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Sunday, July 30, 2006

So you like photos, eh?

The Week in Pictures...

As always, you can click on a photo to see a larger version. (Somehow Blogger makes my photos darker than they are. I wonder how and/or why that is... Oh well.)

A footbridge across a small pond in a park in Northwest Iowa.

Ida Grove, IA has an inordinate amount of castles and buildings with related architecture. This is, I believe, part of a warehouse.

The first drive-in I've been to in decades! Yummy! Downtown Mapleton, IA.

My wife doesn't drink often. This is what half a mohito(?) did to her the other night...

Whilst sitting at a window table at Buffalo Alice's, we were visited by an unexpected guest. He was on the wrong side of the window...

Again, while sitting by the window at Buffalo Alice's, a wedding party walked by. We thought the handplay and facial expressions were interesting...

I got to play a little.

In Politics...

Iowa Republican congressman Steve King has again embarrassed himself. He seems to have stumbled upon www.kingwatch.org, a website that keeps tabs on Mr. King. According to the Council Bluffs newspaper, Mr. King commented, "my assumption is this is trying to have some effect on [my] campaign." source

Well, duh.

It's interesting that Mr. King does NOT refute any of the facts put forth on kingwatch.org. All he complains about is that the website is written anonymously. That pretty much confirms the factuality of the website, doesn't it?

I'm leaning heavily towards Joyce Schulte. She has a masters degree, not an easy accomplishment. Mr. King has no formal education. On that basis alone I believe Ms. Schulte gets the nod. In these days of trials and tribulations, we need someone with an education representing us.

Just my opinion.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Truly Random Musings

One random thought per paragraph...

I generally don't want things that are merely things. I usually want things that will allow me to do something or have an experience. A pretty vase is nice, but you can't ride it around town or take a picture with it or anything...

Is it possible that the main difference between us and other animals is that we can put value on an item above and beyond its intrinsic value; that we're willing to pay more for a pretty stick than a regular old stick? Or is it empathy - the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and see that they'd like to have the pretty stick to? Or is it foresight - knowing that if everyone else wants OUR pretty stick, well, then, we'd better be prepared to fight for our pretty stick. Does self-awareness necessarily lead to violence?

My yard is dead. Well, parts of it are dead, the rest is merely dying. I'm afraid of what it's going to look like next year... Why can't we simply go back to tall-grass prairie? It's a city law that I must mow my yard and keep it neat and tidy (which it isn't now - I hate to mow during a drought; I'm afraid of shocking the grass), but what if I were to plant native grasses and let them grow naturally? Could I call my yard a garden and get away with it? What is it about European grasses that we find so fascinating? Is it simply that we like the uniformity of a solid patch of grass? What about diversity? Can't I have a diverse yard? If I did, would I like it? The only things growing in my yard are native grasses (which are called "weeds") that are attuned to this climate. Why can't I just let them be?

My dirty rotten biker buddy Kioti had a saying on his e-mail signatures that read something like, "A smart monkey is a monkey that doesn't monkey with another monkey's monkey." There's wisdom there.

If iTunes is a truly random music player, why has it played "Lazy" by Deep Purple fifteen times in the past few days? Am I supposed to be getting some kind of message out of this? "You're lazy, you don't want no money, you don't want no bread." That phrase alone is 50% of the lyrics of the entire song. Is there a cosmic force out there telling me I'm lazy? I can't say I eat a lot of bread, but I do like it from time to time... Especially toasted with tasty things on it.

It's been said that the true way to find your worth is to figure out how many minutes it takes you to earn enough money to buy a loaf of bread at the local store. Not fancy bread, just plain bread. Now figure out how many loaves of bread you give the government each year for various services. While you're at it, why not take that loaf of bread and donate it to the food bank? You see, no matter how many loaves of bread we give the government, there are STILL going to be people with no bread, and it's our job to take care of them. Sure, the government is supposed to do that, but when push comes to shove, aren't we responsible for our neighbors? Granted, if I give my neighbors a loaf of bread every day, after a while I'd kind of start wondering just when they were going to mow my yard for me... Maybe that's the problem with our welfare system - we're all happy to give to those in need, but it's SO much easier for people to take advantage of a nameless entity (government) that it would be for them to take advantage of their neighbor... Perhaps the government should demand people work for their welfare check? Is that wrong? Personally, I don't mind my taxes going to welfare. But I kinda do want someone to clean the streets and fix the graffiti in my 'hood.

