Archive for the 'It’s all about me' Category

The green mile

October 30, 2007

We’re supposed to care about the world we leave behind, whether we have made it better or worse. But this is ridiculous:

Klara Tammany’s mother didn’t want a typical American funeral. No embalming, no metal casket, not even a funeral home.

When she died after a long illness a couple of years ago, family members and friends washed and dressed her body and put it in a homemade wooden casket, which was laid across two sawhorses in the dining room of her condo in Brunswick.

Then, for two days, friends and family visited, brought cut flowers, wrote messages on the casket’s lid and said goodbye.

“We had this wake, and it was wonderful,” Tammany said.

The home funeral is part of an emerging trend that some believe will change the way Americans deal with death. Send-offs like the one Tammany planned with her mother are called “green” funerals because they avoid preservative chemicals and steel and concrete tombs, all designed to keep a body from decomposing naturally.

After the wake, Tammany’s mother was cremated and her ashes buried near the family’s camp in Monmouth.

Another alternative that is just emerging in Maine is natural burial in a green cemetery: wooded graveyards that ban chemicals and caskets that won’t easily decompose.

Body in the house for a few days? Natural, yes. Connects us to the eternal we try not to think about? Check. The way it was done for a long time? You bet.

But creepy. There’s a reason we distanced ourselves from death by creating funeral homes and preservatives and postmortem cosmetics. “He looks so natural” may be superficial and insincere, but it’s still better than, “Eeuuw!”

When I go, fill my body with mercury and dump it in Lake Michigan. Deal with it, Chicago.


New address

June 25, 2007

You should be able to find Opening Arguments at this new address. We’re still working on some things, such as getting the archives moved, so posting will be light today.

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Moving day

June 22, 2007

News-Sentinel blogs are moving to a new service on Monday, which means there will be a new address for Opening Arguments. If things go as planned, there should be a post here sometime Monday that provides a link to the new site. All the archives are supposed to be transferred as well, so you should still be able to find all the stupid things I’ve written over the last two years that you might want to beat me up over. As a bonus, I’ll have control over the sides of the blog, where the blog roll, among other things, goes (it’s a long story; don’t ask). All the local bloggers who have asked me to provide links to their sites will now be able to be accommodated.

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2,500 and counting

June 22, 2007

The only reason for this post is that is No. 2,500. Whew! If you have read all of them, thank you, but shouldn’t you get a life?

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Are you a professional?

June 20, 2007

Somebody sent me this short quiz, "A test for professionals," that’s been making the e-mail rounds. Bet you don’t get one of the four right.


The following short quiz consists of four questions and will tell you whether you are qualified to be a professional. The questions are NOT difficult.


1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

The correct answer is: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close
the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an
overly complicated way.


2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

Did you say, Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and close the
refrigerator? Wrong Answer.

Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the
elephant and close the door. This tests your ability to think through the
repercussions of your previous actions.


3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All of the animals
attended except one. Which animal did not attend the conference?

Correct Answer: The Elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator.
Remember, you just put him in there. This tests your memory. Okay, even if
you did not answer the first three questions correctly, you still have one
more chance to show your true abilities.


4. There is a river you must cross but it is used by crocodiles, and you do
not have a boat. How do you manage it?

Correct Answer: You jump into the river and swim across it. Have you not
been listening to anything I’ve said? All of the crocodiles are attending
the animal conference called by the Lion King. This tests whether you learn
quickly from your previous mistakes.


According to Anderson Consulting Worldwide, around ninety (90%) percent of
all professionals tested got all of the questions wrong, but many of the
preschoolers tested got several correct answers. Anderson Consulting says
this conclusively disproves the theory that most professionals have the
brains of a four-year-old.

Author Unknown

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Leave no child inside

June 20, 2007

This is just sad:

Linda Pelzman appreciates the beauty of the outdoor world, sometimes pulling her children into the yard to gaze at a full moon or peer into a dense fog. An educator and founder of a summer camp, she only wishes her enthusiasm was fully shared.

On a recent nature walk near her home in Gaithersburg, her younger son, 6, was unimpressed, pleading, "I just want to go back to civilization." Her older son, at 13, has made it clear he prefers PlayStation.

"Kids don’t think about going outside like they used to, and unless there is some scheduled activity, I don’t think they know what to do outdoors anymore," Pelzman said.

Pelzman’s view is shared by a growing number of children’s advocates, environmentalists, business executives and political leaders who fear that this might be the first generation of "indoor children," largely disconnected from nature.

