Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Facial Hair Wins in a Landslide!

So the votes have been cast, tallied, and confirmed. All the hanging chads unhung. The winner in a landslide is facial hair which beat out no facial hair 15 to 7.

This is a resounding victory for goatees, soul patches, foo-man-choes, mutton chops and the rest. Indeed it seems that scruff is mounting a global comeback to levels not seen since the famous decade of burns in the 1970s. So grow out your chops, handle bar that stache, let your pits go natural....okay maybe not that one. I think we'll make this a male only revolution.

Now here's hoping the Afro will make it back too!

(Look at me I'm a lumberjack)

Merry Christmas from UsandCats.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thank you BBC, you saved my oven!

So over the weekend we were flipping through stations and landed on the BBC (maybe BBC America, but that doesn't matter much). It was showing a show (go figure, I know) where two British women clean a disgustingly dirty house. This house was horrible. The wife was no longer living there, she was staying down the street at her mum's, taking care of the aged, leaving her husband in the horrible house alone. Now, I think we all know by now that a man, left to himself cannot keep it all that clean. I cleaned husband's bedroom and bathroom (yes, those were behind the chastity line, please don't tell my parents and mom, if you are reading this, it was David who was behind the line in some girl's apartment) and fridge while we were single and it almost got the wedding called off.
The episode made me feel pretty good about the cleanliness level in my own house, but husband had different ideas and thought it needed to be cleaned anyway. So, "Woman," he says, "get cleaning my house RIGHT NOW. But first, bring me some food, preferably some meat still on the bone. But then, get cleaning my house."
As part of our pre-Christmas cleaning, I turned the oven on self-cleaning. When it was done, all I had to do was wipe up the ash from the bottom and find a way to clean the window. Then I remembered that on the BBC cleaning show, the British women used ash to clean a window. Always one to trust the British, I used the ash I wiped up from the bottom of the newly cleaned oven on the window and wa la.
So now I can get back to cooking husband his food.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Little Fighter

We're softies. Now that softiness does not typically extend to people who we find reprehensible and obnoxious. Indeed we would probably argue that there are significantly too many people in the world and that by and large they're significantly too stupid to feed themselves and offer anything worth while to the world.

Unfortunately this is where we come to the chief weakness in human evolution or intelligent designism (whichever you prefer I don't want to discriminate). Smart people understand two things:
1. The world can be a sucky place to live in sometimes. Why you ask? Well have you ever been in a situation where you're smarter than an individual who has authority over you? There's an innate frustration that accompanies this situation. I first became aware of this around 3rd grade when I realized I was smarter than my teacher. Since then, it's all been down hill for me. For most smart people this leads to sorrow.
2. Walmart.
3. With children you can't buy yourselves as many toys for Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanza/Tet/or Canada Day.

These point show us why smart people are breeding themselves out of the population, we just like things more than kids. (Note this is all tongue and cheek we don't really think that people who have a ton of kids are stupid (Husband here. I just think it's pure madness but I come from a family of three so there's that.))

All that said we love cats. They exemplify the qualities we wish more people would show. They're infinitely self-sufficient. You leave them for a week at home and they'll take care of themselves one way or another. They understand the joy of naps. They never talk back to us.

With this in mind we've started foster catting. That's right we've taken in two strays a female and its kitten (there are a lot of deadbeat cat dads out there). So with no further ado we present to you all, Midnight and Little Fighter (the little guy is Little Fighter).

Here's the link to the rest of the photo album.
Little Fighter Dec 07

Now for those of you who don't know where the name little fighter came from here's the video who inspired us.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I am Sparta!!!

The Spartans were known for their highly militaristic culture. From childbirth they were trained in a warrior culture that was highly brutal and highly centralized. The devastating effectiveness of the Spartans was a main reason the Greeks defeated the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. For more information on this battle consult your local library or the IMax documentary, "300!".

I was raised in a similar warlike culture. The weather, remoteness, conservatism, and did I mention the weather, of upstate New York are an excellent breeding ground for a warrior class. From an early age of snow shoveling to the rites of passage of hunting, fishing, and cow-tipping. My cohort of warriors and I, pillaged our way through the rugged hills of this primitive backwater. Eventually like all beasts everywhere, we realized the greatest threat to our own kind came not from outside but from "the world's most dangerous animal", our fellow men.

This realization inexorably led us to challenge one another in feats of strength. Faced with the challenges we all strove with the legendary strength of farmboys to out do or rather do in one another. Leading us eventually to the greatest test of a man.....the football field.

Because we didn't have an organized football team from our high school we would play nearly every day after school. It was a wonderful experience.

That said I made a mistake this Thanksgiving morning. No I didn't burn the turkey, I didn't even make one if you'll believe it. Much worse than that I thought I was still in the shape I was at 17. This self-deluding machismo, coupled with the muddy weather made me even more reckless than usual(who doesn't like to dive into mud puddles?). As a result I was flying over the field pushing down anyone I could get my hands on. All was going smoothly until my head met my friend Craig's hip bone.

Now since Craig is about 7'6" and 130 pounds (I think that's like 5 stones for our British readers) he's mostly skin and bones. Unfortunately his skeleton is thick. This meant that when my head met his hip, his hip won. As I lied there sinking into the quick-mud (like quick sand but muddier), I had a few thoughts that I should share about myself.
"1. I really need to stretch before physical exercise.
B. I'm not really good at sports.
3. The ringing in my head is definitely not natural.
D. I wonder if I can feel my toes, yep there they are. Wow they're wet and cold."

In any case I bounced up after a few seconds and finished the game with renewed vigor. The good thing about being slightly concussed is that you are even more stupid than a normal 30 year old pretending he has football skills. All in all I should play that kind of football more often. What a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Eatin' Da Haggis

So my Scottish ancestors were a bunch of skirt wearing, sheep loving, guerrilla fighters. I'm not ashamed to admit that. They were poor people who eked a miserable existence about a cold unforgiving land. As with all poor people they ate what was available.

