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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Busy Busy Busy Weekend!


Memorial Day weekend started out on a rather somber (but productive) note for us this year, actually. Plymouth County (where I grew up, just north of Sioux City a ways) still does the "Avenue of Flags" at the Courthouse every year. The local American Legion keeps one flag for every deceased veteran, you see. On Memorial Day they go put up all 1,060+ flags around the Courthouse.

This year the Legion made dogtags for each veteran's flag with the veteran's name embossed to replace the old, rather weathered plastic name tags on the flags. So, on Saturday, Dagmar and I tootled our way to LeMars to help put all the new dogtags on their strings and tie them up.

It was an interesting process, really... The people at one table measured out lengths of weather-proof string, trimmed them to size, "cauterized" the ends with a candle to prevent the strings from fraying, and tied a knot. Our table (the "hookers") took the string in one hand and a dogtag in the other, poked a paperclip through the hole in the dogtag, hooked the string on the paperclip and threaded it back through. Then we'd put a nifty little knot to keep the tag in place. A lady at the next table counted all the finished dogtags and checked the number against her list to make sure all were accounted for. ("I'm missing one E, then I'm ready for all the F's - who still has an E?") The final table alphabetized all the tags.

I think we all had a moment, sometime during the afternoon, when it hit us that there are an awful lot of deceased veterans in the area... The town of LeMars has, give or take, about 8,000 people. We had well over 1,000 tags. It seemed that every time I'd take a minute to read the dogtag in my hand I'd be thinking, "hey, I went to school with his son," or "I wonder if they're related to so-and-so," and, once, "this is my grandfather's tag." I also saw my cousin's tag come through the line.

Some of our fellow American Legion Riders had recorded a poem written by a local veteran, remembering bits and pieces of their experiences in Vietnam, to be played at the ceremony at the Courthouse on Memorial day. We listened to that while we worked. The guy across from me, himself a Vietnam veteran, quietly wiped tears from his cheeks as he strung dogtag after dogtag on the strings. "I don't remember the heat being so bad in Vietnam," he said when the poem was over, referring to one of the stanzas, "but one time when we were on a bombing run just south of..." He told his war story in a cheerful voice, unconsciously clutching a veteran's dogtag in his hand so hard his knuckles were white.

When we were done with the tags, we went to the room next door which happened to be a bar, complete with beer and everything. We sat and had a few tasty beverages, then we all went off on our various ways to start the weekend.

After leaving the Legion, Dagmar and I zipped ten miles west to the family farm. My aunt and uncle were there visiting, freshly returned from the Peace Corps where they'd spent two years in the Ukraine, so they had plenty of stories to tell. My cousin was there with her twin girls. My other aunt was there, all the way from Des Moines. My brother was there with his family (including our Beloved Goddaughter) and his brand-new car, a 2007 Grayish-Green Toyota Yaris. We parked our car, a brand-new 2007 Grayish-Green Toyota Yaris, right next to his. We all laughed and pointed. (Honestly, we did.)

We enjoyed the evening, playing with the nephew and nieces and the twins, eating hamburgers, and listening to stories of life in Ukraine. My aunt had brought a bunch of scarves along, so my mother and aunts took great delight in pretending to be old Russian babushka ladies.

Kind of funny - one aunt is a retired Master Sergeant who joined the Peace Corps, the other is a retired Colonel who joined a circus band. My mother is a belly-dancer. I can't wait to find out what I'm going to be when I retire...

"Are you going to be in the parade?" I asked my nephew who's in Cub Scouts now.

"I dunno," he answered. "Why are we having a parade anyway?"

"Well, every year we have a parade and a ceremony on Memorial Day to help us remember all the soldiers."

"I don't know any soldiers," he said, looking up at me through his glasses. "They're all off fighting, aren't they?"

"Well," I said, "you probably know more soldiers than you think. Three people here at the farm today used to be soldiers. I was, sort of, for a little while, too."

"So we have a parade to remember you guys?"

"No, not really. We have a parade mostly to remember the soldiers who died. Some died in a war, some died after they got back. Some volunteered but never had to go to war. We want to remember them, and think of how brave they all were."

The nephew thought for a moment. Then, "Do you know any soldiers who died?"

