Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Land of Broke S**t

My father-in-law used to have a ranch in rural east Texas, a place he accurately referred to as “the land of broke shit.” The roads leading to the ranch were lined with trash and nearly every home we passed was surrounded by a garden of broken lawn mowers, motorcycle frames, rusted farm equipment, disused playsets and no-wheel cars on cinder blocks. It was as if owner used something until it broke down and then simply got off and walked away, leaving a metal hulk to rust in the knee high grass. Now it seems that the WalMartization of America has made, not just East Texas, but our entire country a land of broke shit.

Last week I bought one hundred and fifty pounds of grass fed beef from a rancher in Eastern Washington and wouldn’t you know it my six year old chest freezer decided that this was the time to take a crap. We go to Home Depot, but all they have is the same piece of junk I already had so off we went to Sears. Sears had two options: the same piece of junk with a Kenmore instead of a GE sticker and a $250 stand-up freezer. I didn’t want the same ole same ole so I inquired about the stand-up. They wanted $70 to have it delivered; seventy bucks to deliver a two hundred and fifty dollar unit, no thank you I’ll take the POS chest freezer and borrow Jane’s Jeep Cherokee to get it home.

So here I am with POS 2.0 in my garage and next to it sits a worthless piece of scrap metal. The old freezer didn’t completely fall apart, what happened was some tiny plastic part had finally had enough and gave out thereby rendering the entire unit worthless. What irks me is the waste.

As Americans demand cheaper and cheaper products manufactures’ respond by examining each individual part of their product and systematically replacing relatively expensive durable parts with inexpensive failure prone parts. Eventually the unit becomes so cheap that it’s more economical to purchase a new unit than it is to have it repaired. This would be no problem if the product were made out of say corn, but they are not, they are made of and packed in non-renewable resources. My old freezer is a complete waste of finite resources. Whether it’s pots and pans, televisions or freezers we have become a throw away society.

Throwing everything away just isn’t a sustainable model. Perhaps we should task prison inmates with the job of repairing all the broken down freezers, water heaters, dishwashers, ranges, washers and dryers. You should just be able to make a call, have someone pick it up, have it transported to some lock-up where it would be fixed and put back out for sale. Seems like a win, win, win.

Friday, November 26, 2010


A few weeks ago I listened to a story on NPR about the family of severely disabled girl who was turning eighteen and facing severe reductions in her Medicare. The girl required full time medical care, which came from either the parents or an in-home nurse. There was a lot of pressure on the parents to put their daughter into a home for disabled adults, an idea they were against because of the poor care she would receive. The parents brought up the subject of whether or not the public ought to care for a person who, at least in the traditional sense of the word, has nothing to “contribute” to society. The parents tried, in vain in my opinion, to make the case that their daughter did have value to society, a topic some emailer seized on the next day stating that he had no responsibility for someone who can’t contribute. In my humble opinion both the parents and the emailer completely missed the boat.

This girl doesn’t contribute to society, but she does define us as a society. Imagine a scenario wherein one hundred pregnant women were put into a room where a doctor walks in and states “I’ve studied each of you and I can tell you that ninety eight of you will have healthy babies, one of you will have a mildly disabled child and one of you will have a severely disabled child. My combined fee for providing care for the two children is one hundred thousand dollars. These are the facts you decided how to best handle it.” I think that the room would be split about eighty/twenty with the eighty being a community oriented group and the twenty being a screw you group.

The community group would propose that everyone kick in a thousand dollars for a total of one hundred grand, thus ensuring that the two disabled children will get the care they need. The other twenty percent will say screw you, I’ll go ahead and take my chances. In my humble opinion the community group has the more worthwhile solution: everybody kicks in a little in order to care for the community as a whole. The screw yous would argue that they are forced to pay for something that their family doesn’t need, while the community people would counter that they are paying for something that that their society needs. Do we stand alone or do we stand together.

The disabled child has value outside of her immediate family not because she can go out and handle a shovel or enter data into a computer, but because she defines who we are as a society. Are we a community or are we a collection of screw you individuals. The screw you mentality falls apart when one of that group ends up with the disabled child; suddenly they want to change their vote. Kind of like when Limbaugh found himself addicted to hillbilly heroin or when Wall Street bankers stuffed money in their pockets just before coming to the American people – the very same people they’d been screwing for a decade – hat in hand.

