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Every Day Is Boxing Day

February 22, 2013

Woke up this mornin’
Closed in on both sides
Nothin’ doin’
I feel resistance
As I open my eyes
Someone’s foolin’

I found a way to break through this cellophane bag
Cuz I know what’s goin’ on
In your mind

I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box

Life goes in circles
Around and around
Circulating
I sometimes wonder
What’s movin’ underground
I’m escaping

I found a way to break through this cellophane bag
Cuz I know what’s goin’ on
In my mind

I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box

Livin’
Ahh ha

I found a way to break through this cellophane bag
Cuz I know what’s goin’ on
In your mind

I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box

I’m a livin’ I’m a livin’…I’m a livin’
I’m a livin’, I’m a livin’…I’m a livin’
I’m a livin’ in a box

I’m a livin’ in a box…

Living In A BoxLiving In A Box

Life Among Cardboard

Life Among Cardboard

That was Living In A Box from Living In A Box by Living In A Box. I love the ’80’s. In any case, *I’m* living amongst the boxes here in River Forest. I was supposed to close today on my house, but because of a paperwork mixup I’m rescheduled to close on Tuesday. As you might imagine, this is not convenient for me. I had a rental truck lined up for this afternoon through Sunday afternoon. I have most of my apartment boxed up and ready to transfer to the new place. I actually had friends who were going to help me transfer boxes to my new house, how often does *that* happen this many years after college? So yeah, I can either laugh or cry, but it’s not going to change the fact that someone screwed up and I’m still pacing like a caged animal amongst the boxes today.

Brown Paper Sammi

Brown Paper Sammi

Speaking of animals, Samwise has been lovin’ the whole boxes everywhere, places to hide and things to climb on that moving entails. It’s like there’s something new everyday to get into. She’s been in heat lately, so she’s extra friendly too. Nothing like trying to program or e–mail with a cat butt in your face. I’ve really got to get that taken care of once I’m relocated. Between house hunting and finishing a huge job in Cleveland I really haven’t had much time to get personal things taken care of. On top of that, we’ve decided to have the Alliday here in Chicago this year, so I’ve got to try to round-up Alliday gifts and fun destinations for visitors.

WTF Cookies

WTF Cookies

With all the moving prep, I’ve been making use of the local restaurants more than I should. I received this fortune cookie in the last batch of Yu Shan Chicken I ordered. It’s apparently from the WF Fortune Cookie company. I didn’t realize this about myself, but now that I’ve been set straight I’m going to make the most of being the most. I’m just not sure what that means. Does this now give me rights to the last piece of pizza? Am I granted extra space on airline flights?! Damn these inscrutable Asians!!

In any case, I believe I’ve wasted enough time and Sammi is sticking her butt in my face again. I’d better pay her some attention before she starts walking over my keyboard and screwing this up. Besides, I need to get something together for dinner. I’ve got fruit, mixed nuts, yogurt and pancake mix. Crap. I wonder if Boston Market has a pot pie left. Keep flying and stay shiny.

The Wizard Saruman – Job Creator

August 20, 2011

Time rolled up on me like a dense fog
Takin’ little bites of night while I slept with my eyes open
I was star gazin’ like I often did and
I learned to twinkle up there with the best of ‘em
From Little Dipper to Big Bear I grew
Became some old complicated shit like Cassiopeia
Caught me out there between Pluto and
A galaxy two doors down from my childhood
Lead me out of my mind

See, I don’t know if I was born with this affliction
Or if it was born out of necessity
And I don’t wonder if it’s a curse or a blessing anymore
Because reality crashed down on me and
Ripped the Faust face from mine
I get bits and pieces every now and then of how it happened
Which makes me think TV should be banned from the ghetto
Since it be from all the smoke and fog that ate up my life
The real one
The one I wouldn’t recognize now if it knocked on my head three times and shook my hand

Once when I was a kid I stuck my head in a vise
Sandwiched it right between The Brady Bunch and Beaver Cleaver
I kept turnin’ the screws, tryin’ to make ‘em fit
Would’ve been nice if my eyeballs just popped out
And released all the pressure through my sockets
But God’s got a real fucked up sense of humor sometimes
Now I’m walkin’ ’round with two screws stickin’ out the side of my head
A cross between Frankenstein and My Favorite Martian
Trying to use tools that don’t work down here
Guess I’m lucky Earth people got eyes that don’t see

I used to move a lot
Thinkin’ that maybe I was just in the wrong place
But I have moved through classes, races, genders and marital statuses
Through drugs, prisons, gods, sexual identities,
Heavens, hells, worlds, bodies, spirits and minds…
Just your regular old, run of the mill, recycled, reincarnated, reinvented miracle

But still I’m caught
Somewhere between you gotta want it bad enough and payin’ my dues
Somewhere between a will and a way
Somewhere tryin’ to make it happen
But why doesn’t anybody tell you that wills and ways are for the rich who
Buy sell and trade dreams like they playin’ the stock market?
That “hope” is a peso on Wall Street and
Mixed up little black girls from the ghetto
Who are low on confidence
Can’t use self esteem for collateral
‘Specially when it’s been whipped out of you
Just stolen right from under my nose

While I was jumpin’ rope, playin’ kick ball
And thinkin’ I was a kid…
Well everybody else was playin’ pretend
Playin’ like I was a grown up

