Sunday, March 26, 2006

Take That Larry

Once again Chicago has dictated politics for the entire state. For those who’ve ever wondered why we need an electoral college, this is why. If it wasn’t for the electoral college, or more precisely the additional value it gives flyover country, we would have presidents elected almost exclusively by the metroplexes and for the metroplexes. Of course on the brighter side it would spare us the agony of having to listen to ivy league blue bloods, fresh from a week at Martha’s Vineyard with their mistress, opining about “Midwestern values” at a Waffle House in Topeka.

But back to Illinois—I don’t know who I’m going to vote for now. I’m seriously considering voting for Blogojevich. At least he cops to being a Democrat. Dame Judy is a rino (Rebublican In Name Only—what’d you think I meant?). Plus, in all honesty, I can't complain about the job Rodney’s been doing. Sure he’s been implicated in pay-to-play political shenanigans, but who hasn’t? And he hasn’t raised taxes and fees nearly as much as I thought he would. I was also impressed when he stood up to state employee unions and instituted much needed cost reductions. And even if he does end up jacking my taxes sky high, it won’t make me nearly as mad as if Judy did. That’s what democrats do and they don’t pretend they won’t, except on very rare occasions when they think their base isn’t listening.

Enough about politics. Let’s talk home improvements. Our place is really shaping up nice. I took a small foray into electrical work this morning and installed some halogen lamps under the kitchen cabinets. Now we have some much needed light on the counter tops as well as a little warmer ambiance. Laurie batted clean up by neatly concealing and securing the exposed wiring. It looks really good. Expect to be shown this masterpiece of amateur craftsmanship should you visit in the next week or so.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Take That Judy

Think you know everything you need to know about civic duty? Marry a social studies teacher. After some gentle coaxing by Mrs. Stephens I went and voted in my first primary election yesterday. She would've joined me, but she hasn't been able to register yet. Afterwards I was really glad I did. Turns out in addition to choosing which candidate I wanted to run for my party, there was a ballot initiative on the back. If you think ballot initiatives don't matter, buy a house. In any case I was able to give my vote against Judy "vote for me because I'm a professional politician" Barr-Topinka.

While I was there I ran into my condo association's president. She was one of the polling place volunteers. She said quite a few of the folks from our association turned out to vote. This wasn't a huge surprise since many of them are retired and could have easily made the time do so. By the same token, I suppose this is why many of the polling place volunteers were old enough to be my grandparents. Honestly though, it took all of 5 minutes to complete the ballot so really anyone could make the time to do it. On the way out I asked for three of the "I Voted" stickers as a joke (you know, "vote early, vote often"). About half way to the car I decided no one south of Cook County would get it, so I tossed them.

I haven't checked the results yet this morning, so I don't know if my vote might've made a difference or not. At the very least I won't be one of those people moaning about the choices on the ballot come election time. Even if my guy didn't get the nomination, I was able in some small way to let the guy or gal that did know I wasn't impressed.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Picture Pages

As promised (or threatened, depending on your point of view) links to the rest of the honeymoon travel pics.

The Stay in Portland

The Stay in Rangely

On the Way to Portland

On the Way Home

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Return to Normalcy

Our 15 minutes is finally over. Actually I think we managed to milk another 30 or so with the little lunch everyone threw for us upon our return. Thanks again guys. We're still reeling from everyone's genorosity and good will. It's certainly helped soften the blow of having to resume reality. Getting to curl up with my wife every night hasn't hurt either. If that last little sentiment was too sweet for you, just keep reading. The espresso's next.

As successful as I've been at avoiding political discussions on here of late, I'm afraid I'm going to have to bring the streak to a crashing halt due to a couple of statements I heard this week that have really stuck in my craw. The first, while stated in jest, still compels me to comment. "Who needs freedom of speech when you have free healthcare?" Later someone responded, with more sincerity, "I'd be happy with at least one of those right now." Now I'm not going to address the assertion that we have no freedom of speech in this country. I don't think it's debateable. We have it. No, we don't have freedom to speak without the possibility of consequences. Nor do we have the right to be heard--except maybe when Unlce Kasim calls from Yemen on the NSA party line. Could it be better? I wouldn't know. We've got it as good or better than it's ever been in the course of human history, so please spare me the hysterical parallels of the Bush administered U.S. with fascist regimes. Ironically the only people I ever hear talking about fascism and tyranny are those who are free to. Those who actually live under oppression can't. Well crap. I went and addressed it anyway.

But back to healthcare vs. speech--let's say, for argument's sake, that we only had our choice between free healthcare and free speech. Which would people choose? I know I'd choose free speech, but then I'm healthy save for a slight paunch that seems to be growing about my midsection. But there is ample evidence to suggest that thousands, possibly millions of people besides myself would rather have free speech than free healthcare. I'm betting 100% of Cubans who braved shark infested waters in row boats to escape to Florida prefer free speech to free healthcare. Likewise I'd bet good money that 100% of the people who were shot or captured trying to get over the Berlin Wall prefered free speech to free healthcare. And the list goes on; Soviet defectors, Chinese immigrants (actually China is switching to a more market based healthcare system now), and North Korean peasants. Unfortunately nearly all of that last group can't be reached for comment at the moment, so I don't know for sure. Of course if anecdotal evidence from some who have escaped Kim Jong Il's healthcare utopia is true, seeking medical treatment in North Korea could land you in an observation chamber at a nearby chemical weapons testing facility.

