Monday, December 31, 2007

The Future of Baseball on the Eve of 2008

Its the last eve of 2007 and I have baseball on my mind. I'm a lifelong sports fan raised on Fran Tarkington, Alan Page, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew. Everyone knows there is something magical about the baseball field, but the latest Steroids scandal has me wondering. There are no shortage of writers who have reminded us of the mystical qualities of the game of Baseball. But, perhaps all this magic and spiritual observance of America's pastime is only a cliche. Maybe, some of these baseball blogs written by female sports fans are not testaments to the game but rather testaments to their fathers - who never really cared all that much for the game anyway, just one more remembrance that added unknown mystique to the game.

I mean, what can be mystical about watching baseball inside. As I young adult, I observed games in the HHH dome where I personally witnessed magical events such as a no-hitter, 3 players reach 3000 hits, a couple of Worlds Series championships and Kirby Puckett's last game (where the sound of bat meets baseball echoing through the stadium was replaced by the smack of the ball hitting Kirby's face). So, what is so magical about baseball that Carlos Silva commands a four-year $48 million contract?

I'll tell you what I find magical about watching baseball. Its not sharing my passion with 30,000 other people crammed into the Metrodome. I abhor crowds and I detest the fact that Baseball is so profitable that Carlos Silva (mind you, he's a nice enough man) not only has a job among the sports most elite players, but he also is signed to a ridiculously large contract that will probably appear small in a year or twos time from now. I like watching baseball on a weekday afternoon in a near empty stadium where you can hear Dennis Martinez's slider hit and break Kirby Puckett's cheekbone from the left field bleachers and then the murmur of a few season ticket holders behind homeplate as Tom Kelly's footsteps slap across the infield. What makes baseball magical is not something you can share with thousands of people and it isn't something that makes the select few so rich that they become celebrities far removed from their fans.

Carl Eller read children's stories to our elementary school and it wasn't a charitable event. I am sure our school forked out a much appreciated hundred dollars or so. I thought Carl Eller wasn't that much different than my dad or one of my grade school friend's dad. These guys were mythical, but no more so than our fathers. Now, sports heroes are celebrities and baseball titans are mere cheaters making millions. They are as far removed from their fan base as the billionaire beneficiaries of permanent tax-cuts are from your average working American. But that doesn't stop us from paying tribute to the magic of baseball anymore than it stops middle-aged white guys from voting republican.

So, thats why I still read the sports page and comb box scores everyday, whether its baseball or basketball. Its out of institutional habit more than a spiritual necessity. Bad habits are hard to break and I don't suppose my likelihood of breaking it is any greater than a lifetime smoker on the verge of lung cancer will quit smoking tomorrow. After a while, when our dreams long ago died, we come to terms with the fact that we all got to die someday, just like we realize that the American dream is no more mythical than America's pastime. We aren't willing to embrace the fact, so we just ride it into the sunset.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eelpout guts and Iraqi brains.

The Walleye is a revered fish in Minnesota and is also known to be finicky, especially in the winter. When watching the bobber go down below the ice, it often is taken slowly. If you set the hook too early the walleye will drop the minnow and you will have to take up all the line and check your bait, before dropping it down 20 feet or more to begin again.

Sometimes the bobber goes down fast when the walleye is hungry and you need to set the hook immediately as the walleye is running away with its dinner. If she is a "good one" it will feel like you are setting the hook into solid ground and there will be little give before the line starts to pull in short jerks away from you.

But, when the walleye isn't really feeding you have to let the bobber go for a while. Sometimes it will pop back up, but you can tell the walleye is still down there playing with its dinner by the movement of your bobber. Slowly it sinks and you need to give it some line. It will eventually stop taking line and this is where you have to be patient. The walleye still might be just playing with the minnow and getting ready to spit it out at the slightest provocation. Sometimes you have to wait for a minute or more. Then, the line will start to get taken again a little more forcefully. Hold the line tight till you feel the fish and then pull hard to set the hook. Again, if its a "good one" it will feel like you are setting the hook into solid rock.

There is only one problem with this approach. The dreaded eelpout. An eelpout is an introduced fish to Minnesota from Europe, I believe. I was told they were rough fish, like carp, as a kid and should be treated as such. Eelpout take the bait just like a walleye, but they usually are not playing around. While you are waiting they are swallowing the minnow and hook deep into their bellies. They also are taking the minnow and swimming in circles and, more often than not, tangling up the line in other nearby holes. One of the first clues that you may have an eelpout at the end of the line is that the other fishermen or women in your party will be kneeling before holes near you anticipating their own walleye as their bobbers disappear below the ice in succession one after the other. When setting the hook into an eelpout it will also feel like you have set it into solid rock. But then, there will be long steady pulls of the line against you instead of the short quick rapid burst from the tail flicks of the walleye. When other people ask you if you got a "good one?" the response of "nope, pout!" will immediately clear everyone away so they don't get drawn into the inevitable lengthy untangling of line, cutting of hooks and reattaching a new rig and minnow.

The eelpout is slimy like an eel and it is difficult to handle. Once it comes up through the hole it will immediately curl up into itself like a snake. Its mouth is clamped shut and it is necessary to step on its back or stomach to force it open. If you can't see the hook you will often just need to cut the line. No one keeps eelpout to eat, though there have always been rumors that they are good eating and healthy for you. Instead, they are tossed onto the ice in disgust and left to die on the frozen tundra. On a Minnesota lake, like Mille Lacs, in the winter near ice fishing houses the lake is often littered with eelpout carcasses.

As a boy, after an eel pout was caught by myself, my dad or other members of our fishing party, I would often put on my Sorrell boots and march out into the cold after them and proceed to stomp on the backs of the eelpout until all of the organs and entrails were forced out of its mouth. This desecration of the eelpout was made possible because this fish was hated and its life was considered worthless and a stain upon the revered walleye waters of Minnesota. I was a normal kid and the stomping I did was not done because I had a vicious streak inside me extending towards other animals and humans. It was done out of boredom and because it was fun and also because the life of an eelpout was considered worthless.

It is the way humans are. If we are taught that a life is worthless we will be conditioned to destroy it and kill it out of boredom and for entertainment. Thats what marines are trained to do with Iraqis. Kill. Its what we train our youth to do with video games. It is what we see in Colorado and Oklahoma. It is why we don't flinch at the idea of specious extinction due to climate change - not even our own. In our society we revere little life. Certainly the military portion of our society reveres none. What returns from Iraq and Afghanistan will be with us till the end and the end is coming nearer simply because we can no longer love. Marines congratulate each other because soldiers today are much more likely to fire their weapons in battle than soldiers of yesterday - like WWII. They are trained to kill and they do it efficiently without flinching. They think that is progress. Iraqi brains and blood on the desert streets in Baghdad or other Iraqi towns is no different than eelpout guts lying frozen on the ice covering Minnesota lakes. That is until years later, when we become haunted by our conditioning as we discover the last remnants of love and humanity residing inside each of us below the ever-present conditioning to hate we get from our society.

I don't see the blood lust of the modern marines as progress. I see it as a tragedy that, if it is not corrected, will eventually lead to the end of us all. As Scott Ritter once said. "Weapons of mass destruction? A platoon of marines with unlimited ammo - that is a weapon of mass destruction." or a kid with big boots in the case of an eelpout.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

They ought to be in Jail

I suppose some might say I'm a liberal. However, I've had plenty of liberals accuse me of being a wingnut. I'd say I'm liberal. But, I also think I have a streak of conservative in me. I believe in community. I support home-schooling and community supported schools and I am critical of Public schools. I think Roe vs. Wade is flawed in its argumentation, but I support abortion in 99.93% of the cases. Some liberals think I want to control a woman's body because of the 0.07%.

I'm a liberal who would have prosecuted Bill Clinton for War crimes and thinks his wife Hilary is not a good candidate for President. In fact, I'd rather see Mike Huckabee and I'm not a right wing Christain - although I believe in many of the teachings of Jesus Christ such as Blessed are the Peacemaker for they shal inherit the Earth. My preferred candidate is Dennis Kucinich, but I stopped preferring candidates after the last presidential campaign. I think Dick Cheney really did order the murder of Senator Paul Wellstone and I have zero evidence. I just think it fits his profile.

What I'm trying to say without sounding partisan and someone who is on a mission to reestablish a Democratic presidency further reducing the influence of the GOP in Washington is that current and past members of the present administration should be going to jail - forever. Throw away the key. How much more of this will we take. We can just forget about the Iraq war and torture and all that inexcusable bullshit. Lets just talk about the Kyoto protocol and the Nuclear non-proliferation agreement. I realize we are all guilty of contributing to the destruction of the natural world through our participation in this consumer culture in America, but this is what we have leaders for. And, as slow as politics are, there has been progress towards - at least - coming to terms with the impacts of CO2 and climate change. But, is there any excuse for the arrogance of withdrawing from all discussion with the other countries in the world. Likewise, the rollback of the goals towards a future without the proliferation of Nuclear weapons. There was means for discussion with the countries in the world and this administration has made the world a more dangerous place by its policy of preemptive strikes and the consideration of limited nuclear strikes against wayward countries.

