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Friday, December 28, 2007

A friendship lost too soon


A lot of you have heard me talk about my cousin Caleb. I miss the kid, even though I never really got to know him as well as I wanted.

Caleb grew up far, far away -- Madrid (the Spanish one), then later Boston. His parents came through Iowa every now and then for a visit, and each year, every visit, I'd think, "he's gonna be fun to hang out with once he's older." We had similar interests...

When cousin Caleb cut all his hair and joined the Air Force it surprised me, but just a little. For some reason I thought he'd wait another year before he joined. I was happy to hear him talk about Turkey and all the interesting places he was stationed, but I was most happy when I got an e-mail from him saying he was out of the service, and found a place that felt like home. He was going to settle in Phoenix. Every e-mail I got from him was upbeat, plans of the future... We talked about our bikes a lot (he had a bigger cruiser than I did at the time, so I had all sorts of questions about his bike).

February 25th, 2002 Caleb went shiny-side down during a memorial motorcycle run for one of his friends. He didn't survive.

I think of him often, always fondly. I always, ALWAYS wish I knew him better. We never got to ride together, and we never got to play bass together, two things I'd always looked forward to doing. Before he died I had daydreams of him visiting Iowa, introducing him to my wife, Dagmar, showing him some of the good roads to ride, having him meet my friends, seeing a band play... He would have liked knowing Dagmar. Dagmar would have liked Caleb.

A few months ago I ran into a web site for a memorial wall for bikers. The ABATE chapter in Ohio funded the memorial, and the local American Legion lets them use the land (at least I think that's the way it works). For a fee you can get a fallen biker's name engraved on the wall, then they use the money to fund a scholarship. It seems the perfect way to remember my cousin.

Now I just gotta find the funds.

It costs $150 to have someone's name engraved. If you'd like to donate a few dollars, there's a button below, or you can go to a page I created for the cause.

If you'd like to read more about Caleb (he truly was a remarkable young man), you can find stuff HERE or information about the library founded in Malawi, Africa in Caleb's name HERE. Pixie wrote about Caleb in her blog, too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Auf Deutsch?

Now THAT'S good!

We've been completely and utterly inundated by phone calls the last few weeks, all from presidential candidate's supporters. I mean, seriously, we're getting a phone call every five minutes now. We're timing them like contractions to see when the caucuses will end.

For a while my beloved Viennese Snickerdoodle Dagmar was answering the phone, saying "Richardson" and hanging up again without even waiting to see who was calling. "The first question dey ask is alvays 'do you know who you're going to support?' I figger I'll save them de hassle."

A few days ago, however, she switched tactics and started answering the phone in German, generally with a happy little yodel tossed in for good measure. Most times the staffer on the other end would simply get frustrated, say something that (hopefully) sounded polite, and hang up. Most times.

A few days ago I heard the now-familiar "Hallo... Nein, Ich spreche keine English. Sprechen Sie Deutsch, bitte?" I smiled to myself, knowing that some poor schmuck on the other end of the line was frantically wondering how to handle this gracefully... Then I heard, "HA! You have MY vote!" Then the conversation continued for a few moments auf Deutsch. A few minutes later she peeked her head around. "Vell, I'll be darned," she said. "Richardson's people speak German!"

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I wish I were smart

Spreadsheet Woes

Hey, does anyone out there know how to make spreadsheets? I've got need for one, and I've got the bare bones of it mapped out, but I'm mathematically illiterate to the point I can't get the equations right... If anyone's willing to take a peek at what I have started, please e-mail me (chris at hippieboydesign.com). Thanks, y'all...

I hope everyone's having a good holiday!

UPDATE: Thanks Lady! My spreadsheet is done and works perfectly! Thank you!

Friday, December 21, 2007

On the Verge...

2:43 Friday Afternoon

Everyone in the shop is gone except for the two of us in the Art Department and the boss. I think one of gals might still be at the front counter, but I'm not sure. Everyone's skeedaddled, ready to start the four-day weekend.

I just found out about the four-day weekend about an hour ago. No one had told me. I'm not happy about it, either. I don't WANT a four-day weekend... This is gonna suck, and I'm gonna tell you why.

