Monday, November 23, 2015

Mamie Vest: A Courtly Southern Lady

Mamie Vest
Mamie Vest always insisted she was a moderate Republican and when I reminded her that "moderate" and "Republican" created an oxymoron, she bristled, "Well I am one."

Indeed, she was. Mamie, until the very end and against enormous odds, remained temperate, intelligent, thoughtful and occasionally forceful in her beliefs.

Mamie, who died Saturday, was in advertising most of her adult life and among her clients in the 1970s, '80s and '90s were Republican politicians, including some big Virginia names.

She and I locked horns often over former Rocky Mount Congressman Virgil Goode, a man I considered a level lower than Congressman Morgan Griffith of the 9th District in intelligence. She staunchly defended him as "a good man." She occasionally rolled her eyes at the antics of today's Republican politicians.

Mamie, a native of Floyd, was a courtly southern lady who lived and died--at 77--with grace.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Au Revoir, Happy's

Happy's was more alive today than at any other time this year.
Farmer Simon Wagner will miss friends.
This was the Happy's I remember: alive, warm and sunny, smiling, excited, money changing hands, a wide demographic of shoppers. In recent months, it has been anything but those things, mostly because it was under a threat that would eventually lead to it closing.

That happens tomorrow.

First, the inside of the big building--one that started as a grocery store--was deemed too wobbly to have people inside and now the outside, where many of the vendors escaped to, will close at the end of business on Sunday.

Simon Wagner, a Franklin County farmer who has been selling his exotic Asian vegetables (which he grows) for 25 years at Happy's, says he is sad because he will miss his friends. "It is really a shame," he says. "I see a lot of well-to-do, high society people who come from all over to shop here."

Mama Johnson's stand.
Simon is married to a Vietnamese woman (he met her in Vietnam) and together they farm 26-acre plot within the campus at Ferrum College. "I pioneered fresh Asian vegetables in the Roanoke Valley," he says.

Simon says (couldn't resist that; sorry) Ferrum "has been after me to grow the vegetables for their dining room for a long time," but he likes growing the exotic and a contract there would mean he'd grow the mundane. His farm, he says, "is high tech. You'd be surprised."

He calls his Happy's experience "a good adventure." And, he assures--like so many of the regulars--"I'll be back."

Simon's is one of two large produce stands at Happy's. The second is Reyna Produce, a Hispanic stand that will move next door (5324 Williamson Road) beginning next week. The owners of this stand (one of my favorite places to buy fresh food) have been planning the departure for weeks and will land softly with a couple of other vendors in the neighborhood. The small restaurant that is with Reyna will also move.

Today I picked up some big, crisp stamen apples from Doris Johnson, the best I've seen anywhere this year. Doris is 83 and before the inside of Happy's closed, she'd been considered the grand dame there for the past 10 years. "Everybody calls me 'Mama,'" she says with a hint of satisfaction.

Mama not only sells fresh fruit, but she pickles damn near anything that grows and her chow-chow and apple butter are simply toe-curling. She's "moving to the antique shop's parking lot across the street," she says, "but it will only be Monday-Thursday. I don't want to get to far away from my customers and that spot was open."

Mama says she uses her Happy's exposure to minister to the customers. "It's about the Lord," she says. A lot of people would agree.

Tools are always popular at Happy's.
A sign on the deteriorating building.
I bought socks and watch caps here.
Closed doors with directions to new locations for vendors.
Setting up beside the building.
Simon Wagner with two Hispanic customers for his Asian veggies.
Asian veggies at Wagner Farm's stand.
Now, that's a doll!
Young woman at Reyna Produce (right) scrapes cactus for sale. I once grilled it and it's very good.
Not sure what a "frozen egg" is.
Long shadows in the morning sun.
"Sad Sack" helmet from World War II.
Mickey and Minnie ready for Christmas.
People were out in force looking for treasures one more time at Happy's.
Doris (Mama) Johnson fills up a bag with some of her apples.
Remember it as it was: A great place to mix a wide, wild variety of interesting people.

Guns for Terrorists? GOP Says 'Yes!'

Hey, terrorists: Wanna buy some guns? We got plenty.
If you want to know how serious the congressional Republicans (and presidential candidates) are about the terror threat, consider this:

Many of them are in favor of selling guns to people on the terrorist watch list and no Republican that I know of has said a flat "no" to the proposition. Just how wildly out of line with any logical thought is that?