We should be a participant in discussions of the major issues facing our planet in the future. It does not get anymore important the nuclear weapons and climate change. For this alone I would put them all in jail, without even considering the lack of a true discussion on Palestine, torture, domestic spying, the Iraq War, the budget deficit, permanent tax cuts, corruption, Blackwater, privatization, etc. They are not mere poor decision makers. They are criminals and we need to treat them as such.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Second interview.

I got as call back from a first interview for another position within another large bureaucracy. Its a job working for an institution providing expert testimony on behalf of the Public's interest concerning rates charged before the Public Utilities Commission.

My current job is rather mindless, but it requires a sense of order I have managed to sustain for two years. I am capable as an accountant/auditor keeping records and such, but my tendency is still towards the creative and chaotic - at least in comparison to what you will normally find inside bureaucratic institutions. A Public Rates Analyst is not exactly a position filled by artists and poets, but it does require the application of theory and is much more stimulating than a position as a record-keeper that I currently am employed as.

I imagine my days will be much busier, but also more interesting. Essentially, I will be employed as an economist - which is what I trained as in graduate school. However, an economist that only studies one specific industry (telecommunications) recognizing trends and setting up the terms for just and fair markets. In my second interview I have to give a presentation on some subject that has yet to be revealed to me. I go in on a week from today.

I look forward to it as a break form my current schedule and routine consisting of mind-numbing monotony. However, age has tempered my penchant for assuming that a new job will finally bring me the sense of satisfaction I am looking for. A job is a job and my ultimate satisfaction can only be found away from employment. For now, however ( and likely till I am old and decrepit) employment is necessary and I am coming on three years in the same job. With some luck and a good performance, change may soon come.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Seen Your Video

If you know the song, then you have some idea of what makes this whole blog thing so difficult to be motivated about.

The refrain keeps going through my head

We don't want to know
We don't want to know
We don't want to know

The question does not even need to be asked and perhaps it doesn't even matter. Does Paul Westerberg have a blog? Of course not, and it doesn't really matter either. See, blogs are like videos when every band wanted to be on MTV. Now everyone wants a myspace page or a weblog. But, really, its true for 99 % of them

We don't want to know.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Banned and a good book

I haven't posted for a while. I suppose I could say I've been busy at work, and it is true. I've also been spending time on my resume as I look at other opportunities available out there in the world of bureaucracies.

Peaches was recently banned from Talkleft for his juvenile behavior of rating every comment of his nemesis a 1 (on a scale of 1 to 5) for the previous week. He sort of got sick of the dominant personalities on the blog. Internet communities are interesting and sometimes fascinating to watch develop. For Recluses and solitary personalities as myself, one can get drawn into them. Its fun when the discussions are irrelevant and meaningless. For instances, the first community I was involved in was part of free online game called Realmwars. I found a hosting site called Planetbang and over time became part of the community. I was in my late thirties and playing games and bullshitting with 12 to 21 year olds like they were my best friends. We actually stated caring about each other. There was Thaed, JPac, Borus, Adam, Bit, Bert, Redman, Deathchant, Evil, and a host of others. It was fun for awhile and a big waste of time. But, I was unemployed at the time and I actually came to depend on this community for a little self-esteem.

But, at TalkLeft, where the discussions get serious and you mostly conversed with men in their 40s and 50s, it is hard not to feel a kind of resentment towards yourself and others for actually thinking you are accomplishing something through discussing political and current events. The friendships formed were not like the ones formed amongst awkward teenagers with underdeveloped social skills. These are angry men instead acting out angst over their underdeveloped social skills as the teenagers they once were. I couldn't help but be repulsed by the majority of people who contributed at the blog and I took it out on one participant in particular - Edger.

But, now Peaches is gone on the internet. I am now myself rather than a pseudonym. So, I was looking to be banned at TL as Peaches so Peaches could be put to rest. It only took a week of rating Edger a 1.

But, on to more enlightening comment. I just finished one of the better books I have read in a long time. Its called The Last River Rat. I'v ealways been a fan of Thoreau, Aldo Leopold and Sigurd Olson as well as many other nature writers. But, Keeny Salway is my new hero. You have to read this book. It is fabulous.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Humor for a small audience

I don't imagine many people under 30 years old would find the new blog of Dick Cavett at the New York Times page very funny, but to those of us older than 40 he is a refreshing new addition to the blogging era.

When I was young there was no internet and computers were something that had to do with punch cards and "Stop" and "Go To" commands. There was still a debate in Math classes about whether students could use calculators in class that had the limited capability of doing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Our minds, outside of school were still being polluted by television but we only had 4 or 5 channels to choose from. This did not stop us from vegetating in front of the TV sets for hours at a time however.

Of course, evenings consisted of scheduling around such sitcoms and Welcome Back Cotter, Happy Days, and The Dukes of Hazard. Before School, we'd watch Captain Kangaroo and Romper Room and after school we'd plop ourselves in front of the television for a couple of hours to watch reruns of Gilligan's Island, Underdog, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Scooby Doo. Sometimes we would stay up late with our Dad's and watch Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show and late at night Tomorrow with Tom Snyder. Often, while learning the artful skills of flipping that would soon serve us so well once cable TV arrived, we would stumble upon The Dick Cavett Show.

If memory serves me correctly, he was on PBS. PBS is what brought us Monty Python and The Benny Hill Show. As teenagers, much of his intellectual and sophisticated humor must have went over our heads, but there was something there that held our attention and we would sit and smile as we watched him question his guests in his most unique way. As we aged we started laughing harder at his quirks and were let in on his humor. His humor required that we know current events and the political discussions of the day.

I have not heard from Dick Cavett for many years. A search on Google shows he has continued to have shows up to the present on one network or another. But, the multitude of channels on the dish network and Cable have turned many of us away from the information overload accosting us from our television sets, so he has been lost to us and the world for a couple decades or more. What a refreshing and wondrous relief to discover his humor again while reading the New York Times online.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Memory of a Fishing Trip

It was spring and the sun was coming up earlier and earlier. Daylight Savings time came later in the year back then and it seemed as it was light by the time I made my first delivery. I usually awoke about 4:30 am and left to the central garage with my two older brothers to stuff ads into the papers before beginning my route. We opened the garage door, grabbed our Schwinn Stingrays, affixed the delivery bag to our handlebars and drove in a line two blocks to the High Schooler's (Gerard) garage who was in charge of our area.

I did Saratoga Lane, and Trenton Avenue. My older brothers did the four streets in the line – Union, Vermont, Washington and Xerxes. We would ride up the driveway of each house, run the paper to the front or side door, then run back to our bikes and ride it to the next delivery. If we were quick we could be back by 5:30 am and during the spring it was already light out. On this particular morning, we had a quick bite to eat and then got ready to drive our bikes to a little pond, about 5 miles away, where we had been killing the bullheads for the past few weeks.

I went to sleep every night seeing bobbers in my head disappearing below the surface. We came home with stringers of 1 to 2 lb bullheads. We had a 2 x 6 board set up with a large nail poking through. We would slam the bullheads down, one at a time, onto the board so the nail stuck through the head. Then we’d make an incision behind the head and skin the bullheads with a plier. Then we would walk into the kitchen, while our parents were still asleep in the bed (perhaps my father was recently awakened and sitting at the kitchen table reading one of our extra papers), mix a bowl of flour, salt and pepper and in another bowl crack a few eggs. The frying pan with vegetable was heating up and each skinned bullhead would get dipped in egg, flour mixture, and then fried several minutes on all sides till the bullhead meat was white and flaky.

These delicious breakfasts were almost as good as catching the bullheads, despite having to remove the meat from a large skeletal framework. I was strapping my rod and real to my Stingray. The rod ran from the back frame for my banana seat and through my hotrod handlebars at the front of my bike. We looked like three knights on horses with our Jousts protruding outward as we road down a back country road to the small pond near a park reserve.

I fell behind as I became distracted by a muskrat type animal on the side of the road, as I watched him scurrying through the grass. I looked up and noticed my brothers a quarter mile or more ahead of me. I rose to a standing position and began to pump my legs to catch up. No sooner than reaching a standing position, my rod somehow came loose in back falling to hit the pavement. As it bounced up, the front came loose from between the handlebars and the tip somehow became tangled in my front spokes. With a loud snap my fishing rod was sliced in two and the morning fishing trip was over.