Now if you don't believe that this is true let me tell you something of some of the things I've eaten in my poorer days:
1. College: The Freshmen Year---I subsisted on spaghetti and "red sauce". The red sauce was an old can of prego to which I kept adding a bit of water and some crushed red pepper (this gave it flavor when it was little more than water and Red #5).
2. Mission: Cergy-Pontoise---Cockroaches mostly. Well okay we didn't purposely eat them but the apartment was so infested that I'm sure I consumed my fair share.
3. Childhood: Yes it's out of order but it's the most traumatic---My pet rabbits. That's right I ate bigwig. I also ate Wilbur, Peter Rabbit, Tom Turkey, and George the cow (that wasn't a fictional character, that's actually what we named the cow....best tasting cow ever).
My point is that you eat what you have around. That's the only excuse for people eating things like pork rinds, liver, and worst of all asparagus. Thus it's no surprise that my ancestors decided to boil a sheep's stomach (make sure the wind pipe is dangling out of the pot to let out impurities). Then chop up the kidneys, liver, and other internal organs and stuff them in the aforementioned stomach. I mean that makes perfect sense to me.

So when my dear friend Jen sent me a gummy haggis. You can imagine my joy. Not only would I get to eat the food of my ancestors, but I'd be able to do so in the fifth major food group, gummy. (I also loved the Nihlist gum, no flavor at all. It's horribly wonderful).

And so my dear Scottish friend Ian and I opened the package with all the glee and joy that our collectively nearly pure blood lines could express.

This was to be the culminating event of a rather fun party at the home of UsAndCats, though the cats surprisingly were absent (probably because of the people). The haggis looked to be the color I always imagined it.
Our very Anglo-Nordic friend Doug decided to join us in this rite of passage.

How could it go wrong.....

Well given my facial reaction you can begin to guess. What you don't see is me running to the trash to spit the whole thing out. I guess what we learn is that there's a reason that the Scots also invented Scotch.

Yet still the wives tried it...I think that's the best part of the whole thing.

(And yes that is pure hate shooting out of Wife's eyes at me).

Now for another video. Sorry to get you with two posts in one night, but I felt bad for neglecting my readership. I blame John for it. Stupid Facebook.

Places of Holiness

If you guys can forgive me for a moment I'm going to be serious. Yes I know it's rare but I'm feeling old and introspective. When I was 13 years old and my little sister 8, our parents sent us away to Florida for what seemed like two months though I'm sure it was more like two weeks (which is a long time for my grandparents to put up with us. Perhaps they were more patient than I remember). This was right before my older brother moved back in after living in Colorado for a couple years. Which means they had several weeks childless...hmmm another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

In any case after wWe drove up from Florida to New York to meet my parents. I believe somewhere outside of D.C. While there we did the normal hajj-like visit to the Mall separating the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial. This was before the WWII memorial was put in mind you.

As I might have mentioned, this is a place of innate holiness to most Americans. The museums, monuments, and memorials of the D.C. area connect us with our common heritage and experience. That most of this heritage was tempered in the furnace of war might explain much of our foreign policy and the fratricidal rage that's destroying our political system. But I digress.

When compared to the beauty and grandeur of the new World War II memorial, which by its very architecture insuates that it was the last Just war, the Vietnam memorial is a simple, moving, and stunning critique of an unjust conflict. Carved in black rock are the names of all the men who died in a conflict, which based on the starkness of the memorial, seemingly had no utility but as a killing field. Of course being the brilliant mind you all know and love, I internalized all of this as a 13 year old.

Okay maybe not. In fact I remember that I stood there bored out of my mind with the lines at this memorial and the lack of interesting reading (I was already a museum nerd). That said I noticed something odd. My parents reaching out and touching names on the wall. My mother crying and my dad more stoic than usual. I didn't understand it all then, but I did understand that this was holy land. This was the type of place that could move men's souls to the very core.

There are places like this for people of every stripe. One of the difficulties that divides humanity is finding solace in places that don't have an intrinsic tie to your own culture or beliefs. I suppose that's why Jerusalem will never be at peace because it's intrinsically holy to too many people. That said I think all the monuments constructed to help man reach the ineffable have their place and are part of our common heritage. It's just for us to realize it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What did YOU do for date night?

Stewart and I settled in for a quiet night this evening watching 'The Battle of Algiers'. It was on the to buy list before and has only moved closer to the top after tonight's viewing. Tomorrow night, you ask? Maybe 'Indochine' or 'Dr. Stragelove'.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Temple Sacrifice and Cancer Survivors

That might not be the best title for this post. The Google authorities are probably wondering, "Is he suggesting we build a religious structure to offer sacrifices to cancer survivors? Or perhaps that we sacrifice cancer survivors?" Well kind of. I say we make it a religion that requires human sacrifice, but not of cancer survivors but of politicians. I would hope that we would be successful enough in eliminating all politicians that this faith would die out like the Shakers did. Seriously who thinks celibacy is a formula for long term religious expansion? I can imagine proselyting for them:
Missionary: "And so you see Mother Anne Lee is the second coming of our Lord?"
Proselyte: "Wow. Well that makes sense. That plus the rounded barns and the really cool furniture I'm in. I can't wait for my wife and I how we'll have and raise our future family Shaker."
Missionary: "Oh oops I might have forgot one teeny, weeny point.
In case I ever do seek public office let me put a disclaimer on the previous post. "What the future congressman (senator, president, world overlord) meant to say was that all politicians are obviously chosen by God (in the case of Republicans) and have an undying loyalty to the principles of equity and justice (in the case of Democrats (gotta cover both my bases if I run)). He was in no way imputing that they are sleazy opportunistic self-aggrandaizers, who seek to further their own interests regardless of the good of the common man." Not much of an apology is it? Oh well they're not much in the way of human beings so I guess we're fair.

Now let me get to the main point of this post. No it's not about Wife jumping out of an airplane or about our recent travels. Those will all come in a December post. I like to let things cool for a few months before I write about them. Instead it's time for me to tell you what to think about the books that I've been reading.

(Here's where I wait for your cheering to end. You guys really are the best.)

