Monday, May 28, 2007

Milwaukee's Best

Kate and I fly to Chicago and drive north to Milwaukee tomorrow. Our flight leaves at 6:15 a.m. Yes, that means we have to leave here around 3:45 in the morning. We wanted to have a full day tomorrow to get in, rent a car, drive to Milwaukee, but on the way stop at The Silo. The Silo is home to some of the best Chicago-style pizza there is, that’s the thick stuff if you were wondering.

I am excited to see Milwaukee, to look at apartments, and figure out where Kate and I are going to live as a newly married couple. Awesome. It is so great to see her again too. We just spent the last three weeks apart. Kate was home packing, studying for the boards, planning, and spending time with family. I have been here working some for the Bucks, reuniting with friends back in town for the summer, preparing for the move, not writing as much as I would like to, and just absolutely loving my last few weeks in Longmont as a bachelor with friends that are family. I really miss all of you that aren't here yet.

I'll write again when we get back.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Gonzales and the Whale

I have heard a lot about the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys General in the news lately. I see Alberto Gonzales on the TV everyday. People are always asking him questions. He is always answering in a round about way that basically boils down to “I don’t know.” He really is an awful liar. If you think CNN is doing some wacky video editing then just watch C-SPAN. They give it to you straight. Just be sure to pick your jaw up off the floor after you see this guy try and defend himself. Anyway, I was wondering why I haven’t been hearing about the time Clinton fired all 93 attorneys general. Was Clinton’s decision to release all 93 as controversial, or is bringing this up supposed to be some sort of defense for what the current administration did? It turns out those 93 slots are politically appointed positions. I didn’t know this until I did a little research. It is also commonplace for the President to replace all or a lot of them when he begins his term. Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. It’s your choice when you’re the Pres. These firings came during the middle of Bush’s second term. This is unheard of and I think this might be the first time it has ever happened. I didn’t want to attack or defend any of the actions made by the current administration regarding this controversy. I wanted to share with you what I learned about those positions and why Clinton’s removal of all 93 isn’t the same as a midterm firing of 8. Maybe you already knew that, but I just got it.

Anticipation for the 2008 election is at a high, and there are still 17 months to go. It seems a little early, but I can’t blame the media or others for being excited. The candidates are intriguing to many people. The number of people excited about replacing the current administration is growing by the day. True story. Sure, I think the expectations of any candidate are unrealistic—they aren’t going to turn things around on day one—but there is a lot of hope that one of them can get this country moving in the opposite direction it has been moving for the last six years. I’d say that’s worth getting excited about. Wouldn’t you?

Sometime while I was in London a whale swam up the River Thames. It was all over the news. People flocked to the edges of the river to get a glimpse of it. There were helicopters all over trying to get a good aerial shot of the thing. And then it died. And people got on with their lives. Now the same thing is happening in San Francisco. Whenever something like this happens I always start thinking about the circumstances that millions of humans face every minute/hour/day that are so much more tragic than two discombobulated whales in a river. Why aren’t we hearing about those stories? It is two stinking humpbacks, against millions of men, women, and children. It’s not even close. Sad, but true.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pre-Finale Thought

After watching one season of American Idol I have to say that the judges love to remind contestants, the audience, and those at home, that “this is a singing competition.” The truth however, is that rarely, if ever, is the Idol a singing competition.

Sanjaya ousted at least 10 singers that were much better than him. For him, the Idol was a let’s-break-the-system competition. What was the competition for Melinda? It was a let’s-eliminate-the-best-singer-before-the-finale competition. And for Haley, well, it was a leg-off competition because as Simon alluded to several times on the show, that’s all she has.

The question for tonight is this: will American Idol be a singing competition? If it is, Jordin will win, and surprise, the judges will be right for once. If it is a popularity contest, and a true search for an idol-like phenomenon, Blake Lewis wins hands down. After all, that is why Blake is where he is tonight.

The Idol is up

I haven’t been blogging about the Idol recently, but I have still been watching. I think the week of the finale is a good time to bring the Idol back to my blog.