Once you swallow that American Dream shit, it ain’t goin’ nowhere
Yeah, it can turn into some ole’ Afro-Centric, multi-cultural, humanist type manifestation
But still it’s there
I have fucked my self so many ways tryin’ to get-it and get-rid-of-it
That I have turned into a sub-terranian, dream bingeing and purging, mirage-aholic
And even after I’ve whipped out my fierce, psychoanalytical, constructionist, kung fu moves,
It’s still there
The last surviving remnant of the internalized, sub-atomic explosion of 1989
Just a big… fat… cockroach
Nibblin’ away at my consciousness
And I be damned if I ain’t right back where I started
Tryin’ to live a dream
And bein’ sentenced to life instead

Fini Dolo Featuring Sonja SohnBig Dipper To Little Bear

CSO LOTR

CSO LOTR

Last night, The Baumeisters invited me to watch their girls perform at Ravinia. They, along with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performed the music from the first Lord Of The Rings movie while the movie played on a huge screen above the stage. It was awesome! I think every movie should be shown this way. :-)

Door County Breakfast

Door County Breakfast

I’ve been getting out as much as I can, although work is always trying to interfere it seems. Back in the middle of July, John and I hosted Grif and 4 of his high school buddies up in Door County for a birthday getaway.
A Game of "500"

A Game of "500"

There was much swimming, grilling, X-Box playing and the like. John and I were ostensibly going to do some work around the cabin, but mostly we just got a leaky sink fixed. I guess the dishwasher and ‘fridge swap out will have to wait for another time. Maybe when the economy is better. :-)

South Shore Line

South Shore Line

I’ve been traveling to the Michigan side of the lake for work lately. We’ve got a client with a vacation home over there doing some outside upgrades. On the way over there, I travel through all the industrial areas that are and once were. American Bridge Works, US Steel’s massive Gary Works, a huge coal-fired power plant, and “America’s last interurban”, the South Shore Line railroad. Great idea, the interurban, but they started to arrive in America at the same time as gasoline. Frank Sprague developed the electric trolley motor in 1886, right on the heels of Sylvanus Bowser’s gas pump in 1885. I guess we all know which one proved more popular. The South Shore survived mostly because it was able to run freight, had multiple cars rather than just a single car per “train” and it ran right into downtown Chicago. Sorry for the history lesson, but when I’m interested in something I Google. I’m taking medication for it.

Eastern Shores of Lake Michigan

The Opulent Eastern Shores of Lake Michigan

In any case, the trip through the industrial to the opulent this past week has had as it’s backdrop both the Ames straw poll for Republican candidates, Rick “Parry’s” entrance into the race and the furor at Fox over Warren Buffet’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on Sunday the 14th.

Distribution of Wealth

Distribution of Wealth - 2007

I watched in wonderment John Stewart’s dissection of Fox News’ coverage of Warren Buffet’s Op-Ed. I can’t top that, it was a marvel to behold. Fox even went so far as to question whether or not Warren Buffet is a socialist. Awesome. Stewart cited several things in his bit, one of which was a graph from Business Insider which I looked up. It has some fun facts about wealth and inequality in America which you should see.

Finally, Senator Tom Coburn (R Okla) said in a town hall meeting on the 18th that, “The government actually is killing the potential for recovery in our country through regulations”, calling the Environmental Protection Agency “Idiot Bureaucrats”. He had previously voted for a resolution blocking the EPA from regulating green house gases.

So I had all of these things in my head as I watched in awe as the CSO, along with several Chicago choirs (including the Baumeister girls’), perform the score to the first Lord of the Rings movie as it played. It was while watching the movie that I saw the Conservative vision for America come into it’s full. Fortunately, Saruman didn’t have to deal with any of those pesky environmental protection regulations. He was free to turn the once green valley below Orthanc into a place “now filled with pits and forges”. He was a Job Creator. Someone who I’m sure Ayn Rand would find “deserving” of love.

A Once Green and Pleasant Land

A Once Green and Pleasant Land

Let’s look at the contributions Saruman made to the ungrateful people of Middle Earth. As I stated above, he was a job creator. Not only that, he introduced automation and mechanization into a world that was bogged down with the needless frills of “craftsmanship”. Treebeard describes him as having, “a mind of metal and wheels”. He brought this problem solving ability to bear on the question of how best to raise an army. Granted no one likes war, but if one must fight they may as well get the task accomplished as quickly and efficiently as possible. So what if a few trees have to pay the price to fuel the forges of Isengard? That is simply the price one must pay to get the job done and no damn tree hugger is going to stand in the way of progress.

And what of the Shire? Saruman tried to bring a new industrial base to the flagging economy of the Shire, with precious little thanks I might add. He was trying to institute the same changes that fueled Isengard’s rise to power in the small, rural community that was in desperate need of jobs. Just how far the modernization had come was evident from the many factories that must have sprung up. No hard numbers are available, but their growth was described in that, “smoke rose from many points round about”. Thank God that damn Clean Air Act wasn’t in place to stunt their growth!