"Well, on Memorial Day I often think of my grandpa. He fought in a war a long time ago and did some very difficult things. So I like to think of him. I think of other people, too."

"Did your grandpa die in the war?"

"No, he died later, just of being old. He was a soldier for a long time after the war was over."

A moment of silence. "When Dad takes me home I think I'm going to draw a picture of this," said the boy.

We wandered around the corner. Dagmar was on the swing with the Beloved Goddaughter and one of the twins. She's a good aunt, patient, kind, gentle, and genuinely happy. She makes my heart do funny tickly things.

Later that night, after the family festivities wound down, Dagmar and I stopped back at the Legion Club to see if any of our friends were there having a nightcap. Sure enough, there was a table full of friendly faces. I ordered a beer, Dagmar a Diet Coke, and we sat and chatted for a few minutes. Another couple joined us - new people in town. The shaven-headed young man (he seemed more like a boy to me) was covered in tattoos and sneered at us a lot. He proudly showed us his tattoo of a swastika. I thought about my grandfather, who was a POW in Germany during WWII, and my mother-in-law who grew up in refugee camps in Austria. We left shortly thereafter.


Sunday was not quite so productive. I was supposed to ride to a place in Nebraska called "Bob's" for lunch with some friends, but it didn't happen. Here's an e-mail I wrote to my friends, explaining my absence.

"Hey everyone - sorry about missing out on the Bob's run! I feel terrible about it.

"I awoke that Sunday morning, eager to take a quick ride through the hills, then head to Bob's to meet everyone... Laying in bed I ran through the day in my mind, making sure I had the agenda right. I could picture myself gliding gently along the road to Ponca, the trees waving hello to me in the gentle breeze... I decided exactly what I was going to order when I got to Bob's, and made up my mind I wasn't gonna get any fries 'cause I was gonna mooch off Kioti when he wasn't looking. It was gonna be a GOOD day! I stretched and yawned, pried the eyes open, one at a time, and began to face the world.

"Slightly foggy yet, my brain made it's way through the morning routine of making coffee (instant with sugar, lukewarm so I can gulp it), checked my e-mail, scratched my vaguely flabby and increasingly hairy carcass, and made my way to the water closet to perform the daily ablutions that happen there. By the time the morning coffee kicked in I was happily brushing teeth, humming a merry song to myself. I couldn't help but notice, though, that the merry song I was humming was keeping perfect tempo to the pounding in my head. At that point I realized I'd had a headache all morning... Kind of like standing up and realizing all of a sudden that not only do you have to pee NOW, but that you've had to pee for quite some time. That was how the headache was.

"I rummaged around in the mystery cabinet behind the mirror for some nice aspirin to take. (I call it the "mystery cabinet" simply because other than my toothbrush I really can't identify any of the items therein - Mrs. Hippie seems to have made it her hobby to collect various exotic-looking bottles and keep them there.) Finding a bottle that looked pretty much like an aspirin bottle should look, I decided that maybe two might not be enough, and three might be better, seeing as how I really didn't want to ride with a headache.

"At this point it should be stated that I'm not technically an idiot, I just bear a strong resemblance to one.

"Ten minutes after gulping the three aspirin I was sitting on the couch, pulling my left boot onto what I hoped was the correct foot. Seven hours later I woke up on the couch, one boot on, one boot off...

"I guess there really IS a difference between "Tylenol" and "Tylenol PM." I slept until four that afternoon.

"The lessons I learned? Read the damned label. And that Tylenol PM really does work."

The rest of the day was spent in in a mild daze in front of the computer, doing not much, really.


By 6:30 or 7 Monday morning I was on the bike on my way from Sioux City to LeMars to join the American Legion Riders (ALR) in the parade. I was kinda halfway hoping to make it to town in time to help put the flags up at the Courthouse, but I was pretty sure I was about two hours late.

