Sunday, January 21, 2018

Leave the stick on the ground.

Dear Blog Reader.

I hope this finds you doing well. It leaves my computer doing just fine. I am in the middle of a beer and Oreos weekend as the lovely Miss Beverly has traveled to Austin, Texas to further hone her superhuman teaching skills. What is a beer and Oreos weekend? A previous post in this blog provided a complete treatise of the topic a few years ago. Look through the archives; March 31, 2012 to be exact. It does give you pause to think that you have been entertaining yourselves by reading these missives for more that 5 years.

The lovely Miss Beverly’s absence marks a perfect storm. A political event has happened this past week that makes me want to explode and low and behold there is no moderating influence from Bev.

So be forewarned. I am getting ready to let it rip about a political topic. If this is not your cup of tea, or you are tired about the constant political polarization, you may want to tune out.

While the rest of the world was worried about Trump’s vulgar characterization of many 3rd world countries, our fellow Americans in the 50th state were running for their lives after a hapless employee of the state of Hawaii was pushing the “Kiss your a#@ goodbye” button multiple times.

When did we become a failed superpower? Whether or not N. Korea has the missile and nuclear technology to reach Hawaii or even California, we believe that they can. The state government of Hawaii believed that they could. By definition, if you have an early warning system, you believe that it is a probability. You could argue that they were monitoring the Russians or the Chinese. However, everyone I know thought that those missiles had the N. Korean flag stenciled on their side.

Sure, there is outrage over the mistake that was made. The lovely Miss Beverly and I were retreating to an inn on the shores of Lake Indiana (very romantic). We were watching a Sunday morning news show. The talking head told us that the idiot felt “terrible” because of his actions. The written word cannot do justice to the inflection given to the word terrible. It was the same inflection that I used early in our marriage when I felt “terrible” about forgetting the lovely Miss Beverly’s birthday. But really is feeling “terrible” adequate, when you have sent 1.5 million people heading for the exits. Once again government providing evidence that they have no aptitude for competence.

A brief aside here. I know that I have been temped from time to time to think that Israel overreacts just a bit. Her enemies would never want to use a nuclear device against her. Right? We know now that we believe our enemies would use one against us. The Israelis wouldn’t have to wait 30 minutes for the warning to be withdrawn. In 30 minutes, their shooting war would be over. New policy; if Israel doesn’t want to allow her enemies to have nuclear weapons, more power to them.

If we would have had the same policy, North Korea would not have menaced our population on a January Saturday morning. It is clear that we let them have nuclear missiles. You could argue that with your logic Roger we could have kept Russia, or the Chinese from the nuclear club. You would be wrong but there is nothing lost in the argument. We were not powerful enough to stop their development at the time. It takes inordinate power to stop that kind of development. We were not in position to stop near equals from developing powerful weapons. But North Korea was not our near equal. They still aren’t but they can bloody our nose with a terribly powerful weapon.

But our leaders, opened the door. Through a lack of wisdom and will, we said go ahead and develop nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes. I know who these leaders were. I would name them but I choose to teach you to fish instead of giving you a fish. Look it up. Besides, it wouldn’t matter if I told you who it was. If you believe something different, you would blame it on the other side. Whatever. It really doesn’t matter. But you and I both know that the situation has crystallized for our Hawaiian friends. And it should crystallize for all of us.

While my fellow Americans were putting their children into sewers, I was on a walk through the woods receiving an epiphany. There was a young boy who had trouble focusing walking with the group. He was all over the place. Just a little disruptive but not too bad. Certainly, no restraint was being exerted on the child. Who knows why? He’s inquisitive. It is a big area. Show a little forbearance, he’s not really hurting any thing. After a while, he picked up a stick. Sure enough a few minutes later, someone was crying with a bloody lip. The boy felt “terrible”. It was an accident. “I just picked up the stick and held it over my head and it fell into his face.”

You know what? Some people should never be allowed to have a stick. And society needs to be wise enough and strong enough to say put the damned thing down.

Take care.

Roger



Saturday, January 6, 2018

Sharritt 2017 Christmas letter

Dear Sharritt Friends.

The Sharritt clan is gathered around the Nintendo console on a cold, cold, cold New Years Day. The lovely Miss Beverly and I have entered the stage in our lives where compromises are needed to help everyone to meet Christmas family goals. So we had New Christmas Years Day this year. It was a lovely evening sitting around a grilled salmon, Chinese dumpling supper going through our fondest memories of the past year.

