30 posts in 30 days was the goal and I made it! Actually this will be post number 42 for the month, but some of those were informational posts and others were to fill a Tweet jones. I'm really glad that I decided to take the daily blog posting challenge, I hadn't really pushed myself with regard to my blogging so it was gratifying to set a goal and reach it.
I definitely punted on a couple of weekend posts, but when I started doing this I originally had only planned to post on weekdays. Even so, I think I only had one or two weekday posts that were less than 500 words so overall I'm pretty happy with the quality and quantity of what I've been able to produce over the course of the last month.
I know it probably sounds strange to talk about quantity of words, but if I'm going to actually become a professional writer then I have to be able to produce at a certain level. There will be word counts and deadlines that have to be met and a lot more pressure than writing a blog post every day, so I may turn up on the heat on myself when the new year starts.
I have to give my first shout out to WifeRat. She's really been in my corner and without her seeing the value in what I'm doing with this blog there's no way that I would have made it through this month. WifeRat is my biggest fan and my strongest ally in life. I love you honey and my gratitude for your support knows no boundaries.
I also want to give a shout to KnockoutEd from COINTELPOL, he's always here commenting and cheering me on. KE has some interesting stuff to say so check him out and leave a comment or two. Thanks also to Ta-Nehisi Coates for giving me a link and my best bit of exposure in the blogosphere. More thanks to NylonThread for turning me on to the whole National Blog Posting Month thing. Finally thanks to everyone who has ever read or commented on my blog, I can't believe people actually take the time to read what I write. It's humbling, gratifying, and inspiring all at the same time; I only hope that the few comments I leave around are as inspiring to other bloggers as their comments are to me.
[NON SEQUITUR]Holy shit! Did I really just hear "Every Day is Like Sunday" in an NFL ad? Apparently I did. Is there a musician on this planet that is more antithetical to ethos and style of American professional football than motherfucking Steve Morrissey? I think not. Seriously, WTF?[/NON SEQUITUR]
I'm still committed to posting 500 words every weekday until the end of the year. I'm not sure how that's going to work out this coming week with Dad's funereal and most of the family in DC, but if I can squeeze out 2500 words this week I'll know I can do it every week.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
30 posts in 30 days was the goal and I made it! Actually this will be post number 42 for the month, but some of those were informational posts and others were to fill a Tweet jones. I'm really glad that I decided to take the daily blog posting challenge, I hadn't really pushed myself with regard to my blogging so it was gratifying to set a goal and reach it.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
I come from a family where all the men cook. Both of my grandfathers were excellent cooks, BigDaddyRat and both of his brothers can throw down in the kitchen. These aren't guys who just BBQ either, my Dad and I won a cake baking contest when I was in sizth grade. Not only do all these guys cook well, but they scrub the kitchen like their life depended on it when they're done too.
I love my wife, I love the fact that she's a "modern" woman who expects me to do my share around the house, and I love taking care of my family by cooking and cleaning for them. My Mom had a similar attitude, she told me that she didn't want to raise a helpless man; so she taught me to cook and clean and I'll always be grateful to her for teaching me those important lessons.
Even so, there's nothing like having a bunch of doting aunts around fixing you food, clearing your plate, and generally treating you like a king. Yay Aunts!!!
Friday, November 28, 2008
Is there such a thing as too much family? 'Cause I feel like I'm straight OD-ing on family right now. Yesterday was Thanksgiving, obviously a big family holiday with lots of relatives around. Today we're heading up north for an 80th birthday party tomorrow night and as an added bonus, we're going to a funereal tomorrow morning. After we get back, it's back to DC for BigDaddyRat's funereal which will be attended by just about every relative we have on that side of the family. So let's total it up; we have a major holiday, a family party, and two funereals in the span of six days.
I'm estimating that of the relatives that I have semi-regular contact with, I'll probably be seeing about 80-90% of them in the course of a single week. It's funny because it's such a wild mix of people. In the next few days I will converse with goose-stepping GOP religious right fundamentalists and Black nationalists who want to see Obama looking out of the Oval Office in the "By any means necessary" pose. I will dine with one uncle who is an Assistant US Attorney and another uncle that's done time in so many different states that noone's sure what the total is. I will greet two cousins the same way, "Yo man, it's been too long, we gotta get together and kick it." One of those cousins is a Federal police officer, the other is a retired (we think) gangbanger. I will get pawed on by two sets of aunts, one set of aunts will be rural and White, the other set will be urban and Black; all of them will be throwing down glasses of chardonnay and scotch like it's their motherfucking job.
The one thing that binds all of these people together is their love me, WifeRat, and (especially) BabyRat. As different as my family is from WifeRat's family, they are also eerily similar in many respects. The loud, exuberant aunts and their soft-spoken, even tempered husbands with useless 2nd and 3rd cousins aplenty on both sides of the family.
Before our families were bound together, I would have never believed how similar a rural White family and an urban Black family could be. I wonder how confusing all of this will be for BabyRat, will she assume that every family is the same with a White half and a Black half, just like she has one male parent and one female parent?
As I type this I realize that I have a lot to deal with in the next few days and I have no choice but to lean on all of my family members for strength. They will all reach out to me, the ones that forwarded e-mails about Obama being a Muslim side by side with the ones who think he's the second coming. As I prepare to lay my Father to rest, the criminals and the cops will all fold me inside of the protective cocoon of their love and sympathy. The beefy, hard-working hands of uncles both Black and White will clamp down on my shoulder and give me a squeeze because they don't know what to say, but that small act has always said just as much as the most elegant turn of phrase.
So I guess the answer is, "No." You can't have too much family.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I want to get into writing some fiction and I don't have anything I want to discuss today, so I'm going to write an introduction to a character. Enjoy. -HR
Dante gave himself a quick pat down before he walked out the door of his apartment, checking for his wallet, keys, and phone before closing the door behind him. His footfalls echoed through the stairwell as he came down from his top floor apartment and when he reached the bottom of the stairs he hip checked the front door of his building open and stepped out into the cool DC fall morning.
Dante's eyes scanned for his car and he quickly spotted it across the street near the end of the block. After getting diesel fumes belched in his face by a Metrobus, he took the required number of steps to reach his car. Despite the fact that Dante was a little more than six feet tall and a lean 200 pounds, he had the lumbering gait and carriage of a much heavier man. He opened up the low-slung two door car and dropped into the driver's seat like a ton of bricks.
The car's engine came to life with a quick twist of the ignition key and Dante rolled down the windows to let out the stale funk emanating from the duffel bag in the back seat. He twisted around in his seat and started to dig through the half open bag, feeling around blindly until he felt the familiar shape of a pack of cigarettes and plucked them from the bag. He pushed in the lighter in the dashboard of the car and pulled into traffic as he jammed a Newport between his lips.
As he navigated his way out of the city and enjoyed the feeling of tar and nicotine grabbing his lungs he began to think about the day ahead of him. Dante worked at a pretty standard government contractor job; do a bunch of stuff that the feds can't or won't do for themselves and have them resent you for it. Today was a little different because last night the wire transfer went through, he could hardly believe it when he looked at his account balance before he left for work this morning and saw that it read "Available Balance - $786,423.92." It was official, he no longer needed to work at a job he didn't really like just to make ends meet.
He had been waiting for this day for a few months and now that it was here he didn't really know what to do. Should he detour over to the Tune Inn and have a couple of cocktails before going to the office and wait for someone to say something to him? Maybe during the weekly staff meeting he would go ahead and tell the insufferable jackass that he worked for what he really thought of his latest project plan. Then again maybe he would just keep working like normal and the next time someone, anyone said or did anything that annoyed him he would simply announce, "I quit" and walk out the door with no explanation.
It wasn't a matter of 'if', but 'when' he was going to quit working for the soulless defense contractor that had provided him a pretty good living for the last three years.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
It's been a weird week, a lot of shit going on that I can't really talk about and I'm getting more and more gripped up as we get ready to head home to lay BigDaddyRat to rest. This three month delay between Dad dying and his funereal is a nightmare. I'm going to hit some random topics and pop off on what I think.
Craziness in Mumbai - I never really understand what terrorists are trying to prove with shit like this. Seriously, what's the thought process behind this? "Hmm, we're a marginalized group trying to bring attention to our plight and point out the hypocrisy of the world's hegemonic powers. I know what we should do, we should go out and kill a bunch of people that don't have anything to do with what we're pissed off about!!!!" Dopes.
