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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yes, but does ontegeny really capitulate phylogeny?

Boo Hiss

The United States Supreme Court, secure in its conservative majority, has dealt a major blow to both the environment and American citizen's rights, and I'm sorely disappointed.

At first (and second) glance, it looks like freedom of speech is guaranteed, IF you're a corporation. If you're a citizen it can be limited. The ramifications of these rulings will manifest themselves most dramatically during the upcoming elections, as the court has lifted a ban on corporations running ads for political candidates. This effectively means that any chance of health care reform has just gone out the window as the big pharmaceutical companies are going to mount smear campaigns against any candidate that will threaten their profits. Remember this in ten years when you can't afford to take your sick mother or wife to the emergency room.

Chalk one up for United States President George Walker Bush -- his appointees to the high court have just ensured that Mr. Bush and Vice President Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney will get richer at the expense of every single citizen of the United States. Both men are heavily invested in the oil industry, you see, and the oil companies will run a zillion commercials on TV and radio against any candidate that wants to see the American economy switch from it's dependence on foreign oil to any other energy source. Never mind that both our economy and our environment demand we find alternate sources of energy -- what's important is that the oil executives and shareholders get more money.

So, the next year and a half, you can thank President Bush and his conservative appointees to the Supreme Court every time your program gets interrupted by an ugly commercial.

To add insult to injury, how's this little bit of speculation: Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and their families may not even live in the United States after their terms are up. Mr. Cheney may very well go back to work for Haliburton, which is no longer a U.S. corporation as they've moved to Dubai, an Arab country. Mr. Bush's family has been quietly been buying land (and a ranch, I guess) in South America -- in a nation that has no extradition treaty with the United States. Both these men seem to be making long-range plans to take the money and run... Our money.

On a personal note...

Things have been very busy lately. There have been tons of things going on with the American Legion Riders (including a Patriot Guard mission last week) that have kept me busy. We're even gonna start a band... We've had one jam session already, and no one got hurt -- at least not badly -- so we're going to try it again soon. I've been working on the ALR website (moving it from one URL to another the hard way) and another site for a benefit we're putting on later this summer. I haven't had nearly enough time on either the bike or the bicycle yet this year; I feel the summer slipping away. Too many hours spent working, not enough money to pay the bills, stress. I'm under stressure.

I'm happy to do volunteer work. I just wish I could get the occasional paying job so I could get caught up a little...

My Favorite Drew Carey Line

"I have this great recipe for homemade meatloaf. You get two Big Macs and a blender..."

My Favorite Wife

If you haven't seen Dagmar lately - she's lookin' good! There must be something to this "diet and exercise" thing... I'm so proud of her I could cry. She's been working hard, and it shows.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

...A few days later


Yesterday I helped do an honor-guard escort for a soldier from a small town just south of here a ways. A 22-year-old kid, killed in Iraq. Sucks.

I was there when the family saw the coffin for the first time. It was about as sad as it can get... The family (mother, father and sister -- herself a teen aged Marine) gathered around the casket as it came off the airplane; they looked so small and so alone, those three standing there in the middle of an echoing airport hanger, quietly crying over their soldier's casket, hugging each other as tightly as they could...

Just before we left the airport, the soldier's sister (the young Marine) got on the back of the front right motorcycle. I heard the driver, a Vietnam veteran, giving her some brief instructions on how to be a passenger and what to expect. Moments later, just as we were starting to let our clutches out, the soldier's mother ran up and got on the back of our Chaplain's bike. It was an honor to have them ride with us.

We had two police cars in front of us. Following them were the first two motorcycles, the pace-setters. Behind them were myself and out group's Chaplain (with the mother on back), both of us with flags. Behind us was one single motorcycle in the left lane, leaving a space in the right lane for the "missing man." Behind him were two more motorcycles with flags. Then came the hearse, followed by two more bikes with flags, then the rest of the group followed in traditional "staggered" formation. It takes a bit of planning to get this all set up...

As we passed through each small town on the way, people were standing quietly in the streets, holding their flags. Some saluted as the procession went by, others held their hands over their hearts, still others just stood. In the stretches between towns we passed small groups of people who had gathered in the countryside to pay their respects. An old, old farmer stood in the ditch by his field, his old WWII dress hat on, saluting, tears flowing silently down his cheeks. A bit farther was a family, standing quietly at the end of their lane; a young boy had stepped forward a few paces -- either to make sure we saw his flag or to better catch a glimpse of the shiny motorcycles, or, most likely, to see firsthand how people truly do respect their fallen.

Part of our tradition is to have our back (passenger) foot pegs down during funerals and times of mourning. That lets the spirit of the deceased ride along with any one of us if he chooses. I think the soldier rode with us.

Tomorrow is the funeral service. I'll be there.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Quick Thoughts While the Boss Isn't Looking

Apologies - this post is going to be written in short little bursts in between jobs here at work. I'm too busy, unfortunately, to actually sit down and write, but I've got too many thoughts in my head to wait for the proper time. I may come back to this post later tonight or tomorrow and put some photos in. Maybe.

Busy Weekend

I was in a parade Saturday with my shiny motorcycle. That was fun. My nephew and little nieces saw me as I went past and jumped up and down, yelling and waving. That made my day!

I have to admit, I was a little sad that Saturday's "Ice Cream Days" parade was quite a bit more impressive than the town's Memorial Day parade a few weeks ago. I guess the town of Le Mars values ice cream more than they value veterans. Oh well.

In fairness it must be said that Le Mars is known as the Ice Cream Capital of the World -- a hefty percentage of the town's population works at Wells Dairy, making ice cream. So, when Wells Dairy tells the town to have a parade, the town has a parade. I've always found it odd, though, that the Ice Cream Capital of the World has only two little ice cream stands, and I think one of them uses someone else's ice cream. Throughout the whole Ice Cream Days celebration last weekend I didn't see a single person eating ice cream, come to think of it.

After the parade, we went with the kids to Art in the Park, then swimming. I had to go buy swimming britches.

Sunday was Fathers' Day, so we went to the farm and hung out with Pops. That was fun.

Hallo Imst!

Wish we were there... (To save you time scratching your head in bafflement, Imst is about 20 or 25 miles west of Innsbruck. I've seen pictures. Beautiful place.)


I'm so tired I literally can't see straight. Kinda sucks that I still have three or four hours left here at work before I can go home.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I Like to Ride My Bicycle

True Bikers

"Vell, there they are," said my beloved Viennese bride, Dagmar, pointing to her left. "Right where Mama said they were."