I stopped my bike and looked at the disaster before I began to sob uncontrollably. My brothers were disappearing out of sight as I turned my bike back around and walked it home as I held my fishing rod in my hands. I was nine years old.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Shultz, Meloncholy and the Weather

I left the Twins cities at about 4 pm last Friday afternoon heading up to Jay Cooke State Park to meet a contingent of fools from Duluth to hike into one of the four (Silver Creek) remote backpack sites in the park along the St. Louis river. I was wearing a T-shirt when I left the muggy Twin Cities on the early October afternoon. When I stepped out of the car at the highway 210 exit to Jay Cooke to grab a burger with my co-rider Big Bill B., it was a balmy and chilly evening requiring a quick change into long underwear and several layers of clothing I wore through the remainder of the weekend camping trip with my cronies. I was still bundled up when I stepped out of my car on Sunday afternoon at my suburban sanctuary and was hit with a wave of heat and humidity from an unseasonably warm October afternoon.

On my ride into work this morning the Minnesota Public Radio weatherperson was stating that there is no normal, just variations of extremes. hmmm.

I was reading the paper this morning and stumbled across an article on the reaction of Charles Shultz's family to his latest biography portraying the Peanuts creator as a miserable and cantankerous man prone to fits of depression. The fact that Charles Shultz was prone to melancholy is not exactly a new insight into the famous cartoonist. He said as much on the 60 minutes interview I saw several years ago. Shultz used humor to assuage his melancholy and funny may make us laugh, but it is rarely happy. We laugh at absurdities and to overcome the hardships and suffering of life.

There is no normal, just variations of extremes. Look at the Colorado Rockies. They are far from the best team in baseball this year, but they are currently baseball's hottest team as they ride a streak of 17 wins out of the past 18 games. Despite the American league being the dominant league of the two, if the Rockies sweep the Diamondbacks the world series might be very competitive and exciting whether they play the favored Indians, Yankees or Red Socks. Hitters are usually either in a slump or on a tear and rarely are hitting their average over the season. Basketball players get hot or can't find their shot. Life isn't average or normal, it fluctuates between extremes.

When study statistics, the interesting pieces of data are always the anomalies. What lies within the Bell curve is never interesting. Our education system is all about getting more people to fall under that bell curve whether describing cognitive abilities, behavior, social interactions, or motor skills. Development must also fall into these trajectories based on statistical analysis and God forbid if someone finds themselves outside the range of their age group in any of the above categories. Early intervention is the catch phrase for prodding children back into the range of normal and keeping them from being in the extremes, at least on the lower end of the bell curve.

At the high range lies the gifted, and these become the prodigies who need their gifts nurtured, but often at the expense of the developments of their whole being. But, thats another story. My point here is the lower regions, because I am told my son is below the developmental average in fine motor skills and social interactions (recognition of boundaries, oppositional behavior, etc) for his age group. Obviously, I strive to be a good parent and I want what is best for my son. But, do we really know the optimum way for brains and humans to develop, and if we did, why would we assume that it would resemble anything close to normal or average. Ludwig Wittgenstein did not speak a word until he was four years old, according to his biographer Ray Monk. He would have been found to be developmentally delayed in cognitive functions by today's child psychologist, but without any outside intervention, he arguably developed into one of the greatest intellects western society has ever produced.

It all just makes me wonder what the hell is normal?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A New Kind of Power

There is a comfort in capitalism and knowing the motives of its participants. Adam Smith is famous for his metaphor of the invisible hand. He argued that if we all acted in our own best interests, then society's greater interests would be served as well. In capitalism, self-interests are described by the profit motive as each of us seeks to achieve the greatest profit. We have learned since the days of Adam Smith that although the economy works this way, in real life humans are motivated by a wide variety of factors of which self-interests and the profit motive play a small part.

In politics we can see the economic incentives playing out as corporate interests hedge their bets between parties and candidates, so they can receive the greatest benefit. Even if they know a candidate does not fully support the issues that benefit the donor's interests the most, they may still contribute to the candidates campaign so they may benefit from the candidates success in an election. In a strange way, this incentive gives us comfort knowing that corporations can still support candidates with interests that favor the majority and not the market, because they realize the people who vote are not in full support of their profit-driven agenda. Thus, we see the corporations and large donors filling the campaign vaults of the democratic candidates for the 2008 election in full knowledge that after eight years of the Bush administration, there is little chance the American people will choose another term for a Republican administration.

Although far from perfect, in some ways it is better than the alternative. Many people like to point out that economics and capitalism fail to portray the more beneficial aspects of human behavior. Any human that was only motivated by their own self-interest and strictly made decisions based on the profit motive would be institutionalized as a sociopath. Corporations, which legally are treated as individuals, are described as psychologically unstable and a danger to society because of its single-minded devotion to profits over all other motivations. However, human nature also has even a darker side than the profit seeking individual oblivious to the greater interests of humanity. The profit seeking corporation can be seen as standing in the way of power to these darker forces.

During Eric Prince's testimony to Congress he described himself as not interested in finances and anyone who knew him well could testify to this. Aside from the fact that as a man who comes from big money he never had to worry about finances, we can see that this also reveals a man who represents the darker forces of humanity. Eric Prince has never hedged his bets. He is from a wealthy family tied to other families of wealth who only support radical right wing neoconservative and radical Christian objectives. As an observer of American politics, Prince is not satisfied with the slow shift to the right resulting from corporations hedging their bets while prefering candidates that will put money in their pockets at the expense of the peoples. Prince sees a danger of a populace that will feel disenfranchised and will never be fully immersed in the Radical Christian ideology that sees the world in terms of good and evil.

Under Princes views there can be no hedging. We are in a war with the dark forces of the world represented primarily by the Muslim ideology. Previously, it was a war with the communist forces of Satan, but no matter, Satan frequently shapeshifts and can reveal himself under new guises depending on the times. There is no time to hedge your bets under Princes ideology and we must be prepared to meet the darker forces and battle these forces in the name of Good and fundamentalist Christianity. A military that is at the mercy of congress is a military that will never be fully prepared for this battle. I joked about this being the plot of a great science fiction novel, previously. I am not one to make predictions and I am humble enough to know that random events are much more influential to the forces of history than any other conditions. However, this trend towards the privatization of the military that has created a private military capable of overflowing the majority of governments in the world and that continues to grow, has the necessary ingredients for disastrous results.

There is a realization that we cannot keep funding the Iraqi war or even our bloated military forever. There are rivalries between the branches of the military over the funding of new weapons systems as well as the role each branch will play in the future battlefields across the board. We have heard concerns over the growing influence of radical Christians at focal positions in the Air Force and the Army. As these rivalries grew, it became obvious to some that the military needed restructuring. This restructuring has be done by neocons over the past eight years and has left the military power in new private hands with an ideology that is not represented by the majority of Americans.

Some may want to point out the forces on the left that have contributed strictly to liberal and democratic candidates such as Unions or I concede that these forces used to be a counter force to the forces on the right devoting their financial contributions strictly to right-wing and republican candidates. But, these powers on the right now have there own military that should bring cause for concern to all. Can you imagine if a similar force was funded and led by the left. What ff George Soros started his own security firm and began to get contracts under the next Clinton Administration? What would the right wing be saying and how long would it be before he was tied to terrorism and the war broke out between Blackwater and Soros firm [See, it is a great plot]? A more likely scenario will be a General on the battle field voicing the concern that Blackwater has made American soldiers larger targets for insurgents. This General might also feel slighted by his diminsished pay compared to Blackwater employees. A back alley war between Blackwater and American forces might result through the withholding of intelligence, funding of insurgents, negligence of duty, etc. Then it is only a matter of time before this war spreads home.

Obviously, my imagination is too active and this is likely to play out over a longer period of time for us to notice this drift toward Tyranny in America we are presently in. But, as unsettling as many of the impacts of the Bush administration has been on Democracy in the US, the privatization of military services is the most concerning and should be the red flag to us all that the empire will soon turn its violent hand against the citizens on the mainland as these armies increasingly come rushing to aide in disaster relief and urban unrest that is likely to increase over the coming years. I think I might prefer the profit-motive to these darker forces on the horizon.

Fall, Grief and Despair

I still have potatoes, broccoli and kale left to harvest in the garden. Soon, I must begin applying compost and mulch to prepare the soil for next spring and plant the garden along with other fall plantings of flowers and herbs.

Fall always arrives in a rush and I, as usual, am unprepared for the wave of hopelessness that overcomes me. The tomatoes, peppers, beans, flowers, and the lush colors of the summer suddenly give way to browns and decay leaving one in a general state of despair. Luckily, this feeling is only temporary and can be assuaged through the hard work of preparing the garden in anticipation of the following spring when the plants will once again begin to sprout and grow to full bloom. There is also the work in the kitchen of preparing and storing the harvest from the summer and fall. It is a time to grow closer to family and community.

I, like many people living in suburban communities, feel a disconnect with my neighbors. I am treated as a sort of oddity by my neighbors. They arrive in amazement during the summer to witness the bounty I have managed to grow, but seem puzzled by my efforts and slightly taken aback in wonderment over my motivations. Am I a survivalist, hippie, malcontent, liberal, conservative? All these questions seem to be forming in the backs of their mind as they make comments on the amount of work and time my efforts must consume.

