Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bubble and Squeak

As much as it may sound like the name of a Saturday morning children's cartoon, the title is from an English style of cooking. It involves taking a bunch of leftovers - meat, potatoes, vegetables, and anything else that can't run away - and mushing them together into a thick patty for pan-frying. Think larger version of the futuristic meal-in-a-pill concept from science fiction and you'll have the idea. It seemed a good name for unrelated thoughts ground up in the processor of my mind and presented as some kind of loose-fitting, if unrecognizable, unit. Better than "Thought Hash" or, worse, "Thought Sausage."

Change We Can Believe In

I've been home on vacation this week, so today's rants may not seem so, well, ranty. One by one, the items on the to-do list have been falling, always a sign of a good vacation. The most significant of these - and, I confess, the one I honestly didn't expect to accomplish - was finishing the tiling of the kitchen floor. (Forget what they show in you the tv commercials; there's a lot more to this than peeling off the paper backing and sticking a shiny new tile onto the floor. Minor things like cutting plywood sub-flooring around door frames and other irregularly shaped obstacles, removing doors from their hinges and trimming the bottoms to accommodate the new flooring height, etc. But I digress.) I'd started it weeks - ok, months - ago and ran out of time, and since then the unfinished project was a constant reminder of everything I'd ever failed to accomplish now that I'm firmly entrenched in middle-age. I'm happy to report that with enough focus and a minimum of bloodshed (I've spilled more grating potatoes), it's now been finished, a reminder that of all the things I've failed to accomplish, there's now one less. Just don't tell my kids. I want them to be surprised.

You've Got to be In It to Win It

At the newsstand the other day there was a sign advertising a phone number for getting that day's winning lottery numbers before they appeared in the newspaper. Each call costs $0.49/minute. (That's about 1/3 pound for my friends across the big pond.) Below it, in much smaller print, was another phone number to call if you have a gambling problem. By gambling problem, I suppose they mean people who feel a need to spend $0.49/minute several times a week instead of just waiting a few hours to read the winning numbers in the newspaper.

Remember Where You Heard It

I saw Miley Cyrus on Dancing With The Stars last night. (Yes, I'm a fan of the show. There, I admitted it.) Some day somebody's going to get her to stop doing Britney's act (on AND off stage), strip away the overblown Superbowl Half-Time Show production, and we're going to see that she's really very good.

Just a Little Politics...

I have to confess it's with no small amusement I'm watching Joe Lieberman's "thank-you-sir-may-I-have-another" act these days, now that it turns out he joyfully yapped at the heels of the wrong candidate the past several months. One wonders if, in letting Lieberman keep his committee chairmanship, Obama and the other Democrats really are following the lead of Abraham Lincoln's politics of inclusion, or the advice of Michael Corleone: keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Good for the Environment

Do you know how people in office waiting rooms wastefully take a new cup every time they get a drink of water? Earlier this week I was in a doctor's office, and they had a great way of handling this. Next to the bathroom sink there were some plastic cups and a permanent marker, along with a small sign saying to put your initials on the cup. I thought this was a very clever way for the office to get people to hold onto their cups and reuse them if they were still thirsty.

Happy Thanksgiving, all...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

"Eating waffles from a bowl with a spoon isn't as easy at it looks."
(This from my son James a while back, and seemed worth sharing.)

I'm trying to get away from writing so much about politics and the presidential election, but it's the story that just won't go away. This time, it's the news reports of a sharp increase in gun sales following Obama's election that are keeping me political.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a gun owner and a believer in the second amendment: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." I'm also a believer, at least theoretically, of tempering things with judgment and common sense. So when the people who advocate that someone wanting to buy a gun shouldn't have his background checked respond to Obama's election by stockpiling firearms, I'm left wondering exactly how many guns does a person need to defend himself adequately. In our rush to quote the part about "the right of the People," we pass right by that pesky "well regulated" thing. The irony, of course, is that these same folks raised hell back in April when then-candidate Obama referred to people who
"get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Unrelated Item: I Thought This Was Bloggable

It finally happened. I received an e-mail from someone saying that if I needed to reach him he would be "blackberryable." English is an evolving language, but I always thought of evolution as a gradual process. This is more like evolution by sledgehammer.

Unrelated Item: Pack Small, Play Big

The title is an expression used by children's entertainers, almost certainly created by some middle-aged magician who carried heavy bags and cases up and down stairs to a birthday party one too many times. It seems to apply as well to a fellow in Birmingham, England who creates detailed sculptures roughly the size of a grain of sand and mounts them in the eye of a sewing needle. A friend sent me the attached link and I found it mind-boggling, something that needed to be shared. The execution of the sculpting is amazing, but equally important for me was that this man, having had the idea, believed so strongly it could be done in the first place. I hope you'll watch it. I did, and was glad afterward.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Final - Or Not - Election Thoughts

I'm glad Obama's victory was by decisive numbers but I'd lie if I said it never crossed my mind that it would have been mischievously poetic if McCain won the popular vote, and Obama got the presidency by the electoral vote.