When “Sharkey” Saruman took charge, the Shire was filled with uneducated hicks who were seemingly stuck in a “First Age” mind-set. Most of the inhabitants of the Shire were grinding out corn *BY HAND*, for Radegast’s sake!! They were completely under utilizing their resources and their efficiency was well below sub-par. Saruman brought modernization and mechanization to the once backward community. Granted a little water may have been fowled, but I can assure you that the Brandywine was *never* in any danger. Such is the price of progress, none of which would have been possible had the restrictive regulations of the Clean Water Act been in effect.

The Price of Progress in the Shire

Merely the Price of Progress in the Shire

And what of the benefits this expanded economic base provided to the population apart from the boost to the unemployment figures? Well, some of the older, unsafe hobbit houses had burned to the ground, proving what a danger they were to the community. Saruman developed new housing with a line of beautiful, white houses all along Pool Side. These homes were marvels of engineering in that they were easily produced with inexpensive materials and generated a terrific profit for Isengard Property Ventures and it’s shareholders. A great buy for the newly homeless, former owner of the older, fire prone homes. Of course none of those community benefits would’ve been possible if those intrusive building inspectors had their way. Thankfully, in the streamlined economy of the new Shire, more than ample tax breaks were given to the Isengard Corporation in order to convince them to relocate to the Shire and as a result, funding wasn’t available for those idiot bureaucrats in the Housing Department.

For a while anyway, Middle Earth must’ve been a Conservative politician’s dream. Rather than let them live that dream here in America however, I say we sentence them to life instead.

- G

Happy Alliday!!

June 16, 2011

On the road that we travel each and every day
There are those that touch our hearts in a very special way
Though we may not see each other once in a while
Feelings rush back with a wink and a smile

The stories fly, yeah the fish fry
every time that we’re together
The drinks flow, yeah and the fish grow
These are the memories that live on forever

In this dog eat dog world we all need a place
To escape from the rat race
Here’s my suggestion, it’ll come as no surprise
Just sit back and close your eyes

The stories fly, yeah the fish fry
every time that we’re together
The drinks flow, yeah and the fish grow
These are the memories that live on forever

It’s proven again and again
It’s all in the time that we spend
There lies the value of a friend
My friend

On the road that we travel each and every day
There are those that touch our hearts in a very special way
Though we may not see each other once in a while
Feelings rush back with a wink and a smile

The stories fly, yeah the fish fry
every time that we’re together
The drinks flow, yeah and the kids grow
These are the memories that live on forever
These are the memories that live on forever

Value Of A Friend – Saltwater Flies
(Sorry, no links this time. Small band with no web presence)

Back in the days when I’d spent more time in Iowa than I had anywhere else and work, monthly bills and grocery shopping were all new to me, I used to gather with friends over Thanksgiving. A month later, we would all be back in our hometown for Christmas visiting family and we’d all get to see each other again. Time passes and circumstances change. Some of us wanted to spend more time with parents during holidays and some of us didn’t really have a compelling reason to come back to our hometown since parents moved away. Back in 2006 when things seemed to be changing, Mitch proposed that, “we could simply group ALL the holidays into some convenient weekend, say, oh, I dunno, May 13th and get together then.” The e-mail exchange included things like:

Cool!  Does the Solstice Egg hunt happen at midnight?  Do you actually look for eggs or is it just an excuse to bring a date and make out like a Snipe hunt?  I can’t wait for the Cadbury Creame filled Pumpkins…

I think this all makes room for LOTS of new Holiday Traditions.  I think a solstice Egg & Midnight Snipe Hunt w/Making Out sounds like a fine idea.  (I never really cared for monkey nuts, anyway.)  Changing times call for new paradigms!

I wonder, could we work in some of those pagan fertility rituals?

Eventually, we came up with a list of activities that included; lighting the solstice wreath, carving arbor-day-o-lanterns, setting off the heart-shaped fireworks, singing Columbus Day carols, enjoying a big meal with a Kwanza turkey, singing Happy Boxing Day To You, blowing out the candles on the Easter cake and going on the above mentioned Midnight Solstice Egg hunt. Thus the Alliday was born! We set our sights on May 13th and this year we made it happen with everyone gathering in Austin. I think it was just kismet that the 13th fell on a Friday this year.

Kitty Feeder

Kitty Feeder - Artist's Approximation

Some people have bird feeders in their back yard. My friends have a cat feeder. They’ve “adopted” the neighborhood cats in a fairly serious fashion to where the cats have all been spayed/neutered, have a regular feeding schedule and are welcome to come and hang out as long as they like. My favorite outdoor cat was George. That’s what I named him anyway. Jill insisted on calling him “Stupid” and I was told his name was “Not Joey”. I felt George suited him better.

Mansfield Dam

Kilroy Is Here

We managed to get out and see some of the nearby sights in the Austin area. While the Mansfield Dam seemed a bit inhospitable in the post 9/11 world, the Oasis was just the spot to sit, enjoy a Margarita and look out over the lake. The Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco and the Train Museum at Temple were both fun, although Train Museum curator told us we were a day early for the “Harvey Girls” trunk show and exhibit. I was a bit bummed, I *so* wanted to meet Judy Garland!