Fall is a time for reflection and with the wave of hopelessness that accompanies the end of the harvest, one can be overwhelmed with grief. I don’t see a need to run from this grief or feel a need to medicate it. Rather, I let it flow through my veins and contemplate the loss I am experiencing with the fall while being aware of loss and death in the world that surrounds me. Life and death go hand in hand and the experience of fall should prepare us for our own deaths and help us learn to live with our mortality.

As someone who follows and sometimes obsesses over political and global events, fall can amplify the hopelessness of our times. But, it is only by experiencing the despair and working through the misery that accompanies the life cycle that we can retain our sense of hope and put it to use to build a more sustainable world beginning with our own lives. But, we are a society that treats depression and grief as a disease rather than a perfectly natural response to our changing conditions. Rather than experience this grief we medicate and dull it so we can forget about it. But nothing we do can erase the fact that we are all mortal and our death stalks us every moment of our lives.

What many of us do not realize is that medicating and forgetting about our inevitable death may prolong our lives and keep the physical body alive, but it creates a spiritual emptiness. Most of us spend the majority of our waking moments in a trance that might as well be death for the experience it gives us. Our lives are not killing us, our lives are already dead. This is why we must experience grief, taste it and glorify it. That is what fall reminds me, anyway.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Lump

Doctor says its nothing.

Carry on.

Krugman, Economies and the Next Civil War

When I was in graduate school pursuing a PhD in Economics, I was assigned to teach an Introductory Economics course for my assistantship requirements. I assigned my students twice-weekly readings of Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times editorial page. Of course, his column were political and I risked being accused of endorsing a Liberal agenda and swaying young minds, but Krugman was also an economist and his columns often gave a political perspective from an economic point of view. I was careful to focus in on the economic aspects of his columns and left the political portion open to discussion without criticizing or endorsing his opinions.

Upon leaving graduate school, the New York times began offering a paid service called Timeselect and Krugman's column was temporarily beyond my reach. I was ecstatic to learn the Timeselect was being cancelled a week ago and I could access Krugman's column and blog once more at the New York Times online page.

Krugman has a new book coming out with the same title as his blog "The Conscious of a Liberal." In the Introduction to his Blog, Krugman describes the growing inequities of income in the US. There is little doubt that the current disparities in income between the haves and the have-nots in our society - as well as around the globe - is troubling, to say the least. But Krugman appears to endorse a view that the recent trend, beginning with the Reagan administration, is a return to the previous days in America described as the Gilded age when robber barrens controlled the wealth of industry and had vast influence over political discourse in the US. Under this view, the depression era and post-war build-up of Government infrastructure supporting liberal agendas created an aberration in US history where wealth was distributed more equitably among the members of out society. This was the result of investment in public education, liberal legislation supporting unions and working families, and many other government programs and initiatives. Generally, I am in support of this view - but I also think it only tells part of the story leading to the solution of returning to more government run programs.

While income was distributed more evenly in American society during the great achievements of the post war liberal era, there was also a continuing migration from rural areas to urban and suburban areas as many Americans left income poor, yet self-reliant, households in rural America. This left vast rural areas in the control of large agricultural conglomerates with no ties to the people in these previously resilient communities.

These thriving rural communities may have been populated by households that were described as low income, but as my Grandma said of life on the farm, “We didn’t have no money, but we were never hungry.” The economies in these rural areas were kept aloft through the informal economy that could not be described with income. It can be better illuminated in the oownership records with many small farms owned by individuals with little income, still living pleasant and comfortable lives through their interconnected relationships and economic transactions with the community that were not pecuniary in nature. These transactions can be described as bartering, work-sharing, cooperatives, gifts and neighborliness. What makes the inequality in America today much more daunting than the inequality of the past is the reliance upon income over relationships amongst our neighbors.

In effect, although this postwar liberal era can be seen as a panacea through many lenses - the result of large government projects and initiatives - the liberal policies also contributed (and continue to contribute) to the loss of our rural communities and economies to the economic incentives of greater profits through the capture of economic transactions that previously were not part of the formal economy. Today we see the same trends in privatization in security, warfare, disaster relief and education. A closer look at Krugman's analysis might reveal a coup whereby liberal policies built up large government infrastructures through tax payer dollars enticing waves of Americans from rural areas to abandoned their communities and self-reliant lifestyles for the income supported lives of our modern era. Now the government (which is vastly subservient to corporate agendas) has began the process of selling (giving away) this infrastructure to the wealthy few - leaving in place a huge and much more chilling corporate/military infrastructure designed to serve the money interests while leaving citizens without income, property or the means to sustain themselves.

All of this leads to the current situation with the Eric Prince lead Blackwater along with other security firms. Imagine a future where the Generals are competing with CEO's for government funds. We may be witnessing the onset of the second civil war if congress begins the process of reducing these private mercenary companies. Eric Prince and his family have given vast sums of money to Republican campaigns with radical Christian and nonconservative agendas. He has given zero dollars to democrats. He is in control of the worlds largest private military and is being questioned by a democratic congress. It has the makings of a great Science fiction novel at the very least.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

DDT and Twiddling

The age of the fossil fuels brought out a host of new products and pollutants previously unseen before. As chemists manipulated the molecular structures of oil, new products have been introduced to the market with claimed attributes making our lives simpler, and easier according to the sellers of the products. However, usually over time we discover some externality associated with the product causing an environmental hazard leading to disease and/or destruction of the biosphere we depend on for survival.

One of the first products introduced was DDT as a pesticide and herbicide for agricultural products as well for control of Mosquitoes to combat malaria around the world. DDT was used extensively in rural communities in the 1940's and 1950's while my father was a growing up. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when he was 30 years old in 1970. As a young man he used to work for farmers and applied DDT in the fields without any protection getting covered from head to toe in the DDT dust. He is going to be 67 in December. He is a shell of the man I knew growing up. At 6'4" and 220 lbs, coming off of life on the farm, he was big, strong and skilled in a number of tasks such as carpentry, auto mechanics, fishing, hunting, plumbing, electricity, etc. Even when he was first diagnosed with the disease that would eventually cripple him, his medication slowed and controlled his digression enough that I still remember a man as a child who was infinitely stronger and capable as the adult man I grew up to be. The community my father grew up in is riddled with cancer and he has lost many friends to a variety of diseases. His younger brother died at the young age of 55 from a brain tumor.

My father was no sissy and I am sure he came off of the farms without the slightest fears of pesticides and herbicides such as DDT. I can imagine he moved into the suburbs around Minneapolis as a young man and brought home pesticides from the hardware store in town and applied it to his garden and lawn by the handful. I was born in 1964 and I would not doubt he would come in from outside and take me crying from my mother's hands in his huge DDT dust covered hands, and slowly rock me and comfort me to sleep. DDT was not banned until 1972.

I've been playing with my balls my whole life. The human body is mostly smooth and hard and the testicles encased in the elastic scrotum provide an interesting exploratory landscape for the fingers to investigate under the covers and away from the sight of everyone. I have observed my son sitting naked on the couch while discovering this pleasure himself and from my childhood I remember my father napping on the couch with his large hands tucked neatly into his pants. Obviously, this is an inherited trait or perhaps universal amongst all males. We are socially conditioned to play with our balls in the privacy of our homes away from the prying eyes of our neighbors. If not for this conditioning, I am sure men would be walking around with their hands stuffed neatly into our pants all day long as we twiddled to our heart's content. After 43 years of playing with my balls I mostly do it subconsciously now as I put myself to sleep. My hands pull and play with my scrotum and softly manipulate each testicle, one at a time, not to derive any sort of pleasure, but rather to just comfort myself. One week ago, when I first noticed the lump on my right testicle, I thought I should just ignore it. Immediately, I did think of testicular cancer and Lance Armstrong and all that, but I also thought even if it was cancer I should be able to heal myself with positive thoughts, a good diet and a healthy lifestyle.

I am not worried about universal health care. In many ways I distrust everything about the modern health industry. Everything is presented to us with scientific certainty derived from statistical analysis. I have had enough post-secondary education to understand that nothing is certain about statistics and what is certain one day from one specific study will be announced later as false due to a new study with slightly different parameters producing different results. So, my natural inclination is to push everything modern and scientific aside and try and live naturally and healthy through diet, exercise and as much distance from the modern world as one raised in it can muster in a week. I didn't want to believe I had cancer and I had told myself, that even if I do have it, I would not undergo putting radiation and chemical poisons in my body to counteract the growing cancer.

