Monday, December 29, 2008

A Classic Resolution

A New Year’s Resolution: To do one million pushups in a year. That is the ambitious goal of the weight coach at my work. Apparently, someone has done this. And this guy wants to take a crack at it, even though it means averaging 2,740 pushups a day. Or, if he devoted eight hours a day to doing pushups, 343 an hour for eight hours a day for 365 days.

Personally, I don’t think he is going to do it. Tackling 500,000 pushups in a year is a lofty goal, but twice that? No way, at least not while keeping his job and any sort of healthy lifestyle, but it got me thinking about making a resolution for myself. I like the pushup one because it is a goal with a clear number. I don’t like most resolutions because they are not concrete enough like I’m going to workout this year or I am not eating cheese in 2009. I need a number. If I set a goal to work out 4 times a week in 2009, I would be much closer to achieving that goal than if I had set it without a number. The number sticks in my mind and it is hard to shake a number because it eats at me more than anything else.

The number in my New Year’s resolution is 12. I am going to read 12 classic books in 2009.  I haven’t heard of a superb and successful writer that hasn’t read a chunk of the classics. Whether or not I become a successful writer, reading more classics is something I’ve always wanted to do. In addition, I’ve always wanted to be a well-read writer, but I can’t call myself one unless I read more classics. Despite my education as an English Major, many classics did not touch my path to a degree.

I have set some rules for my resolution. I don’t necessarily have to read one book a month for the next year. Some books are going to be shorter than others. Taking a month to read The Brothers Karamazov is not the same as taking a month to read Heart of Darkness. All books must be designated a classic by some major publishing house. I can move across the spectrum of classics in any manner I wish. For example, I could, if I wanted to, read twelve Victorian classics. I could read twelve classics from Russian literature. Or, I could read six from each. You get the point. I realize twelve is not a high number. Why not pick twenty or twenty-four classics in a year? Well, for the same reason War and Peace is not going to be the first book I romp through in 2009. I need to start with a number of books that is both challenging and achievable. Starting with War and Peace may just derail this whole resolution in a matter of weeks. So, I made the decision to start with something light, and with a book that could not double as a weapon.

Yesterday, I used a gift certificate to buy the first classic on the list, The Grapes of Wrath. I don’t know how I’ve gone this long without this novel being required reading. I’ve read other Steinbeck works, and most memorably cheated by listening to East of Eden, his longest, on CD, but never this novel, which is considered by some to be the best American novel ever written.

I guess now that I have publicly shared my resolution I need to give occasional updates on my success or failure. Even though I have book one on my nightstand, I am not starting it until Thursday. That would be cheating—I’m a stickler that way.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

What would today be like without Jesus? A Thursday. A workday. Traffic jams. Hours in the cubicle. One day away from a paycheck. Several coffees just to get you to noon at work. Another day to further your career. A new Gray's Anatomy. 

Many people have those things, but today Jesus reminds us that all those things don't matter. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

2008 in Covers

I was a little bored this afternoon so I took a years worth of Newsweek and Time magazines and covered the living room floor with them. It was carpeted history, and it wouldn't make for a bad bar top. The magazines took up so much room that without a wide angle it was impossible to get all of them in one shot, but my Olympus seemed up to the task and these are some of my favorites.

Our current president was on one cover. Our president-elect was on at least ten covers. McCain was also on many covers.

During a six week period, Palin was on four of the covers. Thanks for the nightmares, Newsweek.

Time's person of the year cover is iconic, but I still prefer the original of that image, copied onto campaign chum for all to gobble up. I was able to come away with a 4x6 sticker that will never be used.

Blizzard

I really enjoy blizzards. They make me feel young. I feel a little more alive when I have to speed everywhere to keep the car from getting stuck. The snow makes you do things like walking through snowdrifts instead of taking the cleared path.

Today, all I had on the agenda was to get my haircut and I couldn't even do that. The place was closed, along with every other business in that strip mall. 

The snow looks to be 10-12 inches deep with drifts getting quite deeper than that. 

I'm new to Wisconsin, but since I've been here there has never really been any doubt about having a white Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Summarizing a Year

I was trying to write a Christmas letter over the weekend and got terribly frustrated with the insurmountable task of boiling down a year of highs and lows to a one page letter. By the time I was supposed to write about my own year I was a bit snarky and I wrote the passage below, which didn't make it in the final draft. Kate thought it was a little too mocking.

Bryce broke up with Starbucks in June to go to work for a distant relative of Osama Bin Laden. You might have heard of him, his middle name is Hussein. The days were hot, long, and often frustrating, but in the end, Bryce valued his time as a community organizer and came away from the whole experience still believing in God, as well as feeling like he wasn't a baby-killer, and feeling like he still supported the troops. 

An amusing summary, but, I suppose, one not appropriate to send to our families. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Math and a Donnybrook

I took the GRE diagnostic quiz. My performance in said quiz was of the caliber of my performance on tests in Java class in college. That is to say, I didn’t do so well, but I find myself enjoying the studying. It has been years since I have done basic algebra. Doing a little math everyday has been enjoyable. The thing about math that I always enjoyed is that there is no gray area. An answer is right or wrong. Yeah, my answers are often wrong, but I feel so great when I get the right answer because there was no room for mistakes and I made none. There aren’t too many things you can do in life that are free of mistakes, even when you are doing the right thing.