It was great seeing Obama's and Biden's families together on stage after Obama's acceptance. It also got me thinking there should have been one more debate during the campaign, a smackdown between Biden's mother and McCain's. Now THAT would have outdrawn Biden-Palin and, if publicized the right way, probably the Superbowl too.

I know I'm not alone in hearing McCain's gracious and respectful concession and thinking, "Now THAT'S the John McCain I've admired and respected for so long." Who was that guy who looked like McCain who, for the past several months, has been traveling the country saying un-McCain -like things? Mac, at last, really is back, and I truly believe we're better for it.

In analyzing the election results, nearly every commentator I've heard has mentioned how the McCain campaign's death slide was greased by his party affiliation with, and I'm quoting here, an "unpopular president."

Unpopular? Sorry, folks. A 45% approval rating would make for an "unpopular" president. A 24% approval rating qualifies as a "lousy" president. And there's no spinning this as a partisan issue. When 76% of the country disapproves of your administration, there are a lot of members of your own party who think you suck.

The same commentators are suggesting that Sarah Palin will be a serious contender for president in 2012. This journalism-by-speculation ignores a couple of realities:
  1. Four years is the equivalent of several lifetimes in the world of national politics. We just had an election between two people, neither of whom in 2004 were considered likely to be their party's respective nominee in 2008.
  2. Sarah Palin may have excited the 24% of people who took time out from stockpiling canned goods and ammunition to say they think George Bush has been a good president. The rest of the population - including many leading Republicans - has recognized that she was a significant contributor to McCain's presidential demise and, as such, has political herpes serious enough to discourage all but the most desperate vote-seeker from letting their electoral ambition get too intimate with hers. She may have a working knowledge of current events in Alaska, but if she thinks anyone is going to elect a president - or a vice-president - who'll sit across a table from Vladimir Putin and say, "Hmmm...let me get back to ya on that!" she's out of her mind. Does she think he's sitting in the Kremlin thinking about how he can see Alaska from some parts of Russia?

By the way...

Did I mention not to pay any attention to my gut feelings?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Play Ball!

A few thoughts as we prepare for the world series of number crunching to begin...

Can You Come Back in a Minute? I'm Still Deciding

New and, presumably, near-final polls for tomorrow's election all show undecideds hovering around 5%. This naturally leads me to wonder:
  • Will they vote for Obama or McCain;
  • Might they express some frustration (and impact the election) by voting for one of the fringe candidates; and
What do these people think they're going to hear in the next twelve hours that they haven't heard in the last twelve months? Are they planning on going into the booth and doing eenie-meenie-miney-moe, or will they try to remember what went on at each debate and possibly confuse it with something they saw on Saturday Night Live? Admittedly, elections have been decided on less (coughcough2000coughcough), but still...

Répondez S'il Vous Plaît

In her interview with Katie Couric from a few weeks ago, Sarah Palin responded to a question on foreign policy by thinking a moment and saying, "Let me get back to you on that." I wonder if she ever did.

The Audacity of Hoping I'm Wrong

I hesitate even to write this, but I must. I try to stay pretty even-handed in this space, though it's probably pretty obvious I'm supporting Obama in this election. Standing your ground doesn't mean you can't be respectful. That said, I'm not at peace right now in spite of all the numbers showing Obama winning this thing tomorrow. I just can't escape the feeling that McCain is going to pull it out. I don't know if the undecideds, like the donkey who starved to death because he had two bowls of food in front of him and couldn't decide which one to eat, will just not vote and affect things. Or if a whole bunch of those people who told the pollsters they would vote for Obama will get into the booth and, suddenly faced with the reality of voting without regard to race will revert to something less civilized. Or maybe the polls were just wrong, that margin-of-error thing they always mention at the end. There's not a non-partisan poll anywhere to support any of this, and the electoral college scenarios by which it could happen all sound pretty pie-in-the-sky. It's just a gut feeling from a guy for whom one of life's greatest joys is worrying, and not a pleasant one at that.

And On An Unrelated Note

Tonight I was at the supermarket and, be still my heart, Mallomars were on sale. After circling the display a number of times like a hyena, I needed to admit I was powerless, and that only a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. Those admissions made, I walked away without buying any. One day at a time, indeed. Go me!