Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Once the music starts I tilt my head backward and stare at the ceiling, which is not always truly magnificent, but I stare at it like it is and I smile because everything is magnificent tonight. Christmas Eve is an oddity. As I enter adulthood, this night has become the one night of the year when I feel bombarded by the past, like it’s trying to make me feel guilty for enjoying the night. My cynicism tries hard to eat away at the night with thoughts of broken hearts, misplaced trust, and betrayal, but its massive effort fails. On this night, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I find that the flicker of a candle is more mesmerizing, the embrace more meaningful, the music more magical, and the mystery and wonder of our God more evident than any other day of the year. Rejoice that it’s easier to forgive and it’s easier to love tonight. And a God that makes us feel that way this day, or for all of them, is worth praising.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Camera

I picked up our new camera yesterday, a Nikon D7000 with an 18-200mm Nikkor lens. We haven't yet taken a picture with it, but we are just getting starting and can't wait to take this puppy out and start shooting.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Surf's Up, Milwaukee

Missing Milwaukee right now, not the weather, but that Milwaukee is on the shores of a lake you can surf on, and they were this week. From jsonline.com.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Big Pic: Pearl Harbor

I have linked to the Big Picture before, but I just checked the site today (I hadn't visited it in a while) and they have a stunning collection of pictures from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The history captured within the pictures just blew me away.

Monday, November 29, 2010

No Points For Variation

After weeks of no blogs, this, another picture post, doesn't really spice things up, but the view last night from our apartment was something else and I had to attempt the capture with my point and shoot even though I knew the camera wasn't going to replicate what I saw. I am hoping to remedy that in the near future with an upgrade, but I thought some of these were cool enough to share. The shelf of dark clouds and the mountains made such a beautiful band of light across the horizon that I couldn't pass it up.





Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Banana Belt

As Denver’s first snow swirls outside my window, Milwaukee is experiencing a heat wave, the only time since late July that it has been warmer there than in Denver. I wintered in Milwaukee for the last three years and during that time I forgot how much easier the winters in Colorado are than in the upper Midwest. Of America’s 50 largest cities, Minneapolis is the only one that has a colder average annual temperature than Milwaukee.

Although average annual snowfall is higher in Denver, the first winter I spent in Milwaukee it snowed over 112 inches, an all-time record (pictured above, just one of many blizzards that winter). The winter of 2006-2007, the last winter I spent in Colorado, was record-setting in terms of snow. There was enough of it to cover not only the shadowed corners of your yard but the entire street and neighboring field for over a month. To have snow on the ground for over a month; that was a big deal to some Front Range residents and it was the first time I could remember having snow on the ground for that long. But in Milwaukee, if the snow only stays for a month you are in good cheer. It’s not unusual for there to be snow on the ground for three months straight. It’s not that they get more than Denver—I already covered that—it’s that the cold takes your breath away and they get slightly less daylight than Colorado in the winter.

When it comes to average annual temperatures, there is no competition. Among the places I’ve lived, only Laramie, Wyoming can compete with Milwaukee’s frostbite-inducing cold. Denver has its days, but I can’t honestly say the winters in Colorado are tough.

It’s amazing what a few years in a much colder environment can do to the way you respond to weather elsewhere. After just a few months of college in Laramie, I felt like I was going to the tropics when I drove south for an hour. Fort Collins was consistently 10-15 degrees warmer than Laramie. It was good I had that training, because without it I couldn’t have weathered the winters in Milwaukee with as much good cheer as I did.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Don't Forget

Conan O'Brien returns to television tonight on TBS. Locally, he's on at 9pm. I'm looking forward to it. Follow TeamCoco here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The 2010 Midterms

After this November 2nd, it is easy for me to be frustrated with and disappointed in thousands and thousands of Americans who, in 2008, launched the Senator from Illinois into the White House and then, only two years later, gave Republicans the majority in the House because Obama hasn’t yet dug the country out of a hole the Republicans led us into.

But I am still sanguine at times. Maybe I am crazy for being that way, but in previously shared governments meaningful legislation has passed and so I hope that the Republican majority in the House and the Democratic majority in the Senate can find common ground instead of going back and forth in a debate without results.

The Republicans are now the ones who find themselves with a mandate to govern as they see fit. This is a unique situation where they have to shift from just saying no to everything that came down from the White House to actually presenting solutions beyond making the Bush tax cuts permanent, repealing health care reform, or privatizing Social Security. Republicans came to power in these midterms because they kept promising the American people that they would represent their interests and that they would focus on jobs and reducing the deficit. I would love to see a Republican party with that focus. However, when I read the following in the paper this week I can’t help but shake my head at the Republicans:

But fresh from their victories, Republicans may have little incentive to defer to his [Obama] leadership. In the days leading up to the election, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, a top House Republican, repeatedly said there would be “no compromise” with Mr. Obama.

Is it too much to ask for Republicans to actually govern instead of again pushing on us their overtly divisive dialogue and diatribes, which accomplish nothing for the American people? If this remains the single more important thing they can do, then they have ensured their defeat in 2012 and such a defeat will be well deserved if they continue to just say, “No.” And while I am hopeful that the Republicans will do something good for America, I also know, and am comforted by the fact, that when 2012 is here, and if the Republicans have held to McConnell’s plan, than they will be in the minority again.

There are some positive signs from Tuesday’s election. There were several high profile candidates (O’Donnell in Delaware, Tancredo in Colorado, Raese in W. Virginia, Angle in Nevada, and Miller in Alaska) who all received glowing endorsements from Sarah Palin and they all lost. This is a huge bright spot. Even in her home state, Palin’s endorsement couldn’t even fend off defeat by Lisa Murkowski, a write-in candidate. This will not prevent Palin from running in 2012. She is obsessed with herself and there are enough delusional Americans out there who will push her to do it. However, in Alaska, where she was popular enough before she was McCain’s running mate, she has fallen flat on her face, leaving the governorship and the people she claimed to care about. Above the rest of the Republican candidates for 2012, she alone is the most narcissistic and it is the glorification of herself she wants to serve, not the “real America” like she always says. I suspect by 2012 America will be sick enough of her whiny voice which never delivers solutions or facts, just embellished tales from the crypt far-right.