It was a year of addition and subtraction. The handsome Benjamin invited the lovely Miss Lisa to share in the Sharritt clan. It was the perfect 78 degree July 8th day. That is right. 78 degrees was the high for the day. It was unbelievable. I had to ditch the tank top, flip-flops and shorts that I had threatened to wear upon hearing that the Low-Sharritt’s had chosen July 8th for an outdoor wedding and reception at the farm. Were they crazy? No, it turns out that they were inspired.


The day provided a treasure trove of memories; the whole clan under the wedding meadow oak tree, the traditional Chinese blessing ceremony, and sharing the house with the  bridesmaids while making preparations
leading up to the wedding. The setting was perfect except for the 3-inch rain the evening before that forced the rehearsal inside and whose run off left a 2-inch stream of water running right through the seating area on the day of the blessed event. I had my suspicions and went to the wedding meadow at 7:00 a.m. with a good friend and 2 sump pumps. The two pumps only slowed the stream. So I headed upstream with a shovel and channeling my inner 5 year old, I played in the water, digging drainage ditches for about 100 yards. And viola, while a bit of a high heel hazard no one got their feet wet. By the time these two great-nieces were peering into the wedding mirror the stories of epic ditch digging were entering into annals of Sharritt myth. The couple will finish the school year in Bloomington, then move this summer for Lisa to pursue a Ph.D. in creative writing.

Grace and Chris continue to turn Michigan on its mittened thumb. Grace loves herding cats, commonly known as American Cancer Society Relay For Life volunteers. She loves the work and is always touched by the survivor stories and moved to tears as some volunteers lose their fight with this disease that affects so many people. Chris graduated from law school in May and proved that he had learned the secret lawyer handshake by passing the bar. He is now a full-fledged lawyer working as a clerk for a federal appeals court judge in East Lansing.

In April, we exercised our “at the end of the driveway” philosophy. JD became our foster child in a relationship that has endured through to the end of the year. He has found that he has an aptitude for wrestling and enjoys his nickname Hoss. Brother Aaron and Dr. Dave from church have been a good listening ear during this time. At times we hear about “how disruptive it must be” to have a 15-year-old suddenly come to live with you. It is. But it isn’t nearly as disruptive as being moved from your house away from your three brothers and sisters into a place where the old farts you’re living with like to go to bed at 8:30 at night and wakes up at 4:30 in the morning. What’s up with that? He does love to cook and bake. Last week he introduced the 3 lbs giant hamburger as the new Sharritt Christmas tradition and last night provided the 4 1/2 star brownies for New Years Eve dessert.

Viki and Vaeh, the two girls that we had in our home through Safe Families a couple of years ago, are still in our lives. They inspired the lovely Miss Beverly to start flower farming and selling bouquets at farmer’s market in an Indianapolis neighborhood. You see the girls are growing into lovely young women. As they do so, they become more concerned about their smile and how crooked teeth affects their self-esteem. While they were with us, we found a program that provided orthodonture for kids who can’t afford it. We got them on the waiting list. However, the list is long; over two years. So all of the profits from selling bouquets go to the orthodonture fund. Plus, the lovely Miss Beverly uses the opportunity to teach 12 and 13-year-olds what it is like to spend a few hours without a cell phone and work.

Bev finished her first year as a PATINS employee. PATINS provides technical advice and support to school corporations providing services to make learning accessible to all. If a microscope projector makes it easier to see the structure of a cell wall for a student with low vision, throw the image up on the wall and everyone can see the same thing only better. Pursuing the best technology requires Bev going to conferences in warm places in winter. She also travels throughout the state. As she helps teachers solve classroom challenges, they discuss the best pie place in town. Her list continues to grow and is kept on a map on her office wall. Who knows maybe she will publish it someday as more and more locations of fine pie treasures are identified. 

While I still work for the state, I have changed roles and have gone from operations to join a team of people who are working at implementing a new computer system to take the department forward for the next 20 years.
It is a good opportunity. The big news is all of the hobbies that I have now, woodworking, beekeeping, flower farming, bike riding, blog writing, and firewood cutting. It is a wonder that I have time to make it to work five days a week. I think that it may be too much at times, especially, when I am working feverishly to finish chess sets for Chris and Ben for Christmas. I just kept thinking that we really should make that elf on the shelf get to work in the shop making presents for good girls and boys. There is no time for idle loafing here.

Finally, 2017 will be the year that the lovely Miss Beverly’s mother, Bonnie passed away at the age of 85. She had outlasted the hip that was replaced 20 years earlier and needed a new one to ease the debilitating pain that was constant for her. She came through the surgery fine, but complications set in and the anesthesia from subsequent procedures continued to weaken her kidneys and she passed four weeks later. In spite of the sadness accompanying such a loss, one of Bev’s fondest memories from the year was spending time with Bonnie in the hospital. They would wake up at the same time with a nurse’s coming or
going and take the next hour or so sharing a lifetime of memories before slipping back into sleep.

