Temperatures rising

The coming spring is warming, though barely unfrozen, like the pond the first time I try to go swimming after ice-out, when I know if I’d just jump in it would be fine for the rest of summer but not yet so I walk in slowly, and feel the blue slide up my legs.

One day, probably soon, I’ll just jump in all the way and be fine.

Not yet.

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Europe’s Yellowstone Ranch

The events in eastern Europe over the past week (or 16 years) compare eerily with an episode of the popular television series, “Yellowstone.” Of particular note are the responses from several of our politicians who have pronounced their admiration for the biker club leader, er, Vladimir Putin.

In the TV story, a passing motorcycle gang cuts a barbed wire fence and moves into the pasture to build a fire and drink some beer. They are having a grand time when a couple of hands from the ranch stop to advise the intruders they were on private land and should leave.  A fight ensues and the bikers leave rather than be buried in the pasture.

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It’s in our DNA

An event this week moved me to repeat a column I wrote in August 2001. Most of it, anyway. Here, slightly edited for length and modernization, …

OK. If a kid shot one of my grandkids, I’d get testy and hard to get along with. If another kid merely picked on one of my grandkids, school administration would be wondering whether I had a cot in the principal’s office.

Ask my kids. Their schools were used to seeing Dad in the corridors, chatting with teachers and administrators.

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Lesson from a racetrack

Collaboration will be the ticket to survival.School districts often gather into purchasing consortia to obtain materials for their respective districts at lower cost than purchasing individually. Within our county, townships and boroughs have formed a Council of Governments to work together in pursuit of legislative goals. In smaller groups, the townships work together to share equipment and sometimes people power so that each municipality need not incur the expense of, say, a road grader.

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Swamps are good

Wetlands are nature's filtration systems.Most of us know them as yucky places that’ll suck your feet off if you go wading there. Lots of really neat creatures live there, though maybe it’s best to stay in the boat, or at least on the high, relatively dry, ground, when one goes exploring. Along with bullfrogs and, maybe, Ivory Billed woodpeckers, there exist, in some of the larger examples, rare turtles and alligators. Continue reading Swamps are good

An honored genealogy

The tiny bee is probably a columnist, pollinating the garden's discussion.The news should be about the facts. There is no room for opinion. So say many news consumers, many of whom are dedicated watchers of Fox and MSNBC.

I attended a conference last weekend in Buffalo, NY, with a bunch of columnists to learn stuff about our changing craft, and to mingle some. Along the way, several awards were presented. Continue reading An honored genealogy

Consumers will pay

Produce is about to become more expensive -- from taxes.In the late 1960s, I was aware that some very expensive, at legitimate U.S. market prices, flight training books were available for almost nothing from China. The books had been copied and reproduced in violation of copyright laws. A few guys had bought the books, and it was obvious they were cheap copies, not the professionally printed versions that were legitimately produced and sold by Jeppesen, a world leader in flight instruction manuals and books.

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Our neighbors need help

Turn right at the stop. If you're in the creek, you missed it.It is difficult to watch the television evening news and not know that some U.S. citizens seem to be less than the rest of us. And no, I’m not talking about African-Americans living in the contiguous 48 states.

Puerto Rico is politically an interesting situation. It is not a state. It does not have a vote in Congress. Yet its 3.5 million people are U.S. citizens. And it is, as President Trump has noted, an island, separated from the rest of the United States by about 1,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean.

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Saving “hard-earned taxpayer money” doesn’t always

Most days, I’m just not paying attention. I wake up in the morning (before noon), discover I’m still not dead, and proceed to do what I do. Or think about things I’d like to do.

But a couple things crossed my email this week that grabbed my attention.

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Building walls

Walls block human ideas and wildlife migration, creating more problems than they solve.I recently overheard a parent ask his offspring what to do if he met someone on “technology” who he didn’t know, and who wanted to talk. The youngster said he would tell his teacher. And not talk to the stranger. The parent was proud his progeny had given the safe answer. I thought about the youngster’s future.