On Sunday I read of a recent scientific study showing a correlation between breast cancer and DDT exposure. I suddenly began to think of the possibility that no matter how healthy I lived the seeds of cancer may have been sown in my body as an infant. I thought of my son and my desire to see him grow up and my father crying at the realization that he can no longer play with his grandchildren in a meaningful way like he dreamed of as a young and healthy adult. I called my doctor yesterday and made an appointment by phone for tomorrow at 1:00 pm. I stayed up all night rehearsing what I will say to him.

"Doctor Clavine, I play with my balls a lot and recently I notice a lump on my right testicle. I'd like for you to play with them awhile and see what you think - if it is cancer."

Depending on what he thinks, I will take it from there. I suppose I can stand the thought of putting myself to sleep each night while playing with one less testicle if it came to that. I'll have to think about the chemotherapy and I am sure I will be given plenty of statistics to help me reach a decision.

Monday, October 1, 2007

What is it about me?

Midway through my senior year track season, we had a meet against a couple of teams in our conference. Neither team had any good distance runners. I was scheduled to run the two-mile, a leg of the 4 x 800, and then the mile. It was my standard workload during my senior year and it usually left me with 3 blue ribbons. My coach called ma aside before the race. He told me he wanted to see me go out hard the first mile and then coast through the second mile. My teammates were accustomed to seeing me in the lead during these conference races and most invitationals. They were not aware of the instructions from my coach. When I went through the first mile at 4:31, they all started getting excited. I was still holding my pace as I came around the straight away on my 5th lap. My teammates were in a line forming a gauntlet and began chanting, "Andy!, Andy!, Andy!" I felt a sudden rash of embarrassment and shook my head, hoping my teammates would stop. I came through lap five in 5:37 and could still hear the chants of my teammates as I went around the first turn. I began to slow down on the back stretch and as I came around the far turn I saw my teammates formed in a line and the chanting was still going strong. I slowed to a jog and looked at them and told them to knocked it off. When I went went trough lap six the timers called out, " 7:06, 7:07, 7:08". My teammates dispersed and I began picking up my pace again midway down the backstretch when I could see they no longer formed their gauntlet and the chanting had died down, when the the gun went off as I went into my final lap, I could hear "8:29, 8:30, 8:31." My final lap was fast, but I didn't kick and I finished my race in 9:35 with my final mile slower than 5:00 minutes.

I don't know why, but I've never liked bringing attention to myself. I have always been competitive, but I'm always embarrassed by seeking approval from others. So, when I later went on to play in bands, my least favorite part was trying to sell the bands I was in. I could not stand telling people to pay attention to us, because we were good. I just wanted to play and let people form their own opinions as I had fun playing my guitar and singing my songs.

I think I feel the same about writing. It is not that I am humble or modest. I can actually come across as quite arrogant and I don't tolerate mediocrity very well. But, what I most hate are the self-promoters. I have always been sickened by the salesperson mentality and thats what you see in blogs the most. Especially, as time goes on and more and more people join the information age and chime in on any number of subjects while attracting donations and sponsors to their site. Its this that makes me queasy. Obviously, I am not in the market or doing this to attract visitors to my site. But, whenever anything is done these days it is impossible to judge the worth of how we spend our time without considering costs and potential revenues. Worth for anything that we do with our time is judged almost strictly in monetary terms even when we pursue our hobbies and interests, because "time is money" as they say.

That's why I haven't posted in over a month and explains my previous post. Let's see if this post gathers any momentum.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Blogs are dumb

I just came to the conclusion.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Verse to a melody in my head, while walking to work

I want to let go
But I’m scared
Don’t mind slippin’ away
But, to nowhere?

If I lose myself
I’ll lose my mind
Let go of my past
What will I find?


Friday, August 3, 2007

Blogging Journalism

Journalists find witnesses and tell stories of events that people want to read about. In today's world of bloggers, the journalist and the witness are combined. The result is that there are many witnesses to events, but not many talented storytellers recounting the scenes. But, we get some good video.

As my contribution to blogging journalism, since I live in the Twin Cities and often take I35W to and from work, I just want to say that I drove home on Wednesday evening without incident and came home to watch the events unfold on TV like the rest of the nation. I know no one who was at the scene, nor anyone with any connection to the disaster. Life has gone on without much drama over the past few days and I expect it will continue this way for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of the future, I am leaving to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota without the accompanying canoe. I am joining my cronies there for a hike along the Pow Wow Trail for a week of camping, fishing and hiking withe canine companions. I won't be at work, so I will be free of the blog. Do with it as you please while I am away.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Some people argue that humans are predisposed to violence - that making war is part of our genetic makeup. It has been discovered that one of our closest evolutionary relatives, the chimpanzee (whom we share 99 % DNA with), makes war amongst rival clans in neighboring territories. However, our other closest relative is the Bonobo whom does not make war with other Bonobos (whom we also share 99% of our DNA with) and uses peaceful and non-violent means to solve confrontations with each other.

War and violence are learned behaviors. They are behaviors that are rewarded in competitive societies. But peaceful mindsets can be rewarded as well. I am not sure that humans cannot live peacefully amongst each other. In fact, I think it is necessary that I believe we can. For without the hope that war and violence can be overcome in our increasingly smaller global culture, human suffering and cruelty will continue increase and our prospects for living meaningful and mindful lives will diminish.

We cannot respond to violence with violence nor can we respond to hate with hate.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Good God!

The details remain unknown. He came back from Iraq with two sets of dog tags that were from young Iraqi men. He told a few people close to him they were innocent Iraqis he was ordered to shoot. Why or who ordered him to shoot them, we don't know. He said he kept the dog tags to honor the men. What we know is that he was haunted by these young Iraqi men upon returning home in 2004.

At first, he seemed normal although a little distant. Then he began drinking and a series of events led his parents to seek help from the VA. He was committed for a short while be released without being diagnosed with PTSD with the determination he was not a threat to others or himself. He slowly went downhill despite the love and support of his family. There was a car accident and more cases of drinking. His family hid away his knives and other items that they were afraid he would harm himself with. He spoke with his father one night about all that was troubling him.
Well, Monday night, when I got home, Jeffrey was in a total rage. He was pacing through the house. He was angry at the war, angry at everything. And I was trying to get him to calm down. And then he started talking of suicide. And he felt abandoned. He didn't know where to go.

At that point, I called the Vet Center, and I told them what was going on. And the Vet Center was tremendous. They spoke to me, got me to calm down, because we were all distraught by this time. And then they spoke to Jeff. And substantially Jeff was very calm after the phone call. They advised me to call the police, if necessary.

And what happened was that Jeff and I then started talking while I was doing some work. And then what happened with Jeff was -- it was about 11:30 at night, and everything was very -- I was exhausted, Jeff was exhausted, but he kept talking, and then finally he asked me if he would be able to sit in my lap. And so, forty-five minutes we rocked in silence. And the therapist told us after Jeff died that that was no doubt his last place of refuge, his last safe harbor that he felt that he could go to.

The next morning -- I stayed up ’til about 2:00 or 3:00 until Jeff went to bed, and he was calm. And then I got up, went to work. And then, of course, it was at 6:45 Tuesday evening that I came home.

Jeff is another casualty of war that won't be counted amongst the statistics. I don't want to make a political point about how we should get out of Iraq. I was out on the street protesting about our going there in the first place. I am sick of our support for war in general. This is how the father found his son - Jeff.
I was talking on the cell phone to Joyce, and I said, “Jeff, no doubt, is lying in front of the TV.” And so I told her I would call her back. So I went into the house, and I couldn't find Jeff. I went to his bedroom, and the one thing I noted was that his dog tags were laying on his bed. I then went out to the porch, to the deck. He wasn't there.

And so, then I went through the addition, and I saw the cellar door open. I could see a light on, and I caught some pictures that were laying on the floor, and in the center was his platoon picture. And I could see other pictures. So I went downstairs. My focus was on the pictures, because I couldn't understand why they were there. When I went up to the pictures, the platoon picture had blood on it. The picture of each of his sisters were on each side of the platoon picture, and then there was pictures of the family in a half-circle.

Then I saw Jeff, and Jeff was, I thought, standing at first, until I saw the hose double-looped around his neck. I went running over there, and I pushed Jeff up with my knees. And that was the last time he ever sat in my lap. I took the hose from around his neck, and I laid him down onto the floor, trying to make him comfortable. And at that point, I tried to rub his chest, because I thought I felt some warmth there. Otherwise he was very cold. So then I went upstairs and called the police.
We have to do more than end this war. We need to renounce war altogether. War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Sell out.

There was a term we used for bands that had gained commercial appeal by sacrificing their integrity. It was something we all realized was necessary to some degree, but some bands managed to pull it off more gracefully than others. For a local scene, if a band made the transition to a more national audience, there was no greater scorn than for a band that sold out.

What exactly does it mean to sell out?