My performance in the verbal section is better than the quantitative. However, words like donnybrook and sapience threw me for a loop in the diagnostic quiz. I’ll leave sapience for you to look up or maybe you know it. Maybe you know both. Congratulations.

Here is:

donnybrook

noun

a scene of uproar and disorder; a heated argument : raucous ideological donnybrooks.

ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from the name of a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, formerly famous for its raucous annual fair.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Busy

No blogs in seven days. I haven’t taken that kind of break since summer vacation. I was in Minneapolis for a few days last week at an invite. We won, women and men. That was pretty cool, but it is good to be home.

I signed up for the GRE yesterday. I don’t know if I’ll be going to grad school next year. There are many deadlines that I have missed, but there are a few that I could make and to make them I have to do an insane amount of work between now and then. I suspect blogging will be very light over the next two months. December is always busy and in January I am in Florida for ten days with the team. I’ll also be scrambling to get some application materials in on time.

On the other hand, I need to be thinking about next year and what happens if I am not starting grad school in the fall.

I can see the forks in the road. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

GRE, Major Tom, AC-EP, Poem Memorization

I already hate the GRE and I haven’t even made a test date or really cracked open my study book.

I can’t possibly make any grad school application deadline that is sooner than February 1st.

“Major Tom” by David Bowie is a fantastic song.

I’ve been Facebook free for three days. I am not going through withdrawal. Actually, it feels quite good.

Listen to MxPx’s The AC – EP. Through iTunes I have been able to track down some MxPx I don’t have. This little album has been one of the best finds. If you don’t buy the whole thing, at least buy “Invitation To Understanding.” This version is one of the best MxPx songs I have ever heard.  It was the 203rd MxPx song to grace my iTunes library. Well worth the purchase.

Was your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie any good? Be honest. We weren’t in charge of the pumpkin pie. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t as tasty, and it wasn’t Libby’s recipe.

I had never memorized a poem until last week. I thought it was about time so I set out to memorize “Crossing the Bar.” Nothing big, just sixteen lines. It makes me feel smart. I think Donald Miller wrote about this somewhere in one of his books

Thankful for...

There were many things to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, but I kept on thinking about last year’s Thanksgiving. Thus, I was most thankful for my health last Thursday because last year I didn’t have it and one’s health—physical, mental and social—means everything.

Last year I had to spend the first part of my day alone because Kate was at work. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alone. I was in a place I hated. I felt I had been banished away to die at a young age, having accomplished nothing in my short 24 years on the Earth. I literally thought I was dying. I was scheduled for an MRI the next day. The whites of my eyes were scarlet. The closest I could get to family was a pitiful phone conversation that provided me little comfort and in the end made me more depressed about my lot in life.

Somehow, things turned around and here I am, thankful that year has passed.

From a Friend

Due to recent budget cuts and the cost of electricity, gas and oil, as well
as current market conditions and the continued decline of the U.S. economy,
The Light at the End of the Tunnel has been turned off.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Breaking up with Facebook

I spend over an hour on Facebook every week. The way I figure, I easily spend 10 minutes throughout the day on Facebook. That doesn’t seem like much and it isn’t when compared to a lot of people, but it is a lot for me. It is enough to get me thinking about the worth of Facebook. It brings to mind questions, like, does pronouncing friendships on Facebook strengthen them? Do I stay in better touch with you? Should I spend anytime looking at pictures of you going out to drink or going home to celebrate your grandpa’s life? Does reading your profile from your favorite movies and books to your favorite quotes forge new bonds between us?

My answer to all these questions is a defiant no.

I can’t remember the last time a friend messaged me after I confirmed their friend request on Facebook. I don’t talk to 95% of my friends on Facebook. Facebook keeps them close. Sure, I know where they are. Most of the time I know where they are working or going to school. I can even vicariously live all your vacations and weekends away by looking at your picture galleries and watching your videos, but even if you were in my wedding, I don’t feel closer to you by looking at those pictures. I want to sit next to you. I want you to show me those pictures. I want your narration, not the soundtrack of my thoughts with your pictures.

Facebook doesn’t narrow the abyss of separation created by distance, time and conflicting schedules. Over any given year I will spend months away from my closest friends. When I finally reunite with those friends I feel like we were never apart. Facebook, you would think, might enable that feeling, but it doesn’t. What enables that feeling is a history with that friend and a connection once established in person and maintained through many mediums, but I don’t think Facebook is one of those mediums. At times, I think Facebook reminds me of just how far away my friends are, or just how much we are growing apart.

The social networking site is trying their best to fill that void. I can click through photo libraries, I can check an updated status, I can see where you’ve been in the world and I can read through your favorite quotes. That felt like it worked for a little bit, but it never did.

I’ve spent some time defending Facebook, but all of a sudden I cannot justify it gobbling up any of my time. There is only one option, let me call it an experiment for now. I am leaving Facebook. I don’t know how long I will be gone. I am getting rid of all my friends and closing my account with Facebook. At this point, I suspect I’ll be back, but I need a sabbatical to figure out why, and if, Facebook is important and a necessary tool in holding together the friendships that I desperately care about holding together. Like I said, I suspect it isn’t necessary at all, and that’s why I am doing this. So, F off F-book.

Friday, November 28, 2008

An Addendum

I wasn’t honest in my post about not feeling the pinch of the awfully bad economy. I left out the story of a magazine here in Milwaukee that hired me to do a couple brief restaurant reviews. The editor contacted me back in July and I completed the assignment in mid-August. Two reviews, for a total of 500 words at .10 a word, a disappointing rate, but one that pays, and so, a rate that does set itself apart from most writing gigs out there.

