Recently in Americana Category
I am off to a special town meeting here in out little New Hampshire town to discuss a matter of great import - the replacement or refurbishment of one of our fire department's pumpers.
While this matter had been discussed and voted on during our regular town meeting back in February and March, the voters decided not to replace the 25-year old fire engine and considered having it repaired for a fraction of the cost of a new pumper. But the idea foundered when it was found the old pumper was in far worse shape than originally reported. And since the town can't make capital expenditures of this magnitude without a town meeting to discuss the matter and a follow-on vote the following month, our selectmen decided to call a special town meeting. They petitioned the court for permission to hold a town meeting off of the regular schedule and received the court's blessing to do so. (Towns can't just call a town meeting at anytime other than the designated dates, unless an emergency or other immediate need requires it. In this case the replacement of a vital piece of life-saving equipment was seen as meeting the conditions to allow this special town meeting to be held.)
I expect there will be lively discussions and debate at this meeting, if not some acrimony. (A lengthy series of letters to the editor in both of our local newspapers created an atmosphere that generated a lot of the aforementioned acrimony.)
If nothing else, it will be interesting evening.
And so it goes in small town America.
Deb and I ventured into the Halls of Justice today, getting our day in traffic court. (Deb got a parking ticket for parking out in front of The Manse in the midst of a snowstorm last February. She couldn't make it into the driveway after getting home from work after midnight.) Yes, the wheels of justice do grind slowly, but we still got our day in court.
Deb wanted to fight the ticket on principle as she felt there was no way she should have gotten a ticket for that.
We arrived at the local court house, waited until we could meet with the police officer from our local PD (they often act as prosecutors for traffic court), going over the facts of the case. There were two things that helped us out: the officer was quite familiar with our part of town, understanding the problems we deal with in regards to the effects of winter weather on our roads and driveways; he and I were well acquainted.
After reviewing the facts of the case he simply said "This is dumb. There's no way a citation should have been issued. A warning would have sufficed under the circumstances." And just that quickly we were done, other than a brief appearance before the presiding judge to get his blessings on the resolution of our case.
The advice the officer gave before we left: "If you have to park where you did the last time due to the weather, give the PD a call and let them know you're leaving the vehicle there. There should be no problem."
And so ended our latest venture into the legal system of the state of New Hampshire.
Somehow I doubt the strip clubs in Charlotte are looking for any Debby Wasserman Shultz look-alikes for the DNC convention....though I might want to see her rather than Octomom Nadya Suleman. But at least Nadya is off of welfare now that she's stripping and doing porn.
How many idioms that were quite common in the not-so-distant past have become obsolete or at least refer to obsolete technology? Quite a few. PC World magazine has compiled a short list of some that may still be used, but many of those using them have no idea to what they refer.
A couple of my favorites:
2. "Kodak moment"There are plenty more in the article and commenters suggested a few of their own.
You know it when you see it. Nope, I'm not talking about porn: I'm talking that picture-perfect moment you wish you could capture on film, the Kodak moment. But with Kodak filing for bankruptcy and shuttering services, it seems like we're going to need a new name for those photo-ready moments. Hey, I hear the name Polaroid is available...or maybe not.
11. "Drop a dime"
The phrase "drop a dime" has a couple of different meanings. It can be used as a way of saying "get in touch," but it also can be used to describe betraying someone, or turning them in to the cops. However you use the phrase, though, know this: It originated from a time when you had to drop a dime into a pay phone in order to make a phone call. If you don't know what a pay phone is, well, I can't talk to you.
One of my favorites goes back to World War II, that being "The whole nine yards", referring the 27 feet (or nine yards) of belt-fed ammo used by Allied fighter aircraft machine guns. A pilot saying "I gave him the whole nine yards" meant he emptied his machine guns at his target until he was out of ammo.
Enough of that as I don't want to end up sounding like a broken record (#1 on the list). After all, the list is nothing to write home about (#10) and is definitely not front page news (#5).
But then I came across this over at Maggie's Farm and it struck such a chord in me I had to watch it again and again. And every time I watched it I became both angrier and sadder at the same time.
