Look-about in late July

fragment
Even ceramic fragments add to decor.

THIS IS SUNDAY, the day of rest according to Christian belief, but I am not a Christian, so I stepped outside this morning after black café and bagels to attend to mounting chores.

I swept. I watered. I wiped and refilled the birdbath. I doubt the birds care, but I do. Appearances matter. I chopped some green detritus and dropped it into a big trash bin. I wiped the Jesus Patio table, and I swept the veranda.

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Oblong pot of something or other.

We wake every morning in the low 60s, temperature-wise, but by afternoon it’s warmed to the low 70s.

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He scares the snails.

A niece and her 1-year-old daughter moved to town yesterday from the nearby state capital. Her boyfriend left her, so she’s coming here to work in the coffee shop. To complicate the matter she discovered this week she’s four months pregnant, a gift from the same boyfriend, but he’s still gone.

One of my child bride’s brothers drove his truck here from his home in Querétaro and moved the niece’s few and quite humble belongings to the mountaintop. We’ll see how this plays out.

Her mother, my child bride’s sister, has four children and has never been married. I think I see a repeating pattern.

Highlands Mexican life is great weather and nonstop drama.

Most of my chores this morning are behind me, so I’ll shower, dress and slip into a Christian-like Day of Rest. It will be nice. We’ll eat in a restaurant.

Two nights ago, lying in bed reading our Kindles, the both of us, a big storm began outside, coming down from the mountains. The bedroom window was open. As wind whipped outside, it pushed the sweet smell of golden datura into the bedroom from the big bush just beyond. It covered us like Chanel.

That sort of thing can deliver sweet dreams.

Cool rain and the dismal science

IT’S BEEN RAINING a lot recently, and that’s cooled things down nicely. Even though it’s raining, I still head downtown most afternoons to sit at a sidewalk table with a nice café americano negro and my trusty Kindle.

It’s a good way to live.

My current book, and I’m just about finished with it, is Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics. It came recommended by young Ben Shapiro, a brilliant, conservative guy in spite of his not being a fan of President Trump.

Ain’t nobody perfect in this troubled world.

They don’t call economics the dismal science for no reason. Trying to get a good grip on the subject is a dismal undertaking, especially for someone like me who grapples with simple arithmetic.  But Hazlitt makes it pretty easy.

The book was first published in the late 1940s and updated in the late 1970s, but it’s quite relevant today because some things don’t change.

Hazlitt simplified things for me, and I’m going to make it even simpler for you:

A free market, unfettered by government meddling, works best 98 percent of the time. That’s the core message. But there’s more.

If government meddles in the free market, it should do this: 1. Look not at the immediate, desired effect of a policy, but at its long-term effects. 2. Look not just at the people a policy is designed to benefit, but at everyone it affects.

It’s quite common that a policy will help one group of people while doing harm to other, larger groups of people. And it’s common for a policy to right a perceived wrong today while creating greater wrongs over the long haul.

Hazlitt points out that most laymen do not take this into consideration when favoring something, and even professional economists can fail to take into account the long-term effects.

Speaking of professional economists, I cannot resist mentioning Paul Krugman’s prediction the stock market would tank if Trump became president. Of course, it did quite the opposite. One must chuckle.

On to the Irony Department, Starbucks, about as vocally leftist an outfit as you’ll find, is closing 150 stores in the United States due to minimum-wage increases and government regulations, putting scads of SJW employees out of work.

Nailed by their beloved socialism.

Minimum-wage increases is one of the things Hazlitt touches on at length as being an example of short-term vision. Government steps in to help “poor people,” but fails to realize the broader effects of a high minimum wage.

The higher salaries is money that comes from somewhere else. It is not pulled out of thin air. Starbucks sees that now. One must chuckle even more.

Hazlitt’s book is just 220 pages. I recommend it to you.

Obviously, it was not raining in the above video, which was taken a year ago, but it was raining in the video below, which was taken four years ago. Rain looks the same from one year to the next.

 

An incredible story

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The author peeks up from behind her mother’s back around 1980.

I READ A LOT because I’m smart, or maybe it’s the other way around.

Aside from my frequent mentions here that I often read a spell during the late afternoons down on the plaza, accompanied by a café Americano negro, I don’t do book reviews nor do I plug them, usually. But I’m gonna make an exception.

The Girl With the Seven Names.

girlIt’s written, along with a Welsh ghost writer named David John, by Hyeonseo Lee. I believe all Koreans are named either Lee or Park. That’s not the name she was given at birth but one of the seven she picked up along the escape route.

She fled North Korea. It’s not the first book I’ve read by North Korean defectors. It’s the second or third. But it’s by far the best, the most gripping, the most incredible.

This book was on the New York Times Best Seller List in 2015, so you may know of it. I pay no mind to best-seller lists anywhere, so it was new to me.

Kindle recommended it.

Something I did not know was that although North Korea’s southern border, the one with South Korea, is heavily guarded and difficult to pass through, the northern border with China is a walk in the park to cross. The problem with escaping that way is that the Chinese will send you right back if you’re caught.

Lee was just 19 years old when she crossed into China. The years-long, often harrowing tale of her trek to South Korea and then the added, equally gripping, story of how she managed to get her mother and brother to South Korea too is something you don’t want to miss. It’s a story of terror, love, deceit, cunning and sheer luck.

It takes you through China, Laotian prisons, Vietnam and tense bus journeys.

North Korea is usually referred to as communist, but it’s about as communist as I am. It’s an old-school Oriental despotism that’s totally misplaced in today’s world. A bit more communist, but not all that much, was Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s Red China.

These facts support the common leftist claim the communism has never really been implemented, and that is quite correct. When the pie-in-the-sky notion of communism is tried, human nature swiftly comes into play, and despotism follows.

This is a wonderful book. It ends happily, and Lee is beautiful. How has this not been made into a movie? She’s in her late 30s now and lives in South Korea.

Retirement is the cat’s pajamas

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No, this ole gent is not me. He’s not reading a Kindle.

I HAVEN’T worked one day for pay since Dec.19, 1999.*

It’s not rare that people, almost always men, drop dead not long after retirement due to having lost their life’s purpose. I did not suffer that issue.

I’ve never known what my life purpose is,** which simplifies things.

catBut it’s been almost 18 years now, the best 18 years of my life. Another world, another life, another wife, another language. I done good.

There’s something strange about living days, weeks, months and years without a job and you still have cash in your wallet. We have money due to Social Security (thanks, Uncle Sam), a small corporate pension (thanks, Hearst Corp.) and investments (thanks to wise me). Let’s hear it for capitalism!

Though I have no paying job, I do have work, almost daily. Why, just this morning, I swept the sidewalk and adjoining strip of street out front. I dumped the dirt, and it was all dirt, into a bucket, and I tossed it into the ravine.

This sort of thing does not provide life with meaning, but it does keep the sidewalk clean. That has societal value, I think.

* * * *

* A date as tattooed on my brain as is my birthday and my Air Force serial number.

** My fallback meaning-giver is Emily Dickinson whose quote elsewhere on this page does the trick for me. Were I a Christian or a Jew, which I am not, that would replace Emily Dickinson, one supposes.