Cheese House

Cheeeeese Gromit

The highlight of the road trips however, had to be the Texas Cheese House. Its run by Scott Simon, a guy who sold his corporation and took his cheese making hobby out of his basement and into the streets (much to his wife’s relief I’m sure). Mitch filmed the entire visit on his iPhone which endeared us to Kaeley, the girl behind the counter, right away. We had some lovely Caerphilly and stinky Manchego as samples. They’re quite generous with their samples. I bought a bit of each of the above and proceeded to leave them in Austin when I flew back home.

Dr. Pepper Museum

We're a Pepper!

While traveling the wild and wooly highways of Texas, Mitch decided that we should all have wrestling names. He seemed to come up with this idea as we were eating at Wendy’s when he picked up the “sour cream” container I had for my baked potato and started reading the ingredients. He decided then and there that my wrestling name was going to be “Toxic Waste”. And I suspect that because Kenny is such an intimidating Mo Fo, he earned the moniker “Threat Level”. Jill, who was absent for the trip when we decided on wrestling names, was branded Mnemonic. That left Mitch.

Train Museum

Long Train Runnin'

The rule is that you can’t choose your own wrestling name, so it was left to Kenny and I to decide what Mitch’s name was going to be. Initially we were going with “The Authority” since it was his iPhone that connected fastest to the Maps/GPS feature and lead us where we wanted to go. This however proved to be problematic when it came to the train museum and we ended up in a sketchy neighborhood in Waco without a train track in sight, rather than in amongst the boxcars in Temple. Anyway, when Mitch decided that he’d rather nap on the trip home than interact with Kenny and I whom he hadn’t seen in months, Kenny and I decided to call him “Sleeper Cell”.

The Oasis

So Where Are Those Margaritas?!?

At the end of the day I’d have to call the first annual Alliday a smashing success. I’m not sure the Absinthe toast to friends both present and absent will continue on into future Allidays judging from Kenny’s reaction to both the smell and taste, but my guess is we’ve started a new tradition for future May 13ths.

Chex Mix

April 23, 2011
Allegedly Chex Mix

Allegedly Chex Mix

I hope you all had a fine Monday-Thursday and a Good Friday.  Mine was okay, I spent the evening driving back to Iowa for Easter.  I paid $3.65 for gas outside of Davenport!  So much nicer than the $4.25 I pay in Chicago now.  After I fill up, I wander in to get some Road Chow and decide to pick up some Chex Mix.  I felt a little nostalgic remembering eating Mom’s homemade out of a turquoise over white glass Pyrex type bowl during the holidays.  So I’m all set to dial the memories-way-back-machine to the mid seventies and munch on some garlicy goodness that is supposed to be Chex Mix.  Not gonna happen.  Now, I realize that no store bought product could ever compare to Mom’s homemade and I’m willing to accept that, but this snack was *made* by the folks who bring us Chex cereal and who (ostensibly) brought us the recipe for frickin’ Chex Mix in the first place back in 1952.

Mister Salty Logo

Mister Salty loves him some talk-like-a-pirate day celebrations

Mom used to use Mr. Salty pretzel sticks in her mix that would pierce the roof of your mouth if you bit into them wrong.  This package of… snack food I’d picked up from the Davenport Flying J had no such pretzels.  I appreciate the round and window pane shapes that their pretzels came in because of the afore mentioned Scream-4-reenactment-in-your-mouth provided by the stick style pretzels, but the round and window pane shaped things had no salt on them whatsoever.  They were these sad, little, brown shapes that had nothing to recommend them.  The were made of some sort of industrial strength desiccant mixed with Sham Wow shavings and brewed with an imported yeast that releases actual Sahara Desert air when activated.  This combination of ingredients sucks any and all moisture from your being when placed in your mouth and turns you into a dried out husk resembling the Crypt Keeper in a matter of seconds.  Remember the greasy goodness that butter and Worcestershire sauce created when mixed, heated and drizzled over Chex cereal?  There was none of that here.  It was mostly just those pretzel things and the occasional Chex piece.  It’s called Chex Mix for crissakes, where’s my frickin’ Chex bits?!?  No mixed nuts, no garlic, just arid, moisture absorbing brown bits taunting me from the passenger’s seat.  It’s not like I was in Whole Foods buying free range broccoli,  I was in a truck stop buying what I thought was a salty, greasy, carb snack.  Bastards.

The thing I fight most when I start to post is the urge to bitch about, well, everything.  I fear I’m becoming a crotchety old man and lord knows I love a good rant.  Case in point, my treatise on Chex Mix.  So rather than talk about the 400 richest Americans having more wealth than the 150 million(!) poorest Americans and saying, “they only call it class war when we fight back.”  Or going on about the Plastic Island in the Pacific that’s twice the size of Texas (have you ever driven across Texas?  It’s HUGE) that we seem intent on leaving our children, I’ve decided to take Susie up on her request and talk about my great western migration and triumphant return.

I headed West for several reasons.  I felt that I was beginning to become more of a liability than an asset for my then employer and good friend.  I was making good money, but not (in my eyes) contributing much to the bottom line.  How many times have you heard that in your life?  “I’m making too much money and not doing enough for the company.”  I was also looking for the opportunity to change my social life.  I believe the phrase Jim and John used was “thinking with my dick”.  Be that as it may, let’s just say that between work, home life and general frustration, this was my mid-life crisis solution.  Always opt for experiences over possessions.  You can have stuff or do stuff.  If I would’ve bought an Italian sports car, all I’d be left with now is a beat up sports car that wasn’t worth anything after driving it for five years, huge repair bills and not much else.  Currently, I’ve got stories, friends and a 2004 Toyota to show for my choices.