While this video did not come from a real debate (it's from a new HBO series The Newsroom), the fact that this character spoke his mind rather than act like a gladhanding politician by giving a 'safe' answer in order to at least not lose ground to his competitors shows that at least in some screenwriter's mind, someone recognizes the problem we have with this nation. (I am not a fan of HBO, particularly after the hatchet job they did on Sarah Palin.)
It all comes down to this, as expressed by one commenter on the original YouTube page:
We WERE the greatest country in the world until socialism, lawyers, unions, and television lulled us into mediocrity. They convinced us to give up our lofty pursuits for the security of never failing.While the sentiment is a little simplistic, it does get to the heart of the matter. Over the last 5 decades we have been told by our supposed 'betters' that by merely being American that we are somehow inherently evil, that we must pay for the crimes of our long-dead forebears and that we must apply late 20th/early 21st century 'sensibilities' to 18th, 19th, and early 20th century actions, laws, and morality. How incredibly stupid is that?
But we've seen this kind of stupidity multiplying over the years and the fact that it no longer surprises me brought me up short. When did I get so jaded that I no longer point out such stupidity?
It's been a while since I've pointed it out and ended up looking through the Weekend Pundit archives and came across something I posted a little over three years ago. It illustrates just how much damage we have allowed to be done to this once great nation, how we've been fooled into becoming nothing but a mediocre nation more concerned with feelings and not about facts.
Unless we change that this nation will go out with a whimper, and woe to us if that is the case.
To say that people between the Carolinas and New Jersey are upset that power hasn't yet been restored would be an understatement. But then Mother Nature wreaked destruction over such a wide area that even with the help from out-of-state and out-of-country (Canada) work crews, it will take time to make all the repairs required to get the power back on. But this outage has given the people affected a lesson of what their lives will be like on a permanent basis should the aforementioned We-Gotta-Save-The-Earth wackos succeed in their efforts.
In regards to the widespread outages, more than a few people have suggested burying all of the power lines. While it makes sense in some circumstances, I doubt it's practical for all power lines. Most of the residential developments over the past 20 years or so have buried the low-voltage and medium-voltage utility lines, doing away with all of the overhead wires and cables. But burying other medium and high-voltage distribution lines or long-haul high-voltage lines may not be practical from a technological or financial point of view. However it never hurts to take a look at something like that.
Another possible solution: small self-contained nuclear power plants with between 50 and 100 Mwe generating capacity. More plants spread out over wide area might make the electrical grid less vulnerable to inclement weather, terrorist actions, or alien attack. I don't know if it would help against an EMP attack or massive solar flare, but it might. Call it something to think about.
It's time to party like it's 1776!
No post last night as I was out and about with two blokes from my company's European affiliate. Mark and Simon are from the UK and will be servicing our equipment rather than having European customers shipping their instruments all the way back to the US for service or calibration.
I took them out to one of our local favorite places to eat and then down to Weirs Beach, the center of activity for Motorcycle Week. (It was a bit deserted due to some of the rain that started early yesterday evening. It's also a bit early to see the large crowds, which should start arriving in earnest tomorrow.)
Neither Mark or Simon have been to the US before, so it was a bit eye-opening for them. They've been enjoying themselves immensely, taking particular delight in the food. One thing they find truly different: free refills of their coffee when dining. It just isn't done in Europe!
Deb and I are out and about tonight, going over to one of our favorite eating establishments before heading over to our local concert venue to see Crosby, Stills & Nash. (As both Deb and a friend from work have dubbed it: Crosby, Stills & Nash - The Geriatric Tour.)
It's going to be a great night out!
And I have to ask this of the ACLU: Show me the so-called "separation of church and state laws" you've cited as you reason for pursuing the case in question.
All we have to remember is that in general the ACLU is not your friend nor does it have anything to civil liberties. Mostly it deals with taking them away all in the name of "fairness", and we all know where that leads.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-It is Memorial Day.
It is a day to remember the honored dead, those who gave their lives to keep us free.
It often is a day of parades, memorial services, speeches, and memories.
This year, it was also the day of the funeral of Gilmanton, NH native PFC Nicholas R. Cournoyer, with 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, New York. Nicholas died while serving in Iraq.
My family and I went to have breakfast at the Paugus Diner late this morning. As we were eating we saw a number of people carrying American flags gathering outside the entrance of the Bayside Cemetery in Laconia. Some folks in the diner thought that they must be getting ready for a Memorial Day parade. But one of the waitresses informed them that PFC Cournoyer was going to be laid to rest.