As always, it has been great reading your stories, notes, and cards during this Christmas season. We know that you too have experienced additions and subtractions during the past year.  We hope that both have provided blessings that overflow into the next year and see you to a blessed 2018.

Take care

Roger, Bev and J.D.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

End of (Dog) Days

Dear Blog Reader.

I hope that this finds you doing well. I am fine. I have survived a week that I am quickly coming to know as “My Week as a Country Song.” It isn’t a Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, or Kenny Chesney country song. No it was a Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, or Conway Twitty country song kind of a week. 

It started with sitting in the Indianapolis International Airport listening to gate attendants tell me and my work mates that the part to get the landing gear to retract was on its way and as soon as it arrived they would get a mechanic from a rival airline to come over on a Sunday night and replace it out of the goodness of their heart. So “no the flight isn’t cancelled it is just delayed,” was the refrain of this country ballad. “We expect to get you on your way at 5:00. No wait; 6:00, Ah let’s make that 7:00. So please don’t leave the airport or reschedule your flight.” Finally, at 8:00 the harried counter person says, “it looks like the flight is cancelled. We can get you on a 5:45 flight in the morning.” To which I responded, “I know that you did not make up the lies and may even have thought that you were doing your job but does your soul die just a little bit every time you have to treat people like you have this evening?”

So my alarm went off at 2:45. I sat bolt upright in bed and got up to get on a plane for a one day business trip to South Carolina with a return flight that evening at 6:00 p.m.  Mission accomplished. The people of South Carolina were delightful. We learned a lot. It was even pretty good to see how well the members of our work team came together and dealt with a certain amount of adversity and didn’t add to the drama.

Tuesday arrived, and as I was heading out the door for work, Henry our old Jack Russel Terrier lurched up out of his dog bed. Lurching is not his usual method for rising and shining so I was concerned. I watched him for a few moments and decided that his stiff gait was not the usual I am 13 years old and “I am a bit stiff” kind of a gait. The lovely Miss Beverly and I had a consultation and she had the time to get him into the vet for a checkup. We feared that it was bad, but I was out the door heading for work. Ten miles from home, Bev calls and says it is very bad. “Henry can’t move and appears to be in a great deal of pain.”

Turning the car around, I headed home to comfort Bev and help make difficult decisions about Henry. We knew that he had not been feeling well lately. But this was decidedly worse. I got home and he was in bad bad shape. He could not walk. He was in bad pain. Bev was comforting him wrapped in a blanket on the kitchen floor. It was time.

I have always had trouble with a dog’s end of times issues. I am a farm boy at heart and we would never have taken our dogs to the vet to be put down. Not because we were cheap but because they were our dogs and our responsibility. Yet, I have grown up in a world where there is pet insurance, pet insulin, doggy daycare, and a host of other enhancements to a dogs life. Shoot when I was growing up, dog movies were about dying dogs now they are about reincarnated dogs saving our lives. Times have changed.

I cannot speak for anyone else when I write this. I have followed the evolved world’s view on dog care and have asked the vet to end some of our dog’s days. A few years ago we had a vet end Millie’s suffering. I have never been at peace with that decision. I know that to end a pet’s life in a veterinary office is the only way many people could get through the traumatic emotions due to the end of a family member’s existence. I get it.

For me, that one time left a gap, a hole that can’t be filled. He took her back to a room and then she was gone. I don’t know how it works now but back then she was suddenly a biohazard and was disposed of properly. 

Since Millie, we have always taken matters into our own hands and put our severely injured or dying dogs down. From time to time, we have had dogs who showed the lovely Miss Beverly and I the kindness of leaving unannounced. One day they were here. That evening they were not. Our farm is in a rough and tumble neighborhood. The coyotes sing every time a train passes a quarter mile to the South. Recently, Lucy and Henry’s brother, Hugo left that way. While there wasn’t much closure, I always thought that they left on the hunt, hackles raised and  ready to do some damage. I was good with that. That wasn’t going to be the case for Henry.