In our society today, everything is measured by price. The only recognized value is price. Even our time has a price on it - time is money. Some people's time is worth more than others. My time is not worth quite as much as my bosses, but more than our office secretary. Yet, intuitively, we all know that some things in life our priceless. We sell our time to pursue some things that cannot be valued in a marketplace. Eight hours a day, five days a week buys us a few precious hours a week for such pursuits if we can make all of our payments necessary to maintain our lifestyles. Sometimes we dream about combining our priceless pursuits with our work. We think about making our hobbies into profit-making adventures. What would it take to profit off of our hobbies?

Selling out, of course.

This is the dilemma. As many jobs I have had, I have also had hobbies, dreams or goals. Each time my hobby has run up against the market, it has evaporated into a fine mist and blown away with the wind. For anything to have integrity and value that is long lasting it has to be motivated by something close to the heart and not by what can be obtained in the market.

This does not mean that anything that has sold for a price in the market is automatically crap and of no value. There are many examples of successful artists who have made a good living off of their art. However, their chosen craft would still be the same whether they made money or not off of it - for they are motivated by something that comes from within.

Right now I garden when I am not working. Someday I would like to farm, but this notion of value and markets has me worried. I can see what happens to farmers and the economics of agriculture. There is an incentive to get into organic farming because right now there is a large demand for organic products. Walmart, Target, Sam's club and many other retail stores are devoting several aisles to organic products. However, farmers should never forget that these outlets and buyers of their production are forever in search of selling at the lowest price to their consumers and generating profits for their shareholders. When agricultural products are in large supply, the market place will lower the price. Eventually, the market for organic products will bottom out and farmers will get lower and lower prices for their ever-increasing yields.

The temptation to produce one crop on a farm is huge. Even local organic farms selling their produce at Farmers Markets are in search of products that will sell. If a farmer just follows the seasons and sells only what is in season, they will always have competition from other area farms and the price for their products will be driven down. Everyone loves tomato season, but it is the farmer that brings the first tomatoes to market that gets the highest prices. Tomatoes in the fall are going to sell for much less. So, one farmer begins growing tomatoes in January in a greenhouse, so they have ripe tomatoes in May or June. Soon everyone has a greenhouse and is selling tomatoes in June. This is wonderful for tomato lovers, but works contrary to what the farmer seeks - high prices.

This is where farming for the love of farming comes in. The first priority of the gifted farmer is producing good food to eat, while taking care of the soil and land. The wonderful thing about farming and gardening is that cornucopias amounts of produce are generated during the season. It is an awesome task to put all the tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, garlic, onions, etc. to good use before it spoils and must be returned to the compost heap. The kitchen is filled with activity this time of the year - cooking, canning, freezing and fermenting. The same goes for dairy, meat and poultry production. What throws all this out of balance is when the farm is devoted to the market and yields of selected crops are emphasized over more diversified production using holistic practices. Of course, farms require land and land costs money that often necessitates debt owed to banks that only care about the profits of the farm. What this means for me is that I can't think of farming as a livelihood, but must instead devote my energies to a garden that produces vegetables and fruits for seasonal consumption of my family and friends. An expanding garden can never come at the expense of "selling out," or the next in my line of hobbies will dissipate into thin air.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A listing of jobs I've had in my life

occupation Company Age
paperboy Mpls Star and Trib 12-14
Sodbuster Smith Landscaping 14-17
Workstudy South Dakota At University 19
Landscaper Mickbrothers Landscaping 19-20
Gas Station attn. Sinclair 20
Maid and Houseman Ironblossom Resort Snowbird 20
Stock Lumber Knox Lumber 20-21
cafeteria worker St Cloud St University 22-24
Convenience Store Clerk Tom Thumb Stores 21-22
Stock Clerk Kmart 22-23
Landscaper Hollands Landscaping 23-26
Bellman Snowbird Ski Resort 24
Taxi Driver Handicabs 27
Mail Carrier USPS 27-34
Teacher/Grad Asst Rensselaer Poly Inst 35-38
Teacher Cordon Blue-Browns Inst 39
Bus Driver Rheiben Transpor 40-41
Correction Officer Henn CO. Jv Det Center 41
City Bureaucrat 41-43

Thats a pretty good list.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What's the point?

I've talked about goals in a previous thread. I have had more jobs than I can count and someday I will list than all in a future thread. I've had many dreams and desires that I have pursued at various times and this question - What is the Point - usually ends up being the end of the pursuit. Yesterday I had that thought as I contemplated a new post for this blog.

It comes without warning usually and is usually accompanied by a wave of sadness. I am not prone to what our society refers to as depression. I don't believe in taking medication for chemical imbalances in the brain. For a number of reasons I don't find the rationale that depression is caused by some dysfunction of our brains convincing. I actually like getting sad. It makes me feel alive. It starts my brain searching and questioning. When I am sad, I blame it on my surroundings and I seek to change what I am doing. This is what leads me to asking the question that can never be answered - What is the point? The answer I come up with is always liberating - there is no point.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tour De France

What the Hell?

Another rider has tested positive for testosterone and another team has pulled out of the race. I can't believe this. It really makes one wonder after the fiasco from last year with Landis. I was as much of a fan of the Tour during the Armstrong years as anyone. I would make time to catch races as they were happening for important stages. But, his domination of it for seven years. You really have to wonder. Was he that good? or was he doping, too.

Sheezus, why would riders continue to try and beat the system and will they always continue to do so? Some current riders must know that Armstrong could get away with it, so they can, too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Blueberries and Family

My wife, son and I woke up Saturday morning and drove to a farm in Western Wisconsin to pick Blueberries. We were there for two hours and picked 15 lbs (and probably ate a lb or two more). If you haven't had this experience as a family, I suggest you set aside some time soon to go berry picking. My son had a wonderful time and was chattering away about all the berries he was finding and eating. He was so proud of his harvest he was gathering and was in no hurry to leave when we had our fill.

More Irony

I walked through a downtown park on the way to the Mississippi River to lay down for an lunch-time nap in the near the waters flowing from Lake Itasca through the Gulf of Mexico. On my way I was accosted by another homeless person (like any modern metropolis, St Paul is filled with homeless individuals whom the city is currently considering options to make invisible for the upcoming 2008 Republican Convention). He was holding a package of cards with hand drawn art upon them. An Eagle was depicted with the saying "Proud to be an American." written above it.

"Sir, Sir, Sir - Would you like to purchase a drawing? A card?, " he said as I strained my eyes to read the printing he held out to me.

"Sorry," I said, "No, thanks," as I walked on by and he moved on to the next lunch taker walking through the park.

I usually do purchase and hand out what is in my wallet to those who ask of me. Today, I walked by though as I was offended by the card. If he had drawn an Eagle casting a glance downward and written simply "Shame" above it, I would have reached for my wallet.

Haiti and Our Shame

He was the democratically elected leader of a nation. He was popular in his home country. On February 29, 2004, members of the American military and other officials broke into his home and kidnapped him then transported him to Central African Republic and held him in captivity until his release was negotiated by Randall Robinson and others. Amy Goodman interviewed Robinson on Democracy Now, yesterday.

Despite his popularity, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has still not been allowed to return to Haiti. Haiti has a long history of being abused and exploited by Western Nations. It was originally a slave colony of France where the slaves revolted and won in 1804, thus establishing the first democracy where everyone was a participant and free it the world. (The US had slavery).

Rather than embrace this new young democracy as allies, The US worked to undermine the nation by joining with France to embargo the nation. The US was afraid of what would become of its slaves if the successes of the slave revolution were made known to slaves in America. France also charged Haiti with a debt for the freed slaves that Haiti didn't pay off entirely until 150 years later. Aristide was gathering international support in an effort to get France to make reparations for these debt payments that crippled Haiti's economy that continues to struggle today. Despite Frances vocal opposition to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, France willingly went along with the coup to oust Aristide in 2004. All of this is available via Robinson and his new book, An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President.

When reading such accounts of our past and current imperialistic adventures around the world, it makes one cynical about our democracy in America where nothing is beyond the realm of possibilities when considering various ideas and theories that commonly fall under the heading of conspiracy. I don't dismiss any allegation anymore of the potential corruption of those representing the money interests in America. Obviously, to embrace such theories as absolute truth is foolhardy. But to dismiss such theories out-of-hand as preposterous is equally foolish.

I have read many of Robinson's previous works and find him a compelling and honest writer. The fact that he makes me look at our culture under a scrutinizing lens and ask hard questions about our history I think is enlightening. It makes me really believe the old adage that none of us are truly free when their are others suffering under tyranny somewhere else in the world. We should be ashamed of our actions in Haiti, even more so than our invasion of Iraq. We have had a long history of abuse in our relations with this democratic island nation that is led and populated by descendants of former slaves. America will never be truly free until it comes to terms with its past as imperialist, slaveholders and conquerors/exterminators of entire tribes and nations of people. Most of this past helped consolidate power in our nation today and contributes to our corrupt ways as can be seen by our actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and, now, the Island nation of Haiti.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Speaking of Faith

I had a long and fulfilling day in the Garden yesterday. There were weeds to be pulled, composts to be turned, fruits and vegetables to be harvested, second round of plants to be planted, and organic fertilizer to be applied. I woke of this morning sore, but completely refreshed.