I guess this guy doesn't like W much - Whoa dude, and I thought I didn't like President Bush. I think that Bush43 has done incalculable damage to the United States and its future prospects. However, just like when Clinton was in office, I think even if you don't respect the man have a little respect for the office. You made your point when you called Bush43 "Caligutard," you can just stop there.
I'm actually feeling kind of bad for W these days, he's looking pretty fucking haggard. Eight years in the Oval Office is a tough haul when things are going well, imagine what the last eight years have been like? As much as the DNC nut garglers are counting down the days until W is out of office, I bet no one is more anxious for him to get the fuck out of Dodge than the man himself.
I found this real surprising - Grunfeld is one of the better executives in the NBA so I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, seems a little hasty after extending the coaches contract just a few months ago.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The school that we've been sending BabyRat to is pretty interesting, not only do they have uniforms but the director enforces the dress code strictly by fining non-conforming parents. I found this out because WifeRat was having a little trouble following the dress code rules. WifeRat says that she follows the rules, but that's total BS; she follows the rules when she agrees with them, but when she disagrees with them then the rules are stupid and arbitrary, the rules are made to benefit capitalists, the rules prop up the penisocracy, the rules are anti-feminist, and so forth.
Coming from a military background, I have a different feeling about uniforms than other people in my house. A uniform is a source of pride and signifies that you're a part of something that's bigger than you as an individual. Wearing a uniform shouldn't be about doing as little as you can and still being in compliance. It's about how sharp can I look? How can I show my pride in myself and my organization by looking as good as I can possibly look in this uniform? This isn't something that my Father ever said aloud, but it was how he lived his life. Neat, clean, and fastidious aren't dirty words.
I swear The Director of this place would have been an awesome drill instructor. She has the trim build and precise manner of every drill instructor I've ever met. The Director would look amazing in one of those Smokey the Bear hats too.
High standards and high performance is the norm at BabyRat's school and I fucking love it!! The assumption is that every kid there can learn and will learn. Of course that's a lot easier to accomplish when you have a self-selected group of families that obviously place a premium on learning and education.
Lately they've been teaching BR's class about consequences and decision making. We found out about this a couple of weeks ago when BR got home from school and started complaining that she didn't get afternoon snack. As is often the case when you're talking to a three year-old, you get the important parts of the story but necessary in the proper order and some important information gets left out entirely. All I could discern was that BabyRat didn't get a snack because some of the other kids took too long.
WifeRat is, of course, distraught. If there's one thing she insists on for BabyRat, it's that she gets to eat and drink when she's hungry and thirsty. So the Wife is all fired up when she hears this, but I calm her down and promise to ask what's up the next day when I drop the kid off at school. The next day I speak to LMS and she tells me that the kids serve themselves at snack and that if there's a problem like the one BabyRat described then those kids go last the next day.
I'm satisfied with this answer and don't give the situation too much more thought until BabyRat starts whining about not getting a snack again a day or two later. Again, I have to talk WifeRat down off the ledge and promise to get more information. This time when I speak to LMS I ask a few more pointed questions about the whole setup for snack time and I finally get to the heart of the matter: the kids have like an hour long time frame when they can get their snack. If they fuck around too long and wait until the end of snack time, then they're short. When I explained all this WifeRat she was mostly OK with it, but still didn't like the idea that BabyRat might not get her afternoon snack. Which is kind of ridiculous because she BRINGS THAT LITTLE HUNGRY HEIFER SOMETHING TO EAT WHEN SHE PICKS HER UP.
Pancake Mountain News
WHERE: Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
WHEN: show up at 4:30, be ready to dance at 5:00
Also, while I've been in LA I managed to edit another exclusive clip from our Kings of Leon Dance Party from eariler this month in DC. Check It Out!!
From sunny L.A.,
Pancake Mountain's TV Dance Party with
Saturday, November 29, 2008 at The Troubadour, West Hollywood
We'll see you there - Don't Miss it!
Monday, November 24, 2008
I hate to disappoint you, but this post is not about the latest shenanigans of Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez. Really it's about BabyRat and the eternal struggle to get her little ass to go to sleep when necessary.
The three Christmases since BabyRat has hit the scene have been pretty low key for her, she didn't totally understand what was going on, even last year. When asked what she wanted for Christmas in 2007 she said that she wanted a wind flower (a pinwheel) and a candy cane, that was it. I can only accept some of the credit for my kid's lack of materialism, I have TiVo to thank for the fact that BabyRat almost never sees commercials. Of course none of this kept BigDaddyRat and MommaRat from buying a small truckload of silliness every Christmas, but I digress.
BabyRat has never been a big fan of going to sleep. She usually sleeps very well once she gets to sleep, but even when we've been in a good groove with her falling to sleep with little or no drama every night she still has an occasional evening when she just won't go to sleep for a couple of hours. For a while I had the situation under control by bouncing her to sleep on my lap every night, but eventually (after a couple of years) that stopped working and it's been an up and down struggle since then.
Thankfully BabyRat's understanding of the world has sharpened considerably since last Christmas and we have finally turned that to our advantage. While last year Santa was an interesting curiousity, this year BR knows that he is the all powerful, all seeing, and all knowing: SANTA!!!
The looming threat of Santa's "Naughty & Nice List" is finally bearing fruit. Since we've been giving a pre-bedtime and pre-naptime hard sell about Santa watching to see if she's naughty or nice for the last couple of days, BabyRat has gone right to sleep. WifeRat pointed out that in the song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" the lyrics specifically mention, "He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake," so obviously we're not the only people who are going down this road.
I know that I want BabyRat to go sleep when I say for my own convenience, but I also know that little kids need their rest. I'm also nervous about what happens after Christmas. Assuming this keeps working, BR will continue to go to sleep with no drama and then will hit paydirt on Christmas but then what? Will she think that she got what she wanted out of the deal and now she can go back to acting an ass at bedtime or will she at some point during the holiday season realize that going to sleep right when she gets in the bed is pretty good and start doing it of her own volition?
Do any of my fair readers have any experience with this? I know at least a couple of people who have commented lately have kids and I have reason to suspect other parents are lurking.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Despite what some people seem to think, I do like Fargo. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than DC and the people around here are just so damn nice it's kind of weird for an East Coast guy. Over the last couple of weeks I've even had a couple of pretty good meals that had some local flair to them. But best of all, since I've been in Fargo I have sat in traffic exactly twice for a grand total of less than 20 minutes.
Last weekend WifeRat and I arranged for BabyRat to stay with Nanna after we got done making lefse and we went out to dinner. We originally wanted to go to the Silver Moon Supper Club but when we called they couldn't seat us until 9:30 and I know what that means; you don't get to your table until 10 and then you basically get a gavage-style meal of end of the night leftovers. So we decided to stop by the Silver Moon and see if something opened up, which it didn't so we decided to go to the HoDo.
WifeRat had the Bison tenderloin and I had the NY Strip, they were both pretty good. I especially liked the "barley risotto" on the Bison tenderloin, it was a nice little regional touch. We had the Walleye cakes and Shrimp/Scallop gratin to start. The gratin was nice but the walleye cakes were a little underseasoned, which is a constant thing out here.
Two nights ago we went to Doolittle's, they're a small regional franchise with four restaurants in Minnesota and North Dakota. The food there was well above average for the F-M area and I've been to a lot worse restaurants in DC. If your kids like mac & cheese, this is the place; best kid's mac & cheese I've had in a restaurant. I had a "smoked tri-tip" that doesn't appear on the online menu and was served with some excellent mushroom raviolis, a nice plate for $16.
Last night I was out with Slayer from the rugby team, I picked him up from the bar he works at, Rascals. Rascals was unbelievably dead, but I still had to pay a $3 cover to see Whisky Sam from Grand Forks. After we left and I lost $30 playing blackjack at Dempsey's, James (another rugby guy) talked us into going to Old Broadway with him. The less said about OB, the better; imagine the Swerve but with a higher ceiling. We fled OB and went to Rooter's but we got there too late to play Pig Wheel which is what we wanted to do instead of go to OB.
So for all my bitching and moaning about Fargo I'm still managing to have a good time, I just miss DC.
Technology is wonderful, I'm sitting here right now watching the Sunday Night Football game over the internet. When I realize the NFL could do this with every game if they were so inclined, I get pissed about the monopoly the NFL has granted to Direct TV that denies me the opportunity to see the Raiders week in and week out in the comfort of my home. ESPN's Gregg Easterbrook has been bitching about this for years.
