Sunday, October 06, 2013

Civil disobedience - we owe it to ourselves

Across the nation, Americans are in revolt. Since the Obama administration has decided that we can't attend our publicly-owned lands like the World War II memorial, Mt. Rushmore, other national parks, we should be up in arms. Numerous reports of civil disobedience regarding this unlawful confiscation of our lands are making their way through the various news media. Here in Utah, a group of hikers did what all of us should be doing if we have the opportunity--they entered a national park. Check it out here.

These are not lands owned by the government. We own them. It's time they learned that.

Taking some time to remember

As we neared completion on our house renovation, I paused for a moment, remembering. It won't be long now before someone else owns the home that we owned for 27 years, and I'll no longer be able to go inside and think about things. A lot of life was lived in that home. Many many memories came flooding back. I looked up at the chain dangling from the ceiling fan. Still attached to it, was a small piece of tape. Why is this tape here? I wondered. And then it came to me--we used to tape the mistletoe to that chain. I had shared many a smooch with my amazing wife, Ann, under that mistletoe. I gazed at the stairs--there was the place where I had broken down and cried when I was explaining to Rebecca that our cat Ralph had cancer and was going to have to be put to sleep. Looking around that kitchen I remembered fond times when our family made sugar cookies, or when I pulled out the cast iron cookware and made Mountainman breakfast. I thought about my grandchildren coming over and helping me put together some cookies or make scone dough on that counter, and of the kitten we thought we wanted that crawled through a broken part of the baseboard beneath the sink and hid--we had to tear apart the bottom of the cabinet to get it out.

I looked over at our newly remodeled dining area. The new light there and the new floor, the missing table--none of it could dim my memories of the time spent playing board games--Scrabble, Boggle, Clue, Probe and the rest. Or of eating family meals together--ketchup roast, jackpot, to die for blueberry muffins, tacos. Or of Ann and the kids working on art projects together.

The basement brought back memories of writing, guitars, working on the computer, building a bookcase with Ben, cats on the window ledge, and the time when I was lifting weights overhead and felt something on my leg and glanced down to spy a black widow creeping up my bare leg.

I went back up to the main floor and saw the Christmas trees. The piano. The birds in the quakies out the south window, and the magnificent silver maple out front. I saw snowmen in the yard and started whistling Walking in the Air. I envisioned my kids and I playing in the front yard with baseballs and footballs, and playing horse on the driveway.

Further upstairs I looked out the windows for one last time. From the master bedroom, I looked across the church lawn, glad that I could see it, missing the poplars, but not really. I never really liked them anyway. Now, without them I could see my beloved mountains far across the valley. I remembered seeing my fellow church members out there on the lawn for activities---the ward picnic, the stake carnival, young men and young women activities. In the yellow room, I looked down upon the garden, the one that wouldn't grow because of the shade from the poplars, and which now was growing splendidly---the season we leave. It's fitting. I look further and spot Mt. Timpanogos. I've always been thrilled that  I can see "Timp" from my house so far away.

I look over at my good neighbor's, the Robbins, house and think about the good people they are, and think about how blessed we have been to have had them as neighbors since the beginning, and also to have the Earls on the other side of us for many of those years. A lot of good memories flood my mind associated with my friends who also happen to be my neighbors.

Memories. So many memories. They say you can't go home again, and perhaps literally that's true. But good kind people, good memories and good times are the fiber of which life is made. Treasure them all. We can go home again.

Cleaning out the crawl space = arachnophobia (part two)

The day when I was to go into the nether regions of the crawl space dawned. I turned on every possible light (one) to attempt to illuminate the darkest corners. It was a failed effort. I decided if I was to move, I needed to move quickly--get in and out as fast as possible to limit my exposure to her. Yes, I was convinced that Shelob lurked somewhere in that dark nest of spiderdom.