The magazine also offered to pay for my dinner; they covered Kate’s as well. At the first restaurant that wasn’t a problem, but we went to the second restaurant before the editor could arrange payment for our meal. We agreed that I would send them a receipt for the meal and they would reimburse me for the cost. We had a wonderful meal and I finished both reviews later that week.

Prior to finishing the assignments I signed a contract that stated the amount I was to be paid and for what I was being paid. I still have a copy of that contract, but I don’t plan on using it to take the magazine to small claims court because they have repeatedly ignored my attempts to contact them, asking about when I can expect a check. They clearly aren’t going to pay me and this became only more obvious upon visiting their website, seeing that it hadn’t been updated since the summer 2008 issue.

I still don’t feel the pinch, but apparently a company, that has most definitely felt the economic pinch, once employed me. I don’t plan on calling and emailing them once a week about receiving payment. Including the cost of the meal, it is $100, but really just $50 because the second restaurant is one that we would have likely visited in the month of August anyways.

The freelance writer has very few options in this type of situation. Option 1: Pester the magazine with constant questions about payment without promise of success. Option 2: Give up, entirely, the pursuit of payment and violate the terms of the contract by self-publishing the piece on a blog or sending the piece to another publication, hoping they might publish. Option 3: Take the magazine to small claims court for a whopping fifty bucks.

I am going with option two. I might be violating the terms of the contract I signed with this magazine very soon by posting the reviews on this blog for what they are worth. At least they will be somewhere. 

Black Friday Coffee-Housing

Kate has to work today. I thought I would get up and head into Starbucks for some, hopefully, quiet time of reading and writing. Well, when the rest of the country (although I suppose this is a gross exaggeration this year) is out shopping, they need their fuel. Coffee is the fuel. People still like Starbucks and seeing them in here warms my heart because it shows they care about my financial portfolio of Starbucks shares. How kind of them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Amazing Photos


...at the Boston Globe. This one: US Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama is welcomed by his wife Michelle and daughters Malia, 11 and Sasha, 7, upon landing in Pueblo, Colorado, on November 01, 2008. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Thanks, TPM.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We Don't Work Either

"Writers don’t make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don’t work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon and then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck’s book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man’s stupid words. And for this, as I said before, we are paid a dollar. We are worth so much more."

- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Monday, November 24, 2008

Not Feeling The Pinch

We are young and fortunate. We are decades away from retirement. People are always dying and getting sick so Kate has job security. As far as I know people are still choosing to go to college. To be clear, not enough of them are, but enough to provide me with some job security.

We don’t have an adjustable rate mortgage. We don’t have loans.

We eat well every night.

All this and we are constantly reminded that the value of 401Ks are plummeting and that there are people going to the food coop that used to donate to the food coop.

There is that little matter of the 20 measly shares I own of Starbucks. When I first bought them a share was $42, but I got a 15% discount. Now, a share is $8.25. The money I have in there is so small and inconsequential that it is mildly entertaining to me to check my portfolio status at Fidelity.

The economic turmoil isn’t hurting us; it is educating us. That’s the most it is doing at this point and for that I feel very lucky. I know I am not the only one out there. Right? The economy is in serious decline, but life goes on, like it always has. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Billboard Watching

I was on a bus heading through Chicago yesterday. With occasional upward glances from my book I would read billboards or try to spot a plane coming into O'Hare. I saw lots of cool planes and one depressing billboard. It simply read...

"Who Can I Sue?" It is a website. You can visit it here

The point of sharing this, well, I seriously thought the billboard was a joke at first, but then I thought it was a public service announcement intended to educate Americans about how common lawsuits are in this country and to present an argument that might persuade someone from suing. 

It turned out to be something else. 

My idea was better.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Shack

Last night I heard two words on ESPN that made me contemplate my childhood relationship with my dad and how that affected my life on all levels, but especially on a spiritual level. In this case, the catalyst for my deep, spiritual thinking was two words, but spiritual sparks can permeate all areas of our lives in many different forms. One of these forms is tragedy. We often let this tragedy put distance between God and us, but tragedy can also bring God closer to us.

In The Shack, authored by WM. Paul Young, the main character, Mackenzie (referred to from now on as Mack), experiences a horrible tragedy when his youngest daughter, Missy, is abducted and evidence that she was murdered is found in a shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Young leaves no doubt that this tragedy was a catalyst for deep, spiritual thinking on Mack’s part, but ultimately, the tragedy created distance between Mack and God. Mack falls into a time of depression that the storyteller refers to as the Great Sadness.

Four years pass before a note in Mack’s mailbox changes things. The note reads:

It’s been a while. I’ve missed you.

I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together.

-Papa

We know instantly what shack the author of this note is talking about. And, unless you’ve been living in a cocoon for the last year, you know Papa is in fact God and Mack finds God in the shack in the form of a portly, black woman. Mack also finds Jesus and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit), both in human form at the shack. Mack is now in the cabin where he had to identify his daughter’s dress, and where her blood used to stain the floor, with the Trinity in human form. This is The Shack’s value, in alluring us to that intriguing prospect of a man who has suffered so much and has the unique chance to ask Papa whatever he wants over a long weekend. We would all love this chance for many, many reasons, but there is no doubt about it, God would be fielding a lot of questions about loss, hurt and tragedies.