On Tuesday, I turned the car around and rushed home. I found the lovely Miss Beverly on the kitchen floor comforting Henry. There was no doubt; Henry was in pain and would not survive for another day. The wheels of death roll on a specific path. Things have to be done. The gun has to be retrieved from the barn. The bullet from a hidden spot in a closet. The shovel is pulled from the garage and a hole dug. Make it deep. Make it wide. I put it out in the rhubarb patch so there will be some good memories each late May eating pie. We gently carried Henry wrapped in a blanket to the backyard. I stop breathing at this moment. I dread the moment. I know what has to be done. The longer it takes the more Henry suffers. It is a hard calculus. In the end, you have to step up to your friend, look him in the eye and end the pain while knowing that you are ending his life.

For that I am sorry. For that I am sad. I still walk to the kitchen each evening before bed to make sure he is shut up in the mud room. I have checked his water and food bowl each morning this week, and to be honest I could use a pretty good belly rub about now. Those things aren’t going to happen any longer, but I do look forward to that slice of strawberry-rhubarb.

Take care.


Roger

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Scared to Death

Dear Blog Reader.

I hope that this finds you doing well. I must admit that my hands are a bit shaky. I had quite the Halloween fright. It is hard to believe that we have passed Thanksgiving. But let’s face it. Thanksgiving was so early this year that I barely had time to recover from my Halloween ordeal. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving. It is over now and it is off to the next faze of the holiday season which I fondly call; Newthankschristgivemasday. It is a quiet Sunday morning. The lovely Miss Beverly has graciously made me smokies and eggs with one piece of heavy bread. What is heavy bread you ask? Well you will just have to keep wondering and hope that someday we will let you live with us and teach you the heavy bread secret handshake.

Oh don’t be sad. If you were here, you would have to smell my garlic infused fingers. I know that it is too late plant garlic. But what could I do? With Aug-toner temps being so high. It would have germinated the garlic. It’s green sprouts would have emerged and been frozen in Jan-peril.  Yes, you would be able to dream about pans of lasagna, and tubs of humus, but it would stink to high heaven. That is one thing that reading on the internet deprives one. If you were here and we were having a story telling conversation, you would be able to smell the garlic oils left on my hands after going out and getting  15 ft of garlic in the ground in hopes that the 50 degree weather forecasted this week will be enough to promote healthy root growth and not so much to promote sprouting. We shall see. That sitting around the table, telling and listening to stories, the lingering evidentiary aroma of a task well done, adds so much to the social discourse that is lost with social media. However, don’t even start to think that I am inviting all one million of you over for smokies and eggs for a story. 

All of that being said, I hope that my words can convey the terror that I felt while trying to change a tire at 8:00 p.m. along I69 during a heavy rain. Hopefully, you will not need to see my wild eyed gesticulating, or see me throw my glasses from my face while demonstrating one of the more frightening moments to get the flavor of the fear that I experienced that evening.

Bev and I were out celebrating our foster son’s good grades at Golden Corral. I know that some of you foodies out there are frightened by that sentence. Don’t be such a snob. Where else can you go and get gummy bears to sprinkle over your ice cream sundae? Pure goodness. And there is so much of everything. It is what J.D. wanted. “What J.D. wants”, has been in short supply as he learns to live under different management. We rolled out of Golden Corral and ran through the wind and the rain to the car. We jumped in the car and headed out for the 12 mile trek home. Just as I pulled on interstate, the low tire light lit up. 

That yellow light blazed on my dash and my adrenaline spiked. First, I hoped that the stupid sensor was malfunctioning like it had for nearly a year before I had it fixed. Crap! That’s right. I had it fixed. Plan B: maybe it was just signifying the regular loss of air that all tires undergo. Pump up the tire once a year and the light goes out and there is no problem. I would just drive the eight miles to the next exit, pull into a gas station and check it out. I would be relieved when looking at the tire and seeing that it might be a little low but drivable. I would pull into our nice garage and pump up the tire and be good for another 12 months. Crap! I don’t remember ever having to pump up the tire every once in a while before. That is the other car; the one with the 8 year old rims that may have a bit of pitting around the rim. Sure I have to pump it up every three months but never this car.

Well I wasn’t going to get out on the interstate to check. So, I pushed the gas down harder and and started doing mental gymnastics. If a car leaves St Louis and drives 70 mph toward Indianapolis 231 miles away and another car leaves Indianapolis and drives 100 mph, will the second car lose control if the tire suddenly goes flat? It turns out that at 70 mph you will make it about 6 miles before the telltale shaking will tell you that your story problem is over, and you did not make it to the safe haven exit number 25, and it feels like it is the driver’s side rear that is going down. Congratulations, you get to get up close and personal to oncoming traffic.

