27 March 2010

Hitting the Nail on the Head

Sometimes you read something and it resonates so true with you that you have to stop for a minute and revel in the simplicity of someone who just gets it right.

Today, I found just such an example over on Huff Post.

The Tea Party mantra of "Take back our country!" is racism cloaked in patriotism by people who can't compete, can't adapt, and no longer have the protection and security of simply being white. This is even more prevalent in the South. Their fear the world is leaving without them, their fear the federal government won't favor them and the state government doesn't have the authority, their fear the ones they have for so long been able to oppress and keep in their place are no longer willing to stay there and are therefore gaining more power, and their lack of control over these changes around them is what is driving this movement. They can call it whatever they want, justify it in whatever way helps them sleep at night, but I see the truth and it disgusts me.
Good job and good writing, Melissa.

Old Favorites

This is my all-time favorite picture of Jake.

It was taken in my mother's back yard shortly after I joined her and Jake for a year-and-a-half stint of divorce healing, undergraduate work, and getting my life back in order. When I tell you he used to sit in the yard and look proud, this is the look I'm talking about. Interestingly enough, it is also:

1) the first picture I ever took of Jake.
2) the first digital picture I ever took.
3) taken with a rinky-dink digital camera I got free for signing up for dial-up internet with Earthlink.

This is my second favorite picture of Jake.

And this is my all-time favorite picture of Nevada.

This is all.

26 March 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

So tonight was the premiere of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. I really enjoyed the two episodes they put on. My sister called me this evening and reminded me to watch because, apparently, we had a relative interviewed for the program. She called my Gram to find out the person's name that we were related to and the nature of our relation. Turns out, it was the DJ who gives Jamie such a hard time during the first episode and the fellow is my Dad's first cousin. I believe Jamie calls the guy a bastard. I have to agree. Relative or no. He was a jackass to Jamie.

Now, I will admit that radio personalities often try to stir shit wherever they can, and this guy was stirring the "hillbilly" pot if ever I saw it, and had an "outsider" on whom to project every perceived slight and for that I think the DJ is wrong.

Yes, people in West Virginia are the butt of jokes. Yes, the people of West Virginia have some obstacles to overcome (poverty, poor education, lack of economic opportunity, and a dysfunctional culture that is stuck in a self-perpetuating circuit). BUT, in many ways the people of that region (and I can speak to this from first hand experience because this is where I grew up) have only themselves to blame. Oh, don't get me wrong. I love the region. I love the people. I loved going to university in Huntington. But honestly, some of the folks from home actually take pride in their backwoods obstinacy and ignorance. They confuse a lack of worldliness with a pride of place. They reject change of any sort. They take pride in traditional ways, even if it is counter-productive. These are the people that I have written about many times before who are proud of "never having left the state" or of living next door to mom and dad, gramma and grampa, auntie and uncle, and cousin Beuford and Buelah. But when someone comes and shows you your own reflection in the mirror, you can't cry foul. You can't play the "Appalachian card" just because someone tells the naked truth about you. And it wasn't a truth about that region in particular. It was a truth about America.

We are a nation of fat asses.

I will watch more of these shows.

21 March 2010

In Search of Good News

Yesterday was a wash, what with my internet security software attacking the very computer it was supposed to protect. In a nutshell, the folks at BitDefender made me regret my 3-year licensing agreement when they released an untested update that quarantined every single file in the operating system. For every single user of their software. Every. Single. User. After that bit of fun, it started systematically quarantining program files. Reports had begun trickling in from other unfortunate users who had shut off their computers only to have them unable to reboot. By the time BitDefender had figured out that it was a problem with their own update (a false positive), I had more than 900 Windows files locked up in quarantine. In essence, BitDefender unloaded their own trojan on their customers. Totally bites the big one. Luckily, it only affected one computer (albeit the one I use most), but the one with Windows 7 X 64-bit. Of course, I did have to drive to work to make sure that all hell wasn't breaking loose on my "research computer". So yes, yesterday my panties were in a knot. All I have to say is thank the dieties for the system restore function and startup repair that comes built-in to Windows 7. In the end, BitDefender didn't repair my operating system, Microsoft did. What a bunch of fucktards.

So I was feeling the need for some upbeat news. First on the upbeat news front: spring is here. It's official. My jonquils are in bloom and there was a softball game in the park yesterday.
Today, however, was when the real upbeat news came. I stepped on the scale and realized I am 20 lbs down from my New Year's Resolution/Diet & Fitness Plan. This seems a pretty decent moment to reflect/brag/do the happy dance. So yes, the remainder of this post is about my weight loss.

