Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bella's Fat Cat

I wrote a little bit about a recent trip to Bella's Fat Cat for their famed burgers. Well, the flavor was a bit of a letdown and I think Five Guys still has the best cheeseburger in Milwaukee. Read on here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hanks, the Dolphin?

The following paragraphs are from the first few pages of Angels and Demons. After reading nothing but classic works of literature for five months, I am reading Dan Brown’s thriller. I was in the mood for some simplistic writing. I wanted a simple book. What a difference there is between Brown’s style and the pedantic writing of some classic books.

I share these paragraphs because they are hilarious, at least to me.  This is Brown’s description of Robert Langdon (the character played by Tom Hanks):

Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-five-year-old Langdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an “erudite” appeal—wisps of gray in his thick brown hair, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete. A varsity diver in prep school and college, Langdon still had the body of a swimmer, a toned, six-foot physique that he vigilantly maintained with fifty laps a day in the university pool.


Although a tough teacher and strict disciplinarian, Langdon was the first to embrace what he hailed as the “lost art of good clean fun.” He relished recreation with an infectious fanaticism that had earned him a fraternal acceptance among his students. His campus nickname—“The Dolphin”—was a reference both to his affable nature and his legendary ability to dive into a pool and outmaneuver the entire opposing squad in a water polo match.

My first question: Who thought Tom Hanks fit this description? Hanks is aging, portly at some angles, and at no angle does he have a triangular upper body, the hallmark of an avid swimmer.

I don’t know if Dan Brown has any swimming or diving experience, but the two do not go hand in hand. The belief that they do, is often expounded by people who do not have experience with either activity. Divers will tell you that just because their entrances into the water are graceful and smooth, their movements once they are in the water aren’t nearly as efficient. Some collegiate divers can’t swim that much better than any random person you might find walking down your street.

Likewise, swimmers aren’t usually great divers. Although our dives off the starting blocks are finely-tuned, split-second reactions honed by years of practice, that doesn’t mean you can set us up on a 3m board and expect us to dive off, do two flips, a 180-degree twist, and enter the water with not much more than a light disturbance at the surface.

Knowing that, this sentence couldn’t be funnier. “His campus nickname—“The Dolphin”—was a reference both to his affable nature and his legendary ability to dive into a pool and outmaneuver the entire opposing squad in a water polo match.”

That is Hanks for sure.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hey Nuggets

Way to stick it to the Lakers.

Politics again...

The same person that got me to write about Sotomayor is responsible for getting me to write about the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Proposition 8.

I think it was right to uphold Proposition 8. As unpopular as Prop 8 is with the people that didn’t want it to pass, it still legally passed. The voice of the people (in this case, the majority) should not be overturned. If Proposition 8 was overturned, the consequences would have been huge. To not uphold the proposition would be to nullify 7,001,084 votes. California would have over half the voting bloc ready to take to the streets and cause riots and whatnot. This would not be good.

I am happy that the 18,000 gay marriages that happened before Prop 8 passed will still be recognized by California. This is absolutely the right and fair thing to do. Now those opposed to gay marriage will just have to hope and pray that the 18,000 legally married gay couples in California won’t be enough to banish the state to break from the mainland and float out to see to be sucked down to hell.

My hope is that this will be the last time I blog about gay marriage.  It is a topic I (up until now) never touched on here. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sotomayor is, in fact, not a racist

The conversation:

Friend: What are you doing right now?

Me: Writing. Looking for work.

Friend: What are you writing about?

Me: I’m writing about why Midwesterners are so fat.

Friend: [Pauses here, doesn’t sound interested in delving into the mysteries of obesity.] Why don’t you blog about Sotomayor’s comment about a Latina woman showing better judgment than a white male. Ponder that one for a bit.

Me: Look, there are going to be controversies like that for every nominee to the Supreme Court.

Friend: Yes, there will be, but look at her statement. Examine the reverse of that, what if a white man—

Me: [Interrupting] I know. I’ve heard that by now.