And I don’t know how Harry Reid did it, but he defeated Sharron Angle, which is also another bright spot. Sharron Angle is a crazy ass. Read this, from a radio interview in Portland where she suggest an armed revolution: "I hope that's not where we're going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out." I would have been much more concerned for this country had she won. I’m not a fan of Reid either, but I am sorry, Nevada had to pick the lesser of two evils on Tuesday and thank God they did.

Colorado decided to give the Democrats a little more time in office. I am relieved they did, even if it was just by .9%. Had Buck won, the Dems would still control the Senate, but Colorado remains a battleground state. Obama won quite handedly here in 2008. That Colorado is giving him another chance is a good sign for 2012. Perhaps, by then, states won’t have to give Obama another chance, they will see some change by then and they will vote to continue it.

For me, the big takeaway is to be thankful that this campaign season is done and to hold the crazy belief that politicians will actually do their job for a year before they start campaigning again. That’s a lot to hope for. And then there are the Republicans. Will they actually do something over the next two years except rail against Obama and prep for 2012? Only time will tell, but Americans will get a very good representation of how the Right is going to govern and “re-invent” themselves and that is, in a way, comforting to me because if it’s anything like 2000-2008, I think the same Americans who contributed to this Republican comeback will be reminded of why they voted for Obama in 2008 and do it again in 2012.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

2010 Midterms Pre-Blog

America, you did let fear give you a Boehner. Luckily it didn't last longer than four hours and we didn't have to seek immediate help from a doctor (a psychiatrist, that is) because the Dems retained their hold of the Senate.

More on yesterday to come.

Monday, November 01, 2010

November 2, 2010

For the short blog below I am borrowing from a hilarious sign from the Rally to Restore Sanity. The sign refers to John Boehner, Republican House Minority Leader who could likely become Speaker of the House with a Republican wave tomorrow. So, here's my message...

Tomorrow...Don't Let Fear Give You A Boehner.

Actual Bumper Sticker

I am in the process of transcribing voice recordings I have fallen behind on. One of them I listened to today was from May 15. On that day I saw a bumper sticker and wanted to remember what it said. It was on a truck seen in Milwaukee. It read:
Those that buy cars or trucks from foreign-owned companies are butchering America's economic health in an expensive way whether they admit it or not. Don't kill the eagle!
Well, I don't admit that I am butchering America's economic health by owning a Nissan and a Toyota, but I will admit to having better cars than the American-car-owning version of me that doesn't exist. However, it was news to me that I was killing an eagle.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oh, Why Not?

Today's education from TPM: The Five Constitutional Amendments That Constitution-Loving Tea Partiers Would Change

On the mosque near Ground Zero...

"But others, led by Newt Gingrich, and far-right activist Pamela Geller, wanted the government to directly intercede to prevent the construction of a house of worship. First, though, you'd have to change that part of the Constitution that reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

On immigration...

Eliminating what's known as "birthright citizenship." That's right, you could be born here, but be deported if your parents were found to have illegally entered this country.

On taxes...

Repealing the 16th Amendment. Basically abolishing the government's right to tax our income. Instead, the government would be fueled solely by a sales tax.

On electing Senators...

This is the 17th Amendment. And some tea-partiers want to repeal it and instead give the duty of selecting senators to the legislature of the state. So, midterms would be obsolete.

On Prohibition...

TPM notes that Sharron Angle (God help us, especially Nevada if that woman wins) once expressed interest in repealing the 21st Amendment, you know, the one that repealed the 18th Amendment (Prohibition).

It is really a good read. Check it out. They do solid reporting over at TPM.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Midterms

This is my push, my one political blog before the midterm vote next week. This is where I stand. I voted for Obama, a human, not the second-coming of Jesus, so getting crap done takes a long time and given the problems the country faces now his presidency is one of the hardest in decades. He is doing his best and I believe it is much too early to see if his best is good enough for what America needs. I believe the rising tide of fear in this country is a cyclical event pushed on us by the party not in power and by the media. But I also believe the opposition has gone over the edge with claims of socialism and comparisons of Obama to Hitler. I think if Obama’s 2008 supporters go out there next Tuesday and vote for a Republican, they are voting in fear and they will be fueling a machine which runs on myth and superstition, a machine which is led by Glenn Beck, who hasn’t completed one college-level course in anything, and Sarah Palin. To so soon hand the reins of power back to the Republicans would be a huge mistake. Think about it. Agree or Disagree. Just be patient and sane and go vote in one week.

Like I said, I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I was part of that liberal tide that swept across America in the wake of eight Bush years. But I was not under a magical spell when I worked for the campaign, nor was I when I voted for the man in November. I voted for a young, relatively inexperienced politician, but I also voted for a Constitutional Law professor, a man with a top-notch education, which a disturbing portion of America believes makes a man disconnected and out of touch with the “real” America. I thought then—and I still do—that a president with an Ivy League education isn’t a bad idea, but a good one. Some say his education classifies him as an elitist. Good.

I was wary of lavishing too much praise on candidate Obama when I was working for him. And now I am wary of agreeing with every one of his policies just because I voted for him. I don’t agree with some things he has done. Frankly, he hasn’t been as liberal as candidate Obama, almost kowtowing to the Republicans at times. I want him to be tougher and show off the intelligence I know he has. It reminds me of the debates with Hillary and the other Democratic candidates running in the primaries. Obama’s levelheadedness was agonizing at times in the face of ridiculous criticisms he faced about his friendship with Reverend Wright and his connection with William Ayers. I wanted Obama just to lash out once and put these absurd people in their place, both in the media and in the party. But it never happened.

