Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

November 06, 2004

Election aftermath

So, John Kerry went down in flames. Yes, he was flawed, but did the Democrats have anybody better?

George Bush has the qualities Americans seem to like in their leaders: Moral certainty, self-confidence and backslapping bonhomie.

Frankly, I don't think sharing a meal with either Bush or Kerry would be very interesting. But that's not relevant.

Neither candidate went after the middle of the political spectrum in this election. That was Bill Clinton's specialty, grabbing the middle. That's how he got elected and maintained such high job approval ratings even at the height of Monica-gate.

What might a viable Democratic candidate have looked like? What priorities might he or she have set?

--Good grief, the minimum wage is too low. Who can live decently on $5.85 per hour? A candidate could push a raise of the minimum wage to $7.25 without threatening business. That's what most businesses have to pay to get help anyway. Kerry didn't bring this up once.

--From the top, it must be established that our government does not torture its own citizens nor the citizens of other countries, not even terrorists. We accord even terrorists the guarantees of the Constitution. We do this because we are different. Yes, it may cost us lives to accomplish this, but will cost us our principles and our respect in the world if we do not.

--In 1942, Franklin Roosevelt asked Major League Baseball to keep playing ballgames to give people a sense of normality, even though we were fighting a war which would eventually claim 425,000 of our people. Compare that to the panic of frequent yellow, orange and red alerts, the constant shakedowns of old ladies at airports and other needless hysterics following 9/11. A president sets the mood. We are tougher and more resilient than people think. The leader should project a greater strength than that which is shown by merely flexing military muscle.

--This gay marriage thing is ridiculous. The government has no place sanctioning or banning private relationships. People should love who they want. The churches can chose what relationships they want to bless or condemn, but the government should have no part in it one way or the other.
There should never have been government favoritism towards married people in the first place. A good candidate could shoot the whole thing out of the water by not fudging, not pussyfooting, not giving in to either side, but by mocking the whole issue as the festival of silliness that it is. The government's job is to build roads. Kerry was a coward on this issue and seemed perfectly content to let Bush and Rove inflame the fears of the sex-obsessed Dobson crowd.

--Okay, we're in this war whether we like it or not. It might have been a good idea, it might have been a bad idea, but Saddam is gone, which is good--now let's do our job, clean up the mess and use this experience to guide us the next time we are tempted to go fix things somewhere in the world.

--Oh, by the way, if we are going to fix things and get rid of bad rulers, we had better help out people with black skin, too! If people who look roughly like us are getting massacred, as happened in Bosnia, we march in to stop it. If black people get massacred, as happened in Rwanda and is presently happening the Sudan, nobody seems to give a rip. I think this is racism. (On this same score, can you imagine what would happen if there were pictures of starving white kids on the network news? Starving Ethiopians--well, who cares, isn't that the way they look normally?)

--Somebody with guts could neutralize this whole religion thing real quick. Right now, the Republicans act like they have a monopoly on Christianity. I think some of them actually think there are logical parallels between Republicanism and Christianity.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are scared of religion. They wouldn't have to be. They could wrest the New Testament back from the Republicans in a hurry if they actually took the time to read it. What about mercy towards the poor? What about the whole rich people and the camel through the eye of a needle thing? WDJD? What Did Jesus Do? He hung out with the dregs! C'mon, Democrats, get religion! The Sermon on the Mount, at the very least, is on your side!

Of course, I swore yesterday to set this election aside and go clean my cupboards or something equally productive, but...




November 05, 2004

Examinations

I gave tests to all three of my classes today. There was the usual round of last-minute excuses. About six people didn't show. I don't know what they are planning. It will be difficult for them to pass if they miss a test.

Over all, though, there were some encouraging signs. Some people increased their scores dramatically.

We are playing a game with these classes. They would be easy for most people who applied themselves. However, it isn't easy for eighteen-year-olds to apply themselves. So, they are miserable. They stay up late the night before the test, which does them no good whatsoever. One student overslept today--a one o'clock class.