Back to the original premise of the last sentence... How many minutes does it take you to earn a loaf of bread? How many minutes did it take your father? Your grandfather? How much better are we doing?

One year ago today I quit smoking. I don't like being fat, but I smell a lot better.

People bemoan the fact that today's children are forced to grow up so quickly, that they are faced with difficult choices at an early age. True, 'tis a sad fact of our society. But we need to remember that childhood is a relatively new concept, historically speaking. Look at the child labor laws. Until the last hundred years or so, it wasn't uncommon for nine-year-old children to be working in factories or fields. We seem to feel that American society's mores should remain fixed in the 1950s - that Ward should work in an office, June should stay home, watching Wally and the Beaver happily grow through childhood. That scenario worked fine in the 1950s, but it may be time to scrap that. Mom and Dad both have to work now. If we leave things the way they are, of course children are going to have to make tough decisions at earlier ages. We need to pull Gramma and Grampa out of the nursing home, pull the kids out of day care, and all take care of the family again, together, in one big house. That formula has worked for 99% of human history - single (nuclear) family homes have been a dismal failure for the last one percent.

Only two more hours to go and I can go home and stare at a different computer.

I saw a commercial the other day where some company was giving free "dietary supplements" away. One lady said, "If it's free, it must be good." That makes no sense to me at all. Nature gives us good things for free (air, orgasms, etc.) but humans rarely do.

Taking responsibility for one's actions means more than lip service. Sometimes saying you're sorry doesn't cut it - you have to DO something to make amends.

I heard my first cicada song of the year yesterday. What emotion that simple sound brings! It's a bittersweet siren announcing the end of warm summer days, the beginning of lightningbug season, things are going to start drying up in the August heat soon, followed by the autumnal fall. Cicada sirens also bring a sense of space and stillness - where is the sound coming from? A sudden awareness of wise trees, taking up unknown measures of sky above us. The smell of burning leaves, followed soon by the smell of woodsmoke coming from the chimney, followed soon by the snows. When I hear a cicada I want to stop what I'm doing and pay attention to summer. I want to sit quietly and learn what the trees can teach me.

Lord, I miss the farm.


Well, THAT didn't work...

The gig last weekend was a complete bust. Complete meltdown before we even got on stage. I'm thinking seriously about giving the whole music thing up - it's just not worth my time and energy any more. I get all pumped up about a project, only to have it blow up or fizzle out every time - it's got me pretty much worn out.

I didn't sell any photos on eBay. The car had a dead battery this morning. I wish I could make money by writing... Ah well...

I'm having a low point, I guess. (I looked at my wife at one point this weekend and said, "I can't smoke cigarettes any more since I quit, but I'm having terrible cravings. I want to go home and eat some lard. I need to eat something bad for me. Maybe that will make me feel better.")

Politically Speaking...

What in God's name are we doing? Or, to put it another way, what are we doing in God's name? Do you think THIS is what Jesus would do? Under the Bush administration we've done some terrible things.

We were attacked by terrorists. On the wave of public outrage over the attack, the Bush administration foisted a manufactured war on us that has little or nothing to do with the 9-11 attack. I don't know what the numbers are, but I've heard Mr. Bush himself say on TV that he'd guess around 30,000 Iraqis have died so far (and that was a year or two ago). Saddam Hussein was an atrocious leader and needed to be replaced (preferably twenty years ago), but did we need to kill 30,000+ people to do it? Is God happy? Is this what Jesus wanted?

At the same time, the Bush administration is blocking legislation that would allow the use of discarded zygotes to be used for research, because every life is sacred under their doctrine. Never mind the fact that these zygotes have already been discarded, hundreds of thousands of people could benefit from this research, and that 30,000+ (sacred?) people are dead due to a war that may well be unnecessary.

This boggles my little brain. I dislike hypocrisy.

I'm still in a foul mood. I think I'd better quit opining for the day. In any case, I do hope everyone out there in Bloggerville had a good weekend and is having a tolerable Monday! Have a happy day - I'll be back when I'm fit for polite company again.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wheee! What a weekend!

This is shaping up to be a GOOD weekend!

I went to my high school reunion last night. That was fun. I saw lots of people I hadn't seen in years... But it gets better!

Tonight I get to play with once-defunct, now refunct band Hippie Go Lucky at the Chesterfield. They called us yesterday and asked if we could fill in for a band that had canceled. So... The night is supposed to start with a band I used to play with a few years ago (it was known as the Wombats way back then - I'm not sure what they're calling themselves these days, last I heard it was Westside Mikey and the Mammyjammers), then Hippie Go Lucky will finish the night. It'll be fun to see the guys from the Wombats again, and I'm really looking forward to playing with Hippie Go Lucky! This will be our first gig in, like, three years.

