Sunday, December 28, 2008

Final Fargo Post

Holy shit have the last five days have been hectic! The craziness started on Christmas Eve.

While we're out here we had a blended family Christmas extravaganza. WifeRat's Father remarried after her Mom passed and his wife; my Mother-in-law and BabyRat's Grandmother, better known as Nanna; has two daughters of her own, one of whom lives right here in town named Shania. We actually see Shania and her family a fair bit, Shania's husband Craig was instrumental in pig cooking that went down at the lake this Summer and Shania's daughter Madison had swimming lessons with BabyRat at the Dragon Swim School while we were here. Nanna also has another daughter, Helen, who lives in Grand Forks with her boyfriend and they made the scene for Christmas Eve as well.

In deference to Craig who is Catholic (Shania is converting to Catholicism and Madison goes to Catholic school too), we all attended Christmas Eve Mass. After Mass it was back to Nanna's for a Christmas Eve appetizer buffet that included enough food to feed triple the number of people that were there. Once everyone had eaten themselves stupid and had a drink or two it was time to open presents.

Now this opening presents on Christmas Eve thing is new to me. I had heard of people who did it, but in the family I was born into all gift opening happened on Christmas Day.

WifeRat had always maintained that my family was ridiculous with presents on Christmas and it's true, the gift giving is excessive. My sister and I have both been working professionals for over ten years, but my folks continuously found ways to lavish insane amounts of gifts on us and years when SisRat and I have been flush we have gone all out too. So imagine my surprise when as Christmas approached, you could hardly walk in the living room of my in-laws house 'cause there were gifts everywhere. Naturally, just like every year at my folk's house, we had a four hour plus Bataan Death March of gift opening that ended after 11pm.

Christmas Day the temperature got up to about 20 degrees which allowed us to finally take advantage of all the snow we've had this month and go sledding at a little park near Nanna's house. Yes, 20 degrees felt positively balmy after a brutal cold snap where the high temperature over about three weeks was 10 degrees Fahrenheit. BabyRat took such a long nap that we had to wake her up so we could go have a Christmas Dinner of prime rib.

While most people were lolling around the house in sweat pants the day after Christmas, playing their new video games or whatever, WifeRat and I were hard at work packing up our apartment so we can head back to DC.

This morning BabyRat and I had a little breakfast date so the Wife could continue packing in peace and then when we got home it was decided that BabyRat and I would go to Dike West for more sledding fun. I love sledding and the conditions were perfect for BabyRat and I to go careening down the hill on our gigantic inner tube. BabyRat also had an epic wipeout when we hit a jump that popped her off the inner tube when we hit the ground and knocked off one of her boots and a sock.

Then things started sucking as I spent a good portion of the rest of the day loading a trailer full of crap. WifeRat worked like a stallion packing and cleaning while I was hauling today. We took a break to go to Paradiso for dinner with the in-laws and Shania & Craig but, after putting BabyRat to bed, it was go time until I finished cleaning the bathrooms and started writing this post.

Tomorrow we hit the road and expect to be back in DC on Tuesday. Sticky Rice here I come!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Can't Stop Talking About . . .

. . . the weather. We're supposed to be heading back to DC on Saturday, so hopefully this will be my last post about the insane weather in Fargo.

This past weekend we had to go up North for an early Christmas with the Aunts and to drop off all the furniture and household goods that we had mooched off of them for our stay here. This meant getting a trailer to haul the shit up there and getting said trailer loaded. Thankfully the Weinercats Pack Captain, Double-D, was good enough to get up at 8am on a Saturday morning to help out his ol' coach with loading up the trailer. For reasons I can't understand WifeRat refused call Double-D by his nickname and insisted I tell her his real name; I had to think long and hard about it because I had only seen it written down once and I had *never* heard anyone call him by his real name.

When Dubs got to the Dilworth crib at 9 it was already snowing and he said they were calling for 3-5 inches on the day. No matter, we had a nice heated garage to pull the RatWagon and trailer into while we were loading up. It took the two of us (actually three, cause BabyRat was taking down couch cushions and such, she's so cute!) about 90 minutes to haul all of our furniture down to the trailer and get it loaded in. After we finished we had a celebratory PBR at 10:30am and I gave Dubs one of my old West Pot PourHouse jerseys and $30 ($10 for some breakfast and $20 for a case beer seemed like a fair amount) for his help.

I back the trailer out of the garage without incident and decide to take a spin around the block to see how the RatWagon and trailer are handling in the snow. I make it about two blocks before I get mildly stuck trying to pull onto the main road through town. Shit, fuck, damn! For the first time in a month I have left the house without a coat or gloves and now I'm stuck in the snow pulling a trailer. I jump out to survey the situation and it wasn't as dire as it felt from the driver's seat, so I get back in and manage power my way out. I make it back home and announce that we're not going anywhere.

While I was gone both my Aunt that we were supposed to go see and my Father-in-law had called and said the roads were too bad to travel on with a trailer. So we hunkered down and prepared to spend another day at home, but lo and behold right after the decision was made to wait until the next day it stopped snowing. Fast forward to about 3pm and we decide that maybe we can make it. Phone calls are made and the final bit of stuff gets packed in the trailer, I go out for another test run and get stuck again. Like I told WifeRat, if we get in wreck or end up in ditch or something fucked up happens no one is going to say, "I can't believe that woman took her husband and family on the road in this shit." No, what's going to be said is, "What kind of man takes his family on the road in this? What a fucking idiot!"