Now the last two books I read were quite different. One appealed to my heretical, or at least heterodox, side. The other made me scared about getting old. Let's start with the boring one, that way those of you who are impatient can just skip the next few paragraphs and move on to the better of the two, or the photo links at the end.

Hamblin and Seeley, the authors, provide an excellent overview of the centrality of the Solomonic temple through history. Starting with the evolution of Israelite temple cult through the consolidation and centralization of worship in Solomon and much more profoundly in Josiah, the authors describe the importance of the First and subsequent temples as the contact point between divinity and humanity. They then go down through the centuries and examine the role this temple took in defining the places and systems of worship of the three great monotheistic faith families, along with its effect on the esoteric traditions.

Along the way Hamblin and Seeley provided wonderful iconic evidence of the temple through the many thoughtfully selected plates included in the book. These were largely images unknown to me. They provided excellent support for the arguments being made.

All that said I felt that the book would have benefited from a discussion of the broader array of drama worship native to the region in the pre-temple era and how it affected temple worship. By ignoring this aspect of worship, the authors started the story in middle. Furthermore while the authors were in their element in describing ancient Christian, Judaic, and Islamic usage of the temple, their arguments were somewhat lacking dealing with modern incarnations of temple worship. Given that both authors are Mormon, their section on Mormon temples was woefully inadequate and came off as more of an advertisement for the virtues of Mormonism than as a true evaluation of the status of Solomon's temple in Mormon temple worship. Likewise, other contemporary movements were passed off as simple millenarianism or pop culture fads, without a true sincere evaluation of the place of Solomonic worship in said movements.

As with many books trying to cover such a vast historical swath, Solomon's Temple tends to fade toward the end. Instead of simply discussing the differing views of various Christian, Islamic, and Judaic traditions about the destiny of the temple and Temple Mount, the authors conclude with a moralization about how the unifying theology of the temple is incongruous when opposing the eschatological currents in the three monotheistic faiths in question. This leads them simply to conclude that only a true understanding of the temple will lead to peace on the Temple Mount. True though this might be, the editorializing of this conclusion is out of place given the rest of the works and detracts from its overall strength.
Told you that would be boring. Good job slogging through it though. The funny part is that I get criticized at work sometimes for writing emails that are too technical...can you see that at all in the review you just pulled your hair out to get through? Academia ruined my writing style, but I digress (and still don't know how to use commas).

The author and I are roughly the same age and worked together as missionaries in France. Through the years we've emailed periodically but cannot be accused of being exceptionally close. That said you can imagine my surprise when I got an email with the title of her soon to be printed first book. It appears that somewhere in the periodic emails I missed the one that said "HEY I'VE GOT CANCER". I suppose she had other things on her mind, although this is a big blow to my narcissism as you can imagine.

All that said it was booth fascinating and terrifying to read the story of her struggle with cancer and its aftermaths. Fascinating because of Steph's personality, I don't think I've ever seen her sad or down and her own account reflects this resilience of character. Frightening because she's my age and if my gray hairs weren't making me feel my mortality, reading the account of a friend who actually walk up to the ledge of mortality and spit over the side (if it had been a male friend going through the same thing I would have said pee over the side) is truly frightening.

In the book Steph didn't hold much of anything back, in fact I now know more about Steph than I ever really wanted. Still it was an amazing account. The only complaint I had was the quality of the printing. There were a few typos but I'll blame that all on PublishAmerica. Still it was heartfelt and touching to read about her experience.
Okay no more book reviews for awhile. I think I've bored you enough for the time being. By popular demand here's the skydiving photo album and the post sky diving celebratory s'mores party.
Collins trip CD

Please note that there's a ton of photos in the skydiving album, watch them in slideshow format with a minimal time delay and they'll look like a flip book. I promise.

No videos today you guys have already dealt with way too much of me.

Now playing: The Roots - The Seed (2.0) Ft Cody Chesnut
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Don't Cry For Me Oh Canadia!

Canada should be considered America's hat, the 51st state, the great trailer park to our north. The two countries already share common defensive agreements and (kind of) a common language. They should share a common military, a common currency and a common border policy. In fact there should be no border crossing between America and Canada. Americans/Canadians should be able to cross the border at will and get jobs on either side without need for a Green Card, Blue Card, or any other color card. Yes Canada should be broken into pieces with each province becoming another state/territory of the United States.

(Alternatively we should jettison everything south of the mason-dixon line and form a United States of Hockey)

There I said it. According to Google Analytics we rarely get Canadian hits, so I'm guessing I won't get too many incensed Canadians threatening me with hockey sticks.

Canada and the US have the longest contiguous border of any two nations on earth. To put it in perspective, if Canada were Germany and the US were France, the Germans would need ten men to take the border instead of their usual three. It's that big a border.

Not only is it a huge border but it's also a very profitable one. While southern sister-loving, chaw-chewing, gun-toting, cross-burning bigots might not like to admit it, but Canada is more important to the northern economy than they are...almost makes me wish we'd let them secede but I digress. There are many cities in the northern tier that have positioned themselves as suburbs of Canadian cities. What other reason do you have that can you explain Plattsburgh, NY?

All of that said we spent a good weekend in Canada last month (October 2007). We crossed at Niagara like so many others and would have wasted reams of cellulose if not for the invention of digital cameras. The falls were awe inspiring, if a little wet and cold.

As to Canada itself. I have to say I envy their level of tolerance and social welfare. Not like the American side where they even detain peaceable Englishmen.

Also in the US, people like the one you see below would have been shipped to Guantanamo and water boarded (That's not torture though because Bush says we don't torture, thus and therefore water boarding isn't torture. You'd think you pinko liberals would have figured that out by now.) In Canada this kind of militant looking weirdo is just celebrated. I'm sure my mother is proud.

I am not the Unabomber. Just an FYI there people.

And now for one of the greatest moments of my life:

(I was long since asleep because baseball on tv is so boring. Still GO SOX!!!!!!!)


