[The American Years]
Monday, July 14, 2008
Gas is expensive. More expensive than it has ever been, people say. When gas first approached $1, there was a gas crisis then, too. Should we look back and see what people did then?
One thing that was done was that they lowered the speed limit. Maybe in 1977 or so, the national speed limit went from 65 down to 55. The reason was to save gas. It stayed 55 for a long time because as an unforseen benefit, the fatality rate on highways fell much more than people expected.
Can you imagine the political will it would take to call for a reduction in consumption to that level? Can you imagine the backlash if a candidate brought that up as a possible means to RODOFO (Reduce Our Dependence On Foreign Oil -- an acronym I just invented! Someone go get the domain name!)
All this "pull together" and "great country willing to sacrifice" talk is all lovely rhetoric, casting for votes. I haven't seen a candidate for office, any office, talk about what part of our lifestyle we might have to sacrifice for the good of the our country, or even the good of our neighbor.
For the good of my neighbor I limit my sitting at the drums and getting the jams properly kicked out to 5 or 10 minutes a day. But when I get good enough that I can stand the sound of my own noise, I might go longer. Watch out Mr. Dunhouse!
So as my own experiment, I'm going to start driving 55 on the freeway. See what that gets me, besides flipped the bird.
Truly I have dropped my speed, and I think I'm the only one. People are still complaining about the price of gas, driving their big cars by me at 80 miles per hour. Am I the only one who sees the connection?
Friday, June 27, 2008
He's too good. The crappy condition that our country is in now will crush him under it's own weight. Eight or more likely four years from now, he'll be blamed for trying to fix things.
He'll be the one with the broken pieces of mom's vase in his hands when mom comes home and sees him in the living room. He was just trying to pick it up and glue it back together, but because his hands are on it, it's his fault.
I fear that he will be blamed for trying to right everything that is wrong. Our nation might have to sacrifice in true and tangible and painful ways to pay for the last eight years. Regulations might have to be tightened. People might have to be granted their rights. "Freedom" (which in America today is mostly economic freedom -- I don't think there's another kind we've fought for in my lifetime) might have to be constricted. We might not be able to own whatever we want and throw it away wherever we choose.
Many people will might have their lifestyle cramped to the point where they can't stand him.
I fear he'll be demonized for making things worse, when he's just trying to pick up the pieces.
Gas is expensive, and we think the world is ending because we have to acknowledge that driving costs money. The rest of the world already knows. The US has the 108th most expensive gas in the world. If gas were $10 a gallon, we'd have to consider whether it's worth it to drive somewhere. I bet we'd slow our usage, and we'd all survive. We'd make fewer unnecessary trips. We'd have to actually decide which trips are necessary and which aren't. The rest of the world already does this.
Have you noticed the news that there are food riots in parts of the world right now, and gas prices here are making people skip that trip to Florida.
When Obama decides that this over-thumped "Change" beacon means a change that hits people in their wallets, like gas, or social security, or healthcare actually costing money, the backlash will come fast and furious. It will make the demonizing of Carter (for being ineffective and naive) or Clinton (for being overindulgent and conniving) seem like grade-school put downs.
He's too good to deserve that.
Part of me wants McCain to win, so that he can be proven wrong. Or even proven right, if he is right. But if he thinks it can be put back together, and the respect for our nation can be reestablished, more power to him. Let him try. Let him be get the tar and feathers when he fails.
THEN let Obama come in (or Clinton, as long as she learns to do math first... or maybe Chelsea?) when we're really ready and committed to the sacrifice that we've bartered for ourselves.
I'll vote for McCain if he converts to Islam first. That'd be awesome!
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Today's example? Your lawn. (And... yes, mine too.)
Nations would (and have) killed for the fertile, arid soil that we have all around our houses, where we grow grass. It's a lovely crop.
It requires fertilizer, water, care. All of which are of value. (And you should see the people who water the sidewald with their sprinklers.)