I came back for several reasons.  When I started work in Denver, I took a sizable pay cut anticipating that I’d be doing an in-at-8-out-at-5 thing where I wouldn’t be the only one who could fix any given problem.  This would free up my evenings and weekends for the “dick thinking” part of my journey.  When I started there were 5 other people in the engineering department besides myself.  When I left there was just me and the guy they hired to manage “all of us”.  Add to that the additional cut in pay I took because the economy took a nose dive, and you have a not so good work experience.

That left my social life. My initial, hoped for, social foray disintegrated rather rapidly and I was left with plan B, not dating a friend and long time confidant but meeting new people.  I’m okay with meeting new people and making friends, but dating them?!?  Honestly, there aren’t that many people who interest me enough to actually ask out and god knows I wouldn’t want to subject someone I don’t know all that well to my lifestyle and world view.  Did you *read* that rant about Chex Mix?  Who wants to hear that everyday?

She, “Good morning honey, I made oatmeal this morning!”

Me, “Oatmeal?  Have you ever been to Cedar Rapids and smelled the Quaker Oats plant there?  My god, its horrific!”

So finding myself in Denver with good friends, but more bills than cash and doing as much work as I had in Chicago due to Denver’s “staff reductions” (which *again* left me as the only guy able to help such and such client) I decided to see if I could persuade my employer of my worth.  I put my resume out and in a short period of time had job offers in Sante Fe and Chicago.  I brought this to my employer’s attention and requested once again that I be given a pay increase.  The response I received was actually pretty funny.  I was told that if  I “get closer to making a decision” I should let them know and they would see what could be done.  Seriously.  The only thing standing between me and accepting one of several job offers was selling my house.  I’d driven to Sante Fe to interview one weekend, I’m pretty sure I was fairly close to “making a decision”.  So my beautiful, sunny two bedroom condo with free pool and clubhouse access in the land of 300+ days of sunshine a year went on the market.

Unfamiliar Fishes cover

Sarah Vowell, will you marry me?

Now I’m stuffed into a two bedroom apartment (well one bedroom and one “storage room” where all my boxes of stuff that there wasn’t enough room for ended up) with a job on Chicago’s south side.  I love being back with my Chicago friends, I miss my Denver friends and I very much miss the Denver weather.  Looking at the preview of this, it appears that I tend to ramble a bit.  Perhaps another indication that I’m becoming a crotchety old man?  I’m currently trying to get a “Nines” plan together.  My neighbors in Denver know what I’m talking about, but for the rest of you, a monthly evening out for a meal.  I seem to be encountering resistance with this.  I went to see Sarah Vowell speak the other day.  I’m doing my best not to spend all my time working.  I finally feel like I’m returning to a state of “normalcy”.  Look me up if you aren’t too busy with your “normalcy” and we can have lunch.  In the mean time, I’ve got to set up lunch with Susie.  I told her we’d get together about the time I posted my last blog.  I’ve been a bit recalcitrant and need to remedy that.

Mahalo,

- G

Another Day in Limbo

November 20, 2010

“While many people embrace the promise of tomorrow, too few celebrate the joy of now. And nobody does that like Denny Crane.”

“Well, let me tell you something. When you’ve got polar ice caps melting and breaking off into big chunks, and you’ve got Osama still hiding in a cave planning his next attack, and when you’ve got other rogue nations with nuclear arsenals, not to mention some whack job, homegrown, who can cancel you at any second, and when you’ve got… Mad Cow… ‘now’ gets high priority. And when you’re sitting on the balcony on a clear night, sipping scotch with your best friend, ‘now’ is everything.”

“Here’s to now.”

“Here’s to now!”

Alan Shepard and Denny Crane of Boston Legal

The scotch, hot tub and stars before I left were truly worth celebrating. I was going to post the “Official Rules To Cow Poker” with this installment, but a series of unfortunate events occurred and I haven’t been able to get anything “Official”. But in speaking with various people here’s what I’ve decided to do; I’m posting the “General Guidelines for Cow Poker” instead. Here’s the story. Cow Poker is a game you can play whilst driving in your car. Especially useful when driving long distances like through Nebraska or say, Georgia. The basic rules are simple and I’ll go over them right now.

The person (people) on one side of the car count cows on their side of the road. 1 cow = 1 point. The person (people) on the other side of the car count cows on *their* side of the road. The person with the most cows at the end of the trip wins. Simple enough. Both sides also have to keep their eyes on the opposite side of the road as well because of the next two rules.

Does this count?

Does This Count?

If there is a cemetery on the opposite side of the road and the other team calls it (“Cemetery!”), the people on the cemetery side of the car lose all their cows and start from zero again. It must be called however, there is no “automatic” loss. If it isn’t called it doesn’t count.

Ramshackle Barn!

Ramshackle Barn!

Also, if there’s a “ramshackle barn” on the opposite side of the road and the other team calls it (“Ramshackle Barn!”), the people on the barn side of the car lose *half* their cows. 42 now equals 21, and so forth.