The Idol and I have had a one-season-long romance and it’s about over. In the beginning, as you know, I was captivated by the complete lack of talent and the way the judges casually dismissed contestants and shattered dreams of so many hopefuls. In the weeks to come, some of the poor singers were shaved off and the talent that was there was molded by the show into American Idol contestants, contestants that very rarely have an identifiable persona/style on the stage, but still, contestants that can be rooted for. I found Chris Sligh, Phil Stacey, Melinda Doolittle, and Blake Lewis to be entertaining, but not great singers all the time. After the midpoint of the season I was over American Idol. I don’t mean I stopped watching, but I began to see the Idol voting base start to shape the show to its tastes. For a while this was the explanation for Sanjaya’s long stint on the show. And last week this was the explanation for Melinda’s elimination. Melinda was, without a doubt, the best singer and all-around performer this year. So, the best singer doesn’t win. I don’t really like that. Also, I don’t enjoy getting hooked on any TV show. Even though I recorded most of the Idol nights, I still didn’t miss one show. That is a lot of TV. In years to come I might watch here and there, but I am not going to watch another full season. I loved seeing what all the hype was about. The Idol is just that though. The show has yet to produce an artist I enjoy listening to and I don’t think it ever will. What do I mean by that? Well, despite there being many good singers on the Idol through the years I have yet to hear one whose CD I will rush out and buy.

I just finished watching the performance finale and was a little disappointed by the judges anointing of Jordin Sparks as the Idol winner even though the votes aren’t in yet. They kept on saying “this is a singing competition” and Simon ended the show by saying to Jordin about her last performance “you mopped the floor with Blake.” Jordin has an incredible voice, but Blake will be a bigger star than her because he is the one contestant with his own style that doesn’t seem American Idol-made. With that said, I think Jordin will win tomorrow. The tween voting base is going to vote for one of their own—another reason I don’t like the Idol. There is no stopping the droves of teenage girls that would never let Jordin slip through the cracks, would eliminate Melinda, and torture us with Sanjaya every week. I confess though, at this point in my life, the teenage female is my least favorite chunk of humanity and this is a big reason I don’t want Jordin to win. For that reason alone, I think I am going to see her get all giddy and then sappy tomorrow when Seacrest says something like, “Blake, the votes are in. You are the American Idol runner-up.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Up in flames

A piece of history went up in flames yesterday as the Cutty Sark burned in its dry dock in Greenwich, England. This ship was one of the fastest of its kind in the 19th century. It raced Thermopylae from China to England, in the vast tea trade. The Thermopylae won, but the Cutty Sark spent over 100 days of the journey on an improvised rudder and still managed to come in just one week behind the winner. Not too shabby.

The team that was restoring the ship is not going to abandon their task even though the fire gutted the thing. It was awesome to see it in person, but all the doorways were five feet tall. This would be a great opportunity for the restoration team to adjust the design numbers for inflation, vertical inflation that is.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pee on the PS2

I don't really know what this article is supposed to be, but Guy sent it to me because it is about some UW students. This is the link.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On Fossil Fuels

Vonnegut says, “When you get here, even when I got here, the industrialized world was already hopelessly hooked on fossil fuels, and very soon now there won’t be any left. Cold turkey."

"Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn’t the TV news is it? Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.”

This world is going to go cold turkey on fossil fuels someday. This is inevitable, but what really gets me is that it is going to happen before there are enough alternative fuel sources available. And you can’t call me a pessimist. The last reaches of oil are certainly going to be tapped before we have an answer to the gaping hole in our future. But what about Ethanol? Yeah, right. I heard a statistic on the news the other night that if all of this country’s corn was used for Ethanol production it would only account for 15% of the USA’s fossil fuel consumption.

I couldn’t agree more with Vonnegut about all of us being addicts of fossil fuels. I know we will run out. I know there isn’t any replacement for it, but I’ll get in my car tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. I am trying to use less fuel and energy where I can. I take it easy on the gas and stretch each tank to the maximum mileage and that’s not just because gas is $3.25. I could start riding my bike whenever I need to go somewhere in Longmont, but the layout of our society demands the use of fossil fuels. I’ll list a couple of examples. Big box stores are almost always built on the outskirts of town because this is the only space for these obese cinderblock eyesores. Who would have thought, but capitalism and globalization have boosted some economies of the world to unbelievable heights, while others have plummeted. In the end, however, capitalism and globalization will be the end of most economies of this world. Business is private jets. Business is premier class flights where each person has a recliner and a personal office at 40,000 feet. Business is China shipping goods to their next-door neighbor…the U.S. Business is consuming everything to get another zero in your account balance regardless of what is burnt on the way there. We are fine, as long as it isn’t our money being burned.