"Do you think they still work?" I asked. "They're kind of, well, old." We were standing in my mother-in-law's basement during the course of this particular conversation, looking at a pair of rather old bicycles that happened to be leaning rather pathetically against the wall, nestled in behind a few cardboard boxes. I reached for the closest bike. "You're sure this is okay?"

"Yes, Mama said we could have them. Look - she even left us the owners' manuals und everything." Sure enough, there in a tidy little pile were all the relevant papers - owners' manuals, receipts (dated 1985), and instructions.

"Well, okay then," I said. I pulled the first bike out of it's nest. "Oh! I guess the wheel's not attached." Dagmar took the bike from me as I reached back in to retrieve the errant front tire. "That's interesting."

"Do you tink they'll work?" asked Dagmar. "You've wanted a bicycle for long time."

"We should probably take them to the bike shop and have them looked at before we go riding," I answered, looking the bike over. "It looks like all the tires are flat, and I'm sure some of the gears are probably a bit rusty." I got the first bike from Dagmar and started wrestling it up the stairs. She followed, carrying the front tire.

With a minimum of fuss we got the bike up the steps and into the car. "We can only fit one bike at a time in our trunk," I said. "We'll have to come back for the other one later."

"Vell, dis one is yours," Dagmar answered. "I can vait until next week for mine. Let's take yours to the bike shop and we can vait on mine a little while." She always talks just a little bit faster when she's nervous, you know, and her German accent gets a little more pronounced. "That vill give you time to practice on your bike so you can teach me. Ve can wait on mine, dat's just fine mit me."

"I have an idea," I said, getting into the car. "Why don't we take this one to the bike shop now, then come back for yours right away?"

"Ve can vait on mine," she repeated quietly, getting into her side of the car. "I'm afraid of riding bikes." She sat quietly throughout the five-minute trip to the bike shop. Once at the shop, we drug the bike out of the trunk and wrangled it into the store. As we stood there waiting for someone to help us, in a very small voice, my wife said, "The last time I rode a bike I fell over and got hurt."

"Don't worry, Snookums," I said, patting her on the head. "We'll go over to a big parking lot and practice where no one will laugh at us. I haven't been on a bike in 25 years either." We went back to waiting patiently for someone to help us. Dagmar wandered off to look at all the pretty shiny things.

"Oh mein Gott! Vill you look at the PRICE of this thing?" She pointed to one of about twenty-five bicycles all lined up on a rack. I looked. $4,500 for a bicycle. I started to feel faint. You can buy a motorcycle for that kind of money...

About that time, a rather harried-looking gent came up to us. "May I help you," he said. I explained to him that we had two bicycles and we wanted someone to look them over and fix them for us. "Yep," he said. "We can do that. Just bring the other bike in sometime this afternoon and we'll have both of them ready for you by Thursday." Back to Mama's we went, then back to the bike shop to drop off the second bike. All is right with the world.

The week dragged by, slower than usual. Every time the phone rang I jumped with glee, hoping it would be the bike shop telling us our bikes were ready. For a couple years now I've had it in the back of my mind that I could use a bicycle. I could ride it to work. I could ride it here. I could ride it there. I would have fun if I had a bicycle! I could maybe even lose weight and be healthy again... I'd visit my friends more often if I had a bicycle. You can do LOTS of things on a bicycle!

Finally, finally Thursday arrived. I trudged to work, thinking at every step that things would be much easier if I had a bicycle. By ten in the morning I was on the phone, wailing to Dagmar, "The bike shop hasn't called yet! I think they forgot about us!" She told me that it was only ten in the morning and that I should really give them more time. I put my cell phone on my desk in front of me so I could answer it quickly, should the bike shop call. At noon I called my cell phone from my office phone, just to make sure it was working. Yep, it worked. By three in the afternoon I was convinced that the bike shop was personally toying with my emotions by not calling.

"I don't think they have them done yet," said Dagmar to me at 3:30, a slightly hopeful lilt in her voice. "They would have called by now."

"I know!" I said. "I know. But I think we should go to the bike shop anyway. Maybe if we go down there in person they'll have our bikes ready for us!" I could hear my wife rolling her eyes in exasperation.

"Okay," she said. "Ve can go to the bike shop after work and pester the nice man."

So, promptly at 5:05 we were at the bike shop. "Yes," said the man, a different man than before, "I think we just finished your bikes. They should be done now." He went into the back room. Dagmar wandered around the store. I fidgeted, hopping from one foot to the other. After what seemed like three weeks the man came back, wheeling our two bikes out of the fix-it room. "Are these yours?"

"Yep!" I said. "Those are ours. Do they work?"

"Of course they work," said the man. He looked at Dagmar. "You might want to lower your seat a little," he said. He looked at me, then back at Dagmar, then back to me again. "And maybe you might want to get more comfortable seats."

"We're that old?" I asked. He nodded apologetically. I sighed. "Okay, how much are new seats? We don't have much money left."

After a minimum of bickering and dealing, the man sold us two used seats for $7 each and a chain without a lock for $2, and taught me how to change a seat and adjust the bikes for height. Back out to the car trotted Dagmar and I, each one of us wheeling a bicycle.

"Ve can only put one bike in the car," observed my wife. "How are we going to get them both back home?"

"We'll put your bike in the car, and I'll ride my bike home," I said. "The bike trail is just a block away from here, and it goes almost all the way to our house."

"That makes me nervous," she said. "I don't like the idea of you riding a bicycle."

"Honey, I ride a 1500cc motorcycle every day. I think I can handle a little bicycle," I said, putting hers in the trunk of the car.

"I don't like this," she repeated.

I kissed her on the nose, patted her on the backside, and watched her get in the car. I waited until she drove off before I got on the bicycle.

Words of wisdom: If you haven't been on a bicycle in 25 years and are hoping to start riding again, DON'T get on the bicycle for the first time in front of a bike shop full of 22-year-old men who ride $3,000 bikes 50 miles a day. Don't do that. It's embarrassing. After Dagmar left in the car, I stood there for a second trying to remember just how to get on a bike. Do you flip your leg back and over, like a motorcycle? Or do you tilt the bike down and sort of slide onto it? With a mental shrug I decided to do the "flip your leg back and over," just like on my motorcycle. Unfortunately, the seat on the bicycle is about a foot taller than the seat on my motorcycle. Combine that with the fact that I habitually wear engineer boots, and a person watching could well think I had decided to attack my bicycle seat utilizing a bizarre form of karate. Up back WHANG kick thud down DANG I hope no one saw that. As I bent over to pick the bike up I couldn't help but see about ten guys in the bike shop trying very hard not to laugh.