So here’s where the points of contention arise. Say you’re driving and there’s a sign for the cemetery, but the actual cemetery is hidden from view, does that count as a cemetery? What actually constitutes a barn being “ramshackle” as opposed to being firmly shackled and in tact? Do other out buildings count as barns or is a loafing shed *not* a barn? I wanted to clear up these niggling questions, but coordinating time with the creators of Cow Poker has proven to be difficult to say the least. When I spoke to Mitch (not one of the inventors, but an avid player), he said that the entire object of the game is to waste time while driving, so arguing over the rules achieves the same goal as playing the game :-). Speaking with John (one of the actual inventors of the game), he said that sounded about right, so that’s where we are at this point.

3 points

3 POINTS!!

With all that in mind, here are my suggestions. If you’re playing with someone who rode horses as a girl and can tell the difference between a loafing shed and a barn, you should clear that up right up front and avoid hours of arguing on the road. Otherwise just declare a “general ramshackle outbuilding” rule. Invent a few new rules just to keep things interesting. 3 points for a cement deer, 5 points for the Blessed Virgin Mary in a bathtub shrine. 2 points for a “ridin’ cow”. Loose five points for a Cracker Barrel. Try and keep it light though. Do NOT make me stop this car!!

In between homes

In Between Jobs and Homes

In other news, the move from Denver to Chicago went smoothly enough. The movers decided to show up on the exact and only day I requested that they didn’t. About par for the course. Here’s something to keep in mind. If you ever want to *not* pay for meals for a month or so, move across the country. The people you’re moving away from will all want to take you out “one last time before you go” and the folks in your new city will all want to take you out to “celebrate your arrival.” It’s actually pretty cool.

Bonnie Brae

Ice Cream and Friends

To all my friends who I left in Denver, I miss you all and the great weather I left behind.

Free Meal #14

Free Meal #14

To all my friends in Chicago, yes, I’m happy to be back home with all of you.

I’m in an apartment that is smaller than the townhouse I had in Denver, so all my stuff doesn’t really have a place to land. I’m guessing the boxes I have will remain as they are until I find a place to live in a more “permanent” way. I finally got my server running again, so I can sync my iPhone again. That was a pain in the butt, but nothing anyone wants to hear about. We’ve got plans to do another Christmas Movie this year, but we’ll see how that shapes up. Hopefully I’m settled in and I’ll be able to post these more often now. I know how you all check your in-boxes everyday hoping to find I’ve made another post. Until the next time, let me know who wins at Cow Poker in your family.

Love ya,
– G

Want/Need

July 12, 2010

The time to rise has been engaged
You’re better best to rearrange
I’m talking here to me alone
I listen to the finest worksong
Your finest hour
Your finest hour

Another chance has been engaged
To throw Thoreau and rearrange
You are following this time
I beg you not beg to rhyme (blow your horn)
Your finest hour (blow your horn)
Your finest hour

Take your instinct by the reins
Your better best to rearrange
What we want and what we need
Has been confused, been confused (blow your horn)
Your finest hour (blow your song)
Your finest hour

Take your instinct by the reins
Better best to rearrange
What we want and what we need
Has been confused, been confused (blow your horn)
Your finest hour (blow your song)
Your finest hour (blow your horn)
Your finest hour (blow your song)
Your finest hour

R.E.M.Finest Worksong

While this isn’t necessarily my favorite R.E.M. song, it does have one of my favorite phrases of any song I know, from R.E.M. or anyone else. “What we want and what we need has been confused, been confused.” To me, that speaks volumes as to how we as Americans live and how we look at life. It makes me “get it” when I start to think that despite the fact that I have more than most people in the world, I’d like to have *just that much more* to be *really* comfortable. It’s the perspective of all great religions that teach advocacy for the poor from Christianity to Islam to Judaism.

Tonight on Chris Mathews, his “Let Me Finish” editorial was about the recovery and the federal debt. He noted that Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles stated at yesterday’s National Governor’s Association Conference that all the taxes that Americans pay currently only cover the costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Everything else the government does like defend the country and fight two wars is borrowed from China or somewhere else. The current fight for the direction that American Politics takes is coming from this fact and whether you’re paying attention or not, this fight is what the next few elections will be about.

The conservatives, driven by the agitated and outraged Tea Party movement, are screaming about taxes being too high and government being too big. The progressives, though not as well covered in the media, argue that we are losing our government to corporations and private, well-funded interests. I spoke in my last post about Bill Maher’s comment how, “Only two percent of the people in a ‘movement’ about taxes, named after a tax revolt, have the slightest idea what’s going on…with taxes.” But this time out, I’d like to give you an example of what small government, driven by the desire for low taxes, looks like and it’s right here in Colorado.

The second largest city in Colorado – Colorado Springs – is currently engaged in what has been called an “experiment” in city services cutbacks. Colorado Springs is quite conservative and home to James Dobson’s “Focus On The Family” religious corporation and the New Life Mega-Church that brought us the anti-gay, homosexual pastor Ted Haggard among others. Their politics tend to run towards Sarah Palin and the Tea Party more than say, David Brooks or Andrew Sullivan.

Without going into details about Douglas Bruce, the Taxpayers Bill Of Rights and other politics, just understand that taxes have been slashed in Colorado Springs. As a result, the city has drastically cut back its services. In an article from the Denver Post last January, it was learned that:

More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.

