Thursday, December 29, 2005
It's a good thing I love my girlfriend, otherwise I might think she's just using me for home improvement and repairs! ;-)
Last night I had a blast with T-L/Van and M at a Sea Dogs game (ice hockey). T-L and Van were nice enough to answer my many questions about hockey, and the local team won, so all was good. Oh, and we went to Vito's prior-- man I like their lasagna! Yum!
Tonight is a retirement party (brief appearance), dinner with my girl at Suwanna, and then the late show at the movies (The Producers). Friday is, I think, mostly free again. Then the New Years party on Saturday. And then leaving on Tuesday.
I'm already feeling some melancholia creeping in... I do not want to go. I like being here, I like being with my girl. The good thing is that it is only exactly one month between when I leave here (Jan 3) and when she arrives there (Feb 3) for her first visit to So Cal.
I know she'll hate the tiny apartment I live in, she'll dislike the cat hair, she'll hate the traffic and crowds, but she'll love the weather, love the shopping, and love being with me again.
And then I can show off my honey to all my friends and (most of my) family!
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Not being able to use your thumbs really shows you why human beings climbed up the ladder as dominant species on this planet. There are so many simple things you can't do when you can't use or put any pressure on your opposable thumbs.
Hopefully the right will heal as quickly as the left. I've got more chores that need doing!
Update - Boxing Day (Dec 26)
Right thumb starting to come around. I have about 50% usage of it and it seems to be getting better hourly. Wahoo!
It can be a bit frustrating not to be able to trust your body at times. At least I have an understanding girlfriend, who realizes I'm not doing it "on purpose" or trying to shirk my chores.
Here in Canada, like the Eskimos, they have many different types of snows. The snow two days ago was too light and didn't pack well. Yesterday's snow, however, was wetter and better to pack.
So I finally got released to play in the snow!! I had to beg and cajole, but M finally bundled me up in my warm clothes, found me a pair of snow pants that fit, and out we went.
We made a snowman that was about 4 feet tall, with a big nose and three mohawks for hair.
We then made snow angels in the backyard, went for a walk up to the school at the top of the hill, and then I shoveled snow off the back porch and front walk. One thing I did learn, walking, playing, and shoveling snow is tiring.
But what fun! *happy dance
Her brother came over and we then went to a get-together with M's mom's side of the family. I hoped, and M feared, that her mom would show, but she never did. But the rest of her family was nice and amiable.
Today is Christmas and we got up and opened our gifts to each other. I did manage to surprise her a little, about which she was worried (to her, the surprise is the important part-- I just like ripping open packages). She got me incredibly thoughtful and nice gifts, and reacted very positively to the gifts I brought for her.
Her younger brother showed up after that (so the after gift opening necking had to be put on hold), and I made breakfast for everyone and then he opened his gifts and M opened some family gifts. They are currently off visiting with their grandfather on their mom's side.
We are gearing up for cooking Christmas dinner for her father, grandfather, brother, and us. I've only done a turkey once before on my own and have helped my mom on occasion. But that is my task for today. M will prepare the mashed potatoes and veggies.
Good times. I'm happy I'm here.
Although, in the back of my mind, I wonder about Julie-- the woman who is taking care of my cat. I emailed her asking how it is going and I have not heard anything.
Friday, December 23, 2005
(sorry, the one got rotated and doesn't want to rotate back)
This is what M's front and back yards look like at 9am this morning:
The Weather Channel says 5 cm of accumulation today.
You can't imagine the smile on my face seeing real snow and real snow fall! Remind me of this glee in a few days when I blog about how miserably cold and wet I am.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
M has a couch. This couch, or demon spawn, whatever, has this weird pull on me. Tuesday, after arriving and M going back to work, I sat on the couch. Next thing I knew, she was arriving home. Then Wednesday, I sat down there to wait for her to come home because I knew we were heading off to her father's for dinner... and she startled me awake when she opened the door!
Now, granted, both days I was pretty tired from the traveling and the getting used to the time change. Yesterday I also had a pretty bad headache.
Today, however, I feel well-rested, in full grasp of all my faculties, healthy and happy. I decided I was done with my chores for the day and that I would go out and either read a little or watch some TV. I sat down on the couch, feeling just fine thank-you-very-much, and I almost immediately start nodding off, like I'm some senior citizen in the rec room as Murder, She Wrote comes on, or like Dorothy traipsing through the poppy fields. This couch is a powerful, deep magic-- wise to the ways of sleep and its pull is strong!