I was right. The last flag was going up just as I pulled up to the curb. After all the Boy Scouts who had been putting the flags up left I took the opportunity to wander around the Courthouse lawn for a while. The wind was still for a change; all 1,031 flags hung quietly on their masts as if in deep thought. I found my uncle's flag and thought about him for a while. Then I found my cousin's flag and thought about him for a while too. Some voices brought me out of my reverie. My riding buddy Jerry, the First Sergeant over at the local Army National Guard unit, was quietly going over details of the ceremony with a handful of soldiers on the Courthouse steps. I decided it was time to head to the Legion - they'd served breakfast for all the people who helped put the flags up, I figured they'd probably need help by now getting things cleaned up and ready for the lunch they were planning to serve to volunteers later that day after the parade.

By the time I got to the Legion there were just a few bikes there already. I grabbed a cup of coffee and helped rearrange the tables and get enough chairs out for the luncheon. When that happy task was over, I peeked outside to see that about 25 more bikes were just pulling in, including my buddy whose pooch, Bob, rides with him.

We milled around outside for a few minutes, taking pictures of Bob-Dog 'cause he's so cute, then got the five-minute warning that it's time to get ready for the parade. I pulled my swell 3'x5' American flag out of my saddlebag and mounted it to the back of my bike. "Hey, I've got a couple extra kids here if anyone needs one," yelled our Chaplain. "Sure," I said. "I'll take one." I nodded to the lad Chappy indicated and we headed for the bike. It seemed that about half of our group had kids on the back of our bikes. We're big bad bikers, I tell ya.

Just as I was about to turn the key to start the bike, Dagmar wandered past me, camera in hand. "Lots of bikes here," she said, kissing the very tip of my nose. "It should be a goot parade! Who's the kid?"

"Good Morning, Snookums!" I said. "The kid belongs to the Chaplain. He had an extra. When did you get here?"

"Hi Chaplain's kid. I got here just a few minutes ago," she said in that cute Viennese accent of hers. "Vhere are you goink?"

"Just around the corner. We're going to line up there for the parade. It should start in about fifteen minutes."

"Okay," she replied. "I'm going to go up to de Main Street und take pictures as you zoom by."

That said, we all roared off in a thundering herd to find our way to the start of the parade route.

Fifteen minutes later we were, yes indeed, headed down the parade route. I have to admit, it didn't really seem like there were many people there to see us, but that's okay - we're not here for US, we're here to remember the veterans.

The parade went through the downtown section of LeMars (about four blocks, maybe), then hung a left a couple blocks to the Courthouse. Not the biggest parade in the world, but again, it's not about us. I was just happy that there weren't any horses in front of us like there were a few weeks ago in the last parade...

Around the corner to the Courthouse... Ahhhh! So THAT'S where all the people are! Way cool. We parked our bikes, Chaplain gathered his kids, I found Dagmar, and we all wandered up the Courthouse lawn to hear the speaker.

It was an impressive ceremony, as usual. The Municipal Band played. I snuck up towards the front to get a peek. Yup! My aunt, the one who joined the circus band, was right there, tooting her horn. She must have made arrangements with the conductor, as she lives in Des Moines and could hardly have made any of the rehearsals...

After the band there were a few speeches. I found myself daydreaming a little, to be honest. When I was a boy, I always marched in the parade with the Boy Scouts and helped put the flags up. My grandfather always marched in the parade, too, with the American Legion. At least once he was chosen to represent all World War II veterans by carrying a wreath to the Courthouse steps. I remember watching him from the side - he wore a short-sleeved white shirt and his special Legion hat. He walked solemnly up the sidewalk past all the silent people, stopped in front of the steps, did a snappy right-face, placed the wreath on its stand, saluted, then went to sit with the other veterans - one from each war - at the front. Grandpa often carried the American flag in the parade, too, with the Legionnaires.

Kind of funny. When we're kids, we're in parades and carry flags because we're told to by someone else. It never really occurred to me when I was a kid that people march in parades and carry flags, not because they're told to and it's expected of them, but rather because it's an honor to do so. I'm proud that I own an American flag, and that I use it often.

The band started playing again, softly, waking me from my memories. A man was now standing on the Courthouse steps, microphone in hand. He started reading. Names. A list of names. A long list. He read the name of every deceased veteran from the town - all 1,031 of them. They do this every year, and every year the crowd is absolutely silent until the very last name is read.