The next day everything was fine and we made it up to Grafton with minimal hassle and made it back yesterday. Again the snow is falling today, it looks like it's tapering off and we got about 3 inches but unlike the last week or so the temperature is actually warm enough (a balmy 15 degrees) that we're going to make an attempt to go sledding when BabyRat gets up from her nap.

I'm also concerned that our spot is going to get blown up when we're trying to leave town this weekend. Looks like there is a chance for snow on Friday night and continuing on until Saturday morning, which would not be good for me and my front-wheel drive "truck."


Silver Moon Supper Club

I know that I've talked a bit of shit about the food in Fargo but I had a great meal tonight at the Silver Moon Supper Club. WifeRat and I had been shut out there a few weeks ago, so we actually made a reservation this go 'round so we could take my in-laws there for dinner.

My in-laws were and are fans of Monte's Downtown in Fargo and apparently know the namesake (as well as the blood, sweat, and tears) of the operation. As it happens in the restaurant business Monte left to open his own place, the Silver Moon. So the second we walked in the door Monte greeted my Mother-in-law warmly with a shout and a hug before he whisked away our coats.

One of the things that I figured out over the years is that I love the art deco and art moderne styles. Our building in DC has some art deco touches that WifeRat incorporated into our renovation and I've always felt like stainless steel appliances had a kind of deco feel to them. Additionally, BigDaddyRat is from Miami and I've always loved the colors and feel of the city, especially South Beach which is art deco out the wazoo.

This fucking restaurant is gorgeous! It is equal parts spacious, elegant, sleek, and stylish with a strong art deco feel to it owing to the tons of brushed steel accents. The dark wood floors are a perfect compliment to (what looked like) lucite covered metal chairs and the many beautiful light fixtures that look like dozens of wine glasses hanging from their stems. The dining room is cradled between two banks of gigantic clam shell booths which serves to highlight the centerpiece of the room, an amazing custom-designed chandelier that the whole restaurant seems to revolve around.

Our 7:30 reservation was for the second seating in one of the clamshell booths, so we weren't surprised when we had to have a drink at the bar while the first table of the night finished up. I'm not much of a oenophile, so I can't really speak to the wine selection but they did have a whole page of different champagne cocktails! Is there anything more festive and holiday like than a champagne cocktail? I think not, and I started off with a classic champagne cocktail that was quite delicious and followed that up with a "French 75" that featured Bombay Gin, lime juice, and sugar and was equally good.

Once we were shown to our table WifeRat took over and ordered a bottle of cabernet for the table. I guess I'm spoiled with the house-made charcuterie of places like Eve, so when a beautifully presented but rather pedestrian assortment of meats (salami? C'mon) and cheeses (brie? You can do better than that) was presented to me I was a bit disappointed. There was some sort of funky, tasty, sweet chicken salad with no mayo kind of thing on the plate as well. WifeRat had the smoked salmon tartar that was pretty serviceable; a nice ring mold of chopped smoked salmon topped with chopped egg and capers.

We were presented with a nice little scoop of cranberry sorbet between courses that was exactly what I needed before took on a massive serving of short ribs served with sweet potato puree, zucchini, and an herb laced bechamel. The short ribs were perfectly cooked, flavorful, and fork tender, but a touch on the dry side. A small flaw that I am willing to overlook when I get two big ass pieces of short rib that made sure my greedy ass was satisfied.

I know I'm being a little picky about the food and there's one person who I blame for that: Cathal Armstrong. I'm lucky enough to be good friends with one of Chef Armstrong's bartenders at Restaurant Eve and consequently I go there rather frequently. The bar food they serve at Eve is better than what they put out for their best meal at 80% of the restaurants in America, so places suffer by comparison when I talk about food.

The trio of chocolate desserts was perfectly sized, three small portions of different chocolate desserts. I like dessert as much as anyone, but after a big meal like that the last thing I want is one of those Texas Cheesecake Depository-sized pieces of cake or something. I need a little something sweet to change the taste in mouth and to go along with my coffee, a few bites and not much more.

With the wonderful food and sophisticated atmosphere at the Silver Moon Supper Club, it's easy to forget you're in Fargo until you get the check. Again, I'm jaded by DC prices in restaurants so I was ecstatic when the bill came. Even compared to other places in Fargo like the HoDo or Monte's, Silver Moon is a pretty good deal.

I'm an easy grader, so I give the place 3 out of 4 stars.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Random Thoughts

Here it is from the mind of Hill Rat; straight, no chaser.

A Cliche That Should Be Nuked Into Oblivion
"Love means never having to say you're sorry." What a dumb crock of shit! When I Googled that phrase I discovered that it was from the execrable movie "Love Story," which means it's associated with Al Gore and thus deserving of even more scorn. I've got no love for the Beatles and if I live to be 100 I will never understand the almost religious reverence some have for John Lennon, but Lennon was 100,000,000% on point when he said that, "Love means having to say you're sorry every fifteen minutes."

Moving Sucks
This observation is based (in part) on a childhood spent moving every two years. Back then the upside to moving was that we got to go out to eat a lot, now it just means that I'm paying to go out more.

After I became an adult and stopped having roommates, I settled in real quick and would probably still be living in the "Fortress of Solitude" (a/k/a; the Fortress or FoS) if I hadn't met WifeRat. For five glorious years I lived by myself in the Fortress and was quite content to stay in one place. This January will mark year five in the Rat's Nest and this move back to DC will be the third time I've moved into the same damn place. There was the initial move in with WifeRat back when she was known as Dr. Girlfriend, then when BabyRat wasn't quite a year old we had to move out during the renovation of the building and move back in 14 months later, and now we're moving back from Fargo-Moorhead. Blargh!

