Saturday, January 21, 2006

My Mom's Act of Generosity

My Mom's Act of Generosity

One August day my mother decided to be generous. She'd had an extra-bountiful harvest from her gardening efforts. Plump tomatoes and zucchini were bursting forth from their many green stems. She wasn't in the mood for canning. We'd already eaten enough zucchini to make us sick that season. Zucchini bread, fried zucchini, zucchini in our pasta, zucchini in our soup - what was next? Zucchini milk shakes? The zucchini had to go, but my mother did not believe in wasting a thing.

She decided to share with complete strangers. The neighbors had already accepted more zucchini than they could handle. We couldn't possibly ask them to accept more of the big green gifts. No - it would have to be strangers who would be the recipients of Mom's generosity this time.

"How can I carry out this kind and generous deed?" she wondered. She tore some cardboard off of a box in our garage and created a sign with black magic marker.

It read:

"Please take - FREE!"

Proud of herself, she went into the back yard and dragged one of her picnic benches all the way to the front yard - to the street. We lived on more of a rural highway than a street. Cars would whizz by at about 50 mph on the average. I'm not sure how she expected anyone to be able to see her little sign and stop in time.

She enlisted me to help her carry the bounty of tomatoes and zucchini out to the bench, and when we were done, we looked proudly at our display. Mother was teaching me a lesson about sharing.

Back inside the house, we waited for a time at the front window with proud anticipation. Cars sped by - no one stopped.

The morning wore on and we got tired and just a bit disappointed. At one point, I recall someone finally stopping and taking many of the vegetables, leaving a few behind.

We lost track after a while - forgetting about the display.

Evening fell - and when Mom went out to retrieve the picnic bench, it was gone.

For the longest time, we scratched our heads and wondered what could have happened to it - and we laughed when we realized what had probably happened.

We found nothing but her cardboard sign laying on the ground.

Someone must have come along and taken the last of the vegetables - and left the sign propped up on the empty picnic bench - the one that had read:

"Please take - FREE!"

So someone took the bench!

It was the last time we shared that way.

High Energy Costs Stunting Economic Growth

High Energy Costs Stunting Economic Growth

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.96 percent yesterday, erasing its gains for the year. It was the sharpest one-day decline since May 2003. Stocks tumbled after crude oil surged past $68 a barrel and several corporate giants reported disappointing earnings. Shares of Google fell 8.5 percent, their biggest decline ever, after the company said it would fight federal prosecutors' demands for records on Internet users' search queries.
For investors, who just two weeks ago were celebrating the Dow's climb above 11,000, there has been a marked shift in mood. The earlier optimism, fed by expectations that profit growth would remain strong as the Federal Reserve put the brakes on interest rate increases, has eroded in recent days. - NY Times, 21 January 2006
Even though the war machinery has pumped the pedal that moves the wheels of the American market in the past, the uncertainty in Iraq is markedly hurting our economy.
As the standoff between Iran and Western nations drags on, the concern among oil experts is that a diplomatic or military confrontation with a major Middle East oil producer will curb oil supplies at a time when all other producers are pumping at their maximum capacity. - NY Times, 21 Jan 2006
The most frightening part is that the people hurt the most and hit the hardest are not even the market investors. It is the average American whose pockets are being picked by Big Oil; and Big Oil cannot stay above water without gouging the customers because of the Bush administration, who thought they could enrich Big Oil (and the RNC coffers) by showing American dominance in Iraq...all the while telling the public they were 'spreading democracy' and 'keeping us safe.'

Now, analysts fear that oil prices could surge much higher - even beyond $100 a barrel - if the UN Security Council imposes trade sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities.

It appears that they've failed everyone.

On a very much-related note, the witty Molly Ivins is serious. She is sick of fear, timidity, and hypocrisy among the Democrats. She's gone as far as to say that she won't support Senator Clinton for President.
What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out....The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF? [CNN]

Kosovo's President Rugova is Dead

Kosovo's President Rugova is Dead

According to Fisnik Abrashi of the Associated Press, Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova's death leaves the province's political scene in disarray at the most sensitive time since the end of the 1998-99 war between Yugoslav government forces and Kosovo Liberation Army.

A New York Times article reminds us that Rugova's popularity was not universal, but that he was regarded by many as the "father" of Kosovo. He'd drawn criticism for meeting with former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade at the height of the 78-day NATO bombing campaign and appeared on Serbian television to call for a "political solution."
The feud that ensued between his party and the Kosovo Liberation Army, which had broad support of the ethnic Albanian population, led some analysts to conclude his political career was over, but his party regained support when the United Nations and NATO moved in to administer the province and the Kosovo Liberation Army was disbanded. - NY Times, 22 Jan 2006

Regardless of past criticism, Rugova was regarded as an international icon of the Kosovo-Albanian struggle for independence. His death leaves the future of Kosovo in questionable balance. Negotiations between ethnic Albanians and Serbs over the future of the province were set to start in Vienna, Austria this Wednesday, when it will be decided whether Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians will win the outright independence they've wanted. It's a great loss at a very important and sensitive time.

The head of parliament, Nexhat Daci, is expected to be named acting president until the parliament chooses a new leader.