To Build a Fire*

November 22, 2006

As with all things having to do with the outdoors, and nearly everything else of any import, my Dad taught me how to build a fire. We spent many a Saturday burning brush in the backyard. Using more than one match or resorting to gas to get things going was frowned upon, and wet wood was only an inconvenience. There is always dry tinder to be found if you know where to look.

Those backyard lessons came in handy as I started spending frequent weekends on Boy Scout campouts. Campfires heated water for cocoa and oatmeal in the mornings, and sometimes produced “scrambled pancakes” if we forgot a spatula and had to turn them with a fork. In the evenings, we might have vegetables cooked in aluminum foil, generally crunchy and underdone, but if we were lucky they would be followed by a cobbler baked in the Dutch oven nestled in the glowing coals. Later, we would huddle around the fire and talk, but mostly we would just sit and stare, mesmerized by the flames.

My Boy Scout days are long behind me, and camping opportunities of any sort are few and far between these days, but I still use those fire-making skills on a regular basis. Usually, it’s to burn leaves or brush in my own backyard,

but with three girl scouts and a 3-year old around, marshmallows often enter into the picture.

Thanks Dad, for teaching me how to do it.

*With apologies to Jack London .



November 19, 2006

Our 13-year-old daughter discovered this evening that her pet hamster Nibbles had done what all hamsters tend to do after 2-3 years. Tomorrow afternoon after we get home from church, we will have a short service and Nibbles will join Wilson in the quiet corner of our backyard that has been designated the final resting place for our family pets.

I realized, as she was sobbing on my shoulder after making the discovery, that there was nothing that I could do to help the situation other than say “I’m sorry.” She didn’t need me to remind her that she had known that Nibbles had been getting toward the end of his life expectancy. It wouldn’t help to note that Nibbles was, after all, “just” a hamster, a not-too-distant cousin of the mice that occasionally meet their end in the traps that we (I, anyway) set in the laundry room. And, it certainly wouldn’t have helped to observe that she had never really gotten 100% comfortable with handling him. At that moment, none of that mattered. Nibbles had been alive, Nibbles had been hers, and now Nibbles was gone.

Kids (and all of us) need moments like these in order to grow and develop. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier.

OBX Half Marathon

November 10, 2006

Jennifer and I are driving down to the Outer Banks tomorrow to run in the OBX Half Marathon on Sunday. Life has gotten in the way of our training, so we’re both looking at the race as an opportunity to jump-start our running. Wish us luck!

If nothing else, it will be a nice getaway….

Meet the New Bush

November 10, 2006

Dan Froomkin’s column in Thursday’s Washington Post is worth a read.

The only thing more disheartening about Bush’s acknowledgment that he made deliberately misleading and outright false statement during the recent campaign is the fact that the American public is going to receive the news about Bush’s revelation in the same casual and “so what?” manner with which he provided it.

Off the Wagon

November 9, 2006

Aargh! Only 8 days in, and I fell off the daily blogging wagon. Got home, put my 3-year old to bed, read my 8-year old a story, and then made the classic (in my case, anyway) mistake of sitting down in a comfortable chair with a book. Made it a couple of chapters in, and zzzzzz…. When I woke up it was past midnight and the day’s blogging window had closed.

Oh well. Will try to stay on the straight and narrow from here on in.

Sinking Feeling

November 7, 2006

G F Allen Republican 951,910 49.61%
J H Webb Jr Democratic 943,886 49.19%
G G Parker Independent Green 21,218 1.11%

At 9:45 p.m., with nearly 85% of the precincts in, I’m getting a sinking feeling.

What could those 21,218 people have been thinking?

Spectator Sport

November 6, 2006

Someone asked me the other week when I’m going to run for office.

Not likely. I’m much too thin-skinned, have too many other commitments on my time and energy, and my wife would rather go to the dentist than talk politics – I can’t imagine asking her to live it. No, for me, I think politics is destined to remain a spectator sport.

The game is on tomorrow, and I can’t wait to “play” – albeit from the stands. I certainly have a firm idea about how I want things to come out. But, it’s at times like this that I’m reminded of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

I’ll be bitterly disappointed if Allen and Goode win tomorrow. However, if that happens, I’ll take nothing away from the efforts of Webb and Weed. They are both good men, both “born fighting” to borrow Webb’s slogan, and have both run committed and exhausting races against well-entrenched incumbents. I hope they win, but if they don’t, it won’t be because they didn’t try.