Reality Bites

lawn mower

Dreams do come true. At least some of the time. One of my dreams, when I was an itinerant manager for one of my employers, was to live in a house with a yard. I wanted to cut the grass, fertilize the grass, water the grass, and enjoy the calming power of a well tended lawn. Fast forward 20 years. The dream has become a reality, and sadly the reality is not an exact copy of the dream.

Not being mechanically inclined, I have always relied on the kindness of strangers to help keep electro-mechanical devices functional. My lawnmower is such a device. Every couple of years I do something stupid which results in a trip to the lawnmower repair guy. I gladly pay the premium.

Last weekend, in the midst of a lawn manicure, the machine abruptly died. After a minute or two of confusion, I diagnosed the problem as a torn throttle cable. This has happened before. I knew that a professional would be required.

So, bright this Saturday, I and the lawnmower travelled to our repair guy. Down Folly Road, in the company of the thousands headed to the beach. The trip was fruitless; the hardware store had eliminated small engine repairs from their income statement. But, I was told, their other store, on Johns Island, still provided the service. Off we went.

The young man working the counter seemed disinterested in my arrival. I told him what I needed and he said they might have the part in stock. Where was my machine? Did I want him to do the work? What kind of machine was it? Patiently, I explained that I had left the machine in my car, and yes I wanted him to perform the miracle. As to the machine, all I could recall was that the engine is a 6.5 HP Briggs & Stratton. He pointed to the shiny display of machines for sale and observed that the name was written on the chassis (inferring, of course, that my stupid self ought to be able to read and recall such facts). The cross examination, the haughty demeanor of the pimply faced teenager, and my apparent inability to exchange such technical information, all combined to force me into a state of mind that I rarely encounter. I departed the store, telling the manager that I would never darken their door.

But, the grass remains uncut. Not a dream, but reality.

The White Album in Perspective


While checking out at my local grocery store today, I found myself in the slowest line. It was too late to change lanes, as everyone seemed to be getting ready for the Super Bowl. The gent in front of me was no exception, as his buggy was filled with beer, wine, snacks, and the rest of it. The only notable thing about him was that he looked a little old for most of his shopping items, having the hunched back, baggy jeans, and strap-on shoes that tend to mark our senior citizens. My opinion was confirmed when the clerk advised him of the total and he whipped out his check book. I sighed deeply, annoyed that he wasn’t availing himself of a debit card, and irritated that he didn’t start writing the check until he had a total. Typical, my inner voice pouted.

old man writing a check

Finally paid, he said a cheery good-bye to the clerk and everyone else in the vicinity and shuffled off to the exit. My order was quickly scanned, debit card payment accepted, and everything bagged.

As I exited the grocery and parked my cart, I heard the melodious strains of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da coming from a nearby car. Looking around, I saw an elderly woman sitting in a new Subaru Outback, windows down, stereo cranking. It struck me strange. Looking further, who should be putting groceries in the back but the old man slowpoke from the check-out lane? My smile was quick and involuntary, as I started to hum along. As I passed her window, I said. “The White Album – what a great set of songs!”

“What”, she hollered, trying to turn down the volume. “Great song”, I said, smiling.

The White Album is 45 years old. You do the math……..

“He Had Grown Used To Having A Car and A Driver”

Behold the adaptation of Tom Daschle, from man of the people to Grand Poobah:

From immigrant stock, he was the first in his family to graduate from college. Now he has forgotten that having a car and driver is considered a perquisite.

Details via the Wall Street Journal.

TigerHawk has more.

Thoughts on the Day Before

Cross posted at Gates of Academe…….

Found on a dismal Sunday, while preparing for the start of classes tomorrow, some words of inspiration from
Goethe. Described by George Eliot as "Germany's greatest man of letters… and the last true polymath to walk the earth.", this says much and inspires greatly:

one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always
ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation),
there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless
ideas and splendid plans:

        That moment one definitely commits
        Oneself, then Providence moves, too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole
of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner
of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no
man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Begin it now.

Good stuff, and words to keep close by this semester……..


Hello, World!

No, I didn't disappear, or decide to stop the blog, or disagree with the muse. I lost my sign-in, and when I tried to log-in with Typepad using my gmail account name, Typepad wanted to create a new account for me. A complete fiasco, with a disappointing level of support from the Typepad folks. Thanks to blind luck, and some desperate typing, I'm back on board.

