It's bothersome. The same conservative pundits and politicians that were, not too long ago, calling anyone who criticized then-President George W. Bush un-American and were up in arms over any perceived slight are now criticizing finally-President Barack H. Obama themselves. It's as if they have no memories, or as if we'll not notice their arrogance.
"But this hate stuff, this rooting for the administration to fail in Iraq and other areas is un-American, unbecoming, and unacceptable. Like him or not, Mr. Bush is the elected leader of this country..." said Bill O'Reilly last spring.
"I want him to fail," said Rush Limbaugh recently. He then repeated it. "I want Barack Obama to fail."
So, according to Republican pundit O'Reilly's standards, Republican pundit Limbaugh is un-American. I'm not surprised -- Limbaugh lambasted the military records of both John Kerry and Al Gore, both of whom volunteered to serve in the midst of the Vietnam war, both of whom DID serve in the Vietnam war while Limbaugh himself managed to get out of the draft because -- and I'm serious -- he had a painful pimple on his posterior. Limbaugh then lied about it, claiming that he was declared unfit for military service due to a high school football injury. (None of this is any of my business, mind you. I could care less about Mr. Limbaugh, his decision NOT to serve the country when the country needed him, and his painful pimple -- except that Limbaugh threw the first stone. Seems to me that choosing not to go to war is a personal choice that can be respected, UNTIL you make the choice not to go to war and then criticize those who did for not doing more.)
So now Mr. Limbaugh has repeatedly say that he wants President Obama, and by extension the United States, to fail. I know a lot of people who were critical of the Bush administration, but I never heard anyone say they wanted Mr. Bush to fail -- most people realize that America's well-being rests upon the President's success, and that failure will hurt REAL AMERICAN PEOPLE. Evidently, Mr. Limbaugh doesn't care much about real American people.
Now on to left-wing arrogance...
Milorod R. Blagojević, Democratic Governor of Illinois, is currently absent. He was arrested on federal corruption charges a while back -- not for just one or two things, but if I remember right there were 21 charges on the arrest. The Illinois State Legislature took a vote to proceed with Mr. Blagojevich's impeachment.
The vote was 114-1 in favor of ousting the Governor. A second vote was held (I'm not sure why). The second vote was 117-1 in favor of impeachment, Blagojevich's sole supporter his sister-in-law.
So you'd think that Mr. Blagojevich would, in these times of financial crisis, do the right thing and step aside, rather than putting his state through the expensive of a lengthy trial and all the other goofy stuff that goes along with an impeachment. But he's not. In fact, while the impeachment proceedings are happening in his home state, Mr. Blagojevich isn't even present -- he's on a media tour on the East Coast, hitting all the morning news shows and whatnot in order to plead his case.
Okay. Mr. Blagojevich has NOT been convicted of his alleged crimes, though he has been arrested. He IS innocent until proven guilty. No one's arguing that. However, Mr. Blagojevich is in a position of power, and has been accused of blackmailing a children's hospital (threatening to withhold $18 million in state funding to the hospital until the hospital donated $50,000 to his re-election campaign) as well as trying to "sell" President Barack Obama's former Senate seat. This, combined with the fact that the Governor will not be able to perform his duties when he goes to court to defend himself leads the Illinois legislature to proceed with impeachment hearings -- they simply want Mr. Blagojevich out of office for the good of the state.
It's time for Mr. Blagojevich to do the right thing. Take responsibility for your actions. Your statements are on tape. Admit it. Step aside. Spare us the circus and the expense of lengthy impeachment hearings. This is NOT personal, at least at this point -- the Illinois people simply want a governor they can trust, and a governor who will be able to do his job without the distraction of federal legal proceedings. Your ego is getting in the way of the betterment of the state.
Back to Iowa... I saw our very own Fifth District Representative, Mr. Steven Arnold King (R-Kiron) was spotlighted (spotlit?) on The Daily Show last night. Seems Mr. King is worried that with Guantanamo Bay closing, someone will forget to read 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed his Miranda rights, at which point the terrorist will run across the street to an embassy and request political asylum in the United States. Then the terrorist will run across yet another street to a courthouse where he'll promptly be given citizenship - never mind that everyone in the nation knows how dangerous the terrorist is, that there's no way he could be given asylum, and that citizenship is a years-long process even if the terrorist (who hates the United States) would want such a thing.