All I had to do was look at Deb and she knew what it is I wanted to do.
I quickly finished my meal, paid the check, and walked out to the road, joining a number of others there waiting for the funeral cortège to arrive. Deb and BeezleBub joined me a few minutes later once they finished their meals.
We heard the procession long before we saw it.
The rumble of dozens of motorcycles came closer, led by the Laconia and Belmont PD motorcycle units. A small number of cars followed them. And then, curiously, a white pickup truck with rock and roll music blaring from its windows approached. It wasn't until it was almost even with us that we could see that it carried the flag draped casket of PFC Cournoyer. Somehow the music seemed fitting. Someone in the crowd said that it was Nicholas' favorite.
A long white limousine followed the pickup close behind.
As the casket-bearing truck pulled even with us, Deb and BeezleBub put their hands over their hearts and I removed my hat and placed it over my heart. It was then that my vision blurred and I realized tears were running down my face. I looked to Deb and saw that she too was crying. I put my arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to me. We continued to watch the procession as it entered the cemetery. More than 200 vehicles filed past.
The parades, the speeches, the memorial services that denote Memorial Day became all the more poignant for the funeral of PFC Nicholas R. Cournoyer. For today, we remember the honored dead.
This one was near and dear to my heart, dealing with seasonal visitors opining how great it would be to "live out in the country." The problem is that quite often they don't have a clue what that entails.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-Have any of you urban or suburban dwellers out there have ever wondered what it would be like to live out in the country? I hear this quite often from visitors to this state. Usually it's from someone spending a week or two of their vacation time at the lakes, up in the mountains, at some campground in one of the many forests, or at one of the ski resorts. All they've seen or experienced of New Hampshire (or Vermont, Maine, or upstate New York) in the limited time they're here is what is aimed at the tourist trade.
Many have no concept what it means to live someplace where pizza parlors and Chinese restaurants don't deliver; where the nearest convenience store might be 20 miles away down a dirt road; where winters can be harsh and deadly; and where you haul your own trash to the dump. There are no Starbucks, Taco Bells, or tofu burgers. The closest thing to a Sak's Fifth Avenue is the L.L. Bean outlet store in one of the shopping meccas in the heart of tourist country.
Most have never experienced cabin fever after being stuck inside for a week or more because of the brutally cold temperatures and heavy snowfalls in the winter. The same can also be said of mid-spring - the black flies are out in force making any time spent outside uncomfortable to an extreme.
Few are cut out for small town life, where everybody knows your business. For some of us hardy Yankees, it's no big thing. But for others it can be quite trying. Up here, neighbors watch out for neighbors, even if that neighbor lives on the other side of town.
Some people have trouble with the concept of town meeting, where the residents of the town gather once a year to decide how the town will or will not spend their tax dollars. It can be a very personal thing, town meeting. Though it is local government at its best, people also have to contend with egos, feuds, and the ubiquitous anti-flatlander mentality. Most new folks make the almost fatal mistake their first time speaking at town meeting by starting their remarks with, "Back where I come from....". Most folks at town meeting could care less about where you come from or what you did there, unless you're going to use the reference to show how something the town is thinking of doing is a bad idea. Then they might let you get away with it. Maybe.
Something many others moving to the country end up learning the hard way is this: Never piss off the Town Clerk, the Road Agent, or the Police Chief (assuming the town actually has a police department). Getting on their bad side can make living in a small town an extremely uncomfortable and frustrating experience.
One thing anyone wanting to move out to the country will have to get used to is guns. Lot's of folks around here own guns for hunting, protection, or just plain plinking. By association, they'll also have to get used to the various hunting seasons. Getting all misty-eyed about the Big Bad Hunters out stalking Bambi so they can carve him in to venison steaks will earn you no points up here. It's more likely to get you talked about.
And one other thing: You are expected to take responsibility for your own actions. It's not 'society's fault'. It's not because your mother didn't breastfeed you. It's not because you ate too many Twinkies. That kind of pseudo-psychological BS won't fly out here in the sticks. Folks out in the country don't have time for it. We're too busy making a living, raising our kids, working on our homes, and paying our taxes.