I eventually really appreciated that about candidate Obama, but I am having a hard time appreciating that about President Obama. By voting for Obama I gave him a personal mandate to run the country the way candidate Obama wanted to run the country. Really close Gitmo, don’t just try once, hit a roadblock and give up. Really end the wars in the Middle East…don’t get bogged down in Afghanistan, much more of an endless war than Iraq ever was. Really end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, not just keep promising it will end on your watch. Really restore sanity and an America I can be openly proud of when I am not in America. Don’t let the people across the aisle get you down, not tiptoe around an issue until it is too late for it to be resolved the way candidate Obama promised it would be.

But do not mistake me for someone who regrets voting for Obama. Not. Even. Close. At times, as explained above, I am impatient with the progress, but then I see someone from the Tea Party on TV or I read the signs pictured at right-wing rallies and I realize I am very, very patient and comfortingly sane. For now, the Democrats deserve to keep their hold on the House and the Senate. Obama hasn’t been in power for two years yet. How would he have solved the greatest recession since the Great Depression in 22 months? Americans need a heavy dose of patience and sanity. Give the man two more years and see what happens. Hell, we gave Bush eight years, we can afford to give Obama and his squad half that much.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Up in Smoke

I live next door to the Colorado Department of Health building. It is an ugly, 12-floor structure, a perfectly hideous building to be used by the government. And that's about it. There is nothing special about the building besides its daily example of irony, the omnipresent group of employees huddling around outside to get their smoke on. Even in the gusts this morning as a storm moved through Denver, they were circled up getting their dose. I chuckled.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

If I Had A Twitface Account...

...I would tweet this right now...

Braveheart is a damn fine movie. Forget everything you know about Gibson. This film is amazing.

...and...

Wow, the Broncos need to do some work.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Don't Cry Over Spilled Hot Chocolate

Last week I was adjusting my chair at the table. I was too far away and wanted to get closer to my food. I went for it, but I wasn’t successful. I nailed my left knee on the underside of the table and the impact set a few of the glasses to rocking, risking a chaotic spill. This time there was no slop on the table, but I immediately thought of another time I bumped my knee on a table. It was 1999, I was a junior in high school, and I was attending my first high school dance.

Let’s call my date Jane. That sounds great, except that’s the name of a grandma and the middle name of my sister so that makes it a poor choice really. Moving on. I was in a new town, at a new school, and at a new church. I didn’t know anyone. I think it was a Sunday night when Jane came to the door. My mom answered the door (and I just embellished that because I can’t remember who exactly answered the door…it wasn’t me). I was called to the door and there was Jane, a girl I had a bit of a crush on back in the church camp days. The crush was lingering because I was fairly excited that there was a girl at the front door asking for me and she wasn’t here to sell me girl scout cookies or magazine subscriptions so she could go to Disney World for the entire summer. No, Jane was at the door to ask me to homecoming. I convinced myself it was out of pity because she went to the same church, I was the new guy in town, and I was the pastor’s kid who didn’t have a date to the dance. I don’t know whether any of those reasons are accurate, but I have suffered through bouts of low self-esteem and during one such bout I must have settled on one of those explanations being accurate. I think I know precisely which bout that was…I was on the dance floor at homecoming with Jane and I started to move and groove and she immediately gravitated toward her friends. I didn’t know them and she seemed to enjoy dancing with them more than with me and all this conversation was happening at chest height, the music was loud, and there wasn’t a face in the room I could see clearly, just a bunch of hair hovering around my shoulders.

I am getting way ahead of myself. Earlier in the night there was, at one point, some hot chocolate to be consumed. Jane and I were with three other couples that evening. They all seemed much more serious than we were, but we knew them from church and it seemed right to tag along with them. I think this was my decision. I didn’t know anyone outside of youth group so we wound up in a churchy type of homecoming group. The group was kind of awkward, but I was the new kid, 6’8” (about), and on my first date to a high school dance…it was going to be awkward with anyone.

The cool thing to do back then if you didn’t have any money to go to a nice restaurant was to do it all for free by doing a round robin dinner. Apps here. Entrees there. Desserts over there. This way the parents are more involved in the evening and they get to pay for all the food. It’s excellent. It’s the poor man’s homecoming/prom dinner.

I am getting distracted again. We were all set up for dessert. The hot chocolate was on the table. I, being the tallest guy there, was given the seat at the head of the table. Most people had settled in, but I had to squeeze by someone and a china cabinet I was taller than. I made it to my seat, pulled it out and I was going to do something familiar to all tall people. We can’t get into small spaces like all of you average people can so we adapt. Our go to maneuver in a tight spot is sort of a controlled sideways fall/slide. Once we commit to the movement there is no backing out. That is to say, once you start falling from a height of 6’8” you are going to wind up on the ground or, in this case, the chair you were aiming for. In one fell swoop I was going to get my butt in that chair and swing my legs under the table. It was going well, it really was, until my legs flew under the table and connected with a mysterious appendage protruding down from the underside of the table. Hitting this made the whole table rock. Hot chocolate went everywhere. A few glasses tipped over. I can’t remember if it actually got on anyone, but it was all over the lacy white tablecloth. I was silent and then profusely apologetic to my date and her mother who happened to be serving us the hot chocolate.