There seem to be two schools of thought on getting fit. The first is that we measure our progress by weight loss, and the second is that we measure it by lost inches. Of course, I believe we should also throw "improving muscle tone and aerobic capacity" in the mix somewhere, but no one listens to me.As I mentioned above, by weight loss, I'm down 20 lbs. I take my weight in the morning on the same digital scale, which is accurate to 0.2 lbs. I have also taken my weight on digital and balance scales at the rec center, and the results are comparable. I consider the weight loss to be both accurate and precise.
By inches, I'm down as follows:
Neck: -0.5 in
Bicep: -0.75 in
Forearm: -0.75 in
Chest: -2.5 in
Waist: -3 in
Hips: -3.5 in
Thigh: -0.5 in
Calf: -0.75 in
Now keep in mind that the precision or accuracy of measurements that are not stable is impossible to determine, especially since I'm using a measuring tape I got for free, so you have to be pretty loosey-goosey about those readings. Still, I was rather surprised by the hips measurement. I mean, I carry most of my weight higher than my hips. I'm more of an "apple" than a "pear", so to see weight coming off my hips first...well, I was surprised. To give you some perspective, my bust, waist and hips all fall within a 3.25 inches of one another. A rather depressing fact that puts me at a much higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Great, huh? Still, I had expected to see greater weight loss in the bust and waist area. I guess I'll take it wherever it occurs, but that fat tire around my middle sure is being unnecessarily stubborn IMO. I may have to have a talk with it later.

I was also surprised by the size loss in my arms. After all, I'm lifting weights, and pretty intensely at that. When I rotate my forearms now, I can see muscle definition. In addition, I've been eating an extraordinary amount of protein (for me), which I thought would speed up the growth of muscle or at least offer my body the proper nutrients for muscle gain. Since many of my lifting exercises involve my biceps in particular, I didn't expect to see lost inches in that area. However, I can reason that the muscle is there, it is still somewhat hidden under a thick layer of fat. So if I am trading old fat for new muscle tissue, I'm willing to cut myself some slack on the size of my arms. Besides, there is no way around it--they look better.

Now I have blogged on my love/hate relationship with my bust. Let's just say that an ample bosom is a mixed blessing. It's a plus in the dating arena, and a minus if you want to do anything remotely bouncy. Like jump rope. Or exercise. Or get in a mosh pit. Not that I'm hanging out in mosh pits, mind you, but I'm just saying. Oversized breasts are a pain (literally) when trying to exercise--one reason you don't find big busted women taking up jogging. I will spare you all (for the moment) my successes in finding appropriate support garments for the girls that have allowed me to jump, hop, and run with wanton abandon since I began my exercise program. So I am not in the least unhappy with the loss in my bustline.
By some miracle, I remembered to take some pictures for the before-and-after files on my weight loss. However, this one that was taken on Day 1 sucks.

Old camera. Out-of-focus. And Jesus H. Christ. Look at my cheeks!!! I can't believe no one every said anything to me. Although, in their defense, they were probably afraid of upsetting me for setting off a heart attack. And look at me. Wearing a long-sleeve black t-shirt that hides my greatest flaws. Apparently was too depressed to do my hair that day! I think maybe it was my vanity keeping me from picturing reality. So since the Day 1 photo is a total fail, I'm going to use this one as my starting point, because I think it is more appropriately revealing of the challenges I faced in my fitness program.
Ugh. Do I ever hate this photo. I guess that makes it all the more valid. I am shocked at the moment by the fat encompassing my forearms here. My little watch looks like it's straining around my wrist. And don't get me started on the boobage. Hate. Hate. Hate.

So here I am today dressed normally.

And here I am today with something that shows my shape.

And here we have a side-by-side, past and present.

Exhibit #2.

I think my boobage is about 6" higher in the photo on the right.

Exhibit #3.

And while I was tempted to say "before and after" in these comparisons, since I haven't reached my goal that didn't seem appropriate. I have quite a ways to go, but the change in my arms alone is enough to keep me motivated.

Although, I feel quite certain that there will continue to be gratuitous photos of me eating corn dogs in the future. I am looking forward to getting that shot at summer's end for comparison again.

Hope you find a reason to be upbeat today, too.