Once the last name echoed away into the distance, the speaker started reading again. Slowly. More names. These are the new flags. Over thirty veterans passed away in LeMars this year. Each one had a flag dedicated - as the speaker read the veteran's name, an honor guard escorted the veteran's family, following behind their flag as it's carried down the central sidewalk to it's appointed spot and placed in it's stand.

It's hard not to cry when you see the families huddled around their loved one's flag, hugging each other, sniffling, trying to look brave.

When the ceremony was over, I gathered my family together (both those I'm related to and those that are simply family somehow) and we headed to my cousin's flag. Cousin Caleb had just gotten out of the Air Force and was starting to find a life-after-military when he died in a motorcycle accident just over five years ago. Last week I'd asked our Chaplain if he'd be willing to do a quick ceremony in memory of my cousin, then I found out the next day that my cousin's parents were coming to LeMars. Serendipity? Yep.

So we gathered, bikers, veterans and family for a short memorial. It felt good.

If you'd like to see more photos of the Memorial Day ceremony, just CLICK HERE. The link will take you to a magical place where you can see all the photos, and even see them as a slideshow if you want. If you'd like to see more about my cousin Caleb, you can CLICK HERE. My aunt and uncle have also set up the CALEB Library Project, they collect and donate books to be sent to Africa. You can learn about it HERE.

(Hey, I just found out I can embed a Picasa album in my blog. Neat, huh? If you wiggle your cursor over the picture below, you should see some nifty little slideshow controls pop up. If you push the little "next" button, it'll take you to the beginning of the album. Then you can push the little "play" button and see all the photos of the day. (The only reason you have to push those buttons is because the slideshow was merrily playing itself through whilst you were reading your way down this far. By the time you got here, the show was over. That's why you gotta restart it...) The photos were taken by Barb Hansen, Dagmar, and a few by me.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Happy Days...

Mandatory Reading:

Warning - Strong Language and/or Opinions Ahead.

Please, please, please READ THIS BLOG ENTRY written by a soldier in Iraq. His entire blog is good.

I'll write more later, I promise.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Aw, MAN...

Well, THAT sucked.

I just knocked a filling out of my tooth. Oddly enough I was flossing at the time... I'm going back to the Water Pick. The heck with flossing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I have a tummy-ache

Stirring Weasels

The prologue: As many of you know, my beloved bride hails from the fine country of Austria, a fair Alpine land of mountains, valleys and exceptional yodelers. She's been in the United States for a long, long time, though, and is of course fluent in English. She does have a slight accent, but I don't really hear it any more, sadly - I'm so used to it that it doesn't register. So, occasionally, I forget that she ain't from around these parts.

The story: "Bye-bye Snookums," I hollered to my vunderful Viennese vife. "I'm off."

"Vait!" she hollered back, padding her way out of the kitchen on little Dagmar feet, wiping her hands on a dish towel. "You're not taking your motorcycle are you? It looks like it might rain."

"Yes, I'm taking the bike," I replied, grabbing my helmet and opening the door. "It won't rain."

"It's goink to rain," she said, hands on hips. "Now you just take the car und forget the bike."

"Do not tell me what to do, Woman," I said with mock severity as I kissed her on the nose. "I'm all growed up now. I can make up my own mind to not come in out of the rain."

"Okay, you just go on, then, Stirring Weasel." She kissed me on the cheek and shooshed me out the door. I made my way through the gate and prepared the bike for the short trip across town. "Stirring weasel?" I thought. "What's that got to do with anything? What's a stirring weasel? What's it stirring?" I've played bass in rock bands for years. My hearing just ain't what it used to be. I forgot the matter and went on about my business, which consisted of getting rather damp in the rain because I'm too stupid to take the car when it's wet outside even when my wife tells me to.

A few days later I wandered past my little Austrian Snickerdoodle on my way to the couch. I sat down, thinking that the world really owes a hefty debt to whomever invented flannel pajamas as they really are very comfy to sit in whilst you're on the couch, and winced. "What's wrong?" she asked. "Vhat's mit der wincing? Are you okay?"

"Ah, it's nothing," I said. "I trimmed the yard today with the weed-whacker and my elbow's a little sore." Stupid elbow's been bothering me for two months now. I really oughta get it fixed one of these days.