It was not, at the time, a good moment to be tall. Perhaps, I could say I even hated my height at that moment. It was embarrassing. I had just made a mess and all I wanted to do was to fit in and be cool with my date. But last week when I bumped my knee on the table I smiled for two reasons. One, it made me think of the homecoming dance in 1999, a night which I hadn’t thought about in a decade. And two, there is no bump on the knee I could take which would make me curse my height now. I welcome the next bump, it will surely dust off a memory that will make me not necessarily feel happy, but just feel.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cool Show Watch

Tonight, Bill Bryson (one of, or perhaps tied for, my favorite author/s) will be on The Colbert Report. Easily two of my favorite guys ever on one episode. Check it out.

Glenn and His Fans

This morning I read a profile of Glenn Beck. It was from the NY Times Magazine from October 3rd. I had never read an article about Glenn Beck for many reasons, but it was the cover story of the magazine, it was free, I knew it was a reputable journalist (Mark Leibovich)… I couldn’t resist.

I don’t get Glenn Beck. I am not alone in feeling this way. Apparently, Chris Wallace asked Glenn Beck on Fox News Sunday, “What are you?” Although I read the article, that question still remains. His ideas are cuckoo and I don’t understand why he has a following. But, I thought I would share a quote from one of his followers. Leibovich followed Beck to Alaska where Beck was doing a rally-type-of-thing with Sarah Palin. It is important to know that a favorite pastime of Beck’s and his followers is to rail against Woodrow Wilson because he ushered in the progressive era in America. So, here’s the passage from the article:

Sitting in the row behind me was a truck driver named Jerry Cole, who was from Fairbanks and wore an “I (heart) Woodrow Wilson” T-shirt with a slash through the heart. “He was the start of the Progressive Era,” Cole said of the long-dead president. “He believed that college intellectuals should decide how the world should be run.”

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Temp Agency Test

My first summer home after graduating from college I cheated on a proficiency test at a temp agency. I was having trouble finding a job and someone (I think it was my mom) suggested I go to a temp agency and see if I could get a good placement. It took a little more searching before I decided a temp agency was one of my only options. My ego took a hit, but I did walk into an agency located on Main Street in Longmont, CO.

The first thought I had inside the door was that this place is not going to find me a job that I would ever like. Run. But I didn’t. I stayed, sat down with a nice lady, explained my situation, surprise, I’m jobless and looking for work. She nodded several hundred times and concluded that I, just like everyone else that walks in the door, had to take a few tests in order for the agency to determine where I was skilled—if anywhere.

I was ushered to a back room full of cubicles and old computers. The computer led me through some typing and data entry tests. I excelled in the typing tests and was feeling confident. I wasn’t as fast on the keypad for data entry, but I was still feeling pretty good. I was even hoping for the lady to look at my report and recommend me to some company right away because she had never seen typing that fast before.

Then came the math section. I was rusty, but I was doing just fine until I got to long division. Holy crap! When was the last time I had to do long division? I thought for a moment, maybe 7th grade…maybe a little earlier or later? I didn’t know when I performed it last, but worse than that, I didn’t know how to do it anymore. I didn’t even know where to start. Of course I could rely on just working the problem through in my mind, but I knew there would be decimals and I wasn’t trusting of my ability to get this right. I considered my options. 1) Leave these questions blank because there is no way I can get the right number down or 2) slyly pull my cell phone from my pocket and take advantage of the calculator. For me, at that moment, it was a pretty easy decision to make even though I wasn’t proud of it. I busted out my cell phone and tapped out the problems and within a few seconds I had the right answers to the thousandth decimal point.

Now, I don’t know if they had cameras back there or if the fact that I didn’t show my work tipped them off to my cheating, but I only heard from the temp agency once and it was for a very short manual labor job I was trying to avoid from the beginning. I didn’t tell anyone about it and I had a hard time overcoming the fact that I couldn’t do a few long division problems, but I was determined to never use a calculator again when faced with a long division problem, which was good, because three years later I cracked open a GRE study book and listed before my eyes was a page of long division problems. It was time to call in the mathematician in the house, my wife. I recruited her for a lesson, which lasted all of two minutes before something clicked and grade school math was once again a breeze and not something I had to fear running into again at a temp agency or on the GRE.

Monday, October 04, 2010

In a theater, far, far away...

I hate the 3D fad. And I really do think it is a fad. I don’t think everything is going to be 3D in ten years. It isn’t like when HD first came out, you could clearly see and enjoy the difference between your standard image and an HD image. With 3D it is much more a matter of taste. A real life example: I liked Avatar. Did I feel its 3D-ness added anything to the experience at all? No.

That said, if anything changes my mind about 3D it will be seeing all six Star Wars movies painstakingly rendered to 3D format and being rereleased on the big screen starting in 2012 with Episode I. Unfortunately, they will be starting with the weakest of all six SW Episodes, but that won’t keep me from seeing it another time. And this time, the story is going to be in order and each time you go back to the theater, in my opinion, the movie will be better than the last. So I am stoked to give 3D another chance. It is just a bummer I have to wait until 2012 to do it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Other TV

I have mentioned on this blog before that I dabble in other TV shows, mostly of the medical variety because of Kate. Those shows: ER (now off the air), House and, on occasion Grey’s Anatomy. So, it was with a little excitement that Kate sat down to watch the season premiere of Grey’s last week. I joined her sans excitement and with book in hand.

I was reminded of how sappy the show is. Slo-mo. Voiceovers by Grey that bookend each episode. Love triangles. Dusty, old relationships, which are constantly in limbo. It is sentimental porn.

At the end of the hour, as the music died down and Grey’s voiceover came in to tell us how we should feel and what we should draw from the episode, Kate and I sighed, looked at each other and said, “I miss Lost.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Old, White Books

I freaking love Costco. Not everything on the shelves is a steal, but their books always are. Actually, the books are priced so low I feel guilty buying them. What, Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory for $9.84?!? I couldn't pass that up. I felt like I was stealing it for that price. Thanks, Jon. If you leave me your address I will send you a few more bucks in the mail. The guilt I feel from buying a book for that cheap does do its job. I have only bought three books at Costco since I became a lifelong member a couple of years ago.

