Take a break

detail of giant sundialThis is just a quick reminder that you need to give yourself a break. And even a small break is better than no break.

A few weekends ago, Heather and I took a one night break from normal life. It was so refreshing. Just being in a different place than our suburban home was enough to refresh our souls. We took the opportunity to talk about things that wouldn’t fit into normal days’ discussions.

So if you haven’t taken a break for a while, do whatever it takes and get away. You won’t regret it.

I snapped this photo in the “back yard” of the place we stayed. It was part of a huge sundial that someone built more than fifty years ago.

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Aurora and gun control

The shootings at a theater in Aurora were tragic. A man with untold problems decided to take the lives of many innocent people. My first reaction was that if gun control laws were more restrictive, the killer may not have been able to get the gun he needed to kill so many people.

A very good friend believes the opposite. He would argue that if a sane person in the theater with good marksmanship skills were carrying a concealed weapon, that person could have killed the shooter before all his killings were completed. We argued extensively about gun control a few years back and finally realized we could not convince the other to change his mind. We put the argument behind us and our friendship has grown deeper.

I am not going to argue here about gun control. I will say that with great freedom comes great responsibility. As the parent of two teenagers, I know the feeling of handing over the keys to a car for that first solo run. Anything could happen. As a society that has handed the controls of lethal weapons to nearly anybody, anything can happen.

My son went to a midnight showing — the same movie on the same night, at a different theater 15 miles from the tragic location. My family is not very different from some of the families whose sons and daughters were killed. My son could have been killed. Your daughter could have been killed.

I am thankful for our freedom — but I am sad for the frequent abuses of that freedom. I would be willing to give up a little freedom in exchange for a little more sanity.

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A new form of taxes

Writing on an envelope - showing how I am unhappy - pointing to a postage stamp of an unhappy personI got hit with a red-light camera ticket.

A good thing is that the traffic violation does not go against my insurance record. A bad thing is that I can think of a million other things I could have spent that money on.

I realize that these cameras may prevent a few serious accidents. But truly drunk or impaired people who might run a red light probably aren’t thinking about red light cameras. (They will be when they get their notice in the mail.)

I also understand that local governments are hurting. Like almost everyone else, they are having a hard time making their income match their expenses. And collecting taxes this way is very cost-effective.

Currently, only 21 states and Washington DC have these cameras. I happen to be in one of the states that taxes their residents this way. Have you been taxed this way lately?

The photo, by the way, is of the envelope I mailed the check in to the civil authorities.

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What difference does “imported” make?

Heineken amused me.

Their latest print ad touts how awesome it is that their beer is imported. However, in England, Heineken is not imported. For English consumption, the Dutch beer is brewed in English breweries, under license from the Dutch corporate headquarters.

What’s the big deal about “imported” anyhow? “Chinese-made” used to mean poor quality. Now, nearly everything is made in China, and often with very high quality built in. “American” brands and “German” brands are made all over the world. Even Swiss watches may be assembled elsewhere.

Having said that, I still prefer certain countries of origin for certain products. What’s your favorite imported product and why do you like it better than the alternatives?

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How do you decide?

Polish cerealAlmost every situation where we make a decision involves some compromise.

Breakfast cereal … I love non-standard less-sweet varieties that can’t be found in the Kellogg’s or Post sections of the supermarket. So my search for interesting cereals brought me to Big Lots. (I’m a Big Fan of Big Lots.)

I found a tropical fruits cereal there, from Poland, of all places! Then, I noticed that Big Lots imported it from Poland. There aren’t many tropical fruits in Poland. So the fruits were grown in Africa, flown to Poland, and then the end product was flown to some warehouse in Columbus, Ohio. Then they were transported to Denver. And trucked from the local Big Lots warehouse to my local suburban store.

That’s a lot of carbon footprint.

But how do we avoid that? It’s not easy. Tropical fruits aren’t grown in Denver either. But I like them.

How do you decide which products you buy?

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