"Why don't you take an aspirin?" she said, standing in front of the TV, ensuring my full attention to the matter. "We have some Ibuprofin in the medicine cabinet..."

"I don't need any aspirin," I said. "It's not that big a deal. I'll be fine."

She shook her head and wandered off to the other room, looking over her shoulder at me, muttering something like, "Don't need any aspirin. Hah! My little Sturdy Easel."

Sturdy easel? Wha...?

The next weekend I thought I'd give it a shot myself. If she can make phrases up, so can I.

"I'm going to Mama's house to visit," Dagmar said. "Do you need me to pick anything up at the store on my vay back?"

"No, my little Stupid Eagle," I said, kissing her on the forehead. "Tell your mama 'Hi' for me, and drive safe." She had a strange look on her face as she left. A few hours later, when she came back home, I greeted her with a hearty "Hi, my Whirring Diesel! How's your mama?" She gave me an odd look, but didn't say anything about stirring weasels or whirring diesels.

This weekend the matter came up again. "Vhat are you doing now?" cried the love of my life, one bloodshot eye peering at me from under the blankets. "It's six-thirty in the morning! Put that lawn mower down!" (It should be said at this point that we live in a rather shady neighborhood, we don't have a door on our garage, and therefore we keep the lawnmower in a corner of the living room, right next to the bedroom door where it can't be stolen.)

"I have to mow the yard before I go to work," I said, angling the mower towards the side door.

"It's six-thirty in the morning," she repeated. "On a Saturday. Lay down. Don't mow."

"It needs to be done," I replied.

"Shtooreh Aizel," she said. "You're a little gray shtooreh aizel." I blinked at her. Somewhere in the deep recesses of what passes for my mind a thought was forming. Maybe she wasn't saying "stirring weasel" or "sturdy easel." Not real sure what she's saying... it sure sounds like a foreign langua... Wait! German! Austrians speak German! Doh!

It turns out "Sture Esel" in German means "stubborn mule." Ich bin ein kleiner sturer Esel. Grau, vielleicht. Mit lange Ohren.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fantastic Friday

My Brother's Famous Now

They wrote up a whole big article on my brother's house. He and my sister-in-law bought the house in Le Mars just three years ago and have kinda sorta been fixing it up little by little ever since. Now they're featured in the local Historic Tour of Homes. From the article:
This home is a great example of the popular vernacular house form built around 1910 -- the "American Four-Square." Typical of that style is the low pitched pyramid-shaped roof with a hipped attic dormer on the front. Notice that this particular dormer boasts two diamond light windows which provide natural lighting in the attic. Notice the curvature of the roof at the eaves, a bit unusual on a four-square. That helps move the rain away from the windows so that spots don't occur as often -- less window washing!

The foundation is of locally produced Miracle concrete block. (Le Mars has four houses completely made with this block, but numerous homes sport Miracle block foundations.) This was a double air-space cement block advertised to insulate the basements from heat in summer and from the wintry cold. It was manufactured by the Moore Lumber Company. (The museum has one on display.) Plain block under the enclosed front porch, was probably added when the porch was added. Prior to that, there may have been a simple stoop for an entry.

A narrow sidewalk leads to a matching large square barn/garage built on the alley to the rear. Once inside the house, tour guests should note the floor in the two front rooms off the center hall. The Radloffs ripped out the carpeting in the room to the right just three weeks ago. Yet, the narrow oak flooring is in almost pristine shape, even to the color.

The large front window in the main parlor, as well as the large window in the dining room were originally 12 panes over 4 panes. These massive windows have been replaced with more energy efficient 1/1. Dawn says the glass was original, with its usual imperfections and eyes. Both the remaining original windows as well as the replacements allow wonderful light and ventilation.

A built-in china cupboard with its Arts & Crafts style leaded glass, employing an opaque white glass with tiny blue squares, is featured in the dining room.

Visitors going upstairs will find a mission-style, narrow, square spindled upper staircase, which was stripped and refinished by the former owners Floyd and Bernice Powell. The fact that the pine flooring in the upstairs does not appear to be laid the in same direction intrigues the couple.

Each of the Radloffs' four children has their own bedroom which have unique features. The northwest bedroom has a a walk-out above the back entry, currently blocked to keep the children from exploring. This room has a shallow closet beside the chimney, and appears to have been Dr. James Powell's room, according to a name written on the storm window.