When you look at American history you see an attitude shift right around nineteen forty. I believe that WWII changed the American psyche from one of “grab all you can get” to “we’re all in this together.” It was this shift in world view that fueled something that America had never before seen: a prosperous middle class. Today The United States of America faces a very difficult challenge wherein a minority of screw yous are presenting themselves as a majority. The community group, led my President Obama, has done a very poor job of making their case, it’s time he/we step up and show the voters just what kind of crappy world these Ayn Rand reading screw yous are trying to create.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wise or Chicken

The past twenty two years in Seattle have reduced me to a bit of a wimp when it comes to snow driving. When I was a kid back in Des Moines we used to hide behind snow drifts and when a car passed we’d hustle out and grab the back bumper for a ride. We called it bumper sliding or hookey bobbing. I remember once we went snowmobiling and my dad was driving a pick-up with the sled in the back and I rode the entire way just holding onto the tailgate – totally normal in 1978, completely crazy in 2010. My point is that in order to slide behind a car the roads would have to be pretty darn slick, and we thought nothing of driving on those roads.

I remember mom carting us to school in this 1974 Chevy Impala station wagon, you couldn’t design a worse snow car, but every morning off we went. When I got my license we used to go out on icy nights specifically for the ice. We didn’t avoid it we looked for it. Today I have a Subaru Outback – the consummate snow car – and I find myself inching along, nervous on any hill. On the one hand you could say I’ve grown wiser, on the other you could argue I’m more chicken.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


It's not supposed to snow in Seattle, but every year we get at least one white storm. This year the white stuff came a bit early. Our new old house isn't insulted nearly as well as our old new house; despite storm windows I can feel a steady breeze blowing through the single-pane windows. Perhaps I'll have to get out the Sawzall this spring and install new windows.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No Bull

Last week I spent three days sneaking around the Utah mountains looking for a bull elk. I was visiting my friend Bill, and tagged along behind him while he went in search of an animal to top off his freezer. We put in three twelve hour days and came across several groups of the massive animals, but we saw no antlers and consequently couldn’t fire a shot.

When I was a kid in Iowa my dad really enjoyed pheasant hunting, and my brothers and I used to go out with him walking the ditches and draws on crisp Midwestern mornings – eventually dad spent more and more time in the car, but he still loved being out with his son’s giving us pointers and telling us where to go. For me hunting has been more about laughing and telling exaggerations than it ever was about firing a gun or putting meat in the freezer.

I quickly discovered that elk hunting and pheasant hunting are two ends of the hunting spectrum: one is slow the other fast, one is silent, the other social. Every morning Bill had me in the woods an hour and a half before sunrise moving quietly, listening and looking for any sign of a passing elk. Once we found a favorable spot we hunkered down and waited. This is when I typically assumed my “hunting posture” of lying on my back with my eyes closed, calling in the unwary prey with an elk call that sounds surprisingly like a light snore. Sometimes I’d nod off for thirty, maybe even forty, minutes only to wake and find Bill standing in exactly the same place and in the same position that he was when I dozed off. He had his sneak down that’s for sure.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods, climbing, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, but elk hunting was something entirely different. Hunting is all about immersion and absorption: you have to immerse yourself in the forest and absorb every noise and every flicker of light. For me outdoor sports were all about getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, basically I was just crashing through the woods oblivious of my surroundings. Hunting opened me up to those surroundings. Lying on the warm ground watching the light from the rising sun track down through the forest canopy is something I never before noticed despite having spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours in the woods.

I know I might piss off a few friends when I say this, but serious hunters – and when I say serious I’m excluding the beer can shooting guys who have their asses glued to the seat of four-wheelers – and REI shopping enviro folk have a lot in common. I think that there is significant common ground on which both groups can stand. Both groups have a sincere love of the untamed and both want to preserve it.

I think that there is a lot of political hay to be made by separating one group from the other, and it’s sad that both groups are so eager to lap it up. “I ain’t no tree hugger,” is a common refrain among hunters. I’d like to say “heck dude you probably hugged, leaned against, hid behind more trees than I ever did, elk seek refuge in the forest, without trees you’d have no forest.” Likewise environmentalists so often act appalled whenever the issue of hunting comes up. Bill and I were out hunting for food, good tasting healthy food essentially doing the same thing that Homo Sapiens have been doing for two hundred thousand years. It’s in our blood man.

I went hunting for wild elk and hope to do it again really soon.