Of course I’ve reached the age now when I do think of indoors as "civilization," and "roughing it" means staying at the Holiday Inn instead of the Mariott. But I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like without the outdoors — I can still hear the echoes of "You get in here right NOW" ringing in my ears sometimes.

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Revenge and candy

June 18, 2007

This is just wrong. Someone who doesn’t know what she’s talking about rates candy and says Skittles are the best. And she even puts circus peanuts and candy corn on the list. Yeech. There is a tie for the best candy: York Peppermint Patties and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, and they MUST be put in the refrigerator so they can be served cold. I await dissent from the unenlightened loony liberals and rightwing Christian nuts.

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profe is in teh puding

June 18, 2007

I have missed a typo or two in my writing life, and there have been consequences, but usually involving only the derision of friends and the scorn of English teachers. Nothing like this:

WASHINGTON — It was a $100 million mistake, and a federal judge said Friday he doesn’t have the power to fix it.

The Justice Department goofed last year and cited the wrong law in a binding plea agreement with telecommunication entrepreneur Walter Anderson, the largest tax scofflaw in U.S. history. That mistake made it impossible for the government to recover between $100 million and $175 million, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman said in March.

Prosecutors urged him to reconsider but Friedman reluctantly said Friday that he could not.

So be carfule with your’re posts, tak that lsat step and do teh profreeding.

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25 or 6 to 4

June 18, 2007

How could we get through life these days without sites like, which verifies or discredits various urban legends, or The Straight Dope, which has a record of meticulous research and reliability that is unmatched? I went to Straight Dope to find the answer to one of those nagging things that popped into my head a few days ago. It was the vexing philosophical question that many of us spent hours debating when we were younger, without satisfaction: What the heck does Chicago’s great song "25 or 6 to 4" mean? Is it a sly reference to drugs, a suble tribute to spirituality? Of course, it had the answer, and it’s a lot simpler tham many would probably like. Robert Lamm of the band, who wrote the song, gives us the scoop:

"The song is about writing a song. It’s not mystical."

[. . .]

As for the curious title, Lamm says, "It’s just a reference to the time of day"–as in "waiting for the break of day" at 25 or (2)6 minutes to 4 a.m. (3:35 or 3:34 a.m.)

Once we understand this, some of the lyrics suddenly become much clearer:

Waiting for the break of day–He’s been up all night and now it’s getting close to sunrise.
Searching for something to say–Trying to think of song lyrics.
Flashing lights against the sky–Perhaps stars or the traditional flashing neon hotel sign.
Giving up I close my eyes–He’s exhausted and his eyes hurt from being open too long, so he closes them.
Staring blindly into space–This expression can be seen often on the faces of writers and reporters. Trust me.
Getting up to splash my face–Something you do when you’re trying to stay awake, though a good cup of Starbuck’s does wonders for Cecil and me.
Wanting just to stay awake, wondering how much I can take–How far can he push himself to get the song done?
Should I try to do some more?–This is the line that makes many think it’s a drug song. But it is just as easily construed as a frustrated writer wondering if he should try to do some more lyrics/songwriting.

Aren’t you glad you come here? Where else you gonna get such vital stuff?

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Yeah, yeah, yeah

June 12, 2007

More "Summer of Love" crapola. I tell you, we’re going to be absolutely sick and tired of this before all the boomer geezers get this out of their system:

The hippie movement bloomed like a kaleidoscopic flower during the Summer of Love.

To be young and part of the counterculture in 1967 was to be tuned in to a revolution that called for you to drop out of the conventional world.

"There was that sense that any boundary — whether it was rules or government or what your parents wanted you to do — forget it; it’s free thinking, free spirit," said Glenn Gass, an Indiana University music professor who teaches a Beatles course at the Bloomington campus.

Yeah, man, no boundaries. And now he teaches a college-level Beatles course.

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The drive-through murder

June 7, 2007

It was a gloomy day in early June, with the kind of lazy, drizzling rain that lasts forever. The perfect day for a murder, and that poor sap Jerry wouldn’t even see it coming.

The drive-through was crowded, so I put the wipers on intermittent, the better to watch Jerry hand out sacks of fast food and collect money, giving each patron a phony smile. He looked bored out of his mind, probably wondering if his day could possibly get worse. Days can always get worse, Jerry.

I held the weapon down low on my right side, out of view. There were four cars ahead of me, then three, then two. The guy just in front of me must have been ordering for the whole office, it took so long. Finally, it was my turn, and I eased my car up to the window.

Asmoke_2 "What will you have today, sir?" he asked as he leaned out, not aware his world was about to explode.

