Feb 242011
  • I did a 10-oz. New York strip last night for 45 seconds a side, and it was positively divine.  A little piece of it was Nathan’s first bite of rare steak.  Said he liked it, though I think it confused him a bit that it wasn’t hot.
  • I have audio cassettes I haven’t played in 20 years.  I wonder if they still work?
  • Both boys have decided against spring soccer this year.  We’re fine with that, but we’re going to get a lot more hiking done this spring than in years past.
  • The alleged Toomer’s Corner tree murderer is on his fourth attorney.  How far for a fair trial?  Iowa?  Bangladesh?  Neptune?
  • I bought this amazingly bright LED flashlight that runs on a single AAA and has a cool anodized case and fits perfectly in a jeans watch pocket about three years ago, and I’ve misplaced it.  Bugs the hell out of me.  I never lose stuff.  I wish I had it back.  I’ve held out hope for months that I’d find it.  Think I’m going to have to relent and replace it.
  • Restrictor plates are enabling nonsense like that bizarre two-by-two Daytona 500 to which we were just subjected (not to mention regular half-the-field wrecks).  Let’s just get rid of them.  If we’re fine with 230 mph in IndyCar, what’s the problem in NASCAR?
  • In a little less than two months, my mother will have been dead for ten years.  In a little less than three months, I’ll be as old as my father was when he remarried after my parents’ divorce.  Age, time, and so forth don’t ever really hit me until I introduce that sort of relativity into my thinking.
 Posted by at 10:10 am
Feb 232011
  • I know it’s a cliché, but sheesh, I really can’t believe how many people are on the phone.  Look, I can do it, so I do, but clearly many of you can’t, and moreover, how desperately do you think someone needs you right then?  When I say “I can do it, so I do,” I mean I’m on the phone maybe one commute in five, okay?
  • A state trooper just cited a colleague for 82 in a 70 on 565.  The one who stopped her was in a marked Crown Vic, but there are at least two insidious unmarked units out there:  a taupe/gray Tahoe and a black F-150 crew cab.  I saw the F-150 officer, and he was in jeans, T-shirt, and ball cap.  So he was unmarked too.  Be careful out there.  I think you skate at 79.
  • I think Madison must have a loose cannon civil engineer with too much budget.  These almost-hemispherical pavement markers with embedded reflectors—they’re not Botts dots or cat’s eyes or the regular square kind, and I looked for a bit, but couldn’t find the exact name—are popping up all over the place.  They’re just protrusive enough to make their intent to dissuade unambiguous.  You’re not supposed to drive over them.
  • S/he likes the three-foot-high white posts, too.  You’re definitely not supposed to drive over those.
  • They finally put up a RIGHT LANE TURN WITHOUT STOPPING sign for drivers turning from Madison Boulevard west to County Line north.  There’s a big mess of those pavement markers and posts, too.  The stoppers stop no more.
  • This old gripe remains in effect.  I’m not helping you with your mega-complicated left turn across multiple lanes of traffic at rush hour, jackass.  Turn right and turn around.
 Posted by at 8:46 pm
Feb 222011

As I type, Wal-Mart is expected to announce its second straight year of declining domestic same-store sales.

There is much hand-wringing and bloviating about where Wal-Mart went wrong.  In chasing up-market shoppers, have they abandoned their core customer base?  In moving more toward specials on specific items, and away from uniformly low prices, have they muddled their message?

Publix and Target get most of my business that might have been Wal-Mart’s.  The reasons are no more complicated than they’ve ever been.  I have no memory of ever waiting in a long line at either place.  I also have no memory of ever encountering anything but a competent cashier at either place, and most of the time s/he’s even friendly.  (Publix in particular is extremely good at hiring personable and smart people.)

I have an efficient and pleasant experience every time I shop at Publix or Target.  Clearly, there are many someones at many different levels in these organizations who recognize that making that happen is important.  Hey, Wal-Mart?  You really suck at that.  I was lucky to get that at your place one time in five when I actually used to come in there.  Until I consistently encounter hearsay that makes me believe that’s climbed to 95 out of 100, you’ll never get me back.

No more complicated than that.

 Posted by at 7:22 pm
Feb 212011

I’ve talked about what I call “red meat” political posts before.  They’re fun to write.  Generally I think of a zinger or two I’d like to use.  That can be a fully-formed sentence that pops in my head, or it can be as simple as two words together I like the sound of.  Then I write a post for them, and there they are.  Judging from comments, they’re fun to read, too—if you agree with them.  (My mind was trained to think this way back in the days of hsv.general, where such was rewarded.)

However, when it comes to political commentary, such posts aren’t very far up the difficulty scale, which means there are a lot of them out there.  More importantly, they’re almost never persuasive.  They simply make both supporters and opposers dig in.

I think there are people out there to persuade, and I’d like to try harder to have their ears.  I’m going to challenge myself to continue to write with emotion on the issues about which I feel strongly, but to temper the inflammatory rhetoric with which I have historically paired that emotion.  Further, I intend to include more hard support (citations, references, and so forth), where applicable.

I read columnists who regularly and effectively convey anger and sadness without resorting to discursive gasoline and a match.  I think that trait is worthy of emulation, and I’m going to give it a shot.  The post immediately preceding this one mostly gets there, I think.

I appreciate the attaboys and claps on the back when I write a red meat post, but I already know I can get them.  I think I aspire to much less of that, and much more a URL of mine being pasted into an email, underneath “This made me think.”

 Posted by at 12:32 pm
Feb 202011

Few days pass that I don’t hear some lament, from one quarter or another, about the horrendous state of political debate in the United States.  We’re talking past each other.  We’re using deplorably hostile language.  We’re ignoring that there is so much more that unites us than divides us.  We’re more interested in winning the point than we are in solving problems together.

Yeah.  So.

Usually, I don’t have much patience with such pines.  For one thing, acting as if this rhetorical climate is a recent, unfortunate development essentially ignores our country’s entire history.  We’ve never been consistently polite when disagreeing with one another.  Robust discourse, including some occasional ventures into territory that might upset the delicate temperaments of good little ladies and gentlemen, is inherent in a free society.  This is not to be decried, but celebrated, even in this age in which the ease of self-publishing generates much more of it (of predictably varying quality levels) than any of us ever imagined.

For another, these calls for civility often come from some of the worst practitioners of incivility (or supporters of said practitioners).  I got some mileage out of that when the political right was alleged to be reaching a new low with its attacks on Obama.  Then, that post got some renewed currency with the recent light-speed and completely unsupported attempt to paint Representative Giffords’ would-be assassin as a product of unhinged conservative rhetoric.

Few things are as amusing—or useful—in a political opponent as lack of self-awareness.  “We need to elevate our political language,” all too often, means “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, and you need to shut up.”

Shall I elevate my political discourse here?  Perhaps, but not for any moral imperative such complainants perceive.

Stay tuned.

 Posted by at 9:25 pm