2008: A year to remember, for mostly bad reasons

On September 11, 2008, I was in New York with my boss, we walked past the Lehman Brothers building on our way to a meeting, and I said, "There's a run on that bank, not a run exactly, but they are teetering on the brink..." -- my boss does not follow finance news as closely as I do, Lehman filed for bankruptcy four days later.

2008 is almost over, for myself (and many others, perhaps) the New Year can't begin soon enough. In 2008 many old certainties crumbled and assumptions once held true were exposed as cruel falsehoods, what once appeared solid, predictable and 'bankable' turned out out to be as ephemeral as melting snow.

All things must pass (Melting Snow) from JG on Vimeo.

Could this clip be a metaphor for?:
  • My long term job prospects
  • The value of my 401k
  • Opportunities in Vermont -- ugly news & rumors swirl of forthcoming layoffs at the state's largest employers, including the state government itself (except for PR flacks serving the governor)
In many ways I have lived a very contrarian economic life: I don't buy things on credit, mostly dislike spending money, and have a deeply ingrained 'the glass is half-empty' perspective on things. As can be imagined, I am not the most fun person to be around, and my lifelong aversion to purchasing new cars with credit may have contributed in a small way to the demise of the Big 3 automakers. But now that the days of reckoning have arrived, it seems that present and future realities are beyond even my gloomiest imaginings, and steps that I took to try and hedge against this situation were not nearly enough.

I can't see what 2009 will bring, but one consequence of the present situation and uncertainty (the one certainty being, that there are few 'conventional' opportunities available) is that I find myself living with a permanent state of queasiness, almost akin to nausea, and that sometimes the very act of unlocking the door to my small and not extravagant condominium (with its mortgage) sometimes sets off a fear reaction in my nervous system, an unpleasant prickly sensation. It's not the most pleasant way to live.


Song of the New South: 'Jesusland' by Ben Folds

Heading north on I-95 near the Virginia state line

I'm pretty sure the video for the song "Jesusland" (filmed in 2006) was shot in western North Carolina -- there are some hills in the parts shot in a new development, and (separate from the lyrics about false religious promises) the video captures some of the sense of alienation as older sections of small towns decline and developers move in to build soulless (and sometimes quite gargantuan) new housing and vast shopping malls. While visiting my mother, I walked through a local Walmart Supercenter that was vastly larger than any retailer in Vermont....covering acres of land, and these facilities are not at all unusual.

Leland, North Carolina (a wider panorama of this scene here), the skyline is marked by signs for Hardees and McDonalds (Waffle House, Bojangles, KFC, are also on that stretch of road, but their signs are not as high). I've lived in Vermont for exactly 20 years now, and it still feels sometimes like I'm just visiting. I wonder if would fit right in in a such a transient, impermanent environment where everyone is a stranger, or if it would be a crushing, soul-deadening experience?

Goldsboro, North Carolina: An old style southern downtown, threadbare shops and vacant storefronts, I gave a dollar to a man from New Orleans who had just completed a 16 month stint in the county jail (no reason given). I don't doubt that there is some Walmart Supercenter somewhere on the outskirts of town, off of a divided highway. Living in Vermont, I put up with some limited opportunities and high costs, but I generally don't have to experience this kind of environment.

I wish Ben Folds would tour through Vermont, the Flynn would seem to be a good venue for such a show, with Burlington being such a college town.


Winter solstice, 2008

The shortest, darkest day of the year, marked here in Vermont by a fairly good sized snow storm accompanied by cold and wind.

A couple of images from the trail to Mt. Hunger taken yesterday afternoon, there was a good sized snowfall on Friday night as well.

And a couple of images from my recent trip to North Carolina, taken at my dad's place outside of Havelock.

Long exposures taken using the dock railing as a tripod.


Lost highways: North Carolina to Connecticut

It's an allusion (not "illusion", ie, Ponzi scheme), one can know exactly where one is, as in 'location', and still be 'lost', as in 'lacking direction.'

I spent a week aimlessly driving around the 'new' South. When I drove to my Dad's place from Wilmington I headed inland from the heavily developed North Carolina coastal areas (waiting for a hurricane to come along and return things to the original state of nature) and cut across on a rural highway, a flat agricultural landscape dotted with trailers propped up on cinderblocks and billboards advertising pork products. The lack of hills made it feel quite different from home and the featureless horizon was quite disorienting.