The mower takes gas. It then pollutes the air.
And why? What's the payback to that cost?
We get some nice grass to play around in. Play catch, toss the pigskin. The kids can run and play outside... what else?
From what I've seen around my neighborhood, the only traffic most lawns get are from the lawnmowers. So it seems like the purpose for lawns is mostly for looking at. Mostly ornamental.
Mostly for ... vanity? Is that really why we have lawns? to serve our vanity? It's hard to argue otherwise.
If each community had a park nearby with the space for running and playing, that would seem to be enough, right? Most of us do have that, and in addition we have brought a mini-park here to each of our homes.
And get this. Here's what I realized recently. The reason there isn't better mass-transportation in the US? Economics. Our population is so spread out that the systems to get people moving in and out and around the 'burbs are cost-prohibitive.
And why are our populations spread out? Why is our population density so low? Blame your lawn (and my lawn too). Blame your vanity (and mine too). All that space between houses like we have in the US doesn't exist in other countries.
Let's plant a doggone tomato plant or something. At least a little nod towards effective use of our land. A little step towards admitting that we're blessed with amazing resources, more than we know what to do with. A little step towards making our yards truly green.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Since there isn't one cause of the high prices (high demand, speculation, war, rumors of war) there isn't one solution.
But nobody should ask a politician how he or she is going to fix it. In a market economy, even a sluggish and embarrassing one like ours, the market is supposed to rule. Beware of the gas tax holiday (no economist, not one, reccommends it), the strategic reserve lapse, the increased drilling, all those things. Beware all promises.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Why does bad food taste good? Think of what was available to your hunters and gatherers. People in that day had to exert calories to hopefully find enough calories to keep going. So calories were what counted. Finding something with some sugar (fruit) or some fat (meat) WAS good for them. It was a reward. The tastiness drew them towards it, as it was a good return on the investment of energy spent.
Now, those tastes are so omnipresent that we have to avoid them. The foods available to us exploit our inherent and natural attraction to them.
One of my big beliefs in 2 easy steps:
1. Things in life that are good for the species have a sensory reward. We have a natural appetite or drive towards them. Eating, drinking water, sex, etc. all have a sensory reward which propel us.
2. Our drives for them are exploited to our own destruction. (Okay, maybe except for water. Although bottled water is pretty lame.) The substance of what we need, like the food value, is taken out. What's left is only the salt, sugar, etc. Candy everybody wants.
And why? Marketing possibly? Dunno. I'm going to get a Frosty and a can of Pringles and think about it.
Friday, June 06, 2008
Then nablopomo (National Blog Posting Month) says "30 posts in 30 days". So I'm only 5 days behind. I can catch that up. I already had this one half written. And I'll post it without further edit.
First a little Eye-Candy.
Have you noticed this trend? Every 2 years or so, the food bad-guy that needs to be avoided changes.
I remember when I was a kid, it was salt. Avoid salt. "Starches" were bad at one time. At some point, calories were actually considered. More recently it was fat grams, ignoring the pesky fact that fat-free foods can make you fat by the miraculous work of the liver. Beer, of course, is a fat-free food, but there's a pork chop in every can. Fat free frozen yogurt? Remember those days? Why did we eat that junk. (I'll take mine with smarties on top.)
Cholesterol in food was the thing to be avoided for a while. Hence, margerine hit our shelves. Polyunsaturated fats. Whatever those are. I don't remember if those were good or bad. The health aspects of safflower oil compared to corn oil were touted. McDonalds at one points proudly anounced doing away with lard in favor of frying their stuff in veggie oil, etc.
In the last 5 years it switches from fat to carbs. Now carbs are going away as well. Now I've heard the word trans-fats tossed around as well. I'm sure it will be something new next year.