In the pocket of the gun lobby? Yep.

Republicans seem to be flatly against importing the most vulnerable of the Syrian refugees, telling us that terrorists will be sprinkled among them, but if they get through, the Repubs will arm them.

These people are just crazy. There's no other way to say it.

(For those of you saying, "I'm a Republican and I don't believe any of this," let me remind you that you can change your leadership, change your party's stance, influence in a positive way.)


Friday, November 20, 2015

Is It Nazis, Fascists, Socialists, Commies, Peronists ... What?

Juan and Evita Peron: Peronism.
My buddy Robert Stutes, a minister from the Houston area who is relatively new to Roanoke (his church is in Mt. Pleasant), is a student of politics who doesn't necessarily lean the way you'd expect of a Methodist minister. He has a lot of thoughtful friends with whom he frequently exchanges ideas and long letters.

One is T. Randall Smith, a retired minister from Houston area, who wrote the following, giving insight on the oft-used comparison of Republicans and Democrats as Nazis (usually when the accuser is pretty pissed at something, like shutting out refugees from our country, which was founded by refugees). It is quite a thoughtful and educated piece. I recommend you read it.

Mussolini: Fascism.
"Lot's of comments from my Lib Dem friends about The Donald and his supposed Nazi-like statements. Wrong fascist. The real model is not Hitler, but Mussolini. Mussolini is the real model of fascism, one which Hitler copied and then added his own German racist ideology. 

"Classic fascism is described as a form of corporatism which favors the capitalist elites in tax and governance policies while appearing populist in rhetoric. It has its roots in the ancient Roman system with its dynastic rulers, its minor nobility, and its 'bread and circuses' for the plebes. Its 'enemies' are drawn from minorities - those not like us folks - as scapegoats for faulty governing and skewed economical policies. 

"A cousin is Peronism, an Argentinian form of fascism created by Juan Peron that saw wealthy foreign capitalists and their cronies as "enemies of the people" and favored emergent national capitalists (small business owners, ranchers, etc.) over bankers and corporate capitalists. Pope Francis came of age under the Perons (Juan and Evita) and his seemingly anti-corporatist sentiments may be rooted in his experience of Peronism, not the military junta and its corporatist fascism. 

Hitler: Top Nazi.
"Furthermore, I think it's time for those on the political left to get their 'fascisms' straight. Trump isn't a Nazi; he's a classic fascist which describes his political viewpoint, not his moral viewpoint. As a narcissist, his moral viewpoint is whatever makes him feel superior is moral. Thus his sheer inconsistency without any remorse whatsoever. 

"It's also why his Repub rivals can't lay a glove on him. They have no framework for dealing with a real fascist. Neither do the media. Because while being labeled a socialist is within bounds as being a negative label, equating it with state capitalism (Soviet communism), instead of social democracy a la Scandinavia and most of the European governments, labeling a person a fascist implies Nazism and Hitler which is out-of-bounds politically. But fascists existed before Hitler and since Hitler (see Silvio Berlusconi in modern Italy) and they weren't evil like Hitler. 

"So, I'm going to start calling the modern fascists 'republican corporatists' as over against my democratic socialist/social democratic ideals. This better describes their viewpoint: corporations are people and they know best how to run governments. Corporate interests are more capable of determining what is best for the people in the long run than communities of interests, mediating institutions, and individuals. 

"This being the case, IMHO, Republican corporatists are having trouble with the Tea Party Peronistas who are anti-corporate fascists. Cousins, but not the same. 

"Meanwhile, the Democratic Party can't decide if it wants to be a democratic socialist (Bernie Sanders), a social democrat (O'Malley), or a New Labour (Bill & Hillary Clinton) party."

(Photos: Juan and Evita Peron,; Mussolini,; Hitler,

A Terrorism Teach-In at Roanoke College Today

This is what a teach-in looked like in the 1960s.
Roanoke College, which admitted its first international student in 1857, is host for a teach-in (remember the 1960s?) today during the lunch hour in Colket Center Atrium on the campus quad.  It begins at 12:15.

A press release tells it all:

"The teach-in will be an academic discussion of the Syrian conflict, the refugee crisis, the Paris attacks, and the Roanoke mayor’s position. Faculty members from history, political science and the fine arts department, and possibly others, will be addressing these topics to a student audience.