I got the bike back up on two wheels and gave it a cursory examination. About all I could tell was that the seat was still attached, despite my effort to kick it off; for all I knew it may have been on backwards. I walked the bike down the sidewalk a little so I wasn't standing right in front of the bike shop window and tried again.

Success! Wheee! I was now on a bicycle, for the first time since junior high school. Well, not "on" exactly, but I was straddling it, and had every intention to hoist my tuckus up onto that seat somehow. (I really don't remember the seat on my old bike, 25 years ago, being that high.) Well, they say you never forget how to ride a bike, so... One foot on a pedal, push down and UP I go, landing on the seat. Hands on the bars and ZOOM away I go! By the time I got about half a block I could tell something was wrong. Is my @ss supposed to be sticking up in the air like this? Is the seat really supposed to feel like a sharp stick? Are the handlebars really supposed to be that low? Searching my memory banks didn't help, all my brain could come up with was "this ain't natural," and "your butt is sticking up in the air, dummy."

I didn't dwell on my lack of comfort, however - I had bigger things on my mind, like traffic, an upcoming intersection, and brakes. Which one is the front brake, and which one the rear? Is there a difference? Which one should I use? Has anyone checked the brakes? Do they work? Why are all those cars going so fast? How do you stop this thing? ACK! I grabbed both brakes at the same time and squeezed. The bike screeched to a VERY abrupt halt. Not being able to touch the ground whilst sitting on the sharp stick they refer to as a "seat," I rather gracelessly sort of slumped over. I didn't fall all the way over, thankfully, but I'm sure I brought a smile to someone's face... "Hey, did you see that hippie just fall off his bicycle? Oh look! He's getting back on again!"

Eventually I managed to get through the intersection and onto the bike trail. (Sioux City had once been flooded when Perry Creek rose over its banks, so they've been re-working the entire Perry Creek area, widening the channel, building new bridges and putting a bike path along the creek. No one knows when they'll finish - they've been working on it for ten years now.) Breathing a sigh of relief that I was now out of the public eye, I let the bike coast down the hill to the creek.

Now this isn't bad! Zip zoomy wheee! The wind blew my hair back as I coasted along, barely touching the pedals. I reveled in the moment! Down the hill I went. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the water in the creek glistened, the flowers bobbed their heads, the nice man driving the bulldozer waved hello to me, the butterflies wafted gently in the breeze... Wait. Bulldozer?

Again I grabbed both brakes as hard as I could, slamming to a halt just inches from the barrier they put across the path to keep morons, idiots and hippies from riding their bikes through construction zones. Evidently I'd missed the five signs they'd put up telling people the bike trail was closed... With a sigh I turned my bike around and started back to the intersection.

Where did this hill come from? Boy, it sure didn't seem that steep when I was going down... And just how did I manage to go this far already? Up the hill I pedaled. And up. And up. Farther and farther... Gradually, as I worked my way up the hill, I grew aware of a peculiar noise. THUD thud thud THUD thud thud. After a bit of thought I came to the conclusion that either it was my pulse whumping away in my ears or it was the blood vessels in my nose bursting. I never did figure out which it was...

A couple months later I was half a block farther along. The THUD thud thud THUD in my ears was now accompanied by the rattle of small rocks on the sidewalk as I wheezed up the hill, sucking air like a Hoover on methamphetamines. For a while I was afraid I might actually inhale a pebble.

A few years after that, as I was nearing the top of the hill, the THUD thud rattle rattle wheeze THUD was enhanced by a high-pitched screeching sound. It was the sound of my legs screaming.

With a pant and a gasp and a wheeze I finally got back to the intersection. I had to look down to be sure my legs were still attached. I stopped and looked back. I had, in all this time, managed to go FOUR BLOCKS. Two downhill, and two back up. And you know what, it's not even really a hill -- it's more of a knoll. A bump, maybe. I'm half-dead, and I've gone four blocks, and to make matters worse - I was back where I started! I still have a couple miles to go before I get home.

As I stood there, waiting for the feeling to return to my legs, my phone chirruped politely. It was Dagmar. "Vhere are you? I'm at home; I've been waiting and waiting and waiting..."

"I'm about half a block from the bike shop," I wheezed at her. "I'm making good progress, though..."

I started off again, this time on normal streets as the bike path was closed. After a block or two I started to get back into the hang of things a little. But boy, did my legs hurt! I sure wish there was a way to make this easier...

Wait... This is a ten-speed. It has gears. GEARS! Doh!

Once I got the bike into the proper gear things went MUCH easier. I was still confounded by some strange noises, though. The one that took me the longest to figure out was a sort of "whap whap whap" sound coming from right below me. It took me a block and a half to figure out it was my knees slapping my flabby, drooping belly. Whap whap whap. I'm hoping that noise will eventually go away.

Covered in sweat I finally pulled up in front of our Little House in the 'Hood. The love of my life was waiting for me at the front door. "Vell? How did it go?"

I have to admit, I let out a string of heartfelt curses so foul I think I stunned a poor innocent bird who happened to fly by. "So," said my wife once I'd wheezed to a halt in my tirade, "not so good, huh."

"This thing hurt me," I said, getting off the bike. "It hurt me. This was a dumb idea. I hate bicycles."

"I vant to try mine," she said, ignoring my staggering lurches about the yard (my legs had quit screaming and were reduced to pathetic little whimpers). "Can you help me get it out of the trunk?" I've learned long ago that there's no arguing sometimes. Manfully I flopped my way over to the car and got Dagmar's bike out for her.

Up she hopped and down the driveway she went. "WAAAAAA how do you stop this thing?" Out into the street she went. "WAAAAAA how do you turn this thing?" She put her feet down and stopped, 20 feet from where she stopped. She looked at me. "I don't like riding bicycles," she said, matter-of-factly.

We put the bikes in the garage. After a while my pulse had slowed down to about 746 beats per minute and my poor legs were feeling like legs again, so I went outside, hammer in one hand, wrench in the other. I was going to fix those bicycles one way or another...

