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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Do-it-yourself podiatry

For the last several years, my toes and I have had, at best, a strained relationship. They don't like me and I don't particularly like them, but without them my sandals would fall off and without me they'd never get to see interesting new places so we put up with each other. A few months ago, though, they went too far.

The story goes back to the summer of 1998 when I accidentally dropped a lawnmower on my foot (I know, I know, everyone has a "dropped a lawnmower on my foot" story). I was working at summer camp, and I was supposed to take a bunch of little kids on a hayride but the camp tractor still had the lawnmowing attachment on the back (looked sort of like this). When I disconnected it, it fell onto my foot - caught me right on my left big toenail. I'm fairly sure that's the most pain I've ever been in; I was completely incapacitated for a few minutes (and the close proximity of the camp pool made it impossible to let loose with any really cathartic language).

That toenail fell off a few days later, but apparently my toe was still mad at me because when it grew back it never really grew back connected to the toe and it fell off again about a year after that (meanwhile, I also lost my right big toenail after a kid from my youth group stepped on it during a heated game of "Try to Knock Mark DeVries Over with Sofa Cushions". Youth ministry is dangerous stuff). The third time seemed to be the charm, though - the toenail looked a little weird but seemed to be functional. Until last May.

Last May the inside edge of the toenail started growing down into my toe. Apparently the toenail had gotten sick of dealing with me and had decided to just remove my toe so it and the toenail could go be happy on their own. I couldn't help but admire its initiative, but I didn't want to give up my toe. After a month, it had become painful to put on shoes (not often a problem for me since I'm a devoted sandal-wearer, but I have a shoe-requiring and walking-intensive job) and every so often I'd catch the toe on something and have an entrant in the running contest to beat having a lawnmower fall on my foot for "most painful experience ever". Clearly, something needed to be done. I talked to some friends and co-workers and they all told me to go see a doctor, who would cut away the part of the toenail that was digging into my toe and leave me with an oddly-shaped but no longer painful toenail. Most of that sounded fine, but it seemed silly to me to pay someone else to cut part of my toenail off when I had plenty of cutting implements handily available to me. And so, Gentle Readers, I present for your personal edification Charlie Rod's Handy Guide to Do-It-Yourself Toenail-In-The-Toe Amelioration. All you need is a Swiss Army knife and a pair of pliers. I personally vouch for its effectiveness.

And that's today's handy tip. If any of you ever have reason to try it, please let me know - I'll be curious to see if your experience varies from mine. I'll try to post again fairly soon so that this entry doesn't stay at the top of the page for overly long.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Somebody fetch that man his fiddle!

At some point it becomes sort of silly for a blogger to start every post with an apology for how long it's been since the last post. I'd hoped to post on Saturday and thereby start a tradition of one post every third major holiday, but the weather conspired against me. Still, it's 2005 - a new year, full of new beginnings. I'll go ahead and promise at least a post a week average for the year (some would say I have as good a chance of maintaining a post a minute for the year, but since this is my blog those some can just keep their pessimism to themselves). Dave Barry's retired now, after all; the world needs someone else to write about nothing in particular and hope people are entertained by it.

I'm not a politically-minded fellow, overall, and I'm aware the election was over two months ago, but I think I'd be remiss if I didn't say anything, so if you'll pardon me a moment or so on the soapbox, I'd like to make and then try to defend the following statement: I'm really quite frightened by what this election showed me about us Americans.

I think Bush's administration has made some horrible decisions. I'm generally more Republican than anything else in mindset, but I lost Dubya a couple of exits back. The economy has nosedived and we as a country seem to still cling to the idea that our resources are still better spent lingering in the Middle East trying to achieve goals which are apparently vitally important but which no one seems to be able to articulate. This isn't World War II and smashing the evil Nazi empire, this is turning a child that we're finally fed up with over our knee and then sitting him down to explain why what he did was wrong and how he can do better in the future - while he keeps kicking us in the knee. I'm just a 30 year old from Iowa, but it seems like they don't want us there and we don't want to be there and no one can figure out a common solution.

But that's not what bothers me about the election. I disagree with most of the things I've been aware of Bush having done and I become increasing more convinced that he's just a little too dumb to be the leader of the free world, but if he'd been elected because a majority of my fellow Americans felt otherwise I could have lived with that. Every President has had masses of people who strongly disagreed with his politics, and I'll bet every President got some votes because people were more afraid of his opponent's politics than they were of his. As long as the American people are choosing a President, I think the system we have in place is a very good one.

This time, though, I don't think all of us were electing a President. I think a large block of voters was essentially acting as a call committee, trying to choose a pastor to lead us. And that's frightening. I don't begrudge people their strong feelings on gay marriage or stem cell research or anything else - indeed, I think a healthy debate can only do the country good. But holy cow gee whiz what the fleebing flop - the President shouldn't even be the moderator of that debate. He certainly shouldn't have any input into the discussion. Not as the office, anyway. George Bush can have all the opinions he wants; President Bush should focus on keeping the dollar from dwindling away to nothing and figuring out a way to keep American boys and girls from dying so he can feel like he's finishing something his father started and if he finds himself with extra free time on his hands maybe even playing some golf at Camp David.

I was talking about his to a friend of mine, and he said "Government can't make itself a moral police," which I think is a lovely sentiment but unfortunately untrue. Examples of governments making moral decisions on behalf of citizens abound - Nazi Germany, the Spanish Inquisition (didn't expect that one, did you?), and the Taliban, just to name a few. There are only two ways to instill morals - teach by example or punish those that don't comply. Governments only have one option open to them.

Especially ironic is the fact that Dubya's a Republican. This idea of federalizing morals is much more the sort of thing one generally associates with the left. We're cutting taxes because the American people know how to spend their money better than the federal government does! But we would like to add a few caveats - no spending it on gay weddings, or investing in stem cell research, or speaking out against the United Church of America, which is proud to accounce that Reverend Bush is back for four more years! Alleluia, yip-yip yee-ha!

I'm a little frightened by Bush's politics, and I have very little confidence in his ability to lead, but mostly I'm terrified by what it signifies for the future of this country that he wasn't elected on any of those points.

I'll step off the soapbox now. Apologies if I've offended or (probably more likely) if I've lost anyone with my random-connections-of-thoughts composition style (in my defense, it's almost 7:00 a.m. now and I've been up since yesterday). Three holidays from now... see you all in July!

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