"As you know, these are broad and complicated issues and our faculty want to make sure students have background and context when considering current events. If you’d like to attend the event, please join us."


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Madeline Smith: The New Look

I almost ran right by this brand new photo of my favorite girl a few minutes ago. It was on Facebook and I thought: "I know her, I think."

I do, indeed. It's my grandgirl and her new look. Pageboy, I think. A kind of early 1960s feel to it. I would need to see it in full dimple, but I think it is going to work.

Nicely done, Maddie.

Confederate Christmas Parade: Action Without Boycott

This display was from the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Roanoke.
It's time to start gearing up for Roanoke's annual Dickens of a Christmas parade Friday, Dec. 11, 6-10 p.m., running down Jefferson St., onto Campbell Ave.

Last year, as you remember, I had a big-headed baby about the prominence of the Confederate battle flag in this particular parade and wound up calling for a boycott of Downtown Roanoke Inc. members during this Christmas season. Downtown merchants comprise DRI and DRI, of course, is in charge of the parade--with the City of Roanoke playing a major role.

DRI looked hard for a way to accommodate those of us offended by the battle flag and those who believe it be inspired by the hand of god, but could find nothing that would avoid stepping on the First Amendment. I've been a journalist for more than 50 years and Amendment No. 1 is as sacred to me as that damn flag is to the Civil War crowd. So we had an impasse, one that the Sons of Confederate Veterans' representative refused to compromise on in a meeting we had at DRI.

I was impatient at the time I asked you to withhold your money from downtown merchants, thinking that maybe a boycott could affect DRI's policy. On further thought, however, DRI is between a rock and a hard place and the only real action it could take would be to cancel the parade, something none of us wants. I am not even a Christian, but I adore all the celebrating this time of year and the kids' faces? Well, they touch me.

I shop a significant amount every year on City Market and will do it again this year. It is Christmas Redux for me--no mall, no internet, small shops, good stuff. A boycott could hurt people I like a lot and people who don't necessarily approve of the Confederate battle flag, but who simply can't stop its appearance.

Here is the more modest suggestion, one that will quietly show that some of us disapprove of the Confederate battle flag. The statistics I've found tell me that about 60 percent of the people in this area (probably 99 percent of them white) have no issue with the flag, so ours is a minority position. Civil Rights, women's rights, gay rights, smokers' rights and a whole long list of American rights began as minority positions.

I believe that the simple act of wearing black and turning our backs when the Confederate battle flag passes will send a message to those who find no harm in the flag. It is a quiet gesture of disapproval and if enough of us engage in it and do it annually, perhaps the message will get through. Maybe it won't, but we will have taken action and can be proud of ourselves for that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mayor of Roanoke: Racist or Xenophobe?

David Bowers: Leaves office as a xenophobic racist.
When David Bowers announced the other day that he would not seek another term as mayor or Roanoke, I quietly thought, "It's about time."

Now, after Bowers was quoted in the local daily today (here) as saying refugees from Syria would not be welcome here, I know it's way past time.

Bowers was quoted as saying, “I am convinced that it is presently imprudent to assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to our part of Virginia. ..." He says he wants to suspend and delay assistance to refugees  “until these atrocities end, or at the very least until regarded as under control by U.S. authorities, and normalcy is restored.”

Bowers is breaking ranks with most Democrats, including Virginia's governor and all the presidential candidates, while Republicans are solid in their xenophobia, racism and outrageous dismissal of people in deep trouble. Bowers was quoted as saying, “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor," and "it appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”

It has been richly and thoroughly demonstrated since World War II that the Japanese internment was motivated by racism and ignorance. The Japanese were no more a threat than Americans of German and Italian descent.

Councilman Bill Bestpitch, a longtime member of council, said (on my Facebook page), "David Bowers has forfeited his right to be associated with Roanoke. The rest of city council had a news conference earlier this evening to condemn his statement and assure everyone that he does not speak for the council, the city administration, or the community. Court Rosen was at a CTB meeting but expressed his solidarity with us, and all five other council members were together in expressing our disgust. I never thought I would feel so embarrassed and ashamed to be associated with him."

