Sunday, October 12, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For...

We were seriously craving Coney Dogs last night before the Red Sox game and went out in search of them. We found a Chili Cheese Dog at the Halfway Cafe in Marlborough, MA... they call it a Safari Dog with Chili and Cheese. It's a One Pound all-beef Pearl hot dog. It normally comes with a serving of Halfway Fries... but since we had Halfway fries with chili and cheese for our appetizer, I opted for Mac & Cheese. Half of that Safari Dog and 2 beers later, I rolled home. Not exactly the kind of Coney Dog I had in mind, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008


Six weeks without a blog post... and only a few sparse photos posted to my flickr account... what gives? I was wondering the same thing yesterday. Considering what a crazy six weeks it has been in the world, I'm a tad surprised. But then again, I'm not. During the last six weeks, I've been disappointed several times over... and I don't usually feel compelled to write when I have negative energy. The other reason I have stayed quiet is that when there are big things that weigh on my mind, the smaller items that I may find myself writing about seem even smaller and ridiculously insignificant. Then, the act of writing about them seems a petty exercise.

So this post is dedicated to disappointment. I'm not angry - I'm just disappointed. Dear reader, please forgive me for this interruption in my usually pretty darn happy blog. If I get the disappointment off of my chest, perhaps I can get back to posting pictures of mundane things and writing about happy ordinary life.

The biggest disappointment for the period is the status of my aunt's cancer. Some may remember that I took a year-long blogging hiatus the first time my aunt had breast cancer. After a lumpectomy, aggressive chemotherapy, radiation and drug therapy, she was told her prospects were very, very high for a cancer-free life. Well, it's a year later and her cancer is back, has moved and may cause the amputation of her right arm. The family is currently exploring other treatment options while she undergoes radiation twice daily in the meantime.

Another disappointment is in people in general. No, not everyone is disappointing... but in the last few weeks, it's been pretty bad.

The current economic crisis facing the global economy didn't create itself and people can't correctly point to one political figure and blame the entire situation on him or her. There were a lot of people who had a hand in what happened. A whole heck of a lot of people! And this situation took several years to develop... and spanned several presidential terms. I find myself disappointed at the finger-pointers among us - because they clearly don't have enough fingers to point at all of the culpable parties. Economies don't turn on a dime - it takes time for things to make their way through the system. I'm also disappointed in the U.S. Congress who took an emergency bill meant to stabilize the credit markets and had to wrap it in all sorts of additional inducements to get it passed. That wasn't exactly the time for politicking, but who's to tell them that? I'm disappointed in the banks that bastardized the relaxed lending guidelines and loaned money to high-risk borrowers... and in the many people responsible for the relaxation of the lending guidelines in the first place.

Most of my disappointment as it relates to the economic crisis, however, is in the borrowers themselves. Everyone likes to point their finger at "Wall Street" and the banks. They're easy targets but they're only half of the story. Loan documents are very straight-forward and everyone is told from a very young age to be careful and read any legal document that you sign. Mortgages clearly state the initial interest rate and payment. If they have adjustable rates, the escalation in the rate is clearly stated as is the date when the new interest rate is to start. There aren't any secrets between a lender and borrower - it's all in black and white. I know that there are thousands of cases where people run into adverse circumstances which may cause them to fall short of their obligations. These people have my sympathy. However, I have a problem with those among us who have been financing a lifestyle well above their means with credit. So I have a hard time finding much compassion for the guy who suddenly can't afford the huge house he purchased five years ago because of the new interest rate... or for the landlord who's defaulted on the loan for his apartment building even though his renters are all current on their rent. Rather, I'd like to take my turn at kicking them in the nuts. It's not popular to want to take your turn kicking the guy that defaulted on his mortgage down the street. But then again, personal responsibility isn't something that we as a country have done a good job of beating into the heads of our children - and around that corner lies more of the same disappointment. The people who never got themselves in an over-leveraged position have to pay the price just as the irresponsible borrowers do in the end - the economic machine doesn't discriminate between them. Thanks for nothing! There are many people who have lived responsibly and within their means who will suffer tremendously because of the irresponsibility that has transpired across the globe. Jobs have been lost and many, many more will be lost... and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I'm also disappointed in the way that the U.S. election is playing out in the minds and out of the mouths of many people in all forms of media. Mind you, my voter registration card reads "Unenrolled" for a reason - neither party represents my views entirely. The spin that's been floating around the airwaves and Internet during these weeks leading up to the U.S. election has been sickening... from both sides of the political spectrum. Frankly, I've found both of the mainline party tickets to be disappointing in their own ways... but the vitriol that I witness daily on Twitter and Friendfeed in particular, is just ridiculous. There's actual hatred for the other party - and, with a few exceptions, respect for the differing views of others seems non-existent. Personally, I find a person's political affiliation to be akin to their religion - a person believes in certain political principles just as they believe in their religious principles. With religion, we try to co-exist and respect the fact that the guy sitting next to you may not hold the same beliefs that you do. With politics, if the guy sitting next to you doesn't hold the same political beliefs as you, somehow he or she is not as enlightened or as educated and is probably not informed enough to deserve to vote? Puh-lease. The immense amount of negative energy circulating is really disturbing. I have consciously minimized my time on social media sites in the last few weeks because of this and because I happen to like the people that I follow as people and really don't want their bad behavior during the election season to taint that. If I un-followed every person that has said or spread something disrespectful in the last month, it would be sad.

What's also disappointing about the way people are behaving pre-election is that many don't seem to be able to see the forest for the trees. When I ask people why they are voting for one ticket or the other, their reasons seem to rarely have anything to do with political doctrine. Even the things being tossed around online by people to sway the undecideds in the group are sideshows to the meat of the matter. That's fine - it's their right to vote for whomever they want for whatever reason they want. I just find it disappointing that some people base their voting decisions on ancillary items - like general likability, number of marriages or gender. I'd prefer to hear answers to questions like the following: Do you favor a big federal government that has a hand in many things, or a smaller federal government that does not? How do you feel about the redistribution of wealth? How do you think the U.S. involvement in Iraq should be concluded? - or should it be? Do you favor Capitalism or Socialism? - and how much weight are you assigning to the answers to each of these items? I could go on - but I'm sure you get the idea.

Another disappointing item that I am going to mention is the amount of un-American talk that has been circulating. It's not just the people who actually have the nerve to publicly say that they are embarrassed to be Americans. Those people really don't deserve the freedoms and protections of this country if they are so embarrassed by it. They are wearing their ignorance and ungratefulness on their foreheads for the rest of us to see. But it's not just them. I find it disturbing that people actually hold financial success against candidates for office. Frankly, I don't care if the McCains own seven homes and a fleet of cars - more power to them. Whatever happened to the American dream? People are actually implying that because a family has wealth they cannot possibly relate to the issues of the common man? That's absurd. Nobody has brought this up as it relates to the Kennedy's or the Kerry's. This is a country of great opportunity and freedom. Some grasp the opportunities and some do not; everyone makes their own choices in life and we're free to make them in the United States of America. I'm not going to fault someone for their legitimate financial success - that would be un-American.

Lastly, the Chicago Cubs have disappointed me and the rest of their loyal fans yet again. That is a disappointment that I have, sadly, come to expect. To some extent, a lot of the non-medical disappointment that I have experienced over the last few weeks was somewhat expected. It's just been so in my face all at once that the letdown has been greatly magnified.

Now that all of that is off of my chest, I return you to my regularly scheduled blog. How 'bout those Red Sox?!