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How I learned not to worry and fret

James Balog hangs off cliff by ColumbiGlacier Alaskinstall time-lapse camera.

James Balog hangs off cliff by Columbia Glacier, Alaska to install time-lapse camera.

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Updated: February 14, 2013 6:42AM



Maybe the folks who go through life never seriously pondering the problems of the world are onto something.

I mean, I wasted months (all right, it was more like hours) fretting about the fiscal cliff.

My vision of the thing was similar to one of those cartoons with animals spinning their legs trying desperately to gain traction, but discovering there’s no solid ground beneath their feet.

Only I imagined my 401(k) fund playing the part of Wile E. Coyote and it would never rise again to chase the Road Runner.

Well, the fiscal cliff came and went and not much happened.

I would have been better off singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” as I went to sleep each night.

And then there was the state pension crisis.

It had to be solved. The governor, state lawmakers, had to do something or Illinois would go bankrupt.

Businessmen pleaded for action. Editorial writers begged for reform. Civic organizations and good government groups wept over the lack of action.

I wondered what it would be like as merchants closed their doors and homeowners strapped furniture to the tops of their SUVs and headed for Indiana.

Actually, that has been happening for decades out in the south suburbs of Chicago, but no one seemed to care.

The crisis really arrived when the city itself started to feel the impact of the state’s poor decision-making and had to sell its parking meters to pay its bills.

But the state failed to act on pension reform and life really hasn’t changed much.

I mean, my property taxes are higher. But they’ve been increasing forever.

There’s been an increase in my state income tax, but for the past two years that has been offset by the federal government’s Social Security payroll tax cut.

Maybe the state will end up going broke.

But if House Speaker Michael Madigan isn’t worried about it, why should I be?

And now there’s this gun thing.

A lot of people, including the President of the United States, seem to believe that unless we ban assault weapons children are going to die.

People are always telling me to worry about “our children.”

We’re piling up so much government debt future generations are going to be working eight hours a day just to pay it.

There are so many criminals and insane people carrying guns, that kindergarten children need armed guards protecting their crayons.

And then there’s illegal drug use?

Actually, I haven’t been worried about illegal drug use since the Reagan Administration told everyone to “Just say no.”

A drug czar was appointed, declared victory, and then was made the education czar.

And that pretty much spelled the end for illegal drug use and public education.

I kept worrying about those things. But no one who mattered seemed to pay attention anymore.

Would just saying “no” to homicide have a similar result?

And then there’s this climate change thing.

I was besieged by visions of 10-month-long winters. Glaciers would melt and rising tides would engulf California. Hostess Twinkies would disappear from store shelves.

All that’s happened is the Twinkie thing and we seem to have survived that.

And it was over 50 degrees here in January and there hadn’t been a real snowfall as of Jan. 11.

What was I worrying about? I love climate change.

I mean, there were hurricanes on the East Coast, but that resulted in a free TV concert featuring the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.

Would Springsteen even have a career if it wasn’t for natural and economic disasters?

See, I’m trying to be that guy who sees the silver lining behind every cloud.

Sure, I didn’t win the lottery. But I’m still alive and none of my relatives was tempted to poison me.



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