Ain't that cool? I'm not sure where they got the fourth kid, though - last I checked there were naught but three. You can read the whole article HERE if you want. Of course, if you've read this far, you've pretty much read most of the article already...

You've gotta be kidding me...

Two things have crossed my foggy little brain lately that worry me mightily.

The first is a children's television show, oddly enough. It seems that Hamas, which shares power with the moderate Fatah in governing Palestine, owns and controls its very own television station. On this television station they have a children's show, called "Tomorrow's Pioneers," featuring a small child and a big Mickey Mouse named Farfour. So far, so good. The only people upset at this point in the story are Disney's lawyers.

Until you hear what the little girl and the Mickey Mouse character are saying... Today the main character cheated on his exams because "the Jews destroyed my house," and he lost his books source. Another recent quote is "You and I are laying the foundation for a world led by Islamists. We will return the Islamic community to its former greatness, and liberate Jerusalem, God willing, liberate Iraq, God willing, and liberate all the countries of the Muslims invaded by the murderers source."

If you want to see a video of an 11 or 12-year-old child singing "...the answer is an AK-47. We who do not know fear, we are the predators..." as well as other clips from the show, just click HERE. (The link takes you to an Israeli news outlet. Needless to say, they have some pretty harsh things to say about Hamas' show.)

History tells us that this sort of state-sponsored indoctrination truly does work. One only has to look at the Hitler Youth or to the Soviet-era schoolchildren for examples. Children learn what we teach them. If we teach them hatred, we'll get hate-filled adults as the end result. What Hamas is doing is, in my opinion, just plain wrong. They also show commercials teaching their children how to cope with life if their mother dies in a suicide bombing - by picking up the dynamite themselves and joining her in heaven.

This is horrific stuff.

We need to make sure we don't do the same thing to our children!

The second thing to come across my radar comes from Utah Republican Convention Chairman Don Larsen, who submitted the following resolution:

In order for Satan to establish his "New World Order" and destroy the freedom of all people as predicted in the Scriptures, he must first destroy the U.S. ... The most quiet and unspectacular invasion of illegal immigrants does not focus the attention of the nations the way open warfare does, but is all the more insidious for its stealth and innocuousness."

In a speech, Larsen said that illegal immigrants "hate American People," and "are determined to destroy this country." He continued to say that illegal aliens are in control of the national media and are working with the Democrats to "destroy Christian America." At the end of his speech, he broke down in tears source.

No official action was taken on Larsen's resolution as not enough people stuck around long enough to vote.

This scares me as much as Hamas' attempts at brainwashing children. Trying to pass resolutions and legislate the view that immigrants are the tools of Satan is blatant racism. I was particularly tickled at the thought that illegal immigrants are in control of the American media.

In both cases, governments and governmental officials are using religion as a weapon, a means to an end, and in both cases it's shameful. If you use religion as a political tool you cheapen your religion.

Sad Time

I spent quite a bit of time this week 75 miles away from Sioux City with well over a hundred other "motorcycle enthusiasts," making sure a soldier's grieving family saw flags and not protesters at their son's funeral. The soldier was 19 when he was killed serving in Iraq.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Gloom, Despair, Agony on Feet

Pour Bébé...

I heard on the news this morning that Paris Hilton (who, despite her name, isn't even French) gets to go to jail for a couple months. It seems that she was caught driving drunk a while back and her license has been suspended, but she chose to drive anyway and got caught. So now she goes to jail.

I was rather surprised that a judge finally had the temerity to actually punish a celebrity for their actions. Unfortunately, I was not surprised that Ms. Hilton threw a fit, told everyone how unfair it was, and fired her publicist. This may very well be the first time Ms. Hilton has been held accountable for her actions, and she's not happy about it, not one bit.

I applaud the judge who sentenced her. I hope it teaches Ms. Hilton a lesson in humility.

Now if we can just get that same judge to revisit NFL star Randy Moss' incident - the one where he ran over a police officer in Minneapolis whilst holding on to a bag of illegal drugs and got off without so much as a warning.