Within a few hours I had replaced Dagmar's seat with a more comfortable one (we got it from the bike shop for seven dollars, used), lowered the seat, replaced my seat (twice actually), lowered my seat, and (a few days later) put water bottle racks on both bikes.

"Okay," I said to Dagmar. "Let's try this again. Things should work better now." She nodded affably and followed me out to the garage. I explained the changes I'd made.

"Do you think it vill work?" she asked. "I don't like riding bicycles."

I assured her that things would be much more comfortable now, and the bike would be easier to ride. "I just want to go down to the bike trail," I said. "It's closed over by the bike shop, but it's open here."

"How do ve get onto the bike trail?" asked my Hunny-Bee.

"There's an 'on-ramp' just over the bridge, not half a block from here."

"Are you sure you vant to do this? You're still walking kind of funny..."

"Let's give it a try," I said.

With that, my beloved wife hopped up on her bicycle, rang her little ding-ding bell once or twice and off she went! "Wheeee!" she hollered. "This is MUCH better!" Down the driveway, onto the sidewalk, and into the alley she went, headed for the street. "But how do you stop?" she yelled. Then, "WAAAAAHHH!" I looked up, just in time to see my wife sheepishly wave at the big four-wheeled truck she'd pulled out in front of. The mean-looking man in the truck glowered at my wife as she walked her bike past his hood ornament. "I'm sorry," she called. "I haven't been on a bike in twenty years." The man broke out in a big smile and waved. Dagmar has that effect on men.

We continued our journey. Over the bridge we went, and then onto the bike path. "Oh, I like this!" Dagmar said. "Now THIS is fun!" And it was indeed fun. With my padded seat at the right height things went much better for me, too. We smiled at each other and pedaled off down the trail, wondering where it led. We swooped up and down hills, over neat footbridges, and eventually wound up miles from home, breathless and smiling.

"Vhat a beautiful trail!" Dagmar said. I nodded. And indeed it was, for the most part.

"Yep, I really like the way they've done things," I said. "The footbridges are really neat, and the trail is nice, and the streetlights and park benches... It'll look really nice when the trees grow a bit more. Too bad we live in 'Gangland'. The graffiti sucks."

As nice as the trail was, you couldn't help but notice the gang symbols and signs spray-painted on almost every flat surface along the trail - mostly under the bridges. What really bothered me is that this section of the trail had only been open for a day or two and it had already been tagged. It seems that our happy little bike path is ground zero for a turf battle between the Vice Lords, West Side Locos and MS-13. Fortunately, the police have just recently declared that they're creating a new gang task force to deal with the issue. (I don't know why they don't simply put hidden cameras up under the bridges, wait for twenty minutes, then go arrest whomever is holding the can of spray paint.)

In any case, we've truly enjoyed exploring the bike paths the past week. My posterior has gotten out of the "flaming red baboon butt" stage and is starting to get used to the bike seat, and the hills are getting a bit easier to navigate. From our house, we can get on the bike path and go all the way to the grocery store and bank without having to deal with any traffic at all, and if we go the other way we can get to the Barbeque joint, the Art Center, and nearly to Historic Fourth Street. If we cut across a parking lot, we can go from "our" bike path to the Riverfront paths - we don't even know how far those go yet, but Dagmar thinks we can get to Riverside. I've heard rumors that they're going to build a bridge from Riverside to Dakota Dunes, but to be honest I have no desire to go to the Dunes.

Parts of the trail near the downtown area are six years old now, and are beautifully developed and landscaped. (I have some better photos - I'll put a link up soon.) Streetlights that actually work line the flower-strewn path as it meanders along.

In the past few days the city has painted over the graffiti in our neighborhood, only to have the vandals spray their inane, juvenile crud over everything again. ("Why can't the city afford to finish the bike path? Because they're spending all their money cleaning up vandalism." Sucks.) But, as of yesterday, the city had come out yet again and had repaired most of the damage.

All in all, we're VERY happy with what Sioux City has done with the bike paths. They're going to be a benefit to the city for a long time, provided the gangs don't take over, and the police chief is taking care of that problem. Dagmar has been biking every day for the past week, but she's still afraid to go some places on her own due to the thugs that hang out under some of the bridges... But again, I have faith that the police will get a handle on the situation soon.

Now... does anyone know how to fix a front dérailleur? Mine doesn't seem to want to shift for some reason. And I gotta figger out how to raise my handlebars a bit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Big Thoughts for a Small Man

A Third...

I read a while back that the world's population has increased by 33% since I was born. As with most statistics, this one didn't really strike me until I thought about it a bit differently...

Look around you. Mentally subtract every third person. On your way home from work, think about what it'd be like if every third car didn't exist. Every third house. Look at a map of your hometown and visualize it a third smaller. A third fewer telemarketers calling at dinner time. A third fewer everything.

That's what it was like when I was born, not quite 40 years ago. People had elbow room back then. Room to breathe. More resources, fewer mouths to feed. I'm jealous.

Will the next generation be jealous of us?

Thoughts on Poor Paris

The Cost of a Hilton

Factoid: The average cost to house a female inmate in Los Angeles County is $99.64 a day. To keep Paris Hilton locked up, it's costing the government $1,109.78 a day due to "medical treatment and staff associated with her needs." source

Things You Can Do to Make Paris Hilton Richer

These are a few of the things the Hiltons own or have stock in. If you buy them, rent them, or use them, the money will eventually go to Paris, most likely.

Coral by Hilton
Embassy Suites Hotels
Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn and Suites
Hilton & Hyland Real Estate
Hilton Garden Inn
Hilton Grand Vacations
Homewood Suites by Hilton
The Waldorf-Astoria Collection
And, of course, the porn movie "One Night in Paris"

A Funny Thing I Said Lately:

"Paris Hilton found God? Really? All these people have been looking for God for so long, and it turns out He was hiding under the sink in a female penal facility in California this whole time..."

A Funny Thing I Heard Lately:

"I was severely depressed and felt as if I was in a cage." -- Paris Hilton to Barbara Walters, talking about jail, June 11, 2007.

Um... Isn't that pretty much the point of jail? In fact, isn't that the definition of "jail?"

Monday, June 11, 2007

Warning - Political Opinions Ahead

Saber Rattling

This is absolutely nuts. Sometime last week Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter proposed in a debate that we toss a nuclear weapon at the Mideast. Leading Republican candidate Mitt Romney nodded sagely and said that "no options should be taken off the table" when it comes to the Middle East.