Wheee! Wish us luck!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Slow Sunday Afternoon

Too Much of a Good Thing!

Ye cats, it's hot out there! I sit around all winter moping and whining that it's cold out, and now that it's summer I'm sitting inside because it's too hot out there.

It's over a hundred again.

I saw on the news that some cities in Iowa are closing certain roads because they're buckling and crumbling in the heat.

Didn't Mr. Jimmy Carter start warning us about this whole "Global Warming" and "Don't Use So Much Darn Oil" about 30 years ago? Why, oh why didn't we listen to him?

A Wee Little Ride

Took the bike out for a ride last weekend. Being a blue dot in a red state (I think Iowa's more purple, actually), I decided to avoid South Dakota. That particular state is way too conservative for my taste, and I'm simply not going to spend any money in South Dakota until they come to their senses. (I know, I know - it's a silly thing to do, but my personal little economic boycotts are just something I do. It's important to me.) I know what Iowa looks like... So I went through Nebraska on my little outing.

From Sioux City I tootled down to Omaha, hung a right to Lincoln, then back north a bit until I hit a road that turned west toward a town called "Rising City." Something about that name, and the fact that I've never heard of the place before, made me wanna go there. As I pulled into the gas station in town, the first thing I noticed was the mural of Bigfoot coming out of a corn field holding a pizza. The second thing I noticed was that Rising City is pretty flat. The third thing I noticed was that it's really more of a town than a city. (Of course, people say that about Sioux City, too, which has some 60,000 souls.)

Just a little slice of Americana I though some of you may find interesting.

I continued on to Columbus, NE - one of my bands used to play in a couple venues there years and years ago. The hotel is still there, but I couldn't find the Quarthouse for some reason. From Columbus I headed east to Fremont, again to visit an old gig. Turns out the bar in Fremont we used to play at is now an office building. So much for having a beer there for old times' sake...


I'm selling stuff on eBay now. I've never done that before. I'm a bit apprehensive... It costs a few bucks to put stuff up for sale; I'm worried I won't sell anything and I'll be in the hole. More.

Why sell stuff on eBay? Simple. I have a student loan, I had a wisdom tooth pulled a few days ago, my boss hasn't given me a raise in years, we're making little or no headway on our credit card debts, the toilet hasn't quit running in days... I simply need the moolah. It turns out, much to my chagrin, that having two full-time incomes isn't enough to pay the bills these days. I always thought that if you work hard and honest, things will work out in the end. I can't imagine what it'd be like if we had new cars, a fancy house, or children. (We do have a nice motorcycle, so I really shouldn't whine, but whining is SO much fun!)

So, I'm taking a break right now from posting stuff on eBay. If anyone's interested, you can click here to see one of the photos I'm selling. If you click on "View Seller's Other Items" you can see all the other stuff... I don't have much up for auction yet, but I'm hoping I can sell one or two things so I can afford to list more items.

Ahhhh! I get it now!

Dagmar's off visiting her mother. I've been sitting here in front of the computer listening to blues all afternoon. THAT'S why I've been writing such grouchy stuff today! I was wondering why I'm so pessimistic...

Sorry about that! I'm switching the music now...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Geeze, I Don't Wanna Go Back to Work...

And just what have I been up to, you may ask...

Wednesday... Dagmar and I day-tripped on the bike to a few parks after work. We found a spectacular view of the Little Sioux River in Stone Park we never knew existed...

Thursday... We took the bike to Bronson, a little town near Sioux City that has a tradition of welcoming bikers into the town on Thursdays. Quite the event, lemme tell ya!

Friday... A nice bike trip to LeMars. This is the lake in front of which we got married.

Saturday... A party at a friend's house (we didn't take the bike). He had a beer garden and everything.

Saturday Night... After the beer garden experience, we went to the Chesterfield and saw New Monsoon. Way cool band! They even had a conga-bongo player and everything...

Sunday... Sunday was hangover day for the hippie. No photo available.

Monday... Dagmar and I took the bike west to Ponca, NE, where we found a really neat state park. They have LOTS of stuff to do.

Monday Afternoon... We found an overlook of the Missouri River, complete with a small native prairie. Lotsa pretty flowers.

Tuesday... We took the bike east to Ida Grove. If you click on the photo, you can see my beloved Austrian bride in the background... (It's the only way I can get a picture of her - I have to pretend to be taking a photo of something else...)