Like an Indy 500 crew going over the wall in the final laps of the race, the lovely Miss Beverly and I hop out of the car, open the hatchback and start digging for tires, jacks, and lug wrenches. The lovely Miss Beverly was a great help. She did a great job standing at the back of the car and shining the flash light around the corner at my work area.  During the next five minutes, I had three thoughts that kept passing through my mind in an eternal loop. First, how far will my body fly if someone drifted off the road and hit me at 70 mph? Second, it’s okay if I get hit but I am going to be really sad if the lovely Miss Beverly or the two children in the car get hit. Third, did you know that it has been scientifically proven that the hour between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. is one of the 24 most texting-while-driving hours.

Then at the 5:03 minute mark, things got really exciting. I was just starting to tighten the lug nuts and exhausting my curing thesaurus when a truck came by so close and fast that it blew my glasses off of my face. Yes, BLEW MY GLASSES OF MY FACE!  And let me tell you, Roget’s was able to publish a new edition of curses. Thankfully my glasses landed in a crack between my coat and the car. I recovered, put my glasses back on, turned to page two of the new edition and really started tightening lug nuts. During this frenzied two minutes, two more thoughts ran through my mind. First, Bill Cosby (back when he was funny and a closeted abuser) had a bit that told a story about his mother always telling him to put on clean underwear because you didn’t want to have dirty underwear in the hospital. At this point, he looked at the audience and said, “we all know that clean underwear don’t matter. If you are in an accident, first you are going to say it and then your’e going to do it. It doesn’t matter how clean your underwear were.” My underwear were in great danger of being soiled.

Second, I thought why do people want me to watch the Walking Dead or a hundred other horror films. I don’t like them. They scare me, and at that moment along I 69, at 8:00 p.m. in the dark and the rain, fixing a flat tire 3 feet away from cars going 70 mph with the drivers texting and a foot and a half way from some S.O.B. in a semi, I received my lifetime supply of scared s#*%$t-less.

Take care.


Roger.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

All Sweetness and Light

Dear Blog Reader

I hope that this finds you doing well. It leaves my keyboard trying to come to terms with being beatified. No one more was more surprised than I. My sect is not big on saintly things. I had no aspirations to sainthood but there I was earning my wings like Clarance in “It's a Wonderful Life.”

 I learned of my spiritual promotion on the way home from work the other night. I was in the process of stealing (no the irony isn’t lost on me) several copies of Branches from the self service paper dispenser at work. Branches is a small freebie newspaper published semi monthly here in Indianapolis. Based on their advertising, I am assuming that their target audience is New Age believers. With that kind of spiritual pedigree, I am assuming that they have the expertise to make judgements about the hierarchical ranking of spiritual beings. 

So yes, I was taking several papers from the dispenser to shred up to feed to my worm farm that I keep in the garage. They do yeomen’s work chewing up our compost. I take the newspapers and grind them up into bite size nuggets. This balances out the carbon-nitrogen levels that make my worms very happy. I figure that the stealing is actually a good thing. At least, I justify that stealing in this case is a good thing. Everyone is helped all around. Branches can charge a higher ad rate to “Classes at New Age People” because the readership is so high. The paper’s aren’t ending up in the landfill. And the worms benefit from the karmic bs. It is a win win win.

Right there on the front of the July - August 2017 edition, are a bunch of bee keepers with angel wings. I never studied iconography in school but even I could get the picture with their graphical representations. Beekeepers are doing the Lord’s work. I am a beekeeper. Therefore, I am doing the Lord’s work; hence the spiritual promotion. No one was more surprised that I. I went to work that morning, a worker bee in my cubicle, can came out a beekeeping angel. Who knew?

Actually, I am not much of a beekeeper. I have an expensive hobby that involves keeping boxes with frames of wax foundation. Some bees hang out and do what they do. I know that there are beekeepers out there who are in their hives every other week from April through September. They are searching for the queen, treating for parasitic mites, and naming all of the new larvae. They know every time that pesticides are being sprayed in a four county radius. They are harvesting honey after the spring flow and the fall flow (if there is enough nectar). There are even beekeepers who make hard candy to put in the hive to help the bees get through the winter. These people are keeping bees. I just happen to know where some bees hang out.

These are all important tasks. They make the hive stronger and less prone to sudden hive collapse. That is a good thing. The fewer hives that collapse the more bees we will have. And since flowers are horrible at unaided sex, the more bees that we have the more flower sex there is and hence more fruits and vegetables. Some predict that the world order is threatened by the factors that contribute to sudden hive collapse. Beekeepers by their actions help or single handedly prevent civilization’s collapse. You deserve those wings buddy. Saving the world through flower sex is certainly more important than what that chump Clarence did by massaging the space time continuum while Jimmy Stewart got his head right. Let the bells ring I say.

