Archive for November, 2014

My Libertarian Friend

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

I recently added a poster to my facebook timeline with the following text:

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.” George Washington

My comment on this poster suggested that, if true, this one statement could put the Fox network out of business. My libertarian facebook friend replied that he didn’t understand my comment about the Fox channel. This fellow and I have had numerous and lengthy conversations, during which we seem to dance around issues until one of us, usually me, gets tired and stops responding. It is not that I don’t think about these things, but I’m reluctant to start another long cycle of discussions that often end in frustration for me.

So I thought I’d post my answer here, with the caveat that responses are welcome and encouraged, but that this blog post stands alone, and I very likely will not respond to responses. So here we go…

The comment that the statement, if true, will put the Fox network out of business was tongue-in-cheek. And I must warn you that my response below will also contain some humor. It is up to you to determine its location and respond with appropriate guffaws.

To explain the joke, it is important to understand that an often used argument by my conservative/libertarian friends about things such as gun rights, immigration, social security, the affordable care act, etc, is that the founding fathers clearly would not have embraced these ideas, and then proceed to produce quotes from these guys to prove the point. I find these arguments weak. The founding fathers wrote a lot of stuff, and much of the quoting is done out of context with snippets that perhaps prove a point, or at least muddy the point. To me, saying the founding fathers would have acted xyz to a current issue is pretty naive. These guys were brilliant, and no mistake, but to suggest they had the foresight to anticipate our current immigration problems and beef up the constitution accordingly seems plain silly.

So the joke was, I had posted yet another out of context quote, and not just from one of the founding fathers, but from THE founding father, suggesting that we welcome all ethnicities and religions to this country seems to fly in the face of the right’s founding father argument regarding immigration.

Ha ha!

I’ve long puzzled about the different ways the folks on the right think compared to those on the left. For most of my life, I could come up with no plausible explanation why myself and fellow progressives thought one way, and the conservatives/libertarians felt just the opposite on several issues. Some reading I’ve done lately has given me a clue. In surveys conducted on both groups, progressives score higher on empathy, and lower on fear, while conservatives/libertarians are lower on empathy and higher on fear.

So on an issue like immigration, progressives tend to empathize with immigrants, and not fear them as a group, while the other side feels little empathy for them, but tends to fear them as a group.

Empathy and fear are powerful feelings. When you fear your neighbor, you’ll want to be sure you can defend yourself if that neighbor goes crazy. And when you fear the government, who’s job it is to (supposedly) protect you, then you’re going to want to have more and bigger guns than the group you are afraid of, because obviously the government won’t help. And if you happen to be a sloppy thinker, then any time a crime is committed by a member of a group you fear, you will attribute that crime to the entire group. You will furthermore tend to discount incidents when members of the group you fear perform a meritorious service.

Having empathy can also blind one, but it seems to me that people with an overabundance of empathy seldom go on rampages, say like giving flowers to every person they meet, or forcing so much bean soup on homeless people that a city-wide over-flatulence occurs. Having too much empathy can cause problems, however. If we, as a society, spend all our resources seeing to it that everyone has an equal foothold on the resources on the planet, there can be consequences. This has been tried by some governments with varying results. The question seems to be whether the peoples in the two systems, capitalism and socialism, when compared to each other, are as happy, happier, or less happy. Some results from surveys have suggested the answer to this question is not clear cut.

It seems that empathy/fear is sprinkled about the population in varying degrees. The Fox network seems to me to celebrate the low empathy/high fear way of thinking, and thereby attracts a wide viewership. It is nothing to be ashamed of, they’ll tell us. In fact, you people are the heroes. And perhaps this is true. My personal take on this is we have separated ourselves from the other species on the planet only through our efforts at cooperation. Virtually everything we’ve accomplished on the positive side of the ledger has been as the result of cooperation, which has a strong component on the high empathy low fear side of the equation.

As the population of humans continues to grow exponentially on a planet of finite resources, problems such as climate change, global pandemics, and diminishing food resources, to name a few, will require us to work together to solve. We’ll have to work together and sacrifice to ensure a habitable planet for future generations. Or we can argue that working together is just a plot to take away our rights. The choice is ours.