They have a neat Veterans Memorial park in Ida Grove, complete with a 1969 105mm artillery piece. They have a helicopter, too. I didn't look at that.

Random Observations...

Have you ever met your friends in real life?

We taped last Wednesday's edition of "Good Morning America." Charlie Gibson was moved to the nightly news after nineteen years of hosting GMA, you know. I sat in the dining room this evening, playing with my photos on the computer, half watching the tape of the show. Dagmar was sitting on the couch, just around the corner where I couldn't see her. After a while I found that I wasn't getting much done with my photos, and I was, indeed, actively watching the show. In fact, I was getting kinda misty-eyed over the whole thing. I like Charlie Gibson. I was happy my wife was sitting such that she couldn't see me surreptitiously wiping my eyes... Then I heard a great gasp, followed by a sob and a muffled wail. "Vhat am I goink to do without my Charlie?" cried my wife.

Evidently I wasn't the only one getting misty...

It got me wondering... We've never met Mr. Gibson. Why does his leaving a morning news show affect us so? Well, it feels like we've met him... I'd like to think that if we ever did meet him in person he'd be a friendly guy. You know, I've seen Mr. Gibson MUCH more often than I've seen my closest friends. And, you know, now that I think of it, I haven't seen some of my friends in WAY too long.

It's odd that I have a network of cyber-friends that I communicate with on a regular basis - none of whom I've met in real life. My "real life" friends are the ones I never talk to these days... I'm getting uncomfortably close to being four decades elderly, and I consider myself to be fairly well balanced. What is going to happen to those in our society that are now just hitting their twenties? They've been raised with text messaging, instant messaging, e-mail and blogs. Will they be able to maintain a network of "real life" friends at all? Or will we in time become a society of people who don't know their neighbors? Will that be a bad thing?

I realize this is not a new thought. But... Is our increasing isolation causing some problems of which we're not aware? Allergies are increasing. Could this be due to kids socializing via modem rather than playground? Are we losing regionalism? Does the phrase "Midwestern work ethic" mean anything any more? Are we losing things like "soda, cola, sody-pop" and "maidrights, loosemeats, taverns?" I've noticed that accents are starting to blur together in some areas. I used to be able to tell the difference between central Iowans and western Iowans simply by the way they said "wash." I can't any more. Now all I hear, accent-wise, is "American English" (the most common), "Learning English" and "Thug," the latter prevalent in my neighborhood.

We're blending. Dunno if it's good or bad.

Politically Speaking...

Ann Coulter was caught plagiarizing in her new book. Then people went back and found that she'd plagiarised some of her articles, too. source The thing that scares me is that it means there's someone else out there with whacked-out logic like Ms. Coulter's. That really does scare me. She's a hate-monger.

Rush Limbaugh, a right-wing radio host who regularly lambasts liberals for a perceived lack of moral values, was caught with a bottle of illegal Viagra. source Mr. Limbaugh has been in treatment for prescription drug abuse himself, so he should be familiar with the laws of prescription drugs. But what really gets me is that he is NOT married. Why the Viagra, then? To be honest, it's none of my business whom Mr. Limbaugh sleeps with - but it irks me that he preaches morality (source) whilst performing immoral acts himself. So, if he feels it's fine to poke his nose in other people's business, he should be prepared to get poked at himself.

Iowa's Fifth District elected Mr. Steve King a few years back to represent us. Boy, did he turn out to be an embarrassment... The man is getting money from sneaky places, he's advocating good old-fashioned cock-fighting, won't authorize money to help disaster victims but wants to spend money drilling in wildlife reserves instead... The man seriously wants the U.S. government to give HIM a contract to build a wall between the United States and Mexico - ostensibly to keep illegal immigration down, of course, but if Mr. King himself happens to make a few million dollars per mile off the deal, who's to know...? The more I learn about this man, the dirtier I feel. You can read more about him at www.kingwatch.org. I encourage everyone to do their own research, of course, but I highly recommend voting against Mr. King as soon as possible, if not sooner.

I heard today (and have not done any research to authenticate) that United States President G. Walker Bush has dismantled the task force dedicated to finding September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. The government no longer sees bin Laden as a danger to the United States. But I still have to take MY shoes off to get on an airplane, and they're still listening to MY phone calls and looking at MY bank records and peeking into MY Internet search records...
'Tain't right.

It is my opinion that the government is no longer representing the people, nor are they working for the good of the people. Things are falling apart. We NEED to change things come election day. Just my opinion.

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