplane door to open and John, Paul, George and Ringo to pop out.

But better for me is the airport's receiving area.  Passengers come out of the secure area down a long aisle.  Along one side are chairs, where people wait for their friends to arrive.  You never see these seats anywhere else.  Why?  My parents are typical -- seniors waiting for family to come to visit.  Even though it has been 30 degrees most of the week here, children my age arrive daily with smiles to see their parents who have managed to live well enough to be in a vacation area.  Those older people are the ones that need the seats, and there you are.  It is for me a reminder of a pre-9/11 time when going to the airport was exciting and fun.  When my parents picked me up I had been waiting for them, watching these people greet each other.  It was as happy a place as you've seen in an airport in many years, more like those mob scenes at foreign airports when the emigrants to America come back to visit Mom and Dad.

The area here is experiencing 12%+ unemployment; the first two restaurants we tried to visit were closed "temporarily".  (Had a fantastic meal at a small Greek place where we were served by Albanians who had worked in Greece -- figure that out for me please!)  Parking is easy everywhere.  The hospitality industry is still in trouble almost everywhere.  

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Blessings at Christmas 

There is nothing quite so pretty as a Christmas morning with snow filling the pine trees in the back yard. (Only one of them is mine; my neighbor has five more that I see from the breakfast nook. God bless externalities!) The old tool shed has a white hat, and the wheelbarrow we never put away is filled.

Because Mrs. is a church pianist first and accompanist second, our mornings are always long and relaxed while we wait for her to come back from church service -- Littlest and I figure we did our share in the last weeks with Advent, Sunday and Christmas Eve services, and so we sleep. The two of them went sliding at 10pm after church last night; wish my back would permit it, but I settled for a Christmas Eve Cafe Creme or two and a cup of coffee with a dollop of adult beverage. With snow drifiting down and the frozen Mississippi behind me, I thought I should have brought the flip camera but, honestly, you couldn't have done the memory justice.

So Littlest slept while I ran the snowblower for Mrs. to get to church. 10" on the ground since Wednesday night; heavy stuff that strains my little 5hp mower that would make Soucheray snicker with derision. Then grab Littlest and go to a tradition we have called Christmas Breakfast with a Jew, which involves my golf partner and several friends. The group has changed over the years but the tradition continues -- the local Holiday Inn may be the only place with a Christmas breakfast buffet, and they expect us. So do many of the other patrons, many who are at other tables in St. Cloud's Panera the other 364 days.

Then home and open presents. Now that Littlest is a high schooler it doesn't have the same buzz, but it is a time for laughing as many gifts are humorous. Littlest got slime and a snow brick mold, Mrs a gaydar detector (Littlest's idea, not mine; I think I outgrew Spencer's Gifts last year) and I got tidy whities. I've announced they will be worn to Christmas dinner at the sister-in-law's tonight; they laughed at being brought in on the secret. Probably just humoring me, which is the best gift a man can get.

That will probably be all I do this afternoon. If the family wants to go sliding again I'm taking a bigger cigar, and will drink port from a mug. Not elegant, but effective. Sometimes an old friend calls and we walk together with the cigars and brandy (he does not like port, a pity.) The snow will make it harder work, but well worth the effort.

So much to be thankful for. A new radio show that I thought was a terrible idea four months ago and love now; a sabbatical and changes to my life as I stop being a department chair next summer; my younger child about to start driving lessons; a full humidor; a year of better health and a back that feels as good as it has in ten years; memories of China still being processed. ("Walk the Great Wall" is now scratched off the bucket list.) If I sat here for an hour I could triple this list.

I did honestly think last September I might decide to close this blog -- seven years and over 7000 posts is much more than I had planned to do. But it has just become too much a part of my day and as so many other things are changing for me this has gone from fling to habit to anchor. When in China I was told I could not blog I thought there had to be a way. (There is, btw, via email. That's how I posted.)

Some gifts keep giving, and in this season where we celebrate the greatest gift of all time, God's gift of salvation, I just wanted to thank those of you who keep reading what Janet and I put up here. Your clicks are gifts to us, each and every day.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009


Pepper, our cat of the last nine years, age unknown because he was a stray that insisted on coming into our lives (he was a senior when he got here, we're quite sure), left this world for better last night. He has suffered kidney failure for the last year. Got off our bed, went to a corner of the house, laid down and didn't get up.

Thanks for stopping in, boy.

Pepper is on the left in this picture. Sparkler and, of course, Buttercup remain with us.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

In lieu of gratitude 

I would have left this opinion alone except for two things. One of them will be in the next post. (UPDATE: Sorry, forgot the link.)

This woman attends both the town hall by Rep. Bachmann and the T.E.A. party on Lake George across the street as someone opposed to both. (I wonder if she was the one who I watched boo repeatedly from the bleachers at the town hall. I wanted to take a video of her and give it to her children to see; I wondered how she would explain her booing not only of the Representative but also the questioners who were opposed to H.R. 3200. But I have no idea if this is that woman or not, and booing is part of your First Amendment rights.) She gets into discussions with people at both with whom she disagrees, and gets it all in print. Bully for her.