19 March 2010

An Empty House

It's too quiet around here. I try to knock around the house and revel in my newfound freedom and act like all is as it should be, but it's too quiet. I miss Jake. I really do. He was such a good dog except for the thunder fear, but there was little that could be done about that. Other than that one thing (and sure, maybe it wasn't a LITTLE thing), but other than that, he was a GREAT dog. And I miss Nevada. She was my little maestro. Always instigating and never taking the blame. If ever there was a mastermind, it was Nevada. A matriarch, that one was. And for the first time in many, many years, I finally realize that I miss Dakota. Hardly anyone I know now knew Dakota then, but I will simply say that Dakota was better than Nevada, Jake and Jack combined. And perhaps because this is the first time that I have been dogless in 23 years, I finally have time to mourn for my Dakota. First there was Dakota. Then Dakota and Nevada. Then just Nevada. Then Nevada and Jake. Then just Jake. And now there is just me. And it's just too quiet around here.

So I'm starting to entertain the idea that I will get a dog eventually. I mean, how can I not? I am a dog person. The problem is, I keep looking at all these rescue dogs online and I can't figure out what kind of dog to get. So I'm hoping that the people who know me best can help me identify the breed that is right for me.

There is one thing I do know. I can't have another border collie. I don't have the shoulders for it. I threw out both shoulders and earned a pitching injury just getting through two border collies. And these are injuries that don't heal quickly if at all. If I dared to get another border collie, I'm afraid my arms might come unhinged. And don't think this doesn't depress me greatly. Border collies are the most intelligent, fun loving, fantastic companions you could ever hope for. They are healthy, hearty, and ready for action. And they are darn beautiful to look at--Jake notwithstanding. My Dakota was a frisbee dog, and Jake was addicted to tennis ball. Because they are so high energy and DEMAND regular exercise, they always kept me outdoors myself. I liked that. I liked having to get out in the chill of the morning to throw the ball. I liked knowing that as soon as I came home, we'd have a dedicated period of time for "play" every day. It was a great end to my work day and a sort of formal transition to home life. I like that the border collie remains engaged with people. There was no such thing as a couple of pats on the head and then the dog went off to entertain itself. Border collies take the companion part as seriously as the herding part. I liked the level of intelligence. Life with a border collie is a partnership. And since I'm not a person who relaxes by vegetating (I relax by doing stuff), the D-and-border collie matchup was one made in heaven. And despite how much trouble my shoulders give me today, I really did enjoy meeting these dogs exercise needs. I am just unable as yet to determine how to do that without sacrificing my joints in my advancing years. I'd like a dog that gets me outdoors without causing me bodily harm, if that makes sense. Problem is, I don't like just "walking" a dog. A dog that can hike, swim, climb, and play with toys would be more to my liking.

There are a few breeds that are out from the get go. No short, toy, teacup or yippy dogs. No dog that demands daily grooming. No giant dogs (great danes, irish wolfhounds, and the like). No poodles. No labradoodles. In fact, no -oodles of any sort. No German shepherds, aikitas, huskies, or chow-chows. With all due respect to D-friend Bek, no bull dogs and no bull terriers. I am not interested in a fighting dog of any kind. I am not interested in having a dog I have to chain or that people will be afraid of. I like friendly, active dogs that are patient and good with most people, children, and cats. I want a medium size or larger dog that can hike a good 3-5 miles. I need a smart animal. No, not smart. Brilliant. And I want a dog that isn't afraid of trains, gunfire, or thunder.

Do I sound too demanding? It's because I've been spoiled by/learned my lessons from those damn border collies.

My sister has a cocker spaniel that has turned me off this breed forever. My brother has a English setter that is a talented hunting companion, but a rather lackluster companion animal. So unless some breed of spaniel is significantly different than these representatives, spaniels are pretty much meh. Now, my sister-in-law's daughter has a German wire-haired pointer. Lovely animal. Stunning in fact. With a gait that absolutely rocks it. However, it rather ignores anyone but it's own family. I had sort of hoped for a more friendly dog. I also get the sense that they are rather a bunch of dunderheads.

I love the herding group. In fact, all my dogs so far have been pretty straight up herding dogs. Now Nevada was a fantastic dog. Part Australian cattle dog, part Australian shepherd. Australian shepherds are much like border collies (high-energy, high-activity herding dogs), and the purebred Australian cattle dog is a bit nippy and 100% scrappy. It is hard-working and intelligent. However, this mix (sometimes called a Texas heeler) is a wonderful combination. Nevada had an even, sweet disposition and far less demanding exercise requirements. I might consider another Nevada. The only downside to Nevada? She was a bit of a princess and not quite as outdoorsy as I might have liked. Oh, she enjoyed a nice romp in the woods, but I really can't imagine her relishing a 3-day backpacking trip. And heaven forbid if I expected her to carry her own food and water. Oh the inhumanity! That might have just been her personality, because certainly neither of those breeds is known for being rather snobbish or elitist. And both are known for an abundance of enthusiasm and energy, which Nevada basically lacked. These dogs are not generally thought of as beautiful, but I thought Nevada was cute as hell.