Friend: Well, think about it. Maybe write about it. She’s getting a free pass by the media.

Me: She may be, but she isn’t going to be getting a free pass at her confirmation hearing. Plus, I’ve enjoyed not writing about politics lately.

After that conversation, I was adamant that I wouldn’t write about these issues. But the more I thought about the Sotomayor quote, which is now the cornerstone of the Right’s attack on her, I felt some further examination was necessary because, to tell you the truth, I didn’t like the sound of it at all. Not surprisingly, of the snippets from the media that I have seen, read, or heard, the actual quote is often given to you with some key words missing.

The Evidence:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” – Sonia Sotomayor in a 2001 speech.

The full text of the speech can be found here, but I will reproduce important passages later on.

The Conclusion:

Finally, after reading her exact words for the first time, I can see nothing worrisome about them.  She seems to be saying that a white man wouldn’t know the first thing about living a life as a Latina woman and, when it comes to making decisions regarding minorities, the “wise” Latina woman will exhibit better judgment than her white male counterpart.

Rod Dreher of Crunchy Con points out that, in the same speech, Sotomayor says that she recognizes:

 …The potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases.

Dreher adds:

Taken in context, the speech was about how the context in which we were raised affects how judges see the world, and that it’s unrealistic to pretend otherwise. Yet—and this is a key point—she admits that as a jurist, one is obligated to strive for neutrality.

I am very comforted by a judge who speaks candidly about the difficulty of having a truly objective stance. I believe humans are too emotional to have a completely neutral stance. Heck, even in the new Star Trek movie Spock craters to emotion.

Many conservatives don’t seem so comforted. Greg Sargent reports on his blog that Rush Limbaugh called Sotomayor a “reverse racist” who “has put down white men in favor of Latina women.” He also quotes Fox News’ Megyn Kelly as saying that it shows that Sotomayor thinks “that Latina judges are obviously better than white male judges.”

Sargent then goes on to show that these conclusions are much more ridiculous than Sotomayor’s statement is accused of being:

Read in context, it’s clear that Sotomayor was merely saying that it’s inevitable that a judge’s personal race-based and gender-based experiences will impact judging, particularly in race and sex discrimination cases. As a result, she said, while such formative experiences can be enriching and contribute to wise decisions, a judge should also be aware of them in order to avoid being wholly dominated by them. She vowed “complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives.”

Sotomayor also says, “I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences, but I accept my limitations.”

I concede, Sotomayor’s choice of wording isn’t superb, but I think it is pretty clear from passages from the same speech, that she was merely alluding to the disparity between the female Latina experience and the white male experience, and how that disparity can affect a judge’s decision. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which a few people do the thinking for the masses. Limbaugh and friends grab a hold of a sentence taken out of context and use it as the capstone of their argument that Sotomayor is a liberal, racist, completely unqualified and biased judge who should not be allowed on the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

Thank God I rely on the magic of reading and the powers of Google to give me a more complete understanding of a current issue than Limbaugh can.

*For clarification purposes, I do not believe that Sotomayor is getting a free pass by the media on this one. It may have taken a while for everybody to catch on, but this issue is being discussed at great and often annoying lengths on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and all the blogs. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Playing Dirty

"Just unacceptable defense, tripping guys and playing unsportsmanlike basketball."

I have to agree with Phil Jackson on this one. Check out the video. Jones clearly trips Kobe Bryant. There’s no doubt about it. In game three, Kobe scorched Jones on another play and Jones ended up shoving Kobe from the back with both hands.

I am happy the Nuggets won, but don’t make it hard for me to like you, Denver. Keep it cleaner than the Bad Boys. You don’t want to associate yourself with Bill Laimbeer.