I have determined for the rest of my stay here I should not sit on that couch unattended. I obviously need a chaperone to survive its deadly, irresistible pull!
Hmmm... I wonder if this is the couch that traps Andy Capp and Dagwood in all those cartoon strips?
It is evil, I tell you; evil!
Ok, the thing I'm having some trouble with is the dehydration. I'm in a colder place, I'm staying indoors for the most part, and yet I am even more dehydrated than in the desert, where I am habitually dehydrated. What gives?
I recognize that the fire/stove is producing a different kind of heat than I am used to and is very drying, but I spend most of my time upstairs.
It got so bad this morning that shortly after M left for work, I got a nose bleed! Sheesh. Glad it cleared up before her dad stopped by-- he might have thought I was being abused! ;-)
Anyway, note to self: drink a LOT more liquids.
Seem to be making decent headway with my Honey-do list. As I am on vacation and don't want to rush through anything, I am not hitting it as hard as I could, spending some time reading, watching TV, and just relaxing between chores. M seems happy with the quantity and quality of work so far, so I guess I'm pacing myself well. Then again, maybe she's chafing to add even more stuff to the list!
I already feel my legs and butt responding to the staircase. What with tending the fire and having to visit the stock room fairly often for things (both related to my chores and for general goods/needs), my legs are getting a workout! Plus, M’s home is so much bigger than my dinky apartment. The sheer fact that it is more than 10 steps to everything (as it is in my apartment), means I’m getting more exercise!
We had dinner with M’s dad, grandfather, and some distant relatives last night. Good stuff. I ate some salmon, which was ok (not really a fish person), and talked hunting. I bet my dad would really love to talk rifles and hunting with M’s family. I used to hunt, and was actually quite good at it back then, but never really had the desire to pursue it. I know that irritated my father a bit, as it was something we shared and could bond over. Plus, he recognized I had some innate talent in shooting that I know he wanted to cultivate (he is an award-winning shooter and helps run the range on the Marine Corps Base). But that just wasn’t for me, really. I do still own some guns and do like to take them out to the range on occasion, but it is not the passion for me that it is for him.
After dinner, M and I managed to manhandle the Christmas tree into the house and up on the base. It is even mostly straight. Tonight we plan to decorate it and get set up for the Christmas party tomorrow. Should be fun as I haven’t decorated a tree in… 10 years? Maybe longer. My sister was always the one who really liked the decorating. Mom and I were a bit less enthusiastic, so, once sister left home, we didn’t make nearly the big deal that sister did. Of course, if sister would visit us at Christmas, I’m sure we would break out the bulbs and lights! (Sorry, sis, I seem to have a hint stuck in my throat!)
This has been a great start to the vacation. I look forward to the change of pace that is forthcoming, where we visit with friends and family over the holidays. But I’ll admit—I think my favorite moments are the quiet ones alone with M, just curled up on the couch watching a movie.
Yes, I know I’m a sappy SOB. Deal with it! ;-)
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
|Your Monster Profile|
You Feast On: Starbucks
You Lurk Around In: Corn Fields
You Especially Like to Torment: Crybabies
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
The first flight wound up being ok, all things considered (I was flying, after all!). We were pretty late arriving, though, landing at 6:49 am when we were scheduled to land at 6:11. Had some people's luggage make the flight without the people. So off their luggage had to go! My just-over-an-hour-to-clear-customs-and-make-my-connection had turned into about 30 minutes of frantic scurrying. However, being the "old pro" at it by now (yeah, right!) I actually helped a few people make it to the right area to take the tram to Terminal 1 (no one believes you have to go that far, and the wall through which you must walk to reach security looks like a dead end with a door in it). I was late enough that they weren't sure they would get my bags with me on the plane (but they did).
I also experienced my first blast of the Great White North as I stepped out of Terminal 2 to take the shuttle and slammed right into -9 celsius temperature. And there was this funny white stuff floating serenely to the ground. I tried to capture some for further analysis, but it refused all attempts by dissolving in my hand.
Needless to say, this stuff scared me and I put on my toque (thanx Mare) and zipped up my fleece jacket.
The last flight was ok, too, all things considered. There was really only one thing- my compatriot was fairly overweight and the plane and seats were small. I was more intimate with her than I cared to be. But that flight was only about 80 minutes long, so I just read the enRoute magazine. I'm not a big guy, I can handle that.
M's first comment as I made my way into the Saint John airport was, "You look cold!" I sort of collapsed into a hug with her and breathed a stuttering, "Yeah."