In North Carolina, I think that that Havelock (home of Cherry Point MCAS) and Jacksonville (Camp Lejune and other installations) are about as far removed from Vermont as possible, culturally speaking: Pawn shops, strip clubs, churches and innumerable fast food establishments, it's almost like being in a foreign country compared to Vermont. A bumper sticker seen in a military surplus store summed up the rather warlike ethos of the place quite concisely:

US Special Forces: Death is our business, and business is good

But the perimeter fences surrounding military housing are marked with homemade banners welcoming service members back from long deployments, and there have been many causalities from this decade's various conflicts -- the Marines pride themselves on being the tip of the spear.

And once it was time to drive northwards with a purpose I used a basic digital camera to amuse myself on the long (1100 miles) gray trip.

Central Lunch, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Billboards along the highway in the Allegheny mountains, Pennsylvania, a blasted, post-industrial landscape recalling a time when coal was mined, and steel was forged, in the United States.

Crossing the Hudson, near Newburgh, New York

Even though it was the holiday season it seemed that the mood everywhere was one of foreboding and a grim anticipation of what comes next, I tried to put anxiety about the future out of my mind but wasn't entirely successful. The annual December bacchanal of consumerism isn't nearly as festive this year, not that I ever really bought into it anyways.

Lost highways: North Carolina to Connecticut, Dec. 2008 from JG on Vimeo.


Lost highways

A road through an as-yet undeveloped area in rural North Carolina.

After a week down south, tomorrow I start driving back to the cold, wet and economically distressed Northeast. The plan is to take I40 to I95 all the way to Washington then to head into Pennsylvania, eventually hitting I84, crossing the Hudson at Tarrytown, then into Connecticut (to visit relatives); and finally getting home on Thursday via interstates 91 & 89. I anticipate that it will be a long, dull, cheerless ride.

A new road winds through one of the innumerable housing developments that dot the landscape. It's a strange landscape that feels very impermanent -- I've never been to Las Vegas, but I think that there may be some similarities -- a sense of transience (no one is from the area -- all are strangers), alienation and tackiness: Miles and miles of strip retail development interspersed with an endless variety of chain dining establishments.


On the beach

Wrightsville Beach NC, August 2008 -- sunnier days, before the crash

Since there's little work in Vermont, I'm taking a quick trip to North Carolina to visit my parents before returning for the holidays. Perhaps I'll be channeling Tom Joad and Jack Kerouac as I drive aimlessly up and down the charmless highways of the East Coast, and I'll have a camera with me so maybe I'll be able to try and capture some visual sense of things at this moment in time. Fear and discouragement are the watchwords of the day...


Signs of the times

Very literally, and pretty self-explanatory, sights from my commute to work -- which I won't be taking for the duration of this year due to the economic slowdown.

Signs advertising two forthcoming foreclosure auctions along Rt 100 between Waterbury and Stowe. If nothing else the auction business seems to be doing OK even as most other things crumble. It's a scary and discouraging time and the short gloomy days and long nights of December don't help matters much either.


Metaphorically speaking: The Fall

Metaphor: A figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money) ; broadly : figurative language (Merriam-Webster). The example is quite ironic given the present state of affairs.

I thought I would take a look at Camus' last novel, the title is apropos in these gloomy times, and the theme (absurdity) may also be appropriate.

The economic history of the G. W. Bush years, as reflected by a Vanguard mutual fund (aka my 401K)

As work has been very ominously quiet lately, I have spent a lot of time reading the New York Times business section and free articles on the Wall Street Journal site. It's illustrative but depressing, and many downward metaphors have been tossed about to describe these queasy and unsettling times. I saw a comment somewhere that described the US economy as a building with termites, it looks solid from afar but the reality is that it is rotten and soft, one could put a fist through the wall, or kick down a door, with little effort: Condemned as "structurally unsound".

A capture from the opening credits to Mad Men, a series about being on the cusp of change... hmm.

As should be quite obvious by reading this site, I spend a lot of time in the outdoors. I usually am fairly cautious and conservative, I don't take too many unnecessary risks. One of the stupidest things I've done, however, was to try and walk across Colchester Pond one late afternoon in early December before the pond was thoroughly frozen. I did this solely because of impatience, I knew it wasn't a good idea when I started. It was a windy day and the ice was not very thick and as I got to a point about 1/3 of the way across I could feel the ice sheet going up and down because of the pressure of the wind, and this was accompanied by loud compressive booms. Needless to say, I paused to consider my predicament -- I thought I was dead, if I had gone through the ice, no one was going to come along and perform a rescue -- and very gingerly and cautiously beat a retreat back to shallower waters with thicker ice.

