Thursday, May 31, 2012


Back when the Younger Daughter was in about 4th grade, she really, really wanted a Kromer. For some reason, the hats were the headgear of choice for her contemporaries. I don't think she ever got one. Apparently Ironwood, Michigan, is now the Kromer Capital of the World. This was news to me. I thought it always had been because the western U.P. is the only place I've ever seen anyone wearing a classic Stormy  Kromer. I was wrong -- they used to be manufactured in Milwaukee. Live and learn.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What liberal media?

I should know by now that it's a bad idea to watch "Hardball" on MSNBC. Nine times out of ten, by the time the program ends, I'm muttering, "Sweet Jesus, I hate Chris Matthews" and vowing to never listen to Tweety pontificate ever again.

Nonetheless, when the S.O. decided to test the Internet connection yesterday by streaming "Hardball," I got suckered into watching. Topic of the day? Cory Booker's supposed major political gaffe. What was Booker's gaffe, you ask? He committed the ultimate political sin during a discussion on a Sunday morning talk show. He was honest. He said that the current hyperbolic posturing by both the Republicans and the Democrats was disgusting and that it was turning voters off.

So what did Chris Matthews and his invited pundits obsess about? The fact Booker was obliquely critical of the Obama campaign's characterizations of Bain Capital. Apparently, saying that both parties are guilty of indulging in nasty politicking is synonymous with throwing Obama under the bus. They went on and on and on about Booker sabotaging the Obama campaign, that he'd just handed the Romney campaign the ammunition it needed to win the election, et cetera ad nauseum. Not one word about the context of Booker's comments or the fact that Booker had also criticized the Romney campaign, just a lot of blathering about one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party backstabbing the President.

You know, if there really was a liberal media, the discussion would have emphasized Booker's pointing out that the Republicans are gearing up to run a racially-charged campaign by once again trotting out Obama's association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Instead, they decided to obsess about the one half of the comment that's most damaging to Obama. That is, we're being treated to the talking heads hammering home the point there's dissension among Democrats because one Democrat had the temerity to suggest that private equity firms are not Totally Evil. How they managed to get from Booker trying to say that the tone of the campaign needs to change on both sides to Booker being a sellout to Wall Street and a defender of Romney and vulture capitalism is beyond me, but they did it.

The stupid, it burns.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Farewell, Kelvinator

Today, if all goes well, we're bidding a fond farewell to the Kelvinator in the camp. I'm not sure just what vintage that refrigerator is, but it's got to be about the same age as the  model pictured in the ad, which is from 1940. I have a hard time picturing any appliance made today lasting for over 70 years, but our Kelvinator is still muddling along, sort of.

Unfortunately, although it may work, it works inconsistently. There's a real fine line between "not cold enough" and "everything freezing solid." It  has a freezer just barely big enough to hold two ice cube trays, and, despite its ability to freeze lettuce on the bottom shelf, it can't manage to prevent a pint of ice cream that's actually in the freezer from turning to soup. It also takes up more than its fair share of floor space in a camp that's not especially big. Considering that the amount of usable space inside the thing isn't much bigger than a dorm fridge, it's massive (it easily takes up as much space as a modern 15-cubic foot fridge, but has barely 6 cubic feet of interior space) and, the one reason someone is willing to haul it away, it  sucks up a lot of electricity when it's being used.

We noticed an ad in the REA magazine informing members that turning in old, energy-sucking appliances, like our ancient refrigerator, would garner us a small credit. Given how difficult it is to get rid of an old refrigerator (landfills and scrap metal yards won't take them unless you can prove the Freon's been removed), we would have been happy just to have them haul the beast away -- the credit is a bonus.

The S.O. and I were wondering, though, just what happens to the refrigerators once they're collected from people's homes. Where do old refrigerators go to die? Our assumption is that their fate must be similar to that of cars traded in during that "cash for clunkers" program a few years ago -- the crusher, the shredder, and a slow boat to China -- but who knows?*

[*rhetorical question. I know perfectly well that if I were sufficiently curious I could Google it and learn more than I ever wanted to know about appliance recycling.] 

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I can't remember when I got my first library card, but I can recall many a happy walk home from Ishpeming's Carnegie Library. One of the best days ever was the day the librarians let me check out books from the adult section on my own  for the first time. As a kid, I could pick whatever I wanted from the children's section, but anything on the adult shelves required my mother's okay. That day, like most, my mother wasn't with me. She was home coping with my younger siblings, and I was doing her a favor by vanishing for the afternoon. I still remember the book: The Lone Ranger and the Mystery Ranch. Not exactly great literature, but what did I know? I was 8 years old and liked the tv show. 