Monday, October 22, 2007


First off let me say congratulations to the newest World Cup champs. South Africa defeated England in the Rugby World Cup on Saturday. Sadly I wasn't able to see the match but I did catch several of the first round matches on our satellite...oh how I love that thing. I have to say I don't understand why more Americans don't give Rugby more of a chance. It has all of the violence of football (again the kind with feet) but faster and more violent. Once you figure out the rules it's an amazing game. That said America's team was one of the worst in the World Cup this year. We didn't win a single match.

Second. If you want to see how inane a bunch of adults can behave after not seeing each other for ages check this out. And to think all of this happened without alcohol...amazing really.

Now for something completely different. Okay both Sina and Kendra have tagged us in the past year or so. I'm not very good about following up on tags. Kendra's involved a hundred things about us...I can't think of 100 things about myself so I'll just use Sina's which is shorter but does the same thing.

Jobs I have had:

1 – IT Manager
2 – Quality Control Inspector/ISO Management Rep (If you know what this is that means you're a nerd, FYI)
3 – Tech Support for Amway's newest online scam
4 – Research Assistant
Movies I could watch over and over:
1 – Serenity (It's awesomeness cannot be understated)
2 – The 5th Element (Again a Sci Fi film, but one that's totally awesome)
3 – Elizabethtown (Yes it's a chick flick but the soundtrack makes up for the bad acting and predictable plot)
4 – Ocean's Eleven (Mostly because it's on TBS all the time.)
Favorite TV Shows:
1 – How I Met Your Mother (best show on TV)
2 – House (He's as angry as I am)
3 – Mythbusters (I love this show so much)
4 – Dirty Jobs (Makes me feel better about my job since I never have to work in a river of poo)
5 - Avatar (I blame the Collins for this one but I'm addicted already)
Favorite Hobbies:
1 – Sitting around doing nothing
2 – Playing my PS2 (yes I'm a geek)
3 – Organizing my books
4 – Travelling
Places I have lived:
1 – Colonie, NY
2 – Argyle, NY
3 – Provo, UT
4 – Soisson, France
Favorite Foods:
1 – Homewrecker burrito at Moe's Mexican Grill
2 – Cafe Rio grilled steak burrito, enchilada style with black beans and green sauce
3 – Pasta fagioli at Lombardo's in Albany
4 – Moules-frites (A French specialty consisting of a big bowl of steamed mussels in a cream sauce with an equally large serving of french fries.)
Places I'd rather be:
1 – Paris, France
1a- Anywhere in Northern France
2 – Barcelona, Spain
3 – Dorset, England
4 – Middle Earth
Websites I visit:
1 – www.cnet.com
2 – www.slashdot.org
3 – www.politics1.com
4 – www.realclearpolitics.com (yes I know they're conservative but I love their polling data)
Who I am Tagging:
1 – Panini
2 – Lissa
3 – TripleAught
4 - Collins

Alright that's it. We're currently in a hotel in Salt Lake City and have a ton to blog about but as Wife is already half-asleep...I'll leave you all for now. Here's some sleeping music. I love Belle & Sebastian but I can't listen to them when I'm sleepy and driving. Still they're Scottish so they have to be good. Sleep well everyone.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mile High Club?

Wife here. We have had some friends visiting for a few days and a more proper post will soon follow with photos and more details but suffice it to say for now that I jumped out of a plane this morning. On purpose. It was awesome.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Great Golfing God

In the beginning there was chaos. And God saw the chaos and said "Handest thou me my Pitching Wedge."
Thus begins the First Book of Golf (Chapter 1, Verse 1), a little known book of scripture found with the rest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which discusses the greatness of golf and its divine origins. It also teaches that it's better to play long uphill greens short, that hybrid clubs are for sissies, and that real men don't use carts.

Or at least that's the translation I read.

Now I have mixed feelings on golf. On the one hand it was invented by either Scotsmen or Hobbits (The difference between the two being about four inches if my genetics are any measure). This means that the game is not crap and best played after drinking a bottle of 199 proof alcohol and eating a plate of fried sheep entrails.

On the other hand its harder to find a more bourgeois activity outside of polo than golf. An average round of golf probably costs about $120 for 18 holes. This doesn't include the cost of time (about 4 to 5 hours), and equipment (a craptacular set of clubs will cost about $150 and an, over the top unless you're Tiger Woods, set will cost you a gazillion dollars). The sheer economics of this leads me to conclude that despite it being Scottish, golf isn't the greatest game in the world. The fact that I'm a horrible golfer in no way affects my esteem of the game.

And yet, thus far in 2007 I have been out on the links twice as many times as I'd been the rest of my life. This sounds impressive until you realize that means I've been out twice thus far this year.

Now before I get into my current golfing expertise let me flash you back to 2002. The place is Sandy, Utah. My new company, and first job out of college, held an annual golf outing. I was the low man in the corporate latrine and decided that I needed to join in this outing to prove my worth (and hopefully maneuver myself out of the corporate latrine altogether. I didn't realize that all of corporate life was a process of being schmeared in the excrement of your executive overlords).

As there were two of us with no golf experience they wisely teamed us together and put us at the earliest tee time. That's the good news, the bad news was that standing behind us at the tee box was my direct manager, the CFO, CIO, and CEO of the company. Remember I had zero golf experience of the non-mini variety at this point. So with much trepidation, I approached the tee like a farmhand fertilizing his first mare. I lined up my shot with my borrowed clubs, and swung away.


And the ball sailed, let us say a Woodsian 350 yards right down the middle of the fairway. It was a good shot for an experienced player and a miraculous one for a golf-virgin like myself. The upper management congratulated me appropriately, obviously impressed with my novice skills. I found my ball ironed it over the water hazard out of sight of the bosses and proceeded to suck it up (out of sight of them fortunately) the rest of the day. Posting a decently respectable 117 on a par 72.

What's sad about this story was that was the best drive, moment, and score in my golfing career. Everything since then has been down hill.

Which brings us to ponder why I've insisted on going golfing twice in the past three months. Is it my desire to emulate the upper crust of society? Or am I planning on going to med school soon and realized this was a necessary skill for a doctor to have? Or am I just simply trying to improve my capacity for future networking? No, nyet, and non. I simply enjoy hitting round stationary objects with a metal club. It's a good non-hommecidal stress reliever after dealing with the teenagers from the youth group at church.