I have a theory about why the bees are having trouble. Bees forage for pollen in a three mile radius from the hive. That is a lot of space to cover with those little tiny wings. Who watched bees for long enough to figure that out? And how did the researcher know that one bee flew that far? What if you were watching a bee and he flew close to another bee that was whose hive was a mile and a half away. The researcher got confused which bee they were supposed to be watching and switched their focus mid flight so that bees really only fly a mile and a half. I know difficult right. But I digress. So bees can supposedly forage up to 3 miles away for pollen. There should be plenty of pollen by any standard to keep a hive flourishing with in a circle that large.

But wouldn’t it be better if the pollen were closer? What would happen if we let the dandelions take over our yards and the bees only had to fly 7 feet to get pollen instead of three miles? The same principle applies in our every day lives. Let’s say you had an option of keeping your refrigerator in your kitchen or in Aunt Betty’s kitchen 3 miles away. Sure you could get in the car or on your bike and navigate the three miles for the sandwich fixings. You could survive on that. But would you get all fat and sassy that way. Heck no! You would get your sandwich made, get it back to the house, sit down at the table, say a little prayer and then cuss because you forgot to put any mayo on your roast beef sandwich. 

Are you going to get up from the table and get all of the way over to Aunt Betty’s house for a little dab of mayo? NO! No mayo is going to make you skinnier. And forget about a mid-evening ice-cream sundae.  You aren’t going to get fat and happy doing that. No you are going to be skinny and puny and won’t have much energy for that birds and the bees thing. In short, if your refrigerator is kept three miles away your hive is going to collapse. So I get out there and plant as many high pollen plants that I can. I encourage that first flush of dandelions in the spring and keep planting buckwheat until 3 weeks before frost in the fall. We have mint plants, sunflowers, white clover through out the front yard. Yes, Sharritt Farms is a fat bee paradise. We have “caution o-bee-se in the area” signs posted all around the farm. Sharritt bees have it good.

Am I doing the Lord’s work? I have my doubts. It is important to not read too much into all of the little things we do that just happens help a little bit. I think the world suffers because we beatify the little things; things that just have to be done. It probably started with participation trophies in little league. Yeah, we need to get in there, do our best, play hard, and pay attention. We have to do that for the health of the team and for that matter for our own enjoyment. But that doesn’t make us a star. Bee keeping doesn’t make me a saint. It doesn’t even make me a good person.

It just makes me a guy who loves a little honey in his tea.

Take care.


Roger

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Gore your own Ox

Dear Blog Reader

I hope that this finds you doing well. I am fine. This is a blog that was supposed to occur about 4 weeks ago. It was to proclaim my recovery from attendance at the Indiana State Fair. It was to be a pull the pin on the grenade and let er rip kind of blog. I had outrage. I had indignation. I was aggrieved, exasperated and piqued. It was going to be a doozy. However, it was eclipsed by the astrophysical equivalent of shadow puppets. 

So here I am a nearly a month after the fact, sitting down to write about the state fair and I must admit that I have lost some of my steam. 

I had not attended the great Indiana State Fair in several years. During my formative, it had provided an annual milestone for the Sharritt's. No matter, how much work needed to be done on the farm, dad would load up the family and we would head for the fair. We were poor back then. So this would have been the budget for our day at the fair.
Car parking $5.00
Admission $5.00 “You kids will be okay in the trunk now shut up and stop kicking the lid.”
Tractor tram ride $$2.50: ride from the machinery field to the hog barn.
Lunch $10.00 Toasted cheese sandwich and shake.
Saltwater taffy $2.00.
Grand total $24.50; Leaving $0.50 in our entertainment budget for August and September.

Yes, the Indiana State Fair was a celebration of Hoosier Agriculture. We would roam the equipment field and the antique machinery field. We would watch the thresher machine demonstration with dad regaling us with stories of his time with a threshing crew. It was quick juxtaposition the year when we wandered from the threshing demonstration to a combine that had a cab large enough to hold the entire family. I do not know which company used the small house model for combine cabs, but it never caught on. The extraverted farmer niche just wasn’t big enough to sustain their model. 

We would wonder over to the Bobcat booth where we would marvel at the 5 foot deep hole that they could dig in a couple of hours, and rue the moment when we realized that the door to the cow stall that had to be forked out by hand was too small to allow the passage of this wonderful piece of labor saving technology. Oh how we would dream about how fast the foot and a half of cow poop could be hauled if that door were six inches wider when cleaning those stalls every spring and fall. With each fork full of aromatic bedding, we would curse our ancestors for not being visionaries when building that cow stall and we would covet a Bobcat every summer at the fair.

