A Tricky Indicator

The most recent consumer confidence survey was discouraging, but if spending for Halloween is any kind of indicator, people may be becoming more bullish.  Tonight is Trick or Treat night in New Albany, and our neighborhood is festooned with fake spider webbing, scarecrows, styrofoam tombstones, hanging bats, skeletons emerging from the ground, and screaming skulls.  If the weather cooperates — and it is supposed to — it should be a fun night for the kids.

Last night we had some neighborhood kids over and carved pumpkins for the Webner house jack ‘o lantern walk.  We’ve got about 12 carved pumpkins and we will position them on the walk to the front door, for a lighted path for our trick or treaters.  I’m hoping to get and post some photos of our pumpkin artwork.

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Tribal Trivia

Here’s a trivia question that may be a stumper in years to come:  What team had back-to-back Cy Young Award winners that both started the first game of the World Series the next year?  Answer:  The Cleveland Indians, with 2007 Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia starting game 1 for the New York Yankees and 2008 Cy Young winner Cliff Lee starting for the Philadelphia Phillies.

The sad thing for the Tribe, of course, is that neither of thes two pitchers ever started a World Series game for the Tribe.

Hard To Believe

Hard to believe that Antoine Walker who played for the Celtics for 12 years and made $110 million has virtually blown through all of his money at the age of 33. That’s about $10 million a year ! Sounds like he was a generous guy to his family and friends, but they will all probably desert him now that he’s broke. I think we all dream about making his kind of money, but why don’t these people learn to save some money for a rainy day ?

Sausage Making

Right now we are getting a glimpse into the reasons why the legislative process has been compared to watching sausage being made.  In the Senate, five committees deliberated and produced bills, and then Senate leaders went behind closed doors and produced a proposed bill that includes an “opt-out” government plan that, so far as I can determine, wasn’t in any of the five bills.  The obvious reason for the “compromise” was to try to come up with an approach that placates liberals who are demanding that the legislation include a government plan but also has the chance to attract the votes of moderates who are leery of a “public option.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now trying to make sure that Senate Democrats have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and pass a health care reform bill — and it seems that, at this point, Democratic leaders would be happy to pass just about any bill that could be called a health care reform bill.  So, he is making further modifications to the bill that are specifically designed to get the votes of hesitant Senators, one by one.  According to the linked article, Reid has agreed to cut a tax that would have had a special impact on a company in Indiana, apparently in an effort to get the vote of Senator Evan Bayh.  We can expect to see more of this kind of unseemly, individualized wheedling and horse trading.

In the House, where passage of a bill with some kind of non-opt-in public option seems assured, the debate is over how the public option will set the rates to be paid to doctors and hospitals for care.  Should it be done by government fiat, or by “negotiation”?

There is one significant difference between legislative politicking and sausage-making.  Although the process and ingredients used to make a sausage may upset the tender sensibilities of some people, the end result usually tastes pretty darn good.  The legislative process, on the other hand, can produce a monstrosity filled with unfunded mandates, poorly conceived and ill-considered requirements, objectively nonsensical exceptions, and phony budget impact estimates — to the point where purported “reform” legislation is more appalling and Frankensteinian than the existing reality.

Hoopin’ It Up

My office faces out onto Gay Street, which I think is one of the most interesting streets in downtown Columbus.  It might be called a “mixed use” street and is home to our law firm, office buildings, two hotels, condos, and some older buildings across the street that have restaurants and bars on the ground floors and what appear to be apartments above.

This past week was particularly noteworthy on our block of Gay Street.  The word spread through the grapevine at work that someone in one of the apartments across the street was trying to break a hula hoop endurance record.  Sure enough, I looked out the window of my office and there, clearly visible in through the window, was a guy in a ball cap and shorts doing his hula-hoopin’ thing.  He was doing it Friday morning when I got in, and Friday afternoon when I got back from lunch, and on Saturday I got reports that he was still at it.

I learned today that he broke the record.  His name is Aaron Hibbs, and details about him and his record-breaking effort can be found here.  (The website also provides some reassuring information that answers some of our questions, like whether he was permitted to take time out to address bodily function needs.)  And even though his endurance feat has ended he continues to add to the interesting atmosphere on Gay Street.  This morning the local Fox News outlet was there to videotape a story, with its logo truck parked out front and its antenna fully extended.

So I say:  Congratulations, Aaron!  You made working on Gay Street a lot more interesting last week and just affirmed, again, why it is more enjoyable to work on an active downtown rather than in some drab, cookie cutter suburban office building surrounded by an ocean of parking spaces.

Nowhere To Go But Up

The Indians have hired Manny Acta to be their new manager.  Acta, the former manager of the Washington Nationals, is young (40) and one of his strengths is supposed to be relating to and developing young players.

New Tribe skipper Manny Acta

In his 2 1/2 years in Washington, Acta also compiled one of the worst managerial won-lost records in major league history.  In that sense, he and the Tribe are well-suited for each other.  Both want to erase the wretched recent past and show that they are winners.  We will find out soon enough whether Acta will be able to motivate and develop younger players, because the Tribe’s roster is filled with young players and “prospects.”  In fairness to Acta, however, you have to wonder how much talent there is to develop.  Last year the Tribe’s Triple-A franchise, the Columbus Clippers, were awful.

Shooting Stars

Today was crisp and exceptionally clear for my 5 a.m. walk.  On mornings like today, with the sun still well below the eastern horizon, the constellations stand out, cold and sparkling and distant, and you can almost count the individual stars. New Albany is located at the far northeast corner of Franklin County, and the night skies don’t suffer from too much light pollution from Columbus.

On some days you may glimpse a shooting star.  Today was one of those days.  Your eye catches a quick movement and you turn your head just in time to see a point of light flashing by, impossibly fast against the unmoving backdrop of stars, only to flare into nothingness.

It is a stroke of good fortune to see a shooting star first thing in the morning.  The day has only just begun, and already it is a special day.