Friday, July 04, 2003

JULY 4, 2003: 8:00 am

I am waiting in a crowd of 500+ people for the annual Heritage Festival 5-mile Race to begin. What kind of person gets up before 8:00 am on a holiday in order to run five miles through thick-as-soup air that is already pushing 80 degrees? Looking around me I see significant numbers of men with military haircuts and trim physiques, teenagers so full of energy that they nearly levitate, toned, tanned women many with impressive abs, ancient men and women who say that this morning’s heat is nothing, you should have been here for the run in 1948—“now that was a scorcher”—and the occasional just regular old folks like me. Why do I do this? Not exactly sure. It is somehow fun to push oneself a bit though as my finishing time of 47 minutes and change indicates, I don’t push myself very hard. A few serious runners (you can tell them by the “Fredericksburg Area Running Club” t-shirts, $100 shorts, and determined expressions) finished in just over half my time; some of them proceeded to run the course in reverse just to rub it in on all of the rest of us mortal folk.

JULY 4, 2003: 10:00 am

The run is over; even the slowest stragglers have come and gone. I took my son back to the car to change my shirt. He proceeded to smash his face on a metal pole and cut his lip. He’s only four and he has already had more emergency room visits and broken bones than I have had in my entire life. We realized that as long as we are downtown in Historic Fredericksburg’s Old Town, we might as well stay and watch the parade. Everyone loves a parade. I remember taking a trip up the coast in Massachusetts and stopping in a little town near Cape Ann (Rockport perhaps). The dividing stripe that went down the middle of the road was red, white, and blue, rather than our standard white or yellow. The day we were there wasn’t the Fourth of July but it was opening day for Little League. The local teams proudly marched down the street following a decked-out fire truck. Always remembered that. So here we are at a Fourth of July Parade in our own town. What more can a nostalgic sentimentalist (who chokes up when people sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at rodeos) ask for? Well, even I have to say that the parade was pretty lame. The whole thing lasted barely more than 10 minutes. No marching bands (a lone bag-piper and a few cars with blaring stereos constituted most of the music), a handful of antique fire trucks but no sirens, some souped-up motorcycles, a rag-tag band of kids on their bikes, a few clowns, some civil war re-enacters (who looked as disheveled as the poor original troops must have looked) and a singing girl walking with a float on a wagon, and the thing was over. Poor Miss Spotsylvania (or was it Miss Rappahannock) had to walk for heaven’s sake (no nice convertible for her; she didn’t look too happy in her high heels). The only redeeming feature of the whole thing was that leading the parade were veterans, WWII, Korea, Vietnam etc., marching with pride. And people stood and clapped. On the Fourth of July, that’s just how it should be.

On the way home from the parade I got to thinking. While my initial reaction was to lament the feeble attempt at a parade, I concluded that this wasn’t all bad. I am somewhat familiar with a state and society that have raised the art of public display to a technical perfection that is probably unrivaled in the world. If North Korea puts on a parade, prepare to be dazzled and overwhelmed. But then again, if North Korea puts on a parade, chances are you had better be there standing on the side of the street cheering your heart out displaying your endless devotion to the fatherland and its Great and Dear Leaders. Not to do so may end you up in concentration camps. So, if most of the denizens of Fredericksburg chose to stay home and neither participate in or view the parade celebrating the beginning of our own fatherland, at least they can do so secure in the belief that no government-paid snitches are taking notes. And that’s a good thing!

A good chunk of the people who didn’t bother with the parade were actually in downtown FXBG, they were walking the streets that were filled with booths selling trinkets, gadgets, gee-gaws, and, of course lots of delectably artery-clogging food. The trim run-5-miles-a-day-before-breakfast types were more of a minority here. Much more in evidence were the don’t-mind-if-I-have-another-sausage-since-I’ve-only-had-two-this-morning type. Still, nanny-state advocates notwithstanding, this is our right and by golly, those French fries do smell good!

Our kids have done this before and knew what to expect. Look at stuff we’ll never buy. Stop in the misting tent and cool off. Get faces painted by long-suffering volunteers. Jump up and down in the moon bounce because everyone knows 92 degrees is not nearly hot enough. Watching a dozen kids leap and bounce for the sheer joy of it made me wonder why there aren’t moon bounces for grown-ups. We have too many inhibitions: I’ll get hot and sweaty; I’m not dressed for it; I’ll pull a hammy; and, of course, I’ll look like a fool if I actually have a good time in any way that doesn’t involve large quantities of alcohol (of course then, it is positively expected to enjoy being silly).