That said I'd like to get my score below a 190 again someday.

Here's another video one of my new favorite French songs, Face a la Mer. I know most of you won't watch it but at least this way I don't forget that I like it. Plus how can you not like French rap?

Now playing: Suede - Metal Mickey
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Politics, Politics, Politics

I just found a new political site after listening to a CNet podcast. It's a pretty cool way to track political contributions, although I find it slightly troubling from a privacy perspective.

In any case they have one of the better "Who to vote for in '08?" quizzes I've taken. I'm troubled that Kucinich appeared so high. I'm also troubled that there was such a grievous error in the Obama biography. Can you see it?

Who should I vote for for president in 2008?

You match up well with...

Chris Dodd - 73 match

Dodd is a liberal democrat who consistently receives somewhere between a 95-100% approval rating from Americans for Democratic Action and the National Committee for an Effective Congress. Unlike his Democrat counterparts, he believes that same-sex marriage and civil unions should be an issue left to states and supports free trade agreements. As a legislator, he is known for his work on expanding health care coverage to the uninsured, particularly children.

Barack Obama - 73 match

You must be ambitious and idealistic, like Barak Obama. Obama is a liberal democrat who, unlike his rivals, opposed the Iraq war from the start. With only 8 years in the Senate, his inexperience worries some and sometimes reveals itself in the debates, but he also has the charisma and popular support that the others lack.

Dennis Kucinich - 72 match

Denis Kucinich, an Ohio congressman, is a far-left liberal democrat. He has the most extreme proposals for nearly every issue including creating a single-payer system of universal health care; an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq and replacing them with an international security force; and guaranteeing quality education with free pre-kindergarten and college. He even wants to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney. Needless to say, Kucinich is a no-hope contender.

Take the test.

And here's the guys I didn't match up with.

Who should I vote for for president in 2008?

You don't match up well with...

Sam Brownback - 21 match

As an "economically, fiscally, and socially compassionate conservative," Sam Brownback is the candidate for you! The fiercely right-wing Senator from Kansas lets his religion guide his policy agenda- especially towards foreigners. He is best known for his unrelenting crusade against the genocide in Darfur and world-wide sex-trafficking. In a moment of particular compassionate, he co-sponsored a 2006 bipartisan immigration bill that branded him "Amnesty Sam" by critical conservatives and he later abandoned the cause. But there's no compassion for homosexuals, the porn industry, or women seeking abortions. Brownback's high-profile war against these groups has also put him in the spotlight.

Duncan Hunter - 26 match

Congratulations! You and Duncan Hunter are socially conservative nativists! Hunter is a conservative Republican Congressman from California who is big on unborn babies but not immigrants. He best known in congress for his prominent role in constructing a 14-mile double fence along the US-Mex border and introducing the Right to Life Act, which would give constitutional rights to anything that develops after the moment of conception. Unlike many Republicans, he opposes free trade because he says it poses a threat to American manufacturing and creates a huge trade deficit. To discourage trade, he has proposed a law that allows American companies to use �exchange-rate manipulation� as an excuse to receive protection under America's trade laws.

Rudy Giuliani - 30 match

You want a socially conservative candidate who is likely to win and as the Republican front-runner, Rudy Giuliani could deliver. He combines liberal views on abortion and same-sex marriage with a conservative approach to the situation in Iraq. He consistently lends his support for the war and President Bush's troop surge while public support for the war sinks lower. Guiliani rides on the heroic reputation he earned in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks which made him a popular, nationally recognized figure. He is also quick to remind people of his other achievements, including the restoration and revitalization of New York City.

Take the test.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Great Library of Alexandria....er Upstate NY

Okay I just added a link that some of you have been bugging me for. To the right you'll see a My Library link which is part of Google's awesome Book Search feature (how does Google make money? I don't know but I love them). In any case this isn't complete as some books I own aren't in Google's database others I just haven't had a chance to add yet. That said I still prefer my Access database library, that way I can track who's borrowing my books. Yes I know that's anal retentive stop making fun of me. I only created it so I'd have an idea about replacement cost in case the house burnt down and Wife couldn't carry all my books out.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Flogging You, Flogging Me, Flogging Everyone

My great-grandfather, my name sake and all around great man, arrived in the United States July 17, 1920 on a ship called the Celtic with his father and mother. They emigrated from Scotland via Liverpool. I don't know anything about the motivation for leaving the Old Country, I'm guessing it's a combination of wondering what the sun looked like and a desire to get away from the English. I could be wrong though.

An interesting aside about my great-grandfather Stewart. He was born right around the turn of the century near Dumfries, Scotland (also the home of Robert Burns).

Like many of his generation he found his way into WWI fighting with either the Gordon Highlanders or the Black Watch in the British army, I haven't been able to find out which. In either case he was part of the 1918 offensive which wrested much of north eastern France from German hands. Both units were part of the mobilization that started in the forests of Villers Cottret and moved up through Picardy. This is only interesting as I lived in this area for five months toward the end of my missionary service in France. I found it a very interesting juxtaposition in the generations of my family.

Back to our narrative. Passing through Ellis Island, the Forbes settled in Quincy, Mass. Soon Stewart sent for (at least that's how I suspect it happened I haven't been able to prove it. I just know that she didn't come on the boat with him) his sweetheart. They married and my grandfather was born, in that order even.

Now I bring this up because my Scottish great grandparents settling in highly Irish Boston provided one of the great narratives of my family's life.
Our common hatred of the Irish.

Now you have to understand that my great-grandmother spent her life cleaning hotels and houses for the previously established Irish population of Boston. Can you imagine how that would irk a proud Scotswoman? Especially one who's father owned (as far as we can tell anyways) a prosperous business in Glasgow.

So you can imagine the somersaults she's doing in her grave knowing that her great-grandsons betrayed the family heritage of blind racism against the Irish by going to Irishfest 2000 this summer (I guess the Irish are on a different calendar, that's the only explanation for why it wasn't Irishfest 2007). In our defense, Irishness and Scottishness in America have become largely conflated into a larger "Celtic" identity.