We decided not to get a TV while we're out here in Fargo and for the most part I don't miss it. With the advent of Hulu we can easily watch a lot of TV online and if we're really jonesing we can get stuff like "Mad Men" on iTunes. The only time I really miss having a TV is on Sunday afternoons when football is on.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I was reading a blog post today and in it there was a swipe at "frat boys." Now I wasn't in a fraternity in college so I don't even know why I care about this, but for some reason I do and I'm gonna speak on it.
One thing that I've noticed over the years is that the folks who are most vehement about their hatred of "frat boys" and "jocks" and anyone else who doesn't fit into their narrow definition of an acceptable lifestyle, are essentially doing the same thing they accuse the frat boys of doing. That is, just lump a group of people together based on a set of assumptions and assume that they're all the same. It's really quite ironic.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I hate to sound like some kind of insufferable "foodie" douche-nozzle but the food in Fargo sucks. I'm finally in a position where I actually have time to go out to eat again and I find myself stuck in culinary hell.
It's not like every time I go out to eat it has to be some sort of transcendent fine dining experience or every morsel I put in my mouth has to be seasonal and locally sourced, but I do enjoy eating. I would like it if there was some sort of local specialty where I could taste test a couple of venerable Fargo dining institutions (like the eternal Pat's vs. Geno's debate in Philly, even though they both suck and the best place to get a cheese steak in Philly is Jim's) and claim some Fargo insider cred by expressing a strong preference.
Alas, it is not to be. Fargo seems to have no entrenched culinary traditions for me to take part in. I ate a fuck load of cheese curds this Summer, both fried and fresh but that's really a Wisconsin tradition.
The closest I've come to any kind of indigineous cuisine is fried walleye. I had some fried walleye this Summer at a couple of different places, but the best fried walleye I had was at one of my Aunt's houses and I helped cook it. While bemoaning the lack of fried walleye the other day, my Father-in-law gets around to informing me that the Legion has fried walleye every Tuesday. I'll give that a whirl soon, but hopefully they won't be serving it with the gawd-awful, sugar-laden tartar sauce that seems to be the norm up here, and if I want some hot sauce for my fish I better bring it myself. If you're lucky enough to actually get some hot sauce it's always Tabasco. I don't have anything against Tabasco, but when I want some hot sauce on my fish I'm looking for some Texas Pete or something in that style of vinegary, not much heat but lots of flavor, hot sauce.
I'm not quite sure what happened, but it looks like the Cynics' Party morphed into Stinque. Does anyone know what the story is?
Stinque commenter RomeGirl hits the nail on the head when talking about Palin, "She and, I presume, some kind of professional person who is paid to look after her interests, walked around a turkey farm, saw two drains and a bloodbath, and said, RIGHT HERE IS FINE."
The Sexist is 70% man. - Ever wonder what your writing style says about you? I did to and apparently I'm only 65% man.
What's the German Word for Douchebag? - Stunning, guys get a tattoo of whorehouse on their forearms for a lifetime discount. Good ol' progressive Europe!
Criticism of Eric Holder coming from a few different sources - As Ta-Nehisi points out, Obama's rhetoric on drug law enforcement is quite different from what Holder was saying during the Clinton administration. Hopefully the new AG will get with the new boss' program.
The Copy Ranter on Russian Bear vodka ad - CR is right, "real men" WTF? Totally inconsistent with the tone, tenor, and style of the rest of the ad.
From the Root: Busta Rhymes continues to reach out and spread understanding - I'm sorry I even asked if it was fair to brand Busta homophobic. Especially distasteful was Busta glomming onto Obama saying, "After Nov. 4, we gettin' so much new sh**, we gonna call that motherf$#%&@ Ay-rab money." It's an ignorance dog, slathered in stupidity.
Malcolm Gladwell gets put on blast - Saw this link in a tweet from Jay Smooth and dude gives Gladwell the business something fierce.
The Sports Guy - Amazing column on "The Battle of the Network Stars".
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Living in DC I don't go to malls very often. I'm lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where I can buy about 99% of what I need (really 100% of what I need and 98% of what I want) somewhere within about a 15 block radius from home now that the Harris Teeter finally opened. I guess I go to Pentagon City a couple of times a year, but it's usually during the holidays and I'm there on a mission not fucking around like I was today.
For reasons I can't explain, I took a stroll through the West Acres iteration of Spencer gifts while I was at the mall today. I was fascinated and kind of weirded out to see that the Misfits iconic Crimson Ghost logo now appears on everything from air fresheners to wallets. I'm glad that there's some kind of cultural counter-point out there to focus grouped garbage like Hannah Montana, but the blatant cash grab is kind of gross.
All of this got me thinking about capitalism. I'm an unapologetic capitalist who wishes that there were more ethical rules applied to capitalism. I firmly believe that many of the innovations that make modern life worth living wouldn't and couldn't have happened in any other economic system. Look at the poor prick who invented the AK-47, quite possibly the most popular weapon ever made, he got a medal and the designation of "proletarian hero" but not much else out of the deal. What's the incentive to innovate and invent if you're still gonna be living in a shack with a dirt floor no matter how successful you are?
The flip side of that is that capitalism produces a lot of garbage in search of the next "killer app". Spencer's was full of all manner of frightfully stupid and unnecessary junk; penis lollipops, breast suspenders (don't ask 'cause I can't really explain), and edible underwear are just a few examples. Presumably, behind each and everyone of these products was someone who thought, planned, and worked to get these products to market with the thought that they were going to make some money off of them.
I can't help but wonder what if all the time, money, and energy that went into manufacturing and distributing the useless tchotchkes sold at Spencer Gifts, Hot Topic, and Pac Sun were put into renewable energy research? But that's not the way capitalism works, we can't compel anyone to innovate in a specific area, we can only provide incentives.
I saw this post the other day about a "Green New Deal" that I found quite fascinating. I don't know if we want lawyers coming up with our environmental policy, but the idea has some merit. This is where we need to give capitalism a little kick in the ass, help it get out of its conservative rut with some gov't assistance.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
So I've been following this guy Humanity Critic for a couple of weeks now. He's got some interesting stuff to say and a style to his writing that I like, appreciate, and will probably start to bite. HC is constantly Twittering and has put me on to some good links regarding Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State talk that's been going on.
Well last night I got a tweet about Busta Rhymes being a homophobe with a link in it and the link takes you to a video of Pharrell and DJ Premier talking backstage or in a Green room somewhere.
The whole setup is a little crazy because before seeing this I wouldn't have really thought that Premier and Pharrell would hang out. Premier is 42 but looks like he could be in his 50's and Pharrell's little skinny ass probably won't ever look more than about 19, so the visual is striking when you see the two of them together. Then consider that stylistically the two men are on opposite ends of the spectrum; Premier is straight old-school and Pharrell skates and listens to Steely Dan. But when you look at the variety of artists that both Premier and Pharrell have worked with and the success that they've both enjoyed, it's not that surprising that they would be kicking it.
In this video Pharrell is telling a story about Busta Rhymes. Not surprisingly, Pharrell is a pretty talented mimic and the way he relates the story is funnier than Hell. In addition to changing up his voice he also takes on the Busta's abrupt and strident body language, the extra loud tone, and the barking rhythm that makes Busta Busta. The conclusion of the story is that Busta is upset because some dude (one of the Jungle Brothers) that wanted to take a picture with him was wearing mascara.
I could go either way on this story. I'm not down with the homophobia, but tripping because some dude is wearing mascara doesn't really mean much to me. This isn't me defending Busta or going soft on homophobia. Just like accusations of racism, I like to wait until things are fairly clear cut before I level the charge of homophobia against someone. None of this is the point of this post, we're just getting to the incident that inspired this post's title in the next couple of paragraphs.
So like I said, I've been following Humanity Critic and I decided to follow up on this by leaving a comment on his blog at vibe.com. In order to comment you have to register, mildly annoying but really no big deal. They ask for your city and state, I type in Washington and in the drop-down list for states "DC" is nowhere to be found. Fuck me gently with a chain saw, I can't believe this just happened.
Now ten years ago or maybe even five, I could understand how something like this happened. But it's 2008, shit like this should have been straightened out a long time ago. It's incidents like this that have radicalized my thinking about DC statehood. When I first moved to DC getting representation in the House would have been enough to keep me happy, but now I say fuck all that! DC STATEHOOD NOW!!
As far as Vibe goes, I've always thought the magazine was kind of whack and now I have proof. Vibe.com I'm puttin' y'all on blast. This is some trifling, shameful shit. I find this diss of DC especially disturbing from an African-American oriented publication and website.