If all of that sounds appealing to you, then we'll welcome you with open arms. Otherwise, don't even think of moving to any place like this. You'll hate it.
She reminds me of a young Catherine O'Hara.
At first I thought it was just me, being an older and much more experienced driver. Not that I am a curmudgeonly driver who loafs along at 10 to 20 miles per hour under the speed limit just to be safe. On the contrary, I tend to be one of those driving just above the speed limit and often get impatient with drivers who can't make up their minds about what they're going to do.
Lately I've noticed that drivers in general have become more aggressive, less attentive, and prone to doing more stupid things. Like I said, at first I thought it was just me, perhaps lapsing into that aforementioned curmudgeonly behavior. But after a discussion with a number of co-workers at lunch earlier today, I knew others had seen it too.
This was brought home to me this afternoon after work as I was making my way to the local BJ's for my usual bi-weekly purchase of bulk items. In the stretch between work and BJ's I came across eight different drivers who were pushing the limits on safe and/or courteous driving.
The worst offender was a young driver, likely in his teens, who had a tough time maintaining lane discipline. In one two mile stretch he crossed over the double yellow line into the oncoming lane a half dozen times and darn near ran off the road and onto the shoulder at least 4 times. I don't know if he was texting or fiddling with his iPod, but something sure as heck was distracting him. Another thing: he couldn't keep his speed where it should have been, varying between 20 miles per hour below the speed limit to 10 above. I finally managed to ditch him at the traffic lights at the junction of one of the state highways. He went straight and I turned right. (It was there that I found out he was a young driver. At first I thought he might have been elderly or drunk and incapable of operating a motor vehicle. But it turned out he was just dumb.)
My second memorable encounter occurred on my way home from BJ's. It was at three different sets of traffic lights between BJ's and a stretch of highway that bypasses downtown Laconia that a driver laid on his horn if the cars in front of him didn't move the microsecond the light changed to green. Mind you, it wasn't that there was a two or three second delay after the light changed before the first couple of cars would start to move, causing this guy to hit the horn. He started on his horn the instant the light changed. Farther up the road he would pass cars in front of him, sometimes forcing them to take evasive action to keep from being run off the road or hitting his car. At the next light the same thing would happen: light changes, horn starts blaring, jerk starts trying to pass traffic as soon as there's even a smidgen of space for him to force his way in.
Ironically, once we got to one of the local malls he pulled into the mall and raced up to the drive-up window lane at the Dunkin' Donuts. Was he really that desperate for a caffeine and donut fix?
About 4 miles from home I came across another driver who seemed to think it was necessary to swing wide in the opposite direction of the turn they wanted to take. It's one thing if they were towing a trailer and needed to make a wider than normal turn to accommodate the additional length of the trailer behind them, but this wasn't the case. They were driving a Jetta.
Three times I saw this driver make the wide swinging turn. (Unfortunately they appear to live somewhere in my neighborhood which is why I saw this action more than once, though I didn't recognize the car.)
I've seen more incidents of incipient road rage, rudeness, impatience, and outright stupidity in the past six months than I usually see in six years. I wonder what's been causing this?
Now you may wonder why I've mentioned this. It's simple.
The contractor who built this house must have been schizophrenic.
The Manse, as well as the homes on either side, were built by a contractor who is presently enjoying a stay at one of our fine state institutions...as an inmate.
The Manse shows signs of the same kind of personality as the contractor. Some things were really well done and the craftsmanship shows. Others leave you scratching your head wondering what the hell they were thinking when they were building this place. (I seem to recall that I've covered this subject some time in the past, but no matter. It's still kind of interesting.) Some examples of this dichotomy:
There are aforementioned coat hook boards. The rest of the mud room is well done, but they were too lazy to use a stud-finder to put the mounting screws into the studs.That's just a few things we've found that are quirky about The Manse. I could easily go on another few hundred words describing the schizophrenic nature of this house before I even got to the dumb/weird things around the outside. Maybe that's a topic for another post.
Another mudroom issue: the door leading to the front is solid metal. The door leading to the rear has glass to let light in. Both the front and the back door should have glass (at least that's what was on the plans I saw). Glass on both doors would let the maximum amount of light in during the day, doing away with the need to turn the lights on when the sun is up. (The back door only lets light in only during the late afternoon or early evening, depending upon the time of year. Otherwise it's dark in the mudroom.)