Why is it that the word "hoist" has a Brooklyn accent? Was it born there? Or did it live somewhere else foist...?

Springtime in Iowa

You know, I'm not so much mowing my yard as I am selectively breeding dandelions that can duck when they hear a lawnmower coming at them.

For Shame!

I just read here that four soldiers and a reserve police officer were arrested for looting. Apparently the off-duty regular Army soldiers and the reserve police officer went to Greensburg, KS after the town was leveled by a tornado and started stealing stuff. No one stopped them as they were all in uniform, and the National Guard had been called in to help with the cleanup - everyone thought the crooks were part of the rescue effort. In a separate incident, two people were arrested for looting the same town while dressed up like Red Cross workers.

How miserable! What a way to disgrace the uniform! I wish I could go down to Kansas and chew these people out myself. It's bad enough to steal from people, but to steal from people who just lost everything in a disaster? That's horrible!


More Shame!

I read a post on Common Iowan that many of our service members serving overseas are losing custody of their children due to the war in Iraq. It seems that when single parents who belong to the National Guard or Reserve are getting called up to active duty their ex-spouses are taking advantage of the situation by demanding, and getting, full custody of the children while the soldier is overseas.

With all the sacrifices soldiers make, their children should NOT be added to the list.

What to Do?

Well, no one's made an offer on my bass yet. I think I'm gonna put it up on that "Craig's List" thing and see if I get any takers there... I hate finances. Dagmar and I are starting to bicker over money - something we've never done before. It sucks. If anyone out there knows anyone who needs any design work done, please point 'em to HippieBoy Design. I can mow yards, too, as long as I can plug my extension cord in somewhere (Dagmar's mother kindly gave us her electric mower).

It's hard to get enough hours in at work this time of year. As an example, last Thursday I went to a veteran's funeral and held a flag. I missed about five hours work by the time everything was said and done. My bosses were happy to let me have the time off do do this, but when I said I wanted to come in over the weekend to make up my lost time, they told me not to bother - there was nothing to do. I made up what time I could by coming in early on Friday, skimping on lunch and staying Friday afternoon until the boss kicked me out. But my check was still considerably short when I picked it up today.

I'm hoping to go to a soldier's visitation tomorrow to hold a flag in the flag line, and go to the funeral on Wednesday - again, to hold a flag in honor of his service. Both events happen during the work day, of course. My bosses will again give me the time off work, but I don't know quite how many hours to "gamble," hoping they'll let me come in over the weekend... If I miss a whole day's work and they don't let me make it up it'll really hurt our finances. Do I use what little vacation time I have just to get 40 hours on the clock? Or do I try to use my vacation time to take a few days off this summer to go camping with my wife?

Ah well - everyone has problems, I guess. I have a good wife and a roof over my head. I just wish it weren't so much of a struggle all the time. But I bet that's what pretty much everyone wishes...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Don't worry, I'm only last because I'm slow.

Didn't mean to go so long between posts. Sorry 'bout that! Here are a few snippets that have run through my mind lately...

  • The City of Sioux City goes around every now and then looking for raggedy yards and puts little pink signs up in the yards, reminding the owners to mow. Fine 'n dandy, but why do they put little signs up on City property? Why don't they just mow their own yard? And why do they never come to my neighborhood to tell people to mow their yards?
  • How is it that my four-door car gets better gas mileage than my motorcycle?
  • Why is it that when I e-mail someone a question I never hear back from them, and when I e-mail them a nice long personal letter I rarely get a reply, but if I send them a dirty joke it gets forwarded back to me within minutes?
  • You mean to tell me Celine Dion isn't from Latin America? French-Canadian? Since when?

Google Maps

I love Google stuff. I've been using Google Maps and Google Earth for years. If you haven't messed with 'em, give it a try.

Google Maps is free, and is nifty indeed - not only can you get fairly good directions from place to place, look up addresses, zoom in and out, but you can also click on "Satellite" or "Hybrid" and see a bird's-eye satellite photo of whatever it is you're looking at. They've recently come out with a "Traffic" button, too, that tells you how bad traffic is in any given location, but I've not messed around with it much.

The interface is simple. Double click on the map to zoom in (or you can click on the "Zoom Bar" on the left of the map), click and hold to drag the map around...

