Friday, May 28, 2010

Ain't Missin' Not a Single Thing

The air conditioner is on.

I've mentioned I live in Minnesota, and that I like winter. We had a bit of unseasonably warm weather here, and we turned the air conditioner on at home. It's not set real low, just cool enough that you don't sweat when you're inside.

It is on at the office, too. That one is set rather low. But it was so warm on Monday that by late afternoon, the office air conditioners couldn't keep the building cool anymore, and it warmed right up to 80.

However, I notice that all the men in the office still dress in slacks, and most of them still wear long sleeved shirts. Since the weather turned warmer, I've noticed the women have changed their dress style.

Then complain that they are cold.

I'm in favor of a comfortable workspace; if you dress appropriately, it is comfortable. Other than Monday afternoon, it's been a pretty predictable 69 degrees at work, which is fine for long pants (or a long skirt) and long sleeves. Yes, I know it's between 85-90 degrees outside.

But we don't work outside.

My wife said it best. "I can dress to be comfortable for my five minute walk from the office to the car, or I can dress to be comfortable for the nine hours I'm in the building."

I don't think I've ever been happier to have married a rational person.

Until another time,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hear Every Thought, See Every Dream

For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice.
- John Burroughs

I have been married for thirteen years, today.

Anyone who tells you marriage is easy is either lying, or not trying. Don't get me wrong: it's been an enjoyable thirteen years. I wouldn't trade the time, or the person with whom I spent the time, for anything. However, there is no bargaining, haggling, or short-changing; the price to be paid is exactly as posted, due upon reciept, and payable until death-do-you-part.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and try an analogy: keeping a marriage happy is like keeping a cabin warm.

You need to burn wood to keep your cabin warm. In order to have wood, you have to collect it, or purchase it, or chop it yourself (usually a combination of all three). All of these things take time and/or money, and you need to have fuel, or your cabin gets cold.

Gathering wood takes time, and is pretty easy, but doesn't really provide good wood for heating. It's usually pretty small pieces, good for starting fires, but not much for maintaining them (enough symbolism?).

Purchasing wood is always an option, but if you only do this, you'll never learn how to chop it yourself. Whenver your woodpile gets low, you'll find yourself buying more wood, and there will come a day when there is not really enough money to buy more wood, and ... I'm just going to leave it at that.

Chopping wood yourself is hard work, but I feel it is the most rewarding. You can see the woodpile grow as you split the logs and stack them up. When you take the wood off the pile to burn it later, you might remember a particular log that was knotty and bound up your blade, but once you got through it, you felt accomplished. You might find yourself obliged to cover the woodpile with a tarp in bad weather, because you don't want to see something you worked so hard to create damaged in any way.

I admit there have been times I have let my woodpile get low. I've burned my hand trying to use gathered wood that was too small for the fire. I have had to work hard to coax flames from wood that was left out in the rain. I've wrangled with a lot of knotty oak.

Thank you, my wife, my friend, for tolerating my irregular wood-chopping, my poor stacking skills, and my occasional frustration at a tough chop.

Thank you for trusting me, that I want the warm cabin, and am willing to work, sacrifice, be patient, and love.

Until another time,

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Take Their Word For It

I have a terrible sense of smell.

I didn't really figure it out how bad it was until I was in college. There was a rendering plant near college, and sometimes, when the wind was just right (or wrong), the entire campus smelled like dog me. To others, it was retch-inducing. I started wondering why it didn't bother me so much, and eventually I figured out that I just didn't have a very sensitive sniffer.

Now, I like to know my boundaries and limits, so a friend of mine and I sat down, and we really analyzed how my nose treats smells. Granted, I have no basis for comparison, but we both tried to be as objective as possible. We came to the following conclusions:

1. I can smell things.
2. My nose (sense of smell) tires easily.
3. I have smell-memories.

The first one isn't that big a deal. The second one is interesting; I usually only smell things for one breath. You know how when you rub your fingertip on a piece of fabric, back and forth, until you lose sensation in the skin on your fingertip? It's like that. I can smell; then, I can't. So, we called that, "tiring".

As for the third one, I have memories that are related to smells. I can recall smelling things while doing something. I even recognize smells (usually, strong smells: skunk, roof tar, natural gas, etc.).

Now, this might not sound too bad. I mean, I've got two children that both went through diapers. Guess which parent got the stinky ones, and guess who emptied the diaper pail? Even now that they are older, I do the garbage. I get the stinky rotten food out of the back of the refrigerator. It doesn't bother me, we all just do the jobs we're best suited for.

One thing does make me wonder though. You see, not having a good sense of smell lends itself to not having a good sense of taste.

I can taste sweet, and salt, and spicy. Bitter doesn't really register (grapefruit juice is like a 'dry' orange juice to me), and sour isn't really there, either. I like a curiously strong mint. But I don't pick foods by flavor, usually, I really pick much of what I eat by texture, or how much fun it is to eat.

Now, I started talking to my mom about this, and she mentioned that my uncle (her brother) had a tasting issue also. He went and had some surgery on his nasal cavity, and voila! He can taste his food! I believe his exact quote was, "I'm going to weight 800 pounds!"