I am embarrassed. This is the city of Pearl Fu, Local Colors and a rich embracing of nationalities, not of David Bowers/Morgan Griffith/ Bob Goodlatte racist, xenophobic excess. I would love to be a fly on the wall when David, Bob and the knuckle-dragging jerk Griffith try to explain this to Pearlie.


What Must We Do To Defeat ISIS?

This is today's enemy. How will it morph?
The right side of the political spectrum, the one that wants to bar Muslims from the U.S. and bomb the hell out of all of them, believes defeating ISIS would be easy, given the superiority in weaponry that we have.

That has proved in country after country, situation after situation, year after year to be utter bullshit. These people are smart, sophisticated, committed and have absolutely no fear of dying for their cause. In fact, many of them volunteer to blow themselves up, thinking there's a "better life a-waitin' in the sky."

The New York Times this morning (here) has a serious evaluation of what we're facing and what we will need to do to neutralize it. One little morsel of wisdom tells us that we defeated ISIS' predecessor--wiped it out--but like the Terminator, it reappeared in a different form, just as committed, just as vicious, just as dangerous.

The Times reports that "the group’s predecessor was defeated once before: Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, established to fight the Americans after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, was gutted and its leaders killed by 2009. That took thousands of American lives, many billions of dollars and an ultimately unsustainable effort to pay Sunni tribal leaders to fight against the group."

One of the real problems with our approach is that the more hardline we are, the more we bomb, the less we accept refugees, the easier it is for the Jihadists to recruit new members, angry young men and women who believe us to be the very devil. I don't believe we can win a war with these people by flashing our superior armaments. If we are wise, we will use diplomacy; we will learn about the Muslim culture and respect it; we will battle the people we need to battle and support those who don't oppose us. But the right seems to want to simplify everything to the point of damaging our country.

George Bush pretty much created this situation with his idiotic responses to 9/11, response that was gleefully entered by his war-mongering chicken-hawk cabinet and vice president. They all thought this would be easy. They all proved to be fools.

Opinions are all over the map, but there are some intelligent and thoughtful alternatives presented in the NYTimes piece. You would do well to read them and improve your understanding of what we face. It is not simple. And it won't become any simpler with bombing.


Aldi: A Different Way To Shop in Roanoke

The new Aldi at Crossroads Mall in Roanoke opened yesterday.
It took me a day to get over to the new Aldi grocery store at Crossroads Mall in Roanoke (in the old Books A Million store) and I was, frankly, surprised at its size and the lack of a crowd. The store is much smaller than I anticipated and I expected people to be falling out of the parking lot.

Prices are prominent, readable.
There were probably less than two dozen shoppers in the store and it reminds me of the SuperSave market in the Plaza of Salem-Roanoke, a discount grocer set up much like Aldi and resting in a low income neighborhood.

I did not note a considerable price difference between Aldi and Kroger, which is just up the street on Rutger's Road (and where I normally shop), though Aldi advertises itself as a low price retailer. My survey was casual and not at all scientific, however. That will come later when I have a shopping basket and a list.

Produce looks pretty good.
My daughter-in-law and son shop at Aldi in Cordoba, Spain, and like it, though it is not their first choice (I wrote a blog about the big grocer when I was there last summer; it is special). I like the fact that Kroger has competition next door. That always does good things to prices at both businesses. We'll see how it goes over the next few months.

One feature I like a lot about Aldi: its prices are large enough to see. At Kroger, I often have to get on my knees to read prices on the lower shelves and get face-on with the ones at eye-level. Aldi seems to have considered that some of us don't see well.

There are some features at Aldi that are common Europe, but new here and they will require some adjustment because they are less convenient than Kroger (hence, the lower prices):

Meat in cases, keeps cooling cost down.
  • Take your own grocery bags. If you forget, Aldi will sell you bags.
  • Aldi accepts cash, debit and EBT cards only.
  • You put a 25 cents deposit down on a cart and get it back when you return the cart. That means you'll need to carry a quarter.
  • You bag your own groceries (and, of course, you carry them to your car and load them).

Check it out, but make sure you have the right kind of money before you get in line--that includes a quarter.