There's also nothing like moving to remind me what a consumerist pig I am. I have clothes that I packed up, moved out here, and never wore; that's fucking ridiculous and even more ridiculous is that I have at least one more box of clothes sitting in storage in DC. It wouldn't be so bad if I were some kind of clothes horse, but aside from my work clothes my wardrobe is mostly made up of rugby shirts, t-shirts from rugby tournaments, and cargo shorts. In retrospect I could have easily made it through the six months out here with the duffel bag I brought, one wardrobe box, and one box of additional clothes. I suck.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Am a Bad Person

Mostly because I am a judgmental ass, if you're not doing it my way you're wrong. I do, however, allow for the possibility that two reasonable people can examine the same set of facts and come to two different, yet equally valid, conclusions. If your opinion differs from mine though, it is most likely because you are a mouth-breather who should be neutered and disenfranchised. It is from this personal failing that today's blog post flows because I am getting ready to put an elementary school's Christmas Program on blast.

I fully understand that the purpose of an elementary school Christmas program is not to provide adults with some sort of high quality performance. The purpose is to give kids a chance to showcase what they've learned and how they've advanced with regard to various skills and abilities. I get that, but that does not mean that Christmas programs have carte blanch to suck ass. On Monday Ta-Nehisi Coates told SNL, "Motherfucker, be funny," and I'm telling these kids I saw today "Motherfucker, be cute" or if you can't manage that then at least "Motherfucker, be brief."

I guess my first beef isn't even with the kids or the teachers that put on today's horror show, but rather with the folks who told us to the program started at noon when it actually started at 12:30. So right off the bat WifeRat and I are in a peevish mood about this whole deal. We're going to return furniture and go have an early Christmas celebration up north with the Aunts this weekend, so we have shit that needed to get done today.

Shortly before the program starts I find out that the niece I'm there to see isn't playing in the band, has no speaking part in the play, and only appears in the chorus. Now my niece isn't in the chorus because she's tone deaf or has no dramatic chops, really quite the opposite. Because my niece is appearing in the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater's production of Miracle on the 34th Street, she wasn't available for the big evening performance and the decision was made to leave her out of the play. Now it seems to me that if you have a kid who has appeared in productions at a renowned performing arts school and obviously has some interest and talent with regard to acting, don't you want to get that kid more involved in your production?

So the band starts playing and they begin to systematically launch a full frontal assault of awfulness on just about every Christmas I've ever known and loved. Eventually I look down at the program and I see that allegedly "Greensleeves/What Child Is This" was played by the band. I'm stunned because at no time did I hear anything that remotely resembled the trademark riff of those songs.

You have to understand, I'm not criticizing these kid's performance nor am I trying to impugn the band teacher's skills. Really I'm a little bit in awe of what an elementary school band teacher does, I've never met one that didn't play at least a half dozen instruments and could perform servicably on most others too. What I am criticizing is the decision to let that shit drag on for almost an hour! For fuck's sake, everyone would have been better off if the band had played half the number of songs and spent twice as much time rehearsing them.

Then after the band played, there were a half dozen songs played on hand chimes before we finally got to the play. The play was truly odd; something about a shepard that can't stay awake who goes to see Baby Jesus and becomes a real estate agent. I don't have anything against religion, I kind of like the idea of religion but the way it ends up being applied is what usually gives me the creeps. What does the birth of Christ have to do with real estate or a dude who sleeps on the job?


You Can't Make This Up


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Brick & Mortar Shopping

There is no mystery why brick & mortar bookstores are currently fighting for their lives: their selection sucks.

I was given an assignment by WifeRat to pick out books for five young men in our family. The last time we were up north we noticed that the only book in any of the three kids room's was the Bible. Now the Bible's a fine book with some interesting stuff in it, but it really shouldn't be the only book a young person owns. I was a voracious reader as a teenager and so I'm pretty well suited to the task of picking out books for boys ranging from the ages of 10-20.

The youngest of the boys plays hockey, so I thought "This Can't Be Happening at MacDonald Hall" would be a great selection for him. If you want to get a kid into reading, you don't hand him a copy of "War and Peace" and start blathering on about what a great piece of literature it is and whatever the fuck it is (I never read it so I don't know) that's supposed to make it so great. To introduce a 10-12 year old to a life long love of reading, what you do is give him (or her) a book about something they're already interested in and make sure the shit is entertaining. Once you get a kid past the hurdle of reading that first book and making it an enjoyable experience that they want to repeat, then they're hooked. "MacDonald Hall" is short, funny, and features hockey prominently; the proverbial no-brainer.

Unfortunately, not only did Barnes & Noble not have the book in stock; the shit is out of print and they had no way of getting it for me. Strike one!! OK, I can live with that. "MacDonald Hall" was written thirty years ago by a Canadian, so it's understandable how that might not be on the shelves.

The next youngest kid is a sophomore in high school, the perfect age to read Cormier's "The Chocolate War." A great book about alienation and isolation, standing up for yourself and learning about the true cost of taking a stand. These are all themes that young teenager should be exposed to. Too often when we try to explain to young folks about morality or taking a stand, we present it in a vacuum as if the only choice that has to be made is the choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing; that there is no price to be paid for doing the right thing and never anything to be gained from doing the wrong thing. I roll over to the Teens section and find some of Cormier's later work, but not the book I wanted. Strike two!