When I survey the present situation, I sometimes think back to being out on that semi-frozen pond, feeling the tremors and hearing the cracks and booms of the ice, and very cautiously picking a route back to shore -- I really thought there was a good chance I'd end up going through. I am not sure what the future holds but hopefully things will solidify, but I think it's going to take a while, and I strongly suspect I'm going to get more than a little wet.


The most fun I can have with an Internet connection

...coverage of the Superprestige cyclocross series in Belgium. Live, high quality streaming video of bicycle races held in the most appalling conditions provided by Belgian television station VT4.

Watching the entire event is illuminating because it shows the the dynamics of the whole race instead just selected highlights. It also shows the atrocious conditions these guys race in.

Dominance: Sven Nys wins in a full on blizzard at Hamme-Zogge. Niels Albert, one of the rising young guns who may be able to challenge Nys, severely injured himself (torn spleen) warming up for this race in the slop. It's a tough sport, the riders would swing their hands on the paved sections to try and get some feeling back in their frozen extremities.

Surprise: Klaas Vantornout beats Bart Wellens in a two up sprint finish at Geiten. I thought that there was no way that Wellens would lose but that's racing.

A post race explanation. Czech rider Zdenek Stybar gave an interview in perfect English, I am such a monolingual rube.

There are three more races in the series, the schedule is posted here, I'll be watching.


November woods, 2008

Going into the woods after Thanksgiving is become pretty much of a tradition for me (previous post-Thanksgiving hikes are documented here and here). Hunting season is winding down, as the season draws to a close there are a lot less hunters in the woods, so it's pretty safe, as long as one is cautious and remains aware of the environment.

A few images from yesterday, there was enough snow at elevation to justify snowshoes, which of course I managed to leave at home.

An "ancient road" through the woods in Ricker Basin, now maintained as a snowmobile trail between the Cottonbrook area in Stowe and Waterbury/Bolton.

Off-piste in the woods. I approached from the back and initially thought it was an old sap boiler or something, instead it was the remains of an old and badly rotted truck, I think the engine block must have been removed at some point. Given the size of the tree growing up through the frame, it's been in this spot for quite a while.

Near the same spot, a good sized birch tree has grown up in the cellar hole of some long lost building -- this area is dotted with the remains of old farms that have gone back to the land. More images here in my Photoblog account.


Just another sad day

On a day marked by events like this there is nothing that I could post here. I spent the afternoon watching online news coverage from CNN's Indian partner, this experience was quite jarring because the advertising and station promos were still playing as if nothing special was going on but then coverage would show the chaos, mayhem and bloodshed in the streets again (Indian advertising is pretty fast paced, bouncy, and upbeat, from what I've seen).

In the course of my work as a recruiter I communicate with many people from the Indian subcontinent every day so this event does strike quite close to home for me. I've started to see a trend of Indians returning to the home from the US because there are more opportunities there and the softening of the US economy. I was going to try and set up a business meeting in Hyderabad in 2007 on the way back from my trip to Nepal but due to visa issues it didn't happen.

I think that the most pertinent statement on the violence was in the Guardian, a column entitled "It's that well-fed lad in the T-shirt again"; noting that that this act was carried out by young men who did not appear to come from the bottom of society... continuing a recent trend.

The events in Mumbai were a web 2.0 event, twitter was full of posts on the topic from all over the world. I'm really not sure if such instant connectedness is a good thing or not.

This guy was running a poll on his blog "Should I post images of the bodies of slain hostages?" It's all cinema verite I suppose but is this really needed? Does it make the horror of the situation real and immediate or does it just make for cheap voyeuristic thrills?

The Big Picture has images of the carnage that do convey the horror of the situation...


The winter landscape

The winter landscape, the weather has been very cold with some snow. After hunkering down and staying inside on Saturday -- a cold, snowy, and blustery day -- I got up early and drove to a spot I had discovered tooling around on my mountain bike on the shoulder of Owls Head mountain in Waterbury. It was bitterly cold and there was a ripping wind blowing, I wasn't inclined to experiment with the camera too much.

Four images stitched together, from the south: Sugarbush South and North, Mad River Glen, Camels Hump in the clouds, the Winooski river valley, and Woodward Mountain.

Looking due west: This location affords a great view of Camels Hump, unfortunately the summit never broke free from the clouds, and it was too cold and exposed to hang around long waiting to see if it would clear.

