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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

From my Sister...

I Pledge Allegiance to My Spleen...

The Front Fell Off.


Work Sucks. Play is Fun.

Yep, we've been on vacation. We went to see a band Friday night. Saturday I helped out with a Toy Run (see www.independentriderscc.com for photos if you want) -- we raised nearly $2,000 for children's charities, and donated a TON of toys. Sunday Dagmar and I had roasted beastie and slept.

Monday we went to Sioux Falls, where we toured the monument to the U.S.S. South Dakota, went to the Great Plains Zoo, and then to the Butterfly House. (We came home early, unfortunately. Our little goddaughter had some sort of accident and was taken to the hospital in Sioux City. We zipped down the interstate at 90 miles per hour, but by the time we got about five miles outside Sioux City we learned they'd released the tot and sent everyone home, so the injury must not have been too terrible, thankfully.)

Tuesday we went for a nice 20-25 mile bicycle trip. Sioux City and South Sioux City have some nice bicycle trails! Fun to ride! Then it rained.

Today we're going to take the motorcycle to Minnesota. Thursday we're off to the Omaha Zoo. Friday we're going to go downtown, sip a few frosty beverages and watch my buddy's band play outside in the street that afternoon/early evening. Saturday it's off on the motorcycle to a rally in a neighboring village with our tent. Sunday and Monday are hangover days...

Here are some photos -- I'll try to add in some new photos every day, so if you're into looking at other people's vacation pictures, be sure to check in daily.

Michael Vick vs. Morality

I saw the Falcons play Monday night. I had eaten a fine dinner of leftover roast beast and was happily snoring on the couch, TV muttering to itself in the corner, book on my chest, cat on my feet, when the thought "it's Monday night and there's football on TV" flitted through my dreams. Without opening my eyes I slowly came to awareness and started paying attention to the TV. Yep, the game is on.

I slowly creaked one overfed eyeball open and let its gaze fall upon the flickering screen. This is what went through my mind: "Hmmm... The Cincinnati Bengals are playing. Who else... Oh! The Atlanta Ignorant Thugs."

I know, I know... It's not right to participate in "guilt by association." Simply because the star of the Atlanta Falcons, Michael Vick, turned out to be a lying thug who participated in illegal gambling, dog fighting, and (to be redundant) animal cruelty does NOT mean that the entire team is full of lying, gambling, dog-fighting thugs.

But coming out of a deep sleep and seeing their logo on the TV, my first thought was "ignorant thugs." And that's too bad. Michael Vick has tainted the entire team.

NFL pundits are already talking about Mr. Vick making a return to the National Football League in the 2009 season, after he's completed his year in jail. The funny thing about that is that Mr. Vick has not yet been sentenced. The talking heads on TV are assuming that the judge will give Mr. Vick the lightest possible jail sentence, that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will allow Mr. Vick to return in spite of numerous player conduct violations, and that a team will actually hire Mr. Vick.

I hope this doesn't happen. I hope Mr. Vick never plays again. It may sound cruel, but I want Mr. Vick to take responsibility for his actions.

Oh, sure, he held a press conference before pleading guilty to the charges and he said he was going to "grow up," and that he "takes full responsibility" for what he did... But he also said, "everyone makes mistakes," and claims to have found God in the last couple weeks. Mr. Vick strongly implied that since he's now found God all of a sudden, we should all forget about all the bad things he's done in the past. After all, Jesus forgave me -- shouldn't you?

Will God forgive you for using His name as a means to gain a lenient prison sentence? Everyone who gets caught doing something bad simply holds a press conference and tells everyone "I've let God into my life now, and everything's all better now," and we all nod, smile, and take his handcuffs off. (A few months ago, I saw a Republican legislator from the south, I forget his name, hold a press conference after being caught cheating on his wife. "It's between me, my God, and my wife," he said. "God has forgiven me, and so has my wife, so it's none of your business." To be honest, I think he's right. But that same congressman voted early on to impeach then-President William J. Clinton for indiscretions with a chubby intern... Now that it's HIS turn under the limelight of public scrutiny it's a different story, though. We're supposed to look away.) I feel Mr. Vick's use of God in his press conference simply means that he wants to shuck the responsibility for his heinous actions off onto God.

But, the single reason I feel Mr. Vick should NOT be allowed back into the NFL is that he lied.

