Friday, January 26, 2007

Another cold weekend

The only good thing that comes with the frigid weekend weather is my desire to stay in the house and work on inside projects. This weekend is especially conducive to project work because there is no football. And particularly this year because the Beloved Bears are in the Super Bowl, and it will be good to get my mind off the upcoming game by doing things around the house.

Two years ago, I installed new countertops and a sink at the old house. This year, I'm installing kitchen cabinets and new countertops at the new house.

The kitchen at the new house is 'drawer-deficient'. There are only two drawers, a 'regular' 16" wide drawer and a woefully undersized 9" drawer. We knew as soon as we moved in that we would need more cabinets, especially a cabinet with drawers. There are neighbors down the street who added cabinets up and down which greatly improved the funcitonality of the kitchen. They also put in granite counters, but I'm not willing to throw $5000+ on granite. That's just me.

We found some cabinets that just about match the existing ones and ordered a new laminate countertop. We are going with a 'high definition' product, which has a texture. With a rounded over edge, it looks nicer than the standard edge of the existing top. The countertop came in last week, and I picked up the cabinets last night. They are a better cabinet than what we have, and I sure it will be a matter of time before we decide to start saving toward replacing all the cabinets.

This will be the third countertop I've done. It's really pretty easy as home improvement projects go. All you need are extra hands to tote the darn things around. The largest section is almost 12' in length, and I'll be recruiting my new neighbor, Steve (as opposed to good ol' neighbor Tom, who is trying to pack up his house to move away) to give me a hand. He's coming over tonight to help with the upper cabinets, and we'll tackle the lower cabs and countertop tomorrow. Which reminds me that I need to SHOVEL FIVE INCHES OF SNOW off the deck to set up a work area so we don't have to schlep up and down the steps from the garage every time we have to work on the countertop.

Steve lives around the corner, and he and his wife have 2 kids (like us) and girl and boy (like us) a little bit younger than our kids, but they get along just fine. Steve and Lori go to our church, and Steve manages our church softball team, so we know each other and get along pretty well. He appreciates cynicism, evidently. We worked together on a church workday building some shelves in a storage closet, and we speak the same language and work at the same pace when it comes to tools and stuff.

I'll help Steve with his shed this summer. I'll have more fun doing that.

Anyway, I took a 'before' photo of the kitchen, and I hope to have an 'after' photo to post next week.

And no, I'm not about to make a prediction on the Super Bowl. I'm not sure how I'll be able to watch it. The NFC Championship game seemed to be the closest 25 point blowout I've ever seen. Games like this make me anxious.

Monday, January 22, 2007

ESPN owes me

All the so-called Football analysts picked the Saints to beat the Bears in yesterday's NFXC Championship game.

As a Bear fan, I had my doubts as well, but I KNEW that the weather would be a bigger factor than the analysts, and that the Bear defense would be ready to take on the two-headed monster of McAllister and Bush.

If the Bear offense could have scored TD's instead of field goals early in the game, it would have been a bigger blowout than it was.

Mike Ditka, who has pocketed millions of dollars from the Bear Faithful over the years, tried to weasel his out of making a prediction earlier in the week. I don't mind that he picked the Saints, it's just the way he went about it.

He's recent desire to have some sort of credibility is hilarious. He has been the identity of the Bears for over 40 years, but can't pick them for the heck of it?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Return to sender

I haven't decided whether or not it is racist or degrading for Native American symbols to be used as sports mascots (although I may have learned something by typing that sentence). I am more intrigued by the situational ethics employed by the various groups who feel that they have a dog in this fight.

Today's papers brings us news that the Oglala Sioux tribe has asked the University of Illinois to return the Chief Illiniwek costume that was purchased from the tribe 25 years ago. The Chicago Tribune reports that "The university paid $3,500 for the moccasins, blanket, peace pipe pouch, breastplate and war bonnet with 90 eagle feathers, all owned by Sioux Chief Frank Fools Crow, according to the university's archives."

Can someone explain what has happened in the last 25 years to bring about this change of heart by the Oglala Sioux.

I'm serious. As Native American mascots go, Chief Illiniwek is portrayed with as much dignity as a mascot can be portrayed. I'm not saying it's right. I just want to know Why? And Why Now?

The treatment of the Native Americans in pursuit of Manifest Destiny by the US of good ol' A is a sad story. Ethnic cleansing, biological warfare, mass murder, etc. Perhaps the 'mascotting' of Native Americans is the final straw.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Youth is wasted on the Young, part 27

I've come to enjoy YouTube very much. You can find anything there.

I found a couple of Jackson Browne videos, including a live performance of "Running on Empty" one of my favorite songs. Based on the clothing, band line-up and fashion, the video was from the late 70's. Rosemary Butler (a great singer) and David Lindley (a greater musician) are seen here.