There is also a senior in high school who is the older brother of the two previous knuckleheads. He's all about becoming a pilot so I thought the James Michener novel "Space," that I read in high school, would be an appropriate choice. Not only is the book about a topic that he's interested in (pilots & space flight), but there are also some salacious bits in there too that he would probably enjoy. I find the half a shelf of Michener they have at the book store and they have about eight to ten of his other novels, but no "Space." Strike three!!

I did a little better with the older boys, the sons of one of WifeRat's other Aunts. The younger of the two of them is out of high school (we'll call him Carl) and working as a diesel mechanic while he tries to figure out what to do with his life. I've got to spend a little time with Carl while I've been up here and he's a nice, respectful, and smart kid with a good heart. My guess is that he probably won't go to college; he's 19 years old and makes like $12/hr, which is a living wage in this part of the country. My goal for him is to make sure that just because he stopped going to school he doesn't let his brain turn to mush. I figure that if I can convince Carl read one book, that book should be "Catcher in the Rye." I'm glad they had "Catcher" in stock because I might have had to blow the place up as unworthy of the title "bookstore" if they didn't have that on the shelves.

Finally there's the oldest of the bunch, he's all into being a business man so I got him "The Handbook of Style: A Man's Guide to Looking Good" by Esquire. A good bit of the stuff in this book I learned from my Father and uncles and the rest I learned from reading Playboy (back when they had articles worth reading) and Esquire. I had the advantage of having an old man who was an Army officer, so he got schooled on all this stuff and passed it down to me and my uncles provided generational updates (they're 7 and 15 years younger than my Dad) to the general principles. Uncle Lars (the two oldest boy's Dad) however, is a fireman and does body work. Lars is a great dude; smart, hard working, dependable, and probably my favorite uncle to throw down a few cocktails with, but he has no use for the finer points of haberdashery. Seriously, if I walked into a body shop and saw someone dressed like this I would leave skid marks out of the place. So I'm trying to help fill the gap in the same way that I hope Lars and Carl will teach my kids how to turn a wrench.

My point (and I do have one) is that 60% of what I wanted wasn't available at the bookstore I went to. I suppose I could have gone to another bookstore, but I doubt I would have fared much better. It's not like I was looking for super obscure books or I'm complaining about the lack of African-American selections in a bookstore in Fargo; I was just looking for regular ol' books and they simply didn't have them on the shelves. It doesn't take but about two or three paperback books to get clear of the $25 threshold for free shipping, no transportation hassles, and you can be done in five minutes. Tell me friends, what's the compelling reason to go to an actual bookstore rather than ordering through Amazon if you already know what you want?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Guess I Needed a Few Days Off

I had posted for something like 50 days in a row but out of town travel, insane weather, and laziness took over for a few days.

Swiss Family Rat had to head back north again last weekend for our third funeral in two weeks. The Aunts were in full effect as usual, cooking and pampering; even going so far as to give WifeRat a two Aunt massage on Friday night.

This funeral was for Great Aunt Mid, the sister of WifeRat's Maternal Grandfather. Mid was the "Master of the Post" (not the Post Mistress because gender has nothing to do with it and the Post office doesn't have a mistress) for thirty plus years in a small town in North Dakota. An interesting and beloved family member, I'll always remember Mid for introducing me to a shot called "Carrot Cake." RIP Mid.

After the funeral on Saturday morning, we changed clothes and fled back to Dilworth ahead of a predicted blizzard. We made it back to town ahead of the storm and I was sent out for provisions that included a few groceries, a suitcase of PBR, and a pizza.

I woke up on Sunday morning to howling winds and swirling snow that made me think of Hoth. This shit was no joke; winds were gusting up to 30mph, snow was flying everywhere, and it was stupid cold. We had actually been talking about going to church the night before, but it was obvious that we weren't going anywhere for a while.

The night before I had told BabyRat that we had gotten a new sled and if we got some snow we would probably go sledding. Naturally that led to this massive inner tube being blown up in the living room that morning and becoming BabyRat's new favorite toy of the moment. She bounced in, over, and around this inner tube non-stop for about an hour after I blew it up constantly asking when we were going sledding.

Finally at about 11am BabyRat and I decided to strap on the Winter gear and head outside to see what a Fargo blizzard was all about. Naturally BabyRat was in her one piece snowsuit in about ten seconds and pulling on her boots asking loudly, "DADDY, ARE YOU READY," while I was still putting on a shirt. We're heading downstairs and when the elevator door opens it smelled like someone had actually been doing bong hits in the elevator. BabyRat is quick to comment, "It stinks in here Daddy! What's that smell?"

We walk through the large communal garage in our building and make it to an outside door. I push the door open and was surprised that it wasn't as cold as I was expecting, but we didn't make it 20 feet from the door before BabyRat was wailing, "DADDY I'M COLD, LET'S GO BACK INSIDE!" So we go back into the garage, but BabyRat hesitates about going back upstairs. We have a little debate and I assure my daughter that she's not going to get frostbite if we walk around the building, because apparently they talk about this subject at her school. A little scarf tightening and we go back outside and after BabyRat flops into a snow drift we walk about 100 yards to one of the side doors of the building to go back inside.