It doesn’t matter whether I am going to Costco for two two-liter jugs of olive oil or for an 8 lb. bag of frozen strawberries, I will always peruse through the limited and seemingly illegally priced books. Today, I noticed with glee that Jon Stewart’s Earth (currently #1 on Amazon.com) was prominently featured at the end of the book display. I didn’t buy it, not for $15.94, or something like that. All I know is that it was marked at least ten dollars below the MSRP. Anyway, I walk over to the display and lay my hands on Earth. I stand there and flip through the book for a good ten minutes, reading paragraphs here and there and even eyeing a picture of a three-breasted woman (as seen in Total Recall) and deciding, once and for all, I much prefer two.

While I am looking through the book, I notice the two other books placed at the end of the table, Bill O’Reilly’s Pinheads and Patriots (currently #40 on Amazon.com) and David Limbaugh’s (yes, that Limbaugh’s brother) laughably titled Crimes Against Liberty (currently #35 on Amazon.com). Seriously, all I can do when seeing a book like Crimes Against Liberty is laugh. I can’t even open it up. That would be giving it an honor it doesn’t deserve.

When I first ventured into Costco as a member, I noticed right away, without surprise, that the majority of their political books are from conservative authors. So, it was, also without surprise, that when I stood there, looking at Earth, only one other person picked up the book to look at it while a number of Pinheads and Patriots were thrown into shopping carts and one copy of Crimes Against Liberty was toted off. As I watched pinhead, err shopper after shopper step up to the mountain of right-wing books I couldn’t help but notice a stereotype being strongly reinforced. The buyers were all older, white males who looked grumpy and gazed upon O’Reilly’s latest like it was the Bible…every single one of them. Were they also looking at me and feeling like a stereotype was being strongly reinforced? Young, white male in shorts and flip-flops who is jobless and who is probably going to go smoke a bowl after this and then maybe come back a couple hours from now for some free samples because he has got the munchies.

Will I become like them? I hope not. And as O’Reilly’s book continued to find its way into the shopping carts of octogenarians, I walked out of Costco empty-handed, went home, made lunch and special brownies…I kid, I kid…and readied for work tomorrow.

Colbert in D.C.

Stephen Colbert Speaks at a Congressional Hearing...in character. Worth the watch. VIA TPM.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Stories From Rwanda

I first heard about We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda (by Philip Gourevitch) in college. Somewhat predictably, it was Aaron who suggested I read it and, like so many suggestions I receive, it took me years to get around to reading this book. I finally have, finishing it up last week and now I am passing on the suggestion to anyone who happens to check my blog and have an interest in such things, even if that thing is genocide in Rwanda. Even before opening the book up, I was trying to prepare myself for what I would encounter on the pages within. I was also trying to put into words why it was that I wanted to read about an event I already knew didn’t end well and then Gourevitch presented me with this paragraph:

Like Leontius, the young Athenian in Plato, I presume that you are reading this because you desire a closer look, and that you, too, are properly disturbed by your curiosity. Perhaps, in examining this extremity with me, you hope for some understanding, some insight, some flicker of self-knowledge—a moral, or a lesson or a clue about how to behave in this world: some such information. I don’t discount the possibility, but when it comes to genocide, you already know right from wrong. The best reason I have come up with for looking closely into Rwanda’s stories is that ignoring them makes me even more uncomfortable about existence and my place in it. The horror, as horror, interests me only insofar as a precise memory of the offense is necessary to understand its legacy.

This was the best-worded explanation of my desire to know about the genocide in Rwanda and similar tragedies. So, I read on, learning so much about the history of Rwanda, its people, and the players in the genocide, which proved to be the most efficient mass killing of human beings in modern history. Some estimates put the number of dead at one million, but it is clear that at least 800,000 people died in a three and a half month stretch in Rwanda.

From what I understand, the roots of the conflict—at least one of them—can be traced back to white Europeans, who, upon arriving in Rwanda, treated the minority Tutsis like they were significantly better in all ways than Hutus because they [Tutsis] more closely resembled—at least according to John Hanning Speke—a “Caucasoid tribe of Ethiopian origin, descended from the biblical King David, and therefore a superior race to the native Negroids.” From there on, things only get more complicated and it is pointless to elaborate when Gourevitch does it so well.

As a whole, the Western world is guilty when it comes to the genocide in Rwanda, but I didn’t know how France essentially enabled and prolonged the conflict by providing arms that they knew were being sent across the border to the interahamwe, a Hutu paramilitary organization responsible for much of the slaughter in 1994. Gourevitch points out that “In 1994, during the height of the extermination campaign in Rwanda, as Paris airlifted arms to Mobutu’s intermediares in eastern Zaire for direct transfer across the border to the genocidaires, France’s President Francois Mitterand said—as the newspaper Figaro later reported it—“In such countries, genocide is not too important.” By their actions and inactions, at the time and in the years that followed, the rest of the major powers indicated that they agreed.”

Perhaps I am naïve in assuming it is common knowledge that the West ignored the genocide in Rwanda. So it shouldn’t be shocking when the reader is reminded again and again of the West’s blunt refusal to aid Rwanda and to call what was going on within its borders genocide, but it was, both genocide and disturbing that everyone just stood by. Gourevitch keenly reminds us of this, all the while highlighting the Westerners who attempted to stop the genocide, like Lieutenant-General Dallaire, the Force Commander of UNAMIR, the United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda in 1993 and 1994, who went on Canadian television in 1997 and said, among other things:

Essentially, how many people really still remember the genocide in Rwanda? We know the genocide of the Second World War because the whole outfit was involved. But who really is involved in the Rwandan genocide? Who comprehends that more people were killed, injured, and displaced in three and a half months in Rwanda than in the whole of the Yugoslavian campaign in which we poured sixty thousand troops and the whole of the Western world was there, and we’re pouring billions in there, still trying to solve the problem. How much is really being done to solve the Rwandan problem? Who is grieving for Rwanda and really living it and living with the consequences? I mean, there are hundreds of Rwandans whom I knew personally whom I found slaughtered with their families complete—and bodies up to here—villages totally wiped out … and we made all that information available daily and the international community kept watching.