Seriously. My congressman is worried about this. I've seldom seen a man so driven by fear and paranoia.
As Jon Stewart said, these guys aren't just gonna be walking around. They're enemy combatants. They'll be in prison.
Hey, did anyone see the sun come out earlier today? Why is everyone walking around smiling and happy? Man, the birds really are singing loud all of a sudden... Something must have changed.
Just heard that a buddy of mine won the Folk Rising 2008 Album of the Year. He won 2007, too. If you get a minute, go check out Mat D.
I was elected President of the Northwest Iowa American Legion Riders last weekend. I hope I'm up to the task. It's a good group! Nearly 140 of the best people you'd ever care to know... I hope I don't let them down. I have lots of help, though -- these guys would give the shirt off their back (and would, consequently, show lots of tattoos).
Business is slow. I've been running scared ever since I quit my job back in September. Does it ever get better? I've gotta advertise, just not sure where. Yellow Pages?
I just heard that Senator Ted Kennedy had a seizure and was taken away from the Inaugural Luncheon in a wheelchair. Think what you may of the Senator, he's given a lot of years to public service. I wish him well, though I often didn't agree with his views.
The nice dental hygienist dentist helper lady nodded and disappeared from my limited field of vision. A second later she reappeared and handed something to the dentist. I couldn't see what it was, this wedge they were messing with, but I imagined it was probably about the size of a doorstop.
I decided to try to ignore the activity happening above me. No matter what they're doing, it can't be fun. For the last half hour I'd been trying to figure out exactly what tools and clamps and such were stuck in my mouth, but my imagination was starting to scare me. Okay... Go to my happy place. Last time I was here I found a crack in the ceiling that looked like Bart Simpson. I let my eyes roam the ceiling to see if I could spot it again...
"I'm going to need a bigger wedge. Give me the really big one over there."
I'd just spotted the Simpson crack and was looking for the funny dog when my musings were interrupted by what sounded like a wet German shepherd gargling oatmeal just half an inch from my right ear. It took a supreme effort not to jump, but with various instruments of dubious function jammed in my gaping maw I limited my reaction to a muffled "Whuuuaaaa!!!"
The dentist and dental hygienist dentist helper lady both froze. "Did that hurt? What's wrong?"
"Nuffing. Schorry." It's hard to talk when you have half a toolbox and three hands jammed in your mouth. The dentist and dental hygienist dentist helper lady both relaxed and went back to their business.
What in the world was that noise, though? What could sound like that? There it is again! "Wurbleglubglub blub." Oh... My right ear is about half an inch from the dentist's belly. Hmmm... I hadn't noticed that before. This seems a bit too... intimate. I'm not sure I'm happy with this.
"Okay, can you hand me that hammer, please?" said the dentist to the dental hygienist dentist helper lady. "Burgleburgleburgle," said his belly to me.
You know, it's about 11 in the morning. I'm getting a little hungry myself.
"Grrrrllummmp" said the dentist's belly. "Graaawwwwwwglub" said mine, loud enough I could hear it over the jackhammer in my mouth. The dental hygienist dentist helper lady stopped what she was doing and looked at my stomach.
Okay, now I'm trying not to laugh. My mouth is wide open with a post hole digger hanging out of it, a warning from the dentist "not to move," and now I've got the giggles.
"Blump!" said the dentist's belly. "Wuuuuurp," agreed my belly.
Now I'm shaking, making little meek "eee eee eee" noises, trying not to totally lose it. The dentist stopped what he was doing. "Does that hurt?" he asked.
"Naw. Schorry," I said. I caught sight of the dental hygienist dentist helper lady in the dentist's mirror. I could see she was trying not to laugh too.
"Glub," said the dentist's belly. "Wuuuuuurp."
"eee eee eee" I said. "Fliiiirrrrrrb," said my belly. The dental hygienist dentist helper lady started shaking with suppressed laughter. "What?" said the dentist. "What!" Both the lady and I shook our heads, not wanting to explain...
(I stole this picture from the Interwebs.)
Forty-five minutes later the dentist, still clueless about the concert he gave me, said, "Okay, that should be it! You're done for now."