More to follow……

What Are You Doing for Christmas?

Bet most of you aren't doing this….

View Larger Map

According to Google Maps, 1,080 miles, and 17 hours and 36 minutes. We'll overnight in Paducah, KY, and hope for good weather. The last time we did this trip, we were caught in the middle of a major "winter event" that caused quite a bit of aggro. Departure on December 23, planned arrival in Iowa late December 24, with a 2 day layover before doing it all over again, but in reverse. Ah, the Joy of Christmas!

“We are the pay toilet of the nation”

From the State Newspaper comes this nasty surprise…..

Huge landfills are on the rise in South Carolina. The nation’s
three largest garbage haulers — Waste Management Inc., Republic
Services and Allied Waste Industries — have moved in, often under other

The Legislature never approved a policy allowing the state to become a garbage mecca.

with the approval of the state Department of Health and Environmental
Control, South Carolina has become an East Coast destination dump.

The state buries far more garbage than it produces and is reserving space for even more.

…There is no limit on how high garbage can be stacked as long as a
landfill’s base is broad enough. Trash mountains in Lee and Spartanburg
counties now are among the tallest artificial structures there. People
give them names, such as “Mount Trashmore.”

In South Carolina, the trash tapestry involves DHEC, money, pollution and politics:

other states now use South Carolina as a garbage dump. Last year, those
states were New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, North
Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Virginia. North Carolina, the
leader, dumped 628,262 tons of trash here, followed by Massachusetts
(366,054), New York (417,196), and New Jersey (168,215). In those
states, dumping fees are high. It’s cheaper to ship garbage to South

And I thought we were suffering just from importing too many people from New Jersey and New York.

The whole story is simply disgusting. Our state agencies, and their boards, need to whipped until they get the message….you work for the people of South Carolina.

In Memoriam

In memoriam…

Last night as I strolled abroad

On the far side of my farm

I was approached by a comely maiden

Who left me distraught and weak.

I was captivated by her demeanour and shapeliness

By her sensitive and delicate mouth,

I hastened to approach her

But for Ireland I’d not tell her name. (Mary O’Hara, A Song for Ireland).

$465 Billion Down the Hole


Via Tigerhawk:

In 1993, the legendary economist Michael Jensen gave his presidential
address to the American Finance Association. Mr. Jensen’s presentation
included a ranking of which U.S. companies had made the most
money-losing investments during the decade of the 1980s. The top two
companies on his list were General Motors and Ford, which between them
had destroyed $110 billion in capital between 1980 and 1990, according
to Mr. Jensen’s calculations.

The quote above comes from a NYU B-School professor discussing the auto industry. But wait, it gets worse…

Over the past decade, the capital destruction by GM has been
breathtaking, on a greater scale than documented by Mr. Jensen for the
1980s. GM has invested $310 billion in its business between 1998 and
2007. The total depreciation of GM’s physical plant during this period
was $128 billion, meaning that a net $182 billion of society’s capital
has been pumped into GM over the past decade — a waste of about $1.5
billion per month of national savings. The story at Ford has not been
as adverse but is still disheartening, as Ford has invested $155
billion and consumed $8 billion net of depreciation since 1998.

As Roger Ehrenberg notes:

With over $100 billion of legacy pension and health care costs, a lack
of globally competitive, fuel efficient cars and bloated cost
structures, the U.S. auto industry as we know it has to die. Putting
politics aside, it is simply foolish to pander to the UAW and their
lobbyists by trying to save an industry that can’t be saved. Let’s take
this opportunity through the bankruptcy process to purge unnecessary
costs, sell valued assets to the private sector and re-purpose a
skilled labor force towards infrastructure projects that can benefit
the economy. Obama needs to make a stand that he is up for doing right,
not simply thanking those who donated huge dollars and expect repayment
– fast.

What I haven’t seen reported yet is a report detailing what steps the auto-makers intend to take in using our money to solve their problems. With GM supposedly burning through $1.5 Billion per month, and the other two burning cash at a lower, yet significant rate, exactly how much time does $25 or $50 Billion buy? Or, if not time, what structural changes does the money buy over the near term? More importantly, what if the money does not change the outcome of this process?

Time to man up, Barack, and make the smart decision. Yes you can.