Some of them cook up preposterous lies as excuses. Others look for any excuse to procrastinate. A few are diligent. It is fun to see them succeed. Others just can't seem to get in gear.

Most of them probably shouldn't be in college. At least not at this stage in their life.

Wow, there have been some perfect days this week. Beautiful. Hauntingly beautiful. Good weather in November has the feeling of reprieve. Yes, doom is on its way, but that just makes this eerie green more beautiful.

When the wind is still, the sounds are amazing. They seem even more so at the new house site. Geese and other wild birds. Grain dryers in the distance--at least that's what I think they are. They have been grinding for every November I remember.

It is so quiet out here in the country. Now, if I could just get out of the news habit--the habit of reading about the election. It is over. Time to move on. Time to calm down. Time to bathe one's mind in calmer things, like a good book. I do like the long evenings in November. It is a time when candlelight seems appropriate.


November 04, 2004

Grace period

That's what this weather feels like. The sun is so low in the sky all day that the grass has that rich evening color all day. It is a uniquely beautiful time of year, November before the snows come.

And, it is pretty darn necessary for us at the nursery this year. Five years ago, we did a building project. We got started late. We didn't pour concrete until almost Halloween. But the weather stayed nice--almost all winter. It didn't interfere with construction once.

We've been as lucky so far this year. The house got started late. On the nursery side, we took on more projects than could be reasonably be finished by November 1. So, each day like we had today is an appreciated gift.

The Kronsch boys are having quite a time getting those beams up on the house. They have an enormous crane/forklift which helps them. They computed the weight of the 30-foot beams: each weighs over 1,000 lbs. In the loft are four beams which weigh 500 lbs each.

The logistics of getting these things done are daunting, especially when there are only two of them. Just as impressive as the Kronschnabel's craftsmanship is their ability to figure out how to get all of this stuff in place.

Jeff Kronschnabel has his daily house decorating idea for me--which usually involves things like mounted deer heads, turrets, water slides, beer keg holders, fire poles, ropes hanging from the rafters and the like. Today, he came with two pictures he took from the very top of the house of the swamp. The first picture was of the swamp as it is. The second was the swamp, altered in Photoshop, cleared of all reeds, and turned into a lake. Jeff figured Kenny could get started on that project right away.

I called the log home company today to ask if my idea of a crow's nest would be structurally possible. Tom, the customer service man, said he would have to consult his wizards--both of whom are pheasant hunting in South Dakota this weekend. So, I won't know until next week.

In fact, I know already. It is not a question of if, it is a matter of how. I want a catwalk and a crow's nest. Steps will ascend off the loft, over the abyss. They will reach a catwalk, which will be 16 feet above the floor and six feet above the beams across the living room. The catwalk will head straight under the peak of the A-frame to the front of the prow, where it will end with an octagonal seating area, which will hang from the rafters.

The idea is to have the structure be like a dock--just as flimsy, just as scary, just as adventurous--but indoors. I want it to feel a bit wobbly but be perfectly safe.

If I do not have the crow's nest, the best view in the house--that from high up out at the tip of the prow--would only be available from a ladder while cleaning windows. I just don't want to waste that most dramatic part of the house.

Oh man, this is fun. I have wanted a big room with timbers across it and a catwalk since 1972, when as a second-grader I first saw Old Faithful Lodge at Yellowstone. I remember it as the most inspiring thing I had ever seen up to that point in my young life. Those logs way up there, those scary looking walkways, that height, those shafts of sunlight--it was a dream come true. It was redolent of heaven.

I SPENT THE MORNING in Grand Forks getting my brakes fixed. Ugh. While the pickup was in the repair shop, I walked around to three lumber yards and an appliance shop. My heart isn't in the appliance thing, and I looked at carpets with a lack of enthusiasm. I won't jump until something really grabs me.

