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Random Musings

OK, OK, I know a “Random Musings” piece is a cheap trick a columnist uses when he is at a loss for a coherent, full-length column. But what, you want me to use expensive tricks? So, here goes:

The Senate Addresses a Growing Concern

On the radio this morning, I heard that there is now a Senate Commission on America’s “obesity epidemic.”

If there were one thing you’d think was people’s own business, it would be how much they eat. If someone wants to blimp up like Jerry Nadler on a fact-finding tour of all-you-can-eat buffets, why is it anyone else’s concern? The United States just suffered a horrific terrorist attack, the FBI director is telling us that he’s “certain” there are more attacks coming, and the Senate is worrying about… Grandpa’s waistline?

Furthermore, the definition of who is fat seems to have an obesity problem of its own. According to the new government guidelines, Michael Jordan is overweight. Clearly, this trend must be halted before the entire nation turns into a bunch of well-muscled, high-endurance, fantastically athletic slouches.

And what’s this about “epidemic”? Are people catching obesity from others? Should fat people be quarantined? We’ll watch this story as it develops.

More Bad News on the Health Front

I was outside in the designated smoking area at work when a colleague stopped to chat. Although my cigarette was in my hand, I hadn’t lit it yet. Since this fellow had mentioned to me that he was sensitive to smoke, I refrained from lighting it while we talked. But after about a minute, he coughed and waved his hand in front of his face.

“Rufus,” I said to him, “it’s not lit.” I held up the cigarette for his inspection.

A moment of panic crossed his face. He frantically looked around and spotted a group of three smokers about forty feet away. “It must be the smoke from them.”

I looked over at the trio. Clearly, the wind was blowing their smoke away from us.

A moment later he said, “I can’t breathe here,” and walked away.

I had seen the same kind of thing a few weeks before. I was in the backyard having a smoke. (And no, my wife doesn’t kick me out of the house to smoke! I prefer smoking outside. Really. Really really.) A man came walking up the street, which is about 60 feet from where I was standing. As he approached my front yard, he began coughing. As soon as he passed, the house, he stopped.

Now, I imagine that the amount of smoke reaching him from my cigarette was something like a millionth or billionth of the amount of car fumes he had inhaled on his walk.

There is only one possible conclusion: Cigarettes are so dangerous that the sight of them alone can cause respiratory difficulties.

The Libertarian Mascot?

Speaking of the backyard, I like to sit out there at night, contemplating life, the universe, and everything. One great part of my habit is the animals that come by. I find if I don’t tinkle the ice in my cocktail too much, they generally don’t know I’m there. A week ago I had a raccoon stop about five feet away from me and stare at me in shock. I see opossums scurry furtively past, bats swoop through the light from the windows above me, and hear deer trample noisily through the brush. A few times I’ve heard coyotes baying in the distance. (About two weeks ago a coyote killed one of our neighbor’s chickens right under our bedroom window. Crikey but was that an ungodly racket!)

However, my favorite nighttime visitor is the skunk. I hear some thrashing in the bushes, too low to the ground to be a deer. A moment later, the black-and-white stripes appear. The little fellow moseys across the lawn, completely unconcerned about who hears or sees him. Several times, he has arrived at my feet before he notices me. He’ll stare up at me for ten of fifteen seconds, then slowly waddle away.

I think the skunk should be the libertarian mascot. He goes about his own business and doesn’t bother anyone else – well, unless you’re a grub, I guess – until they bother him. When he stops at my feet, there is a complete lack of aggression in his demeanor. Since I was just sitting there, he seems to figure that I’m just minding my own business, like him. Even when someone does bother him, his response doesn’t maim or kill the aggressor – it merely makes sure that aggressor will never bother him again.

As Alanus de Insulis wrote:

Omnis mundi creatura Quasi liber et pictura Nobis est in speculum

May 22, 2002

2002, Gene Callahan

Gene Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives

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