In fact, the international community paid little attention until the peak of the genocide had passed and thousands of Rwandans had wound up in refugee camps. These refugee camps were exactly what the Western media were looking for in terms of something they thought would make great television. Relatively accessible and not too graphic to show on TV, the refugee camps became the popular cause, raking in thousands of dollars in support and hundreds of volunteer organizations. What wasn’t reported is that a very large percentage of the refugees were Hutus who had fled Rwanda after killing their Tutsi friends, neighbors and co-workers. The camps were packed with murderers and now they were the ones benefitting from Western aid and support while their dead Tutsi compatriots fertilized Rwandan soil. No one reporting on the refugee camps knew the whole story or that Hutu Power organizations were allowed to flourish within the refugee camps. So the genocide continued and volunteers tended to many who committed the worst atrocities.

At one point in the book Gourevitch tells a story of a reporter “who was sent into Goma directly from Bosnia” to report on the refugee camps. The reporter told Gourevitch that “he knew what Hutu Power was and that he looked up at the volcano and prayed, “God, if that thing erupts right now, and buries the killers, I will believe that you are just and I will go to church again every day of my life.”

You could write a lengthy paper surmising about all the reasons for the West’s ignoring the genocide in Rwanda. There are many, but one from the book that stuck out is this, given by Bonaventure Nyibizi, “You cannot count on the international community unless you’re rich, and we are not. We don’t have oil, so it doesn’t matter that we have blood, or that we are human beings.” This is worth pondering. If Rwanda were rich in oil and if it was a big exporter to the United States, would the genocide have been allowed to go on for months? I highly doubt it.

The United States was slow to confess that they were guilty of inaction. Toward the end of the book, Gourevitch offers up this tale of Clinton’s visit to Rwanda in March of 1998:

If Rwanda’s experience could be said to carry any lessons for the world, it was that endangered peoples who depend on the international community for physical protection stand defenseless. On the morning of Albright’s visit to Rwanda in December, Hutu Power terrorists, shouting “Kill the cockroaches,” had hacked, bludgeoned, and shot to death more than three hundred Tutsis at an encampment in the northwest, and in the days before Clinton’s arrival in Kigali, as many as fifty Tutsis were killed in similar massacres. Against such a backdrop, Clinton’s pledge to “work as partners with Rwanda to end this violence” sounded deliberately vague.

Really, We Wish To Inform You…, is a book about two atrocities: the genocide in Rwanda and the West’s inaction to stop that genocide. You become familiar with the stories of many Rwandans, Hutus and Tutsis, and how they survive now, trying to move on and how some find that to be impossible. And by the end, there is a hint of a generation who makes no distinction between Hutu and Tutsi, a generation who calls themselves Rwandans and nothing else.

Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. New York, NY. Picador, 1999.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Failing to Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Here is what I am thinking, anyone who is willing to:

…Fight a war for this country…

…Risk stepping on a landmine…

…Risk picking up a rock with an IED beneath it ready to blow their leg off…

…Risk being an amputee or handicapped for the rest of their lives…

…Risk being kidnapped by terrorists and having their head chopped off…

…Endure sleeping in a dirt hole for months at a time…

…Endure regular daily temperatures of 120 degrees and above…

…Have a shitty haircut…

…Be separated from spouses, kids and family for 12-15 months at a time…

…Carry 80 pounds of war gear on their backs for days and weeks and months…


…Deserves to be open about their sexuality. Why should they live a lie and live in fear among their fellow soldiers and commanding officers when they are willing to do all the above and more? I want the Democrats and Republicans who voted no on the defense authorization bill yesterday to give us one good reason why they voted no. Just one good reason. I haven’t heard any.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Documenting a Beatdown

Unfortunately, it felt like Boise State was welcoming Wyoming to the Mountain West Conference with a beatdown on Saturday, when, in fact, it will be Boise State who officially joins the Mountain West next year after their last season as a member of the WAC (a considerably weaker football conference). It was great being back in Laramie for a football game. The weather couldn't have been better. It was a sellout and the newly renovated War Memorial Stadium was as rowdy as ever. I just wish I saw a slightly different game. The images below document the evening.

The eastern stands got a club level over the summer, significantly improving the appearance of the stadium and they still welcome you to 7,220 feet.

Good to see a sea of brown and gold in the student section.

And so it begins...8:30 left in the first quarter and it is 10-0, Boise State.

Note change in score, slight change in time and no change in quarter.

All night long, Boise State QB finds wide open man.

Getting a little distracted by now...taking photos of the west stands.

Important numbers here. Look closely at Wyoming's Rush YDS (-30) and Total YDS (1) with 39 seconds left in the first quarter. Note Boise State's Total YDS (214).

Barely into the second quarter. 24-0.

At least there was a pretty sunset to look at. We didn't quite stay till the end, but we had seen enough with 6 minutes left in the game. Final score: Boise State 51, Wyoming 6. We did get a touchdown but we were denied the PAT. In their summary, ESPN says it was over when Kellen Moore (QB) and the Broncos started needing style points to impress BCS voters. They must be referring to the flip by this Broncos player as seen in the video below at 1:10. On a different day, I believe Wyoming could put up a better fight, but after a loss like this it is important to remember Boise State's recent successes on the national stage and their ranking (currently 3rd in the country).



