When Dad started to feel the effects of chemotherapy in his fight against cancer he realized that his ability to reliably defend his wife and family were seriously impaired. No longer was he the large and imposing man (but gentle as a lamb) who could offer an evildoer a withering glare. He had grown weak and frail from debilitating treatments and could hardly walk let alone stand against an assailant, God forbid that one should ever cross his or Mom's path. So Dad, a man of peace if ever there was one, purchased a gun and acquired a permit to carry it on his person at all times. And he carried it, feeling just a tiny bit safer in the knowledge that he could at least make a decent effort to protect his wife while they traveled in strange cities on a long tour for survival from cancer. He took it to the firing range and became quite skilled in its use. Having the benefit of being around guns when he was a young man, he was a natural shooter who took pride in his ability.

We had talked on the phone once, after I'd gotten out of Army Basic Training, and we both agreed that it'd be fun to go to the firing range together and shoot at some targets. He was particularly proud of his officer's-model Springfield 1911, a weapon that was (and still is) commonly used by Army officers as sidearms when out in the field.

I've never owned a firearm, myself. Fired a few of them, all of which belonged to other people. Having joined the Army, I am abundantly aware of the potential need for a firearm when I deploy to Afghanistan next year. I've always had a sort of ambivelent feeling about guns, appreciating their practical uses but eschewing their sensationalized fascination in society at large. For me, guns are tools, not toys or showpieces. They are tools for survival and to be used only in extreme need. I figure that, once I deploy, having a sidearm would probably be a smart thing, even if I never use it, because weilding an M-16 in a computer lab can be problematic under even the best of circumstances.

Dad died a few weeks ago. Mom has been rooting around through his stuff and, today, she gave me Dad's prized Springfield 1911. I'm still not sure how I feel about this, but it at least takes the matter of cost out of the equation for me (guns aren't cheap when you acquire them legally). This is strange for me.

Now I own a gun.

Is that a good thing?

On my way to church this morning I passed three abandoned cars on the highway's shoulder. Five miles of highway, three downed cars. One a Cadillac dating from the late-seventies or early 80s seems to have suffered a rear hub or bearing failure. A first generation Dodge Intrepid had suffered its own rear-suspension failure, judging by the excess of negative camber noted on the wheel. The third, a Hyundai died of invisible causes.

Automobiles are machines, and machines break. So seeing a car along side a road is not an unknown thing. Seeing three of them within five to eight kilometers is pretty rare. But it really didn't surprise me. Unless you live in New York City or two to three other very large cities, the public transportation stinks. That is not by accident. Public transportation is subsidized throughout the globe. It has to be in order to offer good service on off-peak routes and times. Most other countries regard this as a public good. Good public transportation enhances the living standards of the poor and working classes who don't need the expense of a car to get around. Public transportation is far more fuel efficient than automobile transport, and thus reduces oil imports and production of greenhouse gasses. That in turn improves their balance of payment situation when trading with other countries. People with vision problems can get around. Poor people get to work, the economic situation improves, and drunk people don't have to drive to get home. Parking problems and traffic jams are reduced, as are road wear expenses. It's a win-win situation for most countries.

But not in America. We didn't invent the automobile (the Germans did) but we sure did more to promote it than anyone and feel a divine right too it. Public transportation subsidies are rarely approved as almost no one actually takes the bus anywhere. While cars are very expensive, once you have one the marginal cost of a single trip is minimal. And because almost everyone has a car people tend to see subsidies as them giving money to someone else, and that's something most Americans abhor.

So in America, you have to drive. And when the economy turns bad, and your hours are cut at work, commissions are down, tips are down and income is down (provided you still have a job). And one of the easiest places to cut back is routine maintenance on that old car. Oil changes become less frequent, chassis lubrication goes down. Repairs are deferred or delayed. Until something breaks.

Take that Cadillac I saw resting on it's left rear brake. The owner had plenty of warning something was wrong. Wheel bearings make a grinding noise that changes with speed. Hubs going away vibrate. Non-mechanics don't know what's wrong, but you know something is wrong. Same for the problem on the intrepid. They would have heard, or felt something. Probably both. If they take it in to their mechanic he deals with it. But the driver is now broke. He or she just keeps on driving hoping for a break before something really breaks. Of course that's a fool's bargain. Repairing that hub or wheel bearing would have cost a third of what the Caddy owner will now have to spend. Provided the money is there at all.

And that's the other thing about America's dependence on the automobile. We use a lot of gas. When the economy improves, people will drive more. The cost of gas will go back up. A slow, mild increase might be absorbed. But we saw in 2008 how the price can double or more in weeks. That sort of increase will choke off any recovery right as it begins. And so the cycle begins again. The truth is that as much as America loves the automobile, we can not depend on it any more as primary transportation. We need alternatives for the sake of our poor, our dependence on foreign oil, for the stability of our growth, and because we can't go on producing greenhouse gasses like they don't matter. We don't have to give up the car, after all Europeans still drive. But we need to make it so that you don't need a car to live a normal life.

Doing my part for better of society!

First off I wish to apologize as much as possible within the realm of socially acceptable apologizing (as in not profusely but pretty darned close) to those friends here who count on me for intellectual sustanance in a time where common sense is at an all time low. There are good reasons for this shirking on my part that I will reveal to you in some of the details now (see below).