Oh, that'll win the hearts and minds of the people... "We can't find a way to counter your suicide bombers so we're going to kill hundreds and hundreds of thousands of civilians and turn a few cities into radioactive slag."

This is the United States of America. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than the rest of the world. We are the shining example of clear political thought, restraint and morality. We are known for helping our enemies ("Do unto others...") and rebuilding broken nations. We do not allow torture. We do not allow people to be arrested without cause. We do not hold people without trial. Free speech is a bastion of our culture. We do not spy on our own citizens...

Or at least that's the way it used to be. Sadly, it's not so any more. We have reduced ourselves to the level of our enemies. This needs to change! We need to find our way back to honesty, accountability, morality.

Dropping tactical nuclear weapons isn't going to achieve that goal. All that's gonna do is give North Korea, Iran, Russia and even Pakistan a green light to drop a tactical nuclear weapon on us the first time they feel provoked -- and we're pretty good at provoking those particular nations lately. We need to maintain the morality of restraint. We need to remember to honor the human life.

We're good people. We really are. We just need to start acting like it.

MORE Saber Rattling

I just heard this morning that Independent Senator Joseph Isadore Lieberman (I-Diot) went on national television and spewed even MORE venom into the world by saying the United States should mount covert raids across the Iraqi border into Iran in retaliation for Iranians training Iraqis to kill people. The Senator did say with a dismissive shrug that the majority of the work could be done by air.

Didn't Senator Lieberman learn anything from Vietnam when we started bombing Cambodia, and sneaked across the border into Laos to close off the Ho Chi Minh Trail? I guess not. Historically, what the Senator proposes simply hasn't worked. Do we need to deal with Iran? Yes. But we do NOT need to engage in a sneaky war with them, nor do we need to start throwing nuclear weapons around as others have suggested. We must regain and maintain the high moral ground.

But I'm sure Senator Lieberman knows what combat is like and realizes the sacrifices he's asking others to make on his behalf. Oh, wait, he never served in the military, did he... Nor do his children, come to think of it.

Something to be aware of when discussing Senator Lieberman and the Middle East is the fact that he receives a LOT of donations from pro-Israel groups who hope he'll continue to enact legislation that favors Israel. Senator Lieberman and his wife Hadassah are both Orthodox Jews and have staunchly advocated for Israel -- part of which is working to continue the war in Iraq, one of Israel's enemies. It's also no secret that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to wipe Israel off the map and has declared the Holocaust never happened.

So... Iran hates Jewish people, and Senator Lieberman (who happens to be one of those Jewish people himself) is taking tons of money from other Jewish people for his campaign, and is calling to invade Iran. Could it be that the Senator has an ax to grind? Could he be pushing a hidden agenda? Is he trying to get us to fight Israel's wars? Don't get me wrong -- I'm NOT defending Iran, nor am I advocating we abandon Israel. I just want to make sure we have our reasons and priorities straight before we start the bombing runs...

Thoughts on War in General

Someone mentioned in a comment to a previous post that I seem to be anti-war and pro-soldier. That's correct for the most part, I guess. But I have to admit, I'm not a complete dove -- there are times when war is necessary, unfortunately. If someone were to invade Iowa, I'd certainly call for war. If someone were to drop a nuclear weapon on Canada, I'd probably call for war. In other words, my philosophy is kind of "don't mess with my family and friends and I won't mess with you."

When the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell and it became apparent that it was the work of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda my immediate reaction was "well, let's go get him!" The United States sent troops off to Afghanistan to find bin Laden and nullify al-Qaeda, and I was fine with that.

But Dagmar and I watched in horror as United States President George Bush gradually convinced the nation that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was the one that was actually behind the 9/11 plot, and that they were on the verge of launching weapons of mass destruction at western targets. We could see, my wife and I, that this simply wasn't so -- Hussein was an evil man who did evil things in evil ways, but he wasn't responsible for the attacks of 9/11, nor did he have weapons of mass destruction -- our own inspectors confirmed that. When the United States lined our troops up and pointed them towards Baghdad we watched the war from our couch, simultaneously aghast and appalled at what we were doing and proud of how well our troops were doing it. When Baghdad fell we thought our objective had been met and hoped the war was over, but it wasn't. When Hussein was captured we thought our objective had been met and hoped the war was over, but it wasn't. When Hussein was executed we hoped the war was over, but it wasn't.

Meanwhile, the man who actually did the United States damage, Osama bin Laden, ran free in Afghanistan, and is still free to this day.

I simply feel we are in the wrong war. We should not have gone into Iraq; we needed to keep our focus on finding al-Qaeda operatives. Once we did go into Iraq, we should have had clear objectives and a definition of victory. Despite our troops' best efforts, we're now finding ourselves bloody umpires in a civil war in Iraq, left unable to defend ourselves should our true enemy al-Qaeda choose to attack. The blame for this goes squarely on the Bush administration -- mainly former government bigwig Donald Rumsfeld, vice president Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney, adviser Karl Rove, John Ashcroft, Paul Wolfowitz and President George Bush. They willfully ignored intelligence reports that opposed their wishes, replaced military leaders who didn't agree with their ideology, and generally attempted to micromanage the war from the White House. This didn't work when we fought in Vietnam, and it didn't work in Iraq. (President Bush should have learned from his father, who was president during the Gulf War. During that war the president gave the military clearly defined goals and objectives, and let the generals do what they're trained to do. Consequently, the war was over quickly, and victory was decisive.)

How do we now get out of the war in Iraq? I dunno. But we need to find a way. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have done exactly what we asked them to do, and have done it admirably. We need to get them home; get them rested up and ready to defend the United States against our true enemies. The war in Iraq has cost us more money that is imaginable, and that money must be paid. (Sadly, our children and grandchildren are going to be paying for this war for a long, long time.) We, as a nation, have been slowly mortgaging and pawning off our assets to pay for Iraq. Our creditors will come calling. We also need to find the resources to care for those that served in Iraq -- they deserve the best care we can give them.

I'm very aware that there are other opinions, and that there are probably a few big holes in my argument that can be found, but this is simply my rather grumpy opinion on my rather grumpy blog. I'm tired of going to funerals.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Oh my...

Video of the Day

Here are some rather spooky facts for you...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Sad Day

It was the crying child that got to me.

Five a.m. is early, no matter how you look at it. "Are you sure we need to get up already?" asked my beloved Viennese bride, Dagmar, as she swatted at the alarm clock. I pulled a pillow over my face, not quite ready to establish a viable high-speed connection with reality just yet. I don't wanna get up, I don't wanna.