YouTube allows you to comment on each video, and just like reading letters to the editor, you can tell alot about the subscribers by reading them.

The first comment for this video was "Good song.. reminds me of Bruce Hornsby's music", posted by KrisShred. As much as I wanted to respond directly to KrisShred's comment, I decided not to. Everyone is entitled to have an opinion.

I'd like to point out to KrisShred, however, that Bruce Hornsby (who is a very accomplished singer songwriter in his own right) was a mere senior at the University of Miami (according to Wikipedia) when "Running on Empty" was recorded. Perhaps Bruce has been influenced by Jackson Browne's music more than you realize.

This is not a knock on Bruce Hornsby. There is a long list of singer songwriters who have been influenced by Browne's introspective style.

When Jackson Browne's songs became more politically aware, he seemed to lose a lot of his 'popular' following. It's a shame, really, because his politcally-themed songs are very good. It's just a cup of tea that many people do not prefer.

From what I can tell, KrisShred is a singer songwriter, also. Good for you. I hope you become more successful and recognized by the masses. Just be more aware of which chicken came first...or articulate it a little better.

And be sure to look for my upcoming release in 2007. Perhaps I'll figure out how to upload one of my videos to YouTube and be a big success. But probably not.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Miracles do happen

I was riveted to CNN on Saturday as the Missouri kidnapping case unfolded. When police rescued Ben Ownby from a suburban St Louis apartment, they discovered Shawn Hornbeck, who disappeared 4 years ago. My heart was filled with joy for Shawn's parents, who in the aftermath of Shawn's disappearance, became advocates for missing children and their parents.

As the talking heads were talking to the various experts that get called on to fill air time, the anchor kept revisiting the question of why Shawn didn't try to escape after all this time. It is a recurring theme in the media coverage I've been seeing over the last 2 days, and it bothers me very much.

First of all, we don't know if Shawn ever attempted to escape or not. Secondly, and more importantly, we don't know what threats or lies Michael Devlin told Shawn after the kidnapping took place that would prevent Shawn from leaving. As if Shawn preferred to stay with his kidnapper. Thankfully, the experts (child psychologists) would be quick to defend Shawn and try to steer the discussion back to the emotional needs of Shawn no that he was rescued.

My daughter will be 11 (Shawn's age when kidnapped) this year. If she were somehow taken from us, I know that she would be susceptible to just about any threat made by a kidnapper. Threats about harming other family members, and even lies about the family not caring anymore would have a devastating effect on her.

Kids going missing is not new. When Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped, I made it a point to tell my daughter that no matter what any stranger told her, I would make it my life's mission to find her if she was ever taken from me. I told her that I would quit my job and get everyone I knew involved to find her. And that even if it took a long time, she should have every bit of faith that I wouldn't stop looking for her, and no matter what happened to her, that I wouldn't stop loving her.

It's a terrible shame that we would need to prepare our children in this manner, but you can't account for the creeps that inhabit our world. I won't speculate about what Michael Devlin did to these boys, and I won't need to guess that there is a special place in hell for him for whatever he did.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What's another 21,500?

You know, if the President had said, "I'm sending 21,500 additional troops to Baghdad for the express purpose of killing Mugtada al-Sadr." I would be more excited about the escalation.

Nothing personal against al-Sadr. I'm sure he's a nice father and loves dogs. It's just he is the guy who (after being targeted for death by US generals in 2003-2004) promised to disband his militia, which he did, for a brief time. Now he's back and stronger than ever, while US troops are eating IED shrapnel for breakfast.

I'm a devotee of the Michael Corleone School of Diplomacy. Target all the insurgent leaders and kill them. Then move the family from NYC to Vegas and go legit. In other words, identify the loose ends, tie them up, and get the hell out. It might take a couple of years, but at least IT'S DOING SOMETHING!

Yes, it would be nice to 'win'. But the definition of 'winning' is changing too often. Choose one goal, attain it, and move on. Really.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Music to my ears

Santa Claus brought my 6-year old son a student-sized guitar for Christmas. By New Year's Eve, he composed, produced, and directed his own New Year's Revue... five 'original' songs and two poems.

I attempted to show him one chord (a G played with on 4 strings), but he preferred the open Emdim7Maj5 you get by strumming the open strings. His rehearsals were driving me crazy (no, absolutely effing insane), so I grabbed the guitar and tuned it to an open D tuning.

Harmony ensued.

My goal is to give him some space with his guitar. His hands are not big or strong enough to play yet, and I'm letting him get the feel for how it works before I turn him into some sort of prodigee. Afterall, our house could use ONE good guitarist.