I sat up, my head spinning a little from the combination of anesthesia, pain, and the trauma of having people banging, wrenching, drilling, and twisting my teeth for over an hour. "Thank God," I said. "I don't know if I could have stood it for another minute."
"Well, don't go too far," the dentist said, "you're scheduled for a cleaning now."
"What? You've gotta be kidding!"
"Nope. I have no sense of humor." About that time a lady peeked her head in the torture room. "Oh, hi Chris. Follow me, please."
Holding my jaw in one hand and my surprise in the other I followed meekly. Down the hall and into another torture room. I sat down and grabbed the armrests in the traditional "dentist office death grip." The lady grabbed a meat hook and asked me to open my mouth.
"Aaaahhhh," I said.
"Oh," she said. She poked around with her hook thingy. "Oh."
She looked at some papers. "Oh." Then back in my mouth. "Oh." Then she picked up the papers and read them more carefully. "Hmmmm."
"What?" I said. "You're scaring me. What's wrong?"
"Well, you have a lot of..." Then she proceeded to go into a very technical explanation, very little of which I understood -- my mind was still reeling from the previous hour and a half in the other torture room. I caught a few words. "...under the gums," and "I bet that's really painful," and "we need to re-measure your gums," and "I bet that really hurts." I nodded, pretending to understand what was going on around me.
"Do you snack?" the lady asked me. "Do you have a favorite?"
"Yeah, I usually don't eat much except for sand and Jolt Cola," I answered. "Is that bad?"
"We're going to need to... Wait. Do you have insurance?"
If ever there's a warning flag in the dentist's office, that's it.
"I have a card my wife gave me this morning," I said. "She told me to give it to you." I wriggled my billfold out of my back pocket and handed her the four or five insurance cards I carry around. "It's one of these."
She took my insurance card and disappeared for a few minutes. Then came back. "Yep, you're covered," she said. "We're going to need to take some X-Rays."
"But you guys just did that a few months ago," I said.
"Well, we need to do it again so I know how to approach your problem." She grabbed a chunk of cardboard. "Here, put this in your mouth." Not having any choice, I did. She dropped the lead apron on me and ducked around the corner.
Now, I've had dental X-Rays taken five or six times in my life. Usually there are four "sessions." Four little pieces of cardboard, one at a time, that you gotta put in your mouth with the traditional "bite down, please, and hold still" while they aim something that looks like an animatronic dinosaur at your face. This was NOT like that at all. I don't know what they were doing, but I would estimate they took twenty or twenty-four X-Rays -- and only a few of them were with the little pieces of cardboard. Most of them were some chunk of... I don't know what it was, but it was on a big stick or clamp or something. "Okay, put this in your mouth," the lady would say, coming at me with something that looked like it was two feet square, aiming to jam it in my mouth.
Finally she finished with the X-Rays. "Okay," she said, "this will take us a few minutes. We need to develop them, then we put them all together and we'll have a good picture of your condition." I noticed that the whole time I'd been in this particular torture room she'd been referring to "my condition," but never once told me what it was. "I'll need you to go out in the waiting room and fill out this form, please," she said, handing me a clipboard with a piece of paper. "We'll come and get you when we're ready to start. This might take a while."
I mumbled something, grabbed the clipboard and staggered back to the waiting room. Flopping into the nearest chair, I glanced at the form. It was asking me what anesthetics I'm allergic to.
Wait. What are they planning to do to me? I thought I was coming in to get an imaginary cavity filled, but that was nearly two hours ago, and now they're talking about insurance and anesthetic and "my condition." This isn't good.
My jaw throbbed.
I found my phone in my pocket and dialed my favorite number.
"Hallo?" said my Beloved Viennese Bride, Dagmar.
"Hi Honey. What anesthesia am I allergic to?" I asked, holding onto my jaw.
"Vhat? Are you still at de dentist? Why are you still at de dentist? What do you mean, 'anesthesia?' Vhat are dey doing to you?"
"I don't know, Snookums," I said. "They filled a cavity I didn't know I had; now they want me to stay here and wait while they develop X-Rays and they're talking about putting me under, and I have a meeting in an hour... I just don't want to be here. My mouth hurts and I just don't want to be here." We chatted for a few minutes longer, then Dagmar said, "You just fill out your form. Take it up to the desk when the secretary's phone rings."