But... "Yes, we need to get up. It's gonna take us a while to get there, and I want to leave some extra time." I sat up and rubbed my eyes, pondering. "Do you want to get in the shower first? I can wait..."

"No," she replied in that cute little accent of hers. "You go ahead. I can vait." That's my wife, generous to a fault.

Half an hour later I was done with project Scrub the Hippie and had moved on to the fine art of making a cup of instant coffee. Mug in hand, I wandered towards the bedroom. As I peeked in the bedroom door I couldn't help but laugh as Dagmar struggled mightily to get one eye open. As soon as that task was accomplished, she looked me straight in the eye and said, "Dat noise you heard - that wasn't me. Dat vas the cat snoring. I wasn't asleep. I vas just laying here with my eyes closed, thinking." She managed to get her feet on the floor and put one of them in front of the other until she got to the shower.

By six we were backing the bike out of the garage. "It's going to be chilly," she said. "I'm glad we're wearing lots of clothes." And indeed I was - I had leather chaps on over my britches, a T-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a denim work shirt, a coat, my vest, and gloves on. Dagmar was similarly dressed, sans vest and chaps. Up on the bike we went, zip-zoomy down the road we tootled. We stopped about ten miles down the Interstate to gas up, and away we went.

It was a bright, sunshiny day, the kind of day that happens just once or twice a month in the summer around here -- not much wind at all, not a cloud in the sky, temperatures scheduled to be in the lower 70s most of the day... A beautiful, beautiful day.

Too bad we were going to a funeral. That kind of put a damper on our mood...

A soldier was being buried in his hometown just south of Omaha. He was killed in Iraq by an improvised explosive device (IED). The Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) were to meet at the local high school there at 8 a.m. in preparation for the 10 a.m. funeral. Sad duty, but necessary.

After fighting our way through downtown Omaha (a misbegotten, twisty maze of concrete that has baffled me my entire life, taunting not only my sense of direction, but my instinctive feeling that roads should at least make a half-hearted attempt to be straight) with only one missed exit and one wrong turn, we found ourselves headed southward on Highway 75, just like the map said. Within minutes we'd veered left and had found the high school. At a guess, I'd say we were about the 100th bike to arrive, give or take.

After a steady hour and a half on the motorcycle it felt GOOD to get off and stretch a bit. Unfortunately, though, we were running a bit late -- we barely had time to get the "riding" flag out of the saddlebags and mounted on the back of the bike and we were up and running again. In strict formation we rode the six blocks or so to the chapel, arriving right at 8:30 a.m. Off the bike tumbled the hippie and the Austrian, coats and chaps off and stuffed into bulging saddlebags, down the hill we ran/walked to get our "standing" flags.

Some very generous people have donated flags, you see, to the PGR. It used to be that we simply stood with our backs to the protesters. Then someone got the idea to start bringing flags, so some of us had flags and some just stood. Now each area of the nation has it's very own stash of donated flags, so riders can simply show up, grab a flag, and head to the flagline.

Flags in hand, Dagmar and I headed for the chapel door where about thirty other people were lined up with flags. After just a few minutes, though, it was apparent that there were quite enough people at the door, but there weren't enough flags at the parking lot entrance -- so we headed down the hill to join the flagline there. As we settled into our new spots we couldn't help but notice the five big red shiny firetrucks in the parking lot. "Vas the soldier a fireman, too?" Dagmar asked. "I think so," I answered. "From what I heard he was a volunteer fireman and had a wife and five children." A few polite inquiries to our neighbors in the flagline confirmed that this was indeed the case.

"Five children," my wife said. "How sad. How very sad." We stood in silence for a few minutes, listening to the wind rustle our flags.

"Are the protesters here?" asked the lady to my left. "I've only done this a few times. I've never seen the protesters."

"I haven't seen them yet today," I answered.

"Where would they be?" she asked.

"Well, I'd imagine they'd probably be right over there, across the street, in that parking lot."

"Why there?"

"By law they have to be a certain distance away from the church," I answered. "That looks like a likely spot for them if they show up."

The reason we all go to military funerals is to shield the family from the taunts and signs of the protesters. It's what we do. We want the soldier's family to see flags and friendly faces.

By now you may be asking who would be graceless enough to protest at a funeral. The answer may surprise you -- it's a church in Kansas, led by Fred Phelps. Mr. Phelps has decreed that homosexuality is evil, and, since homosexuality is legal in the United States of America, those that defend our nation's freedoms are therefore defending homosexuality.

It's pretty much agreed that the this church can exercise their freedom of speech, but doing it at a funeral is in poor taste - especially when they try to get in the grieving family's face with signs saying "God Loves IED's" and "God Hates Your Son." They yell the most vile things, but the most bothersome part of it is that they bring their children with them to help protest.

So we stand with our flags, staying between the protesters and the family.

(I explained this to a friend of mine a while back. He shook his head. "What a sad commentary on the United States that the Hells Angels have the high moral ground over a church," he said. I need to tell you that we're not Hells Angels. The PGR is comprised of bikers from many different groups and clubs -- I happen to be with the American Legion Riders -- but the gist of his statement is accurate.)

After about twenty minutes (oh, about 9:10 or so) one of the Ride Captains came up to our section of the line. "The uninvited guests are here," he said. "We need more people to stand over there." He pointed to a stretch of sidewalk right near where I'd guessed the protesters would be. As we walked the thirty yards or so to our appointed spot I scanned the parking lot. Yep, there it was - the van the protesters use. We got ourselves lined up and spaced appropriately, all of us watching the protesters get their signs ready. "Patriot Guard! About Face!" As one, each and every one of us turned our backs to the protesters.

We stood there, whispering to each other occasionally, but mostly in silence, listening to our flags talk in the breeze. By this time there was a steady stream of cars and firetrucks entering the chapel parking lot. By about 9:30 or so the police started asking some people to park in the "far" parking lot, over by us. This meant that people were now having to walk within fifteen or twenty yards of the protesters. We shielded people best we could, but everyone knew the Kansas people were there anyway.

After a while they started singing. I couldn't tell you what they were singing as I was doing my best to ignore them, but I caught the occasional hate-filled phrase. A couple guys went down the hill and came back with their motorcycles. They parked them and left the engines running - just loud enough to drown out the singing.