I managed to get some sleep on the first leg of the trip, so I don't feel as zoned as I did at Halloween. However, I've mostly been up since 7 am yesterday, it is 2 pm now, and I am feeling the stress of the flight and the anxiousness of wanting to be here disappear and a happy, tired calm has replaced it.
I'm with M and all is right with the world now.
(does happy dance, even though M hates when I do the happy dance!)
Monday, December 19, 2005
Feel a bit better this time, as I've done it before. But still hate flying.
May not update this much while I'm gone, so Happy Christmas and New Year.
Friday, December 16, 2005
2. This has been the longest week on record.
3. Normally I would be starting my Xmas shopping this weekend. Instead of being primarily done with just a couple of nicknacks left to get.
4. I wish we had bowled on Wednesday rather than doing a makeup tomorrow-- I may need those three hours!
5. The guy in the parking lot of Albertsons at lunch has to know everyone thinks he's gay. You can't wear an open, plaid, flannel shirt over a t-shirt, with cut-off jeans shorts (that are way too short), and steel-toed work boots with white socks without having everyone's "gay" stereotype alert go off. From the looks of others in that parking lot, I wasn't the only one thinking that.
6. Should have sold my company stock two months ago, when it was worth $4k more than it is now. *sigh
7. It is going to be so freaking cold in Canada-- colder than any cold I've ever been in.
8. I hope M realizes I'm trying. This is not my favorite time of year (understatement) and I'm not used to someone who actually cares about surprises or expects them.
9. Why is Kermit the Frog riding a bike and singing "Rainbow Connection" stuck in my head? It's not like I've seen The Muppet Movie recently!
10. I want to see King Kong, but 3 hours? The LotR movies were worth 3 hours (plus). Not sure King Kong is.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
I am now seriously considering buying her a new bag of them before the Holiday treat is gone because I have had so many of them! The mixture of the mint and the chocolate is quite tasty. Plus, the peppermint flavor just sort of makes me happy.
If you like mint and Tootsie Rolls (not everyone likes the chocolate flavor of a Tootsie Roll), I recommend you seek out a bag of these treats and try one.
Above is the entire First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. That’s it, folks. I have emphasized the part dealing with the concept of “separation of church and state” because, once again during this very Christian time of the year, we are hearing from Christian groups who just simply don’t get the separation of church and state issue and are trying to make it into something it isn’t.
In simple layman’s terms, the government cannot start or favor a religion and they cannot stop you from practicing any religion you want (unless that religion infringes on other rights granted in the Constitution or Bill of Rights). The framers of the Constitution did this because America was primarily founded by those fleeing religious persecution and the Founding Fathers didn’t want anyone in America subjected to that same persecution here. Remember that England, Spain, France, Russia, most of the Middle East, and many eastern countries were (and still are, in many cases) ruled by governments with direct ties to centralized religion or were officially considered Theocracies. For example, in the 1500s, the Church of England separated itself from the Roman Catholic Church and the King established himself as the church leader. People who practiced other religions (especially Roman Catholics) were legally persecuted for those practices and this helped lead to mass migration to the New World. The Middle East still has Theocracies ruling many nations or strongly religious majorities that persecute religious minorities—we’ve heard all about the acts of violence against the Kurds, women, Sunni’s, Shiites, and other religious groups through that region.
The simplest way to make sure our government does not establish a religion, give special treatment to one religion over all others, or stop you from practicing whatever religion you want, is to “separate” government from religion. Over time, this evolved into meaning that the government avoids religious doctrine, comment, displays, or anything else that could show favoritism or prejudice toward one religion over another.
I am granting that America is predominantly Christian. The statistics I can find indicate that somewhere around 80-85% of Americans fall within some form of Christian belief (but only about 60% are affiliated with an established religious group or church). And it is primarily Christians who are vocal about separation of church and state issues. I am also granting that a certain level of Christian doctrine has inculcated the society and shows up on our money, in our pledges and in our practices, and other parts of life. Actually, it is primarily because of this predominance by one religion that we need this Amendment and must enforce it with due diligence.
When most of these religious groups complain about something relating to separation of church and state, what they are really complaining about is that THEIR (Christian) religion should be allowed, and they forget about the wide range of minority religions in this country with very different beliefs, rites, and needs. When they argue that prayer should be allowed in school, for example, they mean Christian prayer. They forget that if prayer is allowed in school, that has to allow the Muslims to pray five times a day facing east, Wiccans should be allowed to perform their nature ceremonies (some of which can and do involve nudity), and other, non-Christian styles of praying. Of course, as long as you do not disrupt the environment or others with your prayer, there is no reason why you cannot pray in a public school now. You just cannot do it in an established way (which would promote your religion), during official school time (but you could prior to, after, or during the various breaks between classes), or in a way that infringes on someone else’s religious freedoms. I am not even speaking to non-religious people’s rights to avoid seeing religion altogether.