The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.

Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.

City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won’t pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need.

This July 4th, a followup article was published that outlined the results of the service cutbacks including the buses stop running at 6:15 p.m. now, and most streetlights stay dark throughout the night. Three city pools have shut down, and turf is withering in more than 100 parks. More alarming perhaps are these realities reported by the Post:

The city fire department is down 20 firefighters this year; the police department has 42 fewer cops on the streets. For both fire and police, there are no classes of recruits in training, which is unusual.

“In the last year and a half, we went from being a proactive, problem-solving to a reactive police department, to where we only go when we are called,” said Pete Tomitsch, president of the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association.

“There is a lot of frustration within the department. There is a whole slew of calls we don’t respond to that a year and a half ago we did.”

If thieves break into a car or home and steal stuff — a felony — the report is usually taken over the phone now.

“Our property-crime detectives have been cut by over half,” he said. “When people call the police, they want somebody to show up on their doorstep, and we can’t do that.”

The Post also reports that some charities have taken over some of the services that were once offered by the city. Pools and community centers are being supported and kept open by donated time and money from civic groups. But the danger in this is eloquently expressed by City Councilwoman Jan Martin, who grew up in Colorado Springs. “These medians and parks that are being adopted are in wealthy neighborhoods,” she said. “We are seeing the creation of a community of haves and have-nots.”

If you’re curious how this might even affect the “haves”, consider this. At Village Green Park, just off Carefree Circle on the city’s east side, weeds flourish, and stenciled onto a bathroom door: Restrooms Closed Due to Budget Restrictions. “If you have kids who are potty trained, that’s a problem,” said Rachel Barker, 33, playing at the swings with her toddler. “There’s probably a lot of kids peeing in the weeds.”

I would urge you to follow and consider what is happening in Colorado Springs since it is a real life example of what the smaller government, lower taxes crowd are pushing for. Well, sort of. On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Senator Jon Kyle of Arizona how Republicans can say that extending unemployment benefits will impact the deficit and must be paid for, yet extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which will cost $678 billion over the next 10 years, needn’t be paid for. His reply was that, “you do need to offset the cost of increased spending and that’s what Republicans object to, but you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.” Obviously Senator Kyle doesn’t want to say that he would reduce government services for any of his constituents. Heavens no, that would be unthinkable. But giving the wealthy a tax break of nearly $700 billion dollars, money taken directly out of the federal budget with no corresponding spending cuts, well that’s just fine. Senator Kyle is an idiot.

Bang for Buck

Bang for your Buck

Getting back to the point at the beginning of this post, I think we can all agree the poor are probably more in need of our help than people who earn over $150,000/year. Not only that, they’re a better investment. According to Moody’s Analytics, for every dollar invested in Unemployment Insurance that the Republicans are so wound up about, the return on investment for our economy is around $1.61 in economic stimulus. For every dollar invested in a tax cut, the ROI to our economy is $1.01. If the Bush tax cuts specifically are made permanent, the ROI is $0.31. Now I’m no economist, but even I can see that extending Unemployment Insurance to people out of work is a better “bang for the buck” than cutting taxes. Especially to for the wealthy.

The choices we all make in our next few elections will determine whether we substitute taxis for patrol cars, whether we make it illegal to feed the homeless or illegal to unsafely operate oil rigs in the gulf. Deficits are certainly a concern and there are difficult decisions ahead. Nearly 84% of the US budget is made up exclusively by Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Department of Defense/the War On Terror, Unemployment/Welfare and Interest on the Debt. Everything else in our budget from regulating oil drilling and mining to the Department of Transportation to Health and Human Services takes up just over 16% of our budget. If we gut our federal services and eliminate *ALL* of those other services, we would save all of 16% on our federal spending. Yet conservatives and tea baggers would have you believe that cutting waste and fraud in the system will solve all of our deficit problems to the point we can all pay less in taxes. Social Security alone takes up 21% of the budget. This isn’t an easy task and I don’t envy lawmakers their task. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t care about big government or small government, I care about *effective* government.

American Idiot

June 22, 2010

Don’t want to be an American idiot.
Don’t want a nation under the new media
And can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The subliminal mind fuck America.
 

Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alien nation.
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow.
For that’s enough to argue.
 

Well maybe I’m the faggot America.
I’m not a part of a redneck agenda.
Now everybody do the propaganda.
And sing along to the age of paranoia.
 

Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alien nation.
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow.
For that’s enough to argue.
 

Don’t want to be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It’s calling out to idiot America.
 

Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alien nation.
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow.
For that’s enough to argue.
 
Green DayAmerican Idiot

I took that picture at the top of the page of the aspen trees in South Park! Pretty cool, huh?

I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but more on that later. First I’d like to say that when I do post and if I’m not just talking about what I’ve been up to, I try to take something topical and give my opinion (rant) in what I hope will be pithy, insightful, sarcastic and funny. That’s what I *try* to do. Whether I succeed or not is a whole ‘nother thing and not really for me to decide. :-) For example, I debated comparing and contrasting the two Koreas. I was going to give facts about nutritional differences between the two countries, technology advances (or not) between the two, the general perception of their respective leaders and how each country has progressed using their different political philosophies. Here are four pictures I was going to use:

CRT Technology!!