I feel it is necessary to address some criticism of the book up front. I had heard the quality of the writing was poor and that Young’s descriptive power was, well, non-existent perhaps. Unfortunately, these are sort of true. Also of note is the similarity between some of the theology in The Shack and The Matrix. In the chapter titled “A Piece of Õ”, Mack gets his first chance to ask some serious questions of God. He is in the kitchen with her while she is baking some delicious creation. The whole chapter closely resembles a scene from The Matrix when Neo first encounters the Oracle in the kitchen of her apartment. She is baking cookies and Neo is confused to find the Oracle an overweight, black lady concerned about cookies in the oven. Young gets no points for originality here, but the similarity between the two scenes probably isn’t an issue for most readers. I wrote my senior paper on The Matrix movies so I have an uncommon closeness to the trilogy. If readers don’t catch this similarity, then it should be blatantly obvious in the chapter, “A Breakfast of Champions”, when Papa says, “It is the human paradigm. It is like water to fish, so prevalent that it goes unseen and unquestioned. It is the matrix; a diabolical scheme in which you are hopelessly trapped even while completely unaware of its existence.” Young doesn’t even try to hide it this time. He even italicizes “is”. Ha, I bet you thought the italics were mine.

Throughout The Shack, I was constantly wording the questions I would be asking God if I were in Mack’s place. Many of them were identical like, “If you couldn’t take care of Missy, how can I trust you to take care of me?” Another one, “Didn’t Missy have the right to be protected?” To this, Sarayu responds, “No, Mack. A child is protected because she is loved, not because she has a right to be protected.” Mack says to Jesus at one point, “There is one thing still bothering me, about Missy. I keep thinking about her, alone in that truck, so terrified…” Jesus responds, “Mack, she was never alone. I never left her; we never left her not for one instant. I could no more abandon her, or you, than I could abandon myself.”

If you aren’t completely satisfied with God’s answers, then you are not alone. Mack gets to ask all the questions and he really does get angry with God during his weekend with the Trinity in the Oregon wilderness. Over that weekend, God’s answers slowly wear away at Mack’s calloused heart. Mack’s healing makes sense because he is literally sitting across the table from God, walking on water with Jesus, and gardening with the Holy Spirit. He not only hears them, but also sees them, and feels them. His vision is supernaturally elevated for a few minutes so he can see people the way God sees them. I too, would probably feel amazing after such a weekend, but the reader interprets God’s answers to Mack’s tough questions in a completely different context. We aren’t in that shack. We are at home, in the coffee shop, in an entirely different world it seems, dark and lifeless compared to Mack’s cartoonish world of that weekend. Although I appreciated much of Young’s interpretation, especially in the chapter, “Here Come Da Judge”, a lot of God’s answers in this book wouldn’t be adequate for me if I had lost a loved one the way Mack lost his daughter. In fact, some of the answers in this book would make me madder at God. I am comforted by the fact that the words in The Shack are merely a human’s guess at what God might say. God’s answers to these questions are impossible to accurately predict and they are probably different for each individual’s suffering. I have the feeling that for Young, what God says in The Shack, is exactly what God has said to Young in order to heal his heart and it is okay that some of those words fall short of what I imagine it would take to heal my heart in a similar circumstance.

The Shack is amazingly successful, now with over two million copies in print. I approached it with cynicism, but also with an open heart, having faith that it holds the potential to teach me something about God. This is the same way I approach most wildly popular Christian books and movies. Some things really come through, like Blue Like Jazz and Velvet Elvis. Others don’t, like the Left Behind series and a Joel Osteen book (which I haven’t read, but just know it wouldn’t deliver).

The Shack had a lot to live up to. It didn’t deliver in ways previous books have, a.k.a., it didn’t blow me out of the water, but I was pleasantly surprised by its radical and progressive message. At one point Mack asks, “You are not too fond of religion and institutions?” God answers, “I don’t create institutions—never have, never will.” Institutions are a product of humans, not a product of God. Rules and expectations are also products of the human world that limit the relationship we have with one another and with God. At one point God also says that the world is messed up because men are in charge. These are delightful tirades to find in the most popular Christian book out there right now. Whether you agree with them or not, Young actually speaks his mind and challenges many rules, expectations and institutions, which in turn forces discussion and debate.

This story also jumbled up the way I think about God, mostly making my view of God perhaps a bit more childish, which is a very good thing. Kids really understand the idea of an omnipresent God. I feel this is a trait of God’s that we easily forget as we age and become familiar with the varying grotesqueries of our world. I find myself praying for God to be with someone on a certain day or during a certain event. The Shack helped me realize how foolish such a prayer is. Whether I am praying it or not, God is with everyone I know and don’t know all the time. Papa never leaves us and is constantly trying to talk to us and love us. Instead of praying for God to be with someone, I need to be praying for that person to recognize God’s presence in their life. I should pray for them to see, hear, and feel God.

Similar to praying for God to be with someone is the prayer for God to give someone courage, understanding, compassion, etc. I often pray for these things, but The Shack reminded me that I have been given all that I need in Jesus’ love. It is just a matter of recognizing those gifts. They have already been given; people just need the eyes, ears, and heart to receive them.