It's about the price, not the aesthetics.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Photo of the Day: Margie's Dinner

Margie got home from work tired and hungry a little while ago. This and a nice foot rub awaited. She seemed happy.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bernie's Right: Terrorism, Climate Change Linked, Studies Show

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders--the guy I'd like to vote for if I thought he had a chance to win the general election--is being ridiculed today for his debate point Saturday that terrorism and climate change are linked. Academics and military experts--people who have looked at more than the surface of this claim--have said the same thing for some time.

Time magazine weighed in (here) with this today, "A 2014 Department of Defense report identifies climate change as the root of government instability that leads to widespread migration, damages infrastructure and leads to the spread of disease. 'These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism,' the report says."

At this moment, Syria is in the midst of its worst drought in memory. Secretary of State John Kerry, a careful man who would not make outlandish claims, is quoted as saying, “I’m not telling you that the crisis in Syria was caused by climate change. But the devastating drought clearly made a bad situation a lot worse.”

The U.S. Department of Defense, which paid for a study of the effects of climate change in Africa on the political stability of the region, found that the changes, "contributed to more frequent natural disasters like flooding and drought. Agricultural land is turning to desert and heat waves are killing of crops and grazing animals. Over the long term, changing weather patterns are likely to drive farmers, fishermen and herders away from affected areas, according to Femia’s Center for Climate and Security, and into urban centers — as has already happened in Syria."

According to a piece in Echo Building Pulse (here), "Changing weather patterns are projected to increase drought conditions and alter crop cycles in nations worldwide, but some countries that will be most greatly impacted environmentally already experience increased violence when similar problems arise." The top 8 most threatened countries are:

1. Bangladesh
2. Sierra Leone
3. South Sudan
3. Nigeria
5. Chad
6. Haiti
7. Ethiopia
8. Philippines

Those who listen to Rush Limbaugh, Faux News and the like still deny climate change--despite overwhelming scientific evidence--and will not be convinced. They will ridicule these findings, even though the military is behind some of the research and the results.

The problem is that unless we get hold of what is happening, it will continue to surprise us and people will die because of it.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Why Denmark is Good for Left, Bad for Right

Nancy Graham Holm quotes a conventional piece of wisdom as one reason the socialism of Northern Europe works for many of us, horrifies others:

"...Liberals need to feel equal to everybody while conservatives need to feel superior to at least a few. This makes Denmark a perfect fit for American social liberals and a frustrating--even exasperating--experience for Americans who identify as conservative."

This is Denmark (did you know?)
Holms is an American ex-pat who lives in Denmark. She went there to teach for a year and has wound up living there permanently ... because she loves it. She is, however, having considerable difficulty adjusting to the vitriol spewing from the right about socialism in general and Denmark in particular. (Read her essay here.)

"What concerns me is why so many Americans ... choose to ... find evil in Denmark’s form of democratic socialism. ... I’m sad to see that so many of the comments are harsh and vitriolic in nature. No amount of evidence or clarification is enough to mollify some of these commentators. They just get angrier and more irritated because positive comments are assumed to be lies or to have negative ulterior motives."

She believes those angry Americans should be more curious about what makes Denmark work, but my experience is that the right is rarely curious about anything they don't immediately adopt (or that Fox/Limbaugh don't endorse).
She guesses that "most Americans have been brought up to believe that the USA is the best country in the world and that most people in other nations wish they could live in it. This means that it feels unpatriotic to admire someone else’s political system; disloyal – close to treason - to even consider the possibility that another socioeconomic system might be superior."

Here are some reasons she believes Denmark works (and some of them used to be American traits):
  • Danes appreciate work and workers. Union membership is not compulsory, but 80 percent of Danes are members. In Denmark, workers are treated with respect and dignity and work is paid for as a valuable commodity.  
  • Every worker in Denmark is trained at state expense. That is skilled and unskilled, professional and labor. 
  • Work-play balance is valued (that means enough vacation to get away and a 37-hour week).
  • Taxes pay for everybody's health care. 
  • Denmark has eight political parties (in a small countries) and a decentralized government (which conservatives should love, at least in theory). "Politicians" are not that. They are simply citizens serving other citizens.
  • You don't have to register to vote and citizens receive a ballot in the mail each election. Eighty percent of Danes vote. Fifty percent turnout during a presidential election in the U.S. is considered good.
She concludes that Denmark's socialism would not work here because of ... well a hundred reasons. I think not, too, mostly because of a population that is cranky, contentious, selfish, uneducated and listens to too much talk radio.