Sundays are a great day for gardening. I don't belong to an organized church, so my spiritual time could not be better spent than working with soil and plants. Often, I will set up the radio and turn it to a baseball game - the Minnesota Twins - since Sundays usually mean a day game. Yesterday the Twins lost to the California Angels, 7 -2, but not even this could spoil my mood.

After the game I turned the radio to NPR and tuned into Barbara Kingsolver being interviewed on Speaking of Faith. The segment was called The Ethics of Eating. Kingsolver and her family went one year with trying to raise all the food necessary for their living on their own property. THey supplemented what they could raise with trips to the local Farmers Markets and, if they had to, purchases of organic food from the grocery store. What they were attempting to accomplish was to live off of food that was raised in or near their locality and not support our international corporate food supply. She made several interesting points about questions people don't ask about where our food comes from.

Of course, all of this is just confirmation of my own views and was perfectly accommodating to my afternoon spent in the garden. I share similar goals to Kingsolver and have to echo her statement that purchasing your food locality and tending a garden has benefits that go beyond financial and is not that hard to do. It is a choice available to us all that has many spiritual and ethical benefits.

Friday, July 20, 2007

There went Friday

And here comes the weekend.

See you all Monday, but I have a question if anyone can provide an answer.

Why isn't there a U after the Q in Al Qeada? I was told that Q always comes with a U. No wonder they are terrorists.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tough SOB's

I always admired the artists who seemed like tough motherF@#*ers. My first rock-n-roll hero was Kieth Richard, but his fame and acclaim has kind of eroded my view of him over the years. Now when I think of tough I think of the guys from punk bands who made it to the top of their scene, but are now kind of floundering around as their audience grew up and many of the musicians they traveled amongst died. Mike Watt, Bob Mould, and Curt Kirkwook. I can't tell you how much it warms my heart to learn that Curt has recently reunited with his brother Chris.

Brothers Meat, you come through Minneapolis soon and I'm there like I was before.

Delicious Irony

Over lunch hour I am walking through the park and I overhear this little snippet of a conversation between two middle-aged homeless men sitting on a park Bench.

"Its a long lonely road to the top."


A poorly written plot, and we believe this stuff?

I want to make a confession – I am a political junkie. I enjoy politics. My favorite blogs to read are political and sports blogs. Although, I contemplated starting a blog that was political, so I could push an agenda and challenge the power-structure in our nation, I had a fleeting moment of good judgment and decided not to. My favorite blog of all time was Billmon’s Whiskey Bar. I was just a reader, but he had insight and wit. The problem with political blogs is simple as the old adage – opinions are like assholes, everyone has them.

Most political blogs are discussing the Iraq war and how we are going to end it. Everyone claims to know what will happen under different scenarios. Some go as far as explaining the logistics of withdrawal, the escalation of violence and the political fallout that will result when we withdraw our troops. If I were to opine in on this discussion, I would be as dishonest as everyone else, because the only thing that we really know is that people are dying now and people will die in the future while the human drama continues.

I find it ridiculous that people sit in front of terminals all over the world and read about events happening and different opinions on events and then jump into the discussions with convictions that are solidified on nothing more than rumors and propaganda.

What I could comment on though is the propaganda. As the debate in congress and the media heats up on troop withdrawal, the news we read in the papers begins to contain stories that are predictable and unoriginal. First, there was a vote in November putting the Democrats in control of the congress strictly on the beliefs of the citizens that we need to extricate ourselves from the quagmire in Iraq. This was followed by a certain humility in the administration and the Rumsfeld stepping down. Shortly after that we bagan debating a surge, as if this was a legitimate option. Then, we heard about Iran’s nuclear intentions. But, as the surge began taking place we started hearing more about Al Qaeda. The Iraqi Insurgents killed during the first wave of the Surge were suddenly Al Qaeda. As US troops began dying in increasing frequency, we were told that Al Qaeda strongholds in Iraq were being destroyed. However, other reports from Iraq showed that the stability of the region were still in question and the benchmarks for the new Iraqi government were not being reached.

Congress again begins to debate and Democrats are encouraged to take a stand and suddenly an National Intelligence report is issued on the rise of the influence in Al Qaeda in the World and the strong ties between the leadership in Pakistan and the Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq. Supposedly we had killed the main leader of Al Qeada in Iraq many months ago in Al- Zarqawi, whom had worn out his welcome amongst the Iraqi population. But, if we are going to have wars we need a real enemy and the focus groups must say that Iran doesn’t have the same evil face that Al-Qeada does. So, now we have someone whom we have captured in Iraq who was actually responsible for the connection between the Al-Qeada leadership in Pakistan and the Al-Qeada groups in Iraq. But, we don’t know where the leadership is in Pakistan (Gee, did anyone think to ask the guy that?) but we have the central front on the war on terror and Iraq cannot be a safe haven for terrorists. So, our troops have to keep fighting Al Qeada in Iraq (which is separate from Al Qeada Core, but is really the same as Al Qeada Core in Pakistan though operating out of Iraq).

And, we believe this stuff? Or, at least enough of us are distracted by it to forget for a moment about the War that has continued to be supported by lies. Through this all, there is this background threat of Iraq, which has little to do with Al Qeada. Al-Qeada is Sunni and Iran is Shia. The Iraqi government is dominated by Shia and enjoys the support of the majority Shia population in Iraq that was previously ruled by Saddam who was Sunni and had a great resentment towards Al Qeada. History tells us that all sorts of conditions can create allies amongst previous enemies. What is happening in Iraq is definitely complex, and I don’t know what is going on any more than you do. However, all this talk of Al-Qeada might as well have been written by Orwell.

We are being played like an out of tune piano and the sound coming out is screechy and eerie. It sounds so bad, I have a difficult time believing they are playing this tune for us. But, we’ve been played similar tunes from this bad opera before and the ending does not appear to be any where in sight.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

So, What's the deal with Peaches?

It started as a joke. My friend decided he was going to annoy me and started calling me Peaches. This was a long time ago when we were goofing around in our twenties. It didn’t really take hold. It was a balancing act. My friend was persistent and he knew how to push my buttons. If I protested too loudly, the nickname was going to stick like bugs to sap. My girlfriend at the time loved it, so she picked it up. I just kind of ignored it and rolled my eyes ever so slightly when I heard it, as if to suggest I was surrounded by children.

Overtime, my friend was really the only one who kept calling me Peaches. He’s a very good friend and we have spent a lot of time around each other so I just let him call me that and explained to others that my friend was a juvenile and I was unsure why I put up with him.

One day I bought a CD by Nina Simone and listened to a song called four women. It is a great song telling the story of four black women in America. The last woman is pissed and in the last line of the last stanza Nina screams “THEY CALL ME PEACHES!!!!” I played it for my friend and from then on I embraced the nickname. Today, all my cronies (best friends in the world) call me Peaches.

I first started using it online while playing an internet game called RealmWars. It was hosted by a guy named Bit who site was called PlanetBang. I was there too much playing an addictive game and avoiding life’s responsibilities. It was fun though and very interesting watching this online community come together and evolve. I was one of the older players and, at first, Peaches took a lot of crap. But, people soon learned that Peaches was a good ally and could whip ass on you in the game. Peaches took his share of ass-whooping, too. When I was asked about my name (at first, people always assumed I was a chick, and thought it was cool I was playing this war game), I’d started explaining about the 6’3” tattooed 350lb Hell’s Angel Member everyone called “Tiny.” That’s who Peaches was. It was a little exaggeration, but it fit for Realm Wars.

Eventually, I had to stop playing this game or be locked into the virtual world without friends and family forever. So, I unhooked the internet from my house and stopped playing. Then, I began posting on a political blog called as Peaches and a new personality was born. Peaches is basically me. Most of his ideas are my own. However, Peaches goes off half-cocked a lot, although he attempts to be fair. For the most part, Peaches is a lot smarter than I. I mean, he surprises me. He is all over the place at Talkleft and sometimes I find his ideas difficult to pin down. Sometimes he sounds like a conservative and sometimes a liberal, but he insists on identifying only as a liberal. Well, again, this sounds like me. But, I tell you, in all honesty, Peaches is a hell of a lot smarter than I am.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Goal - what is it?

It was in summer basketball camp that the high school coach told us that none of us would ever be playing NBA basketball. I was defiant. I could not even start for my junior high team, but I was convinced through hard work I could be a professional basketball player. My more immediate goal was to play for the High School Varsity team – the Osseo Orioles. I attended every home game as a youngster. I would cheer on the Orange and black team and knew all the starting players. It seemed an honor to be able to wear those flashy warm-ups and all I desired was to one day be able to play on that team.

