Thursday, January 31, 2008

Politicians...I Hate Those Guys

Okay, perhaps my feelings are not that strong, but I've never been and am still not fond of politics. I'd rather not follow it. The older I get, however, the less I can ignore it. Even when I really have very little impact, living in a state that matters about as little as any state in the Union can.

So for me to come out and make a endorsement in the primaries means something. I'm very worried about the way things are looking. I really wish I could call for a new shuffle, but that's not in the cards (yuk yuk yuk!).

Forget about the Democratic candidates. Hillary is farther left than Bill, and not nearly so genial. This is not someone who will even give lip-service to being a uniter. He philosophy seems to be "Things need changing, so sit down, shut up, and stay out of my way." It's not a terribly great domestic policy, and a guaranteed disastrous foreign policy.

Obama could be better. I don't know. What DOES he stand for, really? His campaign seems to be centered around "I'm not Hillary. And by the way, I'm black."

I've got nothing against a woman president. I have nothing against a black president. That really doesn't matter to me. What they stand for matters completely. I don't like what they stand for.

Then there are the Republicans. McCain is....well, McCain. I've seen more harm come from McCain-Feingold than good. He's got many of the same problems as Hillary--You can say anything, anytime as a senator and no one takes you all that seriously. But as President you can't do that, and I'm not sure they'll be able to shut up if elected. He happened to be right on Iraq, which is a point in his favor. But that's all I can find to like him for.

Romney? His being Mormon has nothing to do with anything to me. Harry Reid is a Mormon, too, and he's about as scary, vile, and nasty a person as I could ever hope to not meet. Religion is not a litmus test for me. His business success is a strong point. His ability to somehow get things done in Massachussetts is a plus. Unlike some, I don't view the ability to change one's position as a intrensic negative. As president you need to be able to compromise and look at other options.

So why don't I like Romney? I don't know. It could be that he's a light-weight on foreign affairs. And if the Congress has proven anything in the last eight years, it's that presidents don't have much impact on domestic issues. Congress sees to that. It's foreign affairs where presidents can really make a difference.

I think he could learn. I think he's not necessarily headed on the wrong track. And, perhaps too importantly, he's not John McCain, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama.

Throw my hat in the ring for Romney. If it's not too late.

But dang, I wish Fred Thompson had been able to do better.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

News From the Heart-Land

It looks like my heart hasn't gotten any worse, and in at least one area it's looking better. With my current condition I may need to get one valve replaced when I'm 50 or 60, perhaps, but certainly nothing soon.

This is a relief. The past two years at least one indicator had grown worse. Now it's dropped back to near-normal. It's hard to say why, but no one is complaining by any means.

It's a big relief, really. I know heart surgery is becoming fairly routine these days, but I'm in no hurry to undergo it. I've only had one minor surgery other than a tonsillectomy, and that, quite frankly, was scary enough. I don't like the idea of general anesthesia. I didn't like it last time. I liked it even less when I passed out last year.

Oh, I'm sure if I had to I could tough it out. I'm just glad to postpone facing down that particular demon for as long as possible.

Monday, January 28, 2008

In Memorium

Gordon B. Hinckley, prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, died last night. That's my church. That's my prophet.

He served in that capacity for over a third of my life. A more upbeat and genial man would be hard to find. He was not afraid to laugh, not afraid to help others laugh, and not afraid to laugh at himself.

He was not afraid to point out our shortcomings, clearly and without apology. But at the same time his message was always one of hope: "I know it's hard, but you can do it. You can be your best selves."

There was no hypocrisy in him. He lived the life he would have for all of us. He lived quietly, simply, and humbly. He felt the weight of his calling greatly, even while making it look effortless.

His life embodied the advice his father once gave him: "Forget yourself and go to work." He kept a travel schedule that would have killed most people. He was literally sustained by faith. He was determined to do all that he could for as long as he could. We were blessed that he was able to do so much for so long.

I loved that man. I'll miss him. I'm glad we had him for as long as we did.

