Thursday, December 20, 2007

Coffee Snobbery Progression

One year for Christmas, I asked my parents for a coffee machine. I suspected that they might go find a deal on some kind of really fancy machine made by Bunn, Saeco, or even Kitchen Aid. Instead, they bought a $10.00 Wal-Mart Mr. Coffee. Functional, but Spartan at its best. Prior to that, Jen and I had been pressing all of our coffee, and the fanciest coffee that we got came from the grocery store. We would buy the beans and put them through the in-house grinder, pay for the bag, and go press our coffee. For some time, we used the little Mr. Coffee at home with this coffee (or Foldger's, depending on time/convenience/budget).

We decided that we wanted something a little more exotic in the world of coffee, so we bought ourselves the demo model of a Krups, single-cup espresso machine off the shelf at the hardware store. We had been warned not to get a steam-powered machine, and this one had an 8-bar pump, and a copper boiler. This machine did okay for us for some time, and we started grinding our own beans at home with a little Krups grinder. We still enjoyed pressed coffee from time to time, but we found that we didn't really use the Mr. Coffee drip machine anymore.

After getting frustrated with the slow brewing of our Krups, we purchased an Italian-made Briel ES-15 Lido, second-hand on ebay. This little baby had a 15-bar pump, stainless steel boiler, and made some really nice coffee! Unfortunately, it was a very well-used machine, and showed its wear from head to toe. Even when brand-new, the Lido was not a physically attractive machine. But, after the years of long, hard use that ours apparently had, we were just thankful that it still made decent espresso.

Soon thereafter, I learned about a website where I could order fresh-roasted coffee beans out of Florida from all over the world. We started drinking coffee of varieties that I hadn't heard of before. I didn't think that I liked Columbian Supremo until I actually had real Columbian Supremo.

We learned that burr-grinders do a far better job than blade-grinders for grinding coffee. So, we began searching for a burr grinder. We found that all of the cheaper models are put together very cheaply, and all of the better models are priced for kings. But, still we persisted, until we found a practically new Capresso brand conical-burr-grinder at a garage sale for ten bucks. We snagged this, and retired our old Krups blade-grinder. They were right. The burr grinder is far superior.

After using our Briel ES-15 Lido for a couple of years, the filter cup handle broke. It had been cracked since we received the machine, but had held together until it snapped off completely one day while I was making our morning triple-shots. So, we got on ebay again, and purchased a brand-spanking-new, red powder coated, Briel Domus Uno, with a 15-bar pump *correction-make that an 18-bar pump*, three separate thermostatic controls, and enough curb-appeal to make a Ferrari blush! I love this machine. I mean, the Lido made decent coffee, but this one is nice. It really was like stepping up from an Alpha Romeo to a Ferrari. Since we purchased the new machine, we found a replacement filter cup for the Lido and donated it to a friend.

Then, I decided to tackle roasting. I did a little internet research, and found out how to build a manual coffee roaster out of a stove-top popcorn-popper. The procedure seemed unconventional and esoteric, but the theory was sound, so I went for it. I combined a grill thermometer with a Back to Basics stainless steel popcorn popper to create my own coffee roaster. There are loads of varieties of green coffee beans available on the internet, including the company that I had been buying roasted coffee from already.

So, fast-forward to the present. I'm on my lunch break at work, sipping a delicious cup of coffee, blended with Coasta Rican hard bean decaf and Zambia Terranova Estate, that I roasted last night, and brewed in the old Mr. Coffee - which I donated to the office. I'm thinking that the next 5-lb bag of green beans will have to be Mexican Turquesa. That stuff is wonderful! Not to mention that the green beans are cheap and will keep far longer than roasted coffee!

Hi. My name is Michael. I'm a coffee snob.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WHY AM I SO BUSY?!?!?!???!?!?!??!?

I understand that the Christmas rush hits sales hard. However, I work for a company that manufactures high-pressure, breathing-air equipment primarily used by fire departments. Since about Thanksgiving, we have been BALLS TO THE WALL. This year has been a relatively slow year for the business, and there have been times that I have been creating special projects to streamline my position in the company, because we have not had enough business to stay busy. But, like I said, in the last few weeks, we have been busy, busy, busy.