The bosses have decided that the print shop will be closed Monday for Christmas Eve and Tuesday for Christmas Day. The first problem is that they only pay for ONE day of holiday, so we just lose out on the other day's pay. Normally I would just make the time up the following weekend, but the bosses have decreed that working on Saturdays shall not be standard operating procedure, so I have to ask permission to come in to work on a Saturday, and I'm not optimistic about them agreeing to it.

The second problem is that while we can only work three days next week we have five days' worth of work to do, so next week is going to be frantic indeed. I anticipate working some long hours. No overtime pay, though, because we only get paid overtime if we work over 40 hours in a week. So if I work three thirteen-hour days in a row I'll still be under 40 hours for the week and therefore ineligible for overtime. The bosses, however, have no qualms about asking us to work right up to that 40-hour line, then sending us home almost to the minute before we get any overtime.

It's a petty thing, but it irks me.

I appreciate the fact that they DO pay us for holidays, and that they DO allow us time off work... I just wish they weren't so pesky about it. They think they're doing us a favor by letting us have an extra day off, but in reality it just causes us financial stress and increases our workload for a week afterwards...

Ah well. In the meantime, here I sit, not doing much.

2:53 Friday Afternoon

I still have two full hours before I can start on my long weekend. Two hours, and nothing much to do. Every job is being put off until next Wednesday. The pressmen are gone, so I can't ask them for the information I need to make plates for the few jobs sitting on my desk. So I'm surrounded by work I can't do, watching a clock tick, waiting until next week so I can be pressured to get it ALL done at once -- because by Wednesday all these jobs will have "RUSH" stamped all over them and I'll have angry customers calling me, wondering why we missed the deadline...

In the meantime, here I sit, not doing much.

2:58 Friday Afternoon

I was fortunate enough to get a couple contracts for some web design work through my little freelance company. I have enough information to get a good start on them this weekend. I'm looking forward to a couple good productive days and getting some work done. I also need to update my own personal web site, and pay some serious attention to the Legion Rider site.

In the meantime, here I sit, not doing much.

3:01 Friday Afternoon

My buddy here in the Art Department just started snoring. I beaned him upside the head with a paper clip to wake him up before the boss noticed... Anyway...

Yesterday after work my beloved Viennese Snowflower Dagmar and I trekked from Sioux City to neighboring berg Le Mars to help with the American Legion Riders' Children's Christmas Party. The American Legion post there usually hosts the Children's Christmas Party, but this year they asked the ALR to help out. Dagmar was in a sour mood from some problems at work, so the 45-minute ride to Le Mars was spent in one big rant. (Dagmar rarely rants, and when she does, she does it well, and the rant is well-deserved.) "I can't believe dis happened," she said. "My emotions are bruised, und I'm tired. I vant to go home."

Once in Le Mars, we stopped by my brother's house to pick up the nephew and niece to take them to the party. As I put the car in park, Dagmar said, for about the fiftieth time, "I don't know vy I'm going to dis party. All I vant to do is go home und pull my blanket over mein head. Dis day has really sucked."

That's when my brother's door opened and two small becoated children ran out to our car. "Hello Aunt Dagmar! Uncle Chris!" Dagmar and I busied ourselves getting the children safely in the back seat, then drove the six blocks to the Legion Hall where the party was to be held. Zip, zoom, there we were.

I set my coat down and said hello to a friend of mine, then turned around to see Dagmar, smiling from ear to ear, surrounded by about fifteen children, holding someone's baby, explaining to the assorted tots why she talks funny ("I'm not from around dese parts"). She played "Duck, Duck, Goose" with the children, and "Simon Says," and they sang songs...

We all ate hamburgers and fries, Mrs. Santa read some stories to the children, Santa came and gave out gifts, Dagmar and the children played some more. "I'm so happy ve came here!" she said. "I'm havink a good time!"

But... Oh geeze, where's the nephew? I've lost him! Gaaahhh... A quick but frantic search found the eight-year-old had wandered off to the bar and was staring intently at a picture on the wall. His gaze never wavered as I asked him what he was doing. "I'm looking at the picture," he said. "What does it mean?"

Oh gosh. How to explain this to an eight-year-old? He was looking at "Reflections" by Lee Teter.

"Well, you remember when we first got here you asked me why this building was built?" I asked. He nodded and answered, "You said it was built for soldiers, that this is a place old soldiers can come and talk."

"Yes. Well, about forty years ago there was a war in a place a long ways away. When the war was over, people decided that they wanted to remember all the soldiers that died in the war, so they built a big wall in Washington DC, and they carved all the soldiers' names on the wall."