"OH1" is where these images were taken: It looks like some developer has bought up the land and envisions putting in a development of fancy expensive homes; there's already one huge extravagant ghastly pile of a house up there and buried utilities are being put in. I personally don't approve of this kind of land use pattern and I won't be disappointed if I learn that this development is having problems moving forward due the current free-fall of the economy. How many million dollar homes in the woods does Vermont need?


Surfing the Kondratiev Wave, or riding the big one, and it's a long way down

Nikolai Kondratiev was a Russian economist with the misfortune to have Stalin as a boss; he was caught up in the purges and eventually executed in 1938. I was reading some article about "1o people who predicted the crash" or something to that effect and he was mentioned, so I quickly looked up the name (the Internet -- particularly Google -- makes this very easy, but also shallow -- see "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" by Nick Carr).

It turns out that before Kondratiev was imprisoned in the Gulag he developed a theory that the activity of capitalist economies can be charted in long waves, or supercycles, and that these cycles are far longer and deeper than what is normally characterized as the 'business cycle': According to the theory, the timing of these deep boom and bust cycles is 50 years or more...

A chart illustrating two hundred years of economic activity.... hmm, what's next? The graphic is from a site entitled Kondratieff Winter that contains additional information about the application of this theory to the present situation. The site was launched in 2007, when, as the site owner notes, the stock market was at 14,000. As usual, wikipedia also has an entry of this subject.

I don't know, it's very disconcerting, maybe I am not brave enough but I live in fear. Not paralyzing fear, but a giddy prickly sensation when I leave for work in the morning and a slightly queasy feeling when I walk into my condo unit at night, and I lie awake in the early hours of the morning and wonder what comes next. And I am not even that heavily exposed (I've never been a fan of borrowing money) by the standards of some of my neighbors...but was it enough?


Bringing It All Back Home on vinyl

A relic from the garage, complete with fading stickers of a very young looking Bob Dylan affixed to the reverse of the album cover.

This album cover is probably one of iconic images from the Sixties. I don't know that there will be anything equivalent from the present tumultuous time, things seem more fragmented now, "we are all living in our truth", so it is harder for an object of art to become 'iconic' and stand above the vast pile of blogs, facebook & myspace profiles, homemade media streams, etc. (A case in point: This site.)

Of course, we don't have the equipment (ie, a turntable) to play this album, so it is purely decorative/archival.

By choice, I don't write much about personal relationships here too much -- and this is deliberate and most assuredly not accidental. I, however, live with a self-professed hippy (I have some counter-cultural leanings of my own) for whom Bob Dylan is a major figure... so our condo amounts to something of a Dylan shrine, and we have most of his oeuvre on CD.


Things are getting pretty rickety

The barrage of bad news continues, it is unsettling, I still have a job to go to five days a week, but I work in the people-hiring business. Given the economic climate, and many predictions that the recession/depression will be long, deep, and drawn out, for how long will this continue? Maybe I should become a repo man (one of my favorite movies) instead.

I have been anointed the social media maven at the office, I update various online profiles, created a page of our company on Facebook, and started playing with twitter -- though I really don't get the point of this service. A couple of things from my twitter stream caught my eye this week:
"i fear whats under attack now not xyz co or industry but very concept of value and money"
And a comment on an interesting, if depressing article by Michael Lewis (author of Liar's Poker, a book he now admits is practically quaint) entitled "The End of Wall Street" raises an interesting question:
So is the US$ the next bubble? What happens when US$ goes down to zero? Should we be shorting US$?
As I have said before here, I feel there are parallels to Weimar Germany in the current situation. Two economic events have already afflicted me:
  • My slender retirement savings have lost considerable value in the past six months.
  • Frozen credit markets and a very dismal job market mean that it would be very difficult to sell my condo if I wanted, or had, to.
To complete the trifecta (this hasn't happened yet, but could be a reasonable expectation based on history)
  • Raging inflation wipes out the value of the cash I have in the bank as a hedge against job uncertainty.
There seems to be a debate over which decade we will revisit: The 1970s (stagnation) or the 1930s (prolonged economic crisis, social breakdown, etc.). Life is a cabaret...


Veterans Day, 2008

As this blog has evolved, I have really gotten away (with a few exceptions) from using content from other sites here: This blog may not be very compelling, interesting, or original, but it is mostly my own.

On Veterans Day, however, I thought I would post this stark and powerful image from a photo essay in the New Yorker. Seeing this image led Colin Powell to endorse Barack Obama, but even without the political baggage it is a very moving photograph.