"A burger and a cola. You don’t even recognize me, do you, Jerry?"

He looked at me uncertainly.

"No, sir, I don’t think so. Would you like fries with that?"

"High school, Jer? Probably no reason for you to notice me then, of course, you being the star of the basketball team and all. I was just one of the geeks who worked on the yearbook."

"Well, it was a big school," he said.

"The goofy looking kid with glasses who sat in the back row in Mrs. Lee’s English class? Ring any bells, Jer?"

I saw recognition begin to creep into his eyes and, perhaps, just a little bit of fear.

"You’re the kid who kept following me around and asking me to sign your yearbook, aren’t you?"

"Bingo! Remember what you finally did? You were eating a hamburger and fries in the cafeteria, and you gave me the fries and told me to go away and quit bothering you."

"You certainly don’t hold a grudge after all this time, do you? It was just a slight slight. And look at me now — isn’t the kind of life I have punishment enough?"

"A grudge, Jer? I loved those fries, so I had to have more and then still more. Those fries got me hooked on trans fats, Jer. Do you realize what that’s done to my body over the years? So, in answer to your question, no, I will NOT be having fries with my burger and cola, Jer."

His lower lip trembled.

"But I didn’t know. Nobody knew. Who knew about clogged arteries way back then? Have some free fries today, buddy — they’re guaranteed trans-fat free."

"Too little, too late, Jer. I’m afraid it’s payback time."

My vision blurred, and I felt the muscles in my neck tighten. I was actually going to do it. I held the weapon up so he could see it.

His eyes widened as he finally realized what was coming.

"No, you can’t! Please!! I have protection — there’s a law."

"Sorry, Jer. The big boys on the council had another meeting last night and ‘clarified’ the situation. The protection is only for entrances — that would be a door, Jer — not for drive-through windows."

He looked like he wanted to run, but I was too quick. I brought the cigarette to my lips. It was already lit, so I inhaled as deeply as I could and blew the smoke right in his face. Just like that, it was over.

"What have you DONE to me?" he screamed. The other workers had seen my assault and rushed over to see if they could help Jerry. But there was nothing to be done, and I could see that knowledge in the pitiful looks they gave him. Jerry was a dead man walking.

I sat easy in my car, finishing my smoke. The police would be there soon to take my statement, but I didn’t care. I had my revenge.

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Never too late?

June 5, 2007

The "Summer of Love" was just a media-created fantasy that lasted but a few months, followed by decades of baby boomer nostalgia for what could have been. Now that the 40th anniversary is upon us, the drivel will start really piling up:

As has been mentioned countless times since, the whole "Summer of Love" experience was somewhat misguided. The long-haired hippies preaching individuality all looked the same. And the openness concerning sex and drugs was indeed a mind-blowing experience until, of course, the long-range health consequences became clear. That part about avoiding the rat race was inspired, too – at least until your parents’ loans dried up.

Sad to say, I missed out on that summer, undergoing Army training during the first part and experiencing something besides sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll overseas during the second part. Well, we had some of that, but only during the intermissions. Perhaps one never gets too old to tune in, turn on and drop out. Suppose we can persuade the downtown block-party people to give us at least an Evening of Love this summer?

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An example of adult humor

June 4, 2007

Yes, dear, I am intoxicated by that strong perfume. No, dear, that tight red dress and the fish-net stockings don’t make you look tacky. I love the nine-inch heels. Oh, absolutely, the liberal use of hair spray only adds to your charm, and I am utterly fascinated by your grasp of the English language. No, of course not, I don’t think $100 is too much. — patronizing a prostitute

Perhaps I should send that to Patrick Knight:

LIVINGSTON, Texas — Condemned prisoner Patrick Knight wants to leave them laughing.

Knight acknowledges there’s nothing funny about his likely execution later this month for the fatal shooting of his neighbors, Walter and Mary Werner, almost 16 years ago outside Amarillo. But to help him come up with his final statement, Knight is accepting jokes mailed to him on Texas’ death row or e-mailed to a friend who has a Web site for him. The friend then mails him the jokes.

Knight said the joke he finds the funniest will be his final statement the evening of June 26.

Be careful not to e-mail this post to anyone from work.

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Ray and me

June 4, 2007

Your may now pay homage to me as the genius you always knew I was. Back in October,  I wrote about Ray Bradbury’s "Fahrenheit 451":

The book is not really about heavy-handed government censors who want to control our thoughts, though that take on it is pretty widespread. The insidious thing about the society described by Ray Bradbury is that the government is merely responding to the people’s wishes, giving them the comfortable world they want, where they do not have to be challenged and think of unpleasant things.