I edged my way into the crawl space, reaching out with my glaive to probe behind the various boxes and paint cans casting shadows in the dim light. I knew that any second she could drop from above, and I was terrified to even cast my eyes upward. I swung the glaive in wild arcs to knock down the webs that dangled to entrap. So far, I'd managed to launch my way into the crawl space the distance of one foot from the door that led to safety.

In time, I conquered my fear enough to haul out the 2 liter bottles filled with water for emergency storage, although I was thinking to myself it would have to be some kind of catastrophic emergency to induce me to go in there and get those things. Amongst the other goodies of Shelob's treasure was a bowling ball in a bag, a tubed container that contained maps, some old grave stones created for a Halloween party decades ago, and a box of various household cleaners and other products. Why we ever stashed those in that place, I'll never know. Perhaps I was thinking I would one day know Chuck Norris personally, or command an army. Neither one has ever happened. I guess that's why it was still down there.

The bottom line is, I conquered my fear momentarily, dragged it all out, and then pulled out my secret weapon to clear the dust from the concrete---my leaf blower. It worked great too, although clouds of dust filled the basement for a few minutes, I knew I was going to have to clean that too. I think I gave some of the smaller spiders a fun ride to the back of the crawl space, which is probably why I decided against going in there again and putting up the insulation that had fallen years ago. At that far end, an unused roll of fiberglass insulation sat there, waiting for someone to install it underneath the living room floor, where it had sat for decades. As I turned off my leaf blower and leaned over to close the door, I thought I saw a gigantic arachnid leg rising over the top of the roll of insulation.

I slammed the door and fled.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

New movie trailer: The Desolation of Smaug

Of course, I had to post this: The Desolation of Smaug

Coming December 13 to a theater near you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Clearing out the crawl space = arachnophobia

As our old house nears the completion stage in its renovation---well, as complete as it's going to get---we're getting down to the last little nitty gritty things that need to be done---touch up painting, cleaning out the remaining bits of clutter and tools we used for the remodel,  a little bit of mudding in the unfinished basement, and fighting Shelob in the crawlspace.

I've purposely left this job until the end, because, quite frankly, I do not want to deal with potential behemoth spiders lurking behind whatever we've shoved in the crawlspace because we had no place to put it. In all honesty, I thought that we'd have to clean that out one day as a last resort, or rather, our descendents would get that honor. I was hoping they'd have a sword like "Sting" around to do the dastardly work of killing her.

I'm frankly too tired to deal with the creature. But what needs to be done, needs to be done. You can bet I'll be dressed head to toe in long sleeve shirts, pants and long socks, a ski mask, gloves, and a flak jacket. I think I'd better pack the bazooka along too.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest": Playing out in real time

The story "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" for those who've never read the book, nor seen the film, is basically about a free spirit individualist, named Randall P. McMurphy, who tries to buck the system, pleads insanity for some crimes, and finds himself in an insane asylum. Once there, his individualistic attitude helps to transform some of the other inmates--even improving their lot in life. McMurphy finds himself confronted on every turn by "Nurse Ratched", a power hungry, controlling person who's power comes from forcing other people to conform. (coming spoiler alert) In the end, McMurphy cannot beat this system and finds himself at the wrong end of a lobotomy. He doesn't win his personal war with Ratched, but he inspires one of the other inmates to escape, thus breaking the hold Ratched has upon the escaping inmate.

Much like the story of Randall P. McMurphy, the United States has been a renegade, individualistic nation. There are the Nurse Ratcheds on the left who wish to make all Americans conform to their view of how the world should be. They do this by trying to force gun control laws, by enacting other laws and regulations, causing mountains of paperwork, red tape, and cost at the tax-payer's expense. They do it in myriad other ways, all designed for gaining control over the people, eliminating freedom (for it there is too much freedom, someone could get hurt, they say), and forcing Europeanizing of America.