Someone was praying for Mack to hear God’s voice. If Mack’s heart weren’t in the right place, the letter from Papa wouldn’t have acted as a catalyst. He could have easily written it off as a bad joke and done nothing about it, but he had within him what Young calls a “suprarationality: reason beyond the normal definitions of fact or data-based logic; something that only makes sense if you can see a bigger picture of reality. Maybe that is where faith fits in.” That’s where it fit for Mack. That’s what brought Mack to the shack, the bigger picture that Mack was still aware of, a bigger picture that God is always a part of, no matter if we see that or not.

It is childish of me to have a desire for a God that might try reaching me through a couple of words during a football game on ESPN, but Young gives a voice to that desire in a lot of us, and reminds us that that desire is truly childish, but right for all ages because it makes God smile.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Toasting

I've waited long enough to congratulate Travis and Rachel on getting engaged last week. I was looking all over my photo library for a good picture of you two. How come I don't have one? I don't know. I thought there would be a good shot of you two or all three of us from my wedding. 

This is all I have:


Hey, it is a great picture of Travis. 

You two have worked through a lot of stuff. That is good practice because marriage is, among other things, working through immense challenges, clashes of interest, differences and a lot more. But you will be together and, I think for all of us who have watched your relationship develop over all these years, that makes a lot of sense. 

Congratulations, friends!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Makeover

I don't know how many makeovers this blog has had, but the last two have all been made possible by Jarrod Renaud. He blogs here and shares pictures here. He was responsible for making the last header image from a picture I took of the Milwaukee skyline. The new header is also a Renaud creation from a shot of a hallway at the Milwaukee Art Museum. 
It would have been nice to have the time to sit down with Jarrod for this redesign, but he is really busy and I am sort of busy. Oh, and we live 1,000 miles apart. 

The blog isn't that much different. Some different colors here and there. Some lowercase lettering. A sweet header. Bolder lines. 

Same old me. 

Thanks, JRod.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What ever happened to Shyamalan?

You know, M. Night Shyamalan, the former writer, director and producer of critically acclaimed movies such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, to name a few? He is most certainly missing in action. 

You know, action, like writing, directing and producing recent amazingly crappy movies such as Lady in the Water and The Happening? Yeah, M. Night Shyamalan, totally missing from that action. 

I just finished watching The Happening. I tell you, it has been thirty minutes since I finished the movie, but I will still be thinking about how awesomely bad this movie was tomorrow, one week from now, and maybe next month. 

As a fan of the former Shyamalan, I really don't like the new Shyamalan. I am not in the habit of giving unsolicited advice. I am also not keen on offering up advice to extremely successful people, but if I were given the chance, I would tell Shyamalan to slow down. I don't need a movie from you every three years. In fact, I don't need anymore if they continue on this trend. You take your time with the next one. Write like you used to. You have enough money to hang around for a while without making another movie, right? I think you might. Take a vacation. Get your muse back, son, because The Happening really made me miss it. 

Going to Indy

I am leaving for the weekend. The team has a meet in Indianapolis tomorrow and Saturday. We are swimming against Xavier, St. Louis and IUPUI. I’ve never been to this pool, but I hear it is one of the best in the country. I love fast, beautiful pools. There will be a lot of bus travel so I hope to get a lot of reading done.

And this place is getting a makeover very, very soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Published Elsewhere

I have a poem published at Wandering Army. I encourage you to take a look through their archives. Stay a while. Read a little bit. Read a lot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's hard not to make a Forrest Gump reference here.

I ran in my first 5k over the weekend. I was running pretty regularly during the summer, but haven’t so much since I have been coaching. I’ve only been swimming four times in the meantime, so I am not working out really hard. I am trying to say I am not in shape and not proud of my time, although I had a lot of fun doing it.

I finished 115th out of 1,437 competitors. Mind you, not all those people were running.  1,437th place was at a 14:29 mile pace. 1st place maintained a 5:21 mile pace, finishing in 16:37. I crossed the line at 22:32, holding onto a 7:16 pace.

Had I run that route (2 loops through the Milwaukee County Zoo) by myself, it is doubtful that I would have broken 23 minutes. In fact, I may have walked for a little bit after running up a pretty vicious hill the second time around. However, I ran with a pack of humans, trying to complete the required distance in as little time as possible. I found it thrilling, racing again, this time on land. It felt like a competition, but the atmosphere was not at all like other competitions I have competed in. There were friendly conversations before the start, good-natured joking and honest encouragement from stranger to stranger during the race. It was fun to be a part of that.

I’ll race more. Maybe not that much in the next 5 months, but after this rain freezes and whitens Milwaukee and thaws in the spring. Then, maybe I’ll take a crack at breaking 21:00. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

What do we do now?

"What are you going to write about now that the race is over?" My dad recently asked me. 

I am not sure. Maybe now, "Politics", won't be a label for every blog I write. There once was a time, I think. Just for fun though I went to the archives to see what I was blogging about this time of year in 2005, 2006 and 2007. 

On November 9, 2005, I was blogging about lack of direction (post-graduation), Ezra Pound's Cantos and Wyoming Football. Two days later I was blogging about my general dislike of Harry Reid. My thoughts on him haven't changed much. He just whines. 

This week in November 2006 I was blogging about the contents of my bookshelf and the midterm election that just finished up. Democrats made big gains in the House. Made no bit of difference, I point out. And Donald Rumsfeld was finally fired. I embedded this hilarious video:


And last November I was blogging about my health, but not near this date, just a few days out. To be precise, it was a little list on marriage, the writer's strike and a trial in Colorado.

So, I was blogging about politics in two of the last three years, circa November 10. Hmm.

