Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

June 24, 2005

Public affairs

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that a city can condemn an entire neighborhood, force its inhabitants to leave, and allow a large development corporation to bulldoze everything and put in a new development. The only justification necessary is that the new houses will pay more taxes than the older, lower middle class ones.

It used to be that the government could take property only for the public good--such as in the case of a new highway. Now, the public good is defined as the collection of more taxes.

In other news, the federal government is cracking down on medical marijuana operations in California. You can be arrested and convicted on federal charges for having pot in your home, even if it has been prescribed by a doctor.

Good grief. What a waste of time. Unlike alcohol, cigarettes, meth, and other pernicious drugs, marijuana actually is helpful for glaucoma and for nausea resulting from chemotherapy. People should be able to use it as they wish. Pot tends to make people lethargic and a bit paranoid, but habitual pot smokers are not one of society's big problems. They aren't even on the radar screen.

Finally, Congress is running the flag burning amendment up the pole again. Terrified Democrats who know it is ridiculous but don't have the courage of their convictions to oppose it are tripping all over themselves to act patriotic and flag-loving. To me, the fact that flag burning sets people off so is a sign that it is a form of symbolic speech which, however obnoxious, should be allowed in a free society. That is what we're about.

One of the secrets of a free society is that you let obnoxious people vent to their heart's content. The more radical they are, the less likely they have the wherewithal to actually pass a law or have any effect. It happens in the legislature all the time: the real loony-tunes on both the left and right spend a lot of time and energy spewing. They get a lot of attention, but they almost never get anything done. And that's the way it should be.

I often think like a libertarian. Let people do their own thing as long as they don't hurt others. I do not like government telling people what to do with their property, what they can smoke, what they can say, what they can think, who they should love. The debate between conservatives and liberals on the national level is too often a debate over which way to interfere with people's lives, not a debate over whether to interfere at all.

June 23, 2005

Lowe's spending spree

Last evening, I went to my favorite store, Lowe's in Grand Forks, to pick out carpet, faucets, bathroom lighting, door knobs and a shower door. Got it all done in one hour. I had the carpet narrowed down to two, so that wasn't difficult. The rest was pretty cut and dry as well.

They have a no interest, no payments for 12 months thing going which will allow me to push some of the house expense until next spring. You can't argue with free money. However, the Lowe's card statement is almost impossible to figure out--it is like they are trying to lure you into making a fatal mistake which will result in a sudden assessment of 24% interest retroactively. I think I am going to have to study the cardmember agreement fine print. That is not an appetizing prospect.

The carpet salesman was a character. One of those hard charging types. I remember in January when I was paging through carpet samples he came up and introduced himself and said he had 15 years of flooring experience, and on and on, and I just wanted to tell him to shut up--but in the end, he was very knowledgable and efficient and I admired his sales expertise. He won me over.

I saw some brushed nickel bathroom faucets I really liked, but they were special order only, so I decided to order them since it looked like they cost $76 dollars. When it came time to sign the paper, however, I saw that the total for two of the faucets was $600! Turns out, both the salesman and I had looked at the wrong placard. The $76 was for the sink. To add the faucets was about $300. No way, I went and got some off the shelf.

They have this aromatic cedar chipboard now which works well for lining closets. I bought four sheets of that, since I love the smell of cedar.

Jeff and Dean conquered the steps project yesterday. Jeff said he could now quit drinking. It was a challenge, but the stairwell turned out beautifully.

Things are lining up for Cassio and I to move in on July 1. The place won't be finished, but we'll have running water and appliances, so really, what else do you need? Besides air conditioning....

Wow, the Twins are struggling. I can't bear to watch. Baseball is such a game of streaks which mysteriously affect entire teams. Both their pitching and hitting has fallen down over the past week.

June 22, 2005

Anaconda clarification

Cassio reports that the anaconda are not native to his part of Brazil. He has never seen one except in a zoo. They have another type of snake in his area, however, which is almost as big. Cassio hates snakes, so it was inaccurate to say he was a snake handler before he became a snapper handler.