I have worked in retail before, and for a while, I worked at a car dealership. During the Christmas season at both of those jobs, we got busy. Retail is busy in the shopping season, and that makes sense. At the dealership, service slows down, but car sales seemed to accelerate during Christmas shopping. Go figure, I wouldn't mind getting a car for Christmas! I don't know what it is about Black Friday that triggers the masses to get out there and spend all their money, but they do! Just like clockwork, everybody has the sudden urge to empty their bank accounts and wallets, and max out the credit cards. I think that's exactly why the retailers started up with the Black Friday sales.

Now my question is, why, oh why, does a manufacturer of high-pressure, breathing-air equipment, used by fire departments get busy for the holidays? Does the city council say, "Let's buy a compressor for the fire chief for Christmas?" I just don't see that happening. But evidently, it has to be something along those lines. Maybe it's a red-tape, use-it-or-lose-it, year-end, government-accounting deal. I suppose it's possible that townships have to close out their budgets before the calendar year in order to maintain their budget for the subsequent year at the same level, and the fire department is the target for some last-minute spending? I don't know.

What I do know is that I am really, really, really busy at work right now. I would really like to get caught up tomorrow, but I don't see that happening. Maybe we'll get another nasty ice storm and I won't have to worry about it until January. No, on second thought, that would suck even more. Well, lunch is just about over, and I need to get back at it if I'm going to work for less than 11-hours today! Got to run! Thanks for enduring my rants!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

10-year anniversary

December 5 marked the day that Jenni and I have been married for nine years. She blogged about it earlier. Many who will read this also read her blog, and already know. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I like to do things differently than other people. It seems like the decade mark is far more of a milestone than the nine-year mark, so I'm going to go at this with the "party like it's 1999" philosophy, or the "millenium at the year 2000" philosophy, assuming that the years A. D. started counting from "1" and not "0."

Therefore, as of the sixth of this month, I have started celebrating our ten-year anniversary, as we have entered into the first day of the tenth year of our union. I think that celebrating for an entire year sounds a whole lot more fun than celebrating for a day, anyway. The advantages for celebrating my marriage for the year are nearly countless, and I think that every married couple should do the same!

First off, I don't have to worry about forgetting a special date. When every day between 12/5/07 and 12/5/08 is my tenth anniversary, there's no way I can forget it! I think that every guy who has had a special lady has gotten himself in trouble at one time or another for not remembering some date, whether temporarily or long-term, and if it was a birthday, anniversary, a trip to the vet with the family dog (who may have been about to become a eunuch), or even his wedding day, because he was still too drunk or hung-over after some ill-planned, last-minute bacheloring (thank God, I steered clear of this particular blunder). And, what could possibly be more important to remember than the wedding anniversary (assuming that one gets a wedding anniversary, barring that last example I gave). So, if every day of the year is the anniversary, it will then supersede the birthday, Valentine's Day, Christmas, and all those other days that can be so hard to remember.

To that end, even if I did screw up in a way to make her angry at me, she will be predisposed to be more kind and patient with me since it will be our anniversary! If I accidentally break off the corner of the kitchen counter, or get motor oil on the rug, instead of screaming, or worse yet - silently fuming at me, she'll be far more likely to shrug it off because, after all, it is our anniversary. The way I look at it, on a day like December the fifth, nine years after "I do," to the day, the only thing that I could possibly do to piss her off would be to forget that it was our anniversary on that day. So, if every other day of the year was our anniversary, it would be like being married to the "another chance" machine! Don't get me wrong, it's not like Jenni goes around with a chip on her shoulder and a whip in her hand, or is looking for an excuse to be pissed at me. Quite the contrary, she is very understanding, level-headed, and quick to forgive my iniquities. However, on the rare occasion that I have really made her angry, it has not been fun in the least. Then again, if I did happen to do something so bad that it upset her during such a time of celebration, it could very well be a "party over, oops out of time" moment anyway.