Kate is making something delicious in the kitchen. I'm going to help.

Friday, November 07, 2008

An Easy Breakfast

I had the best breakfast this morning. It was triangular in shape, orange and was topped with whipped cream. It was a slice of pumpkin pie, cooled in the fridge overnight with a nice big glass of milk. This is my All-American breakfast. This is the breakfast of champions. In fact, it is also the lunch, dinner and dessert of champions.

With ease my mom made hundreds of delectable pumpkin pies for me while I was growing up. I soon learned that other moms could not make nearly as good a pumpkin pie as my mom did. I was scarred at a very young age when fooled on several occasions to try a pumpkin pie not handcrafted by my mom. I learned quickly. When I saw other peoples’ pumpkin pies I avoided their droopy, wet, discolored mess like the plague.

I questioned other peoples’ baking abilities throughout my childhood and I wondered while I wandered to school on cool fall mornings about my mom’s innate ability to create the best pumpkin pie on the face of the earth. Well, before I left home, she had the nerve to tell me how she did it. She would buy a can of Libby’s Pumpkin filling and follow the recipe on the can step for step.

I was shocked, but delighted in my realization that I too could make an amazing pumpkin pie. And that is what I did yesterday, following the recipe on the can. What? Did you think the recipe on the can was just a joke? Your mom probably did. Mine didn’t.

Thanks, Mom.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Two Links

First: Joe Klein's latest over at Time. Summarizing his view of this revolution. 

Second: Africa is a continent. NAFTA = Canada, Mexico and the United States of America. Here is the link

Okay, I guess four. Here, a collection of front page newspapers from the country. From the world.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Night Blogging

7pm - Pretty shocked that two networks have already called Pennsylvania for Obama. That is not a good sign for McCain and a very good sign for Obama. If Virginia goes to Obama, it is all over! Goodnight. The fat lady has sung. 

7:15pm - A CNN correspondent at the McCain celebration in Arizona says, "It is a much different mood here." Yeah, like a funeral.

7:25pm - It is going to be a long night. I'll be up. Feel free to call me. I've cracked open a Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat. 

7:33pm - Breaking News, and only breaking here on this blog. McCain wins Wyoming. And things don't look good for an Obama victory in Virginia. Darn.

7:38pm - Voting is so incredibly easy in 48 states. What is with the people in Florida and Ohio?

7:48pm - I have TPM, Sullivan, The Guardian, and CNN up on the Internets and I am watching MSNBC. I am the best political team in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Sullivan says his "self-protective denial" might be breaking down. Mine isn't...yet. You will know when it does. I just shivered. I've got goosebumps. And Kate, poor Kate, she can't wait until this is all over. Although, she is much closer to being a political junky than she was 20 months ago when all this madness started.

8:05pm - Wisconsin for Obama. I'll toast to that. It is a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale right now.

8:18pm - Fox News calling Ohio for Obama. Big.

8:23pm - MSNBC calling Ohio for Obama. Self-protective denial is wearing very, very thin. And with that, Josh Marshall isn't live blogging anymore. He is "F--k Ya Blogging". Priceless.

8:31pm - New Mexico gets flipped, MSNBC calling it for Obama. Some spontaneous combustion going on on TV right now. The pundits are giddy at the possibility of a landslide. Huge crowds at Grant Park. Haven't had a shot of McCain's party for a while. 

8:43pm - Making me proud. From the NY Times front page map, Boulder County, Colorado. 21% in and 75% for Obama. Booyah. Milwaukee County with 1% in is 64% for Obama. The map at the NY Times is good and fast. Check it out.

8:50pm - Is the anticipation gone? Has Obama won already? If the calls are correct so far, how could McCain win?

8:59pm - Via TPM, the Rocky Mountain News calling Colorado for Obama. Well done, brethren. MSNBC just called Iowa for Obama. Zing. TOO CLOSE TO CALL IN MONTANA? Ultimately, I think it will go for McCain, but dang ole' shoot.

9:16pm - Imagine what it is like to lose an election. I don't know how people get over it. I don't know if I would. Uff da. 

9:23pm - The shots of Grant Park are extraordinary. I'm a little nervous about such a huge celebration. I hope people are smart and safe. I hope Obama is safe. Meanwhile in Arizona, it looks like a singalong for McCain fans.

9:39pm - Obama wins Albany County. Folks, Albany County is in Wyoming, home to the University of Wyoming. I don't see why the networks won't call the entire race for Obama once Florida, N.C., and Virginia have clear winners.

9:50pm - Fox calls Virginia for Obama. 10 minutes out from calling the whole race? Possibly. Tap the keg. Sullivan writes, "You drinking yet? Stupid question."

10:00pm - Called it for OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! I can't believe Americans just did that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

10:18pm - Never a Jesse Jackson fan, but even on television his tears look legit. Oh, here comes McCain's concession. And seconds into his speech his supporters boo Obama. Seriously? Get out.

10:22pm - McCain getting very choked up during this good speech. Seriously, he sounded like he was on the verge of busting into a sob.

10:25pm - I know losing is tough. I can only imagine what McCain must feel. I feel sort of bad for him, but I need to emphasize, I don't feel bad for Palin. More boos, really? Who are these people?

10:52pm - I've had a long day. I want to go to bed, but will not budge from this machine and the television until I see the 44th!

10:57pm - The next first family. I see Obama, and I hear Schwarzenegger from Terminator 2, "I need a vacation."