You would think that being stuck in the house for an entire day would facilitate blogging but it didn't work out that way for me. I need to sit uninterrupted for about an hour or so, surfing the web, sending tweets, and responding to e-mail before I'm ready to start writing. Even though BabyRat takes a nap right after lunch and WifeRat is awesome about giving me the time and space I need to write, I just wasn't feeling it after not writing for a couple of days so I didn't force myself to do it.

To my great surprise, school was canceled yesterday despite the fact that the main roads in Moorhead were immaculate (I mean cleared and dry) at 9 am and the roads in Dilworth were pretty good. That meant trying to juggle a workday and a full house with a rambunctious three year old that hadn't been outside in any kind of meaningful way for a day and a half. WifeRat cleared the decks for me to get some work done early in the day and at lunch time BabyRat and I headed over to the in-laws. Thankfully one of their neighbors had already cleared the driveway and all they needed me to do was dig out the front porch.

After lunch and BabyRat's non nap (she played quietly in the bedroom for an hour and a half and refused to sleep), we made meatballs together for last night's dinner. I really enjoy cooking with her, she's such a fun little person to hang out with and be around. Eventually we went over the in-laws to finish making dinner and eat before WifeRat kicked me out of the house to go watch MNF after bedtime.

So here I am at the coffee shop, working and blogging after dropping BabyRat at school.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Fiction

I'm taking another whack at the fiction writing. -HR

As Alexis stood underneath the bright lights in front of a mirror she quickly brushed her thick black curls back and gathered them at the back of her head. After a few more swipes with the brush, her hands expertly moved in concert to assemble the hair into a tight ponytail with the assistance of a small elastic band. She checked herself one last time in the mirror as she slipped the brush into her purse and brushed a strand of hair away from her white shirt, perfectly knotted tie, and neatly pressed apron.

The silence of the bathroom was shattered by the boisterous sounds of a restaurant kitchen making last minute preparations for the Thursday evening dinner service as soon as Alexis opened the door and stuffed her purse in the bank of lockers that lined the wall next to the bathroom.

As she made her way through the kitchen she took in the sights, sounds, and smells of 40 different dishes in various states of readiness. Cocky young cooks bumped into each other and gave her wolfish smiles that she returned with a shy wave. Saute' pans sizzled red hot with thick slabs of meat and the air was filled with the aromas of boiling pots of stocks that had been simmering gently for hours and hours and a garden full of chopped herbs.

She poked her head out into the bright dining room and saw that the rest of the front of the house staff was seated and ready for their pre-shift meeting. Alexis stepped back to where Chef was standing, told her everyone was ready, and slipped out to join her co-workers.

When Alexis sat down her friend Kim elbowed her in the ribs and wondered aloud, "If you love the kitchen so much, why don't you go join the heathens in the back of the house and cook?" Alexis gave her a sour look and stuck out her tongue as a reply as Chef strode up to the table and gave her staff a warm smile and asked, "Are there any questions about tonight's menu?"

The assembled waiters, food runners, and bartenders looked down at the index cards in their hands and scanned the evening's selections. A couple of hands went into the air and for the next few minutes Chef patiently and expertly gave a discourse on everything from where the evening's poached lobsters came from to how much longer they could expect they could expect pears to be in season.

Chef's generous nature and lack of histrionics permeated the whole restaurant. There was a low hum of jokes being exchanged and quiet laughs as the meeting broke up and people filtered throughout the restaurant to their various workstations. Chef motioned for Alexis to follow her back to the kitchen and inquired,"Did you try the new appetizer yet?" Alexis shook her head and Chef said, "Go back there and fire one for us," pointing to the line and handing Alexis a chef's jacket.

Alexis stepped up to the massive range and, with speed and skill that never ceased to amaze the cooks, began to sear a hunk of foie gras. She quickly moved around the station gathering plates, garnishes, and sauces. Alternating between being a blur of motion and impatiently looking at the pan waiting for the goose liver to cook. In four minutes she had assembled a beautiful plate that she took with her back to Chef's cramped but meticulously neat office with a couple of forks.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008


The Macho Stimulus Package - Mildly interesting op-ed from the Boston Globe. The argument being made is that Obama's stimulus package is focused on public works construction projects and alternative energy initiatives that will increase job opportunities in fields that are dominated by men with the result being that women are largely left out.

IMHO the author makes a mistake by not following up on the stats that he quotes about the number of families that are supported by women. Calculating the economic impact of a rise or fall in household income for those families would yield a dramatic number that's easily understood.

While the author makes a reasonable point, he fails to consider why Obama may have chosen to take on this particular set of tasks first. I see this as a straight marketing move; building bridges, replacing windows in schools, and building wind farms are projects that are easily understood and quantified. That's in stark contrast to something like raising the wages of home health care workers and providing better care for sick and elderly who depend on them. No doubt the workers and the people they provide care for would benefit, but it's not something that can be shown on a bar chart in a PowerPoint presentation like the number of windows replaced in American school buildings.

Calling All Cars: Trouble at Chuck E. Cheese's, Again - You wouldn't think that Wall Street Journal would be up on the latest happenings at Chuck E. Cheese's, but they are. Mildly funny story on the fact that Chuck E. Cheese's are often the site of throwdowns between groups of drunken adults. It makes me feel all the more cheated that when I had to go to CEC it was a doo-doo location with no bar. Make sure you read all the way to the end and check out the "food fight" graphic.

I love you sweet leaf - Amazing story about a woman who asks a cop if she can smoke during a traffic stop and proceeds to light up a joint!