Therefore, except for the rare example in which I might make her angry, or in the chance that I had to get her presents every day for the entire year, it sounds like a total win-win situation. Besides that, if I have to get her gifts, she has to get me some as well, and we just don't have the budget for that.

But, seriously now: All other jokes aside, people should love, cherish and appreciate their spouses. Too many people in our society view their chosen loved ones as the caught fish. If we would all keep pursuing our partners, with the knowledge that we don't belong to each other, and that we aren't ever "tamed," but remain wild creatures that must be cared for in order to keep, the divorce rate in the U. S., and the rest of the world for that matter, would diminish to an obscure level.

Take falconry, for example. For those who hunt with a raptor, or a bird of prey, they must convince the bird to stay with them, because it may choose to leave at any time. If people would view each other in this same light, knowing that the bird could make a decision to fly away, imagine how we would cherish each other's affections more. I know, as my wife does, that we choose to be together, and other than a very weakly binding, state-issued contract, and a couple of metal rings, there is nothing keeping either of us in the nest beyond our own choices.

I find it fascinating that the love of a parent for a child is so forgiving, accepting, and so unconditional, on a level that most will not extend to the spouse that they have chosen to spend their time with. Of course I love my son, because he's my son! But, by the same token, of course I love my wife, because I decided to make her my wife! Why do people love their children to a degree lacking condition that they cannot extend to their spouse, anyway? I believe that it's because they recognize the children as fallen and incomplete, in need of direction and love. Therefore I will submit that we attempt to love our spouses to the same degree, recognizing the spouse as fallen and incomplete, in need of direction and love.

Celebrate every day as if it is the first and the last. Cherish each moment, whether you are in the middle of a busy, stressful schedule or relaxing quietly. Set aside time for each other. Make a little room for failure, as we are each so very capable of it. Love God and let Him bless the marriage. If you come across a truly challenging problem, seek advise from a couple that's been happily married for half a century - apparently they know something. Tell your spouse what you like about him or her. Don't be too busy to help, hug, or love. Always make sure that your spouse is the center of your affections, and has a special place in your life that could never be taken by another. But, never forget that your spouse is a wild creature, and must be cared for properly so that they want to return the affection.

Be a lady or a gentleman. When the occasion calls for it, be a silly freak. Be the shoulder to cry on, and the trusted confidant. Don't jump to conclusions, but ask lots of questions. Give the benefit of the doubt. Never storm out angry. All of this goes for the ladies and the gents. This goes for my lady and me. This is why we have just started celebrating the tenth year of our marriage, and are more crazy about each other now than when we were dating.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Is it me, or do the randomest things happen in the indie music scene? I, personally, have been quite disillusioned with the pop music machine for some time now, and have turned my fanship toward less conventional musicians such as Rasputina, and Linda Strawberry. Still, I must admit that this subculture of un-pop produces bizarrities such as the Young @ Heart Chorus or Beatallica, which simply cannot parade as pop music, even in the underground.

My friend Darren introduced me to Rasputina several years ago. This band, like Apocalyptica, relies on the skill of playing cello rather than guitars and bass. Unconventional, yes. Catchy and raw? You betcha. Where the girls of Rasputina write their music based on quasi-depression era themes, and base their looks on not-quite-16th-century bar wenches, the gentlemen in Apocalyptica made their place in the world by covering Metallica, hence the name of the band. Apocalyptica has also written some originals, and re-made songs like Hall of the Mountain King (which is bad-ass in their rendition).

Linda Strawberry, on the other hand, is a twenty-something, blue-haired beauty who simply does not fit into the molds or genres of the current machine that is the music industry. She had a contract brewing with Chrysalis Records that didn't pan out because she would not compromise her art for the label. (Good girl!!!) You can read all about that here, or you can buy her CD here, and I don't mind plugging her in my blog, because I'm proud of her for her talent in songs such as Orchid (which isn't on your CD, Strawberry - we may have a score to settle here - pun intended), and her refusal to belittle herself to get more album sales. Let me not fail to mention, by the way, that the link on Orchid will take you to another fantastic blog. But, I digress. This girl has toured with many big-name bands, and has performed on several night talk shows, as you can read in the interview at the link above. She is chocked full of talent, and I'm really looking forward to all that she has to offer the world.