George Bush said today that he will miss being Commander in Chief... that's fine, he's entitled to the sentiment I guess, and being President in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks must have been a quite terrible job -- a fact that the President's many detractors seem to have lost sight of. I think, however, that Bush's unwillingness or inability to call for any kind of sacrifice at home during the current conflicts, was and is utterly contemptible.

Part of me wishes that I had had the experience of serving in the military instead of going to college right after high school, and, far more importantly, thanks to all who have served.


The day after

The Lydall plant in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, on a snowy day in February 2006. When I worked (unhappily) in the packaging business I spent a couple of hours in this plant on Thursdays, inventorying their supplies and placing orders -- it was a very industrial environment, full of dangerous equipment -- large hydraulic presses that made the floor shake. The plant stamped out metal heatshields and its customers were domestic automobile manufacturers -- ie, not the best industry segment to operate in. The plant's closing was announced earlier this year, work is being consolidated to a plant in North Carolina, with the loss of 190 jobs. I remember that there was an American flag suspended from a large overhead crane traversing the length of plant's interior. I wonder if they will take the flag down when the plant finally closes; if not, it would a sadly powerful image if it remains hanging over the empty space.

With my new access to television (see previous post) I watched the election coverage on Tuesday evening -- we fell asleep, but I woke up just in time to watch Barack Obama's acceptance speech. The next day the local news operations had video showing thousands of UVM students pouring into the streets of Burlington, ecstatically (hysterically? -- some appeared to almost weeping with joy) celebrating the election result.

I hope, (like David Brooks) that this is the dawning a new, competent, successful administration that pursues sound economic policies at home and restores America's image abroad. Also, I hope that Sarah Palin stays in Alaska and never is heard from again in the lower 48 -- it really wasn't funny. However, I did not shed tears of ecstatic joy upon learning the results of the election. The problems are bigger than any one person (however competent -- and we don't know how competent the new administration will be) and will not be resolved quickly or painlessly. I know that this is stating the painfully obvious but it seems to have been swept aside in the post-election celebrations. Note to the UVM kids: You're incurring lots of debt ($40K+/year for out of state students) and face a very uncertain job market, so study hard and don't spend too much time in the bars downtown.


Superprestige #2, viewed online

I went over to the dark side on Saturday: I signed up for Internet and phone service from the cable company, and it included 12 months of free 'broadcast' cable. So, for the first time in more than three years, I can watch television again. Maybe this will kill this blog for once and for all: Too distracting. Having gone for a long time without viewing television commercials, it's definitely something of a culture shock to experience the latest offerings from Madison Avenue.

Anyway, the point of this exercise was to reduce the cost of the Internet connection, I had been paying $40/month for a somewhat balky DSL connection, it seemed like a lot of money for what was being provided. The new service is 'economy' class cable Internet access, a 384kbps service for $25/month, it should be adequate for the needs of my household. After a couple of hours putzing around with two routers (the router I had been using, refused to work with the new service, fortunately there was a backup available, and I am becoming quite well versed with such equipment), I was back online.

Television, however, is very passive medium, the viewer absorbs whatever the networks chose to serve up, even as channels proliferate, many niches go unserved, which is to say, there is no television coverage of cyclocross in North America. Anyway, I tested out the new connection by watching Superprestige race #2 online, streamed live online by Belgian television (schedule here), the technology is getting better, the images below are murkier than the video (perhaps because of higher fps rates?). There were a few hiccups with the stream but all in all it was a pretty cool way to waste an hour on a Sunday morning.

A hectic race start as usual.

Belgian champion (and heavy favorite) Sven Nys leads world champion Lars Boom near the end of the race, however they never made it to the very front. Nys blasted out of a group and the coverage gave a good sense of what is like to try and hang on when the pace is high through the technical sections.

Niels Albert had a dominating ride and led most of the race unchallenged. It's somewhat disconcerting that he lists his favorite sportsman as "Vinokourov" on his website... hmm.

And on the subject of cyclocross, congratulations to Jamie Driscoll for winning both races in Northhampton over the weekend, another dominating performance, especially for a young rider.


Ocean reveries

MV Shamrock, moored at New Bedford, MA -- the harbor from which the Pequod set sail.

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball." Chapter 1 ("Loomings") of Moby Dick.