The ISIS Goal: A Simple Explanation

ISIS barbarism is meant to shock and terrify--the world.
Like many of you, I have spent many troubled moments over the last few days trying to avoid anger in order to look with reason on the unreasonable acts in Paris Friday. What in god's name (or Satan's name, if you prefer) do these people hope to achieve by convincing the world that they are not worthy of being considered human?

This morning the New York Times--as it so often does--gave me a concise, simple answer (here):

"Al Qaeda, the Islamic State’s principal forebear, built its identity around spectacular terrorist attacks because its leaders saw themselves as insurgents seeking to overturn Arab governments that they deemed apostates. Al Qaeda wanted to bait the West into military actions that would destabilize Arab states. The Islamic State, in contrast, has increasingly styled itself a state and, in many ways, behaved like one.

"The ideology and motivation behind the change may be opaque for years. Analysts suggest that the messianic and apocalyptic side of its jihadist ideology may have gotten the better of the pragmatic impulse that had previously appeared to guide the group’s expansion. Or, experts say, the Islamic State may be seeking to use large terrorist attacks the way a more conventional power might use an air force as a tool of its defense policy, to retaliate against enemy attacks and seek to deter them.

"But, if so, its tactics may be shortsighted, causing redoubled Western attempts to crush the militant organization — even as the spreading Islamic State structure makes those efforts more challenging."

None of this makes sense to people who have some semblance of civilized behavior left in this upside-down world, but at least it is a sensible answer to a difficult question. 


Amid Paris Horror, a Refuge in Books

This welcomes you at Shakespeare & Company.
In August of 2014, I spent about an hour in the famous English bookstore Shakespeare & Company in Paris, something that every self-respecting writer must do upon visiting the City of Light. It was a peaceful experience and a clinic in how to run a bookstore.

I shot this old man browsing books.
Yesterday, Shakespeare & Company showed there is more to its environs than an appreciation of books of all kinds. "Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise," is a Biblical phrase printed above the door at S&C and during the shootings that scorched Paris Friday, that legend was proved as the store became a refuge for those seeking asylum.

See the story here.

The store was founded in 1951 and is often the first place visited in Paris by those who love books. It rests smack in the middle of the city, near Notre Dame, the Seine, Versailles, the Muse d'Or and a lot more and it is a humble looking little store, full of live and ... well ... love.

The modest exterior of Shakespeare & Company.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Flea Market Excursion: Selling in a Hurry

Me and the "fleas," picking over my sale stuff.
It was Happy's Flea Market Day at the Smith ranch and this time, I wasn't on the buying end. I was a seller.

I've been going to flea markets--mostly as a buyer--long enough to know how it works, so the whole enterprise took 45 minutes and cost $15 (the setup fee). The rest was profit. I grossed about $130--which doesn't seem like much until you consider that most of what I sold was destined for Goodwill or the Rescue Mission, where it would have brought in nothing to me.

It was a brisk, windy dawn with a few frigid looking vendors already in place. By the time I drove my truck into the parking spot (thinking I had somehow sneaked past the pay gate--which was not manned), those already set up swarmed over by GMC pickup before I even finished parking. A grizzled, hefty man in camo was at my window before I opened the door to get out, holding some kind of machine and urgently asking, "How much?"

"Let me get out of the truck," I said, "and I'll let you know. I don't even know what it is."

The guy who was supposed to be in the pay booth showed up forthwith asking for his $15 setup fee. I smiled sheepishly and forked it over.

The sale goods belonged to Margie, so I didn't really know fully what was in the truck. We went down to her home in Christiansburg yesterday and began cleaning out the garage with the idea that much of what was in there was simply clutter she would never use. I loaded a lot of it without looking, so I was in the dark until the Happy's dudes began uncovering it and demanding prices. Margie is working today, so I was on my own.

From experience, I knew that I'd sell 2/3 to 3/4 of everything that would be sold during the entire day in the first 30-45 minutes and, sure enough, about 3/4 of everything I took was gone by 8:15 (I had parked at 7:30), so I packed it in and left, feeling pretty good about the whole deal.