Who the hell is running your site that they didn't notice that you have ZERO users from D-Chocolate City-C? Maybe you just don't care that you don't have any users from DC, it's not like there are any black people there or anything.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Everybody's spinning is the general sentiment behind the Politico's piece on why Hillary Clinton might reject an offer to serve as Secretary of State. A few sources have already spoken on the possible conflict of interest the Clinton Global Initiative poses. Some bloggers are disagreeing.
I'll keep posting as the story breaks.
I haven't really popped off about work for a while because right now I'm in a pretty good situation. I'm working remotely as an analyst and tech writer; I check my e-mail in the morning, call to check in with the bosses once a week by phone, attend a phone conference once a week, make sure my deliverables get out quickly, and life is good. I really consider this whole setup to be a gift from my boss.
For the most part the people I work with are OK. The current setup is that we have no sub-contractors on our team, so we're all employees of the large defense contractor that we work for. I guess that sounds strange to people who aren't familiar with gov't contracting, doesn't it?
It does make a difference to have everyone working for the same company though. Sometimes in a misguided effort to build some kind of phony espirit de corps on gov't contracts were everyone is just there for a paycheck, managers from one company or another will attempt to ascertain some kind of small perk for their employees or have closed door meetings to differentiate between employees and subs or employees of other companies.
The real problem comes with dealing with the gov't workers. We're there to provide advice and support to our gov't customer on a variety of topics. We generally act as subject matter experts where our customer agency has gaps in their knowledge of appropriations, technical subjects, and legislative mandates which frequently takes the form of providing analysis and solutions for a whatever problems they're having. What this really means is that we're there to do what the government workers can't do for themselves.
This leads to situations like the one I find myself in this morning. Within the portion of the USDA that my company services, I'm the designated subject matter expert on SharePoint. I don't do any server side stuff, I'm really just there to train users and figure out a way to extract some value out of the product for our customer. I've been dicking around with this off and on for coming up on three years now and they still don't know they want.
The Hobbit is the gov't worker I have to deal with on all of this and he insists on playing this crazy "Mother may I?" game with me. If I call him on the phone to discuss something I want to do (even though I'm the SME, I don't admin rights) after a 15 minute circular conversation, where I could swear he's deliberately being obtuse, he asks me to write it all up in an e-mail. If I dare to skip the introductory phone call with the Hobbit and broach a new topic in a detailed e-mail, he likes to wait a week before responding and when he does respond he asks a series of questions that I answered in my initial e-mail and makes several nonsensical counter proposals. It's positively maddening.
I have a co-worker who has spent a bit more time with the Hobbit than I have and he says that the real problem is the Hobbit doesn't communicate effectively via e-mail. True, he doesn't communicate well via e-mail but he also is trying to communicate bad ideas for the sole purpose of feeling like he made some sort of contribution to what's going on.
Here's what I wish I could make the Hobbit understand: I don't really care. It's your show, I'm not invested in this institution other than wanting to help it function better. My paycheck keeps coming every two weeks and that's all I need out of this deal. I'm content to create and implement a winning strategy with this technology and let the Hobbit take all the credit for it. If only he were smart enough to recognize the situation, shut up, and get out of my way.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The Humanity Critic continues to fire out links about HRC for SecState and why it's a bad idea.
I'm glad I'm not in DC right now.
Prince declares love for the GOP. Not exactly, but he does come out against gay marriage and, " . . . people sticking it wherever . . ."
For the first time ever I'm thinking about my working life in something other than strictly practical terms.
When I started working full-time, professional gigs 12+ years ago I hadn't finished school. I was nervous like shit because I half believed all the people who were telling me that I just had to go back and finish school RIGHT THAT MINUTE or career and financial doom were sure to follow. At the same time everyone was telling me I had to finish school, I already had a decent job making about the same amount of money as most of my friends who had finished school. I found myself in a weird position; I was doing OK, but I thought I was lucky to be doing as well as I was and consequently I had no real ambition in my professional life.
My career continued to chug along, I moved from tech support to training and took a job at a kick ass, small company that had been founded by a guy named Mark Minasi. Ten years later I still haven't had a job that I found as challenging or rewarding as my first training job. It was an intense workplace filled with a lot of extremely intelligent and extroverted people who weren't afraid to get into arguments or challenge opinions. Part of what I loved about the job was that no one seemed to particularly care if you had a degree. The long pole in the tent there was were you smart enough and intense enough to keep up? I was and so it was all good.
Too bad Mark and his brilliance left the company shortly before I got there and the company was on the verge of collapse. I only worked there for four months before the shit hit the fan and I moved on to a series of short-term opportunities where every six months I found myself sweating through interviews hoping no one asked if I had a degree. Eventually I got settled into some more long term jobs (including a stint working for BigDaddyRat) and somewhere along the way I decided to go back and finish school.
Finishing school took longer than I thought, cost more than I thought, but proved to be much more satisfying than I thought it would be when it was finally over. It's been almost a year since I took my last exam and the thought that it's over still brings a huge smile to my face. WifeRat and I have gotten a lot done over the five years since we've been married; she's gotten tenure, I finished school, we had a kid, we bought a home, and now the future is starting to look like a limitless horizon of new possibilities.
So now I'm thinking about work a little differently. For so many years I was just worried about keeping the job I had, but now I'm beginning to think about what it is that I really want out of work. I have no idea where I'm going to end up, but I can see a few different possibilities.
If I stay with the massive government contractor I currently work for I have to get out of the job I'm currently in. Right now I'm at the USDA and it is the most toxic government agency I've ever worked in. When I get back to DC I should have a chance to take a proposal writing class and I would like to leverage that against my presentation skills to jump over to the business development side of government contracting. The upside is that I stay in a recession proof industry and keep some stability. The downside is that I'm still a part of big bureaucratic entity and these fuckers have shown that they don't like to pay people, so I'm committing to fighting for every nickel I get out of them.
I could also bust out as an entrepreneur. Using those same proposal writing skills I can start getting myself some small contracts because there's no sense in throwing away 12 years of government contracting experience. I would also get into some real estate development, I led a tenant-sponsored condo conversion over the last four years and learned quite a bit about real estate. Our technical advisor is thinking about retiring in a few years and we have talked about getting together once we close the books on our current dealings. If I get my own company going I would probably also do some independent sales for various entities. I have a buddy who owns a company that does the signs in new buildings, they currently have no representation in DC. The sales are long-term and big money, but while I'm working for someone else I don't have the time to develop contacts and formalize my relationship with the manufacturer. Upside is that I would diversify my income stream, be independent, and get to work on different things. Downside is that administration and paperwork are not my strong suits and you have to have those things straight as a small business owner.
My final possibility is to become a full-time creative writer. As I continue to blog everyday, I feel my writing getting sharper and more clear. If I'm going to pursue writing as a career I will need to take a screen writing or script writing class in the near future. Ideally what I would like to do is bring fully formed ideas to an established production company that would take me on as a staff writer and allow me to learn the nuts & bolts of creative writing. BET is also getting into the business of creating new programming, so I think there's an opportunity for me there somewhere.
I don't know where I'm heading or what the final result will be, but it's good to feel free to dream again.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
A links post, the refuge of the lazy blogger. I've been steady knocking out 500+ words each day, for someone who's not a professional writer or advocating a political position or dissecting the minutiae of "Heroes" that's pretty impressive and so I feel OK about punting today.
The Humanity Critic - This cat started following me on Twitter and so I did the same. In one of his tweets he sent out a link about why Clinton for SecState is a crock. The basic thesis is that because of the Clinton Global Initiative, Hillary has a conflict of interest that can't be resolved and isn't a viable candidate for Secretary of State; but the swirling rumors are meant to cockblock either Bill Richardson or John Kerry from getting the job. As always, the Clintons are keeping it classy . . . NOT!
Gnashing of teeth and rending of garments at the Wall Street Journal - This is the part of partisan politics that's so sad, GOP nut-gobblers can't believe that a guy who has repeatedly stepped on his dick for eight years isn't universally loved by all. I actually feel sorry for President Bush though, you can see that the last four years has really taken the starch out of him.
A new Five Guys opened up in DC
Dennis Miller has lost his shit - So typical, reduce women and their objections to whatever or whomever to jealousy over an assumed sex life. I hope the current cast of SNL has the balls to rip Miller (an SNL alumnus) to shreds over this idiocy and his tired schtick of obscure references.