I snuck a peek. There were about eight of them, each holding a brightly colored sign with catchy phrases like "God Hates Fags" written on them. At least four of them were children. There was a police officer in a car in front of them, and another officer in a squad car behind them. There were officers on foot on either side, protecting the protesters from the public.

"They can only stay for forty-five minutes," said the man beside me, turning my attention back to the flagline. "That's how long their permit is for. If they stay one minute longer than that I'm sure they'll be arrested. But they're too smart for that." I nodded in agreement.

At 9:58 a.m. the police escorted the protesters back to their van. Several PGR members had to move forward a few feet to let them past. Not a single biker so much as looked behind them to see what was happening as the protesters brushed past. Not a word. Nary a dirty look. Complete composure. I have the utmost admiration for those individuals -- I'm not sure I could resist the opportunity to hurl a dirty name or two at the protesters if I were that close.

It seemed to me that there weren't so many getting into the van, though, as had gotten out of the van 45 minutes earlier. But then again, I wasn't really counting.

After the van had gone its way (with police escort) up the hill and around the corner, the Ride Captain dismissed us and pointed us down the hill. We rolled up our flags and headed back to our bikes. "Vhat do we do now?" asked my wife.

"Well, there's a riders' meeting, then we go to the cemetery," I said. "We probably have fifteen minutes or so before we have to go." She kissed me on the nose and trotted off in search of a restroom whilst I returned our flags to the flag truck and made my way to the riders' meeting.

After a quick "I'd like to thank you all for coming today," speech, the State Captain told us how we were getting to the cemetery, ("parade formation, there will be a LEO escort and roadblocks, watch for loose gravel,") then informed us that two of the protesters had been arrested. A cheer went up -- this has never happened before! I found out later that only one had actually been arrested -- the officers witnessed a lady throw an American flag on the ground and tell her 10-year-old son to stomp on it, a violation of Nebraska state law. Seeing as how they couldn't very well arrest a 10-year-old boy, they arrested the mother for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. This carries a $1,500 fine and three months in jail if I heard right.

The State Captain dismissed us, and we all headed back to our individual bikes to get ready for the short ride to the cemetery. I was about halfway back to our Kawasaki when Dagmar caught up to me. "I heard a cheer when I was trying to find a bathroom," she said. "What happened?" I told her about the arrest as we put our helmets on and checked our "riding flag."

A determined rumble went up as over a hundred motorcycles started up and headed for the road. We were about a third of the way back in the pack - as you can see from the photo Dagmar snapped over my shoulder there was quite a line of bikes in front of us -- and even more behind us.

We went through a twisty, curvy road up the hill to the cemetery, a beautifully manicured spot of green in the middle of the city. Off the bikes, down the hill, grab a couple flags, then down to the gravesite.

The PGR formed up in a large circle around the gravesite. Soldiers were there, nervously checking their rifles in anticipation of the 21-gun salute. Firefighters were there in their dress uniforms, rehearsing the flag-folding ceremony. We waited.

After a while, we heard rumbles in the distance. It was a police escort, six motorcycles leading the hearse into the cemetery. At the same time we heard rumbles behind us -- ten or fifteen firetrucks pulled up on the street below. Within seconds we heard rumbles above us -- three helicopters flew overhead in perfect formation.

The family slowly made their way down to the gravesite, and the ceremony began. About five minutes into the ceremony, just after the 21-gun salute, a small child started crying. Not the wails of an over-tired youngster, nor the cry of a hungry infant. This was the heart-wrenching, full-throated cry of a toddler who just realized that Daddy's in the funny-shaped box under the flag and that he's never coming home.

He cried the entire time.

That's what got to me.

God bless Bill Bailey, National Guardsman and Volunteer Fireman, father of five.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday. Is it Monday? Already? Oh...

Things that have disappointed me lately:

1. The Democrats.
I had hope that they would stand up to the Bush administration, finally, and start ending this misguided war of ours. (Remember Osama bin Laden? He's still in Afghanistan. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. We attacked Iraq anyway. Saddam Hussein is now dead. Why are we still in Iraq? Why aren't we going after terrorists?) People who know me know that I'm fairly patriotic. I love this country. I think our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are doing a helluva job. But I believe our government has put them in the wrong place at the wrong time - we're fighting the wrong war.

2. The Republicans. Blindly following doctrine is not getting us anywhere. We cannot fight extremism with extremism.

3. Security National Bank. They're tearing down the historic Williges Building to build a parking lot. Doesn't our heritage mean anything? Our history is being lost at an extraordinary rate -- in Sioux City we've lost the stockyards, most of downtown, the KD Station is scheduled for demolition... Now the Williges building. I find it shameful that we do not value our past. It's where we came from.

4. Michael Vick.
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback/millionaire is under investigation for dog fighting. Whether he's guilty of the crime or not, he's been hanging out with the wrong crowd. And you have to admit, it looks bad that they found 55 pit bulls and dogfighting paraphernalia at his house. And, you have to admit, it looks bad that they found the dogs while searching for illegal drugs. It looks bad. Bad. I am hereby announcing that Mr. Vick is not MY role model.

5. Alberto Gonzales. The more I learn about United States Attorney General Gonzales, the less impressed and more scared I become. His sneakiness started before he was crowned Attorney General when he pushed his agenda by going around Acting Attorney General James B. Comey (who had ruled against Mr. Gonzales) and pushing Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign a document while Ashcroft was in the hospital recovering from major surgery. (Can you imagine waking up from surgery to find people standing around your bed asking you to sign covert documents? Talk about taking advantage of a situation...) Mr. Gonzales has gone on to rule that torture is legal, citizens' rights are mythical, and that lying to congress is perfectly okay -- all you have to do is "not recall" anything.

6. Drug Companies. The only people greedier than big drug companies are big oil companies. People are dying because they can't afford the hundreds of dollars it takes to buy a bottle of pills. Yes, I know... "We need to charge so much because we give free samples away, and it costs a lot of money to research new drugs." Fine 'n dandy. But you cannot deny that prices are out of hand, and that drug companies spend a lot more time researching drugs that people need to take on a daily basis than they do researching drugs to save lives. After all, if someone has to take a blood pressure pill every day, that's steady income. But if someone pays twenty bucks for a single injection that saves their life, that's only twenty bucks. Better to turn that single injection into a pill that they have to take every day for the rest of their life...