After a beating like last night, I wouldn’t be surprised if even the finicky Lakers route the Nuggets in L.A. I feel a beat down just around the corner, but we’ll see which Lakers team shows up. I don’t see Kobe alone carrying the Lakers on his back through this series. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

NBA Playoffs 2: Magic and Nuggets

First of all, is it me, or is the Orlando Magic the most boring playoff team to watch? I’ve never been impressed by their basketball, but somehow they continue to get the job done. They are sort of like a virus that is hanging around a lot longer than expected. No matter the medication (the experience of the Celtics or Lebron James), they just aren’t going away. I hope the cure is found very quickly. The game tonight is quite painful to watch.

Second, no matter how painful tonight’s game is, it couldn’t match the awfulness of the Denver Nuggets’ performance last night against the Lakers. Possession after possession, the Nuggets thought their 3-pt shot percentage was magically ten times higher than it really was, and they would throw up another shot beyond the arc without passing the ball more than once. What is the good of hitting a three at the buzzer and then getting a technical for taunting a Laker. Play after play, nothing but stupidity, especially throughout the fourth quarter.

Third, learn a damn inbounds play you freaking retards.

Fourth, I like the Lakers. Always have. But I have to root for the Nuggets out of principle. However, the Nuggets need to kick it up a notch. At no point did they deserve to win last night. I can’t feel bad for them if nothing changes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NBA Playoffs

The matchup of all matchups would be a Cavaliers vs. Lakers NBA Finals. Nike, a sponsor of both athletes, is marketing the Lebron/Kobe showdown as an inevitable event. They just sponsored a documentary on ESPN called Dream Season: 23 & 24. While a showdown between the two greatest players in the NBA is intriguing, I find it a bit insulting that Nike is giving everyone the impression that this is the unavoidable. 

A Laker victory in the Western Conference Finals does seem imminent (after winning game one, they've won the last 15 7-game series), but Tuesday's victory was hardly a blowout. You wipe away a couple careless mistakes by the Nuggets and Denver is up 1-0. Phil Jackson is 42-0 in playoff series when his team has won game one. That statistic is much more astounding than the Lakers' recent streak of series victories, but the two combined sure put the odds in the Lakers' favor. However, the Nuggets continue to surprise both their fans and critics. They appear much more disciplined and unflappable than The Denver Post gives them credit for. Yes, Woody Paige is already calling the series for the Lakers. But I don't think the Post really thought it was possible for the Nuggets to put away the first two teams 4-1. So, what do they know? The only commentator out there that recognizes Denver's talent is, oddly enough, Charles Barkley, who continually praises the Nuggets on TNT and makes bold predictions, like saying the Nuggets would roll over the Mavericks. 

Fast forward to 1:30 in this video:

What am I saying? I am saying that the Lakers may very well be on their way to a series victory, but I don't think the Nuggets are going to flop over and play dead just because they lost game one.

It is no easy path to the NBA Finals for the Lakers and it is a heck of a lot harder for the Cavaliers to make it there too. All you need to do is watch the Magic's comeback victory and dominance in the fourth quarter to realize that. Lebron is the worthy MVP, but his exhaustion in carrying his team showed even in the third quarter. I suspect that after eight days off, all of the Cavs were a bit rusty, but they face a Herculean-foe (albeit one that whines a lot) in Dwight Howard. They didn't have an answer for him last night, and neither did the shot clock. However, I still think Cleveland takes the Eastern Conference Finals in no more than six games. They aren't in the hole like Denver is and although people remain critical of Cleveland's bench, Lebron can elevate players like no one I've ever seen on the court. (A huge reason I want him to go all the way.) I expect Lebron to elevate the team's strategy for guarding Howard, or just simply elevate his game and trust that others will follow. The latter strategy is the most common and entertaining. 

But a big question remains. If the NBA Finals feature the Orlando Magic and the Denver Nuggets, who will be watching? Will it be televised? What will Nike do?

I apologize for the weird formatting issues in this post. Stupid embed code screws things up sometimes.