My brother once had a terrier mix and while it had a sweet, even temperament, it seemed more at home in the shade beneath the truck than scrambling up some rocky hillside. I've never really heard of anyone having a terrier as a hiking companion. I think they look handsome, but I've never really been around one and don't know a lot about their personalities, their dispositions, or their habits. People who grew up with these breeds think highly of them, but I'm a bit wary. I'd like to try, but I'm afraid of making a mistake and getting something that doesn't fit. I really like the look of a schnauzer. I think Airedales are quite handsome. One that really interests me is the soft-coated Wheaten terrier. This is an all around "benji" looking, floppy-eared dog that seems to be as friendly as I had hoped, tall enough to make it a decent hiking dog, and having some stamina. I worry about what burrs might do to that coat, though. But still, a definite maybe. So I'm not rejecting the terrier group outright (with the few exceptions of the "fighting" terriers).

Another brother had a Labrador retriever. I think they are fine animals. D-friend Liv has a lab-pit bull mix. Tough. Loyal. Affectionate. But for some reason, I don't think the retrievers really fit me. Call it a feeling I get.

I guess the last thing I should mention is that the strength of the dog's personality really doesn't concern me. I seem to be able to establish pack leadership position with any dog I encounter. I wish I could say the same for everyone I know! In any event, I now leave the comment section open for any and all suggestions. Let me know which dog you think fits me best. Defend your choices! I'm happy to consider all breeds and mixes!

13 March 2010

I just don't get these kids today

Ok, so D-fav J is on a rant and decided to pull me into it. I thought I'd take just a moment to defend myself and my original argument.

A. The original intent of my post (as opposed to the letter I actually wrote to the company), was a sort of tongue-in-cheek poke at myself. It's the inevitable dismay at having turned into my mother.

B. I think you have misunderstood the nature of my complaint. In that original letter I wrote to Steep and Cheap, I was pointing out that I don't wish to encounter the word "shit" when I'm trying to shop. The "there are kids reading this" comment was secondary to MY preferences and I felt you sort of focused on that part of my comment when that was just a lazy phrase I threw in. I felt (and still do) that I have every right to express my opinion to companies whose services or products I purchase...whether it be for the manner of their advertising (take Nikon's Negro in the jungle ads, or Steep and Cheap's bomber jacket's da shit ad copy), or the taste of Campbell's soup (too damn salty! already). I feel no differently about this interaction with a corporate entity than I do when I ask Kroger to add a few more organic and green product choices, please. And really, if you had read that particular Daily Dose where he talked about going into a bar and calling some Irish guy a drunk Mic or something, you'd know where I'm coming from.

The "you kids get off my lawn" title was intended as a poke at my advancing age and the stereotype of grumpy ol' Mr. Wilson trying to rid himself of Dennis the Menace (I know, probably an obscure reference for you). But with respect to young people, yeah, I do care when teenagers sling around the f-bombs when families with small children are trying to eat. I do care when some drunk concert-goer screams like a little girl through every fucking song when I paid $60 for a ticket to listen to the performer actually sing it in person. I do care when lifeguards text message on their cell phone when they are supposed to be in charge of saving lives. However, I don't really give a flying rat's ass what the young kids do amongst themselves. They want to call each other "nigga" and I'm supposed to believe it's not racial, so be it. When my nephew posts pictures of himself and his friends on Facebook playing with balloons in the shape of a penis and testicles and act as though they are giving each other blow jobs, I'm not saying a word. Let him realize how embarrassing that's gonna be when he tries to get a real job post-college.

But let's get real here for a minute. You have rigorously defended the younger generation as though they are a generation of polite, smart, civic-minded Kevin Arnolds, and I think you are living in a dream world there. Sure, the younger generation is not racist. I think the younger generation is not racist NOT because they are some greater level of benevolent than previous generations but because their parent's generation purposely raised them not to be racist, in defiance of their (parent's) own upbringing. But overly civic minded? Horse shit! I believe this generation is as apathetic as most other previous generations. I believe your sense of your generation being so proactive is a product of your personal experience (and you hang with a pretty damn upscale crowd), and not indicative of the larger community of young people. Go to a soup kitchen. Or a hospital. Or a reading program. Who do you see volunteering? Who is walking around your neighborhood trying to solicit donations for charity? When I was 37 years old, I began volunteering at the zoo. I was the youngest volunteer in my area by about 25 years. No one is going to come close to approaching the elderly in terms of giving of their time and energy. It takes time to gain the perspective and see the value in "giving back". Young people (as a group) just aren't there yet.