Way back in April or May, when this whole dogfighting thing started making headlines, both the owner of the Atlanta Falcons and the League Commissioner called Mr. Vick on the carpet and asked him point-blank if he was involved. Mr. Vick gave them a flat "no." He categorically denied any involvement in any wrongdoing at all. He said that he did not violate team policy, or the NFL's player conduct policy, and said he didn't break the law.

At that point he had the chance to be a stand-up guy. He had the chance to take responsibility. He had the chance to make amends, and he blew it. Instead of being a man, he lied like a little boy and hoped to get away with it.

Charlie Don't Surf

Normally I don't listen to the lyrics of a song. They just get in the way of the bassline for the most part... But this song caught my attention. "Charlie Don't Surf" by the Clash. (I'm assuming the song was inspired by the quote in Apocalypse Now.)

Charlie don't surf and we think he should
Charlie don't surf and you know that it ain't no good
Charlie don't surf for his hamburger Momma
Charlie's gonna be a napalm star

Everybody wants to rule the world
Must be something we get from birth
One truth is we never learn
Satellites will make space burn

We've been told to keep the strangers out
We don't like them starting to hang around
We don't like them all over town
Across the world we are going to blow them down


The reign of the super powers must be over
So many armies can't free the earth
Soon the rock will roll over
Africa is choking on their Coca Cola

It's a one a way street in a one horse town
One way people starting to brag around
You can laugh, put them down
These one way people gonna blow us down


Charlie don't surf he'll never learn
Charlie don't surf though he's got a gun
Charlie don't surf think that he should
Charlie don't surf we really think he should
Charlie don't surf

Charlie don't surf and we think he should
Charlie don't surf and you know that it ain't no good
Charlie don't surf for his hamburger Momma
Charlie don't surf

Several lines get my attention -- "Africa is choking on their Coca-Cola" is pretty good. Why are we exporting our culture to peoples who don't particularly want it? I'll leave the references to Vietnam alone... "These one way people gonna blow us down" seems vaguely prophetic.

I just think it's an interesting song. The tune is good, too -- catchy!

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday Ruminations

Personal Stuff First

This is gonna be a political post, methinks, but I have a few things to proclaim before I get to the good stuff...

1. My beloved wife has officially lost SIXTY POUNDS! I'm so proud of her I could burst!

2. Four hundred dollars a month is a LOT. Ask me about it sometime.

3. I wish I had more time to take photos. And I wish I knew how to run my camera better.

4. You just gotta try New Belgium Brewery's "1554" Brussels Style Black Ale. I tell ya, a glass of 1554 (or it's little brother, Abbey) is a grand thing indeed! Hints of chocolate and coffee, without being sweet... But you have to drink it out of a glass, a real glass glass, not out of the bottle. You can't sit and guzzle 1554 or Abbey -- it's for savoring, like a fine wine. Best served with rockabilly for some reason -- it doesn't react well to metal or rap. Blues is okay, too... (Be sure to go to New Belgium's web site; they're really cool people! If you work there for a while they give you a bicycle. VERY environmentally friendly! I wish I could work there.)

5. Why does beer taste better in the morning? Because it's so rare to sip on a nice ale before lunch? Forbidden fruit? (Don't worry, I don't drink beer in the mornings. Often.)

6. Do I look fat in these genes?

8. For some reason Blogger isn't showing comments to my last post any more. I've had two or three people leave comments that haven't shown up for some reason. I don't know why that's happening, but please rest assured that I'm not deleting the comments or anything -- I'm baffled as to what's happening. (I'm thinking of moving this blog off the server it shares with the rest of my family web site sometime this fall and having Blogger host the blog on Google's servers. That would give me more control over the appearance of my blog and improved stability, but it will also mean people will have to re-link to the new URL. Anyone have any experience with this? Is it gonna hurt?)

7. I lost my copy of "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," and that makes me sad. Libertarians unite! (Not that Heinlein was necessarily a Libertarian himself, but the book seems to lean that way.)

8. I started this post days ago. I was going to write a lot more on politics (see below), but I keep falling asleep. I just don't feel quite right...

On to the Politics:

I was home sick the other day (see my last post for all the icky details), and was somewhat embarrassed when, wearing scrungy jammie-pants and a T-shirt of dubious taste, I opened the door to let the cat out only to find a lady in an Obama T-shirt standing there, finger poised to push the doorbell. "Oh! Hello," I said.