Ninety degrees and sultry today. Plus wind. Wind is always exhausting, especially when it is hot. We don't have air conditioning in the office, so if I want to get anything done, I take my computer downstairs and sit in the cellar underneath the office. However, there are salamanders down there--not my favorite.

Turtle capture

Cassio and Danilo went to Union Lake tubing with the Gunufson boys and on the way back they saw a turtle on the road. I never imagined, until I saw this picture, that it was a snapper. I said to Cassio, that thing could have bit your hand off! "It tried," he replied.

Uncle Rolly reported that Cassio was telling him about the wild boar problem in Brazil. Wild boar are a nasty animal which wrecks a lot of crops and can hurt people as well. To combat the wild boar, the authorities encouraged an increased ananconda population. Ananconda are the worlds largest snake.

Well, it worked. The wild boar population is down. However, now there is a problem in Brazil of the anaconda, as Cassio puts it, "eating small peoples."

You can't win.

Perhaps dealing with anaconda makes this snapping turtle seem tame. Cassio noted that the turtle left a very unpleasant odor on his hands.

June 21, 2005

Sunny and steamy

Suddenly we're in the dog days. Sweat. The noise of fans whirring, air conditioners grinding. Mornings are the best time this time of year, but it is a bit tough to get up in time to enjoy the coolness before it gets hot--usually because it is so fun to stay up in the evenings and enjoy the cool then.

Last night, we were treated to an Aunt Ede meal which included elk steak, always one of my favorites. On the way over, Lance, Cassio and I stopped on the roadside to get pictures of a swan family which almost seemed tame. I didn't have my camera along, but Lance and Cassio were able to get some good shots.

Last weekend was cousin Ryan's wedding in Grand Rapids. Weddings are always a flurry--you see people, but for such a short time. I think I was able to say three words to cousin Anne and her husband Bob--we communicate more by email and by reading each others' blogs.

Jeff and Dean are struggling with the stairway in the house. It came with few instructions which don't make much sense. And it is going to end up being pretty steep. I probably will have to put in a new one when I get 80 years old, but that will be a while, so we won't worry about it now.

We now have a flushing toilet in the house, so that is an exciting milestone.

WHEN THE TWINS lose six out of nine, you don't see me writing much about them on here. Ugh. They are struggling. Baseball being baseball, they will come around. But who knows when.

We're emptying the big greenhouse today. That marks the end of another season. It went fast. We just opened the big greenhouse April 9th, and now it is empty. The gardens are planted and they are growing fast in this heat. It is really what we need.

THE NEW MR. COFFEE coffeemaker worked like a charm this morning. A pot was ready for me when I got up, and there wasn't a single spill. I have no regrets about getting rid of the Black and Decker.

June 20, 2005

Coffee maker liquidated

I have decided the fate of the world's worst coffee maker. It will be crushed by a Cat loader, driven by Uncle Rolly, home from Indiana, with few local ties, retired from corporate America, where he learned that sometimes you just have to do what needs to be done. In the background, Dad looks on in horror.

The doomed coffee maker stands alone in the face of the onrushing Cat.

Unlike the tank driver at Tiananmen Square, Uncle Rolly has no qualms.

The world is spared further bad coffee and spills on the counter.

World's worst coffee maker

Here's a typical performance by the world's worst coffee maker, made by Black and Decker. I have not yet brewed a pot which did not feature spills such as this. In addition, note the shape of the carafe. It is impossible to get all of the liquid out of the carafe, whether it is water you are pouring into the cannister, or coffee you are pouring into a cup, without spilling all over.

The directions are full of ass-covering lawyer gibberish about not letting children use the coffee maker without adult supervision, about not allowing the cord to hang over the edge of the counter for people to trip on, about not servicing the coffee maker yourself, about calling the appropriate toll free number (why not just list the number?) on the back of the sheet, and so on.

More later.