"That's the wall?" my nephew asked, pointing to the picture. "Those are the names of the soldiers that died?"

"Yes," I said. "There are a lot of names, aren't there?"

"That man looks sad," he said. "Is he crying?"

"Well, he was probably in that war," I said. "He's probably looking at his friend's name, remembering his friends who died..."

"Oh." There was a pause. "Those men are his friends, aren't they. He can't see them because they died, but they want him to not be so sad."

By this time I was getting kinda teary-eyed and didn't really trust my voice, so I didn't answer. I just wandered off to the nearest table and sat down. My nephew took his eyes off the print, found an empty bar stool, dragged it from the bar over to the picture, and sat on the bar stool for another five or ten minutes, studying the print. He sat there, silent, staring at the print, surrounded by a roomful of veterans, until his mother came in to pick him up. I'm not sure what he learned, but I'm sure he learned something...

It was an interesting day.

3:36 Friday Afternoon

One hour and twenty-four minutes left.

3:47 Friday Afternoon

Oops, I must have dozed off. I just got beaned in the ear with a paper clip.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Friday in Le Mars

It was an honor.

Some friends and I held flags at a funeral for a man lost in Vietnam. His plane went down in enemy territory in 1967; his remains were just recently identified, and he's now buried in Le Mars. (You can read an article about it HERE.) It was a cold morning, but no one complained...

There are more photos HERE.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Shooting for a Cause

Calendars for Charity

A buddy of mine had a photo selected to be in a calendar. The profits (about $5) from each calendar sale go to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Feel free to click on the link below and check 'em out...


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I endorse...

Governor Bill Richardson

I had the opportunity to see Governor Bill Richardson speak today. I was suitably impressed... I'm horribly rushed for time, so I can't give a full rundown of the governor's visit at the moment (I will later, I promise), but here are a few things that stuck out to me:

Education -- Governor Richardson had concrete ideas on how to improve education, not the least of which was increasing teachers' salary as he did in New Mexico. $40,000 a year was the number he mentioned as a starting wage. He talked about national standards vs. "No Child Left Behind." The cost of higher education was discussed as well.

Jobs -- Again, there were some very concrete and viable ideas on how to spur the economy.

Veterans' Rights -- This one really stuck out. The Governor spoke of instituting a "Hero's Card," a card issued to each veteran that would allow the vet to get medical care at any hospital or clinic instead of having to travel to a VA hospital. (I looked at Richardson's web site a few days ago. He has a LOT of good ideas and plans regarding veterans' rights -- soldiers are exempt from income tax the first year after their service to ease transformation into civilian society, veterans receive a 5% break on income tax for life, etc.)

I'll write more on this later. In the meantime, here are some photos...

Bizzy Daze

What have we been doing?

Lots... Dagmar had a birthday, our niece had a birthday, the Independent Riders for Children and Charities gave toys to the local Head Start, and our friend got a new T-shirt.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Small town?

And the winner is...

Not that this is a rural area or anything, but I just ran across this in one of the local papers:

On Tuesday, a total of 26 people voted in the special election. [Candidate A] received 12 votes to [Candidate B]'s 11 votes.

According to [County Official], there was one write-in vote along with the two provisional ballots.

"The official final results will not be known," she says, "until the provisional ballots are reviewed."

The ballots will be reviewed at 1 p.m., Thursday, in the County Auditor's Office.

That there were only 26 people who voted in this special election is a fact that doesn't surprise me as this story comes from a very small town (population 102). What I find interesting, and honorable, is that they take the election seriously enough to take the two provisional ballots in to the Auditor's Office, fifteen miles away, to open them during a special ceremony days later, whereupon the two ballots will be duly counted. This makes me proud of America and democracy. It would have been very easy for the election officials to say, "Ah, the hell with it, Earl, just open the damned envelope and let's go have a beer." But they're following proper procedure, and that makes me happy.

Monday, December 03, 2007



In my last post I mentioned that Senator Pete Domenici quit his post in mid-term. That was incorrect -- he has a pretty nasty disease, but is finishing his term nonetheless. Either my source was wrong, or (more likely) I read the facts incorrectly or misunderstood the statement I read. That makes the sentence I wrote based on that information suspect, so I am removing that particular statement. Apologies to Senator Domenici!