The question is, who has the most will power? Will the Americans represented by McMurphy win out in the end with their irrepressible desire to remain free? Or will the folks represented by Nurse Ratched end up winning the day? Will we become a nation of children, cared for by a supposedly benevolent government or will we fight for the right to stand on our own two feet and live and breathe as free men and women, taking the consequences of our own actions, being able to make mistakes, then make up for them ourselves? Will we continue down the road of despair and poverty generated by the dregs of socialism, or will we continue to fight for  our grand experiment of a republican form of government, in which liberty wins the day and in which personal responsibility is the key player?

We have a choice. Wake up dear people and make the right one. Start paying attention to what's happening around you. Take action. Write to your Congressmen, march in the streets. Do something positive to influence the world rather than sitting back, watching your favorite tv program, and vegging. The world you fail to fight for, will become the world your children and grandchildren inherit.

Monday, September 09, 2013

What is morally right behavior when it comes to self-defense, or the defense of others?

The conundrum comes because of topics currently in world news. Few would argue that defending one's self from an attacker is wrong. Most people believe that if your life or well-being is in danger, you can act to defend yourself, without any qualifications. Most people also believe that if you see someone else being brutally attacked, raped, tortured, or threatened with deadly force, you can come to their aid. In fact, if you turn your back on such a person and do nothing, you are most likely a coward. An individual acting to help others is considered one of the highest forms of altruism. This is how the prototypical hero is born.

So, how does that translate into world affairs? Most people would say that a country has a right to defend itself. That being said, should a country go to the aid of people in another country who are being brutally attacked, raped, tortured, or threatened with deadly force?

If  I saw a woman on the street being brutally beaten and did nothing, I would consider myself guilty of if not the crime itself, of aiding and abetting, and a virtual nodding of consent for the crime to continue. What then of the women in Afghanistan who have acid thrown in their faces for talking to an unmarried man? What of those who are killed in the name of honor for holding hands with a young man whom they have taken a liking to?

If a nation has the power to act and does not, is this not the same thing as if an individual has the power to act and refuses to? For what individual would refuse to come to the aid of someone being attacked if they had the power to do something about it?

I'm not saying there are any right answers here. I've never believed that countries had the same responsibilities as individuals in acting, but as a collective of individuals who would act on an individual basis to stop a brutal attack (and after recent stories in the news about people who have done nothing to stop such attacks, I'm wondering at the veracity of my point), would in not therefore be likely or even expected that the collective would act?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Obama the same as Bush?

Back about 2001, right after America was attacked, President Bush sent our military to Afghanistan to try and kill Osama bin-Laden and the other terrorists who had planned the attack that took place on 9/11. A couple of years later, an attack was launched against the nightmarish regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The Bush administration's justification was that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to develop them, and that he was a brutal dictator who had killed thousands of his own people, and that he harbored ill-will against America and perhaps was sympathetic and therefore hiding terrorists that would launch further attacks against the U.S.

Jump to 2013 and President Obama's war-like talk toward Syria. To the best of my knowledge, Syria hasn't attacked us, though there's evidence that they are sympathetic to would-be terrorists, so far, none of those terrorists has attacked the U.S. They've perhaps used WMDs against their own people, but there is doubt about that.

Yet Obama seems ready to go to war.

What, therefore, is the same about the two Presidents? One was representing a nation that had only recently been attacked and was trying to prevent further attacks. The other? Perhaps looking for ways to distract Americans from his failed policies, ala Bill Clinton who launched a few cruise missiles back in the day to distract folks from the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

This is a dangerous game the administration is playing. A dangerous game indeed.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The search for a new house

My lovely wife, Ann and I have been looking for a new house to move into. Ann has a couple of really terrible diseases (rheumatoid arthritis and sjogren's syndrome) that make it increasingly difficult for her to climb the stairs the bedroom and bathroom in our current home. Our objective is to find a house in which those rooms are on the same level as the living room and kitchen, and if possible, the laundry room as well. We have other needs in a home too, so we've been trying to find one that also has a "great" room as our current home does, and a yard at least as big as our current yard. The yard thing is because I'd like to have enough land that we can plant enough to live off of if necessary.

