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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Can you say "hello"?

Customer service, Shallow Jewelers

Making business work takes a lot more than low taxes.

Two recent experiences, one good, one not so good, made me think about the business owner side of the equation. You'd think when times are hard, customer service would  perk up. But that's not always the case. I'm beginning to wonder if it's even often the case.


Younger daughter and I went bike shopping in Tosa yesterday. We didn't pick the best time to do it. Not only was it fried-eggs-on-sidewalk hot, but at 4:30, the rush hour was beginning. Just crossing North Avenue is a perilous adventure at such times. Luckily, the store stayed open until 7 that day, so we stopped worrying about being rushed or about rushing the staff.

The bike store, which will remain nameless because one experience does not a whole story tell, is blessedly small. (Neither of us does well when presented with vast quantities of merchandise.) The cheaper bikes--read: the ones we could afford--were at the front, but we didn't know exactly what we were looking for.

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What do we celebrate on the Fourth of July?

Fourth of July

What do we celebrate on the Fourth of July? Here's a clue: it's not freedom (that word never appears in either the Declaration of  Independence or the Constitution), and it's not "bombs bursting in air." Those came later.

Today we celebrate the approval and signing of Declaration of Independence (not its real name), which didn't actually happen on the 4th of July, but who worries about details? It's a big deal, this explanation of American thinking that Thomas Jefferson later called a "signal of arousing men to burst their chains . . .to assume the blessings and security of self-government. . . (and to restore) the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion."  

(Please note: "self-government" means government by an American government instead of British rule, not government each of us by our very own tiny prince-or-princessy self. And "freedom of opinion" is not unbound: it's chained to "exercise of reason.")

So we really are celebrating the ability of a small group of people to do something in 1776 that a larger group seems unable to do today: rise above differences to create work of greater truth and more lasting value than any one person or faction could have done alone.

The Second Continental Congress comprised 56 quirky, strong-willed lawyers, businessmen, and landowners. They were divided by class, state's rights issues, personality, and other biasing factors. They agreed on very little, including whether separation from England was such a great idea. Some of them even longed to be French, or so their enemies had it. Can you imagine? Mais non. Neither can I.

We will not discuss their personal lives, which would have gotten Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson at least expelled from office today. But it's fair to assume that we would recognize their imperfections.

Despite having feet of clay, ginormous egos, and a really scary and sobering job to do, one that was likely to get them killed in a literal, dead-as-a-doornail kind of way and not just a fall-from-grace-and-favor-with-corporate-big-money-contributors kind of way, they came together in the heat of summer and managed to git 'er done.

In the process they quarrelled, shouted, negotiated, sweated in their wooly-flaxy clothing, and drank great flagons of adult beverages that weren't even properly chilled. I'm sure there was plotting and scheming. Some might have nobly put their differences aside, but I suspect there was also plenty swapping of favors to get to agreement. That is how the business of diplomacy is accomplished: no one gets everything they want, but most everyone gets something they need out of the deal.

First Congress appointed a Committee of Five to do the tedious work of drafting the document to explain the reasons for declaring independence from British rule. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin were all for breaking the ties. Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston were hoping for looser bows instead.

Jefferson was picked to write the document because he was smart, educated, and knew literature and science. This was before lack of factual knowledge gave you status instead of making you a buffoon. But it wasn't merit alone that got Jefferson the job: political reasons steered the appointment. As John Adams said, “. . .you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second—I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third—You can write ten times better than I can.”

They wouldn't let Franklin draft it because they didn't like his jokes, and they knew he'd try to sneak a few in. I just made that up, by the way: the rest of this is true.

Even with Jefferson's "peculiar felicity of expression," the Congress jettisoned about a quarter of what he'd written with help from Adams and Franklin after they'd squeezed out the other two.  All the snarky things he'd said about the people of England (as he sniffed, "the pusillanimous idea that we had friends (there)," were wisely excised. Even the smartest boy on the block needs a good editor.

If I had more time and talent, I'd cast today's Congress in the earlier roles. But I think you get the idea, so I leave the rest to your imagination.

Meanwhile, I'll ponder why the 112th United States Congress can't get its act together over budget and other issues when their progenitors managed an entire philosophic construct in a month or two. Do you think it's air conditioning that lets them linger so? If so, someone turn off the power!

The gorgon and the princess

Love, Children, Mothers

My daughter, a fairy princessy-looking person by anyone’s standards (unless you happen to find tallness off-putting in fairy princesses) has flown into town on her gossamer wings, lighted for a moment, and is gathering sustenance to fly back to her beloved mountains and the one true love who awaits her there.

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Village matters: when a facelift's more than vanity

Wauwatosa, economic development

Imagine this: you manage a large commercial complex. Times are hard and there’s plenty competition for renters.

Some of the tenants are making improvements, and you’re hoping to lure more like them. You’ve done some work on the plumbing. But the exterior isn’t good. People drive by and are not impressed.

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