Now, there is something to it. In our diet, food flavor comes from fat and sugar. (OK, not sugar. This is America. Thanks to Iowa and subsidies, sugar has been replaced by high fructose corn syrup. To quote Deutoronomy "... a food unknown to your fathers." Cultures where food flavor comes more from salt and vinegar than from fat and sugar live healthier and longer. That's clear. But I think it's consumption levels as well. We just eat too doggone much, myself included. I'm not superior, I'm just tired of being pointed away from the new food hobgoblin.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Here it's just called "The Derby". Last week I took part in my 13th consecutive Derby, working as a photographer's assistant.
Most of the pictures here are taken by me, so you can see why I'm the assistant, not the photographer.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I had this thought today. Imagine if after Fidel Castro stepped down, an entirely different type of leader was put in office.
No matter what you think of Cuba, "Communist Dictator Fidel Castro" has just become the accepted description.
Now instead of Raul Castro taking his place, it's a ticket of Andy Garcia with Gloria Estefan. Both Cubans. Both just as Cuban as the Castros but somehow, we don't see them as a threat any more.
Seems like they're reasonable, no?
I'm just saying, a young Islamic terrorist-in-the-making might have the wind taken out of his America-hating sails if he sees someone a little more like himself in the white house. It might make him want to look past the propaganda coming from some Islamic leaders, and search for the truth.
(Recently I fear the truth of what our country is up to is not a lot better than the anti-American propaganda.)
Friday, March 28, 2008
Brace yourselves: Kentucky might actually matter! The Kentucky primary is in May sometime, and so Kentucky is never on the radar politically (or in any other way for that matter).
But because the Clinton campaign can't add, the campaigning might continue right up until the (completely not) decisive contest in the Bluegrass State.
Senator Clinton will be here tomorrow. She'll step over the border for about an hour from a campaign stop in Indiana.
Remember 2004?: Scare tactics were used in the campaign: "A vote for us keeps you safe at night." From both sides.
However, by all reports, we're less safe today because of our nations dealings overseas. Now propagandists can easily portray the US as evil agressors. Forget what's said over here for a minute. It's easy to make the assertion that America hates the Islamic world. It would be easy to convince a young muslim of that.
Just look at the data (with no impassioned rhetoric from either side). America invades and occupies an islamic country, killing civilians in the tens of thousands, probably more. America disrespects holy sites over there.
It's a poster for anti American recruitment.
So how do we vote for security? Counteract that image? Make young
impressionable Muslims think twice before attacking American targets?
Elect someone named Barack Hussein Obana as president. Sure seems less
likely that our country is evil if that guy with that name is the image of
Before you say "That's a silly reason to elect someone," remember 2004.
That's exactly the single issue that drove campaigns.
If that's the single issue that drives you to vote, he's your candidate.
Also the "Bad things will happen if you don't vote for us" argument strikes me as being the dictionary definition of terrorism. Using fear to achieve a desired behavior.
This is still not a political blog.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Good news about having Easter so early: (At least for a place with mildish seasons) Easter following so closely the first day of spring gives nature an added voice in the joy that is Easter. When Easter comes in mid to late April, things are already in bloom here, and smiles are on faces and you've already taken your first bike ride of the spring, etc.
I may take my first bike ride of this season on Easter Sunday itself. I might just go ride by some friends' houses and throw eggs at them, just for the joy of the season.
It would be a lovely coincidence if it were going to be perfect weather this weekend. Instead, "Mostly Cloudy, 47F" will have to do. A weekend that isn't rainy or snowy or cold feels like a gift.
Bad news about having Easter so early: it's right on top of St Patrick's Day. Sure, having our nation's 3rd most drunken day of the year (1st Place: New Year's Eve, 2nd Place: The Day after Election Day) during Holy Week can be difficult for people who are as devoted to the solemnity of Holy Week as they are to St. Guinness. (See also: Irish Catholic.) But for our house (where St Patty's just means we drink a little beer instead of a little wine) the difficulty becomes the decorations.