The "Rick Roll" of 2009? - I post, you decide. I saw this at Coilhouse and I haven't stopped laughing since. Amazingly bad song and video, but at least as funny was the line in Coilhouse's post, "Take it to the hilt, paladin." OMGWTFBBQ indeed.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Is It Worth It?

WifeRat and I thought we had decided against renting out our place for the inauguration. We will have just gotten back home from North Dakota and we're looking forward to being back in our place. But I was just looking on Craig's List and seeing the ridiculous prices people are asking for (and presumably getting) for places in DC. I'm guessing that with minimal effort we could get someone in our place for four nights at $1500/night for a total of $6K.

The problem then becomes where do we stay? We could stay with MommaRat in Alexandria, but that comes with its own special set of challenges (extra driving mostly) that I may not be up for dealing with if they can be avoided.

We also considered fleeing town for the warmer climes of South Florida. The rental proceeds would more than cover a four day trip to South Beach, where WifeRat's best friend lives, where we could ball out and stay at a beach front hotel. A nice change of pace from Fargo to say the least. Even though the trip would be paid for, traveling with a three year old is always a bit of a trial and we will have only been home for about two weeks when we have to take off.

The idea of nice little trip to Miami is enticing, but we live a 20 minute walk from the Capitol and can easily get to and participate in all of the inauguration festivities going on in DC. This is truly a once in a lifetime event and I have to wonder if ten years down the line I'll feel like a schmuck for having missed it to go hang out in Miami.


Fargo Weather

I've been so dramatic over the last couple of weeks that I decided I'm just gonna post about the weather out here in Fargo.

I know it's early in the Winter, but right now it's just not that bad. I'm strapped with a Carhartt so I'm pretty good to go until the wind chill hits 20-30 below. Folks out here don't think much of the current weather, I think the high temperature was like 22 today but no one was really sweatin' it.

In DC none of BabyRat's schools went outside to play when it was less than about 35 degrees. Here in F-M, BR's school requires that bring a full heavy duty Winter getup for your kid that includes snow pants and boots, consequently these kids up here go outside until the temperature is 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Now that includes wind chill so they went outside today when it was 19, but if the wind had been whipping they would have had to stay in. When the wind starts blowing when it's in the teens, the wind chill comes on pretty quick.

We also have had a bit of snow, nothing significant but a couple of different incidents of two inches or so of snow. If we get a little bit more snow later this week I think we may be able to break out the big inner tube thingy I "got for BabyRat." Apparently there is some decent sledding in Fargo at place called Dike West, a park just over the border into North Dakota.

It's quite nice to be in a place where people know how to drive in the snow and ice. If you had roads like this in Metro DC it would be complete bedlam; schools would be closed, liberal leave would be abused, and there would wrecks by the truckload. Really it's the simple things that count, slowing down a bit, leaving a little more space between you and the person in front of you, and remembering that just because you have four wheel drive it doesn't render the laws of physics moot or give you eight wheel brakes that will stop your three plus ton behemoth in 20 feet.

I also went to watch the second half of the Monday Night Football game tonight and after taking a beating at Dempsey's on the blackjack table, I also got dominated at Pig Wheel. I think my run of gambling luck in Fargo may have run out. After being up for what seemed like the whole trip, I'm definitely down overall after the last 3-4 weeks.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Farg-izzle in Da House!!

This is what makes Twitter so amazing. I completely missed this story in the local paper out here, but through the magic of Twitter and social networking it was brought to my attention complete with a link to this page, picture, and caption. I originally scored this as a 12 on a scale of 1-10 for unintentional comedy but the official scale runs up 100 so I give it a revised score of 120 out of 100. I don't know that this can be topped.

Unfortunately the links to this story are now dead and will cost you $2.95 to access them.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Back to Normal?

Tomorrow will be the first day in two weeks that Swiss Family Rat hasn't been together for the bulk of the day. The week of Thanksgiving BabyRat's school was closed and we were back home last week. It's been a lot of fun having her around all the time, I love goofing off during the day with her and not being in a hurry. It's great when we go wash the car together and I can let BabyRat mess around with the vacuum for as long as she stays interested or we have time to go Scheels to ride the ferris wheel and covet sporting goods or even just going to the grocery store when you're not in "OMG must get home to cook" mode.

As you can tell from looking at my posts, it does affect when I get to blog. Rather than dropping Fatty (I know I shouldn't call her that, but it you saw her when she was six months old you would understand why) and then going to the coffee shop to post more or less first thing in the morning, I found myself doing it at the end of the day. I would try to post during nap time, but most of the time I just needed to chill during that part of the day.

It will be interesting to see how all of us adjust back to being on some kind of schedule.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Crazy Talk

I think I'm addicted to posting now. It's like I need to give myself an after action report on the day or my current emotional state. I'm just seeing how much I can write during the intermission of a Scrabble game.

We decided to not have a TV while we were out here in NoDak and not too long after we arrived we realized that we didn't want to sit around and read every night because we both read a lot during the course of a day. It's fine some nights to read together in the living room after BabyRat goes to bed and there were more than a couple of nights that we just cracked open a bottle of wine and sat out on the balcony. We don't have a good full time setup to watch TV online and the feeble offerings available over the Summer weren't holding our interest, so WifeRat picked up a Scrabble game a couple of months ago.

It's been kind of neat to develop some skill at Scrabble at the same time. But truth be told WifeRat has been killing me for about the last month, constant vicious beatdowns until I finally got off the schneid last night assisted by a 73 point bingo.

Later. Game on!