So, while it may not be okay to be openly racist these days, there are plenty of other things that these "kids today" have no problem being pretty darn insensitive about. (Although, I will admit that it is not significantly different that the lack of civility and sensibility that one finds in the public at large---this really doesn't seem to be a product of age.) However, it was YOUR argument that the young people today are so much better than the young people of previous generations.

Case in point. Let's go back to the Steep and Cheap advert about the hat with a zippered pocket for the ski-lift doobage. I heard back from Fred after that post. Here's what he had to say about the rules he had to implement regarding ad copy. And keep in mind, that this is just the bare minimum.
I have made progress on the editorial front by implementing at least the following guidelines and limitations:
  • Absolutely no use of the “f” word in backcountry copy
  • Avoid sensitive issues related to politics and religion
  • Never make fun of a human disease or disability (this was out of control before)
  • Absolutely no hate speech or anything that can be perceived as bigotry
  • Be sensitive to the values of parents
Your concern about the “stoner culture,” as you call it, is also a concern to me. I mean that sincerely.

He actually had to distribute rules that said they would not drop f-bombs or make fun of human disability. Now there's some upscale thinking for ya.

I am not blind, deaf, or an idiot. My nephew uses the term "gay" as a put down. I find it appalling. I have heard him talk to his friends when he thinks he is out of earshot and he calls women "bitches" and "ho's". Cringe City. He takes pictures of he and his friends flipping the photographer the bird. So 1977. And apparently, there is some quality of mouth wide open, tongue hanging out that he finds to be a heart-warming Kodak moment. I take a "I won't ask, please don't tell me" approach.

Do I think that kids enjoy pushing the envelope? Of course. Do I tire of having it thrust upon ME where I find it difficult to avoid? You bet. I find it irritating the same way I find it irritating that blue jeans come in two varieties--elastic waist just beneath my cleavage or producing a muffin top/threatening to show my butt crack every time I bend over. I am 47 years old and I'd like MY preferences to be considered along with those of 12-24 year olds. I'd like Campbell's soup to make a low, LOW sodium soup that I could choke down. I'd like my concerts without the vomit, pot-haze, or screaming ninjas, my swimming pool with an attentive life guard, my shopping experience without the shit-fucking-stoner copy, and I'd like to eat in peace. I realize the value in NOT selling alcohol at venues that attract a lot of people. I don't consider it an inconvenience anymore--I consider it a public service.

As for the young people of this generation, I think they have great potential. I think they have great challenges. I don't think they are substantially different than my generation, my parent's generation, or your generation. They have their own culture and they are welcome to it. But they do have to interact with people of all ages, and that includes customers of their businesses. And if they want to sell to people outside of their generation, they are going to have to consider the sensibilities of people outside their generation. I don't think you call your colleagues "homies". I don't think you call your boss "nigga". I don't think you use the word "shit" in ad copy and I do think it's irresponsible to encourage drug use. Steep and Cheap doesn't want to sell to me. That's their choice. I have every right to open a dialogue about it, to encourage them to see me as more than a cranky old person. Maybe one day, probably when they are 47, they will begin to think of me as a valuable customer. But by then it will be too late. No one will be listening to them either.

10 March 2010

I'd like you to meet my little friend

Meet Chance. My sister's dog. Aging cocker spaniel. Severe seizure disorder. On regular meds for it.

My sister is in Salt Lake this week. Toole to be precise. Chance is in Illinois. With me.

Ok. I'm just going to be frank with you. I have never trusted this dog. And can we talk? My sister has never gone overboard on the discipline thing.

Shall we say this dog rules the roost? He behaves like a cretan? He lacks basic manners? He is picky? He is demanding? He is everything that makes people cringe when they think of dogs.

Amazingly, with looks like that, no one seems to care. I'd like to see Jake getting away with some of the crap this dog pulls.

Just look at him.

He's up to something I tell you.

Notice the beady little eyes. Only a mastermind can pull off that look.

That wet nose is just a diversion to keep you from seeing the true evil lurking beneath. That nose is what allowed him to sniff out the cat or rabbit that he saw and fly out of the yard causing me to be late for an appointment and have to spend a half hour looking for him.

And that was day 1. Now he only goes out on a leash. God, I hate walking a dog on a leash.

Exhibit #2. Floppy ears. Never trust someone with floppy ears.

Oh that face may say "happy go lucky", but trust me, something stinks in Denmark.

Or more appropriately, something stinks in my living room. And it's the pile of crap and three (!!!) places he peed on my carpet last night.

So I got my dinner in the oven at 9:45 last night after pulling out the carpet cleaner and giving half my living room a going over.

Evil, evil dog.