Thanks to Knockout Ed over at Cointelpol for sending me this video from the New York Times about the Hyde School rugby program.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I spent a good bit of the day over at the in-law's place making lefse. This is another Mid-West tradition that my wife grew up with and has told me about, but now I've witnessed it firsthand. Nanna (my mother-in-law) had already made all the dough when we arrived and so we basically just got to start rolling and cooking as soon as we walked in the door.
The way this usually goes down is that a whole family (really the women of the family) gets together before or during the holidays to make lefse. The family will make a whole shitload of lefse that will be divided up, handed out, and eaten throughout the holiday season. Being a guy who likes and respects rituals and such I find this kind of cool; an anachronistic food tradition being passed from one generation to the next.
Like many people these days, we belong to blended family. WifeRat's Mom passed away and her Father remarried many years before we met, so Nanna is actually WifeRat's Step-mother. Nanna has two daughters of her own, so between her and Gramps (what BabyRat calls my Father-in-law) they have five daughters. Thankfully everyone gets along, because if they didn't it could get messy in a hurry.
Why am I bothering to tell you all of this? Because with four sisters-in-law, basically any family gathering quickly turns into a hen party and this was no different. One of Nanna's daughters (who also has a daughter) lives in town and her other daughter was visiting for the weekend, so by the time everyone arrived I was outnumbered 6 to 1 because Gramps had beat a hasty retreat back to his office leaving me to my own devices.
Still, it was a good scene and a big part of what I came out here for. BabyRat knows that she comes from an African-American family with a proud military tradition (both of BigDaddyRat's brothers served as well) that has deep roots in the DC area. I came out here to teach her is that she has a connection to the land and farming and, even though many people will simply label her as African-American, she's also has Norwegian and Irish heritage that must be acknowledged and celebrated.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Since I've moved to the Mid-West I have fallen in love with Walmart. There is an (almost) brand new Walmart SuperCenter located a five minute drive from our crib out here. This place has everything from tires to frozen shrimp, I love walking into Walmart knowing that they will almost certainly have every single thing I'm looking for. USB thumb drive, guacamole, and locking lug nuts? Check. If I wanted a codpiece, spurs, and a sawzall I'm pretty sure I could get all three at this Walmart.
You have to forgive me for my exuberance. When I need a last minute item, I'm used to going to a poorly stocked bodega and hoping for the best as I look for panko bread crumbs. Now that I'm a happy denizen of the suburbs, I just hop in my SUV and head that ass over to Walmart. It is well-stocked, it is huge, and it is open 24 hours a day. On top of all that, unlike the hurting Cashwise that only lets you get $25 or the skinflint Target that only allows $40, you can get $100 cash back.
WifeRat is a Target devotee. Over the Summer my brother-in-law and I had a long conversation over several beers about how our wives don't just go to Target 3-4 times each week; but they need to go, have to go, there is something that just had to be had from Target numerous times each week. As my love for Walmart has deepened, so has my understanding for WifeRat's Target fetish.
I'm pretty sure my love affair is going to end when I get back to DC and the nearest Walmart is 20 minutes away under ideal conditions, but we'll see what happens.
Being a DC resident, you tend to miss out on the really nasty campaigns and campaign ads. The Democratic primaries are the de facto elections in DC and the jockeying for position in those campaigns isn't the same kind of scorched Earth bloodsport you see in other areas.
Despite the fact that we don't have a TV here, I've seen quite a few political ads over the last four months. One of the nastiest races in the country was right here in Minnesota that featured Al Franken (of Saturday Night Live fame and Air America infamy) taking on incumbent Norm Coleman and just for an extra whiff of drama there was third party candidate Dean Barkley. This race is shaping up to be one of the closest in Senate history.
The entire campaign was full of nasty attack ads, many of them sponsored by the DNC's and GOP's senate election campaigns. After slinging all the mud he could, Coleman engaged in a chicken-hearted call for an end to attack ads near the end of the campaign. Not surprisingly, Coleman was heckled by Franken's people and the ridiculous smears continue to fly from both sides.
Now with the margin separating the candidates standing at 206 votes, Minnesota is headed to a recount. Accusations of voter fraud have been lobbed and questions are being raised about some of the voting machines used in Minnesota as well.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I would label myself as a reluctant feminist. It's not so much that I disagree with the basic principles of feminism as I understand them, but rather how they are sometimes applied or interpreted.
Having a wife that's a fairly prominent feminist scholar, I often forget that some basic facts about gender and sexism are still in question by some men. I would have thought that by the year 2008 we would no longer have guys talking about women who "deserved" to be raped. When I read this post from the Sexist
and I was floored. Even more dismaying to me personally, was that this was a young brother talking this absolute insanity. Perhaps even more shocking than the actual blog post itself, was that there were dudes co-signing on what the first jerkoff was saying.
I'm the Father to a wonderful little girl that I want to have every opportunity there is, athletic and otherwise. Unfortunately, there are still too many men out there who think that every increased opportunity for women and girls comes at the expense of men and boys. This frustrates me because equality between men and women isn't (or at least shouldn't be) a zero-sum equation. Providing the chance for my daughter to play soccer or participate in an after-school science program doesn't mean that I want to take those things away from someone else's little boy.
When I was finishing my degree, I did quite a bit of research on Title IX and I find myself in favor of the legislation. Much of the objection to Title IX comes from various misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the law. This bit from Glenn Sacks (a men's and fathers issues newspaper columnist) illustrates the most common misconception about Title IX:
Time and again the Federal Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has investigated schools and allowed them only two options to meet Title IX--create new women's teams for which there often are neither funds nor interested female athletes, or cut men's teams. Fortunately this isn't true. Mr. Sacks is looking at a 30 year old policy interpretation that has long since been updated.
[Update] I received an e-mail from Mr. Sacks pointing out that the quote of his that I use is from 2001, four years before the 2005 OCR clarification. My gratitude goes out to Mr. Sacks for taking the time to write and allowing me the opportunity to set the record straight.[\Update]
In 2005 the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights offered additional clarification of the three-prong test of compliance. In this clarification, the OCR provides chapter and verse on how an institution can show they are complying with Title IX without cutting men's sports programs. In fact, the number of men's programs at a school and how much they spend are in no way a part of this test of compliance.
Without a doubt creating surveys discussed in the OCR clarification, sending them out, ensuring adequate participation, and compiling accurate results takes resources. Perhaps resources that are hard to come by in a small, underfunded athletic department.
There are ways to deal with the challenges raised by creating athletic participation surveys; graduate students in the social sciences are a potential untapped resource. Rather than fighting with feminists about Title IX, athletic departments should enlist their help by inviting feminist scholars to create and administer their compliance surveys. Grad students get a real project to work on, the athletic department works pro-actively to comply with Title IX, and the institution finds out if it's truly serving all its stakeholders. Everyone wins.
Jimmy Valentine's Lonely Hearts Club Fundraiser for Webb Elementary After School Program - TONIGHT!!
From Mark Thorp:
this thursday, 10/13, FUNDRAISER for Webb Elementary 6-9pm. Read More for additional details.
this friday, 10/14, Sinister Intelligence Agency, choice tracks from pop to metal, who knows with these delinquents
this saturray, 10/15, DJ Sharkey with DJ Darko. yes that's Darko from Spankrock, we did this once before and it's the only time we ever got so packed we had to hold a line at the door. doors open at 9, plan accordingly kiddies, you done been warned...
this sunday, 10/16, victor peters not only spins his favorite music buT CELEBRATES HIS BIRTHDAY AS WELL! HA! victor's got recordings from the biggest house parties up and down the coast from the last 15 years, this is prize stuff that'll take you back, please help us make a big messy mess
alrighty here's the specific details on the fundraiser:
Catrice Simpson directs the After School Program at Trinidad's Webb Elementary. She's got 221 kids and is only slotted $1000 a year from DC Public Schools. Last year she never got that funding and she hasn't gotten it yet this year either, meaning our $500 donation was her entire budget last year. True story. Catrice is dedicated pretty fierce.
We've formed a non-profit corporation called Trinidad Association (tax ID # 80-0299958). We're raising money for the After School Program, all of which will be held by the non-profit. If we donated the money to DC Public Schools it would never get to this program. Catrice will direct us to purchase her needs (art supplies, basketballs, etc...), which we will then donate directly to her program. That way ALL funds hit home.
The fundraiser is today, Thursday, 11/13, from 6 PM til 9 PM. In exchange for your $20 donation, we're giving away free drinks (3 per person) as well as food, and DJ T Y (Trinidad's own) is spinning. Ward 5 Councilmember Thomas' office has been a huge help and he's supposed to show. If you can't make it to the fundraiser, you can leave a donation with us when we're open. Checks can be made out to Trinidad Association. It's a shame we weren't quick enough to have paypal ready but next time we will.