The arrangement of the light switches is strange. Generally, when someone turns on the closest switch just inside the door of a room, it turns on the lights, either ceiling lights of a lamp plugged into a wall socket on the other side of the room. Not in The Manse. Instead, in more than half the rooms the switch turns on the ceiling fan. I guess they figured the ceiling fan was far more important than lights.
If there are more then one set of lights that are controlled by a series of switches on the wall, you'd expect the closest switch would turn on the closest lights and the farthest switch would turn on the lights farthest away. Nope, not in this house. (This is certainly the case with the switches just inside the kitchen next to the mudroom entrance.)
Then there's the 'phantom' switch. It's next to the triple light switches at the front door. In all this time I haven't been able to figure out what it's supposed to control. I've taken off the cover to see if it's even connected to the house wiring and it is. But in the seven years we've resided in The Manse we haven't been able to figure out what it's supposed to do. (After talking to friends and family about this I think that everyone's home has at least one phantom switch.)
Staying with the electrical system theme, there's the outside lights. The two lampposts at the top and bottom of the driveway and the floodlights on the side of the garage all have the same flaw: they have to be plugged in to turn them on. There are no light switches. (No, the phantom switch doesn't control the outside electrical socket into which the lampposts are plugged.) The lampposts do have light sensors on them, meaning they'll turn on automatically when it gets dark out. But we don't use them all that often. In fact they're on primarily during the winter when BeezleBub and I are clearing snow from the driveway at night. The floodlights are usually on for the same reason. (The floodlights are plugged in inside the garage, but it's a tight squeeze between the wall and the trusty F150, making it difficult to reach the plug at times.)
Another quirk: the plumbing. While the plumbing system is exceptional - PEX tubing running to both cold and hot water plenums, each tube with its own shutoff petcock - the routing leaves something to be desired. In two instances the plumbing contractor could have done a better job of routing some of the tubing. In the master bathroom it is not uncommon for the water lines to the shower and bathtub to freeze during below zero nights. Occasionally the lines to the sink also freeze up. It wasn't until we suffered our little water leak debacle last year that we discovered the tubing had been run along an uninsulated exterior joist below the bathroom.
Then there's insulation. There's plenty in the walls and the attic/eaves/roof. There was none along the rim joists (that's where the frame of the house meets the foundation), something I took care of the first year we were here. But after our water leak debacle, we found there's none between the first and second floor, something that has become de rigeur since the 90's. I think the only reason we hadn't noticed it before is because the second floor has thick wall-to-wall carpeting. (That could also be the reason the contractor didn't put any insulation in between floors.)
Town meetings have been in full swing since late last week here in New Hampshire. Many take place this week, this coming weekend, and next week.
It is American democracy writ small.
My little town had its town elections today, where our townspeople elected some town officials, voted on the the town and school budgets, and approved or disapproved various warrant articles that dealt with everything from buying a new fire truck to funding some non-governmental agencies to changing how the town sets up default budgets to imposing a property tax cap.
This election has probably garnered more voter attention than some I've seen in the past. I had to wait in line for a voting booth to open up, as did a number of other townsfolk. When I voted (just after work) over 1400 ballots had already been cast and there was still a couple of hours left until the polls closed. The parking lot outside our middle school, the town's polling place, was rapidly filling up as I left after voting.
It will be interesting to see which warrant articles passed and those that didn't.
One last thing -
As the saying goes here, "If you didn't vote at town meeting, then you have no right to complain about how things turned out."
The WP Niece has returned from her tour of duty in Afghanistan and is now with the WP In Laws in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Her e-mails and pictures kept us up to date on the goings on in the small Afghan village where she and two other Army women made their home. Despite the preparation by the Army before they deployed, the culture shock was still surprising to her (and to us).
But now she's home.
Thank god for her safe return!
He brings up a number of good points. Ironically he mentions the Howard Beal rant, which is just as germane today as it was back in 1976.
(H/T Parkway Rest Stop)
I have no idea how much preparation went into the production, but it looks to me like they spent a lot of time considering the amount of set up required and the unusual means they used to make their music. If nothing else it's quite clever.