The Young @ Heart Chorus may be the least conventional example I have to offer here, as it is a group of 80+ singers that cover popular music from the seventies to current. Probably my favorite of their pieces is this little ditty, in which a gentleman on oxygen sings "Fix You" by Coldplay. Wow! What more can you say. These people pick the music deliberately to bring new meaning to familiar music. Before the above performance, I didn't even really like Coldplay. Now, when I listen to them, I start to choke up, thinking about this performance. There are other songs that they have done, that are equally moving, and still some others that are just silly. I would encourage you to buy tickets if they ever come to your town, and to do more research on these senior rockers. Who ever said "youth is wasted on the young" obviously can't see the obvious advantages of age.

Others of this hidden layer of "popular" music clearly define their own micro-genre. Many of these groups were started on a dare, or a drunken joke. The latter is the case for Beatallica. This is a group that attempts to blend the music of the Beatles with the style of Metallica. As unconventional as this may sound to you, they actually pulled it off quite well. My brother, who works for Keely Electronics, and chats with superstars on a regular basis, was highly skeptical about this melding until he heard Garage Day's Night. You know, it's not exactly like I would pop this in my CD player to create the mood for the moment, but I can't listen to these guys without giggling with admiration for their drunken creativity and flawless execution of their goals. It's actually pretty funny that I've singled out two groups that emulate Metallica. Huh. I didn't even think about that until now.

I nearly forgot about one of my absolute fav underground indies! The unasked question is this: What do you get if you cross punk rock, Christian music, and bagpipes? And the answer that you didn't know you wanted to know is this: Flatfoot 56. And, with that, I will leave you with this little excerpt from this innovative (if not half-loony) band of odd, God-loving musicians.

So, that's it for now. Signing out. Time to listen to unconventional music that is still music, and not formulaic noise produced by the big music industry machine.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I know, it's been a while. Let's talk.

Last night, Jenni pulled a folder out of our file cabinet, looked at the contents, and made a face. I asked her what that was all about and she flashed the cover sheet at me. According to our records, our combined income for the first year that we were married was... ...well, suffice it to say, embarrassingly low. I don't really need to be posting actual income figures here, at any rate. I know that we are making a lot more money now than we were then, but it was a real eye-opener to have it there in black and white, right in front of my eyes. For the first several years that we were married, if we had applied for welfare or government aid of whatever kind, we would have had absolutely no problem getting it. But, being the proud, enterprising, capitalistic, and hard-working conservatives that we are, we shunned such things, hoping to work through the hard times and improve our life by our own means, rather than accepting hand-outs. Well, there was one exception. We did receive a first-time home buyer's grant.

What does that say about us? What does that say about people who choose differently, and do accept help from the state? I don't think that it says anything about anyone, in and of itself. It means that there are resources available that may not be necessary, but are needed by a lot of folks. Here I am, wearing my alpaca Armani sport coat, feet crossed under my desk, decked out in stingray boots, and there is a pair of Prada sunglasses on top of my head. My Blackberry is sitting on my desk in front of me, and I am in my air-conditioned work office on my lunch break. Do I feel excessively successful? Sure I do. Would I like to be doing better fiscally? You betcha!

When my wife and I were well below the poverty line, did we feel blessed? Absolutely. When we were trying to decide whether we could afford to buy those fancy, portabello mushrooms to put in our ramen noodles instead of the regular white ones, did we feel like God was taking sufficient care of us? Well, our bills were paid, and we had food to eat. We had a house to live in, and two cars. We had a beautiful, healthy, baby boy who was growing like a weed, and we were in love.