The phrase “Happy Holidays” is an inclusive statement. It includes those who are celebrating Ramadan, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and other religious rites that fall during this period. “Merry Christmas” is not inclusive—it only serves those of a Christian faith. A privately owned company can feel free to have a “Christmas Party” and to put a “Merry Christmas” banner up; however, most companies do not want to limit themselves like that. Most businesses WANT to be more inclusive to their employees and their patrons—and “Happy Holidays” banners and “Holiday Parties” allow for more inclusion—and more sales/business.
By separating the Church from the State, our government lets all of its people practice their religion, no matter what it is. By staying out of the religion business, our government keeps from showing favoritism toward any one religion which lowers the chances of religious persecution for people who don’t practice that religion. It avoids the situations that have evolved in other countries where a religious majority has killed religious minorities, seized their assets, and otherwise driven those religions out or into hiding. It also provides for the maximum religious freedoms for the maximum number of people.
The next time you hear someone expounding on the problems caused by separation of church and state in this country stop and ask yourself: What does that person really want? Who is he serving? Is he being inclusive or exclusive of other ideologies and religions? Is he allowing for the greatest freedom for the greatest number of people?
Whenever someone argues to end the separation of church and state in this country, they are really advocating the advent of formalized religious persecution by the Christian majority over all other religions (and those who are nonreligious). It is a dangerous path, and one against which we must fight, using, first and foremost, the other rights granted in the First Amendment—freedom of speech to point out this grievance, freedom of assembly to speak about and call attention to the situation, and redress the government for grievances against other religions and people, as they happen.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
To say I was nervous about a live-action movie being made of this book is an understatement.
I loved it.
There were some things I would have done very differently, had I been in charge. But I think that is true of any fan of any book being made into a movie. In this case, like in Lord of the Rings, the movie makers felt they needed to change things to speed up the storytelling in certain areas, yet overly extended other scenes to lend more drama to the story. However, they managed to maintain the feeling and the intent of the story throughout. And some of the changes felt like ones made for more sophisticated audiences; as though the filmmakers felt that children today would be able to understand and follow along better than in the book, so they could skip some of the story.
Now, as with the LotR movies, there are some things to quibble over. The beginning feels a little long, not much, but just a little. There is a little in the middle that could have been trimmed or re-edited to be a shorter for the movie audience. A few of the important lessons from the novel were lost or minimized for the movie.
However, the overall movie stays on topic and has the same feeling to it that I get from the book. I am reminded a great deal of the book and movie for Jaws. The book and movie are very different, but equally good, with the movie maintaining the same feel and dread but getting there through different means.
Now, to specifics: This movie is for kids, but it is played for realism, so some smaller children may be upset by some of the more violent fight scenes or scared by the White Witch’s evil. I think it would be safe for 8 and up, but wouldn’t take younger children. The acting is pretty good throughout, with Tilda Swinton eating up scenery as the White Witch; she alternates between being beautiful and wicked, warm and cold, fawning and harsh with ease. The voice actors chosen for the characters are very good and convincing. My only disappointment was that I felt Aslan’s voice didn’t have the majesty I would have preferred. Liam Neeson does a serviceable job, but I expected more from Aslan.
The movie has a similar feel to it as the LotR movies, or Harry Potter, without being as dark or foreboding as either of those series. The effects are good throughout, but adults will see the CGI on the animals—children will likely not notice or care. Children will be enamored of the story and I think the movie could act as a nice lead-in to reading the books. Oh, and there is a surprisingly good song over the credits by Alannis Morissette that I thoroughly enjoyed. By the way, sit through the first 2 minutes of the credits, as there is a little tie-me-up right after the initial scroll of actors. After this, there are no other special credit scenes (sat through them until the end, as I do with most movies).
As to the “religious overtones;” if you’ve read the book, you know that you have to stretch pretty far to see Lewis’s Christianity in the book. To sum up the entire Christian themes in the movie: there are some allegorical similarities between Aslan and Jesus and the children are referred to as “Sons of Adam” and “Daughters of Eve.” Oh, and Santa Claus makes an appearance, but he’s only recently been co-opted by Christianity, so I don’t think that should count. You will only really see the Christianity if you want to, so don’t let any of the advertising that is skewing religious turn you off from what is a rousing story of good versus evil in a land where animals talk.