7. Oil Companies. I'm sick and tired of that Shell commercial that's on TV 20 times an hour - you know the one -- where some teenager is sucking his malted milkshake through a straw and his father, a big rich oil executive gets the brilliant idea that we can suck oil out of the ground. Brilliant. Show me a commercial where Shell unveils plans to make hydrogen and electricity available at their stations. Then I'll be impressed. Honda has plans to release a hydrogen car next year. We're gonna need hydrogen stations eventually. Someone's gonna have to be a leader and actually start making the things, AND making hydrogen without burning fossil fuels in the process.

Oil executives are making record profits and ruining the American economy at the same time. I'm so proud of them! Does your shirt cost more? Well, that's because it cost more to ship it from the factory. Does your milk cost more? Your beer? Your bread? It's all going into the pockets of the oil men. And guess what? United States President George Walker Bush and Vice President Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney are both oil men. Guess who has legislated laws favorable to oil companies? Guess whose friends are getting rich? Guess who will smugly smirk, throw his arms wide and shrug, saying "It's the terrists fault" if you ask him about it.

We will be paying between $3 and $5 a gallon for gas until we change both our ways and our government.

8. Iowa. Why are we hiring people from other states to build coal plants in Iowa when we can hire our own people to build wind farms? Someone explain this to me.

9. Family Values. I'm really kinda getting upset at people who think Democrats have no family values. Look at the current presidential candidates (I'll go with the top three in each party).

Democrat Barak Obama married his wife, Michelle in 1992 -- nothing much there to talk about, really. Hillary Clinton and hubby Bill have been married for about a zillion years, overcame Bill's "lapse of judgment" regarding a chubby intern and remained a stable couple throughout the turmoil. John Edwards and his wife have survived the death of a son and two bouts of cancer, and by all accounts have a very strong marriage.

Contrast this with the Republican candidates, all of whom tout the "party of family values" line. John McCain had numerous extramarital affairs, eventually leaving his crippled wife to marry one of his mistresses. Rudy Giuliani left his first wife to marry his mistress, then left her to marry his other mistress. Mitt Romney is married with five children - no scandal there.

So, of the six candidates, two of them -- Democrat Obama and Republican Romney -- have stable, rather unremarkable family histories. Two of them have overcome remarkable obstacles in their relationships - Democrats Clinton and Edwards. Two of them have numerous past infidelities - Republicans McCain and Giuliani.

Seems the party of values doesn't value the values as much as they seem...

10. The Weather. Geeze, has it been a crappy couple of weeks or what? Oh well, it'll get better eventually, I'm sure, as soon as the local weather patterns stabilize again after the whole Global Warming thing runs its course. I sure hope we can still grow food after that. But I guess that new coal plant in Eastern Iowa is worth it - what's a little extra carbon in the atmosphere gonna do?

Things that have made me happy lately:

1. My Wife. The American Legion Riders (ALR) were invited to participate in the opening ceremonies and halftime show at the local arena football team's "Salute to Veterans" night last Saturday night. It makes me exceedingly happy and proud that my wife not only approves of me participating in these things, but she comes along and takes an active role herself! She roamed around the arena, taking photos for the ALR's web site and generally being helpful. It was yet another reminder that we truly are a team, me and she. I'm lucky and blessed to have her with me. (To see the photos, just click here or here.)

2. Honda. Finally, someone's putting a hydrogen car into production! This 70-mile-per-gallon car does not burn gas, and the only emission is water vapor. Wondrous! The only problem is that there are no hydrogen filling stations around here (there are about 60 nationwide -- 50 of them in California). Honda, however, is also developing a device that you can have at home that will not only produce hydrogen for your car but will also heat and power your house. YAY!

The only problem is that the gadget that makes the hydrogen and heats and powers your house burns natural gas. To be honest, I'm not sure how that affects global warming, but it doesn't really sound so good... But it's a start!

3. The Dollar Tree. It's nice to have a dollar store nearby. We spent twelve bucks on toys and made three children happy. With the slow blight and destruction of our local neighborhood stores we're grateful to have a thrift shop close at hand. Now if we can just get a local neighborhood grocery store to come back...

4. Bicycle Paths. Shortly after we moved into our happy little house in the hood the city came along and tore out all the trees in our neighborhood. Turns out that the little babbling brook that meanders behind our across-the-street neighbor's house had flooded back in the 1950s, and the city was just now getting around to fixing it. So they tore out all the trees, straightened and widened the stream bed, lined it with rocks, built a bike path along the bank, and have now planted new seedling trees to replace the big huge old-growth trees that used to be there. Overall it's a good project and needed to be done, but we were horribly distraught that they took so long to get our section of it done, and they tore out ALL the trees. But the other day I was able for the first time to walk along the new bike path for a few blocks. It was nice. I hope the new trees and other flora grow quickly. My mother-in-law has given Dagmar and I her old bicycles; we're taking them to the bike shop today to see if they can be refurbished.

5. Google. I use Google stuff quite a bit. I have a gmail account, I use their photo software, their word processor and spreadsheet software, their web design software, their calendar, and this blog is done using Google stuff. I'm continually surprised and happy that Google is slowly but surely turning my lowly little PC into something more and more useful every day. Using computers is starting to be as I imagined it would when I was in college, lo those many years ago. And they do it in an environmentally friendly manner -- I hear they use only recycled electrons.

6. Mustang Seats. If you have a motorcycle, get a Mustang seat. They're kinda spendy, but your tuckus will thank you! Very much worth the cost.

I'm kinda sad - I came up with ten things that irritated me without a problem. But when I tried to think of things that have made me happy lately, I kinda ran out of steam after number three. I'll keep going, though. I'm sure there are other things that make me happy (other than puppy dogs and beer and flowers and mushy stuff like that).

7. Puppy Dogs.

8. Beer. Boy, if you ever get the chance to try 1554 or Abbey, both brewed by the New Belgium Brewery, DO IT. You won't regret it... Don't be afraid of dark beer - these are both tasty, vaguely sweet beverages. (Abbey is brewed in the Belgian Ale style, while 1554 is based on a recipe the monks used to brew back in ye olden year of, well, 1554.) Good, good stuff! And what's best is that the brewery is very environmentally friendly. They even give their employees bicycles so they can ride to work if you want. If you work there long enough, they send you to Belgium. What's cooler than that?

9. Pot Stickers. (Bet you thought I'd say "flowers," didn't you.) Pot stickers make my tummy happy.

10. Weekends. Some day I'm going to find me a job that lets me get outside once in a while. Until then, I'm gonna love the heck out of weekends.

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