There are some items left and I'll unload them later. One of the pieces is an electric mitre saw with a table, which is pretty good. It is sitting on the walkway leading to my house as we speak with a homemade sign on it reading $50. I was surprised it didn't sell. It is a good tool with a lot of miles left on it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Square Mail Costs More

Square card: Add 22 cents.
I was standing in line at the Post Office today, waiting to mail a package, when the clerk told a man with a couple of yellow-enveloped greeting cards, "That will be 22 cents more [than he had in stamps on the cards] because they aren't rectangular. Square cards can't go through the machines; they tumble over and over" and have to be handled by hand.

You know, if you're mailing 100 Christmas cards--and I suspect many people do--that's an extra $22, which ain't peanuts.


Gratitude: Setting Reachable Goals

Today, I am grateful for goals.

Without goals, I'm pretty well lost. With them, I get a holy-hell of a lot done. A few days ago I set a goal of getting rid of something in my house every day for a year. I have discovered that it's not likely to take a year--or even a month--of daily stripping to get my house back to bare-bones.

In two days, I have cleaned a third of the basement, half of the art room, half of the spare bedroom, the deck and one closet (out of about six). I did that while working fulltime, getting exercise, doing some light volunteer work and reading a smidge.

It ain't that hard when I have a goal. When I don't, I tend not to recognize what's getting out of control and I leave it until it requires a goal.

My Jan. 1 goals, set out in a blog for the past few years, have given me a solid guide for the year and I have leaned heavily on them in making improvements in my life. They work. For me, they work. Might not for you, but you are not my problem.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Me 'n' My Pal, Danny

This is my new buddy, Danny, and me during a photo shoot today. The subject of the shoot--and a story for a magazine I'm working on--is 11-year-old Mark Thomas who has had the Inland Bearded Dragon for two years. Both Mark and Danny seemed to me to be good guys. I'll let you know when the story's out.

OK, Gunneys, Absorb This!

Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a scientist an awful lot of Americans can both understand and believe. He's a sort of modern Carl Sagan--a man who thinks clearly and communicates complex issues simply and effectively.

He most often limits his viewpoint to science, but recently he took a look at gun violence (here) and came up with a clear picture of the damage done by guns in recent history. This is difficult to misunderstand (unlike the Second Amendment): 

1.4 Million: Americans died in all wars fought since 1776.
1.4 Million: Americans died via household guns since 1968

3,400: Americans died by terrorism since 2001
3,400: Americans died by household firearms since five weeks ago

400,000: Americans died fighting in World War II
400,000: Americans died by household firearms since 2001

I think most of you can get the cause-effect of those numbers and I won't elucidate further because, frankly, I couldn't make it any more clear.  

I will note that, according to, "Tyson’s message was especially prescient ahead of today’s release of a McClatchy-Marist poll revealing 63 percent of voters are more concerned with gun violence than terrorism."

Monday, November 9, 2015

Missouri Grid Protest Is About Effective Unionization

The University of Missouri football team gets its demand fulfilled.
The dust-up at the University of Missouri that led to today's resignation of the president, under pressure from the student body, the football team, the faculty, the governor and damn near everybody else, says one thing very loudly to me: Unions still matter.

This is a classic example of a union (single student at first, then students, then half of the football team and then the rest of those joining the protest) forming because of a complaint and taking that complaint to its conclusion. I don't think this specific example has ever occurred before. I know students have protested a lot over the years, but I can't name a time when an administrator or an administration crumbled so quickly and so thoroughly.

This was about racial complaints (the nature of which are secondary here) and how a few people felt so strongly that they gathered those around them who felt the same way and protested. That's unionization. When the football team threatened to boycott this weekend's multi-million dollar game with BYU, the reality of the bottom like--something businesses tend to react to--came into play.

My guess is that you have not seen the last of this type of organizing among college athletes. Imagine, say Kentucky's basketball team deciding it wasn't going to play in the NCAA tournament unless the university paid its players. What if Alabama's players said they weren't playing in the Final 4 unless all the Rebel flags in the state were taken down and the General Assembly made them illegal. What do we imagine would happen?

I'd love to get to see and I'd love to see what happened to the national labor movement as a result.


A Walk in the Woods Just Past Peak

Margie and I went out into the woods yesterday, think the fall color would almost all be gone. It wasn't. In fact, the sparse brilliance created a loveliness of its own, as you can see from these photos.

Fact is, we got to see more because the bright colors that remain are framed, less frequent and even more brilliant because of the contrast.

Here is some of what we saw.