Last night, we finally found a home that with a few modifications (like removing some trees and updating flooring etc.) could fit the parameters. We prayed about it and decided to make an offer. We got a call back from Steve, our agent a few minutes later. "They've already had seven offers and some are actually higher than what it's listed at. Two of them are cash offers." We told him we'd call him back in a few minutes. After talking, we raised our offer by $5000. We waited for Steve to call us back. Finally he did. "They are going with one of the cash offers as they want to close quickly and with cash, they can close in about five days." Apparently we had slightly beaten all the offers, but not enough to sway those selling the house to take our offer, which would take a few weeks to get to closing.

This seller's market has been a frustrating experience as many homes that we thought might work have been sold within the first couple of days of listing, many with multiple offers, and before we could go and see them.

Our other option is to convert our garage into a bedroom/bathroom. But there have been some frustrations there as well, as the first two appointments for contractors to bid on the job have fallen through and had to be rescheduled. So frustration mounts, but we need to keep clear head and keep positive. Things will happen.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Parable of the Chocolate Cake

There once was a chocolate cake that didn't like being called that. He saw a pumpkin pie that had crust, sometimes had whipped cream on it, and was served on Thanksgiving. "I want to be a pumpkin pie," said the cake. He found some other chocolate cakes who were dissatisfied with being cakes. Together, they petitioned the government, talking to lawyers and lawmakers, picketing in front of court rooms in order to have their status changed from "chocolate cake" to "pumpkin pie". They held up signs saying things like "Don't be bigoted, let us be pumpkin pies too." Much of the media sided with the cakes, after all, why couldn't the chocolate cakes be pumpkin pies if they wanted to be? It didn't seem fair to them to exclude the cakes from becoming pies. Eventually, those who didn't want the change lost. They were forced to call any chocolate cake that wanted to be a pie, a pie. But when they got home at night, the pumpkin pies discussed with each other how the chocolate cakes weren't really pies, and when the cakes looked in the mirror, they still looked like cakes, not like pies. Legally, they were pies. In reality, they remained cakes.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thoughts on Immigration Reform: What should happen?

In responding to Congress's inability to get things done (and if so, to get things done right) on immigration reform, it's important to remember A) that stopping illegal border crossings is necessary, and B) trying to get 12 million illegals deported is not going to work. Further a distinction needs to be made between citizenship and legal residency.

That being said, what should be done? First of all, the borders need to be secured. Second, provisions need to be made for those who are here illegally to either be allowed to remain on a legal basis, or to be awarded citizenship in some way. Disregarding the huge impact on elections that awarding citizenship would bring, one must first ask the question: is it right to allow those who came here illegally a path to citizenship that differs from the path others have taken to acquire citizenship? My response is that no, it isn't right. Those who came here illegally should not be rewarded for doing so by giving them least, not until they have gotten in line and filed the appropriate paperwork.

On the other hand, those who think to send all of them back to their countries of origin make a grave mistake. First of all, breaking up families isn't right. Secondly, harm to our already fragile economy will soon follow such steps. Third, it can never realistically be done without a huge amount of expenditure and policing.

So, what should be done? Secure the borders, then create a way for those who are here to retain legal status, but not citizenship. They can work here, with some kind of credentials, but they cannot vote here unless they go through the traditional steps to acquire citizenship. Perhaps some kind of fine should be levied for illegal entry in order for them to gain such legal status. Perhaps some kind of military service could take the place of such a fine. All these things can and should be worked out.

All criminals should be sent back, no questions asked.