Same with kitchen cabinets. I think 98% of them are completely ugly. I want to dispense with the whole idea, or have something completely different. In fact, I am tempted to have the carpenters put together very solid but very crude and rustic cupboards everywhere. I don't like the foofy, twirly, flowery stuff on the market. My decor? I really prefer the two-by-four and plywood shopshelf genre. It feels so practical and earthy.


November 02, 2004

Pristine November Day

Ah, November has its charms, too! It wasn't quite Indian summer today, but it was clear, it was cool, and it was lovely.

I asked the Kronsch boys if they thought I was nuts for wanting a crow's nest up high in the living room of my house. Jeff right away said, "You're nuts." Dean was more circumspect. "It's your house, you can do whatever you want."

Well, if I choose to hang a crow's nest from the ceiling, the rafters will hold it. They are built to last and they are closely spaced. Every few feet is a mega-rafter made of three 2 x 12s bolted together. These will hold up under 12 feet of snow.

Tomorrow, the big lift arrives. We are renting it for a month to help the Kronsch boys put up the big beams and generally get heavy stuff up high and into the house. The lift can extend forward 45 feet while holding 8,000 lbs. I can't imagine what that thing looks like.

SPENT the entire evening writing tests for my classes. And listening to the constant election chatter on CNN. The election seems to be heading Bush's way. Not much to talk about there. Of course, last election I went to bed thinking Gore had won and when I got up at six in the morning (I was staying with friends in New Jersey) I heard that it was a toss-up.

I thought we might have a train-wreck this time, too, but no such luck.

VOTED in Sundal Town Hall this morning. I was the first voter. There are 70 registered. I stayed for 1/2 hour and chewed the fat with the election judges Vern, Morris and Lyle. One other voter came through in that time.

Later, I went to town to have a nice warm meal at Eats and Antiques. Ate with neighbor Jim, who farms my land. He didn't do too badly on the soybeans on our land. Oddly, they didn't freeze while most fields in the area did.

Lyle at the Town Hall farms as well. Both Jim and Lyle both referred to making "mistakes" farming. What they mean is they frequently gamble on some things and lose. Farming is a crazy business. It is a little like hitting a baseball. If you are successful 33% of the time, you are very good. You have no control over market conditions of weather conditions--the two main variables. And then there are dozens of other variables--how much fertilizer? How much chemical? Which seed? Which crops?

Jim said ten years ago he put 1200 hours on a single tractor. This year, he put about 150 hours on his tractors. That confirms my suspicions: Those farmers brush over those fields so fast you can barely see them. Jim attributes the decline in hours to low-tillage farming methods.

I admire guys who can do the farming game well. Makes the nursery business look pretty darn easy. You wanna tree? I'll sell you a tree!


November 01, 2004

Winter vacation

Since I won't be going to Tucson this year due to the house building project, I was looking around for a brief trip to take and found one by looking at the inbox on my email.

I subscribe to the weekly newsletter for Pipedreams, the radio broadcast on NPR of pipe organ music. Sure enough, the show is sponsoring a trip to Mexico to tour some of the pipe organs there.

Mexico may not seem like a place to go for great pipe organs. In fact, the Spanish build some ridiculously huge churches and outfitted them with organs to match. Most of them are centuries old. Some have been refurbished only recently.

I have told myself that I would love to go to see these pipe organs--then, the trip came up, so I jumped. It will be at the end of January.

We will be able to play some of the instruments, so I think I will brush up on a little Bach! I am going to have to find an organ to practice on around here--not difficult--so that I can get the foot pedaling back.

THE PEAK of the roof is established on the house. It is twenty-seven feet off the living room floor. Man, it is high. I want to build a crow's nest up there somewhere hanging from the roof--a small office or something with a precarious stair case going up to it. I think I'll throw that idea at the carpenters tomorrow and see how that flies!

ELECTION tomorrow. No, the world will not end if the other guy wins. I am amazed at the tendency of people to divide down the middle into two opposing and roughly equal camps no matter how similar the candidates are.