"What?" I asked. But she'd hung up already. I mentally shrugged to myself and filled out my form, rubbing my aching jaw, pausing every now and then to reflect on my upcoming misery. I still felt bruised from the dentist, now I gotta go back for more. Just as I finished the form, the secretary's phone rang. I reluctantly took the paper up to the desk, shuffling my feet. The secretary was still talking on the phone. I set the form down. I just don't want to be here, I thought. The secretary wasn't paying any attention to me. I gazed wistfully out the front door for a moment, wishing I was elsewhere, anywhere, then glanced back at the secretary. She was laughing into the phone now, not paying the slightest bit of attention...
I bolted. Out the door I ran. I was in the car and on the road in about twenty seconds. My cell phone rang. It was Dagmar. "I vunder if the secretary has noticed you've left," she said.
"How did you know I was gonna run away?" I asked.
"I know you very well," she said. "Just who do you think the secretary was talking to, anyway?"
When the weather doohicky says -19, it's chilly. And it's getting colder. I can't imagine what Minnesota and Canada is like...
Things don't work right when it's this cold. Cars don't start. Windows don't roll down. Heck, even the door on our house was frozen shut due to condensation or some such mysterious natural phenomenon.
Thankfully we're nearly at the end of this cold snap -- tomorrow's supposed to be up in the 20's, which is about where we're supposed to be, then a warming trend for the weekend and next week! I haven't been counting, but I do know it's been over a month since I've been without my longjohns, two pairs of socks and two shirts. Iowa always has a cold spell every winter where it gets unnaturally cold for about a week, but it seems to me that we've been a bit too cold for a bit too long this year...
The dog, Zoey, scratches politely at the door, gazing soulfully at me with those big brown eyes, the phrase "I gotta pee" written all over her face. I open the door. The dog looks out and backs slowly away from the door... Ten minutes later we go through the same ritual. She just doesn't wanna step foot out the door. And I don't blame her.
Hey, I'd like to thank everyone for the offers to help with my PHP problems! It makes me feel WAY cool to have such good friends! Dad Andersen (with some help from the esteemed Poobomber) have hammered out some code that works for me. I really appreciate it!
Kinda torqued my toes, though -- not ten minutes after I uploaded a working file from Dad Andersen the server tech support people answered my e-mail from a week ago. "We just checked your site and we see you have the problem fixed. If you ever need assistance, feel free to contact us..." It upsets me because I've been asking tech support to help out with this for several weeks now. Not that I expect them to do my job, mind you, but all my code worked before they changed their procedures at the server level -- all I needed to know was how to alter my existing code to get it to work. They MUST have dealt with this before...
Ah well, the new code works better than the old; now I just gotta go through all my other sites and make the change. I imagine it shouldn't take more than a day or two.
Last Thursday I moderated a Leadership Siouxland class on "Arts in Siouxland." I've never done anything like that before... It's a bit nerve-wracking, at least the first time through.
We'd arranged for the class to go on a tour of a local landmark theater (it's positively stunning) for an hour, then move to the Chesterfield (a local club that has TONS of artwork on the walls, a good-sized stage, and plenty of room for this sort of thing) for dinner, a "mini art show," a live musician, a panel discussion, and a chance to meet one-on-one with local artists and musicians, and a live band afterwards. I was rather dismayed at the number of details and time it took for us to get everything to come together -- thankfully the other two people on the planning committee were top-notch organizers.
Things that I learned moderating the panel discussion:
1. It's always good to hold these types of things in establishments that sell booze.
2. Always include a professional comedian on the panel.
3. Oddly enough, the ONLY panelist (we had an artist, a musician, a comedian, a club owner/art buyer, critic, and Executive Director of the local Symphony) who made a full time living off art was the critic -- the one who didn't actually produce anything. Everyone else had day jobs. That surprised me.
Dagmar and I took the pup to a park yesterday. It was fun. The dog only ran away twice... But she came back twice, so it all worked out in the end.
I just found out that the server people I host all my sites through quit recognizing PHP form mails. Now I gotta learn something called PEAR, go through all 20+ sites I've designed over the years, figure out which ones use PHP and redo them...