One new thing they have is that you can draw lines and put place markers on individualized maps now, such as the bike trip we took last Sunday (click here to see it). There's a way you can put photos in there as well, which I'll do tonight if I get time.

Google Earth is kinda like Google Maps on steroids. You have to download free software and install it on your computer, and it takes a TON of bandwidth, but what you get is pretty impressive. It's got 3-D features, and you can do "flyovers," pan, tilt, and do all sorts of neat stuff. The problem is that it really takes considerable computing power; my three-year-old computer at home can't handle it.

I can spend hours looking at the satellite views... You can zoom in on the Mississippi delta and see the individual barges being pulled up the river. You can see the Golden Gate Bridge. You can see Europe without leaving your comfy chair...

Soldiers Lost

I hate this war. Not only do we have no goal, no definition of "victory," and thus no way to win the war, but the sheer amount of lives lost, money thrown away, material used... It's staggering.

This part of the country has lost three more young men in the line of duty. These soldiers have gone and done what we asked them to do, and they did it well; they deserve our respect. I'm gonna go to as many of the services as I can to hold a flag in honor of the men, and, as usual, I'm going to be wondering why our nation's leaders don't do the same.

I've never seen our Fifth District congressman, Republican Steve King, at a military funeral. It seems to me that if he voted for the war, he should be expected to go to the funerals and look the families in the eye, feel their pain, and take responsibility for his actions. This should be expected of all our leaders. They should see the real consequences of their votes. These are not numbers we're burying, but people. Young men. Dreams.


My wife has been losing weight left and right, and I'm so proud of her I could burst! Of course, I could also burst 'cause I've been eating so much myself... She works out every night. I lay on the couch with the cat, eating Tootsie-Rolls, watching her. She eats tofu and organic grassy-looking things. I lay on the couch with the cat, eating Tootsie-Rolls, watching her. She's energetic and healthy and happy. I lay on the couch with the cat...

The cat is now on a diet too. The vet is mad at us because the cat's at almost 17 pounds and should really be at 12 or 13 pounds... I realized the other day that if I were magically transported back to high school, I'd be wrestling in the Heavyweight category (I wrestled at 105 pounds back then).

Maybe it's time for me to do something about this paunch... Maybe. After I finish these Tootsie-Rolls...

I'd Like to Be a Child Again, Please.

I saw this on the news the other day, then read about it again in The Week last night. The Washington Post put Joshua Bell, one of the world's top violinists, and his $3.5 million Stradivarius violin on a train station and had him play for 45 minutes and secretly videotaped the performance. No one knew this was going to happen in advance - to the people hustling through the station to catch their trains, Mr. Bell was just a street-corner musician playing his fiddle, dressed in a T-shirt and blue jeans.

They counted well over 1,000 people who walked past the virtuoso as he played some of the most demanding classical music ever written. Of those 1,000+ people, only 20 paused to watch, and they only briefly. When Mr. Bell finished his performance, there was not a single clap of applause; people simply continued on their way. He did, however, find that people had tossed $32 worth of loose change into his Stradivarius case. Mr. Bell later said that it was odd to be ignored...

This brings up many questions. Why didn't anyone stop to listen? Were they too busy? Did they know he was good, or did they think he was simply panhandling with a fiddle? Did they even notice him? Do we recognize "high art" when we stumble across it, or do we need "experts" to tell us what's good and what's not? What would I do if I happened across an artist doing wondrous things; would I realize what I was seeing? If over 1,000 people walk past one of the world's best violinists without even looking at him, how many other geniuses are out there being ignored every day?

Putting myself in the shoes of those walking past, I think I honestly would have paused for a minute or two to listen to the unexpected concert. But then I'd check the time, sigh, and head to work. The stresses and clock-slavery of modern life simply have to be dealt with before there's time for art, unfortunately.

The observers of this little experiment noted one other interesting thing: people of all ages and races and demographics walked past the virtuoso without even looking up, but every single child stopped and listened and watched until they were drug away by their attending adult. Does this mean that children are more receptive of art than adults? Or does it simply mean that children don't give a hoot about "getting to work on time" if there's something more interesting to do?

When can I grow up and be a child?

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