So, right now, I eat just about anything. I try to do so in moderation, or eat things that I know are good for me. I'm worried about looking into this surgery, 'cause I'm afraid I won't like some foods that are "fun" to eat, like hot wings, or spicy asian stir-fry, or grapefruit juice.

On the other hand, people tell me the difference between a still-warm, freshly-baked cookie and a cookie from the jar is amazing.

Until another time,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Something the Prince Never Knew

My daughter dances.

Let me rephrase that. My daughter is in a dance class. She does whatever the instructor does. But, you have to start somewhere. She's only four years old; expectations must be kept reasonable.

Some time ago, the instructor sent home a sheet with her that announced there would be a Daddy-Daughter dance number in the recital. My child said would you, I said of course I would, and so she and I started going to extra practice nights for this dance.

Now, the choreographer printed off sheets of dance steps for the dads to learn their dance from, in addition to us walking through/dancing them during our rehearsals. I really enjoyed the rehearsals, and we would practice it at home with the sheet. Over, and over, and over again, like good dance students, until we could do it without the sheet.

Recital weekend came. In fact, it was just this past weekend. The regular students (like my daughter) were scheduled to perform in two different recitals. Hers happened to fall on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening.

The first item on the Saturday program was the Daddy-Daughter dance. I knew my part (admittedly, it was only one verse and one chorus), and she did her part with minimal cues from me. Afterward, I took my seat, and she went back to the dressing rooms.

For the rest of the show, I watched each class perform two routines (tap/jazz and ballet), with the  "competition" teams each doing three. For the younger girls' numbers, the instructors stood in the wings and demonstrated the dances there, and the girls would look over if (when) they forget what came next. My daughter spent a good deal of time looking at the wings to figure out her next move during her dances (she is in the youngest class, most of her class did this).

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't know a whole lot about what makes a dance "good". I know it's athletic, I know it's rhythmic, and I know there are certain postures/poses to be held/struck. I don't know what posture/pose fits any given dance type, or what makes one dance better than another.

What I do know, is fun. I recognize fun, I pursue fun, I create fun...if anyone could be called an expert on fun, it'd be me.

I realized there were some girls dancing, who were not having fun. I am not sure why they were there, but it was obvious they were not there for fun. I also saw other girls who were having so much fun, it oozed from them. It was infectious! Once I noticed this, in each dance I saw, I sought the dancer(s) who danced with joy.

Like I said, I can't talk much about good dancing...but those girls having fun convinced me: their dancing was "good", and they were loving every second of it.

By the time the Sunday show came, and I got on stage for the Daddy-Daughter number, I had decided I was not going to think about the steps. I was going to have fun, and everyone that watched us would see that I could not imagine anything more fun than dancing with my little girl. So I smiled at her as the curtain opened, and we danced as if no one was watching.

And I hope to have the opportunity to do it again.

Until another time,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Some Days It Don't Come At All

I've made no promises, but I've tried to come up with posts two times a week.

An amusing anecdote, something that happened that triggered a chain of thoughts, a stand on a current event. Nothing has happened lately that I have wanted to write about, or I thought worth writing about; which is roughly the same thing.

I like music, all kinds of music. I don't typically care for cry-in-your-beer country music or curse-every-other-word rap, but every once in a while, one sneaks up on me. It hasn't happened lately, or I might have written about it.

Anyhow, kudos to you, if you know what Grammy-winning song this post's title is from, without looking it up. It pretty accurately describes how my creative juices have been (not the whole song, just that one line, taken out of context).

Until another time,

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Female of the Species is More Deadly

I mentioned that I was buying a new car. I have now done so, and am the proud owner of a silver 2010 Volkswagon Jetta TDI (with 6-speed manual transmission).

I traded in my blue 1997 Saturn SL1, who, unknown to my children, had been given the name Stacy shortly after I had made the purchase (before they were born). My son said, "Your car was a GIRL?" and I said, "Yes," and that was the end of it.

This got me thinking about gender conventions in language. I took German for several years in high school, and another term or two of it in college. At one point, I had a reasonable grasp of the language. There were a few things that were difficult for me; one of those was gender of inanimate objects.

I'd been thinking about naming the Jetta, and I'd only been thinking of traditionally feminine names. That got me thinking, "Why does my car have to be a girl?" which got me thinking, "Why are all ships/boats girls?" Supposing that it was a holdover from older languages, I looked up German, French, and Spanish translations of "the boat", "the ship", "the auto", and "the car" (mainly, because I know the genders of "the" in those languages).

It was a dead end. In German, they are all neuter (das),  the Spanish made everything male (el), and the French only had "car" as feminine (la).

So, with my BS detector firmly in hand, I ventured out onto the Internet to ask my question, "Why are ships/boats/cars all feminine?"

Some guessed what I had, it was from when all nouns had gender in language, and the boats (and by corollary, automobiles) had been feminine (maybe in Latin/Greek?). Having already explored much of this, I clicked the next link.