Easy Blogging - Fountainhead Passages

I don't know what to blog about. Actually, I have a huge writing/blogging block right now, but I promised some passages from The Fountainhead last month and so I thought I would put some up. Here they are. 

"If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me." – Roark

“May I name another vicious bromide you’ve never felt?”
“Which one?”
“You’ve never felt how small you were when looking at the ocean.”
He laughed. “Never. Nor looking at the planets. Nor at mountain peaks. Nor at the Grand Canyon. Why should I? When I look at the ocean, I feel the greatness of man. I think of man’s magnificent capacity that created this ship to conquer all that senseless space. When I look at mountain peaks, I think of tunnels of dynamite. When I look at the planets, I think of airplanes.”
“Yes. And that particular sense of sacred rapture men say they experience in contemplating nature—I’ve never received it from nature, only from…” She stopped.
“From what?”
“Buildings,” she whispered. “Skyscrapers.”
“Why didn’t you want to say that?”
“I…don’t know.”
“I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window—no, I don’t feel how small I am—but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would like to throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.” – Gail and Dominique, talking on Gail's boat.

“Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. Kill his aspiration and his integrity. That’s difficult. The worst among you gropes for an ideal in his own twisted way. Kill integrity by internal corruption. Use it against itself. Direct it toward a goal destructive of all integrity. Preach selflessness. Tell man that he must live for others. Tell men that altruism is the ideal. Not a single one of them has ever achieved it and not a single one ever will. His every living instinct screams against it. But don’t you see what you accomplish? Man realizes that he’s incapable of what he’s accepted as the noblest virtue—and it gives him a sense of guilt, of sin, of his own basic unworthiness. Since the supreme ideal is beyond his grasp, he gives up eventually all ideals, all aspiration, all sense of his personal value. He feels obliged to preach what he can’t practice. But one can’t be good halfway or honest approximately. To preserve one’s integrity is a hard battle. Why preserve that which one knows to be corrupt already? His soul gives up its self-respect. You’ve got him. He’ll obey. He’ll be glad to obey—because he can’t trust himself, he feels uncertain, he feels unclean.” – Ellsworth Toohey in a tirade aimed at humanity and society, as spoken to Peter Keating. 

"The fear of which they thought was not the normal kind, not a response to a tangible danger, but the chronic, unconfessed fear in which they all lived. They remembered the misery of the moments when, in loneliness, a man thinks of the bright words he could have said, but had not found, and hates those who robbed him of his courage. The misery of knowing how strong and able one is in one’s own mind, the radiant picture never to be made real. Dreams? Self-delusion? Or a murdered reality, unborn, killed by that corroding emotion without name—fear—need—dependence—hatred?" – From Roark's trial. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wyoming Shots

Buffalo on the drive from Salt Lake City to Green River. By this time we were in Wyoming.

It's calving season.

Baby Buff.

The high desert in Wyoming.

Another calf and its momma.

That tiny car down there is the Honda Ridgeline we drove into the mountains.

The Green River.

The newest edition to the Bradley's stable, Daisy. I'm not much of a fan (I much prefer their two Scotties), but this picture was Kate's doing and I think it turned out great.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wisconsin Made Better

To retire or not to retire

It is easy to see why Wisconsinites fell in love with Brett Favre. He is a great football player. One of only two football players to be awarded MVP three consecutive years. He led the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowls, winning one of them. He started for the Packers for 16 seasons. He has the record for most passing TDs. He became known around the world for his iconic play, putting a small city, tucked away in northeast Wisconsin, on the map. He bolstered every Wisconsinites pride for the state in which they live. The Packers, as they are known today, would not be the same franchise had they never acquired Brett Favre.

He seems likeable, like a guy you could sit down and have a beer with too. But we’ve heard that one before. Patience with Brett Favre’s actions has to be running thin around this state. I moved to Wisconsin in 2007 and followed Brett Favre through one of the most historic seasons ever. I don’t have a history of being a Brett Favre fan, but I’m saying if I did, I would be very frustrated with him at this point. Regardless, I am still frustrated with professionals that don’t know when to retire.