Yes, we would marvel at the size of the world’s largest boar, but only after a mid afternoon lunch at the Dairy barn; toasted cheese and strawberry shake. There might be some sniggering between the cousins as we vainly tried to cover up our perceived inadequacies when in the presence of such an example of scrotal superiority as we left the swine barn. We would marvel at the Clydesdales and groan with boredom as we made our way through the dairy barn. After milking 65 cows twice a day for years, the dairy barn held no interest. We had literally seen it all when it came to dairy cows.

I know that you are thinking “Roger this is nostalgia not outrage.” You are correct. But if you are a long time reader of “You Said What, Roger?”, you would remember that I have had a hate hate relationship with 4-H, and Lord knows the State Fair is the Super Bowl of 4-H. However, I must admit that 4-H baggage isn’t what I wanted to rant about. I had an enjoyable time at the fair that afternoon and evening in early August. 

It was a different experience for me. After years of boycotting the Indiana State Fair celebrating hot tubs and whirlpools we returned this year. Bev and I have once again listened to the call of the end of the driveway. Read my blog from September 12 of last year if you need some context. This kiddo who is living with us came ready made with 4 friends. They had never been to the fair. So we loaded into the car and went to the fair.

These are city kids. Their fair experience had to be much different than my old fair experience. In ten years of attending the fair, I never once made it to the midway. Remember the fair budget from above; not much wiggle room. Things are different now. We pay the 15 year old boys money for working in the garden and getting things ready for our son’s wedding earlier in the year. They hit the midway with the disposable income that only working teens living at home have. That money was not going to burn a hole in their pocket. 

At this point, you might expect some ranting and raving. However, I quickly slipped into catatonia. As the lovely Miss Beverly pointed out, “we live such contemplative lives that all of this noise and blinking lights is just too much for us.” Too much it was. I quickly found a bench and sat down with Bev. We told the urchins that they had to check in with us every 15 minutes, and we just sat there slowly rocking back and forth hoping that it would all end soon. If I ever become a state legislator, I am going to force the following change on the Indiana State Fair. They have to have more benches to sit down on and so contemplative can wait while the end of the world approaches.

But I am not even going to rant about that. Although, I could rant a little bit about sitting 150 ft from a game when the operator needed a thesaurus. For two hours, we listened to her say “every winner gets their choice.” She never once wandered off script to “any prize you want”, or “take any prize” or “the choice is yours.” I don’t know what stopped her from saying “shoot me now, I can’t take it any more!”

I was okay with that. The kids had fun. It was a new experience for them. They showed the proper amount of awe for 15 year old boys while looking at the world’s largest boar. I only chortled a little when they said that they didn’t want to take their strawberry shake and toasted cheese sandwich with us while we walked through the dairy barn because “they didn’t like the smell.” I wish that I still had a picture of my father in poop stained t-shirts that weren’t completely covered by a full length rubber apron that we wore while milking cows. Oh well, I guess that it isn’t all bad that the youth of America don’t know how their food is produced.

SO ROGER WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO RANT ABOUT? Take it easy. I was going to rant about an Indianapolis Star article the following day by a Ruth Servens. She was doing an in depth analysis of State Fair Finances. She found that the State Fair doesn’t get as much money from mid-way rides as surrounding state fairs do. It appears that the fair board leaves $ on the table in order to receive a guaranteed income year after year. Bad for us when attendance is up 19% like this year but good for us when it is down 16% like last year. And in the middle of the article was this little gem about the $2.4 million annual subsidy the state fair receives annually; “at roughly $2.4 million a year, it's a tiny portion of Indiana's $31 billion two-year budget, but it's money that can't be spent on other underfunded services.”

Yeah, underfunded services like the $713,000,000 stadium for the colts to pay in, or the $44,000,000 that the pacers have received over the past 4 years. Give me a break. 

Indiana Agriculture generates $44 billion in revenue in direct agricultural sales and ancillary economic activity a year. $2.5 million is too much to spend in celebrating that. The agricultural impact to local services if felt even greater in Indiana. As property taxpayers, I know that my farm pay 10 times more in taxes than my neighbor does. Yet, both households only put one family through the local schools. We both go to the same library and fund one municipal pool. We both help pay for one county court.  Yes, farmers are getting too much of a good thing.

You and Ms. Servens may believe that the state taxpayer has no business celebrating the accomplishments of a free market enterprise. She may be correct and if she is then let the colts build their own underfunded barn to pay in. Or let the pacers find someplace else to make up for their $4 million annual short fall. 