Thank You, Gentlemen

The city of San Francisco denied them permission to film there for this ad. Let me go on the record, too: The U.S. Marines (and every other branch) are always welcome on my blog. I, for one, appreciate their service and sacrifice. God bless the US Military and their families.

Thank you.

I can't watch this without getting choked up. And I'm just fine with that.

Friday, January 25, 2008

From The Depths of My Heart

Lest you think that all I think about these days is snarky socio-political commentary I thought I'd wax ponderous about my yearly reminder of mortality.

Yup, it's time for my echocardiogram again. Once a year I go in to see how far my heart has progressed toward blowing a gasket. Since last year my cardiologist has switched partnerships and tied himself more closely to the hospital next door. Part of what this means, evidently, is that the sonographer who used to do my yearly echo is no longer around. I had to go to the hospital's cardiology department and have them run the tests.

You wouldn't think that it matters who does your exam. It actually does. The technician wasn't familiar with the machine and needed a supervisor or vendor rep next to her to help. The bed I was on didn't have the nifty drop-away panel they use to get easier access to your chest. And she kept having me exhale and hold it, and either take forever getting the image or forget to tell me to breathe again.

The former technician would give me pillows to support my back during the odd positions they'd have me lay in.

See! I dropped the socio-political stuff, I just can't get rid of the snarky part. I realize if the low point of my day is discomfort during a 45-minute exam I really need a change of perspective. I'm just saying it makes a difference who does your exam, something I'd never considered before.

Anyway, the other down-side to this is that I'll need to wait until next week before I can get with my doctor and see what the prognosis is. Last year I edged closer to needing valve replacement surgery. It would be nice to know right away, like I used to. Oh well. Life goes on.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Will You Put Me In the Zoo?

My homeowners association committee meeting went a little far afield last night, and I found myself in a political discussion. I mostly kept my mouth shut. I learn more that way, even if I don't agree with what I learn.

For example, I learned homosexuality should be acceptable because 98% of all animals are bisexual. (Disclaimer: I believe homosexuality is as natural and wrong as fornication and adultery--and just as voluntary).

First of all, I highly doubt the validity of that statistic, as fish make up a large percentage of species. I also question the relevance.

You see, liberals want to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to animal behavior. They want us all to believe that we are animals and it is okay to act like animals. But they like to be selective when they invoke that excuse. Whenever animal behavior does not support an idea they champion they suddenly respond with "We are are rational, intelligent, thinking beings, not animals." So which is it?

If we are, as they argue, just animals doing animal things, then what does this suggest for political policy?:

- Very, very few species copulate for pleasure
- If an animal becomes pregnant they are committed to see it through, even if it costs them their life
- In many mammalian (and many other) species one parent cares for the children while the other obtains food.
- In most species the weakest are still allowed to languish and die
- In nearly all social species the animal most adept at obtaining food is rewarded and gets the greatest share
- Most species do not form social groupings - it's every animal for themself
- Even animals who form social groupings for protection will not make any effort to rescue those singled out by predators
- Many animals are territorial. If you threaten them or their territory you can expect to get attacked
- Very few species cooperate/negotiate with other species
- The prey does not attempt to "understand" the predator. The prey will defeat the predator any way they can
- The vast majority of animals spend each day in providing for themselves and their offspring rather than in the pursuit of pleasure

Just a few examples. It think it's safe to say that animals are not liberals. If the liberals continue to look to the animal kingdom to justify a few ideals, they should be willing to examine all their beliefs in the same light. I don't see that happening.

I don't believe we should emulate animals--at least not simply because they are animals. We are humans. We can reason. One of the main points of civilization is our ability to voluntarily give up some of our rights/options for the good of society. Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should do it. We have the ability to think things through and voluntarily behave contrary to our natural tendencies.

And that is why I just can't bring myself to be a liberal. In some areas they may have the right idea--if the wrong approach--but they are continually undermined by their constant reliance on "if it feels good, do it." They like to claim their mantra is really "if it feels good and doesn't hurt anybody, do it", but the reality is they aren't willing to do their research first to make sure it really doesn't hurt anyone before they push for its wholesale adoption. There is ample proof that some of their ideals do hurt society, but they prefer to ignore it.