It's this new concept of Celticness that can explain how a band called "Enter the Haggis" can play at an Irish festival. They, by the way, kicked some major arse in their performance. They successfully fused bagpipes, panpipes, and punk rock sensibilities to create a fascinating sound that was toe tappingly awesome.

They were followed by a less than stellar punk band during whose performance my brother and I, in true old man mode, left the main stage area and found a quiet seat where we could criticize the music that kids of today listen to. What happened to the good old days when there were true artists like White Lion, Whitesnake, or Great White? That said there still are bands worthy of attention in this day and age. The closing act at Irishfest 2000 was one of those, Flogging Molly.

Now for those of you who don't know them I'm ashamed of you (unless you're over forty in which case I'm impressed you know how to turn on a computer....Wife will yell at me about that comment later). Flogging Molly is an Irish punk band that's been around for years. Fusing instruments as diverse as pipes, accordions, and piano, they've developed a loyal following throughout North America. Their hits might be an acquired taste for some including classics as "The Worst Day Since Yesterday", "The Devil's Dance Floor", and "Drunkin Lullabies". As with any proper Irish band it seems like most of their music is about drinking, but would you really expect less?

In the end this proved to be one of the best concerts I'd been to in ages, and was well worth the inevitable haunting by great-grandma's unsettled spirit. It also should redeem me slightly in the eyes of those who mocked my fall into country music. Here's a video for those of you who aren't familiar with the greatness of flogging molly and one to introduce Enter the Haggis.

Flogging Molly

Enter the Haggis

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Football Legend is Born

Now I grew up in a small town. As of the 2000 census a mere 3,688 people lived in quaint little Argyle, NY. Given that it was settled in the late 1700s the population has been surprisingly consistent. The 1790 census puts the population at 390 people. That means the population has doubled a little more than three times in 210 years.

Now Argyle has two very quaint facts about it. One is that Prohibition is still in affect in Argyle. It is, and has been since the early 20th century, illegal to sell liquor in all its varieties within the town lines. The net effect of this is to create an industry of liquor stores on every "major" road just out of town. This is similar to the casinos that one finds on the main thoroughfares right before you leave Nevada.

The second quaint fact about Argyle is that it had more catheter manufacturers per capita than any other town in the world. That's right there were three plants to service our tiny population when I was a wee lad (get it wee, catheters?). Catheter's were so prevalent in our community culture we'd learn how to catheterize as part of our school curriculum. That way we could mug one another by saying things like "I've got a catheter and I know how to use it." I mean honestly who would want to be catheterized if it wasn't necessary?

Sadly we lacked some basic services and experiences that bigger towns can provide their populations. For example we didn't have a stop light to train young drivers on the correct way to negotiate a left hand turn on a four way stoplight. We also lacked cable television, which meant that my first exposure to Beavis and Butt-head had to wait until college (although their movie was the first I saw after getting back from a two year church mission in France (my father insisted I watch it)).

Such a small town also meant that I could graduate in the top ten in my class but only be in the top 16% (6/38). We lacked normal classes like psychology, Spanish, and computer science. Kids eating sandwiches with animals like "coon" and "possum" as the meat weren't unheard of. Inbreeding only counted if you were brother-sister not if you were cousins. And of course we lacked the manpower to field a high school football (the one played with hands) team.

Now you might think with my current girth that this would be a real tragedy. Nowadays I'd fit right in with the morbidly obese men that protect the quarterback (the thrower guy for our non-US readers) from the other morbidly obese, but slightly more agile, defensive players trying to knock him out. Yet I was not always such a glutton. Indeed there was a time where one might have described me charitably as lithe. If you were feeling less charitable you'd wonder how I'd survived the Ethiopian famine. That said I still loved football. Our lack of a team led us to playing in my friend's field (payment was haying it whenever necessary (not a pleasant experience for my allergies, I sneezed black afterwards)). We played a brutal version of the game that was more like rugby than football but with forward passing. In all honesty I'm surprised that we didn't seriously hurt each other.

Fast forward a gazillion years to today (or six weeks ago) and you'll understand my great joy when my father-in-law invited me to attend a pre-season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins (Steelers named after the noble union men of the steel working industry in Pennsylvania, the Redskins the pejorative term given to the aboriginal peoples of the Americas by their white Anglo-European oppressors.). Wife was conveniently out of town visiting her sister's dog (oh and I guess someone had a baby too?).

You can imagine, given my love of the game, my great joy in seeing the stadium at FedEx Field open up before my eyes.

More to the point though is the manner in which we watched the game. You'll notice from the vantage point of the above photo that we're not in the lower bowl. As much as one might think I was disappointed by this because obviously the lower bowl seats are the best seats, right? Wrong. Well there may be an appeal to sitting on the 50 yard line, those seats pail in comparison to the joy of the corporate box, which is where my wonderful father-in-law had us seated.

Why would a higher seat be better you ask? Well remember my gluttony? That's right we had a fully catered luxury corporate box. The view of the field was wonderful...well at least those times I could pull myself away from the Italian sausage! Oh and I think Pittsburgh won the game.....maybe.

Also just wanted to welcome the Collins family into the world of blogging. Check out their blog.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ode to 30

Autumn and I ache,
In my bones, muscles, and mind;
Oh Damnable thirty!
Haikus never made much sense to me. Unlike most western poetry forms there's no rhyme or storytelling ability. Perhaps the haiku loses something when employed in a language other than Japanese. Still it seems more like a literary form designed to teach abstract moral lessons, kind of like the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

Still the reason I start with a haiku tonight is to announce a tragedy. Time, that unstoppable force, the great riddle that almost cost Bilbo his life (No I'm not going to reference it, you should know it on your own! Shame on you for not reading the Hobbit religiously!), that great equalizer of men, has rendered my youth like a candle-maker renders tallow. He's left me a weak, dessicated, shell of a man, hobbling my way to dotage, senility, and impotence. Yes that's right, I just turned 30 and I'm bitter.