I remember the lesson well from my youth, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

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Right #1: A Free Press

Tail of a black rattlesnake visible among the leavesI’ve wandered around this planet quite a bit, visited countries I’d like to visit again, and experienced cultures that had some good features and some not so much. In my line, one of the most valuable cultural traits is freedom of the press. It has been under open fire lately, partly because one of the better known candidates claims to dislike most of the press – especially outlets that do not agree with him.

The king of Thailand recently died. Citizens were prohibited, under strict penalties up to and including death, from voicing disapproval of the monarch.

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Climate refugees are on the way

Private water supply, public uses bannedFrom behind my back, over the ridge, the morning sun slipped its arms through the trees and over my shoulder, gripped the edge of darkness and peeled it back the way a mother pulls a blanket from her sleeping child to wake him for school. Rows of hills, farthest ones first, then the closer, darker colored ones, became visible.

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We are Ameri-cans

There is no hyphen on the American flagAs I listened to a news anchor this week talk about the hullabaloo surrounding a speech delivered by a Muslim whose son was killed in Iraq, I was struck by the way in which the parents of the lost soldier were identified: Muslim-American.

Much has been made of late about how divided is our country, and it occurred to me attaching a prefix to “American” sharpens the wedges. The now departed son was an American. He served in the American Army. He was quite possibly a hero, for reasons beyond merely his signing up to go fight, and die, for the rest of us. He happened to subscribe to the Muslim faith, as do a few million people around the world.

We humans are a tribal lot. We love to identify with a group. We include, within the boundaries of the U.S.A., Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Sikhs, and Atheists. We wear jeans to work, or ban them. We drive Fords and Chevys and Harleys and Hondas.

When I came to Gettysburg, I took up residence in Bonneauville, a town I soon discovered to be nonexistent – at least to the post office and  the Department of Motor Vehicles. When I went to get my Pennsylvania driver license, I put my address as Bonneauville 17325. The nice lady at the window, in a not quite so nice manner, questioned which was correct — Bonneauville, of which neither she nor her computer possessed knowledge, or 17325, which her computer said was Gettysburg.

A label can give us roots. In Maine, it was said to be a True Mainer one had to be at least seventh generation. I wrote about a farmer whose Maine origin went back to two brothers who had been paid for their Revolutionary War service with a deed to land near where I lived. In fact, the original land encompassed much of what had become, by the time I was writing, at least three towns.

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The worst mass shooting

I woke Sunday morning and, as is my wont, perused my email. I subscribe to several forums and news sources and it takes less time to get the important stuff than to turn on the TV and wade through the commercials.

Early reports said 20 people had been killed, 23 more wounded. The writer must have misread, because later the report was 50 killed, 53 wounded – “the worst mass shooting in U.S. history,” some have said. I doubt that, but I suspect it depends on the definition of “mass shooting.” The shooter was one of those who lay dead, which is too bad; it would have been helpful, maybe, to know for sure what prompted him. On the other hand, he apparently called 9-1-1 to proclaim his allegiance to ISIS.

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The state will come up with it!

Capital dome reversed to form a funnel.Several years ago, when I was in the daily news game covering a school district near my home, came a discussion of the districts indebtedness and its need for a new elementary school. The district had undertaken a large number of improvements, and was about maxed out on what it could get its taxpayers to cough up.

“Never fear,” the superintendent told his Board of Directors. “According to state law, the new school won’t cost us anything.”

“With our debt load limited out, the state will pay for everything,” he said.

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Wastewater: a deceptively valuable commodity

Bottled water refill station at marketHere on the East Coast, the lawn mowing season is winding down. A little earlier each day the sky looks like a storm brewing. Times have changed; I need less time each day to recognize it’s not a storm, but the westering sun that causes the early-graying sky.

Here in South Central Pennsylvania, those of us who do not regularly water our greenery find it still needs a periodic trim, but not like the rain-pressured growth that bogged down the Troy-Bilt when we returned in July from a wedding in Florida.

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