The bottom line is, no illegal activity should be rewarded with citizenship. That just encourages further illegal activity.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Stan "the Man" Musial dies

It's been nearly two weeks since the great Stan Musial passed away at 92. Here's a link to read about the great St. Louis Cardinal: clickety-click I remember one story told on the radio about Musial. When he was in his seventies, he was being interviewed by a well-known sports caster. Part of the interview went something like this:

Interviewer: Stan could you still hit .350 against the pitchers of today?
Musial: Well maybe not .350. It would be tough.
Interviewer: Well, why would it?
Musial: Well, geez, I'm 75 years old.

Here's to a great ball player, and great American. R.I.P., Stan.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Why you might need a gun with a large clip

Many liberal politicians are saying things like "no one needs a twenty round clip to stop a burglar", or "who needs a thirty round clip to go hunting?". Perhaps they haven't heard of this incident in which five people invaded someone's home. Presumably in such a situation, the invaders aren't going to stand there in a straight line while you plug away at them with your six-shooter. They will be diving behind things, spreading out, looking for cover, perhaps firing back. You, with your six-shooter revolver will have emptied it and perhaps wounded one or two of them, because you're likely not going to be calm, and you're probably not going to hit a moving target with the first shot. It may take two or three or even more shots to get one of them. Now, hopefully, once you pull out your gun, they high-tail it out of there, but what if they don't? Would you want to face them with a six-load revolver, or a thirty round semi-auto? You make the call.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Changing directions of this blog

I've gotten sidetracked for a long time into commenting majorly on policital issues. That stuff is important, which is why I've been commenting on it. I feel a great need to do what I can to change the direction that my country is heading. At the same time, I feel I have focused for too much of the time on that kind of commentary and neglected other things I'd like to write about. So, I'm changing the direction of this blog. There may be a few political rants in the future, but I'm thinking of starting a new blog specifically dedicated to that forum, and using this blog to comment on other things, and to share important links.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A new kind of slavery

As we begin the new year, we are marching inexorably into a new kind of slavery. It’s a kind of slavery that is nearly invisible, unless you know how to look, and how to interpret it’s guise. If slavery can be described as one being forced against his will to work for someone else, then our government, and those who refuse to work for their own living, but instead live upon the taxes of others, are guilty of enslaving millions of Americans.

Millions of people voted for Barack Obama because he seemed most likely to give them stuff. It seemed like a good idea to them. Perhaps they only think of themselves and never think of where the stuff they get actually comes from, but someone somewhere actually has to work to provide that stuff to them. Joe Citizen in Topeka, Kansas works every week for five days, eight hours, and part of his paycheck goes to paying taxes. Part of those taxes go to people who freeload and intend to freeload their entire lives. (Let me state categorically that there are many people using entitlement programs whose intent is not to abuse, but to get by with it until they can improve their situation. With these folks I have no beef.)

This is forcing someone else to work for you, and to do for you what you are unwilling to do for yourselves. And, as described above, if they do it against their will, you are in fact enslaving them. While not as visible as plantations in the 18th and 19th centuries, and while the workers are not routinely shackled and whipped, they are still slaves to an ever-increasing degree. And the further in debt we go as a nation, the more the slavery will increase and continue.

What to do about it? Well, for one, I think ridicule of those who abuse those programs designed for welfare is a good thing. Decades ago, it used to be shameful for people to milk the system and try and stay on welfare indefinitely. Families used to struggle to find work, but they would struggle and they would find work eventually. Now, they just let the government take care of them, with no intentions of ever finding work. Instead of shaming these kinds of freeloaders, the American public has been cajoled into saying nothing. It’s no longer considered politically correct to use shame as a way of encouraging people to work their way off these programs that drain away resources and make us a weaker nation. That there are legitimate reasons for people being on welfare is true, but all who are in that situation should have the desire to improve their lot in life and get out of that situation. Welfare is a fallback, not a lifestyle–or at least, it should be.

Thus, the slavery continues, and will until this country finally goes so broke that there will be no way that it can. Better to wean people off of the welfare now, instead of waiting that day.