What caught my eye was this passage:
Bachmann�s assumption that the poor should be happy in their hearts to rely on religious charity is simply laughable.

It ignores the fact that, to many people, charity is ingratiating � and it is always undependable and inconsistent.

Is it really such a beautiful thing that a family trying to treat a member�s terminal illness is ingratiated to begging money off �the generous public� at car washes and charity suppers?
Now a woman who's studied "feminist rhetoric", whatever that is, didn't use the same word "ingratiate" twice without a reason. What would be her reason? The word "ingratiate" simply means to bring someone into the good graces of another, most often yourself. Its etymology contains the Latin word "gratia" for "favor, grace." So shall I understand that this woman believes you should be able to get something from another without exchanging anything in return? What does she want in lieu of gratitude?

There are two ways to do that. You can be moocher, someone who begs money from someone else by being mostly annoying; we give the bum money not out of generosity but to make them go away. It would be great if every time I had a poor person approach me I felt Christian love and charity towards them. I don't; I consider that part of the human condition of being always in sin. I had someone approach me as I went into the Ace Bar on the east side last week and ask specifically for $1.50. I tried to see if I had that exact amount. I had $1.35 and gave it to her. and she seemed disappointed. No thank you was forthcoming. As I turned another man, who had seen me fish for change in my pocket, presented himself looking for some money too. I shrugged and said I had no more. This wasn't true, but all I had was $20 bills in my pocket, and I didn't feel THAT generous particularly when he just asked for "change".

It would be nice to say I felt I had done some good deed, but that wasn't really what I felt as I walked away. We all want, as Adam Smith said, to be seen by others as being good. When I give money and am somehow seen as still coming up short, my desire to do more is diminished.

The other way to get something without exchanging anything in return is to use government to take from someone else and give it to you. The writer identifies herself as "a pro-public-option taxpayer" -- does this mean she would like to use force as a substitute for gratitude? What is the moral argument for that? Dennis Prager explores this:
On what moral grounds can the state force a citizen essentially at gunpoint to give away his legally and morally earned money? Why isn't taxation a form of legalized stealing? The obvious answer is that common sense dictates that citizens have the moral right, even the moral obligation, to vote to give money to, at the very least, enable a government to fund a police force, sustain a national defense, and help those incapable of helping themselves or of being helped by others.

But at some point beyond that, taxation becomes nothing more than legalized stealing. Obviously, people will differ over where exactly that point is, but no rational person disputes that such a point exists. No one could argue that a 100 percent tax -- even if it paid for every need every member of the society had -- was moral and not simply a form of theft.

So moral problem No.1 with taxation is the morality of forcing other people -- under threat of violence -- to give their money away.
But this student of "feminist rhetoric" would rather argue for something potentially immoral than be bothered with offering the simple value of gratitude.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

All I will say on Michael Vick 

Frankly, the legend of Michael Vick will be determined as we go forward. It won't be determined on the field of football. His life, he will never ever be able to recover from what he criminally and murderously took part in, but he has an opportunity to create a legend where maybe he can be a force in stopping the horrendous cruelty to animals, the dogfighting. A lot of us probably have our heads in the sands, and I know I have, when it comes to what really goes on in inner cities and around the country with dogfighting and cruelty to animals. It's not a good picture.
That's Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, from Mike Lombardi's Sunday at the (Football) Post column (which you should read all the way through for more, and every Sunday if you like both football and management.) I don't care about Vick as a football player, though as a Giants fan I'm worried about the two games we play them. But I spent some of my earlier years working on animal welfare issues, managing a foster dog care network for abandoned animals. Mrs. S is more the animal rights person than me, but marriage to her means seeing so many depressing pictures of cruelty. It's not the only reason I've been vegetarian for more than 20 years, but as I try to balance my diet more lately I still think about eating things with faces, and shudder.

It hasn't gotten better since I started thinking about it in the 1980s. If anything, worse. If putting a uniform on Vick makes him more effective as a spokesperson against animal cruelty, then maybe Lurie and the Eagles are doing the right thing. "Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom." (Job 33:24) Take it, Michael. All His creatures need a voice.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fill one line on my dance card 

In case you had a moment of deja vu this morning, yes, I'm now posting a few things in Hot Air's Green Room. They occasionally promote items to the big board, and yesterday's post I started on Scholars is there this morning. If one person takes that to a town hall, you have made almost seven years of blogging here worthwhile.

But most exciting to me is a link to that story from The Weekly Standard this AM. Not that it will generate as much traffic for this humble blog as an Instalanche, but because, as I told Ed, Bill Kristol is on my dream Dinner for Five guest list. He and Charles Krauthammer, who's also on the list, would be a conversation I would pay to hear.

Not that all would be conservatives at the dinner. Another guy on my list would be Bill Russell because I admired him as much as a coach as I did as a player (fellow Celtics center Dave Cowens should be in that group too, but Russell is funnier.)

Ed might have enough pull to get me Kristol at a meal, but Russell? He'd get confused and bring me that Dodger shortstop instead.

(And yes, I know MKHammer was the linker, but she's not on my dinner list. If there's to be a woman, it's going to be Linda Ellerbee, who was as much a part of my college years as Tom Snyder, given I usually had overnight jobs.)

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