"Hello," she said. "Are you" (she glanced at her clipboard, then continued) "Mr. Radloff?" I nodded, agreeing that yes, my name is indeed Mr. Radloff. "I'm with the Obama campaign, and if you have a few minutes, I'd like to answer any questions you may have about the Senator..."

Seeing as this is the very first person to ring my doorbell and want to talk politics with me, I agreed. I've never had a politician, staffer, enthusiastic supporter, or even unenthusiastic supporter come to my door wanting to talk about a candidate before... First time for everything! I mean, I've only lived here for seven-plus years... (The two nice Jehovah's Witness men quit coming to my door after they saw exactly what a slightly hung-over hippie bass player looks like the morning after a hard gig.) I stepped outside and gestured to the stoop. "Have a seat." The lady sat.

"What can I tell you about Senator Obama?" she asked.

I keep up on the candidates. Or at least I try to, anyway. But when put on the spot, it took me a few moments to collect my thoughts... My brain ran down the list. "Edwards, he's the poverty guy," my brain told me. "Richardson's the guy with all the foreign policy experience and the good sense of humor. Hillary just plain scares me. Kucinich is the leprechaun who smiles a lot an agrees with everyone about everything. Dodd dated Princess Leia and hangs out with Paul Simon... Obama -- he's the composed guy who seems to know what's going on but never really says anything." Ah, yes. Obama. One of the "Big Three" in my book (along with Richardson and Edwards).

I tried to think of an intelligent question about Mr. Obama to ask the young lady, but I really couldn't think of anything specific. "Well," I said, "the things that are most important to me right now are poverty, Iraq, the environment and how we treat veterans, and I know Edwards pretty much has the poverty thing figured out. What does Obama have to offer?"

I forget what the nice lady said, exactly, but it was something predictable, like "The Senator is against poverty." (Name me someone other than the current administration that's FOR poverty.) But she continued to tell me how Obama had worked in the bad part of Chicago helping people in dire circumstances. Cool. Okay.

She went on to explain, in fair detail, what Mr. Obama's positions were on the things important to me. We talked for a considerable time, actually, and by the time she left I was fairly impressed with the lady. She knew a lot about Obama, but wasn't afraid to say, "I'm not sure about that issue, to be honest. I'm going to have to go ask some questions," and she wasn't afraid to give the other candidates kudos where they were deserved. She never bashed a rival candidate, and conducted herself very professionally. I learned a lot about Mr. Obama, though I already knew pretty much what his stance on the issues were...

But by the end of the conversation I'd managed to get something else straight in my mind that had been buzzing around for a while...

Many of the candidates have nearly identical platforms. What I really want to know is: How are you going to see your changes made on a local level? How are you going to get your programs and ideas past the bureaucracy and governmental inertia to a point where it benefits me? There are at least four candidates that I could vote for with a good conscience. But who is going to make a difference? Which one can cut through the clutter to actually make changes?

This question is relevant no matter what party or candidate you're backing. We need to ask this question. It's not good enough for a candidate to say, "I back alternative energy, and I think we need to lessen our dependence on foreign oil." Everyone says that. How are you going to DO that? And I don't mean the specifics of your plan ("I think we need to look at hydrogen," or whatever), I mean how are you going to get your plan instigated in my neighborhood? Are you going to take control over certain aspects of local government? Or the reverse -- are you going to cut red tape and get the federal government out of the way of the local governments? Are you going to use incentives?

In short, how are you going to get city hall to listen to you?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Creeping Crud Days


I hate being ill in the summer. It seems fundamentally unfair. Winter is the perfect time to sit home feeling miserable as it's a miserable time of year already.

It somehow feels comfortable to be ill in the winter. You can close the curtains, turn off the lights, huddle wretchedly over your bowl of condensed chicky-noodle soup and ignore the world, eventually staggering off to the bedroom to pull comfy fluffy blankets over your shivering limbs and take solace gazing at the cold flickering light of the television. No one looks at you strange when you say you have the flu. In fact, people actually expect you to have the flu at some point during the winter. "Have you had the flu yet? There's something going around!" People eagerly await the story of your illness so they can tell you how much worse THEIR bout with the flu was. Because, as we all know, what ails me is always much worse than what ails you... Invariably, before you can get to the part about how you actually had mucus running out of your ears, you'll get interrupted with "Oh, you were lucky! When I had the flu I was so sick the neighbors all chipped in on a tombstone for me," or "That's nothing -- I sneezed so hard my left nostril turned inside-out. See?"