JULY 4, 2003: 1:00 pm

We’re at the pool. It is 95 degrees out but the water is still cold (rained all day yesterday). Doesn’t seem to slow the kids down. Even when lips are blue and teeth chatter they insist that they’re not cold, or at least not cold enough to stop. Whoever instituted the hourly “adult swim” break is a bona fide genius and should receive annual payments of thanks from all the parents who would still be at the pool otherwise. There are a few more people here than usual but still not the teeming masses one might expect. This pool is one of the best things about this neighborhood.

JULY 4, 2003: 4:30 pm

Nap has been enjoyed. The deviled eggs are made. We’re just marking time and enjoying the cool air-conditioning until its time to begin grilling, gluttony, and, of course, copious amounts of fireworks. Gotta’ love this country!

Thursday, July 03, 2003


My son and I went out and bought a jumbo box of fireworks in preparation for tomorrow’s festivities. But the box didn’t include sparklers so I had to go back out. Ended up at a fireworks tent in a shopping center parking lot. It was a veritable cornucopia of pyrotechnic delights. What is the attracting in lighting things on fire that spark, sparkle, smoke, flame, hiss, whistle, and fly? I can’t really say but I am looking forward to it almost as much as my four-year-old is. And kill-joys like this need to lighten up a little.


My once verdant lawn is now filled with yellow and brown dead patches. What only makes the situation worse is that this condition was self-inflicted. Worrying about the spreading clover and other weeds, I spread weed and feed on the lawn a week or so ago. I followed all the directions to the letter:

”Water lawn thoroughly before application”: check; the heavy cloudburst the afternoon before took care of that.

”Apply early in the morning”: check; the task was finished before 10:00 am.

”Do NOT water for several days” check; mother nature cooperated

and yet I now have the pleasure of watching my lawn die before my eyes. Clearly, I must have over-applied the stuff. Add to that the fact that our lone cherry tree appears to be dying, succumbing to Japanese Beetles, not to mention the fact that the constant rain of the spring and early summer months have literally killed a number of our plants, and you have a less than happy season for growing things at our household.

What is amazing to me about all of this is the fact that it would have been inconceivable to me a few years back to be worrying about such things.


"You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.”

LATEST "CAN YOU BELIEVE OUR KIDS DON'T KNOW THAT?" STORY. Doesn't really surprise me. When and where were kids supposed to learn this stuff? How many families talk about what the 4th of July is really about with their kids? How much television programming is devoted to the subject? What share of school time, particularly in elementary school, is devoted to civics?

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE DPRK AND THEN SOME can be found in the Nautilus Institute's DPRK Briefing Book They don't appear to have all their proposed categories up yet, but it is a start.

RUMORS ARE CIRCULATING AROUND TOWN THAT THE DPRK HAS INDEED REPROCESSED PLUTONIUM and may test a nuclear weapon by the end of the year. Given the less than stellar success rate of previous intelligence assessments (Iraq WMD's; India-Pakistan nukes etc.) I'm taking this with a grain or two of salt.

Los Angeles Times ("COMMUNIST STATE PUSHES FREE ENTERPRISE," Seoul, 06/19/03) reported that in one of its biggest experiments yet with capitalism, the DPRK has started building hundreds of market halls around the country to encourage private merchants, and has loosened rules about who may do business and what may be sold, according to sources in the ROK. The new rules were issued last month. In effect, they make official what long ago had become reality in the DPRK. The DPRK has become increasingly dependent on private commerce to feed and clothe themselves in the absence of a viable public distribution system. "Before, they were tolerating private business. Now they are encouraging it," said Cho Myong Chol, a DPRK defector who had been an economics professor at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, the capital.

Kim Young Soo, a professor at Seoul's Sogang University who made a detailed study of the markets in the the DPRK, found that a wider range of goods was available but at prices out of reach for most citizens of the DPRK.
"Ironically, with the introduction of the market system, few people are starving to death, but their daily life is much harder than before," Kim said. "North Korea is undergoing an adjustment period... Today, there is no distribution system and people have to solve problems on their own."

Tuesday, July 01, 2003


UPDATE: Alternate theories and debates at The Volokh Conspiracy.

UPDATE: The Dissident Frogman weighs in

UPDATE: OOPS, MY BAD. So says the Dissident Frogman who started it all.

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