Strings of Pearls

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

On one of our trips downstate this summer, I splurged on a new headlamp. I felt we needed one in the RV, so picked up a very nice one on a visit to Meijers. Well, it was such a nice one that I’ve kind of standardized on it, and my old reliable headlamp just sits on its hook now.

I do a lot of walking in the dark, because Franco and I both agree that one of our best habits is a daily walk after supper. During the summer, there is always plenty of daylight after supper, but this time of year, the walks are pretty much in the dark. So the headlamp is on my head and switched on.

This model has 3 small LEDs and one large one. Pressing the ON button turns on the 3 small LEDs on low.

Did I mention it is often snowing, as well as dark, on our evening walks? This headlamp has a feature I didn’t find in the literature that came with it. When the snow is blowing just the right amount, the flakes near my head turn into strings of pearls. I can’t think of a better way to describe it, and I wish I could take a picture to illustrate it. While Franco is busy following his nose up and down the road, I have spent considerable time thinking about how this must work. If the light from the LEDs was constant, then I’d see the snowflakes floating past me. So they must be pulsing somehow… perhaps in an attempt to save power, or to give more and brighter light somehow, or…? Whatever the reason, if you want to see a nice show, and are lucky enough to live in snow country, strap on that headlamp in a snowstorm, and head outside.

Rack 0’Maniac

Monday, November 10th, 2014

rackLike so many things this summer, I’d gotten behind on the homemade wine chores. I set up the things that need to be done on my calendar, but days and weeks went by and the deadlines along with them. As I ignore the chores, they just build up and the project becomes more and more daunting. Well, the other night I rolled up my sleeves, and made several trips from the basement to the kitchen with bottles, hoses, siphons, and all the other paraphernalia necessary to get racking.

Racking is the process of moving the liquid proto-wine from its current container to a fresh clean sanitized one. Getting set up for the event is the hardest part of the whole process. Cleaning up is the second hardest part, and the actual racking is fun, easy, and gives us a taste of what is to come. I usually interrupt the stream of each gallon with a small wine glass we keep for this purpose, and Alice and I both get a taste. I think I have the chemistry of wine making down pretty well, but I still have little idea what I’m actually tasting. I keep trying and hoping I’ll understand what I’m doing as I gain experience.

The night after all the racking activity, I noticed my calendar was still not clear. There was the bottling of the first batches of 2014 to be done: dandelion and strawberry. I got 5 750 ml bottles of each, plus 3 smaller (375 ml) bottles. These are all put away in the basement and awaiting this time next year when we can pop the cork and taste the fruits of this year’s labor.

Fall Chores

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

What with me being sick most of this summer, and the number of trips we’ve made to Lansing to help out my parents, we’ve managed to get behind on our fall chores. In the past few days, we’ve managed to get most of the critical ones done, however.

I got both docks out of the water with just a few mishaps. Other years I haven’t been quite so lucky, but this year I only dropped my hammer in the water once, it was in shallow water, and even though I couldn’t see it, I rolled up my sweatshirt sleeve, stuck my hand in the water, and grabbed the handle, as it had settled into the pond much head down and handle up. How often does that happen?

The plow is on the Scout, and while that job is never easy, there were no serious problems this time. We’re now ready for some snow accumulation, although I’ve learned over the years that I have to scoop the first several times until the gravel freezes, or the plow will just dig into the driveway and make a big mess and a lot of noise.

We also got the greenhouse cover off, folded up, and put away for another season. For some reason Alice and I seem to grouch at each other when we are doing that particular job. I’m not sure why, but it usually happens. I’d put the grouch level this time fairly low on the scale, however. There was only one serious grouch incident, and it was over almost as soon as it started. It is a beautiful site when the cover is all folded up and put away for another year. I like to step inside the greenhouse before we take the cover off for the season, and fill my lungs with that lovely smell. We won’t be smelling thawed dirt for some time now.

We’ve also begun to gather balsam fir boughs for christmas wreaths. We’re into our second week of it now. I hike out to the woods around my maple syrup operation, and select an area where the balsam firs are encroaching into the maple trees, and start cutting them down. I then hack off the branches with my hatchet, and clip the fir into my yellow wheelbarrow. When it is full, I tie the boughs up into a bundle and make one more. I then haul them back home and toss them into the pickup. I usually deliver them Monday mornings to the shop where they’re made into wreaths. I smell the best this time of year that I ever do.