They claim that it's not natural to deny themselves of sex before marriage, outside marriage, within their gender, etc.--but the reality is that they just don't want to. It has nothing to do with what is best for society and everything to do with lack of self discipline and self sacrifice. It's about letting someone else take responsibility--and then punishing them for being responsible.

They don't want to have to tell a poor, unwed, drug-addicted mother that she needs to take responsibility for herself. That might lead some to believe that those who advocate sexual responsibility are right, which might lead to people making them feel guilty for things they don't want to feel guilty for.

Instead, they turn to someone who has shown at least enough talent, self-control, and focus to make more money than they immediately need and take their money away from them and give it to the mother, with no strings attached. They punish the person who has overcome their animal tendencies and reward the one who succumbs to them. What incentive does that mother have to rise above being an animal? How will she ever learn that there is even another way?

Fortunately there are still enough people who resist their animal natures that they can even take that approach (though I'll admit that the pursuit of ridiculous wealth is animalistic/hedonistic in its own right). If enough wealthy people start to say "Oh, bag it! I'm going on government money, too!" then soon we have a society of animals with no one to save them from their beastly natures.

In a truly animalistic world, those who rely on others to save them would be completely unprepared to compete. They would not be rewarded for this--they would die.

Liberals want a world where everyone can freely indulge their animal natures while someone else takes care of them and keeps them from hurting each other.

We have a word for that. It's called a zoo.

Which, interestingly enough, many liberals are against.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Us Against Them?

Perhaps I'm just over-reacting, but it really does seem like the world is doing its utmost best to drive wedges between everyone. First off all, there's a column in USAToday about how in filing for Social Security early, men may likely reduce the amount of benefits their spouse receives after he dies.

In the surface, this column is good information. Not everyone knows that when one spouse dies the other gets to choose between their own social security benefit or their deceased spouse's. If both are recieving benefits then the death of one means the loss of income, period.

But one would certainly hope the couple would calculate before the man retires early whether she can live on his reduced benefits when he dies. It's just common sense, and any responsible male should check this out first.

The problem is how the article pitches this advice:
Here's some advice for married men who will turn 62 this year: If you want to make up for all the times you came home with beer on your breath, left your socks on the bathroom floor or gave your wife a DustBuster for Valentine's Day, hold off on filing for your Social Security benefits.

So according to USAToday we should put off retirement, but NOT because we've run the numbers and realized it may not go well for our spouse if we do. We should keep working longer because we owe it to her! Why? Because she's had to put up with our being dorks for most of her life.

Pardon me if I grouse a little at this biased characterization.

Then there was this lovely (actually, there wasn't much love in it) ad for soy milk in a magazine my wife received yesterday. A woman is being teased by her husband about why she drinks the stuff (I've tried that brand before, by the way, and it tastes like liquid Rice Krispy Treats--and that's not a good thing). She responds that she drinks it because "I plan to date a lot when he's gone."

Let me start by saying that if my wife wants to date after I die, that's fine with me. But the insinuation in this ad is that this woman almost can't wait for her husband to drop dead and free her to go find out what she's been missing. You can almost hear the female chorus of hoots and "You GO, Grrrrl!" the ad is trying to evoke.

Put these two items together and what do we have? Women who want their husbands to spend less of their remaining years having fun so that they can have more money to go out and live it up once the ol' kill-joy croaks.

Now I'm willing to bet that most women are not that mercenary. At most they want to make sure they and their husbands have sufficient money and health to enjoy together in their retired years. They'd prefer to be with their spouses, but won't have any compunction against seeking whatever makes them happy if/when he dies first. That may include dating.

It used to be the joke among men that wives were "balls and chains" who "think we're made of money". Now it seems to be the women who have decided the men are the "ball and chain", that they're indeed made "made of money", and that the only reason to stay married is to get as much of that money as they can. I hope it's a joke. I really do.