If you're cynical about how much of your charitable contributions ever get to their intended target, here's a chance to make 100% impact on 221 kids who need something to do so they're not standing on the corner or stuck in front of a TV. If you're disgusted by the braying shiftless who complain about what everyone else should be doing, fork over $20 and directly effect positive change. Thanks if you read this far and sorry if it anything's preachy, but you know how it is...
some talk, others act
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
It's not that I don't like it out here in Fargo. When I first hatched this plan to move out here for six months one of the things I thought we would be able to do is live in a house, but we found an apartment that was literally a five minute walk from my in-laws so we took it. Other than the minor issue of not getting to live in a house for six months, pretty much everything has gone right on this trip out here. We found an awesome school for BabyRat, we have been on a couple of vacations and have taken numerous trips to the lake, and we have also been able to see a lot of family and participate in family events (birthdays and other celebrations we usually miss) while we have been here. Really it's been just about perfect when I think about it.
Still, I will be glad to get back home to DC. WifeRat and I like to go out to eat and we've done a good bit of that here, but going to Paradiso doesn't really cut if when you're craving some haute cuisine or sushi. I miss my neighborhood with the three nearby parks and, now, it's plethora of easy to walk to watering holes. I think what I miss the most is being able to walk to the store when we need a last second ingredient. There's nothing quite like the smell and sounds of the trees swaying in the breeze of a late autumn evening in DC.
Dropping BabyRat off at school is always interesting. I never know what to expect day-to-day. Some days she's pumped up and wants to listen to music on the drive to school, when we get there I get a perfunctory hug & kiss, a brief, "'bye Daddy" and she's gone. Other days she's not feeling it and we have to have a brief snuggle in the car before we head in to start the school day.
Today she was asking to watch TV on the way to school. Of course I said, "No." And firmly explained that we don't watch TV in the car unless we're on a long trip. BabyRat tried to protest, but was quickly cut off and moved on to whining about not having a snack on the way to school. "I'm hungry," she wailed as we pulled onto the interstate. By the time we got to school the Doodler had gotten herself all worked up, so we chilled in the car for a minute and she calmed her little ass down.
As soon as we into the school building BabyRat takes off. So after stuffing all of her gear into her cubby and filling out the sign-in sheet I go to find BabyRat for a last goodbye.
I briefly speak with BR's teacher (we'll call her Little Miss Sunshine 'cause she's like a little blond kewpie doll) about BabyRat's concern that she didn't have snack yesterday. LMS explains that the kids have a self-serve snack and that if the earlier kids take too long the kids that are waiting don't get a snack. I love it! I mean I don't love that my kid didn't get a snack, but I like the system and the reasoning behind it that says they have to teach kids the consequences of their actions.
I get a hug & kiss & "Love you" from BabyRat and here I am at the coffee shop getting ready to take the car in to get the oil changed and tires rotated.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
My father died suddenly over Labor Day weekend this year. He's been on my mind a lot in the intervening months, but I haven't been able to write about him until now. I had some crazy idea that I could say everything I had to say about him, his life, and his death in one post. I now see that's impossible and I've decided to talk about him and his amazing life in smaller chunks starting today. It wasn't until I was half done writing this post that I realized today is Veteran's Day and a fitting tribute to my Father's 32 years of military service.
This morning I was reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' column "Wild Cowboys" and it got me thinking that maybe I should tell the story of how I came to be a Raiders fan. It seems like a good place to start talking about my old man, those Sunday afternoons when I first started watching football with him were an important time for me.
When I first started hanging out with my Dad on Sunday afternoons it wasn't football that attracted my attention, but rather his weekly ritual of boot polishing. Sunday afternoons were when my Dad would clean and polish (depending on his schedule) two pairs of boots or a pair of boots and a pair of dress shoes. He would drag out on old ammo box that contained his shoe shine kit, lay out a couple of pieces of newspaper and go to work.
First Dad would pick up one of his massive (size 16) boots, stick a shoe form it in to help hold its shape, and give it a vigorous brushing. His powerful arms working in concert to turn the brush into little more than a blur as he quickly and confidently removed a week's worth of dirt from his combat boots. Next, he would set fire to the surface of his shoe polish before quickly blowing out the flame leaving the living room filled with a smell that I will forever associate with Sunday afternoons. Dad would take the old t-shirt in his shoe shine kit, wrap up two fingers, kind of twist the whole deal around his wrist, and dip the two fingers first into water and then the softened polish as he applied a dull coat of polish. Finally Dad would starting shining his boots with a soft cloth, finishing with a flourish by repeatedly and loudly snapping his cloth against the toe of his boot leaving it like a shiny black mirror before starting over on the other boot or shoe.
As a father myself now, I can't help but think how ridiculous the sense of trepidation I felt was as I finally gathered up the nerve to ask my Dad what he was doing as I sidled up next to him on the couch. And slowly a Sunday afternoon ritual began form, I would ask my Dad if it was time and he would give a small nod which would send me dashing to his closet to get his shoe shine kit. At first I was too small to even break the vacuum seal created by the ammo box and get the thing open, but after Dad popped open the box I would lay out a couple of sheets of newspaper, fill the dirty stained cup in his kit with a few fingers of water, and watch as Dad methodically went to work on his boots.
It was during one of those Sunday afternoons sometime during the 1975 season that the Oakland Raiders played a home game in the old Oakland Coliseum that was broadcast on tape delay a week later. At the time we were living in Germany and had just moved there from New Jersey (where I was born), but I felt no geographic connection with any team. I was immediately struck by all the fans turning the coliseum into a sea of black and I thought to myself, "That's my team right there." So from that day forward I was a Raider fan.
Over the years I started doing more and more of the boot polishing each Sunday. At first I would just get everything set up, then I started doing the initial brushing, and eventually I was doing the whole thing. I think I was in 7th or 8th grade when I went to go do something with my friends one Sunday afternoon instead of watching football at home. That night I was chilling on the couch in the family room after dinner when my Dad stuck his head in and asked, "Where are my boots?" I responded with a blank stare. "Aren't you supposed to get my boots ready for the week?" my Dad asked insistently. "Here, let me help you," Dad said as he came into the room with two pairs of combat boots, his shoe shine kit, and a couple of sheets of newspaper that he laid down neatly in front of me. And it slowly started to dawn on me that what had once been a bonding ritual between father and son, had just turned into another chore for me to get done each week.
Monday, November 10, 2008
I don't usually make a point of staying up on what's going on in California politics, but this Prop 8 thing is worth paying attention to. As a Black man who isn't down with homophobia, the backlash towards African-Americans because California voters came down on the side of bigotry and intolerance is troubling and starting to piss me the fuck off. Dan Savage, the homophobe's bogeyman, a dude who always struck me as being pretty level-headed and pragmatic is now foaming at the mouth like a loon blaming Black people for the Prop 8 debacle.
A quick spin around the interwebs shows that plenty of brothers and sisters, gay and straight, are upset and speaking out against this latest bit of bullshit in Cali. This hasn't been enough to prevent people who are, quite rightfully, upset about the vote on Prop 8 from calling Black people niggers. I'm annoyed that despite the progress we seem to be making as a society, when some shit goes wrong the first thing that many people want to do is try to blame Black people.
Even so, I refuse to respond to the hate and stupidity being shown by some with more hate and stupidity. I'm feeling optimistic and strong these days and I feel compelled to use that optimism and strength in a positive way, so I say this to all of my gay brothers and sisters (Black, White, Yellow, Brown, and any other color there may be out there): I'm still here with you. Call me a nigger all you want to, I don't give a fuck, it's just a word; a word that is powerless unless I give it power and I refuse to do that any more. You're pissed and rightfully so, you see the great promise of this country coming closer to reality but at the same time you see yourselves continuing to be marginalized and discriminated against. It's fucked up and wrong, but we've got work to do and fighting with each other over who is to blame doesn't help anyone.
I'm sure someday Ta-Nehisi is going to say something that I disagree with, maybe he already has and I missed it, but for now I remain unabashedly on his tip. He sums up my feelings on this senseless conflict perfectly.
Today is the first day I haven't hit my goal of 500 words for the day since I made a new commitment to this blog and to myself. I'm not gonna trip about it, if I wanted to come up with 60 more words to type I know that I could but that seems kind of stupid.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
This posting every day is no joke. Originally my goal was to post every weekday, but NylonThread put me onto to this NaBloPoMo thing and I felt like it was a good way to push myself and my writing.