But I bet that Ms. Servens employer disagrees with that plan. The howl that would go up from the pages of the Star would drown out that carnival barker if a legislator had the temerity to suggest that the colts and pacers pay their own way. There would be 25 references to “Naptown” in describing the downtown environment if those two teams went away. Plus, and correct me if I am wrong but the state  has roughly half a billion in its rainy day fund and last year ran about a $50 million surplus. So by definition in a representative democracy, nothing was underfunded.

It just gripes me to no end when uninformed people go about casting stones insisting that world line up the way that they believe it should. It especially galls me when they blithely try to determine whose ox should be gored and whose should be spared.

Take care.

Roger


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Lessons of Astrophysics

Dear Blog Reader

I hope that this finds you doing well. I am fine. For all of those who readily accepted the media’s tales of doom and gloom, who hovered around loved ones, exhausting themselves in an effort to keep them safe, there was nothing special about the eclipse that will make you blind. The opportunity for retinal burn exists every day. It was just as dangerous on Sunday. It was just as dangerous on Tuesday. It will be just as dangerous all 2416 days until the next solar eclipse in the US.  To which, I am happy to say that the Sharritt Air BnB is now taking reservations. Yes, we are pleased to say that SharrittLand is in the direct path of totality. We, once again, will be left totally in the dark. We will not guarantee that the cloud cover will allow you to see the eclipse. However, we do have good internet connection so you will be able to see it on the HDTV that we will purchase with the funds you so graciously provide.

 It is sad that someone probably did not believe all of the warnings about the brightness of the sun and stared at it and consequently destroyed their eye sight. We are all somewhere on the bell curve. A few people went into the basement and covered their heads and a few said “we don’t need no stinking glasses.” The rest of us to one degree or another took precautions and enjoyed the eclipse and kept our eye sight. I personally, was probably the only person and my large office building carrying a welding mask into work. I could not get it jammed into my back pack. Thankfully, I was able to evade security long enough to get inside. 

I remember an eclipse from my childhood. In school, the  “Weekly Reader” was our town crier. Oh, those were the halcyon days of print media. The scions of the Hearst Media Conglomerate were bringing up another generation of newspaper readers. The Weekly Reader warned us that we could go blind staring at the sun during the eclipse and a few weeks later, a follow up “I told you so” appeared; reporting on a girl whose sight had returned after losing it looking at the eclipse. Bible Belt miracle? The regenerative power of the human body? Hoax? Hysteria? Who knows? It made great Weekly Reader fodder.

Getting back to the over reaction in some circles to the possibility of injury from the solar eclipse. Some schools kept their children inside during the eclipse to protect them. Some even kept them after regular school hours because ironically that pesky sun doesn’t get on board with daylight savings time. If the sun had believed in DST the eclipse would have been over by the end of school and the sun would have lost its super natural ability to make you blind only during an eclipse.

Why do we give the eclipse super natural powers? It is an interesting phenomena. It happens so seldom that to some appears to be random, to others it appears to be super natural; a sign of the end times. But it isn’t random; it isn’t super natural; it isn’t prophetic at all. It is just physics; actually astrophysics. But you get my meaning. When you have the sun doing its thing over and over again without any concern for the earth (we are not the center of the universe), and you have the moon doing its thing over and over again with concern for the earth (we are the center of it’s universe), things from time to time line up. So the eclipse wasn't random. If it were, we wouldn’t be able to sell you space at SharrittLand AirBnB in 2024. We know that it is going to happen.

We also know that the sun’s intensity doesn’t increase retinal burning levels during an eclipse. The sun has been emitting photons at nearly the same intensity for about 4.6 billion years. Those photons go screaming out in all directions and a tiny percentage manage to hit us. They warm our cats in windowsills on cold winter mornings. They trigger complex chemical reactions in plant cells taking carbon dioxide and releasing the carbon emitting oxygen for us to respire and hook a carbon back on to it. That reaction does a lot of other things like making your sweet corn sweet but I don’t have time to teach you all of the things you should have learned along time ago. Those photons react with your skin and manufacture vitamin D, which does something important like help you absorb calcium and phosphorus. Once again kids pay attention in school.

So yes, the sun is a good thing. But beware children, it will still do you great harm. It isn’t out to get you. It is just out there emitting photons. It's intensity allows all of those good things to happen. The intensity for the good things will also blind you if you look at it.

So remember. Kids keep your heads down, and nature isn’t out to kill you. It just seems that way.

Take Care.


Roger