Okay I'm not really bitter about turning 30, it happens to everyone. Why take our regular commenter Roy@CM, he's ancient at the ripe old age of 31. At least I'm not that old. I am bitter however because of how we celebrated my birthday. I decided to do what my brother did when he turned 30. I got tickets to see the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway (baseball again our foreign readers). To make it better I got tickets to see my Sox play Wife's beloved Orioles. This was a risk free proposition because Wife would be happy to see both teams and I'd be guaranteed to see the Sox win because the O's suck as bad as one can suck (but worse because they're a team and suckiness grows exponentially when in a team structure). But sadly it was not to be.

Wife booked us a wonderful hotel in Cambridge. We had a gluttonous birthday dinner with our friends John and Mia at the Cheesecake Factory. No better way to celebrate your birth than by gorging yourself, especially with cheesecake.

Which brings us to a good point. There are seminal moments in world history. There is the harnessing of fire, the taming of the horse, the invention of the printing press, the time when some brilliant mind decided to use gunpowder to make fireworks. Among these is the moment when some brilliant man thought a whole restaurant chain could be designed around that most excellent of desserts, Cheesecake. To you good sir, I pay hommage.

In any case the next day we spent a lovely morning at the Museum of Science in Cambridge. Very nice though I thought the T-Rex would eat me.

It's a hands on museum so I'm sure I would have appreciated it more if we had kids. They did have an electrical show that was fun, though without the Young Frankenstein effects I was hoping for.

Then it was into town for a quick pop to the IMax to see if 3-D movies really are like giant magic eye movies (they are). And then we were off to the stadium. I have to say for a stadium built in 1912, it is in surprisingly good shape. In fact there's not a bad seat in the whole park. Not only that but it's holy ground. Seeing that 2004 banner...well I can say my wedding was better but not by much! Sorry honey but it was super cool.

The only bad parts of the whole day were not seeing my name on the score board wishing me a happy b-day and the final score. Otherwise I can say that my aged mind/body/soul are at peace for having made my hajj. They'd all just be more at peace if I could have gone Saturday and seen the Sox nohit the O's.

Here's a video someone put together from the game. Please note that the entire stadium sings Sweet Caroline during the 8th inning, so thus the song. I thought it fitting song for wife, even though she keeps mocking the fact that my team lost.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cal, Cooperstown, and Camping


Or at least that's what I'm accusing Wife of. Here's the situation, I wrote a wonderful blog post about baseball. My basic premise was that baseball could be most easily explained by Freudian psychoanalysis of all sports. Just think about it, the batter defends "home" from the pitcher who's symbolically attacking it? But for some reason Wife thought that because her parents read the blog I for some reason had to constrain myself to subjects of proper decorum? But at least Cami and Dave will now have each baseball game they watch ruined from my above suggestion, bwahahaha. That's what you get for studying English!

Well the whole point of this is to state that this has been the Summer of Baseball. Yes that great American pastime which has the rest of the world thinking "and you call soccer boring?" While they are right, baseball is a lot more boring than soccer, it is the quintessential American game. Besides the Freudian implications listed above, baseball is about community.

From the outset a community of fans, regardless of which team they support, converge upon a stadium and break bread and bratwurst together. Entering the park as one they lay aside the divisiveness of politics and religion in place of a conversation about hitting streaks and ERA. The games themselves move at a glacial pace, thus allowing fans attending the game in the park an opportunity to converse with one another amicably. The traditions tied to the game of singing, eating, rejoicing, and mourning together are mere reflections of the best parts of the American pathos. While our political tradition and history may define us as a nation-state in the world, to see into the soul of an American you have to attend a baseball game.

With that in mind we had a summer of baseball this year. Kicking it off with a glorious weekend (except when it rained) in Cooperstown, NY. The birthplace of baseball and thus of the American soul. We ended the summer in some of the most hallowed (not deathly) grounds in America....Fenway Park.

Now I must also point out that our summer of baseball included what is obviously a sign of the end of the world or at least the end of Wife's sanity or physical health. It is that terrible! In search of the perfect baseball weekend, Wife went camping! Daring both the outside and the things that are outside, the love of my life slept in a tent for two nights. Now granted the site we were at had a full flushable bathroom and shower facility. And granted we didn't do typical camping "things" like canoing, hiking, or digging latrines; still I was certain that camping was one of those things my dear sweet soul mate would never do again (the last time I tried to get her camping ended poorly for me).

The last weekend in July we spent the weekend with my in-laws in the lovely little town of Cooperstown, NY (pop. 2,032) with the other Orioles and Padres fans (est. 75,000) for the induction of Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn into the baseball hall of fame. The weekend was largely spent soaking up the smell of grilled kielbasa and dogs and jostling people out of the way.

Besides the baseball specific shops and museums, we were also able to enjoy a free minor league game at Doubleday field, which was quite fun until the rain started. I think it was better for all the fans in town because the Ripken family threw out the first pitch.

The day of the induction we arrived early 8am for the 1pm ceremony. We figured that would give us plenty of time to pick a spot where we could see the podium and enjoy the ceremony. We were wrong. We ended up way in the back of the field. Still we were better off than the thousands of people who showed up after us. Perhaps the most amusing part of the whole thing was watching my brother-in-law sleep in the middle of a heavily trafficked foot path. I kept encouraging the passers by to kick him as they awkwardly stepped around him but none would so instead I kicked him while he slept. Maybe that's why he looks so grumpy.

I don't have much to say about the ceremony itself except for the fact that I don't think anyone was left in Baltimore during it. I've never seen so many people wearing ugly orange and brown uniforms. Still they're less obnoxious than Yankees fans, well unless you happen to go to a Sox vs. O's games with one of those self-same fans. More on that in my next post though.