Since I took my first creative writing class in college I have felt a desire to write more. But because of my freakishly bad relationship with school, I allowed myself to be caught up in the ridiculous notion that if I wasn’t writing for class credit then I was wasting my time.
Years later when I started working as a trainer and tech writer had to start creating classes and presentations, I started thinking about writing creatively again. But I had no idea how to get started and I talked myself out of giving it any serious consideration. It wasn’t that I never wrote anything that amused me or that I never enjoyed writing, commenting on blogs and e-mailing gave me plenty of that, but somehow I didn’t feel like I was writing.
Now that I’ve started this blogging thing I’m allowing myself to reconsider creative (specifically TV or movie scripts) writing as a career again. I feel like I have ideas out the wazoo and I’m getting closer to being able to assemble them in a coherent way. My experience as a gov’t contractor is going to be to my advantage, not just as grist for the comedy mill but also, in analyzing what it is that I need to do to sell an idea. Who to present an idea to, how to create a demand for what I’m producing; all the things you have to do to keep yourself employed as a gov’t contractor.
I was gonna put some humble pie bullshit in here about how I know I’m going to strike out a few times, but I don’t actually believe that. Either I’m going to put together some ideas that I can sell to a production company or who-the-fuck-ever (maybe have a more known writer pimp my ideas) or I’m not. It’s that simple, maybe the first buyer won’t bite but someone else will.
I don’t know where this well spring of confidence comes from, but I feel it.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
This past week I went hunting for the first time ever. Bubba’s folks (owners of the previously mentioned T-Diamond Ranch) live on 2000 acres, so we were able to go hunting right on their property a couple of times.
The Rancher had an “elk tag,” giving him the right to bag one elk this season. We went drove up the mountain on their property on Thursday right before sunset to see if there were any elk about. We sniffed around for about an hour without seeing anything before (literally) heading back to the ranch.
Yesterday the Rancher wanted to take me out again to give me a couple of shots at a deer. In this particular part of Central Montana, and on cattle ranches in general, deer are considered pests. So we weren’t necessarily looking for a trophy buck, but were really out doing a bit of pest control. It also became clear that the Rancher wanted to see if I could handle a gun and if could bring myself to pull the trigger on Bambi or Bambi’s mom or older brother.
A little background on me and guns is probably appropriate here. As a guy who grew up with pretty strict parents, the one area where my parents were pretty laissez faire was weapons. From the time I was about 11 years old, I owned and carried a variety of knives. When I lived in Saudi Arabia my friends and I would go out to the Souks and buy ourselves cheap stilettos and switchblades or knock off Swiss Army Knives. The big rule was don’t take your knife to school, so long as you didn’t do that everything was cool.
When we moved back to the States, I was amazed to find that my parents “What me Worry?” attitude about knives also applied to projectile weapons like wrist rockets, bb guns, and actual firearms. So for the two years (7th and 8th grade) I lived at Ft. Benning I did a lot of shooting. In addition to shooting a hell of lot of cans with my bb guns, I also belonged to the Jr. Rifle Club (JRC) on post where I learned how to shoot a .22 small bore. There were also a few “field trips” for me and some of the other advanced shooters from the JRC where we got to go to the real range and bust off shots with 9s, M-16s, and M-60s. During one of those trips our instructors gave us the Army’s Expert Marksman test, which I passed at the age of 13. So the long and the short of it is that; despite the fact that in the intervening 25 years I have become effete, latte sipping, SUV driving, condo owning, organic food eating, city living, East Coast liberal; I know how to handle a gun.
Now I haven’t shot a gun of any kind in at least eight years, so I asked the Rancher to give me a quick rundown on the weapon and ammo we were using we went out hunting the first time. We were shooting a .375 with cartridges that were designed for, “Extra Large, Dangerous African Game.” Overkill for an elk and pretty much guaranteed to drop any deer that you hit. In addition to using cartridges that were designed to take down wildebeests and rhinos and shit, there was also a scope on the gun.
We spot some deer and I jump out, flick the safety off the gun, lean over the hood of the truck, line up my shot, squeeze the trigger, and “Click.” I forgot to chamber a cartridge, rookie mistake. Bubba and his Dad erupt in peals of laughter. Not two minutes later I get another shot but this time I make sure the gun is ready to fire and my aim is true, the deer goes down like a ton of bricks. I ask the Rancher what’s next and he says we’ll leave that one for the coyotes.
We continue up the mountain and we see a pretty decent sized 4 or 5 point buck that heads down a coulee where I can get a good shot. At this point I’m still buzzing with adrenaline from the first kill and instead of lining up on the larger buck, I take aim at the small buck that’s with him without realizing it. I breathe out, squeeze, and drop the smaller deer. Now the big buck takes off and we figure out that I lined up on the wrong deer. I blame my spotter. Two shots, two kills; not bad for someone who hadn’t touched a gun in almost a decade.
Friday, November 07, 2008
I talk about a lot of people in my blog, my relationship with some of them is obvious and others not so much. I've kind of got it in my head that a list of the cast of characters in my life and my relationship to them might be helpful for future reference. Eventually I'll probably alphabetize them and put in HTML anchors, but for now I'm just gonna write them up as they pop into my head.
WifeRat - My heart and soul, my life partner and a true inspiration to me. Yeah she gets on my nerves sometimes, but what are you gonna do? We've been married for five years and things are getting better all the time.
BabyRat - If there's anyone on the planet I love more than my wife, it's BabyRat. She'll be four years old in March and might be the smartest and most beautiful little girl on the planet, so says her proud Poppa.
SisterRat - My younger sister (I'm 39, she's 36) who also lives in DC. SisRat is a single attorney who owns her own home and drives a late model European luxury car. Single guys that have some game and are bringing something to the table, she's waiting for you.
MommaRat - My mother. Tough lady who earned a Phd when I was in my 20's. She's originally from DC and most of her family still lives in the area.
BigDaddyRat - My father. 32 year Army vet and civil rights stalwart that was once wanted for conspiracy to overthrow the gov't of Alabama. He died at the end of August, there will be a very long post on him one of these days.
Godfather Giggler (GG) - BabyRat's godfather and one of my oldest friends from high school and a fellow Army brat. He lives in Denver with his wife and they're expecting their first child in just a few months.
ButterBurger (BB) - One of my DC posse. He's originally from Wisconsin and is your typically reserved and largely unemotional midWest guys. He holds down the bar five nights a week at one of the best restaurants in Metro DC, Restaurant Eve.
SOS - Another one of my primary hangout partners and a bartender. SOS is an Air Force brat who just bought a condo with the Girlfriend of Hateration and recently quit smoking.
Go To Girl (GTG)- WifeRat's younger sister. A real estate agent who lives in Houston and the mother of N/G.
Bubba - Married to GTG and is originally from Montana, one of my several brothers-in-law and probably the one I'm closest to. I'm writing this from his parent's living room.
N/G - My nephew/godson and one of BabyRat's favorite hangout partners, he's 10 months younger than BabyRat.
??? - WifeRat's older sister that is kind of out of the picture right now. I'll come up with some sort of "nom de blog" for her later, but she should be in this original list.
Benny - Married to ??? and another one of my brothers-in-law. We enjoyed a hot and heavy bromance when WifeRat and I first started dating.
Snarf - An annoying co-worker who is named for the Thudercats character.
Deputy Dawg - Another co-worker. The deputy Program Manager of the project that I work on and a very cool older woman that rides a Harley. I've learned to turn to her for advice and wise counsel in most work situations.
The Boss - The Program Manager of the project I work on. A nice guy who likes me and has hooked me up repeatedly.
Sideshow - The President of my rugby team who lives about four blocks away from me.
Girlfriend of Hateration (GoH) - Live in girlfriend of SOS, so named because she's always complaining about stuff. If you gave GoH a million dollars the first thing she would do is start bitching about taxes.
Nanna - One half of the in-laws and StepMother of WifeRat. Tough, cool, and 100% from Minnesota; she's been nothing but good to me. When people tell me about Mother-in-law drama I thank my lucky stars that Nanna is my Mother-in-law.
Death Star, Inc. - Large (60,000 employees+) Defense Contractor that employs me. HQ for for my division is located in Reston but I pretty much never go there.