Friday, December 05, 2008

No Way I'm Posting Tommorow

I just don't see it happening. This week has been a bit intense to say the least and I've still managed to post everyday so who knows?

Flying sucks ass these days and flying a with a bunch of low budget schmucks like United makes it even worse. I'm only linking to their site in the futile hope that someone from United will notice that they're being put on blast and try to appease me with some free tickets or a refund for baggage fees ($15 for each bag both ways, fuckers) or at the very least maybe they will stop sucking so much ass.

I know that airlines are getting pinched and trying to cut costs wherever but the industry as a whole is running at a loss over the course of its history and that's not likely to change anytime soon. And these are the prick motherfuckers are trying to sell me extra leg room when I check myself in because shit is tight?

I did my part today, I rolled up to the curbside check-in an hour and twenty minutes before my flight was supposed to take off with ID and itinerary in hand. The thought was to get there in enough time to grab a quick bite before we got on the plane. Too bad United's technology was deficient and I was directed inside to check-in where I got to wait in line for twenty minutes before the automated check-in kiosk hacked up a hairball. Then I got to wait around in a little area like a fucking veal calf until a human got around to dealing with me and the other people who were rejected.

Here's the thing about the baggage fees, why are you making me participate in another transaction once I get to the airport? I just spent $1600 on plane tickets, I don't care (that much) about the last $60, what I do care about is having to dick around with buying something else once I get to the airport. Even if it only takes 30 seconds to complete a credit card transaction from start to finish, that's a lot of time the airlines are quietly stealing from their customers.

Christ, I can't even talk about this shit anymore because I'm getting pissed all over again thinking about the Friday afternoon shit show at the security check-in at National. If every Friday afternoon you have lines out the wazoo at security don't you think maybe you should put on some extra people or just not keep doing the same thing that brings lines, delays, and annoyance to all involved?

The next time I travel on business I'm probably just gonna get that "Clear" thing hooked up for myself and charge the cost back to my company. I really don't like that shit though; rich people and sleazy fucks who work the system like me get over and everyone else can eat a dick? That's not nice but it is very American.

Who's making money off that shit anyway? I dunno, the more I look into this thing the less I like it. " . . . the first branded consumer product in what we call the voluntary identity credentialing industry," that's some real Orwellian shit right there.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

I'm Surrounded by Wonderful People

Just a quick one from the iPhone today.

My project had their holiday lunch today and I never pass up a free meal. Despite all my blather about what's been going down here, I neglected to tell my boss and coworkers about the funereal. You never really know how much folks care and in some cases you're better off not finding out. In this case I found out that my colleagues care about me more than I would have ever suspected.

Strangely I find the cynicism I've felt for the last 20 years starting to dissipate in the wake of Dad's death. So many folks have just overwhelmed me with their generosity and kindness that I can actually believe that people are basically good. I can believe that decency and charity are the real default setting for humanity. Perhaps this is the final lesson my Father has to teach me.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pain That Won't Go Away

Yesterday I wrote that I'm glad this shit is over; but as I have been so many times before, I was completely and totally wrong. The aftermath of BDR's death isn't over, it's only just beginning.

We (Mom, Sis, and I) are all so hurting and confused right now that it feels like this might not ever be over. Did I mention that I've been on a roller coaster of emotions the last few days?

Part of what makes this so difficult was the sudden and unexpected way that my Father passed away. BigDaddyRat was a large and vital man, he had survived two wars (Vietnam and Panama) and still exercised regularly. He had put on a few pounds since he got out of the Army, but was still in pretty decent shape for a guy that was almost 65 years old. Even after Dad had blown out both of his knees and was hobbling around on walker, the last thing anyone expected was for him to suddenly drop dead. I guess I should explain what happened.

BDR worked for AM General as the "Director of Government Relations," which means that he was a weird kind of lobbyist. He used his extensive contacts within the military to assess and analyze their transportation needs as they related to AM General and their line of products. He would then explain those needs to his colleagues at AM General which would allow them to market vehicles to the military (the Army in particular) more aggressively and effectively.

What this also means is that a big part of BDR's job was taking guys out to lunch and playing golf. It's nice work if you can get it. So he was out at a golf course in Maryland, but because the course was kind of soggy it was cart paths only that day. While walking out to what turned out to be the last golf ball he ever hit, BDR slipped and blew out his patella tendon. Then while he was at Walter Reed to get the final word on what needed to be done, he slipped and blew out the other knee in the exact same way and as an added bonus he tore his rotator cuff while trying to catch himself. Yes, you are reading that correctly; as a result of a round of golf, the COL blew out two knees and a shoulder. When I saw him in the hospital after the fact, he joked that he was one more accident away from being a quadriplegic. After getting the two knees fixed and coming home from the hospital, BDR left this mortal coil when a blood clot entered his lung (pulmonary embolism) and took the big man down.

Now there had initially been some hysterical talk of law suits for wrongful death, etc. but I wasn't really with it. Subsequently I found out that UncleRat (BDR's youngest brother, a Federal prosecutor) has been advocating this position as well. I have the utmost respect for UncleRat as a person and as a professional, so if he's the one saying it I guess we have to at least consider this law suit thing one last time.

It's not like any of us are hurting for money and hitting the Tort Law lotto is the only chance we have for a financially happy life. I think the real motivation is that we want someone to blame. Dad's death is leaving a gaping void in the life of everyone that knew him and I think many of us want someone to suffer financially or professionally thinking that it will make us feel better, but it won't. Dad will still be dead, my Mom will still be a widow, and all that would have really changed is that some lawyer would get a new Porsche out of the deal.