Friday, September 17, 2010

Boise State @ Wyoming

I'll be in Laramie over the weekend. We are heading up tomorrow to see Wyoming take on Boise State in football. You probably just cringed. I am used to the cringing and wincing, like you just got punched in the kidney. It is the natural reaction from hearing Wyoming will play Boise State, but Wyoming better get used to it because starting next year the Broncos are going to be in the Mountain West.
I don't expect a great, close game. But you never know what can happen at home. It's a night game. It's a sellout. Time to mount up, Cowboys. Don't let the Broncos buck you too hard.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lost and Character Development

Instead of trying to do one mega post about Lost I am going to do several smaller posts. I figure they will be easier to read and digest and a little easier to write. So let’s get it on. I am telling you now, don’t read on if you want to watch Lost now or at any point in the future. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you.

In a previous post on this blog, I hinted at the ability of the writers to make me love and hate each and every person on the island. I went through phases of whom I hated. First, it was Sawyer (also James, but I will refer to him as Sawyer from here on out). Then it was Kate and then it was Shannon and then it was Sawyer again. The point being, I felt like I needed a whole two seasons to really know who I could trust like I was on the island myself, fighting for a way off.

Lost begins with an eye opening (literally) and a plane crash on a seemingly deserted island. The struggle is established right away, an advantage not all stories have. Because of this, the writers could start character development right away with stories and flashbacks from each and every actor of the enormous cast. I was learning as much about the history of the survivors on the island as I was about their struggle to get off it. Since character development occurred so early in Lost, by the end of the second season there was a plethora of characters you knew better than characters from other TV series you may have been watching for twice as long.

Consider Mr. Eko, who appeared in 27 episodes. Mr. Eko was a deeply religious character who had converted to Christianity after his previous life as a drug lord had led to the shooting of his younger brother, who just so happened to be a priest who had died (as a result of the shooting) during a flight or upon crash-landing on the island himself, the same island Eko would later crash-land on. In his childhood, Eko saved his brother from being a child soldier in Africa. Rebels had come to the village in which Eko and his brother lived. They had corralled the kids and were trying to make Eko’s brother shoot an unarmed man. This was an initiation, which Eko would not let pass. He stepped in, took the gun from his brother and promptly shot the unarmed man. The rebels loaded Eko up in a truck and from that point, until much later in his life, he was a killer, a child soldier forced into horrific situations beyond imagination. And he did all this so his brother wouldn’t have to. Eko knew, even as a young boy, that he was sacrificing his innocence and, perhaps, salvation in order to save his brother. And this is just information we are given about Eko’s time before he was on the island.

On the island, Eko is at first an enforcer in the second surviving group from Oceanic 815. He was peculiarly quiet and very intimidating considering his size, demeanor and the club he wheeled around, which he would occasionally inscribe the numbers to Bible verses on. Eko the enforcer, soon becomes Eko the protector, and someone who has the power to put a leash on Ana Lucia (the self-proclaimed leader of the second surviving group) when she goes on another power trip. Upon the union of the two groups of survivors, Eko becomes a good friend to John Locke and Charlie. He believes, even before he finds his dead brother, that he was brought to the island for a reason. He feels a spiritual connection to the island, even if he doesn’t know exactly what it is that will meet him in the jungle. Eko starts to see things on the island, things that only Eko can see. For example, his dead brother helps him find another hatch. Although a devout man, Eko doesn’t seem to believe in his forgiveness. He is constantly in pursuit of it and when he starts to see his brother’s ghost on the island he views following the ghost as a means to an end, his regaining of that innocence he lost when he shot the unarmed man so many years ago in his village.

And then, just when you thought Eko might be there to the end, he is killed off with little explanation. We learn later on that the person he thought was his brother wasn’t necessarily always his brother, but that’s not the point. The point of all this is that Eko is an amazingly deep character with a tragic arc you could make a movie out of, but on Lost, he was one of many developed characters and all of a sudden he was dead. I have never watched a show where so much time was spent on character development. It must have been a luxury for the writers to know that when they killed Eko off, they had another 16 or so characters that would still be around and each one of those characters had their own complex history and story that needed to be fleshed out. Eko’s death was probably very difficult to write and it was a disappointment to see him go, but he was a pawn in a much larger story and although the writers never made me hate him, even temporarily, I understood why he had to go. But like many events on the show, I didn’t truly understand their purpose until the end.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September Sunsets

Every night I am home it is hard not to take pictures of sunsets. I don't want to pass up an opportunity, but I also don't want to fill my hard drive with sunset pictures, which can get a little repetitive. However, I like these shots, especially the last one of Kate. No doubt, Colorado sunsets are some of the best.






Monday, September 13, 2010

The End of Lost

For most fans, the end of Lost was on May 23, 2010. It was just a couple nights ago that Kate and I watched four episodes, one of which was almost two hours, keeping us up way past our bedtime, in a binge of Lost-watching that will not be matched by us because the show is over. I have been thinking about the show since we finished it. There is a lot to examine and opine about, but I am working on that.
Honestly, Lost is on par with Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Easily. Easily. And to think, it came from television, a fact worth mulling over for hours. On top of that, I once doubted--just a little bit--the quality of the show because of the mass following and the insane devotion of its viewers, who, I have discovered, were not mistaken in their appreciation for and addiction to this show.

The scope and breadth of Lost is one of its most attractive traits. Although I consider it to be as great as Star Wars and LotR, Lost invites a broader swath of the public to be its viewers because of what the show addresses, which is considerably more than a movie can do, even if there are six (SW) or three (LotR) of them. In my next posts about the show, I will write about those things the show addresses and I will do so by sharing much of the plot. This is to say, if you ever want to watch Lost, don't read any more blogs about the show (at least on this blog). Instead, jump right in on Hulu (seasons 1-5 are free until the end of the year) or start renting them.