Leaders of the world know that fossil fuels are limited. Unfortunately, their solutions have been to go on a global shopping spree for the last vapors of the stuff. However, when you bring the battle to the part of the world where most oil comes from it just seems to make it more expensive to get that oil here. Where are we going to go when Iraq is dry?

Come On In

If you know your Rev. Jarry Falwell's social blunders, then you will really get a kick out of Bart Campolo's latest post to his blog. Perfect.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Postholy Indeed

I am no mountaineer. Sure, I have a few friends that have all the mountain gear you could ever want. These guys camp for REI sales. I just don’t think I’ll ever get around to doing that. Going into the mountains with some of these guys can be very intimidating actually. I feel inferior because I have to mooch off of the pros for shelter, cooking supplies, and filtered water.

I use my dad’s 1970 Slumberjack when I go into the mountains. I have my own pack now, but let’s not get carried away. I don’t have climbing boots, hiking poles, or any sort of map of the backcountry. I don’t even know if those hiking poles have a special name. Oh, I just found them at the Mountainsmith website. They are called trekking poles. That sounds too fancy considering it is a hiking stick that just happens to come from a machine instead of a tree. Now to my point: when I went up to the mountains today for my first solo hike, that would last more than an hour, I felt really out of place.

My Mountainsmith backpack and my Camelback were the only things I had today that could possibly give someone the idea I was a regular. If it wasn’t for a hike years ago, during which I found a Camelback behind a pine tree, I wouldn’t have one today. There was no fooling other hikers on the trail today though. I had shorts and a t-shirt on, which were fine because it was a warm day, but I wore some Nike Air Pegasus running shoes for a fairly steep and very snowy hike.

Okay, I don’t have the gear, but I can still blaze a trail. I was making good time for a while. I even passed a dude that heard me coming and made his way to the side of the trail for me. I sneaked a glance at his getup. He had the light weight pants that can turn into shorts if you want them to, a set of expensive hiking sticks, and waterproof booties over his hiking boots. He didn’t say much as I passed and said, “How’s it going?” However, he did glance down at my shoes and probably thought I was a loony after he saw they were Nikes.

The deep snow right before timberline really slowed me down. With every step I was prepared to sink a couple of feet. The trekking poles would have been really nice in this section. There are slim pickings at that altitude for hiking sticks, but I found one that was about 2.5 feet long. It was good timing too. A few steps after I picked that up I sunk deep into the snow, almost to my butt. I could move my left leg out, but my right leg would not budge. The snow molded to my foot and ankle so quickly I couldn’t pull my leg up at all. I admit it, panic was not too far away, but luckily one end of my gimpy hiking stick was shaped like a shovel. I shoveled myself out of that hole in a minute and made sure to bring that stick along. I had an attachment disorder to that thing for the rest of the trek through the deep stuff.

Once above timberline the path was a lot less snowy and a lot rockier. I was happy to leave the deep, sharp snow behind that had me contemplating turning around because of scraped shins and hands that were cold from stopping falls.

Pressing on was worth it. The view was humbling. Twin Sisters is almost 3,000 feet lower than some of the peaks I was facing, and yet it almost sent me packing, and I was only halfway done with the hike. I got the shivers looking across the valley to much larger and darker mountains, the ones that don’t care if you have your trekking poles or not. They take whoever they want, whenever they want.

I spent no more than twenty minutes on the top. I had lunch, snapped some pictures, and called Kate. I had three bars up there, and I had taken my phone for a watch, not realizing I would be able to ring Wyoming from the mountaintop. I kept it quick because clouds were forming over Longs Peak. I at least know enough to start heading down when you can hear far off thunder. That is why I was surprised to see hikers still coming up on my way down. These hikers had all the cool gear too. That could be why they were still hiking up. One of them was punching the keypad of his GPS unit when I stumbled by him in the deep snow. He said the trail was “pretty postholy”. I had seen this word the night before when I did some reading on the Twin Sisters hike. A hiker wrote “the path wasn’t too postholy.” What the hell is that? I thought. I made the connection when the GPS dude mentioned it. Postholy describes the snow I really didn’t like about this hike. Any step could have me sinking butt deep and scraping ice and rock on the way down.