I captured a peasant just over three months ago. This normally would not be a big deal, except this was my first solo capture of a peasant, an activity I normally engage in with members of my peer group which contains Chopper, The Slow Kid and recent edition Bootsy (a transvestite stock trader with lotsa hot tips). Usually capturing of a peasant involves creating a distraction (the unproductive amongst us are usually easily distracted unless somehow mentally ill), putting potato sack over head and using two sturdy fellows to drag person and sack-over-head into a vehicle. Going at this activity alone made it more challenging (as I'm sure you can imagine), but I wanted to prove to myself and to Chopper that I could perform adequate peasant disposal as a solo act which increases one's manhood tenfold.

Peasant disposal is an activity I enjoy as an offshoot of my work as a fully tenured professor of ethics (with honorary doctorate now by the way in case you have a diary about me) in the Greater Maryland University System. It is still at this time regarded as a hobby or pastime for those that engage in it, but hopefully there will soon be grants given for it as it is morally and ethically necessary in order to create a better of society that eliminates waste and government handouts.

I spotted this peasant who I could tell right away was soaking up peoples' hard earned tax money due to his cafeteria worker uniform and scuffy shoes. I moved in closer to him and worked my skills to get valuable background information from him that I could use against him later when I pushed him to his physical and mental limits before breaking him completely. I was looking forward to the second step in peasant disposal which is mockery but for first starters I needed to win his trust and convince him I was a companion in travels by demanding as much information about his background as possible and poking him in ways that caused him to reveal personal secrets that could be used to break him later in my well equiped basement.

His name was Udo Funke (I think that is what he said his name was but I was talking on my cell phone when he told me so this could be misinformation of a kind). When I ended my call to the phone sex line and we could talk more deeply and personably without interruption he told me how he worked full time in a cafeteria for government workers and also had a part time job working security at an ethnic shopping mall. I immediately made check marks in my notebook as these were two useless activities he was engaged in that added nothing to society and served my purposes well. He also did small repairs in his spare time, which he claimed was not plentiful (a frequent claim of useless peasants). He fixed up broken bicycles that needed to be disposed of for peasant children and fixed appliances for elderly peasants who claimed they could not afford the correct people who depend on them to make a living. All of these matters were extremely shady so I was pretty much forced to move to stage two of the peasant disposal operation.

The mockery began in earnest, which was a challenge as a solo act and always easier with Chopper flinging barbs and witicisms and The Slow Kid hitting the peasant in the kneecap with a wrought iron bar. I did have a good advantage because we were on the city bus (a frequent hangout for peasants) and I was on the outside part of the bench seat and he was trapped against the unopenable window. I mocked his appearance, his tattered clothing, his shoes, his living off government handouts and his wife having died of pneumonia two years earlier. It was great fun but I did not want to get too carried away as I still needed to get him off the city bus and get a potato sack over his head and I needed him to continue to believe I was friend and not foe.

Taunting and mockery are two different things and should be considered as such especially when writing a term paper (which I am sure many of you younger people are going to be doing or are doing now so if you want to write a term paper on taunting and mockery you should make a note of this). Mockery sets the table and taunting is reserved for after one has gotten a peasant's head inside of a potato sack.

When my mockery had driven Udo Funke to tears, I put my arm around him and whispered repeatedly in his ear, "I am friend, not foe. I am friend, not foe" until he was convinced of this. Weak minded peasants are easily foiled by this trick which is something that becomes more effective with more practice. We got off the bus at my stop even though he protested at first because it was not his stop and this was obviously not a peasant neighborhood (the nearby country club is a dead giveaway). I convinced him to disembark from the city bus at my point of origin by telling him I would give him a free can of lima beans that I had in my pantry if he came to my house and by swearing to him that no gay antics were in any way part of my plan. I also swore at him to intimidate him and take advantage of his low self esteem. It worked like a charm.

The basement of my home was intially set up years ago as a place where people who rejection my offers of friendship could be corrected in their thinking, but since that time I have forged solid and rewarding friendships and it is seldom used for those purposes. The last time I needed to use the basement for those reasonable reasonings was when the man at the pretzel kiosk turned me down for going for shakes at the ice cream kiosk at the end of his shift. He is now in a state mental institution and is no longer a burden on tax paying Americans by being a pretzel vendor. More to the point here and at this time is the utilization of the basement set-up for peasant disposal rather than corrective behavioral tactics which simply do not work.

This all ties together in a way that is explained now because I was finding myself desiring friendship with Udo Funk. Like many peasants who depend on government handouts to feed their slovenly selves, Udo was like a dog, an intelligent dog that could conceivably become a reliable companion and toady. I was understandably torn by the feelings welling up inside myself, but I knew I had to do the ethical thing and dispose of this peasant before he drained the nation dry of resources. And so, fighting against my emotions, I began doing things to my useless peasant that would push him beyond the point of no return. And then, godfearing citizens of this website and visitors, I had a change of heart that was as sappy as any moment in any romantic comedy film of the past twenty-five years and I stopped. With tears in my eyes I released Udo Funke from his restraints, removed his hood and let him drop lifelessly to the floor. Fearing it was too late for reclamation I fetched him a can of dog food that was left over from before I had to put my boys down and put it in a dish for him. I let him eat his fill and then gave him some expired seltzer water to wash it down with. He seemed content and so I took him up on my lap and began my lecture series on becoming a contributing member of society.

Since then I have gotten Udo Funke trained in answering the telephone and e-mail so he can check all the insider trading tips I get from my smart connections on Wall Street which keeps me from having to worry about checking on these things while I am lecturing a class or giving a test during my work as a fully tenured professor of ethics with an honorary doctorate. This has expedited this process for me, helped me to avoid missing key and timely information and at the same time has allowed me to teach Udo Funke what it means to be a benefit to society and to work for a living.

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