What has changed from then till now? I don't worry so much about whether we can get milk for our son this week. I don't think about which overdue bills we need to pay this week, and which will wait until next paycheck. I'm wearing exotic leather, and designer clothing. Fortunately, we've been able to start saving money for future endeavors, i. e. - building a house someday, Christmas budget, the boy's college, retirement, etc.

So, what has stayed the same? I enjoy working hard. I don't take myself out to lunch most days, because I feel like it's a waste of money. I still do all of my own automotive maintenance, because I don't feel like it's a wise use of my resources to pay someone else to do something that I can so easily do. I still love my son, who is not so young and tiny anymore. (I think he's going to outgrow me by several inches, at least, thank you, Lord!) I'm still madly, goofy in love with my wife. And, I still thank God for the prosperity and blessings, same as back then.

I have known many people who will never have the opportunity (yes, OPPORTUNITY) to turn their nose up at welfare, feeling that others could probably use it worse than me. I grew up around kids, whom I'm sure will never have to make the decision between ramen noodles or mac and cheese for dinner tonight. And, I know full well that lots of people will never have to make the critical decisions on which collectors they really need to keep at bay for this pay cycle.

Why is that an opportunity, you might ask. If you are asking that, then you probably would have taken the welfare check. The pioneers to this part of our great country worked from sun up to sun down to feed their kids. They built their houses with only the support of their immediate family, and maybe closest friends, if they were lucky. The harvest moon was called such because it gave farmers the opportunity to work at night, because it provided enough light for them to do so. If I had accepted the hand-0uts that were available to me then, I would not be where I am today.

We do not become truly successful without hardships. As with physical training, if you are going to build muscle, and tone away flab, you will hurt from the work you have to do in order to achieve what you want. I am a pioneer. Sometimes, in today's world, I feel like one of the last pioneers. I want to go places and do things that no other human being has gone or done in the same way.

If you don't want the same results as anyone else, you can't do the same things that anyone else does. "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it." I will submit for your approval, my personal spin on this sentiment: Those who DO remember history have the ability to repeat it. As in, if I want to do what someone else has done, I might consider following the example of how they got there.

Anyway, I've got to get back to work. I want comments though, people. I would love to hear that there are a lot more pioneers out there than I could ever imagine. I would like to hear that my little family is not alone in the world, in this sentiment. If you disagree with me, bring on the flames! But, if you agree, please do tell me so. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

American Excess

This is just disgusting. I may not be able to actually write this one, but I'll certainly try. People cry and moan about rising fuel costs, and continue to buy bigger vehicles (for individual use, I might add), and they will continue to justify it by saying that they cannot achieve comfort in a smaller vehicle. I have a couple of crackpot theories that I'd like to share with you, and a couple of solutions to this problem and others. NOTE: Please pardon my lack of slick HTML'n, but I'm just not gifted with coding. We shall try to address this issue, but just bear with me for the time being.

I'm sure that everyone who reads this is familiar with the concept of "Supply and Demand." It's not such a difficult concept. When there is a finite supply of a commodity, and people consume more of it than they used to, the price goes up. It is a true, proven, fact that vehicles are getting bigger and more fuel hungry. I will use this reference to illustrate this: "article" The bottom line is this: If you people keep on buying cars (trucks) that are gas-gusslers, and keep on driving them many miles per year, the cost of fuel will keep rising. If we could reduce gasoline consumption by 20%, as per CAFE standards (click here) of the EPA, we could operate on domestic oil only, and artificially drive down the price of fuel by not consuming expensive, foreign oil. So, according to this, all we have to do is drive smaller, more efficient vehicles in order to pay less for gasoline. And, let's pretend for a minute that everyone is on board with this idea, and we are all striving for more fuel-efficient vehicles, car-pooling, and shorter daily commutes. What we discover is that our savings is disproportionately high in comparison to the difference in our actual fuel consumption. That's because the demand has gone down, oil importation has gone down, and gas is cheaper. Now, I understand that some people need to drive a truck to support their livelihood. Work trucks should not be included in this equation, if there is no way to avoid driving a truck. As to many others, "But, I just can't get comfortable in a small car," you say...