The postholiness resided and I was able to run down sections of the trail. I stopped on occasion to take a sip from my Camelback spout. Doing this made me feel so cool, and the water was good too. And when I got to my car I peeled waterlogged shoes and socks off my feet. They were pale and shriveled like prunes; slipping them into my Reefs, well worn by flat ground, had never felt better.

6 Weeks....

I have to share with you some more Vonnegut.

Vonnegut’s lesson on creative writing is “do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

How accurate. I think the only reason I have ever used a semicolon is because I wanted to use it, not because I had to. They really don’t do anything.

He continues…

And I realize some of you may be having trouble deciding whether I am kidding or not. So from now on I will tell you when I’m kidding. For instance, join the National Guard or the Marines and teach democracy. I’m kidding. We are about to be attacked by Al Qaeda. Wave flags if you have them. That always seems to scare them away. I’m kidding. If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding.

Vonnegut says a lot more about war that is insanely true, but I have to go to bed. I am taking the G-Unit to the airport tomorrow morning. He is going to work in Pearlington, Mississippi for a week.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Kate's Graduation

My future wife got her doctorate last weekend and I was caught speechless watching her walk across the stage. I leaned forward in my seat and tried to keep the tears welling up in my eyes from dripping down my face. It was the first time that I watched Kate accomplish a big dream, one that she had been working on since I met her. When she walked across that stage I caught myself thinking that’s my wife, my sunrise smile, my lost dreams, and a part of me, and I have been proud of her from our beginning.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Letters to TIME

TIME didn’t publish my letter to the editor. I thought it wasn’t half bad, but then again, they didn’t print any letters that were too critical of their decision to glorify the Virginia Tech shooter with a photo spread. Anyway, I have copied two standout letters below because they address some of the things we should be thinking about in the wake of this shooting.

While the world can sympathize with the bereaved in the Virginia Tech killings, there seems little point in the American people getting too upset about them. Such killings are merely a form of blood tax that has to be paid for the imagined privilege of gun ownership. – Paul Eastaugh, Reading, England

I don’t know why more people can see this. It is as clear as day. There will always be nutters, but there doesn’t always need to be unlimited, accessible assault weapons.

We mourn the inexplicable, tragic murder of innocent people at Virginia Tech—the worst killing of its kind in the history of our country, we are told. Let’s also take just a moment to reflect on what every day must be like for the citizens of Iraq, where senseless killings of this magnitude have become a regular occurrence in the four years since we invaded their country. Every time we read a sidebar saying “32 killed by suicide bomber,” this is what it is like. – Paul Graff, Santa Monica, California

Let’s also take just a moment to reflect on what American families hear everyday about their loved ones dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. Put frankly, our government thinks the soldier is a dispensable commodity. I am starting to think that it will take until January 21, 2009, for our government to think otherwise about our bravest citizens and everyone in Iraq.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Meeting Vonnegut

I knew I was going to spend a lot of time driving through south central Wyoming over the weekend so I got a couple of books on CD, or as they are formally called, audiobooks. I got A Man Without A Country, Kurt Vonnegut’s last book, and Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter.

There is plenty to be said about Carter’s book. It was amazing and I guess it is sort of considered controversial, but that is probably because Carter wisely dissects and points out where the Israeli government has failed over and over again in their policy decisions regarding Palestine. When people find out the suicide bomber isn’t the only bad guy things get controversial.

This post is about the other book though.

I listened to the audiobook twice. I bought the real book yesterday. There is a pull quote from the Los Angeles Times on the cover. “[This] may be as close as Vonnegut ever comes to a memoir.”