Brett Favre has officially retired twice, but he has put legions of fans through the ringer more than twice, by just deciding at the last minute that he will come back and play another season for the Packers. When he officially came out of retirement for the first time, he requested to be released from the Packers in order to shop himself around a little bit. He landed with the New York Jets and accused the Packers of not being straightforward with him. As I understand, the Packers were fairly straightforward, saying that the franchise was ready to move on with Aaron Rodgers at QB. Although that decision doesn’t make sense when a hall of famer wants to come back and play, that’s the decision they made and apparently told Brett Favre. That seems pretty straightforward to me.

After a season with the Jets, Favre retired for the second time in February of 2009.  Yet again, Favre doesn’t appear to be ready for retirement. Although some rumors have been dismissed, it is being reported that Favre sent x-rays to the Vikings for them to access whether or not Favre would need surgery on his throwing arm. The Vikings aren’t just another team, they are one of the Packers’ biggest rivals, a hated neighbor, and now, there are rumors of Favre being open to playing in Minnesota if the health of his throwing arm is good.

There is some truth to the platitude that it is hard for people to know when to quit, especially professional athletes. However, in the case of Brett Favre, I feel the sympathy wearing thin. The Milwaukee paper even photo-shopped a picture of Favre appearing in a Vikings jersey and donning a Vikings helmet, comparing him to Judas.

After contemplating retirement or going through with it for the last five years, Brett Favre is quickly becoming a nuisance. It makes me question his motives. It can’t possibly be that hard to know when to retire. It makes me think he just likes to get his name out there and stir up the same drama every off-season. It is confirming a premonition I’ve had that Brett Favre is more of a drama queen than a guy I’d like to have a beer with.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

From Maxima to Maxima

We found this on Wednesday. We looked at a couple other sedans and quite a few SUVs, but decided an SUV is just a bit too much car for us. So, we bought this 2006 Maxima yesterday. 

Pretty big deal, buying a car for the first time. We were both quite nervous, but really excited to get the keys and drive this home. I just drove it to the supermarket this morning to buy some Fat Tire and 1554 (more on this later) and even that was thrilling. It made me want to go on a road trip. 

My old Maxima had 190 horsepower. I didn't think it was a slow car by any means. Actually, up till the last day I drove it I felt like it could take on most other cars on the road. It probably could. Lord knows I tried a few times. Take the 1996 Maxima's engine and throw in another 75 horsepower and you get our new Maxima. With 265 hp under the hood it is going to take a little time to get used to the jumpiness of the car because the lightest tap might send the car surging forward. When you feel that surge it is hard to take your foot off the pedal. You want more. You don't want to ease off.

Maximas make you want to do a lot of silly things. One reason we got another.

We took her out for a photo shoot last night even though the light wasn't great. 

They aren't chrome, but they'll do.

One of the very happy owners.

Friday, May 08, 2009

In Memoriam

Funny thing about the GRE. I took it less than an hour after I was in a 4-car accident on the interstate on the way to the testing center. Literally, my first thought after the accident was there is no effing way I am missing the GRE today

I was okay and so were the others involved in the accident. It wasn't my fault either. I was in the middle car of three stopped cars in stop-n-go traffic on the freeway when an unlucky girl didn't notice the cars were stopped in front of her and she slammed right into the first car. Unlucky for her because this was all her fault. Unlucky for her that the first car she slammed into, the one behind me, was a fairly new Saab that the owner had just bought a week ago. The impact of her car slammed the Saab into my Maxima and my Maxima went into the back of a pickup truck. We waited one minute for the sheriff and he took our information and I drove on to the test center in a car that didn't exactly look drivable, but it had one more place to take me and I was not going to let it die before we arrived at the final destination.