Article about J. Stew

I haven't even finished reading it, but there is an interesting profile of Jon Stewart at nymag.com and why his brand of comedy/satire/dare I say, journalism is thriving right now.
Worth a read if you feel strongly, one way or another, about the show.

Friday, September 10, 2010

They Facebook?

I quietly signed back onto Facebook a couple weeks ago. I am thinking of my return to Facebook as a trial period, which will either remind me of how stupid it all is or show me some great things about it, which I might not have noticed the first time around.

An observation I have made since signing back on is that the average age of Facebook’s users has skyrocketed. During my two-year hiatus, at least one aunt of mine joined, an in-law joined, and countless adults, people who I didn’t know could even use a computer, joined.

In a way, seeing all the old people on Facebook is sort of sad, but cool also. Sad because Facebook used to belong to twenty-somethings, it was a little corner of the internet for us, like a club, albeit a very impersonal and lame one, for wrinkle-free human beings. And cool, because you realize that older people do catch on to trends in technology, even if by the time they get to them the trends are quite dusty and in need of repairs.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Trabajo

I got a job with that fruit company Forrest Gump invested with, the company which sent him a letter saying he didn't have to work another day in his life if he didn't want to. Well, that's not the case for me, but that's okay. I am excited and more than ready to do some work.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Dear Milwaukee,

My first memory of you, not necessarily the first time I was visiting you, but the first time I realized this was where we were making our home was in May of 2007. Kate and I came out to you and we tried to find a place to live. The weekend is a blur, but I remember the heat and the humidity. It was like the jungle. I kept saying to myself, “This is just for a year.” We stayed for three. If only I knew then what I know now about you.

You are surprising in every way. I wish you got to surprise more people. I leave you having not shared you with anyone besides a few family members. You are our little secret; three years of our lives will be unknown to my friends and even family members. Only our parents will know what we refer to when we talk about the beach in Milwaukee or Alterra or a restaurant called Carnevor. I am still sad about all that. Someone once referred to it as stubbornness. It is not that. It was a desire to have people visit us in our new home. We leave holding you dearer in our hearts than we could have imagined. And we are the sole keepers of these three years and that is an important task for us for there are fewer people to ferry these memories into our next community and tomorrow’s conversations.

Milwaukee, you gave us hard times and we were recipients of bad news over and over again while we resided within your borders. You made us feel a world away when we wanted to be next door. Had we not been a thousand miles away I would have gotten into trouble, thrown a couple of punches and might have defaced a church. I often daydreamed of it and you kept me from those releases of bitterness and anger. I have stored those away for now. Occasionally, they poison me and I feel some anger rise up and I wonder, will moving back renew some of that? I don’t want it to, but it isn’t out of the question. Returning to the source of your demons forces you to confront them. And Milwaukee, you prepared me for that. I am more able because I have felt a greater depth of pain and disappointment here than I had ever felt before.

But I have also felt and known a deeper love, a greater respect for life and its wickedly beautiful and tortuous twists, like the day I realized I love you. I thought it would never happen, but that idea took a beating from so many people, places and things. The walks with my wife on the shores of Lake Michigan, the once untapped city at our fingertips, the friends we made, the team I grew to love, the championship, immersing myself once again in the wonderful world of swimming and the coaches who coached beside me, and the lovely upper-Midwest touches of humidity, cheese, fish fries and snow on the ground for months; all of these things built up a love for you. I will miss the color green and the abundance of it here, the green screaming from the forest’s edge, forest of the likes I hadn’t seen since 1991 in New Jersey, a forest you can’t find in Colorado. Impenetrable. A massive, verdant wall.

Your inhabitants are one of a kind, Milwaukee. With 1.5 million people, you are diverse like any other big city, but nearly all of your inhabitants are native to the state and, on a larger scale, the Midwest. I’ve never encountered so many people so unhappy with their hometown. Not that you are bad, you are lovely, but there is just this propensity for Midwesterners to stay put. Moving out of state is not something your people do. They exude a sense of duty and loyalty to you even though they want to leave, even though they seem envious of people moving on and moving out. Yours is a grounded people. Happy and sometimes frustrated with you, but not going anywhere, even for a little while, because the Midwest is where they live, where they will always live, and that is fine with them…for the most part.

Milwaukeeans are fiercely loyal to you. You should be proud. From your boring Brewers to your agonizingly overrated Summerfest, there is no shortage of fans. No one tailgates like you do before every single Brewers’ home game. Mini grills and a lot of crappy beer being drunk. That is another thing your people are astonishingly proud of—the crappy beer. You are a beer city, but a domestic beer city. Yes, you have standout joints like Café Centraal and the Sugar Maple, where you can’t find someone drinking an MGD, but your lifeblood is Miller Lite, High Life, Milwaukee’s Best and something called Schlitz. This is what your people run on and that humors me because I think there is so much more out there to experience in the beer world, but I know that your people don’t care. They are unwavering in their devotion to you and your products. It is beauty that I can raise an eyebrow at and simultaneously deeply respect.

I didn’t cry when I left you, I cried when I realized I was going to leave you. It was months before July 29, when I was driving to work over the Hoan bridge and it was a crystal clear day with the skyline in front of me, Lake Michigan to the right and I-94 far below me, weaving westward to the horizon. I didn’t just remember the last three years at that moment; I felt them wrapping around me, pulsing through me at the speed of light, like a wave crashing over me, flipping me end over end over end and whatever thought filled my head last made me smile and shed a tear.

Milwaukee, I learned so much while I was within your borders. I thought I knew a decent amount about life when I arrived in the upper Midwest. I thought I had some crap figured out. I didn’t. Life only got more confusing, but you helped it become more beautiful too. Kate and I will be lucky to find that again. You will always be our first home and you will always be missed, no matter how many smiles our new home brings us.

I love you.