This book does read like a memoir at times, but it is a melting pot of Vonnegut’s thoughts on the state of this world, seasoned with his dry, witty humor. I surprised myself a few times when I was nodding in agreement with Vonnegut. And when I didn’t agree, it was a respectful disagreement. Listening to Vonnegut’s words on Karl Marx’s famous quote, “religion is the opium of the people,” was eye opening to me. As a follower of Jesus this quote always sort of bothered me, but Vonnegut says this about Marx, “He was simply noticing, and surely not condemning, the fact that religions could also be comforting to those in economic or social distress. It was a casual truism, not a dictum.” This observation is so simple, and yet in the past I got all too fired up with Marx whenever I came across that immortal line, so I was unable to digest it even enough to realize that religion does bring comfort to the masses in “economic and social distress.” Vonnegut continues with another neat little observation: When Marx wrote those words, by the way, we hadn’t even freed our slaves yet. Who do you imagine was more pleasing in the eyes of a merciful God back then, Karl Marx or the United States of America?” Vonnegut neatly disassembles the American dream once again.

I will post more thoughts and quotes on here within the next couple of weeks. There is just so much to think about. I leave you with a great section of this really small book.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

Kate's Graduation: Thursday

There has been a lull because I have been in Wyoming since Thursday. I haven't been near a computer since then, but I have some material coming up soon. Let's just say it was an amazing long weekend in Wyoming. I decided this must be better coming in parts. Here is Thursday.

Driving into your college town after you graduated college is always a weird feeling. I did it again on Thursday because I was coming into town for Kate’s graduation. I feel eerily disconnected from a town and a people I was once a part of. I am never quite sure how I am going to be received. It’s almost as if I am in a different country when I go back. After all, it is Wyoming. But it all comes back within a few hours: the people, the attitude, the atmosphere, and the lingering friends hanging onto the threads of a college life.

Kate spent time with her pharmacy friends Thursday night. It was a girl’s night, so I decided to make it a guy’s night. Actually, I had no other choice. It was either call some friends that are still in school, or go back to the old apartment, where I was staying that night, and crash on a twin bed that was not that stable due to a lot of unsleeping. I rang a friend who used to swim and caught up with the Laramie crew at their new house. Three of the guys from this house were graduating on Saturday, all with degrees in mechanical engineering. Their unlocked bikes rested on the side of the house. The windows were open. The door was unlocked. There was a keg in the driveway and a beer pong table set up in the garage.

College was for me the first time that I had a lot of friends that I don’t have much in common with. For instance, these friends were my friends because I swam with them. We didn’t meet at FCA, church, work, or anywhere else. We met in the weight room. We sweat into Corbett pool together during lactate sets. We met in our suffering and it didn’t matter to us if that is all we had in common. What we had in common was often all that mattered and in that most indescribable way, and yet in one of the most touching ways, we share this bond that can instantly be reignited by one another’s quick entrance into our lives again. So it was on Thursday night when I joined up with four old teammates for a trip to the bars. It was the good ole’ bachelor days of college again, at least my version of them, and it was a grand time. We caught up, befriended strangers, and threw some back at 3rd Street, Lovejoy’s, and The Buckhorn. When it was time to go home the five of us and a few others got a ride in the back of a pickup truck back home. I still had farther to go, so I hopped on a bike and rode my way back to Palmer Drive #106. The time was 2:40am when I went to sleep, 21 hours after I woke up for work that morning.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Write This Minute

I came home from work tonight tired, exhausted, and sick of the Bucks. I planned on doing some writing, but I had seven emails tonight, all from friends. It was extremely enjoyable to read them all. We are blessed to have such easy communication. After I was done reading all of those I responded to some and then went down the blog list—another great time.

Chris had a great blog on being alone in God’s presence in the hard to reach heights of New Zealand.

And I checked Collin’s blog. He doesn’t blog. No surprise really, but I check it.

I checked Erik’s blog, but nothing new. Although, I do know something is coming soon. I can feel it.

Nothing new at Becca’s blog, that is if you check it everyday like I do. I love reading about what she and many others are doing in Mississippi.

I wasn’t surprised to see Mick write about being so caught up in all of life’s demands. I am really feeling the weight of those demands with being weeks out from a wedding, a move, and big changes. I am taking care of those things, but writing has really taken a hit from it all. I hope to change that once we get settled in Milwaukee.

Rachel and her Memphis teammates are going to have some NCAA Regional golf action in St. George, Utah. Congrats.

And Mr. Boeke has an extended post in response to a comment on the second Quarter Life blog. Well done.

I didn’t write tonight, but you all wrote to me. And that is doing something.