I wish I understood this stuff better. I just wanna make pretty pictures for people -- this whole "coding" thing makes my head hurt. I'm so dopey I thought PEAR was a version of PHP anyway...
In the Spirit
This all happened last week, but after having my beak realigned I haven't had time to get my thoughts together. I use the word "thoughts" very loosely.
"Uh oh," said Dagmar, looking at the TV. "Dis isn't good."
"What isn't good?" I gurgled from the couch, staring at the ceiling. Earlier that day I'd had my deviated septum fixed. I'd been laying flat on my back on the couch ever since, counting the small cracks in the ceiling, trusting my beloved Viennese bride to take care of me. Every time I turned my head my nose started to bleed. I'd had a sneeze in the back of my head for an hour, but I was afraid to let it go...
"Dey say on the news that if you don't move your car out of the street they'll tow it avay," she said in that nifty accent of hers. "They vant to get the snowplows out tomorrow."
Wonderful. Our little white car has been stuck in a snowdrift on the street all winter. I'd managed to clear the snow away from it once a few weeks earlier and took the car around town to make sure the battery hadn't lost its charge, but as soon as I parked it the snowplows came and blocked it back in again... The car has been a headache for us lately -- someone had hit it, denting the door just bad enough that the door wouldn't open, and the front tire went flat. We could take the car downtown, but it often stalled on us. And now we gotta scoop the car out AGAIN, hope it starts, find a place to park it...
Dagmar looked at me. "Ve have to move the car or the City will tow it," she repeated. "This is bad news."
"Hunny, I'm not sure I can scoop the car out," I said. "The doctor told me not to lift anything or to walk much today."
"You're not doink anyting!" Dagmar said. "You can't sit up without bleeding all over yourself." She grabbed her boots. "I'm going to go look at it."
Two minutes later she was back in the house. "I think ve should just let the snowplow push the car away," she said. "There's no vay we can dig through dat much snow to get the car out, and the snow is way too icy for our neighbor's little snowblower." She sat down, pulling her gloves off. "How much do you think the towing charge would be?"
"Do you remember the last time we had a car towed," I said, holding a Kleenex brand facial tissue under my schnozz. "It was nearly three hundred dollars."
Dagmar turned teary eyes towards me. "Vhy does the city hate us? What are we going to do? We can't move the car, und we don't have any money to have it towed."
"Call Larry," I said. "He always seems to have the answers to these sorts of problems.
Our friend Larry is one of those people who, without fail, will cheerfully drop whatever he's doing to come and help anyone who needs help. He always has the right tool for the job, and he always has a smile and a funny story.
Ten minutes later, "Oh good! Larry says not to worry, he'll be over with his snowblower in de mornink!"
I looked up from the couch, grabbed another Kleenex brand facial tissue to hold under my nose, and gurgled, "But that snow's so icy and packed down from when the snowplows went around the car that I don't think a snowblower will work! I don't want him to break his snowblower!" Our neighbor lady has a little snowblower that we borrow occasionally. There's no way that snowblower would even make a dent in this pile.
"He says not to vorry," said Dagmar. And, well, when Larry tells you not to worry, he's usually right.
The next morning I was laying on the couch, a Kleenex brand facial tissue jammed in one nostril, when I heard a "bump," then a "thump" from outside, followed by what sounded like chains being drug across cement... I peeked gingerly out the window. There was Larry with the biggest dang snowblower I've ever seen.
My neighbor's snowblower has two wheels on the front. You kinda lift the back a little and push the machine through the snow. Larry's snowblower had tracks like a tank, an engine that looked like it belonged on something with the words "Mack" and "Truck" and "Diesel" on it. His snowblower could have run over my neighbor's snowblower, chewed it up and spit it out without pause. Larry had the machine in gear and was following along as it chewed its way through the ice and snow. His brother Gene was there, too, with another giant snowblower, working on the other end of the pile.
Within half an hour they were done -- the little white car was free of the snow! Dagmar hopped in and started it up. She put it in our garage and parked the good car behind it -- a smart move indeed; if she put the good car in the garage and parked the white car behind it there's a chance that the white car wouldn't start, thus blocking our only mode of transport in the garage... We thanked Larry and Gene, they told us a joke, waved goodbye, loaded their snowblowers and off they went.