I will likely see this movie again, and will certainly buy it on DVD.
Of course, I'm sure some people would say that the drug already exists, in various forms.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Anyway, this package contains the two gifts I got for my group’s secret santa party and gift exchange, so I really need the loot. I went online and was able to find a Redelivery option on the USPS site. I put in the tracking number, my address and other info, and selected Saturday as my redelivery date.
How cool is that?
Now, rather than having to find the Post Office to which this package was sent, or take a day and work from home, I can have them redeliver the package on a day convenient to me. True, until it arrives, I have to hang our around the apartment all day on Saturday, but that is no hardship. I need to work around the place anyway.
The cynic in me thinks I will be posting a follow-up message on Sunday morning about how I still don’t have the package and where the hell is it, but, until that time, I’m happy with my online experience with the Post Office.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
He had many times when he questioned that decision later in life. It is a devastating thing to issue an order to kill thousands of people in two nuclear fireballs. Being a human being, and a very rational and intelligent man, I am certain that, if any other option presented itself to him that would achieve the same decisive end with less loss of life, he would have taken it. But Americans insisted on a clear victory and Japan, it was felt at the time, needed to be broken entirely so that they would not become like Germany before them—ripe for another war once they recovered from the first. So the bombs dropped and the World War ended.
After September 11, Americans needed someone to attack. We needed retribution for the 3,000 lives lost. Evidence pointed to a group most Americans had not heard of, al Queda, and we knew they were holed up in Afghanistan. So we formed a strategy, went to Afghanistan, and began to route the al Queda we found there. We liberated towns and seemed well on our way to freeing that nation from what appeared to be despotic control and unrest.
And then a funny thing happened. Suddenly there was tentative information pointing toward Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s name came up. His former atrocities were then brought into the conversations. “WMDs” were rumored. So we split our focus, did not finish the job in Afghanistan, and went after Saddam. I am sure our President had some doubts. He knew fighting rebels in Afghanistan was very different from fighting the actual military and insurgents in Iraq. But, a little like Truman before him, he made a decision and moved forward. We went to war in Iraq.
Now we are finding monumental evidence that the reasons we used to go to war with Iraq were, at best, misinformed and, at worst, fabricated or overblown. When our President had what appeared to be clear evidence to go to war, we went. The evidence was so good that most politicians, the media, and the people were firmly behind that decision. Now that we have even stronger, more compelling evidence that this war is unjustified, people are questioning the action. The media and the people want to change our course based on this new evidence.
It is important that our President act in an equally decisive a manner based on this new evidence. I am not saying we should pull out entirely, as we have created a mess that will be hard to clean up for those left behind. But we should start working on it, training the Iraqis to fend for themselves, create strong diplomatic and economic ties with the country to help them prosper after the devastation of war, and we should start to get our people out of harm’s way. We need our President to present the people with a decisive withdrawal plan.
Or, to put it another way, we each try to make decisions based on the evidence we are given in our own lives. Although we rarely have to make decisions that involve such weighty matters as the deaths of thousands, the decisions do profoundly affect our lives and how we live them. When the evidence upon which we based our decision proves false or the conclusions we drew from that evidence do not work as expected, we form a new plan, change directions to accommodate, and put that into action. Our President is not doing that. He is acting as though he is incapable of acknowledging that things have changed, that the initial plan needs revision, and that we need to go in new directions.
I truly believe that most people know and understand that plans change with new evidence, new opportunities, with failures, and with unexpected successes. People want a plan to follow and to know where they are headed, but they also want to see leadership smart enough to roll with changes, the failures and the successes, and make new plans accordingly. The people are still working toward the goal; they are just changing how they get there.
I do not judge the decision to go to war with al Queda. I do not judge the decision to go to war in Iraq. History will decide if it was right or wrong. I do question our “staying the course” when all signs point to danger on that course. I want my leadership to be intelligent and determined to do the best thing possible for our nation, even if that means acknowledging that a previous decision was wrong and changing our plans accordingly.
President Bush agonizes over the 2,000 lives lost in Iraq. I am certain of it. Having the deaths of so many resting on his decisions must be painful. But those types of decisions come with the position he sought. Unlike “Give ‘Em Hell” Harry, Bush appears to have many options and other courses available to him to keep from losing more American lives. He needs to start considering them. Or, if he truly believes we should “stay the course” as he and his cabinet have often said, then he needs to provide us with a rationale that contradicts or puts into proper perspective all the evidence that suggests ending the war is the better course now.