Yesterday one of my close friends was speaking ill of Walter Reed AMC, but I don't blame the folks that work there and I told him so. The real deal is that the facilities and staff of WRAMC are overloaded. For the last 16 years we have been whittling down our military and its resources to the bare bones, thinking that the collapse of the Soviet Union meant there wasn't going to be another large-scale war. The smackdown we laid on Saddam during Desert Storm further convinced our nation and its leaders that our military was more or less invincible, so we cut people and we closed facilities and now we are paying the price.



What a day. The gamut of emotions that I endured today ranged from absolute elation all the way to soul destroying grief. As careful as I've (kind of) been about not revealing too much personal information, right now I don't feel like hiding. I don't know if I ever explicitly said anywhere in my blog or my tweets that my Father died a little more than three months ago. Consequently, it's been a weird few months for me.

Right now everyone in the house is asleep and it's just me and my laptop. After a month of posting everyday, it would be strange to not have something to say today so here I am.

First of all, I am glad this shit is over!!! Do you have any idea how nerve wracking and emotionally bizarre it is to have a three month lag between the death of loved one and the actual funereal service? Unless you have a close family member who was buried at Arlington Cemetery you probably don't; if you do, you have my deepest sympathies and condolences. After twisting in the wind for three months and trying to nurse my Mother and Sister through this thing from Fargo, it is a great relief for it to finally be over.

My folks were married for over 40 years and met a couple of years before that, so as far as my Mom was concerned nothing important happened in her life until she met my Father. Their marriage, while not perfect, was as strong and resilient as the people who entered into it. My Mother basically does not know life as an adult without my Father at her side. When she mourned the loss of her own her Father shortly after I was born, my Father was at her side and helped her through the tough days and nights that followed. My Father was there with her through thick and thin for 40 years and now she is alone.

I have no idea how to help my Mother. In a way I'm kind of glad that I've been gone, not because I don't want to help my Mother but for exactly the opposite reason. I would have helped her too much had I been here for the last three months. My instinct is to shield and protect my Mother from whatever comes her way, probably at the expense of my own family. It would have been close to impossible for me to allow her to deal with some of things that have transpired since my Father's demise had I only been a short distance away.

While I'm being totally honest, I know that my Mother feels that I prioritize my wife and child above her and she's right, I do. It's OK, this seems like something that every son has to go through with his Mom to some extent. Your Mother gives you so much, she loves you so much, she sacrifices so much for you as a child, that it's little wonder that once you become an adult and put another woman before her in your life that she does not like it. Still, I know that I'm doing the right thing; I'm following the example that my Father set for me.


Monday, December 01, 2008

BigDaddyRat - Lessons Learned

As I think back on the things that I learned from my Father, one thing strikes me. The lessons that I really took to heart; the things that are always with me and form the moral and theoretical underpinnings of who I am as a person; are the teachings that my Father didn't speak of but were conveyed to me through the way he lived his life.

There have been plenty of times when I've been fucked over in my life. Work, school, and athletics all provided me with plenty of gut wrenching and heart breaking experiences, some of which left me bitter and quite angry. Without ever saying a word the COL (as my Father is often referred to) managed to let me know that the idea of revenge was petty and beneath me. That any effort that I might have thought to put into some sort of hare brained scheme to get back at someone; to try and damage someone's reputation, to attempt to harm their business prospects, no matter how richly deserved; cheapened me as a person.

When I was being forged by these experiences, it always burned me to think that a person fucked me and "got away with it." In the fullness of time I have come to realize that's not true. You don't leave those situations with nothing, you come away from them more mature, more patient, wiser, but most importantly, you walk away with your dignity intact. There's no promotion, no amount of money, no possession that can replace your dignity.

The COL taught me about hard work; not by lecturing me about it, but by letting me see him working his ass off everyday. My Dad never had to tell me to get a job, when the time was right I decided for myself to start working. When I started working I gave it everything I had, it didn't matter that I was making minimum wage selling shoes at an outlet mall, it was a job and I owed it and myself my best effort. One of the biggest bursts of pride I ever felt in my life was when I was fucking up in school and my Dad told me he wasn't worried about me because I knew how to work. It was a powerful moment of validation that told me my Father accepted me as a man and knew that I had a man's resolve to overcome whatever obstacles were in my way.

Secure in the knowledge that I had my Father's respect as a working man, I always strived to make sure that I continued to be worthy of that respect. It is not always easy, there are the inevitable shortcuts to take and corners to cut when it comes to work. But what he ultimately taught me was there is right way to do things and wrong way and the choice to do the wrong thing is no choice at all.

Father, husband, athlete, warrior are all words used to describe the COL, there's no one who ever met BigDaddyRat that questioned his manhood. He was a man's man, from the bottom of his size 16 feet going up six feet six and a half inches to the top of the pointy head that we share. Tough and strong, smart and brave. These were the words that described my Father but through the way he lived his life he taught me that it was just as important (perhaps more so) that a man be kind and gentle, loving and merciful. There is no doubt that this is the most important lesson he taught me.

There are so many fucked up conceptions of manhood out there, I eternally humbled and grateful that I had a Father who showed me the right way to be a man. Who showed me with his every thought, word, and deed that the measure of a man is not kills on the battlefield or money in the bank or notches on the bedpost, but rather how does he use what he has to help others?

I love you Dad and I will spend the rest of my life trying to be a scintilla of the man that you were.