11:12pm - No surprise here. Beautiful words from Obama, but what a night in Chicago. The crowd. The weather (not any different than Milwaukee today). It is still 59 degrees outside at this hour. 

11:19pm - I've said all I can say at this point. What a night. What a night. All is not wasted. Goodnight.

All in for Obama

I am a very competitive person. I want to win at everything I do. I want to be great at everything I do. When I find out I haven’t won and when I find out I am not good at something I usually don’t take it lightly. It not only affects my mood, but my being. I am molded by successes and failures as we all are on some level.

On this day, I want to be right. I want Obama to win today. I want Obama to be a great president. I want peoples’ worries to be quelled. I want to prove people wrong and show them that Obama does have the judgment necessary to lead this country. At a very primal level, I want Obama to affirm my pride. I am prideful in a lot of what I do, only natural for many of us. Today, filling in that arrow that points to Barack Obama/Joe Biden, I wanted to be right.

I think we all want to be right today, but there is no telling the right pick. It is impossible to say this person is going to be the best president for the future of this country. No one knows what the next leader of this country will face. But I know today, he is the best pick. He is the best pick for today, and I feel I am winning by voting for him. I feel America is winning by voting for him.

I want to feel the same way tonight, tomorrow and two years from now. No one knows if I will, but that’s the gamble. We are all betting today. 

Donald Miller's Endorsement

I just voted at 9:30am (CST) and there was one person ahead of me, but a constant stream of voters in a very suburban community. Most people in Oak Creek are definitely at work during this hour, so the rush will start at 4pm and probably go up to poll closing time at 8pm.

The district I am in is traditionally right leaning. Obama didn’t win the Democratic primary here. Hillary was the victor, but I think there might be a chance of an Obama victory in this, one of the southern most districts in Milwaukee County. Without a doubt though, Milwaukee will go overwhelmingly for Obama.

I link to another endorsement of Barack Obama. This one comes to us from the Northwest, from Donald Miller. I have copied a couple of standout paragraphs below. Read the whole thing here if you haven’t done so already.

“Last year I vowed I wouldn’t make decisions out of fear. And because of that I’ve had one of the greatest years of my life. I went to Uganda and got to meet with the man who helped write their constitution. I wrapped up an evangelism project I believe will introduce more than a million people to the gospel. I rode my bike across America. All of this stuff took some degree of risk. But when calculating those risks, I realized the only reason not to try was fear. What if I was wrong, what if I couldn’t make it, what if the project didn’t work? But none of my heroes are controlled by fear. The commandment most often repeated in scripture, in fact, is “do not fear.” Fear is often something unrighteous trying to keep you from doing something good.

I voted for Barack Obama (we vote early in Oregon) because I think he is right on healthcare (his plan will allow 27 million more Americans, including young, pregnant mothers to be cared for) and he is right on responsible fatherhood. I voted for Barack Obama because he will keep George W. Bush’ Faith-based Partnerships Program in play, only increasing it’s funding. I voted for Barack Obama because he has the respect of world leaders, which will be necessary to deliberate an American agenda around the world, and I voted for Barack Obama because he had the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq. I’ve taken some blows from the conservative right on my stance, but, even in public debate against McCain representatives, have not been deterred. I will not be guilted, shamed or controlled. I am not going to vote for one candidate because I have been made to fear the other. I support Barack Obama because he has beat back the dark hour of cynicism and irrational fear, and provided hope to a country closing in on itself. I believe there are great days ahead.”

Judgment Day

Before you watch this clip of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, please read through my alternative credits list for this scene. 

T1000 - John McCain
The Terminator - Barack Obama
John Conner - The American People
The Black Semi, hijacked by T1ooo - Scare tactics, racism, calls of "terrorist" and "treason". 
Connor's Motorcycle - Representative of America's crappy financial situation. A stinking dirt bike.
Cars destroyed by the Semi - ACORN workers and community organizers. 
The Terminator's Shotgun - Barack Obama's speeches.
The Terminator's Harley - The return of American Power.
The bridge that the T1000 crashes into - Sarah Palin


Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Eve

I thought about writing a longer, more thorough endorsement of Obama before tomorrow. That's not going to happen, but I was considering it because the first time I wrote about my support of him was so long ago. Many things have happened since then and I would revise some of my reasons for supporting him and add some more. However, the hour is upon us and I am not going to spend the remaining hours of my night writing a post that long. 

For now, Sullivan's got a pretty thorough post about his support of Obama. I thought it was good reading, as is most of his blog. Check it out here

Also, on TPM's main page they have a great map set up to help people track election results. You can break it down to the state level and see counties and precincts reporting. Check it out here

Now, if you haven't already, go and do your duty. 

An End

"Just an end to some sort of Hell." - Andrew Sullivan on what an Obama president-elect could mean. 

Not nirvana, a hopeful reversal of the last eight years. It will be messy, but hopefully, better.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Powell's Endorsement Did Mean Something

In last week’s Newsweek, Jamie Foxx was asked, “What did you think about the reaction to Colin Powell supporting Obama?” His answer, which I thought funny, follows:

Please. If that had been someone like me I’d understand because I’m going to always say “I’m voting for the brother!” But Colin Powell? If he wanted to be down with the brothers he never would’ve been a Republican.

Obama 08! Do it.