It's like having Halloween during the same week as July 4th. We don't know whether to hunt for eggs or 4-leaf clovers. And I've noticed that Reese's (whose holiday PB Cup shapes beguile me) hasn't made a peanut butter cup in the shape of a Shamrock, or a pot of gold, or Teddy Kennedy. Nope, they had PB Eggs on the shelf right after the delicious PB Valentine's hearts were taken down. They didn't even try.
I had a Japanese colleague ask me why Easter was so early this year. Very astute question, given that this is the guy's third Easter in the US, maybe, and it's not really a holiday in that there is no time off from work per se.
It's also a much easier question to answer than "What's Easter?" I guess the answer could just be "Christian Holiday", and that would suffice. How to justify the external trappings of Easter given the religious meaning... a bit tough.
As I've stated before, the Japanese have glommed onto Christmas in all its external trappings, paying no heed to the religious aspect. And they get along just fine. Big fat dude in red suit, check. Big lit-up tree, check. Gifts, check. Basically indistinguishable from ours here in the states.
They throw fireworks in the mix on Christmas Eve, and you can forget going to KFC for lunch on Christmas Eve as well. They've only got pre ordered meals.
Back to topic. I could actually answer the man about why Easter is so early. (And it was a man. Shocking that a Japanese mid-management engineer was a man not a woman? When I worked in Japan, the engineering office had a male to female ratio slightly higher than most prisons I've been in.)
Easter is early because it follows the lunar calendar (sort of). Easter is on the first Sunday after the first full moon that follows the Spring Equinox. It's a nod to the Jewish people and their use of the lunar calendar. (Yet their new year is not the same as the Chinese... go figure.)
This year, 2008, the vernal equinox was March 20 (look it up). Full moon right after that on Friday March 21. Easter on March 23.
Looking forward to 2011, Vernal Equinox on Mar 20. Next full moon is nearly a month later on Monday April 18, so Easter will be super late, on April 24.
Now you know.
Still you don't care.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Saturday, February 16, 2008
The carnival season was not invented just to get all your good sinning in prior to lent. It was almost a forced party, as people had to use up the fruit, sugar and lard around the house before the season of fasting began.
Cook decadent food. Share with friends and neighbors. Repeat.
Enter the Paczkek. (Plural, pazki. But to most English speakers it's pazki in singular and paczkis in plural. Potyato potahto.
The Polish people are largely Catholics. Remember Pope John Paul II? He's the former Karol Józef Wojtyła, of Krakow. How many Polaks does it take to become pope? Turns out just one.
Cincinnati has some of those Polish Catholics. And they like their Paczki.
So, they're just jelly doughnuts, you say.
Maybe so, but they're more special. The fruit filling is actually contains fruit, and the dough is more like yellow cake. It's all pretty yummy.
Below is what one looks like as you eat it on the way to the bakery to get more Paczki!
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Evidence? It is the birthplace of the Filet O' Fish. That holy sacramental.
Area Catholics grew weary of not being able to enjoy McDonald's along with their friends on Friday night. Or more likely McDonalds franchisees grew weary of seeing their sales drop on Friday. Either way, here it is.
More evidence? Our kids go to Catholic schools. The local school district bus system also serves all the Catholic schools in the area. Our kids don't take the bus, but they certainly could. It sorta makes sense, in that parents pay for the transportation same as everyone else, right?
More evidence? There was a newspaper story here about how the bishop in Columbus Ohio (2 hour's drive away) had recommended against celebrating St. Patrick's Day this year, as it falls within Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter).
St. Patrick's always fall during lent, as a sign that God likes to play jokes on the Irish, or at least the Irish Americans.
But this year, due to an early Easter, maybe the earliest in 70 years, St. Patty's is the Monday of Holy week.
The newspaper story here said that "There's no word yet from the Bishop of Cincinnati yet."
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this story was on A1. Front page. Above the fold.
Great quote from today.
I had the occasion to use the line :"I'm not as dumb as I look."
Veronica said,"Daddy, you used to be a teacher, so I know you're not as dumb as you look."