"Phew!" said Dagmar as she pulled off her boots. "How fantastic vas that? I can't believe we have such good friends!"
"Yeah, we sure owe them!"
"But vhat are we going to do with the car? Do ve want to try to fix it?"
"Well, the last time it was in the shop, the mechanic asked me if I really wanted to put a sixty-dollar battery in a two-hundred dollar car. I'm not sure the car's worth fixing, and I don't have the tools, time, temperament or training to fix it myself." I paused to grab another Kleenex brand facial tissue.
"Should ve give it away?"
"That sounds good. Do we know anyone who needs a beat-up old car?"
"Call the guy who runs the Siouxland Sleep Out," Dagmar said. "Maybe one of the homeless shelters can use the car for something...?" I picked up the phone and made the call.
"No," I said, "He doesn't think they can use a car. How about calling the VA and seeing if there's a veteran who might need a car like this?" Dagmar picked up the phone and made a call.
Within five minutes our phone rang. Dagmar talked for a few minutes, then hung up and turned to me. "Dis is fantastic! That vas a guy who was a mechanic in the Army. Their family is struggling, und dey need a car!"
"Hey, if he was a mechanic, it's a perfect fit," I said. "The car is fundamentally sound, it just needs someone to work on it a little..."
The next day Dagmar went to the courthouse where she met the man who wanted the car. She paid for the license, registration and title transfer, then they came to get the car. A few minutes later and our little white car was backing out of the driveway, a happy family waving at us through the windows.
"I hope the car verks for them," Dagmar said. "I hope they aren't disappointed."
"What else can we do?" I asked. "We told him all the problems with the car, and we paid for all the transfer fees... If he can't get the car to run, he can always sell it for parts." I grabbed another Kleenex brand facial tissue to hold under my nose.
"I know. I just hope it works for them. I vant them to be happy."
That was about ten days ago. We periodically wonder how they're doing with the car and mentally wish the family well. We also periodically wonder just when the City is gonna come and plow our street -- it's untouched! We could have left our car parked under it's snowdrift this whole time... But it all worked out well. (Thanks to Larry and Gene!)
Things that make me grumpy
Sioux City has a law that you have to have your sidewalk shoveled 12 hours after the snow stops falling. If you don't, they'll come to your house and give you a ticket for a hundred bucks or so. This is okay (though I wish they'd extend the 12 hour law to 24 hours, we have a lot of elderly and disabled people in our neighborhood who have trouble finding someone to shovel their walks so quickly) -- I understand the wisdom behind the law, and I agree with it.
But I do have a problem.
Why does the city only enforce this rule on private citizens? The city doesn't shovel it's own sidewalks, nor do many businesses in our neighborhood, and they don't get in any trouble...
It's really a pain in the tuckus. Our neighborhood is old, and many abandoned houses have been condemned and torn down by the city -- on some streets this has happened to every third house. In fact I know one block where there's only one house left standing. I'm under the impression that if the city takes the responsibility to condemn and destroy the houses, they also take the responsibility to maintain the property until they can sell it. Yet they don't mow in the summer, nor do they shovel in the winter. This makes it nearly impossible to walk in our neighborhood -- and we have (again) many elderly and handicapped folk, and it's a poor neighborhood, which means that you have grandmothers trying to climb over unplowed snowdrifts to get to the local gas station to buy a loaf of bread...
Even if the city isn't responsible for maintaining these properties, isn't it responsible for shoveling the sidewalks in the parks? Or HAVING sidewalks in the parks? When I bought my house I was told that I had to replace my front sidewalk, and that it was city code that all properties must have a "functional" sidewalk. Except, evidently, for the parkland the city owns across the street over there, and the other park up the road -- not a sidewalk in sight. You have to trudge through the snow and mud, or walk in the street.
Maybe some of the "Public Works" funding President Obama is proposing could go towards maintaining this sort of thing. Give the city some money to buy a small fleet of snowblowers, hire teenagers or whomever could use a couple bucks to go out and take care of this... It helps the neighborhood, gives a little income to people who want to work -- a win/win situation. The broken window theory comes into play here, too.
Here's the "sidewalk" on one of the abandoned lots in my neighborhood.
This is the sidewalk in front of one of the strip malls on Hamilton Boulevard.