Now we have the last word on the subject, from Mr. Bradbury himself:

Now, Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.

[. . .]

He says the culprit in Fahrenheit 451 is not the state — it is the people. Unlike Orwell’s 1984, in which the government uses television screens to indoctrinate citizens, Bradbury envisioned television as an opiate.

Thank you, thank you. I accept your praise in all humbleness. Just send cash. Disagreeable comments will be deleted.

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Bottoms up

June 1, 2007

I knew sooner or later the rest of the country would catch up with me:

For one thing, wine consumption in this country has nearly doubled in the last decade, while beer sales have been pretty much stagnant, growing less than 1 percent since 2000. Even more galling, in 2005 a Gallup poll revealed that, for the first time ever, Americans preferred wine to beer. This was an astonishing development, akin to Americans jilting baseball for bocce.

Henceforth, drunks will be known as beer bums instead of winos. You keep the pretzels. I’ll have a pear and some cheddar with my room-temperature cabernet.

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Follow your dream

May 30, 2007

Advice for graduating college seniors: If you decide what you love to do, instead of looking for the most monetarily rewarding "career path," you’ll never work a day in your life:

But here’s a secret: You do not have to hate your first job. In fact, you can fall in love with it — if you do what Tester did. Rather than obsess about the font on her résumé, she asked herself two little questions: What do I love so much I’d do it for free, and how can I get someone to pay me to do that?

Find the answers to these questions, young graduate. And you will never "work" again.

This year’s entry-level job market is even hotter than the overall economy. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that recruiters plan to hire 17.4% more grads from the 2007 class than the ’06 class.

Just because you’re likely to get a job, though, doesn’t mean you’re going to like it. A recent Conference Board survey found that fewer than 39% of workers younger than 25 are even "satisfied" with their jobs, the lowest level in the survey’s 20-year history. A 2005 poll from Maritz,  a research firm, found that only 10% of Americans strongly agreed that they look forward to going to work every day. A January survey found that 84% of workers aren’t in their "dream jobs."

Fair enough. We all like to complain. But dug a little deeper and asked people to think about what their dream jobs would look like. They found out, as Vice President Richard Castellini noted in the poll’s news release, that these jobs were "surprisingly reminiscent of childhood wishes for many workers." I don’t find this surprising at all. For most of us, when we were little, there was something we loved so much we spent hours focused on it. Tester surfed. I scribbled stories in my school notebooks. Maybe for you joy came from something like "building sand castles." This is the answer to the first question: "What do you love so much you’d do it for free?"

Unfortunately, as we grow up, we see these affections as impractical. We don’t think there’s an answer to the question: "How do I get someone to pay me to do that?"

People who experience career bliss, though, never lose faith on question No. 2. Fortunately for them, it turns out that this modern, wired economy has room for all sorts of livelihoods.

My job has had its ups and downs, and lord knows it hasn’t made me rich, but I can’t imagine having done anything else. I never wanted to do anything but write, and even as a kid I couldn’t keep from shooting my mouth off. I am doing what I would have done anyway, and I have managed to find people willing to pay me for doing it.

One of my favorite books, which I may have mentiond here before, is the slim "A Mathematician’s Apology" by G.H. Hardy, not so much for his elegant descriptions of the beauty of math as for his thoughts on choosing a life’s work. Just two things: It should be somehow useful to humankind in the grand scheme of things, and it should be the one thing you can do best. Not what you can do better than someone else; there will always be people who do it better and those who do it worse. What you do best. What if that’s not also what you love to do? But it will be. What you do best you will learn to do better and better.

On the other hand, I have this theory. If a man’s job werre, every day, to spend $1 million before lunch, then fly to a different beautiful place every day and have dinner in the best restaurant there, then end each day by making love to a different sexy woman, he would eventually get to the point where he got up in the morning and thought, "Oh, man, I wish I didn’t have to go to work today."

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Wayne’s world

May 29, 2007

I once started a book so bad that I stopped reading after the first chapter, went outside and threw it in the garbage can. Then, about 2 in the morning, I felt such pangs that I found myself rooting through coffee grounds, egg shells and used cat litter to retrieve the damn thing. That’s how I feel about books. So I can’t do a funny post about how sillly this man’s book-burning "protest" is. It’s a sacrilege:

Tom Wayne has amassed thousands of books in a warehouse during the 10 years he has run his used book store, Prospero’s Books.

