Remembering 8/23

Thanks be to Chad Lewis for alerting me to this story that should be a wake-up call to all freedom-loving Americans. In Vancouver, Wash. squirrels were responsible for a power outage that affected more than 3,000 electric customers, according to the Columbian.

U.S. Government Surveillance Photos show squirrels at training camps in Bingen, Wash.

The last line of the story reads:

The squirrels were electrocuted.

We can thank heavens for that. Earlier in the story we were warned of the squirrels’ menacing presence and the fruitlessness of any thoughts of complete eradication. Mick Shutt of Clark Public Utilities speaks a truth I believe we should come to accept.

“You can’t keep them out of everything,” Shutt said.

It’s time to acknowledge just how much a menace packs of squirrels are. Sure, you may know one who is a decent rodent who seems to be no more harm than a few holes in the side of your house. But before you know it they’re executing incidents like the one this week in which a suicide rodent inconvenienced thousands of Clark County residents. Let us not forget the tragedy that was August 23, 2007.

And yet, we must carry on with our lives as normal. For if we refuse to set our electric alarm clocks for fear squirrels will attack again and make us late for work, well then my friends, the squirrels will have already won.

A Win-Lose Job

Thanks to a post on Jim Thomsen’s blog, I was inspired to create a list of cities (which you can see by clicking the “continued” button below) I stayed in because of a job I had for two years not long after college.

salesmanAmerican Business Seminars sold books and tapes for hundreds of dollars, mostly to people who were desperate to find their way out of their 9-to-5 lives. The company would send about 20,000 “free” tickets in the mail and if 200 or more showed up it was considered pretty successful in terms of attendance.

Each presentation would last an hour to 90 minutes. The major portion was used to describe how the program; such as making money on real estate notes, bonds or 900 numbers, worked. Then the hook would come. If you ordered these things on the phone, it would cost $495. But because they were there at the seminar, they could get it for $295. Oh wait, how about I give you $100 toward the program. That meant coming to the back table where the speaker would hand us each $100 to go toward any person’s purchase of the program.

It was schlocky as heck. I wanted to believe it was legitimate and probably should have quit long before I did.

It’s a period in my life that is the definition of a mixed blessing. I loved the travel, but wished I’d had another way to make that happen. I was no salesman. I hated being around the sales environment and genuinely felt bad for some of the people who bought from us. A couple of people I felt so bad for that I dissuaded them from buying some of our stuff. One woman told me she had so much to spend and asked for a recommendation. What I recommended required her to return something else. Another woman would cry as she bought every book and tape we had. At the end of the seminar I tried to talk her out of some of the programs she had, but she was resolute that day. I’m sure she spent more than $2,000 that day, most of it borrowed from other people. It wasn’t one of my prouder moments and was one that haunted me for years afterward.

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Taking Requests — Barry Bonds

Sitting in Red Robin in Vancouver, Washington last week I looked up at one of the televisions and it was clear Barry Bonds had broken the home run record. I wrote a little thing about vacation last week, but Brant is asking for thoughts on Barry. What I’ll say is something I know has already been said, except for one thing.

churchbarryFor one, I don’t think God approves. Hat tip to Jim Thomsen for providing the link to the church sign generator.

What struck me the most about Barry’s moment was that I did stay up extra late that night to catch the full report on ESPN, but once I saw it I felt nothing. I get off on these things, too. I still cry when I see Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 series. I was ecstatic when Cal Ripken managed to break the consecutive game record. When Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record, I was all over that. I love sports and I have a pretty big emotional attachment to players and teams. Yet the same night that Bonds broke the record, what really got me charged was Roger Clemens plunking a Blue Jay after one of their pitchers hit A-Rod for the second time in the series. Clemens’ pitch was perfect. It was exciting.

Also odd was that Barry acted every bit the class act on his night. Had we seen any evidence of that class over the past two decades I’m sure I would have cared at least a little. But Bonds has always been a malcontent. He’s a jerk. If he ran against George W. Bush for president I’d vote for Nader.

None of that would have mattered, though, had it not been for the steroids. He can claim all he wants that he didn’t knowingly use steroids, because he didn’t want to know. I’m prosecuting him without benefit of a trial, I know, but I think Barry had every reason to suspect that what he was using wasn’t kosher.

On Thomsen’s blog a lot of people don’t care, but here’s why it matters to me. I’m all for any performance enhancing substance or activity that also improves life in general, or at least poses no threat. That way, no one is forced to make the decision as to whether the price is worth paying. Of course it is. So if all the athletes were using performance enhancers that didn’t threaten to shrink their testicles while enlarging their heads (a pretty sad tradeoff I think we’d all agree), then I’d be for it. Hell, I’d take them myself to make me work better in the yard. The problem is steroids do exact a cost, which forces some people to stay away from them, giving those who will take the risk an unfair advantage.

I like what George Will wrote in December 2004:

Athletes chemically propelled to victory do not merely overvalue winning, they misunderstand why winning is properly valued. Professional athletes stand at an apex of achievement because they have paid a price in disciplined exertion — a manifestation of good character. They should try to perform unusually well. But not unnaturally well. Drugs that make sport exotic drain it of its exemplary power by making it a display of chemistry rather than character — actually, a display of chemistry and bad character.

It’s why guys like Dale Murphy, who in the early part of the 1980s was the most feared hitter in baseball, don’t really get serious consideration for the Hall of Fame. Murphy’s presence was diminishing when Jose Canseco arrived and changed the game. Still, they overlapped, and Murphy is overlooked. I can’t argue that Murphy would have been a shoe-in, but his 398 career home runs doesn’t seem Hall worthy at all, especially when he’s behind Rafael Palmeiro, Andres Galaragga and Canseco.

What bothers me most is what Bonds did to the record itself. The career home run mark was called by many the most sacred individual record in the sport, perhaps in all of sports. We should have cared. I should have cared. Now, I could not care less.

Mostly Cloudy

I find myself in Southwest Washington on a little thing called “vacation.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. When you have a regular job that pays you money and for most of your fistula surgeries, one of the requirements is that you spend a designated number of days the hell away from the office. Now that I have five years with my current version of The Man, I am ordered to vacate the premises for four weeks a year. I’m in the middle of week one and boy has it been exciting! I finished a book, I’ve slept late and driven around some. We’re kind of into vacation on the cheap right now, which means our friends become our hoteliers. The beds are so-so, but the concierge is top notch.

seasideOur plan was to go to Seaside, Oregon for a night or two. It’s August and most summer days are sunny, even in the Pacific Northwest. We pictured walks along the beach with the kids playing in the sand. It’s a trip we’ve taken several times before and most times the summer weather has cooperated. I’ve been in the rain on the coast in the summer, but it never lingers.

Not so this week.

cloudyInstead, the clouds have been heavy. If we had hotel reservations we would have gone anyway. But we didn’t, and the place we normally go to is full this week. So we’re waiting for better weather to take the 90-minute or more drive. In the meantime the sun has broken through here around Portland, so our hopes are high for a decent day.

It hasn’t always taken a decent day to get me there.

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