Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Heroes

We have a new wave of co-workers in manufacturing, the contractors, in the office.

Moments ago, I brewed a cup of tea in our small kitchen, and my heroes, the contractors, were sitting around the coffee table on their break.

The Asian woman asks emphatically of an Indian woman, 'Tell me, what do you want for your children? You realize that there is a huge difference between wants and needs, right? We all want a nice car, we all want a nice house, we all want; but what do we really need?'

The lively debate continued as my tea brewed, steaming in my cup.

Another woman offers, 'When my grandson came along, he became the most important thing in my life. The world can blow up, but as long as I have my grandson, I don't care.'

An Indian woman offered her point of view, and the man at the table chimed in, too.

The Asian said, 'But in my country there are so many people who do not get off their ass. They just sit there and don't realize that they need to work for a living.'

I smiled and my heart swelled, but returned to sadness because I am afraid of how few in my engineering and business cohort have such clarity on the wants versus needs debate. Again, refer to my other posts of how the media poisons us, but I digress.

My mind neatly fit this vignette in the kitchen into other stories that I glean from our manufacturing staff, my heroes. I talk to the Vietnamese man who just purchased solar panels and started taking scientific data from it so that he can build his business based on science. Perfect.

After work one day we stood in the entryway and he proudly showed me the design for his business. In halted, unsmooth English, he explained that his brother-in-law in Vietnam has a manufacturing house with 400 workers and all he has to do is open the pipeline for solar equipment. But he has to get the data first.

Furthermore, he explained how the solar panels harvest photons from the sun.

He'll be a millionaire someday, and soon.

I see so many people in my economic cohort that miss the vibrant life of my heroes. We count calories and debate the merits of our 401(k) investment strategy. We calculate our green potential and our carbon footprint because the media tells us so.

But my heroes are here among us. They debate. They explore. They live. They care because they have nothing else, but the true American dream. They are finding their way to explore, grow within, and celebrate the American freedoms.

I joke about this often by saying simply, 'I never want to go too far away from the bottom deck of the Titanic.'

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Sentimental Chicken

Earlier today, I walked with my semi-retired co-worker to a conference room and we chatted casually. When it was my turn to share, I reflected on the family picnic and processing chickens.

As usual with the elderly set, his eyes lit up and he listened intently to the details of my chicken story. Most elderly people that I talk to share their own sentimental stories of raising chickens. And so did my co-worker retell the tale of headless chickens running around during his childhood.

I mentioned this elsewhere in my blog, but it is worth repeating that the general American, shrink-wrapped lifestyle is moving us away from a more common history. It's great to share with the elderly, but at the same time, a bit sad that such an integral part of daily life is slipping away.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Family Picnic - 2008

When we were done and the well water smelled of New Hampshire granite, my brother-in-law walked up the slope saying, 'If this were my house, digging a hole that deep would have taken me hours.'

I smiled as I hosed down the area that we had processed chickens at sunrise. 'My property is good for digging holes.'

Prior to this, we processed four broilers and while I cleaned them inside, he dispatched my hen-beating rooster with a .22. The overall work was simple today and one of the broilers had, as I suspected, some type of birth defect as evidenced by a short neck and a curved torso.

I saved the chicken livers for my friend to make pate (I look forward to tasting it) and I also look forward to a chicken dinner at the picnic later today.

I expect over 80 people since my first cousin once removed is getting married next weekend. I think that many additional people will come to the picnic who will be enjoying the whole week for a late-summer vacation.

When I associate with people at work or in my volunteer efforts, my lifestyle both amuses and shocks people. Some people cannot see me as a farmer responsible for raising some of my own food. And others wonder if having 80 of my relatives here for a picnic is a good thing or a bad thing.

I smile.

Usually the Family Picnic is the best day of the year.


The day didn't disappoint.

Family Picnic 2008

Although, as most of us huddled under canopies during a ten-minute rain shower, I asked my second-eldest aunt, 'Do you remember a time when a Family Picnic was rained out?'

Without even blinking, she replied. 'No never.'

Friday, August 8, 2008

Political Thinking: tax cuts and consumerism

During my ride into work, I tried to think about work. I really did. But my thoughts wandered into some political thinking.

The following topics need research, but I do not want to lose the theories. I think more and more about politics lately for some reason.

Several weeks ago, someone sent me an e-mail with a comparison of income and savings before and after the Bush tax cuts. The numbers were staggering.

I pay $10 to $15K USD in taxes a year. If Obama wins and repeals the tax cuts, I will end up paying more than $20K USD in taxes. That's huge.

So my thoughts wandered and I started assembling concepts while I drove to work.

I started with a pervasive thought from my good friend Derek. He talked to folks in the belly of capitalism in lower Manhattan who correlated television watching to our rampant consumerism. People now feel entitled to goods and services beyond their means by both advertising and the content of television programming.

(As an aside, the advice was 'kill your TV' and following suit, I haven't turned on my TV all summer. It's going well. Life is more clear and present, but I digress.)

My thinking branched into two concepts. The first concept was a question, really, on whether or not editors in Hollywood consider the consumerism value in programming.

The shows that I like never last long. In recent history, I loved 'Life With Bonnie' and 'Less than Perfect'. There wasn't much consumerism there. Blap. Cut. Off the air. But I marvel at the wide appeal that horrible shows like 'Desperate Housewives' have on the world. There is a ton of consumerism in that show, where people can fantasize and aspire to rise their hovels into the affluence on Wisteria lane.

The second concept is that from a practical point of view, if people are going to achieve the promise of consumerism, they need money. So I realized the tie between conservative economics and the liberal nature of programming.

It was almost as though someone drew up a covert, natural contract to the effect, 'Fine if the American people want to elevate their lifestyles above their natural ways and means, we'll put more money in their pockets to spend as they wish.' TAX CUT!

So up and down the socio-economic scale, people can get frilly coffee instead of drinking water. They can embellish their consumerism to lean upwards toward Wisteria lane.

But what happens when the tax cuts are repealed. Now we're stuck. We want to sustain our habits and buy frilly junk. But we can't. Because more money (in my case upwards of $8K USD) will go to the Federal government and only a tiny bit returns to me.

The Obama regime might retort and say, 'Oh, but we'll help you tired and poor by giving you Federal money.' And I can reply from the experience in all of my volunteer positions, 'Mr. Obama. I can't find people to volunteer to fog a mirror. I'd turn cartwheels if I could find a volunteer who could fill out a grant for your, I am sorry, ~my~ federal money.'

So I see a big trap. Do you?

Repeal the tax cuts and everyone has less money. And with less money, we're unable to fulfill the consumerism dream. So everyone feels repressed. Eventually, we will be repressed and despite the whole rebel yell for loss of freedoms in the Bush administration, we'll later have loss of economic freedom which means loss of our choice to aspire to the lifestyle set before us.

I much prefer to keep my money at my disposal to do as I see fit. If I pay $8K more in federal taxes, I doubt that I will have extra to give to local organizations and directly impact my local community.

That's what I care about the most.

All of this needs deeper research, but I didn't want to lose the theory so here it is.