South Korea Tech

“Approximately 7 million South Koreans, or one in seven of the country’s residents, routinely make use of mobile TV services on cell phones, personal media players, handheld computers, vehicle navigation systems, or other portable devices.” 

Guy in Labcoat looks *real* comfortable

Mobile TV Service cell phone

“Pretty soon, phones doubling as TVs will be as ubiquitous as camera phones now,” predicts Song Sang Hoon, the director in charge of mobile TV at South Korea’s Ministry of Information & Communication, which has pushed carriers to offer the service.

Those were just a couple of the fun facts I planned on sharing. But I’m also prone to rant about things I think are ridiculous, idiotic or otherwise stupid. Lately however, the shit’s just coming in so fast I can’t keep up. I’ll start to put words to “paper” and then someone will say something even more stunning and it will stop me in my tracks. So I’m going to end this post with quotes from idiots and not even try to offer comment, I’ll just let you bask in the wonderment. 

Before I go however, I wanted to mention that I’m leaving my home of almost 4 years here in Colorado to return to Chicago. That’s why it’s taken me so long to post, lots of stuff going on in order to first make that decision and then make it happen. The reasons I left for the west included working less, finding a personal life, more leisure, less stress. Yeah, that didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. Without getting into all the details, I find I’m doing as much work as I was doing in Chicago but earning less. Although I love my townhouse here with its 2 1/2 baths and sunshine streaming in all over the place, I’m paying more in mortgage than I was in Chicago since I bought at exactly the wrong time :-). The most successful Match.com date I had was with a woman who lives in Seattle. 

Don’t get me wrong, Colorado is beautiful. I’m steps from endless bike paths that crisscross Denver. The weather here is outstanding and don’t let anyone tell you different. I just find that I’m unable to make any headway towards the goals I’d set for myself and I’m disinclined to wait any longer for things to change. I will surely miss my friends out here who are none to pleased about my leaving. Those of you in Chicago can relate, I’m sure. At the end of the day though, I’ve got to do what works for me. Besides, no one can cut my hair as well as Miss Holly Go Lightly. 

So if you’re in Chicago, I’ll be seeing you soon. If not, I’ll have new contact information to send you when things sort themselves out. But now without further delay, I present, “Fun With Quotes from Politicians and Pundits.” 

“You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say I’ll paint your house…. I’m not backing down from that system.” – Candidate for Senate Sue Lowden (R) Nevada on alternatives to Health Care Reform 4/19/10 

“I know for a fact, I know somebody in the medical field who has been paid with vegetables.” – State Representative Mike Bell (R) Tennessee on alternatives to Health Care Reform 4/13/10 

“These individuals came all the way from Southeast Texas to protest the excessive spending and growing government intrusion by the 111th Congress and the new Obama administration. These participants, whose tax dollars were used to create and maintain this public transit system, were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capital did not make a great effort to simply provide a basic level of transit for them.” – Representative Kevin Brady (R) Texas complaining about the lack of *public* transportation available to participants in a Tea Party Rally protesting government spending 9/16/09 

“Well, I guess they’re afraid of the power of our passion and our numbers and, you know, you might not say Communist, but I watch Glenn Beck and he’s taught me well. Progressive is the new word for Communist, but it’s the same goal as government control of everything and it’s very obvious that Obama is trying to do that. And I don’t want to brag, but I sort of called it before he was elected and when I was on O’Reilly and I said he was a Communist and I got a lot of hate mail, but I got some that said I was a prescient which means “a prophet.” – Victoria Jackson, former SNL cast member and current Tea Party member on why she thinks Obama is a Communist 3/26/2010 

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it? I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security. I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.” – Jodine White, 62, Tea Party Member from Rocklin, Calif. after being asked how Tea Party supporters can say “keep your hands off my Medicare and Social Security”, the biggest domestic programs, but want to cut government spending 4/14/2010 

“This is a perfect example of why government should never be involved in the private sector. Government is not the solution. It’s the problem. The more government tries to get in and regulate the free market, the worse things become.” – Randy Brogdon, state senator (R) Oklahoma and current candidate for Governor on why the BP’s Gulf Oil Spill is the government’s fault 6/21/2010 

“I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private company would be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown.” – Representative Joe Barton (R) Texas and ranking member on the House Energy Committee apologizing to BP after BP was asked to put money aside in an escrow account to pay victims of the Gulf Oil Spill 6/17/2010 

“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP’, I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.” – Rand Paul (R) Kentucky, candidate for Senate criticizing President Barack Obama’s handling of the Gulf Oil Spill 5/21/2010 

Finally, skipping Rand Paul’s comments about how private business owners should be allowed to not serve Blacks or Gays or anyone they choose not to serve, and because I want to end on a humorous note:

“Now here’s an amazing statistic. In a recent poll almost ninety percent of Tea Baggers said that they thought taxes had either gone up or stayed the same under Obama. Only two percent thought they went down. But the reality is taxes have gone down; for ninety-five percent of working families, taxes went down. Think about that. Only two percent of the people in a “movement” about taxes, named after a tax revolt, have the slightest idea what’s going on…with taxes. – Bill Maher on why he thinks the Tea Baggers are a cult 2/18/2010

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