Contrast that with my wife. We work together to manage the finances so that we hopefully won't even need to rely on Social Security in the first place. I believe if we ever reach the point where I can afford to retire she'll be the first one encouraging me to do so. And while we haven't discussed retirement plans much yet, I'm fairly sure her plans include me.

On the other hand, I don't come home with beer on my breath (garlic from business lunches is another story) and I don't leave my clothes on the floor in the first place. I have been known to give her small appliances or cookware as gifts, but most of the time they're on her list of suggestions.

So maybe USAToday and 8th Continent really know what they're talking about, and I'm just an anomaly. At any rate, I'm not going to let them turn me against my wife, thank you very much.

Deviant Behavior

I just found this over at "The Onion":

Area Eccentric Reads Entire Book

Sad, funny, and nearly true.

Monday, January 21, 2008

All Quiet

Today is a company holiday--at least in our area. I'm still working, though, in exchange for more vacation time this summer when we have an extended trip planned. I think there are maybe 7 people in the entire building, which usually houses several hundred. Even the contractors are off. It's rather quiet, and I rather like it.

It was a fairly good weekend, really. Saturday I introduced the older two kids to the joy of stop-motion animation. After seeing a few examples on YouTube I decided we could try doing some ourselves. We spent the better part of the next five hours recreating parts of Pixar's "Cars". The kids got bored from time to time, but generally stuck with it.

At the end of the day we had four minutes of film. Silent film, mind you. We have an analog camcorder and no means of even getting it onto our computer, let alone editing it. I'd love to be able to do that, but it's not in the budget anytime soon.

I imagine the project was popular enough that I'll be doing some more next weekend.

Yesterday we were able to visit with my brother and his family. They live here in town, but it seems like we still never see each other. This year our church schedules coincide well enough that we are able to get together more often. It was a nice evening. Our kids and their youngest go off to the play room while the older set sit and catch up on things. It was easy to stay out longer than we'd planned.

It was foggy when we finally left for home. If I hadn't been driving in it and expecting it to create black ice at any second it would have been fun. The kids certainly liked it, declaring every traffic light to be monster eyes. No one fell asleep in the car on the way home, so we didn't mind too much.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Nine-Year-Old Miracle

Nine years ago I received an email. I had no way of knowing then, but that email completely changed the direction of my life. I'm 100% certain that the life I am living today is very different from the life I might have had.

To quote a Tom Hanks character, "You've got mail...powerful words!"

Most everyone who frequents here (besides needing serious help) knows that I met my wife through email. Today is our "anniversary" of sorts, marking the day she sent the very first email to me. The day of our engagement a month and a half later is also a notable date, but we still view it as a lesser event compared with the miracle that we even connected at all.

It wasn't like we had a class together in college like my parents. It wasn't like we were members of the same church congregation like my sister and her husband. I posted an ad on a semi-obscure website. A few weeks later, before my ad had sunk too far enough down the listings, a Finnish girl looking to practice her English happened to see it. For some reason it stood out.

This same Finnish girl, usually rather shy about approaching strangers, wrote me a rather non-shy letter (she wasn't forward or anything, she just wrote a lot for a first letter). Yes, I did my part by writing back an even longer letter, but it was mostly her doing that got us started. That first letter caught my attention.

Things progressed more or less logically from there, but when we think of all the ways that things could have not happened, it's quite amazing. It's like two people bumping into each other on a crowded subway platform. It's like an asteroid striking the earth. Two unrelated things just happen to be in the same place at the same brief instant.

In six weeks we were engaged. In eight months to the day we were married. Nine years later we have three kids, two cats, a dog, 4 bedrooms on .2 acres, an upright grand piano, a vegetarian lifestyle, and a subscription to National Geographic. We're on our second house, our third and fourth cars, our second television, third computer, and our first dining table set.

In short, our lives have become so connected it's difficult to remember life before we met. We have our struggles, but what we have together is so much better than anything we might have had separately.

To say I love her is a profound understatement.

When I was a kid we went to a lake one afternoon. I picked up a rock and threw it into the lake. I happened to hit a fish--stunned the poor thing. I wasn't trying to hit a fish. It just happened.