Hmm. Thanks, I guess.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
But at least the interior was accomodating.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
There are other welcome Japanese products which have made their way into our hearts and homes. The "Washlet" toilet seat by Toto is widely available. Sure it costs a little more, but my keister is worth it. (No, I don't have one yet, but I'm saving my pennies.)
Newest welcome find is Kagome Juice. It's fruit and veggie juice blended together, with (get this) no sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup. V8 splash had the idea, sort of, but they couldn't resist putting in sugar. Kagome has the true essence. Just fruits and veggies, nothing else. I was very happy to find it at my local store.
Kathleen will kid me because I went a long time in Japan not drinking the Kagome, because I didn't like the green one. I do like the purple and orange ones, however. Haven't seen the green one in the states. Maybe my aversion was borne out.
Now the American yogurt industry needs to take a lesson from the Japanese. How about plain yogurt with just fruit mixed in, and no sugar. So simple and brilliant! The US yogurt people have still not caught on that fat free, or low fat or adding Splenda or Sucralose is not helping anyone. Just yogurt with just fruit. Keeping a product simple makes it a specialty or boutique item. C'mon Dannon and Yoplait! (Hmmm. They're French. Figures.)
Japanese yogurts are often advertised to be Bulgarian style, whatever that means. Yogurt is treated like health food. There are versions with fancy and exotic bacteria, which are supposed to do something to you. One of the above, "Space Yogurt" even boasts that its bacteria spent time in space. How's that for exotic bacteria. ("Exotic Bacteria" will be the name of my next band.)
For all my praise of Japanese yogurt, I have to caution you about the drinkable kind. It's not for kids.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Yes, I'm a month late.
Japanese celebrate Buddhist on New Year's Eve, but don't follow the Lunar New Year calendar, which usually has the New Year in February. Many people in the US call it "Chinese New Year", but that's not as enlightened as calling it Buddhist New Year, or even Lunar New Year. Best is "Embarrassingly Late New Year".
Christmas Eve is a party and date night, with fireworks and festivals. New Year's is solemn and holy. Basically opposite of the our methods. Go to Buddhist Temple on New Year's Eve, when they ring and ring those massive bells you've all seen. Then they go to Shinto Shrines on New Year's Day, especially at Sunrise, to ensure good luck for the coming year. Then, at some point, they sleep.
Cynics can argue that there's a fine line between religion on superstition. In Japan it appears to be an especially squiggly, dotted and smeared line. I didn't live there long enough to know what was up, but it seemed to me that most of the reward system of Shinto is tied up temporaly. Do this or that and get good luck or good fortune.
I'm off topic. My main reason for bringing up Japan again, and for bringing up the New Year again is to celebrate Nengajo! New Year's Cards! We send Christmas cards, and we got New Year's Cards back. They're typically postcards, with pictures of the family members, well wishes, and a stamp showing the New Year's animal... Mousy Rat!
The samples we got this year (If someone can make it to that "portrait" images aren't shrunk so bad in Picasa slideshows, I'd kiss them.):
A funny Mac vs PC commercial from Japan which features New Year's Cards. (And you thought we had the monopoly on geeky PC vs hipster Mac adverts.) Side note, I lived in Japan for a year, and knew and worked with hundreds of the guy on the left. The guy on the right doesn't exist in Japanese society. Maybe there are lots of hip people, and lots of Mac users, but none of them are like that guy.
FYI: Inoshishi, or Japanese Wild Boar, as mentioned in the Mac vs PC ad. For year of the Pig. Acutally he is kinda cute.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
I'm not going to preach or proselytize, or even prognosticate or prestidigitate. I'd rather peruse my own proboscis.
This is not a political blog. Keep repeating that.