I suppose a lot of people feel the truth in this cliche before they are 26, but I feel old now that I realize there isn't anything like your first car. The Maxima was a total loss, with damages in excess of $5,000. I cleaned it out a couple days ago. No more 17-inch, chrome rims. No more black on black. 

Kate and I are buying our first car together tonight. I'll post about that later, but for now it is time to get sentimental and remember the Maxima and where she took me and many of you. She was a beautiful car.

While I was home for Easter in 2003, my parents surprised me with the Maxima. It all started with my Dad silently dangling a car key in front of me. I knew, but could not believe, what that meant. I took the key and rushed outside to the driveway and this is what I found.

Guy was with me and it was one of the most memorable experiences that I had with him. He was there for a big moment in my life. Yeah, I had the freedom to drive places before I had a car, but not the freedom that truly having your own car brings you. This was the first time I sat in the Maxima.

The Maxima, Me, and the proud parents gather together for a picture before I roll up to Laramie for the first time in my own car.

Travis, I believe, behind the wheel of the Maxima as we head out on the first leg of our move from Colorado to Milwaukee. 

The Maxima was a road trip pro. No breakdowns. No issues. This picture was taken near the end of the Maxima's last, big road trip this summer. We were almost back to Milwaukee after taking it out to Colorado and Wyoming.

Maxima covered in snow. She turned dirty when you had to drive her in snow but after a while I could even coax her through the snowbound streets of Longmont during the Christmas 2006 blizzard. 

R.I.P. Precision Driving with Erik

R.I.P. 1996 Nissan Maxima

Thursday, May 07, 2009


I took the GRE. I didn't get a perfect score. I wasn't expecting a perfect score. I wanted a score that would leave me happy. I wanted a score that would leave me feeling like it wasn't necessary to take the GRE again. I wanted to be over and done with the GRE last Thursday. 

That's exactly what happened. 

Sunday, May 03, 2009

New Belgium + Milwaukee = About Freaking TIme

I saw an ad in a local paper just yesterday that I couldn't believe at first. New Belgium? Fat Tire? "Now legally cruising into America's Dairyland." ?!?
Starting tomorrow, New Belgium will be sold in Wisconsin. By mid-summer other brews (besides Fat Tire and 1554) will be available in the area.

Now we just need a Rio. 

Friday, May 01, 2009

King of Kong

I recently ran across this post at the Burnside Writer's Blog about the documentary The King of Kong. The post reminded me that I finally needed to set aside some time to watch this wildly popular film about the trials and tribulations of a man called Steve Wiebe and his arch-nemesis, Billy Mitchell, as they duke it out for the world record in the arcade version of Donkey Kong. 

Tonight, I finally watched the doc and was introduced to Billy Mitchell, or at least the objective look at Billy Mitchell through the eyes of the director of the film. Thusly, I was introduced to the most bombastic ass I have ever seen in film. The directors swear to the honest representation of Billy Mitchell in the movie. However, Mitchell disagrees and says one scene, in which Mitchell appears to snub Wiebe, has been edited in a way that paints Mitchell in a negative light. You can read about the disputed scene in the AV Club's interview with him that I linked to in the first sentence of this paragraph. 

Billy Mitchell aside, The King of Kong is a highly entertaining documentary that is as much about a man finally achieving a goal as it is about a classic arcade game. Wiebe is the guy who has always been good at a lot of different things, but being the best in the world at any one of those things has always evaded him. Wiebe looks to be on the rise in the film and over the 80 minutes of Kong, the director Seth Gordon, intricately weaves a story of the fiercely competitive classic arcade gaming world with dozens of interviews, drama, and history. 

Take any skill, no matter how extraneous it might seem, and there will be a group of people that have become so good at that one skill (in the case of this film, playing Donkey Kong), that their story will cross boundaries. Their story will encompass so much of the human struggle to overcome anything and anyone in their path that it will speak to those who aren't obsessed with the same skill. Great documentaries usually achieve this effect. King of Kong does.