Nine years ago I wrote an ad looking for a penpal. One of the people it "hit" was a Finnish university student 4900 miles away. She took that one paragraph and wrote a letter of several pages. That letter connected on an unusually deep level. It set the stage perfectly for what was to come. I wasn't looking for a wife. It just happened.

Please note I'm not in any way advocating getting engaged to someone you've never met, based on emails and chats. It worked in our case, primarily because we're essentially honest, open people. We connected in a way that made us feel safe taking risks and sharing very personal feelings and thoughts. And each time we did we either made another connection or at least treated in a way that we still felt safe. We reached into personal spaces within the first week that can takes months for other people to reach.

Within a month we had explored to our foundation and found it solid. We started to build. That foundation has supported everything we've built together since then.

It all started with a letter, by someone writing in English as a second language.

If I see no other miracles in my life, this one will be enough.

Thank you, dear!


I was just reviewing my blog entries from a year ago. It was a bit strange to note that last January someone burned down a landmark in Finland that was familiar to me. Strange, because last week someone burned down the church we attend while in Finland. It makes me wonder what is going to burn next January.

They're rebuilding the Haralanharju Nakatorni. I imagine they'll rebuild the church. Still... what is it with some people?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wonder Winterland

I swear we've received more snow in the last two weeks than we've seen in the last two years. And except for driving on it, I have to admit I kinda like it. Okay, the driving's not too bad, either. So far I haven't encountered any serious idiots.

Last night I was out walking the dog, watching her bound (as much as an arthritic nine-year-old dog can bound) through the drifts and make her mark on the world (don't eat yellow snow!), I realized that there were aspects to winter that I miss. It makes even the ugliest of landscapes new and beautiful--like the weed-infested berms of fill-dirt at the cemetary backlot near our house.

Of course last night it was still and just above freezing. This morning walking the the mechanic's shop it was below freezing and windy. I didn't romanticize nearly so much. But then I wasn't taking my time. I had to get my car and get to work.

My starter has been a bit glitchy lately. This morning it nearly didn't start. When I did get it started I drove it directly to our mechanic, who fortunately lives three blocks away. And I have to admit, I don't mind visiting this place, even though it can get expensive.

First of all, the owner is friendly, remembers my name, and is more than willing to chat while I'm waiting for my car. He's a local guy just hoping to make a go of it, and since he treats me well, he qualifies on my list of "local guys to support".

Best of all, however, is Rooster, the owner's two-year-old golden retriever for which the shop is named. She's (yes, I know, a rooster is a "he", but her original name was "Kangaroo", which morphed to "'Roo-ster", and then "Rooster", okay?) the shop's goodwill ambassador, and anyone who knows me can attest I'm a sucker for friendly dogs.

When I took my car in for an oil change near Christmas she kept me busy the entire time playing tug-of-war with a rapidly disintigrating santa toy. This time she just insisted that I pet her. I was quite happy to comply, especially when she kept giving me that "I will love you forever--keep doing that" look that you just don't get from cats.

The owner knows I live nearby, and today he offered to take me home while I waited for them to install a new starter. I accepted. Even better, I got to ride in the "Rooster Mobile", his custom-painted truck that serves as a rolling billboard for the shop.

Best of all, all the neighborhood kids (including my daughter) were waiting at the bus stop across from my house, and got to see me pull up in the Rooster Mobile. Instant...Celebrity. The only way it might have been better is if Rooster had been along for the ride (we left her behind at the shop). Oh well. It'll take years before I'll be able to top that entrance.

As much as I'd rather avoid having to go to the mechanic, it does have its up-sides.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


If you're interested in military history, military current events, and how one is shaping the other, try this article: Forty Second Boyd and the Big Picture from "Eject! Eject! Eject!"

Very interesting article to me. Complete with fun German words, like fingerspitzengefuhl.

Seriously though, this article discusses at length how the military as learned since Vietnam, even if our politicians haven't. Also makes a strong case for one man making a difference, even in a bureacracy. Here's to John Boyd, one of the most influential men you've never heard of.