Next, I will submit for your approval, my crackpot theory that links car sales with fitness. People can't get comfortable in a little car because they are fat. Ideal BMI (Body Mass Index) for an adult is between 18.5 and 24.9 (see how fat you should be), versus the national average in the US of 26+ (see how fat people actully are). Apparently, 63% of Americans are overweight with a BMI of 25+, and 31% are technically obese with a BMI in excess of 30 (click here, if you want to. You know you want to, you dirty freak!). I mean, holy crap! No wonder we can't drive little cars! Our big, fat butts won't fit in the little seats! Ouch! That kind of stings! According to the data on that last link, this is a rapidly increasing problem (seems to be proportional to the number of larger-car sales). I actually looked up my ideal BMI at this website: see how fat you are, and it turns out that I am in fact 3-lbs overweight. Most people that I know thinks I'm really skinny. What does that say about them?

Now, the next question is this: Why are we getting fatter as a society? Could it be because of the lack of exercise, or the unrealistic proportions of our food? When was the last time you went into a restaurant and bought a human-sized meal? If there was too much food, did you still eat it all? How many hours a week do you spend sleeping, sitting at a desk, or watching TV? By comparison, how many hours did you spend exercising? There's nothing wrong with going for a bike ride, swim, walk, etc. Or is it because of the quality of food? In a two-income household, it's usually just easier to warm up some frozen dinners or hit McD's instead of cooking food made from ingredients. Please pause to reflect on that last sentence for a moment.
In fact, I believe that it's all of these things.

Now, for my crackpot twist. I think that the terrorists hate us to the degree that they do because of our gross excess. Sure, they may dislike us because we're a predominantly Christian country, and we control such a huge chunk of the world's wealth. But to wave it in their faces with our gigantic portions of food which we store on our thighs and guts, and then accommodate by getting larger, less efficient vehicles, out of convenience, and let's face it, laziness; I believe that this is what infuriates them. Well, that and our ridiculous "celebrities."

Now for my unprecedented solution: Let's gather up everyone who drives a long commute solo, in a large vehicle, because they think it's "cool," or it makes them feel "safe." I'm not even going to go into the fact that they are deliberately sacrificing the safety of others for their false sense of security. We're gathering these people up, so it's not really an issue anymore. Along with these people, let's bring in Paris Hilton, Kato Kaelin, and everyone else who is famous for no apparent reason, or by no talent of their own. Let's take this group of people and send them to the terrorists. Come on! They are the reason that we are getting bugged by these terrorists! Let's give them what they want! It will reduce the cost of fuel by taking so many inefficient vehicles off the road, inspire domestic economic growth by lowering the price of fuel, reduce the cost of health care, by taking the obesity load off of the medical industy, and make it safer to be an American!

And then, for the second wave in my attack on terrorism: If the above method proves to not work on the terrorists, let's gather up all the Bush-haters who want to pull our troops out, and give them what they want. Let's bring all the U. S. troops home, and replace them with the liberals. That way, they can go on some kind of creepy "Love Campaign" against the terrorists and see how well that works. Then, we'll be able to do away with excessive welfare, and avoid becoming a communist country, effectively control our borders, and continue in our war on terrorism. Besides that, those guys are practically volunteering for a job like this. It's not that I want to see them slaughtered. Quite the contrary, I will wish them the best of luck! If they make friends with the terrorists, and come back safely, I will tip my hat to them and regard their crackpot theories a little more closely.