I shot baskets over and over again in our driveway and developed a potent outside shot. But, I was small and not very strong. I had not grown since I was in the fourth grade and by my ninth grade year I was an undersized and skinny guard. Going into to my sophomore year, it seemed like I would probably get cut once tryouts for the basketball team commenced. Suddenly, I began to grow but not upward. My feet and hands grew. I was 5’7” with a size 13 basketball shoe and I could not run down the court without falling down. I think I made the team, strictly because the coaches knew my father (he was 6’4”) and the looked at my feet and knew I had to grow into them eventually. My junior year I was 5’10” and going into my senior year I was 6’3” although still skinny weighing barely 135 lbs. I made the team and I could shoot and handle the ball decently. I was wearing the uniform, but I stopped having fun. Suddenly basketball was not very fun.

I started running distances my senior year. In my phy. ed. class my junior year, I ran a 4:57 mile in high-top basket ball shoes. I was skinny and all legs. I could run forever without tiring. My phy ed teacher was also the Cross-country coach. He told me if I trained all summer I would be the State Champion in the fall. I didn’t train over the summer, but since I was assured of a place on the roster for the varsity basketball team in the winter, I decided I might as well go out for the cross-country team as well and I had a blast. I wasn’t the state champ but I was all state, all conference, all regional and our team went to the state meet. I ran a 4:20 mile and a 9:26 2-mile in the spring and suddenly I my goal went from the NBA to the Olympics.

I ran cross-country in college and track, but I never really trained during the summers. I slowly put on weight and eventually my frame filled out with muscle that was not conducive to being carried over long distances. Besides, I started playing the guitar and decided I was going to be a rock star. Then, I was going to be a politician, then get my PhD.

Goals? What is the goal in life? One of the things I realized about sports and competition is that there is no ultimate goal. We strive to be a champion and, in the majority of cases, most of us will never get there. But, even the champions have to defend their title and eventually will be dethroned. So, we end all competitive pursuits with failure. That is our last memory. And, I knew I wanted more in life than failure. But, what is success?

Is there a goal in life? Raise a family, is that it? I really don’t know what it is. It might be to live the good life, but to live the good life we first have to decide what the good life is. I suppose that is the spot I am at right now. I am trying to define what the good life is, so I can make a goal worth striving for. In the meantime, it is just one day at a time, or on a more cynical note - as Celine says - Death on the Installment Plan.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The drive with my Grandma

“You wouldn’t even believe it, Andy. The wind, it was blowing. Where there were fences was a mound of dirt and the pigs and cows would walk right over the fences. People were starving in the cities. We had food. We always had food. But, Dad worked so hard. He would have to go to the county and pick up feed for the cows. Just a little handful a day – enough to keep them alive, and then in the winter he had to repay them for the feed by working all day putting gravel down on the roads. He found a trucker to take the horses to a field near Granite Falls, because they had some rain, see? And, then we heard that one of the horses had sleeping sickness. So, they sent him home and he died. Dad worked so hard.

He had two brothers in California, Uncle Ervin and Uncle Elmore, who owned lumber yards and they wanted him to move there because they knew he was getting old. So he decided to go and Martin and I were just married and Grandpa wanted to go with him. So, we all went, but the work for the lumber yards was even harder. They drove trucks and they didn’t know where they were going. Sometimes they had to go to LA and deliver to the Negroes there. They worked all day. Dad wanted to go back and Martin wanted to farm. So, we moved back and bought the grocery store and Dad retired soon after.

It was hard during the depression, you would never believe it – how it was. But, we had so many pets and we were happy. The cats would line up on that board every morning and wait with their mouths open for Dad to squirt the milk into their mouths right from the cows. I had to help Dad with the chores too, cause I was the oldest, so I was the hired hand. I did the man’s work. I drove since I was twelve to deliver Dad his lunch every day in the field or wherever he was. And we had a garden, Mom kept a big garden. We’d can tomatoes. And an Apple Orchard in the back, a couple cherry trees. Oh, we had fun. WE were never hungry, Mom only had to buy sugar and flour, otherwise we had everything. One Christmas all we got was we each got a new outfit for our dolls – that was it. We didn’t have money, but we were happy.

Oh, I’ve been talking your ear off.”

“No, Grandma. Tell me more.”

And she did. Farming is a hard life, there is no doubt. No one should ever think it isn’t. But, once my grandpa and great-grandpa left for California – left their homesteads – they spent the rest of their days pining over the old days on the farm.

Friday, July 13, 2007

See you Monday

Time to go, have a great weekend.

This has been a crazy week at work. Busier than normal. But, not really that bad. I'm going to spend the weekend listening to the Minnesota Twins play on the radio while working in the garden. I am also picking up my Grandma from her assisted living home in southern Minnesota for Sunday dinner. Shes 86 and little lonesome since my grandpa died this winter. It'll be good to see her.

Berries and breakfast

Every morning I pick a few raspberries for my morning breakfast out of two bushes I planted last year. I planted 5 more red raspberry and 5 black raspberry bushes this year which should start producing well next year. I also have a fairly large strawberry patch and I plan on making space in the garden for a row of blueberry bushes also. I purchase frozen berries for my breakfast all year round. I would love to produce enough berries in my garden during the summer berry season to supply my berry fix for the entire year.

Here is my mornign breakfast.

handful of frozen organic blueberries
handful of frozen Org raspberries
handful of frozen Org strawberries
one banana sliced
2 heaping teaspoons of Wheat germ
2 heaping teaspoons of ground flax seed
1 teaspoon of bee pollen
covered with 1/2 to 1 cup of Muesli (Bobs Red Mill usually)
pour plain Organic vanilla Yogurt over and mix all ingerdients in large ceral bowl

Add a little soy milk and let sit while I drink cup of coffee and read paper, then shit(this high grain breakfast keeps me very regular), shave and shower (Usually about 45 minutes to an hour). Mix again and eat.

This is a filling and very nutritiousway to start the day providing an energy boost for almost the entire work day. I usually drink tea at work, have a light sandwich at lunch and come home to a large salad (out of the garden fro 6-8 months a year) and hearty dinner.

My goal is to be self-sufficient on the berries within a year or two.


There was a time I wanted to be a rock star. I played in a band for a few years in the late 1980’s and early nineties. It started in Fargo North Dakota while I was in College. We had a little following there. One of the bands I helped found went on to some small national fame after I stopped playing with them and moved to Mpls when I graduated – Hammerhead.

Those were some great times in my life. I loved creating music and when you are in your twenties with a lot of time on your hands, you can really blossom under a heavy dose of delusion and obsession. My memory holds some notions that we actually were the greatest rock-n-roll band for those fleeting moments in a basement of a small home overlooking the wheat and sugar beet fields of the Red River Valley.

I started a couple of bands when I moved to Minneapolis, and although I became more technically proficient on the guitar, the inspiration for creating music was gone. Slowly, as I have grown older, music has become more and more trivial to me.

I still love to hear a good song and I pick up my guitar once in a blue moon to strum a couple of chords. I even have some recording software and I have put some songs together with all the parts. I am very thankful for those delusional and obsessive days of my youth, because although genius is no longer within my grasp on the guitar or in writing songs, playing music is a lot like riding a bike in that you never forget the mechanics of it. I can pick up the guitar and play a song that I have formed in my head, even if my guitar has laid untouched for a month or more.

But, music is too technical and the obsession is long gone. First I discarded all my albums (<500)i>

Maybe it is just that I am getting older, I don’t know. But, there is something that is lost when everything is just available to you. We get bogged down in choice until we become paralyzed. I long for the days when all I had to decide was whether I should listen to Exile on Main Street one more time or the Kinks Arthur.

I remember the excitement I felt when I began listening to music from Jamaica and then Africa. I also used to love to hear what they were doing in Seattle or Athens. Now, that music really is global there is no connection of music to a place. It is all just digitalized notes downloaded into cyberspace. But the music I loved grew out of the South in some dire conditions for downtrodden people. It was fused with the land these cultures identified with. And out of that land, music was formed that traveled full circle around the world. Blues, Jazz, Country Western, Rock, Soul, R&B, etc, all came from a place and wherever it landed it took on the forms and cultures of the place it arrived at. Music now never arrives at a place and it doesn’t sound like music anymore to my ears. I’d rather listen to songbirds in my garden and the winds whipping through the trees – even the hum of the freeway in the distance and airplanes overhead – than the music that comes to us from cyberspace.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I hate war

I am really getting tired of all this. What the hell? We get a surge for our efforts last November. Somehow I am not surprised, but I am getting more and more cynical.

Read this from The Nation. All of this was so predictable. War means innocents die and we have been doing this too long.

I see the only plausible long-term solution to be one of secession. Bye Bye American Empire. I think it is time to give up on everything American except its original ideals and hopes. The Empire is out of control. Its been this way for far too long. But, it is getting much much worse lately.