His collection ranges from best sellers, such as Tom Clancy’s "The Hunt for Red October" and Tom Wolfe’s "Bonfire of the Vanities," to obscure titles, like a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910. But when he wanted to thin out the collection, he found he couldn’t even give away books to libraries or thrift shops; they said they were full.

So on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books in protest of what he sees as society’s diminishing support for the printed word.

"This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today," Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books.

If he really loved books, he couldn’t do this, no matter what he thinks about the state of "thought in America today." There are still billions and billions of books, many of them stacked in the corners of my house and even on the stairs leading up to the second floor (you really need only half a staircase to walk on). I know I need to weed out the ones I will never read again, but I can’t quite work up to actually doing it.

But I love the Internet, too. It’s unbeatable for some things — when’s the last time any of you went searching through the print version of an encyclopedia? Thought is alive and well. Wayne confuses the medium for the message.

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Ugly is as ugly does

May 24, 2007

Leo Morris, saving humanity one date at a time:

In a recent study, sociologist Diane Felmee found only a third of women said looks were the first thing that attracted them to a man. Most preferred a sense of humour or financial and career success.

Researchers at Newcastle University also believe ugly men exist as a way of repairing our gene pool. Women would rather date men with good genes, who can fight disease easily, than a classically beautiful man.

Women don’t care about looks. If you believe that one . . .

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The curmudgeon’s handbook

May 22, 2007

Try to live your life as if it contains no strangers — just people you don’t like whom you haven’t met yet.

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Brainstorming 101

May 21, 2007

Don’t forget, there is no such thing as a stupid question. There are, however, plenty of stupid people who ask questions.

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Walter and me

May 15, 2007

CBS News is having its worst ratings ever, so score one for the old, white guys:

I’m just surprised at how, almost 30 years after I worked on the "Evening News" as the first woman producer, that Katie is having such a tough time being accepted by the public, which seems to prefer the news from white guys, and now that Charlie’s doing so well, from older white guys. I guess they want the reassurance of a Walter Cronkite.

Thank you for your support.

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A laugh or two

May 11, 2007

Well, let’s stop being so serious. A while ago, there was an online poll to determine the funniest joke of all time. It was British, so some of the finalists might seem a little strange by our standards. But the winner made me laugh, and I’d probably put it somewhere in the top 10:

A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: "Just take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy’s voice comes back on the line. He says: "OK, now what?"

But the jokes I remember laughing the hardest at are silly ones that would probably have fit more in vaudeville than on "The Daily Show." Two examples:

A man walks up to a little girl standing next to a dog. "Is your dog friendly?" he asks. She replies that of course it is, so he reaches down to pet the dog and immediately gets bitten. "I thought you said your dog was friendly," he said. Replied the girl: "That’s not my dog."

Doctor tells a patient he has a fatal disease. "I think I’d like to get a second opinion," the patient says. "OK, you’re ugly, too."

I started thinking about jokes a few days ago when I saw a tribute to the "Taxi" TV show on the TVLand network, which included a clip of the memorable (to me, anyway) scene at the DMV, in which Rev. Jim tries to find out, "What does a yellow light mean?" (here’s the video on YouTube). As funny as it was, I realized, it was only a variation of "Who’s on First" — still the funniest comedy routine of all time. And as long as we’re doing comedy, here is the final scene of the last "Newhart" show, the absolute best series finale of all time.

God, I love YouTube.

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Question of the day

May 7, 2007

If a doctor specialized in treating children’s feet, would you call him a podiatrician or a pediatrist?

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To the last, drop

May 3, 2007

It’s good for you. No, it’s bad. Wait, it’s good again:

Drinking coffee can help ward off type 2 diabetes and may even help prevent certain cancers, according to panelists discussing the benefits — and risks — of the beverage at a scientific meeting.

No matter what they finally decide, if they ever do, it’s too late for me to think about giving it up. If nothing else, it’s helps you pay attention to everything happening to your body, good and bad.

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Stamp acts

April 30, 2007

I failed in stamp management again, as I do every time the price goes up. I have about two weeks to use up the remaining 40-some stamps on a 100-stamp roll, then it’s off to the Post Office to buy 2-cent stamps. I could buy several rolls of Forever Stamps and avoid this in the future, but I rarely use stamps these days except for bills, so that doesn’t seem like a good investment.

I do like the "forever" concept, though, and it would be nice to see a lot more of it. Give me a forever price on the things I use every day, and let me get a new car at today’s price even if I don’t get one for five years. A forever tax rate would be nice, too, but, God knows, that will never happen. A forever age would be nice as well, but 23 would be the age I’d pick, and that ship sailed a long time ago. 

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