You know, I should probably expound on that last paragraph. This has been one rant that has just drifted into another one completely. Maybe that can be my next blog entry...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Socialist Healthcare

You know, I have been thinking about this whole S-CHIPS deal. I think it's a really good idea, and I'll tell you why. If they passed the expansion on it, it would do three great things.
1) Children who are not covered by government-funded health care, because their parents make enough money to pay for insurance, or medical care out of pocket will be able to get government-funded healthcare.
2) Taxes would increase dramatically. We all like paying taxes, don't we? Yay!
3) It would provide a "foot in the door" towards "Universal," or "Socialized," or as I like to call it, Socialist Health Care.
I'm all about supporting children. There are a lot of good programs out there for poor people. Someone who does not make enough money to support their child-spouting loins has every opportunity in this country to get free housing, free groceries, and free medical care. This is a good thing, apparently. In fact, the more kids an unwed mother can squeeze out, the more money she'll get. I like to call this "Urban Entrepreneurship." In fact, there are a lot of people who most of us would consider well-to-do, that can't afford health care for their kids, because of the three Lexuses in the garage next to the boat, the big-screen plasma, the 4,000-sq ft house, and all the other toys that they have to buy. If the expansion to S-CHIPS would pass, despite the best efforts of that eeeeeeevvvvvvviiiiiiiilllllll G. W. B., some of these Lexus-SUV-driving, heated-pool-swimming, Summer-lake-cabin-owning, "poor" people could have the comfort and convenience of knowing that their little private-school-attending, latest-video-game-playing brats would have the best medical care that the government has to offer.
If I'm not mistaken, the initial proposal is that the expansion to S-CHIPS could be funded out of raised taxes on tobacco. This is a really good idea. I, as a recreational tobacco user would love to pay more money for my tobacco. I do see one tiny little problem, though. I, like many other smokers, might be tempted to quit smoking for two reasons. Firstly, I might decide that it's not worth paying extra money for my cigs so that these "poor" people don't have to directly pay for doctor visits and meds for their "underprivileged" children. Secondly, it's pretty clear that smoking will be illegal eventually. The laws on tobacco use have been getting more and more strict, starting at the West Coast and spreading Eastward, like some pompous, self-righteous, health-bred, propaganda-fed epidemic. At this point, it is illegal for an individual to smoke in his own apartment in some areas of California. Even here in Oklahoma, where we are more laid-back about such things, most restaurants are strictly smoke-free, or "Breath Easy." Honestly, that sounds like a plays that sells oral favors, doesn't it? What I'm getting to here is that the tobacco tax money will inevitably run out when (not if) the sales of tobacco stop. The tax money will have to be replaced elsewhere. It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out.
The third, and probably the best reason that this is a great idea, is that it will be a foothold for the democrats to institute true, Socialist Health Care ala Canada or Cuba. This will be wonderful! Just imagine each trip to the doctor having all the comfort and convenience of a trip to the post office or DMV! Instead of the nice little receptionist having you sign in to see the doctor and verify your insurance information, you'll have to yell at the bitch behind the counter after you stand in line for two hours. There will be a six-week wait on all routine check-ups, and your doctor will have NO bedside manner. Yes, indeed; if there's anything that our medical industry needs, it's a touch of government charm.
Now, don't get me wrong. There are definitely some improvements to be made between health insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals. That being said, the government has as much business in medicine as it does in religion. Our medical industry is actually pretty good when you compare it against countries with Socialist Health Care. If we only applied and enforced some of the laws that we already have against monopolies, trusts, and price-gouging, it would be a nice system. Much like illegal immigration, but that's another can of worms altogether! Let the flames begin!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jenni's Granddad

