Vital Signs

Axis to Grind

Terrorists have turned down the heat in my office.  After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the economy took a header, tax revenues in Illinois declined, and my university’s budget was cut.  One of our cost-saving measures has been to turn down thermostats all across campus.  Supposedly, this heat recision is targeted to just 68 degrees, but the register in my office, perhaps in an excess of patriotism, has taken us as low as 63.

So when my grandchild—sex still unknown, due in three weeks or so—gets old enough to ask, “What did you do in the War on Terror, Granddad?” I will know just what to say: “Kid, I hope you never have to go through it.  I sat in my office and shivered.  There were days when I never took off my sweater-vest.”

Of course, I may have opportunities for more substantial heroism before then.  I may be within 50 miles of ground zero when someone finally sets off a backpack nuke.  I may be on the wrong airplane, anywhere in the world, at the wrong time.  Biological weapons may finally reach the steep part of their development curve, the way computers did 30 years ago, with the result that North America becomes safe once again for the wolf and the buffalo.  In any of these cases, unfortunately, I will not be around to brag.

Shiver, shiver.

If I can joke about such things, however lamely, it...

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