Another posited that in ancient times, ships were consecrated to goddesses, so they were referred to as feminine. That didn't sit well with me, since the medieval period was extremely good at wiping out all non-Christian references to the past. Next link, please.

There was a page that suggested that since these kinds of machines were temperamental, they were similar to women, so they were "she." If this were the case, then by extension, computers would always be female. Since they are not, I moved to the next link.

I was directed to the personal blog of a sailor in the US Navy (red flag #1), who claimed that a superior officer had given a brief (red flag #2) speech on exactly this topic (red flag #3), and he would relate the bullet points in his post. Many were rehashes of what I saw elsewhere, a few were funny (which was the only reason I kept reading), and near the end, there was one point that was "probable."

The probable source (and I'm going with this until proved otherwise) is that sailors knew that the sea was a dangerous place. You were not going to survive long in it without aid, much like a baby or child. So, they referred to the ship as "mother," and eventually that changed to just "she." However, this did not change the fact that a woman was bad luck to have on a ship. I'm not sure about the source of that, but I can imagine that in a place where everyone has a job to do to keep them afloat (on a ship), "distraction" would be bad.

The funny part was "It's not the initial investment, it's the upkeep."

Until another time,

Monday, May 3, 2010

Not Like the Brazen Giant

Sorry I'm really late with this, but reading immigration text makes me dizzy (from all the "spin") and it is also very boring. If you don't know why I'm reading (and writing) about immigration, you're reading the wrong blog; I'm not news, I'm commentary.

Several states have tried immigration laws in the past, but a landmark Supreme Court decision dating from 1849 has determined that immigration is "foreign commerce," which is spelled out in the Constitution as business reserved for Congress, not individual states. This is probably sufficient grounds to overturn it, in time.

To the best of my knowledge, the first Federal immigration law in the United States was passed in May of 1882. For a relative timeline, that's less than 100 years after the ratification of the Constitution, 17 years after the abolition of slavery, and about 38 years prior to the founding of the ACLU. It was a law that prevented immigration from China, canceling a 14-year old treaty with China that had been amended just two years prior.

This law (the Chinese Exclusion Act), started a period of about 40 years of immigration laws creating various exclusions from various countries, followed by 20 more years of bureaucratic maneuvering, which brings us into World War II, where Japanese-Americans were interred in "relocation" camps, because of fears that they were still loyal to Japan (hey, I know it's not related to immigration, but I felt that as long as I was showcasing xenophobia, I thought it met the criteria).

At this same time (1943), the drain on labor caused by the war gave way to the "Bracero Program," which was a guest-worker program that the Mexican and United States government agreed on, to funnel workers from Mexico to work on farms and the railroad. The official end to the program was in 1964, but it was during this time that the groundwork was laid for future "undocumented workers."

Now we finally get to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and four more years of qualifying legislation, to close any gaping holes (for those of you keeping score at home, that's about 100 years after slavery was abolished).

The Hart-Cellar Immigration and Nationality Act was passed into law during this time, in 1965. It got rid of all the immigration exclusion laws that were based on nationality and gender, and introduced laws based on family unity, refugee status, and "needed skills." It set the visa quota at 300,000 per year, 170,000 of which could be from the Eastern Hemisphere, and no more than 20,000 from any single country (but unlimited for family reunification).

300,000 per year. In 1965. Back when the world population was estimated to be about 3.3 billion. It's double that, now. Assuming that interest in immigrating to the United States has remained a constant percent starting at 300,000 that first year (we've hit the quota every year, I can't find anything to the contrary), we've got a backlog of visa applications that would amount to a minimum of 6.9 million (assuming a linear progression) applications...which would take 23 years to work through...if we didn't get any additional applications.

They are already here. Many of them hold jobs. Yes, they need medical care; yes, they need education (English, written and spoken). Probably in that order.

Blanket legislation targeting an entire population because of a few bad apples has never gotten us anywhere, and it won't get us anywhere now. So what can be done?

Deportation? Attempting to send just over 11 million illegal aliens back to their country of origin would be a task of Herculean proportions (the illegal immigrant rate from 2000-2008 was approximately 1,250 per day). Supposing the process was streamlined so that you could arrest and deport 3880 persons a year for immigration violations (the regular arrest rate in the US is about 38,800 per day, so a 10% increase), it'd take about 11.5 years to arrest them all, assuming nothing else changed. Cost? It'd be 10% of whatever the current expenditure on law enforcement is, plus transportation, less fines collected. Personally, I believe that since the time taken to remove them all is so spread out, the impact to the economy of removing some 8 million workers would be somewhat mitigated.

Amnesty? This is a solution I could get behind, if there were some kind of penalty (monetary, not incarceration) before enactment. The problems with this solution, I think, are a little less severe than the deportation solution, but the future ramifications are potentially worse ("Hey, I broke a law, and got forgiven! I wonder if I can do it again..."). I don't think the tax revenue streams would increase by much, but I'm not certain how usage of low-income supplemental programs would change. I think it would be a generation before the impact of this was truly felt.

Ultimately, it will be some suits in Washington who will decide, after all the soundbites and posturing is done. It's not up to a statue on an island; she made her statement 124 years ago.

Until another time,