In any case, I still think it's wrong of Senator Trent Lott to resign his seat in the Senate in the first year of a six-year-term for financial reasons, causing his state the expense of holding another election to replace him. It may turn out that he has other reasons for quitting, but at the moment he's offered no explanation.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Thinking thoughts of Dubius Import

The Price of Fickleness

Just out of curiosity, does anyone know how much it costs to hold a statewide election? What does it cost to get the ballots printed, how many man-hours are spent? What does each election cost the taxpayers?

I'm asking this simply because I've seen a dramatic increase in elected officials leave office lately in the middle of their terms, Republican Trent Lott being the latest.

Since 1940 there have been 35 senators who have quit in the middle of their term, but only two quit for reasons other than seeking another office, a judicial or diplomatic appointment, ill health, scandal or joining the military. One of those two took a position as a university president, and the other quit to take the job as Baseball Commissioner (he was quite blunt, too -- stating that he made $10,000 a year as Senator, but he could make $50,000 a year as baseball commissioner). But this is changing. Senators (as well as Representatives) seem to be quitting in droves these days.

Senator Lott is in his first year of a six-year term. He was just elected last year, and now he wants to quit. Why? Well, he can make millions and millions of dollars working for a friend of his who just started a lobbying company in Washington, D.C.

This is fine 'n dandy. I have no problems with people leaving a job they don't like. But with elected officials it is rather different... We elect our officials, putting them under social contract to fulfill their obligations for a set period of time. If they leave before that time is up, the taxpayer has to shell out more moolah to hold another election... It's not like we can just put an ad in the paper and hire the first qualified candidate to walk in the door.

It costs money. The only numbers I could find in my extensive three-minute Google search were of a couple Florida counties that had to pay $200,000 each to elect someone to replace Republican Representative Bob Allen. That's nearly half a million dollars spent in just two counties...

Talk about cut and run tactics.

Think we should make a law that if a Senator or Representative leaves before his term is up to enter the private sector they should have to pay for the resultant election?

Climate Change? Real? Doesn't Matter

Hey, watch this video...

My Vunderful Vife

Not only did she refrain from kneeing me in the groinal crotchy region for posting the funny picture of her a few days ago, but she laughed at it... I am therefore unscathed from the incident. No bruising at all!


Democrat Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania has introduced a bill guaranteeing soldiers get their full enlistment bonuses even if the soldier is injured while on duty. A person might ask why such legislation might be necessary... Turns out the Pentagon is demanding that 23-year-old Jordan Fox, who was blinded in his right eye and has back injuries from being hit with a roadside bomb in Iraq pay back part of his $10,000 enlistment bonus because he can't finish his term of enlistment. Normally I'm a big proponent of fulfilling one's obligation (as mentioned above in my rant about Republican Trent Lott quitting his job in mid-term), but it seems to me that getting hit by a bomb is a fairly good reason why one can't. Give the injured soldier his money back. Kudos to those standing up for Mr. Fox.

Bill Richardson, Democratic presidential candidate, has been working with the Korean government to bring back the remains of U.S. soldiers lost in the Korean conflict. An Iowa soldier is being returned shortly. This has to mean a lot for the family of the missing soldier... I'm really pretty impressed by Governor Richardson. Of all the presidential candidates on the market today, he's the one that really seems to be the most level-headed.

Teeny Tiny Little Bubbles

I've been enjoying the occasional Black and Blue (a combination of Guinness and Blue Moon) lately. I've always found Guinness to be a little bitter, and Blue Moon Belgian Ale to be a little too sweet, so when I discovered that you can put the two of them together I had to try it.

Deliciousness... Oh, the beer gods do smile!

This happy happenstance has led me to re-evaluate Guinness as it occurs solo. Somehow I'd never noticed that when I would order Guinness they invariably brought me a can of Guinness Extra Stout, and I invariably thought it was terrible, nasty, bitter beer and I'd hate it, but when I'd order a Black and Blue, they'd use Guinness Draught, and I liked it. For some reason it never occurred to me to simply order a Guinness Draught by itself instead of a bitter nasty Guinness Stout.

Turns out Guinness Draught is pretty good stuff!

The most fun part of drinking a glass of Guinness is watching the bubbles. Never seen anything like it. You can see what I'm talking about at www.guinness.com if you want. It's as much fun to watch as it is to drink!

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