But if you get ill in the summer, it's just not as fun. You can close the curtains and shut the lights off, but a nice warm bowl of chicky-noodle soup just doesn't sound good when it's 95 degrees outside, even if you have the air conditioner on. Snuggling under the blankets doesn't sound good, either. In the summer, all you can do if you're ill is lock the front door to keep the neighbor kids from bothering you, then go lie in a puddle of sweat in the bed and stare miserably at the ceiling, hoping you die before the cat runs out of food and starts in on your tasty corpse. (I hate to say it, but I really wish my little buddy Fruitloop would at least wait until I'm in a feverish coma before he starts staring at me like that... It's creepy.)

Instead of sympathy from friends and co-workers the next day, you get smirks. "Yeah, yeah, sure you had the flu. Which beach did you spend your sick day on, anyway, or were you golfing?" You want to tell them how you were so ill that your eyelids throbbed and turned bright orange, but they just don't believe you.

Being ill in the summer sucks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Healing Run

Some quick pics...

The American Legion Riders held their first Healing Run last weekend. Man, that was fun! We raised a fair amount of money for a family in need here in Sioux City, and had a blast doing it... I'll write more later, I promise.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Some people's parents...

Ma & Pa are famous now! Check 'em out in the news... (Here's a photo I stole from the LeMars Daily Sentinel.)

I have a unique family... Ma's a belly dancer. Pops plays his congas and smiles a lot. My aunt, a retired Lt. Colonel in the Army National Guard, left her career in law to play trombone in the circus band. My other aunt (a retired Master Sergeant in the Air Force) just got back from the Peace Corps not too long ago. My uncle went to Africa with the Peace Corps over 20 years ago and is still there. (My aunt has a web site that explains some of this HERE.) Things are interesting when that side of the family gets together.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Phones and Fences

Iowa Internet

A lady from the East Coast that I work with via e-mail asked me today why our e-mail is always so questionable here in the Midwest. What follows is my reply:

E-mail is tricky in rural areas. It all stems back to infrastructure, you know. I hear rumors of cable television and fiber optics and other exotic critters that live on the coasts, but here in the mighty Midwest it's fences.

What they did, way back when they put the original phone lines in, was to run the phone lines along the roads. If a farmer wanted to hook his phone up, he'd request the phone company to run a jumper from the phone line along the road to the farmer's barbed wire fence. The signal would then run up the fence, where the farmer would run a jumper to his phone. Worked pretty slick! Saved everyone tons of money, rural folk like us got to talk on telephones...

The downside is bad quality, and "party lines." You see, when someone calls the farmer, everyone else whose phone is hooked to that same stretch of fence would ring.

Once the Interweb started catching on and getting popular, the quality issue came to the forefront. When a couple birds would land on the fence, your modem would crash out and you'd lose your connection. That's not too bad, 'cause as soon as their little feeties leave the fence your connection comes back on. The real problem is cattle. If a cow rubs up against the fence it grounds out the signal altogether, and all you can do is try to reconnect. Kinda sucks, 'cause the main reason for the fence in the first place is to keep the cattle in, which means there are always cattle hitting the fence.

All of which we're pretty much used to.

But now we've got a problem. The neighbor has a bull that positively, absolutely HATES chickens. Wouldn't be a problem, except that the guy on the other side of the fence runs a poultry outfit... Most of the chickens steer clear of the fence, 'cause they know the bull will chase them, but there's one rooster that simply loves to taunt the bull, and will sit on the fence, crowing his little heart out until old Toro comes stampeding over to chase him away... And, of course our Internet goes all wacky since the signal happens to run through that particular fence. So the neighbors are all taking up a collection to buy both the angry cow and the chicken for our Labor Day Celebration so we can keep a constant connection. Chicken and ribs! My oh my... Hand me the barbecue sauce!

And if you believe THAT cock and bull story, I have a bridge for sale...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Don't get teste with me, mister...

But we've got the biggest...

Here is a phrase I thought I'd never write: The first time I saw my buddy's little brass balls it surprised me. I even took a picture of the metallic testes in question. You can see them in the photo below.

I thought it was funny. I still think it's kind of funny, actually. Gracefully tactless. Then I saw this:

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