Milwaukee's Weather in November

Milwaukee is reaching 60 degrees today. Monday is supposed to be 71. Tuesday 72. Wednesday 62. This is very nice weather for Milwaukee in November, but there is something looming on the horizon and the weatherman was so kind to remind me what that is this morning:

…High temperatures will be above average through Wednesday, with many high temperatures in the 60s in southern Wisconsin.

This is the second month in the early cold season in Milwaukee that has average monthly snowfall, and it jumps from four-tenths of an inch in October to 3.6 inches in November. Most of the snow comes in the last week of the month, generally after Thanksgiving. The average high temperature for Nov. 1 is 53 degrees and drops to 39 degrees by month’s end. We can still get warm temperatures during this month, as evidenced by the recorded warmest, 77 degrees on Nov. 2 in 1938. And it can get quite chilly during this month. The coldest temperature on record for Milwaukee in November was 14 degrees below zero, set on the 29th in 1875.

The average total precipitation for November is 2.70 inches and there are plenty of clouds on average. During this month, around 18 days of overcast skies are recorded on average each year in Milwaukee.

Well, sweet. We have an average of 3.6 inches of snow to look forward to this month. This number isn’t bad at all. I know Colorado and Wyoming both get more snow than this in November. The numbers that are really depressing are average temperature and cloudy days. I am not looking forward to the average temperature decreasing by 14 degrees from yesterday to the last day of November. And, to be reminded that an average of 18 overcast days in this month, today being one of them, makes me wish Milwaukee were somewhere else in this great country.

Obama 08! Do it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Republican Party of Wisconsin Mailings

Although the latest Wisconsin poll shows McCain down 11 points here to Obama, the Republican Party of Wisconsin is blanketing Milwaukee with mailings. I received five of them yesterday.

Mailing 1 asks, “Who is Barack Obama?” When you open it up it is laid out like a newspaper. “Obama and His Friends” is featured at the top with pictures of Tony Rezko and Obama and Rezko’s house in the Hyde Park neighborhood. There are other questions posed on the mailing like “What has Obama done for Rezko?” This mailing tries to put Obama in a bad light by letting us know that one person he is loosely affiliated with got in trouble with the law. Couldn’t we all be attacked like this if we were running? I know someone in jail. We used to be friends. I think this person would have given me money back in the day if I were campaigning for office. Does this make me a bad person? And enough with this who is Barack Obama? bullshit. We know Obama as well as anybody else in the race. He has been appearing in public for 21 months, held countless interviews and press conferences and has had his whole life raked over with a fine toothed comb.

Mailing 2 features a quote from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “The fall of the satanic power of the United States has come…” Below that, “Barack Obama thinks he can appease this guy?” Let’s go to the dictionary. Appease – to pacify or placate (someone) by acceding to their demands. I wouldn’t be voting for Obama if this were his reason for talking to this nutter. However, some people, including the Republican Party of Wisconsin, confuse appease with pacify. Let’s go to the dictionary again. Pacify – to quell the anger, agitation, or excitement of. Well, I think that is exactly the reason Obama might be willing to meat with such nasty folks. At first I believe he would try to pacify the situation with words and face-to-face contact. If this fails, I believe Obama has the guts to pacify the situation with the use or threatened use of military force (the second definition of pacify).

Mailing 3 is too easy to rip apart. Featuring a quote from the esteemed Las Vegas Review-Journal, the mailing accuses Obama as being a “Recipe for Economic Disaster.” I am pretty sure we are in one now thanks to the Republican deregulation addicts. This isn’t Obama’s fault, and it won’t be his fault if he gets in the White House. It will be his responsibility to try to fix it. Fix it he might. I am much more willing to give him a shot at fixing it than I am about to give that shot to McCain.

Mailing 4 uses a quote from Ezra Klein: “Obama is that oddest of all creatures: a leader who’s never led.” You should Google Ezra Klein and find his blog. I haven’t seen the whole article that this quote was taken from, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Klein was somehow referring to the natural ability of some people’s leadership even though they technically haven’t been put in charge of anything yet. This describes Barack Obama and it doesn’t give me any doubts about putting him in the White House.

Mailing 5 unsuccessfully tries to tie Barack Obama to lobbyists. I don’t know, some people might be fooled by this if they haven’t been watching the news or reading the newspaper in the last couple of months. For a while there a new McCain staffer/advisor was having his/her lobbying history uncovered in headlines once a week. It says at the bottom, “Barack Obama. Not Who You Think He Is.” Might I add, this mailing and mailing four both feature unflattering pictures of Obama like he is constipated on the toilet. Push, man. Push. Only four days left.

The PO - Political Orgasm

When was the last time the evening news started off its broadcast with a story about Iraq? I have heard this question posed many different times, but I’ve been thinking about the answer a lot more lately because the news is completely saturated with the last four days of the campaign.

The answer for me is several weeks ago and months ago if you exclude any story about the economy. What will the pundits and journalists have to talk about and report on, respectively, after November 4th? I am sure they will find something. Hopefully, we have a clear winner on the 4th so that this doesn’t become 2000 all over again.

The pundits have been talking politics for a good year now and some of them hit it 24 hours a day. Actually, the news networks have just evolved into political news teams all day, every day. If you really want news you might have to read the paper. Of course you will have to turn a few pages in to get non-political news, but it is there.

I think some of the talking heads are going to spontaneously combust on Tuesday night. They have been building and building for this moment, some for months and others for years, and now it is time for them and the whole country to climax Tuesday night.

What an unfortunately accurate choice of words.