Carnegie Public Library, Ishpeming, Michigan

Thursday, May 10, 2012

If you don't vote, you can't complain

Ever wonder why politics in this country is so screwed up? Here's one possible explanation: most people don't bother to vote in the elections that count. Once every four years, we show up for the general election and cast a ballot for President, and maybe once every two years we drop by the polls to vote for a Congressional candidate. The rest of the time we're conspicuous in our absence. We hear it over and over --  change begins at the local level; you can't vote just once every four years and expect it to make a difference -- but then when a school board election, a millage issue, or even a primary comes along, we stay home. 

Or at least most of us stay home. Who goes to the polls for the elections most of us ignore? The hard-core fanatics, the true believers, the fire-breathing ideologues who will seize upon any opportunity, big or small, to push their agendas. I started thinking about this issue after I heard a reminder on the radio about a special election in Hancock this week. It didn't affect me (Hancock is a small city about 45 miles from here), but I did find myself wondering just what the voter turnout would be. I served on the election board in Baraga County for awhile, and I can remember times when we poll workers would get to sit there for hours playing UNO or Yahtzee because so few voters were wandering in.

Then I heard the results from Indiana and North Carolina. In reporting the Indiana Republican primary results, the news media made it sound as though it was a hotly contested race for the Senate nomination in Indiana, and maybe in one sense it was -- but when you have news reports noting voter turnout in one county at 16% of eligible voters, you have to wonder just how much the voters actually understood about the consequences of staying home. One report quoted a poll worker who said it was over an hour after the polls opened before anyone showed up to vote. I can understand people thinking that the presidential nomination is no longer an issue, but that wasn't the only thing on the ballot.

As for North Carolina. . . the big issue there was amending the state constitution to prohibit gays getting married. The issue got a tremendous amount of press, some really big names campaigned for or against it, it was a Big Deal. So where were the voters? Not at the polls. This news report starts off by predicting record turnouts for the election. The truly sad part comes when you see just what a record turnout might be.
The divisive nature of Amendment One was obvious Tuesday at polling places across North Carolina, as elections officials said the turnout could be the biggest for a primary voting date in decades. 
A number of county, state and federal races are on the Democratic and Republican primary tickets, but it is Amendment One -- the issue that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and not permit the legalization of gay marriages -- that is luring voters. Officials at three precincts visited by The Observer at midday said turnout has been steady since the polls opened at 6:30 a.m. They said the turnout was a bit heavier than they had expected. Mecklenburg County elections officials initially said they expected a 30 percent turnout, but that might prove to be low. 
Gary Bartlett, the state elections supervisor, told NewsChannel 36, the Observer's news partner, late Tuesday morning that the state-wide turnout could exceed 37 percent. That would make 2012's turnout the biggest for a primary in a quarter-century, Bartlett said. 
Thirty-seven percent! Well, if only a little of a third of the eligible voters show up to vote, what do you think the odds are that those voters are going to be the tinfoil hat types, the fanatics, the hardcore no-compromise-on-anything ideologues? 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Derby day

If I were a betting person, I'd put my money on Daddy Long Legs. Any horse that's named after a Fred Astaire movie must have something going for it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Some things money can't buy

Some interesting news from Wisconsin -- apparently the gazillion dollars being poured into Scott Walker's attempt to hang on to the governorship aren't helping him all that much. According to a recent poll done by researchers at Marquette University, Walker's numbers are eroding, not improving, as the recall election draws closer.

This shouldn't be a surprise. The longer Walker is in office, the more obvious the effects of his policies become. There are a lot of unhappy people in Wisconsin who have been affected by various cuts instituted by the Republicans in Madison, and unhappy voters are going to want to vote out whoever happens to be in office at the time. I have friends and relatives who live in Wisconsin -- over the past few months I've noticed Scott Walker go from being referred to as "Governor Walker" to "Scott Walker" to "that fucking Walker," and, given the monetary advantage Walker has enjoyed, I don't think it's a case of the Democrats out-blitzing him with advertising.

I know that at the moment Scott Walker is one of the darlings of the far right. The Reptile People love him; he's viewed as a real star in the Republican party. It'll be interesting to see how fast he goes from dearly beloved to untouchable pariah if the recall effort succeeds -- no one has much use for a loser.