Cooperstown 0727-0729

Now playing: Kurt Vonnegut - A Man Without a Country (Unabridged)
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A City Named Sugar

A few weeks ago I took a weekend trip to Idaho. Why Idaho? you may ask. Only a few things could get me to go to Idaho, namely a Napoleon Dynamite festival, those Idaho spud candy bar things that most people hate, and a sister who is about to have a baby. The third one won out and I left work early on a Friday afternoon and flew into Salt Lake on August 17. I got in around 10:30 where I was picked up my sister Michelle and her dog, Whimper #2, pictured in the previous post. She had already picked up a couple Cafe Rio dishes and off we drove, headed to Idaho. I'm always a big fan of car trips with the family (I'm itching for another cross country trip in a van. Dad, are you reading this?!) but we were both so tired, it was already past midnight in NY and we Turners like our sleep.
We stopped at a gas station and Michelle picked up a liter Mt Dew and one of those little bottles that advertises 5 hours of energy from a 1.5 oz bottle of something. Michelle opened it and commented on the vileness of the smell and then chugged away. Talk about determination to get to Idaho. Twenty minutes later we were both falling asleep though. Even an energy drink has no effect on a Turner who is sleepy. Being someone who talks gibberish in my sleep very loudly, I woke myself up a few times from saying some incomprehensible garbage. The fact that Michelle didn't even notice is a sign of her tiredness as well. The puppy had long ago fallen asleep on my lap (because she likes me best) and Michelle and I were not doing any better so around Pocatello we decided to get a room and sleep a couple hours. The 17 year old kid working the front desk of the Best Western was very helpful in calling ALL the hotels in town since they were sold out. When I asked him why there were no rooms his simple reply was that Pocatello gets a lot of tours. And all my life I have been going to places like Ogalalla, Nebraska and Salina, Kansas on vacation. So we went on to Sugar City.
We spent the next day buying baby stuff for Cheryl's still in utero kid and then playing with said baby things. I am convinced that the best thing to have when you are expecting your first child is two older sisters. So I will not be having any until I have two older sisters (Mom? Dad?)
Mom and Nate came up for Saturday and Sunday and I spent Sunday night in Evanston, stopping by to visit my grandmother. Mom and I spent some time at Temple Square Monday before she took me to the airport. People have told me that I'm crazy for going so far for just a weekend and some for going to Idaho at all but I wouldn't have missed it for anything in the world and I would go again if my dad is ever willing to watch Stewart for me again. He'll have to blog about his weekend while I was away some other time.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Girl and Her Puppy

I had a dog growing up named Whimper. I have finally found a decent replacement named Whimper #2. The only problem is that her owner refuses to give her up even though we both know that she would be happier with me. Fortunately Stewart knows some people who can reunite her with her rightful owners and make sure that the people who stole her are taken care of. Mwahaha.

Seriously, more photos from the past weekend to come.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Flat Stanley and the Cactus of Doom

As we previously reported a bit of Flat Stanley's soul was out to avenge his murder by his evil brother and to tell the true story, not the sanitized one his brother put forth in that most vile of mediums, stupid children's literature.

So Stanley flew with Wife and I across the many leagues, furlongs, and other bizarre measurement devices that make up this great land to help him find vengeance.

By the way God gave America to Americans because he knew we were great so he wanted to give us something equally great. Conversely God gave England to the British because he knew they'd be so pasty white they'd need a land filled with rain so they wouldn't get skin cancer. I believe this is discussed in greater detail in one of those books of the Bible no one reads anymore...let's say Habakkuk. If you don't believe the Bible (besides burning in hell next to mass murderers) you just have to see this to know that I'm right.

As I was saying about Stanley, he knew where his brother would have gone. With all the profits from the ridiculous book he'd published, his brother was sure to have gone to Vegas. There's just something about Vegas that attracts both the very rich and the very poor. I think it's the hookers.

Sadly for Flat Stanley, Wife and I had our own plans on this trip. Before we could bring him to meet his day of vengeance we had to visit my grandparents. For those of you who've seen the Godfather (I'm not one of them so this might be a gross misrepresentation) know that before you meet any adversary (preferably with brass knuckles (which is a funny word to spell with a "k")) you have to pay your respects to the Don.

This is exactly what we did. Though through some tragic miscommunication the Don and Dona thought Stanley was a coaster. They thought he was a cute coaster though.

While this was degrading for Stanley nothing prepared him for what happened next. Let me preface this by stating the obvious, all cats are inherently evil. I think everyone knows this, but a little less well known is the fact that all cats can also detect the presence of ghosts, spirits, imps, and republicans with equal clarity and hate them all. Thus the portion of the soul in Flat Stanley called out to the "Family's" cat like flies to roadkill or senior citizens to cruises or southerners to moonshine (the converse relationship would be the French to deodorant, but I couldn't think how to work that into the story).

Before any of us were aware the cat had Stanley in its voracious mandibles. The scream that escaped from Stanley sadly went unheard by any of us because it was only a two dimensional scream, which are inaudible to all but the most active of Dungeons and Dragons players.

Yet fortune favored Stanley in the form of a paper cut. That was after all what he was made of. Slicing into the cat....whom we'll call Mephistopheles for lack of a better name...Stanley made his way back to us. Angrily he gesticulated, mimed, and otherwise tried to communicate his disapproval to us. Interestingly enough, while he was perfectly able to communicate with us in New York, the fact that Arizona and Nevada place are the earthly reflection of hell had robbed him of his voice.

For those of you who doubt me on this one (the Arizona thing) I dare you to go to Arizona in August...you tell me that heat isn't coming from an infernal source.

In any case with the powers of the unholy one robbing him of his voice, and the devil's own feline on his tail, Stanley must have realized the precarious nature of his situation. For he wobbled out of the house trying to flee. Making it to the door he was caught up in an updraft, freedom was near. With a vulgar hand gesture to us and the hellcat he floated away on a godsent wind...only to be impaled by a cactus. Thus ends the sad tale of Flat Stanley.

Okay so that whole thing was ridiculous but it was more fun than saying "we went to the Grand Canyon and Alburqurque for Memorial Day". Anyways if you want to see the rest of our trip photos check them out here.
Vacation 052607-060307

In other news for those of you who are regular readers of our friend at Ten Foot Rabbits, please be aware that he let his domain lapse...his wife tells us that he would forget his own name if his coworkers didn't talk to him everyday. So if you're a reader check him out now at http://tenfootrabbits.blogspot.com/