Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ode to the Mosquito

I see thee, tiny Mosquito,
Buzzing up on high
Diving down to puncture my thigh
To drain the blood within
And leave me scratchin'
Again and again.

What is thy worldly purpose?
How is it you came to be?
Did God not know the misery
You would bring
When from Earth you did spring
To fly, buzz and sting?

I loathe thee, little pest!
You who will not let me lie
In a hammock and gaze at the sky.
You show no mercy, no fear
Relentlessly buzzing, always drawing near
To pierce a foot, elbow or molest an ear.

I shake my fist at thee,
Tiny devil spawn.
Rising in early dawn
To search for skin left bare
Whether human, canine, elk or hare.
Indiscriminate, dogged, ruthlessly fair.

There is no relief
From your predations, no respite
Other than to take flight
Behind doors locked and windows sealed.
Waiting, waiting for an icy shield
To blanket lake, swamp, puddle and field.

The spider is an artist
Stout laborers are the ant and bee
You, my friend, are an enemy
To those that walk, graze and soar.
I will fight thee from shore to shore
Quothe me, forever more.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Made in China

I believe in free trade. Free trade is a major tenet of capitalism, the very system that makes the "American way of life" possible, and though I have plenty of issues with that way of life (and capitalism), I've clearly benefited from it. I oppose protectionist measures such as the tariffs the Obama administration has levied on tires from China, and I'm even more opposed to industry subsidies, such as those we dole out to the agricultural industry. Why do we pay farmers to grow corn that we then buy from them at the store? Why pay them twice?! If your industry is competitive, it shouldn't need government subsidies or tariffs to succeed. If it can't compete against China or Ethiopia or France and is in peril of going under and putting thousands of Americans out of work, well, that's capitalism at its finest. I don't mean to be heartless, but if you want to reap the benefits of a capitalistic society, then you have to accept that failure is a possibility, too.

It probably won't surprise you then to learn that I am also a proponent of globalization. It has its drawbacks, namely environmental degradation and human rights abuses, such as the sweat shops that Nike and Wal-Mart like to think don't exist; still, overall, globalization has the ability to increase the quality of life of millions of people worldwide. Many Americans don't like the offshoring (otherwise, but incorrectly, known as "outsourcing") of jobs that has been a result of globalization, but it doesn't bother me too much. I mean, if I owned a business and some American union demanded that I pay my employees twice what I would have to pay employees in Mexico, I'd just have to tell that union "adios." Capitalism. It's the American way.

I am, however, bothered by the fact that I can't find "Americana" that isn't made in China. Once in Monterey, CA, I went looking for a gift that was representative of the area, and I quickly learned two lessons: 1) if I wanted an affordable gift, it would have to be something made in China; and 2) the only gifts I could find that were made locally were in pricey galleries. I settled on a hand-crafted, wooden sea otter that was made in Mexico, which, I reasoned with myself, was OK since Mexico is closer to Monterey than China. My biggest beef is with holiday ornaments. Those really are products that should be made in the U.S. A few years back, I came across some nice Pilgrim figurines in a local shop, but to my chagrin they had been made in China. Pilgrims made in China? That ain't right. Every Christmas season, I go on a quest to find ornaments or decorations not made in China. I might as well be searching for the Holy Grail! I wonder what the Chinese think about Santa and Frosty and Rudolph. Next Fourth of July, I encourge you to take a look at the American flags and patriotic paper- and plasticwares that you buy at Wal-Mart to see where they were made. Bet you it won't be Dayton. Alas, that's capitalism.

It's our fault, of course. When we shop at places like Wal-Mart, we increase the demand for cheap products from China and other countries. Our lust for low prices encourages U.S.-based companies to take their plants and products overseas, and then we have the gall to get all upset about offshoring. American-made products are generally more expensive and of inferior quality than their imported counterparts, and truly free trade would force American producers and manufacturers to get with it or go under. It's sad that many U.S. industries are afraid to compete fairly in the open market. But it's also sad that I can't seem to find a manger scene that's not made in China.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Apparently support for the war in Afghanistan is ebbing. I, however, support the war in Afghanistan. I didn't support us going there in the first place, but now that we're there, I think it's incumbent upon us not to run away.