The other burr in my saddle comes courtesy of Judy Barr Topinka. For those who may not know, Ms. Topinka (IL's Republican State Treasurer) is seeking her party's nomination for governor. In response to the charge that she's too much of an insider to have the people's good at heart she replied, "Who would you rather have inside the governor's mansion? You wouldn't take your car to be fixed by a plumber? Why wouldn't you hire someone who knows the ropes of government?" Admittedly this is paraphrased but the gist was that she was qualified precisely because she was an insider.

First of all, I'm sick of hearing the mechanic analogy. I've heard more than one politician besides Ms. Topinka use it whenever term limits are brought up. But, what really bugs me is the notion that somehow a politician's primary job is to be in touch with the machiavellian world of political process than it is to be in touch with the process of life out here. No Judy, I don't want someone who's been assimilated into the political machine. I would very much prefer to have a governor or congressman that has spent the last 10 years or more of their life trying to make ends meet like me and who still has a memory of what it's like to be subject to the laws and regulations that insiders foist on the rest of us. I would very much prefer all congress people to be neophytes that haven't figured out how to "work" the system and still suffer from the naive notion that the poeple who elected them are their primary business. You see Judy, nearly all mechanics still drive cars, that's why I trust them. You haven't been a citizen for decades.

And that's all I have to say about that. I will be posting links to more pics from the trip very soon. I just need to do some doctorin' on them and they'll be ready. Stand by.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

No Sleep Till Niagra

Before I begin, a note of gratitude (which he will never see) goes to Trooper Haskins of the New York State Police. For "being a man about it" and owning up to the fact I was in fact speeding, he reduced the charge on my citation to that of "disobeying a traffic sign" vs. an actual speeding ticket. His generosity is most appreciated. Of course I haven't seen what the fine for disobeying a traffic sign in NY is, so my gratitude may be premature. Still, Tropper Haskins seemed genuine so I'm going to trust he truly has cut me some slack.

We drove our asses off today. We left Rangeley, ME at 9 a.m. and just pulled into Niagra Falls, NY about 1 hour ago--10:30 p.m. Let me just say that going out Maine's backdoor, while affording us vistas of staggering beauty, was a royal pain in the ass. Especially if you're trying to get somewhere fast. Really, there is no way to get anywhere fast if you're coming down from the mountains of Maine headed west. There are few if any interstates running east to west until you descend into upstate New York.

We threaded our way through the Rangeley Lake region of Maine, across the White Mountains of New Hampshire, down the border of N.H. and Vermont on US 91 and across the extreme southern portion of syrup country into Albany, NY. And that was just to get to I-90. That alone took us until about 3:30 p.m. As I said, the drive was through the most amazing country I've seen this side of the Rockies, but it was at a speed that seemed covered wagon-esque.

The conditions of the roads along this route limit speeds to 40 or 45. And this has nothing to do with weather. The asphalt is buckled from the temperature extremes yielding a ride not unlike that of what I imagine a covered wagon might have felt like. Even with the stunning scenery the ride got really old after about three or four hours. I never thought I'd be so happy to see an interstate in my life.

New Hampshire was by far the worst. Considering they have no sales tax (or income tax?) it's little wonder why. As conservative as I'm often accused of being, I still believe in tapping the public for at least enough money to keep the roads from jarring your teeth out. Of course, N.H.'s motto is "Live Free or Die". It should be "Live Free or Die From Bleeding To Death After You've Bitten Your Tounge Off Driving to Grandma's."

Vermont, as evidenced by the comparitively smooth ride we enjoyed, does have some sort of public levy to care for the roads. And the state is every bit as quaint as the Newhart Show implied. We stopped at The Royal Diner in Brattleboro, VT for lunch. This culinary shangri la in the middle of maple land had an eclectic menu that included a garlic cheese black angus burger, homemade baked ziti, whole belly fried clams, lasagna and a wide variety of shakes, sundaes and malts crafted with ice cream made on site. I've never had a harder time deciding what to order.

Another reason our trip took a little longer than it might have was due to the detour we took to visit Oswego, NY--my birthplace. Mom had me there while dad was on a S.A.C. base in Thailand. She was staying with her parents at the time. Later she and I moved to Illinois when I was about 6 mos. old to stay with dad's folks until he got back, so I have no recollection of Oswego. Unfortunately it was dark by the time Laurie and I pulled into town and we were both wiped. All we had time to for was a quick recon of the spot where I entered the world--the aptly named Oswego Hospital. I really wish I could've seen the city in the daytime. Oswego sits on the southern shore of Lake Ontario and boasts a fairly good sized commercial port. It has to be beautiful. But since we needed to get to Niagra, we couldn't stick around. I have every intention of flying back soon and exploring it more thoroughly.

Sack time. We've got 10 more hours on the road to go. At least to get to Dyer, IN and the inlaws. We probably won't get home until Sunday. As wonderful as these two weeks have been, I can say without reservation, I can't wait.