It's the fag end of October, the foliage has been stripped from the trees, and nights come with gusts of wind and cold rain, this morning there is a dusting of wet snow on the ground. Melville's words are apt given the time of year, and but also fit the national mood -- a case of collective 'hypos', the ceaseless drumbeat of bad news matches the dark and sullen days. Escape to the sea, or to a remote cabin off the grid somewhere, feels attractive, and my condominium, (keeping with the nautical metaphors), feels less like a place to live, and more and more like an albatross that could drag me down into the vortex... Also, as the presidential campaign reaches its climax, the candidates (especially John McCain) become Ahab-like figures, ceaselessly wandering the country, driven by a deeply personal obsession with obtaining temporal power.

I have posted a few more New Bedford photos here.


Fear and Loathing, revised and updated 2008 edition

"Richard Nixon represents the dark side of the American spirit." Hunter S. Thompson quoting Robert Kennedy

I'm waiting for the movie Gonzo to play at the Savoy, the trailer mentions that HST in his prime would have had some pertinent things to say about the current mess we're in (crowds at Palin rallies chanting "Drill Baby Drill", "We want Fox" [?!], and worse things), I tend to agree. A side note: HST gave a lecture at Vassar while I was a student there, of course I didn't go... in many ways my life is succession of missed opportunities. But I heard he was totally incoherent (higher than the proverbial kite) at the event so maybe I didn't miss much.

What the modern Republican party doesn't understand, is that in my own twisted way, I'm a "values voter" too, and the more the GOP conflates the Bible and the flag, mocks science and education, conducts whispering campaigns about the origins and religious beliefs of Barack HUSSEIN Obama -- which, I have discovered, has launched a trend on Facebook, of people listing their profile as First_name HUSSEIN Last_name -- and carries on about side issues like William Ayers -- the less interest I have in their platform and candidates. David Brooks, among other commentators, has noted how the Republicans have become a party of rubes, appealing to a small, mostly white, mostly scared, and less educated segment of an increasingly polyglot country, a party where sophistication has become a dirty word.

I think that the Republican Party is stuck in the past and is unable to move past the legacy of two disparate Presidents: Nixon and Reagan.

Tricky Dick in a skirt? Is Sarah Palin a less sophisticated, less worldly, (hopefully less corrupt? -- it would be hard to trump Nixon in this department) version of Nixon, with her embrace of the 'silent majority' and unsubtle comments about a 'real America'. And now John McCain has made "Joe the Plumber" -- largely a fictional creation -- a centerpiece of his campaign....demagoguery and nonsense. "Jeff the Recruiter" is not impressed.

The other figure who looms large over the present-day Republican Party is Ronald Reagan, who has been deified, and like other gods in the Greek and Roman Pantheon (at least Reagan was not an enthusiastic churchgoer), seemingly assigned supernatural powers, specifically in the area of cutting taxes and reducing the size of government.

This blog, it's just a diversion, not a dissertation, but it can be argued that Reaganism may have been (or perhaps not) an appropriate response to the situation in the 1980s... but how relevant is it today? This idolatrous relationship with Reagan's legacy means that the Republican party has only one answer to all sorts of problems:
  • Fighting wars abroad? Cut taxes.
  • Collapsing worldwide financial markets? Cut taxes.
  • Infrastructure crumbling? Cut taxes.
  • Need a coherent energy policy? Cut taxes.
  • Schools failing? Cut taxes.
  • etc.
It plays like a stuck record and betrays a lack of flexibility and willingness to deal with the real world, it's time to move on, the 1980's are over, and Ronald Reagan is dead.

I think Barack Obama has run a decent campaign -- both in the sense of 'competent', and also 'upstanding' -- less appealing to the dark side -- than his opponent. I don't expect miracles, nor does his oratory particularly excite me (unlike Chris Mathews), and I certainly have fond memories of the heyday of the Bill Clinton era -- booming job markets, balanced budgets, discussions about the 'end of the business cycle' & no more recessions, etc., it seems so long ago. Here's hoping...


Trail work, Woodward Mountain ski trail, 10/18/08

I spent Saturday doing trail work with some folks on the Woodward Mountain Ski Trail. After a very vibrant foliage season things are past peak and the woods are becoming more bare with each passing day. It's interesting to walk these woods when there is no snow because it's very different when snow cover smooths everything out -- when trimming branches, one tries to imagine what the trail is like, with four or five feet (or more) of snow on the ground -- "eye level" changes with the season. Despite the the fact that it was the first day for moose hunting the woods were pretty quiet, at least on this stretch of trail.

Volunteers watch as a downed tree is cut up with a chainsaw. If the coming season turns out to be a good snow year (like last winter) I look forward to spending plenty of time on my skis -- work, due to the meltdown in the financial sector and the widespread collateral damage throughout the economy, promises to be rather slow.