How quickly the American public forgets its country's own follies. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan as we sought revenge against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Once we ousted the Taliban and sent Al Qaeda to live pretty much untouched with our ally, Pakistan, there was a time, albeit short, when the U.S. could have made progress in Afghanistan. Success got to the heads of our leaders, though, and they got greedy and went after Iraq, effectively leaving Afghanistan to fester and stew under the ineffective leadership of Hamid Karzai, our puppet president-cum-dictator. Our very neglect of the situation in Afghanistan led to the resurgence of the Taliban (that's who we're fighting now in Afghanistan, by the way, not bin Laden or Al Qaeda). Our almost remorseless killing of thousands of civilians by errant and purposeful bombs and bullets all in the name of the "War on Terror" did nothing but instill terror in the hearts and minds of the Afghan population. Rightfully so, they don't see us as the saviors we like to think we are.

If we leave Afghanistan like we did when the Russians pulled out in 1990 (I think it was 1990 - someone check Wikipedia for me!), then we just set the entire country and the region up for more radicalism and civil war. Perhaps you remember what that led to? We can't just go into a country and wreck havoc for our own purposes and then when satisfied or losing (as the case is now) decide it's not worth it and leave. Just because we're the United States doesn't mean we can have our cake and eat it, too. We're not THAT exceptional. I'm not a foreign policy expert, so I can't tell you the strategic implications for staying in Afghanistan, but I'm smart enough and informed enough (for beginners, read this article and join me in reading this book) to believe with a degree of confidence that if we don't stay, we, the U.S., will pay a much heavier price for it in the end.

The U.S. has a moral obligation to those who have died in Afghanistan, soldier and civilian alike, to not cut and run. We have a moral obligation to the Afghan people to leave them a better place than that Hell which we helped to create. And the American public needs to look-up the definition of "commitment."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Being a Parent

I'd planned to rail on a bit about the indoctrination of America's oh-so-impressionable youth (not by the president but by parents), but decided to take a moment to talk about our children. What?! That's right, we, too, have children...just not the human kind. Our little family currently consists of two humans, four cats, and a dog, and when one of them gets sick, like Boo is with heartworms, we take it every bit as seriously as you more traditional parents do when your kids get sick. We worry and fret. We begin to figure out how to rearrange our schedules to accommodate visits to the vet and treatment. We adjust our sleeping arrangements and our daily routines. We take it all very seriously.

When the vet came back with an estimate of about $700 for the "Gold Standard" treatment, we just said okay. There goes our dreams of a high-end TV, but that's alright. And it may mean that we won't get to use our free AMEX travel voucher after all because we won't have enough money to buy one ticket, but, again, that's fine. Wouldn't you sacrifice the same for a member of your family? It's all just stuff, and Boo is, well, he's Boo.

We don't normally refer to Boo, Jackson, Lucy, Algebra, and Beanie as "our kids." That's what crazy animal lovers do. We know they aren't "real" children like you probably have running around the house right now. But they might as well be. We don't just care for them; we center our lives around them. The nice, social times we spend in Peachtree City are always cut short because we have to get home to feed and go for walks. I have no idea what percentage of our monthly income goes towards pet food alone, but it's significant. Like you (I hope), we don't feed our kids crap. We break up fights, soothe tempers, enforce manners, teach, reward, discipline, and play. I know you're thinking there's much more to being a human parent than what it takes to "parent" a dog or cat, and perhaps so, but that's not my point. Don't be so dense.

We only just learned that Boo was diagnosed with heartworms even before we adopted him, but no one told us. We still would've adopted him, though, because we knew he was the one. He can be a pain in the ass (and so can your kid; just ask any restaurant employee) and sometimes it's hard deal with him. He's a dog; it's not like he understands me when I try and reason with him. Still, I try. Boo got his first shot today and gets his second tomorrow, and then for six weeks he has to be confined to one level of the house with only minimal exercise. It won't be easy and will pretty much suck most of the time, but it's what you do for those you care for, for those who depend on you, for your kids, for your family.

Go Boo.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cats & Dogs

I like cats more than I like dogs. There, I said it. Note that I didn't say that I don't like dogs, because I love them to death. A person who doesn't like dogs wouldn't have spent every weekend one summer in Chicago working at a doggie day care and boarding. There are certain breeds of dog that I like more than others, such as hounds and working dogs, and my least favorite has to be standard poodles. No particular reason why the standard poodle made my least favorite list; I mean, John Steinbeck's Charlie was a standard poodle and who's ever said a bad thing about Steinbeck? Dogs are good; I just like cats more, that's all.