Here's the idea: Pick an issue that people within your opponent's support crowd don't universally agree on. Make the candidates decide which half of their supporters they want to alienate. Gay Marriage was done to the Democratic ticket in 2004. Evolution was attempted here to try to divide the Republicans, but it didn't really work. Wolf Blitzer (one of the five W's of high-school journalism) asked Republicans at a debate to raise their hands if they believe in evolution. Not a lot of room there for a nuanced response. Answer one way you're a druidic potsmoking pagan lefty, answer the other way and you're Pat Robertson, only moreso, and you might not believe in gravity or photosynthesis either.
I think they should have asked the candidates if they believed in Santa Claus. Would they dare alienate the kid vote?
This is not a political blog.
(Side note: My favorite recent quote about the would-be evolution debate (paraphrased): "Scientists are asking for one free miracle. They say 'Give us one free miracle and we can explain the rest.' The free miracle they want is that all time, space, energy and matter, and all the laws that govern their interaction seem to have sprung from a singularity, before which there was no time, space, energy or matter. Give them that miracle, and they're happy to explain the rest." -Rupert Sheldrake)
Here's how it will unfold. McCain gets the republican nomination. He's normal, has integrity, and is likable. None of the others have all three. Hillary gets the democratic. (I can offer no explanation of this.) McCain wins. The Democrats find a way to have a pro-Iraq war candidate beat them when the country is (or was) enormously anti-war.
I don't have anything against John McCain. I was ready to vote for him in 2000 had he received the nomination on the Republican side.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Sorry Kids.Yes, this was in Canada... and there's not any even "Exchange Bounce" from paying in Canadian Dollar (pronounced 'Doaller') is now nearly at par with the US Dollar.
And how did I know I had returned to fair Kentucky?Gas prices and Marlboro prices are the two leading economic indicators here. Along with the fair market value of a fifth of bourbon.
Note, even if it's called Wawa, don't necessarily drink it.
But no matter what inflation is, a $2 wager at the track is always $2! Bargain!
Saturday, January 05, 2008
My resolutions for 2008 fall into 3 categories:
To become a master cornholer. I just heard in an NPR story about bleeping out bad words on TV, that my beloved Arrested Development show got in trouble, not for too many bleeps, but for using the word "Cornhole". It was used in reference to the "Cornballer" a failed single-purpose home cooking device, which makes... Cornballs.
I recommend the npr story. I recommend Arrested Development even more. I further recommend eating cornballs while playing cornhole. Both go great with beer.
When NPR does a story about my beloved cornhole, that'll be a real driveway moment.
1) To see my abdominal muscles by the end of the year. (10% chance of success). Haven't seen them since high school. I heard they took up with a folk music trio... performing as the washboard of course. They were replaced with a saggy, hairy washboard.
2) To be 'value added' as much as possible (100% success guaranteed, in that "as much as possible" is not measurable). When I'm at home, rather than doing important things like researching imdb for the film career of Ronald Coleman or Farley Granger, or creating the perfect playlist which will never be listened to... I will do something useful. I will get up and unpack our boxes (Yes, we moved in on June 2 2007), walk the dog, take pictures of the kids, bake bread, create lasting peace in the Middle East... something! Or if I just sit there, I'll at least scribble out a blog entry.
3) To not fall asleep on the couch anymore. (0% chance for success.) I was in the horrible habit of watching a little TV after everyone went to sleep. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are largely to blame. I would make it about 5 minutes into The Daily Show and fall into an uncomfortable, fitful sleep. (Our couch can handle about 5'11" of my 6'5" length.) What little sleep I would get would be restless.
4) I had a fourth, but have forgotten it already. 100% success guaranteed! Awesome! Maybe I'll replace this forgotten resolution with a resolution to never own a single-purpose kitchen appliance. What started with the toaster has gotten out of control!
Real and already failed:
See #3) above. The night of the Iowa caucuses, I had to watch the coverage. For 5 minutes. Then sleep through it in my clothes. That's pure democracy baby! Freedom, the way the founding fathers imagined it.
Our Christmas Photos Slideshow.
- ► March (3)
- ► February (5)
- ► 2007 (36)
- ► 2006 (40)