Nine years ago, when I met Jenni's family, if someone had told me how upsetting it would be to lose her Granddad, I would have not believed them. But, as it turns out, it was quite an emotional experience. He was an extraordinary gentleman.
Granddad accepted me as part of the family far earlier than anyone else in Jenni's family, save perhaps his wife, Nana. In fact, there are other members of her family whom I still don't believe consider me to be part of the family yet. When we told Nana and Granddad that we were getting married, he seemed particularly pleased by the idea that I was a permanent fixture. He was never scared to crack a joke to me, or to tell me what he was thinking at any given time.
I have never been tempted to call them anything but "Nana and Granddad." That's how welcoming these two have been to me. In a lot of ways, Granddad reminded me of my own Grandpa, who died well over ten years ago. They were both conglomerates of the archetypal cowboy movie hero. Granted, they were very different people, but it was like they represented different aspects of this ideal personality.
I have to imagine that at this point, they are riding around together in the old pickup truck in heaven, looking for a new place to shoot their guns for a while. Granddad has his sharp-shooter rifle, and Grandpa has his gunslinger revolvers. They're telling each other dirty jokes and waiting for the rest of us. They'll be there when I get there, ready to show me the best places to shoot.
Then again, it's difficult to put one's mind around the idea of the lack of a time line. Since in this world, we are completely bound by our one-way time line, knowing nothing but the past as fact, since we cannot even truly perceive the present except technically through memory, it is extremely difficult to imagine not being bound to a time line. I believe that our heavenly lifetime has no beginning and no end, and the passage of time does not exist. We have a start and a finish in this world, but when we get there, so will everyone else that winds up there, even at the same time. So, by that rational, although we are missing them, they don't miss us because they have never been separated from us. When we get to heaven, we will have always been there, and always will be.
On his death bed, Granddad called me by name and said, "I love you, Michael."
I was really tempted to say, "I know," because as long as I knew him, I never had any doubt. I don't know whether it was because he knew from the start that I would do everything I could to take care of his granddaughter, or if it was because I reminded him of himself in some way, or something else completely, or a combination of all aforementioned thoughts. I suppose that I really will know someday, but the knowledge that I have is that this man was overflowing with love, and I was in his circle.
Granddad was always the one with the witty one-liner. With the exception of his love of people, the only thing that he appreciated as much as pulling the joke, was having the joke pulled on him.
When Jenni and I had gone to her family reunion, we met Nana and Granddad at one location and proceeded to the site of the reunion. Granddad rode with us to provide navigation. We were traveling down a road at about 35 miles per hour when Granddad quietly said to turn right here. "Here at this street?" I clarified, as we were on top of the right turn already. When he answered yes, I slung our tight-suspensioned import car around the hard corner.
Not missing a beat, with quiet laughter in his voice, "Well," Granddad said, "I was going to tell you that you could take the next right, because it goes to the same place."
He tried to pull a fast one on me, but my reaction was "if you tell me to turn right, I'm going to turn right!" The intent of the joke was that I would miss my turn, but there was a convenient alternative. He didn't even take into account that I might not miss the turn anyway, and he liked the irony of the situation.
He was one of the most positive people that I have ever known. Even when he was staring death in the eyes, he was always pleased to see his family, and always quick to share his wit. Even in the last few days, when asked how he felt, the standard response was "pretty good," or "not too bad," although all of us knew that the three stress fractures in his spinal column and the cancer in many major organs belied his positivity. But, I don't think that he was telling sweet lies, either. I believe that he was just that optimistic. I think that to him, it could always be worse, so that meant that he was feeling pretty good.
In the last week, his wit was very alive, as he didn't miss an opportunity to crack a joke. He asked me how I was, and when I told him that I was pretty good, he said that I might be good, but he disagreed with the "pretty" part. He just didn't think that I was very pretty. And, that was Granddad. He was the unapologetic smart-alec, and he reveled in it. Still, he would not do anything to hurt anyone's feelings, and wanted to show nothing short of reverent respect to all other people.
Yes, he will be missed. But, he doesn't miss us because we are already there as far as he's concerned. I'm proud to have him go before me, because I hope that people have at least half the nice things to say about me, and half the wonderful memories of me, as they do of him. Each of us only gets one go at this life, and he did a heck of a job at his.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Testing, 1, 2... Is this thing on? OK. I don't really know what to write just at this moment, but I've been meaning to set this thing up for quite some time. Just keep looking here, because once I get wound up about something, I'll really unload. There have been plenty of times that I have wished that I could just sit down and share my most hideous thoughts and feelings with countless anonymous strangers. Well, I suppose this thing keeps a count, so that's not quite accurate. Oh, well. The point is, I should have some thoughts to share, and I hope that you will let me share them with you. Sometimes, things will be fluffy, and other times harsh. Stay tuned and I'll bare it all!