I will be adding to this list.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Being an Army brat, I've been lucky enough to travel a lot over the course of my life. So the idea that I need to keep my ears open and my mouth shut to get to know the lay of the land is a familiar one for me. I don't want to dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back about how open-minded I am; but the ability to acclimate myself to unfamiliar surroundings, to not be afraid to expose my own ignorance, and a willingness to accept information and good advice from (what some might consider to be) unlikely sources is something I pride myself on.
The other day I mentioned that I'm really enjoying being out of my comfort zone while I'm out in the hinterlands. So again I find myself in agreement with Atlantic blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates who says that, " . . . quite of few of us writers . . . would benefit by living somewhere else besides New York or Washington, D.C. I don't think we always understand the diversity of the country. I'm talking beyond race, gender and sexual orientation."
WifeRat is from North Dakota and often accuses me of being a "ruralist" because I grew up with no idea how people who don't live in large metropolitan live their lives. As much as I'm ignorant of rural life, I'm also disdainful of what I had always assumed rural life was all about. I lay the blame for that particular deficiency and prejudice squarely at the feet of the mainstream media. But perhaps more than the media devalues rural life, it usually just ignores it as if there is nothing of value that happens in the derisively named "fly over country."
Living out here you learn interesting stuff, the men and women who live and work on the farms and ranches that provide food for us generally lead interesting and varied lives. They have funny stories to tell and knowledge to share that, while seemingly disconnected from city life, add to life's rich pageant. Just last night I learned how to poach cattle from a neighboring ranch (you cut the brand off and feed it to a very hungry dog), not something I ever plan on doing but something I'm glad I know. My father-in-law was a potato farmer for 35+ years and when we drove to Winnipeg earlier this year he could identify the crops that were growing by the side of the road, where they were in their development cycle, and what the farmer who was growing those crops needed to have a good harvest. I don't know about y'all, but I found the breadth and depth of his knowledge to be nothing short of amazing.
As I reflect more and more on what it is I gain from hearing from about poaching cattle and growing crops, what I find is that it's not so much that I have new facts that I can put to use in my daily life, but that I'm humbled by how little I know about something (food production) that's so important to my life. This revelation about the limits of my own knowledge gives me a humility that will serve me well in all areas of my life.
So after the call was made for Obama last night at 10pm our (central) time, we hit the road for Montana. I caught an hour of sleep before we left the in-law's place and slept the first two hours we were on the road before I took over behind the wheel at about midnight. We drove across western North Dakota and Eastern Montana until about 5:30am when I had to pull over to rest. I caught another two hours of sleep in the car and then not too long after we resumed our trip our route took us off the interstate.
Once the sun was up I could see that Montana is beautiful, it reminded me of the phrase "magnificent desolation". We stopped for breakfast in the thriving metropolis of Roundup, MT before coming into the home stretch of our trip. About 20 minutes outside of Lewistown it started snowing; I'm not sure of the geography of the area, but apparently we entered some mountain range. There was much rejoicing when we finally pulled into the driveway of the T Diamond Ranch.
After greeting everyone and a lot of hugging and excitement, BabyRat and my nephew/Godson (n/g) demanded to go out and play in the snow. We made a snowman and burned off some of the energy that BabyRat had built up sitting in a car for 12 hours before we had lunch. I won't bore you with the rest of the day, but it was pretty standard fare.
After we get the kids to bed and the adults are hanging out I realized that it's 10pm and I haven't done my blog post for the day. So I'm trying to excuse myself to bang out my 500 words for the day, but I'm not really sure what to tell people. I don't really want to tell them, "I'm a blogger" for two reasons. The first being I would feel like an unmitigated tool referring to myself as a blogger and the second is then they may want to read my blog. It would be fine for my sister & brother-in-law, but somehow I'm not comfortable with the idea of my brother-in-law's parents reading my piece of shit blog.
I realize this hesitance to tell people I have a blog is a weird bit of cognitive dissonance when you consider that anyone in the world can google "hill rat" and this blog is the second hit. I want people to read this blog, but I guess I just don't want certain people to read it lest I feel like I have to censor myself even further. Does this makes me a phony because I don't want some people to see behind the carefully constructed facade I present to the world?
Do any other bloggers feel the same way? It's kind of like I have a desire to keep my online life and identity separate from the rest of my life even though my life in meatspace is pretty much all I ever talk about.
PS - Special to my NaBloPoMo peeps. I pushed the send button on this post at 11:20pm Mountain time on 11/5/2008. Fuck that time stamp.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
After a typical morning and dropping off BabyRat at school, WifeRat and I headed out to work a few hours on a farm in Shelly, MN about an hour north of us.
This came about because my Mother-in-Law, knowing that WifeRat (and I guess me too)was all into organic food and such, joined some sort of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that gives us a weekly supply of vegetables. The farm we get our stuff from isn't certified organic, but the guy runs the farm using the same techniques that certified organic farms use.
Because the wife and I both have pretty flexible schedules these days, she wrote this farmer and asked if he could use any help. We know some folks that like to put in some work at the farms they get their vegetables from and thought it was a cool idea. The guy writes back and asked us to come up on Saturday, but WifeRat had to beg off because BabyRat had a birthday party that day so we ended up going today.
The farm is a pretty small, ramshackle place but they turn out some tasty produce. This past summer we got tomatoes, potatoes, kale, arugula, carrots, parsnips, purple carrots, and a whole truck load of herbs too. Today we helped the farmer (Thor) and his farmhand (Doug) pick the last rows of potatoes. It was relatively easy work (of course I only did it for about two hours) and we got to rap with Thor about the challenges and rewards of working a small farm.
Part of what I came out for was to get out of my comfort zone. I've been living in DC for most of my adult life and I'm in a nice, comfortable little rut there. Being out here and a little closer to the land that nourishes us all is a welcome change.
Our apartment building had a field of soybeans on one side and corn on the other this Summer. That is some shit that just won't happen in Metro DC and what it allowed me to learn was that, contrary to what I had always thought about crops needing to be picked at the peak of ripeness, some crops are left out in the field to dry out depending on what they're being used for. The corn near us is being used for ethanol, so they let it get as dry as possible before they harvest it. You don't learn things like that unless you're kicking it with a farmer.
Tonight we're heading out to Swiss Family Rat's next big adventure, going to a cattle ranch in Montana. We're gonna watch election returns and let the little one fall asleep and then hit the road for a 10-12 hour drive across the plains overnight. Our destination is the ranch of my brother-in-law's (WifeRat's younger sister's husband) parents in Lewistown, MT. Strangely enough, Lewistown was mentioned in a story in the Washington Post less than a week ago.
There are even less Black people in Lewistown, than there are here in Fargo but I don't give a fuck. I'm still rockin' an Obama shirt for the drive! It's a celebration bitches!!
I was pretty excited for the show, I was hoping/wondering if they had anything special planned 'cause it was the night before Election Day. It didn't look they did anything unusual, but the word "unusual" is very relative when speaking about a GWAR show.
I can't give a set list other than they closed with "Sick of You," but what I can do is give a pretty good recap of kills during the show. I have some pictures, but I don't anything about photography and I have a pretty basic camera so getting good shots with strobes and explosions was beyond my skill level.
The show starts with Sleazy P. Martini giving a stump speech on-screen with a timer that's counting down "Time until Death."
They show a bunch of clips of the "Steve Wilkos Show" and then bring out "Steve." Sleazy joins him on stage with several large GWAR-esque wrestling belts slung over his shoulder and explains that these are the "Frank Sinatra Belts of Total World Domination" and the holder of the belts gets to rule the world. Sleazy goes on to say that McCain and Obama have no belts and Steve [wait for it] has no head! First decapitation of the show.
The belts are the center piece of most of the rest of the "interludes" for the rest of the show that take the form of wrestling matches. Here's the quick and dirty on who bit the dust tonight and how.
1. Steve Wilkos - decapitated
2. Baby - Impaled on Oderus' shoulder spikes
3. John McCain - Chased and then beaten with the skull of a VC by Bonesnapper
4 & 5 Obama & Hillary - Killed in a match with Bonesnapper & Oderus Urungus, Hillary is cut in half
6 & 7 The Reaganator & Dead Rosslyn Carter- 12 foot high robot run through with a sword, re-killing Dead Rosslyn Carter who introduced the Reagantor and is in his chest cavity.
8. Hippie - Head shot by Sleazy P. Martini
9. Artist - Face peeled off by Bonesnapper
10. Dog - During the encore
1. Techno Destructo
2. Bozo Destructo
Here's a pic of the Reaganator, I'll see if I can get this fixed up later.