Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Mighty Wind

With all the discussion over the rules regarding The Sporadic Gasbag Roundtable, Admiral Pooper Scooper assuming the position and my steady diet of broccoli and Hoppin' John the subject of Missouri Mud Ducks seems to have taken center stage as a conversation topic. Perhaps it was more than a coincidence that I found this article in the paper the other day.

Gas Normal, Author Says; Often Treatable
Detroit Free Press
Let 'er rip, America; flatulence is exploding. It's in new medical books for millions of people with the problem. It's the not-so-silent theme of a popular series of children's books called "Walter the Farting Dog." And it's the topic of a new Web site ( that encourages open discussion about gas and that is updated monthly with seasonal and sporting event twists.

I was heartened to learn that it is completely normal to fart 10-20 times per day. Once you've read the article you might have some fun with this. My favorite is the plant killer.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Can 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Finally Be Wrong?

Everyone likes to leave their job with a bang. Perhaps the most infamous example is the story of the "vandalism" done to the White House by outgoing Clinton Administration staff including the removal of the W keys from all of the computers. Although most of the accusations weren't true they made for a good story.

When I quit my last job I left a scathing open letter to the head of the organization, complaining about my direct supervisor, on the desktop of my computer. I later heard that she kept my entire workstation in lockdown mode for a week while she went through every file in every folder on every drive in order to purge the computer of evidence. While I never actually sent the letter the desired effect was achieved.

So I was wondering the other day, what sort of odd pleasure outgoing Interior Secretary Gale Norton must be feeling knowing that her swan song is the naming of Graceland as a National Historic Landmark. While Graceland is certainly a popular vacation destination, in terms of histroical significance, it hardly compares with The White House, Mount Vernon or Alcatraz Island.

Don't get me wrong, I like Elvis as much as the next guy. His pre-Army music helped lay the foundation for Rock'n'Roll and his performance of Hound Dog on the Ed Sullivan show in 1956 was legendary. Unfortunately, once he left the Army, he also left behind much of what made him great. His later life devolved into something of a sad cartoon for which Graceland served as a fittingly decadent canvas. A more proper tribute to Elvis and the birth of Rock'n'Roll would be to designate Sun Studio a National Landmark. It is there that history was actually made.

However, now that it's official let me suggest a few more locations for consideration:

* Lake Merwin, Oregon reputed landing site of fugitive D.B. Cooper.

* 7th St. and Nicollet Av. in Mpls, MN. This was the site made famous during the opening credits of the Mary Tyler Moore show. It has since been immortalized in bronze.

* Jellystone National Park, home of Yogi Bear and the place where I fell into a campfire at the age of 4. I still have the scar to prove it.

* The Bermuda Triangle although I'm afraid the sign would likely disappear.

* Lake Wobegon, MN. Where the women are strong, the men are good looking and all the children are above average.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The latest edition to The Sporadic Gasbag Roundtable is by Oneear. He has reviewed (and perhaps misunderstood the quintessential pregnancy book, "What To Expect When You're Expecting". I don't think it was what he expected.

Two Peas In A Pod

Last week I was at the local coffee shop minding my own business eavesdropping on the other patrons when I was drawn to a conversation taking place between two women at a table across the room. I caught bits and pieces...

- "...are you kidding? President Bush..."
- "...the Pope told John Kerry he couldn't..."
- "...Jesus died for us so that we..."

...but not enough to fully satisfy my voyeuristic tendancies. I needed more but I was hesitant to leave my chair. It was really comfortable after all.

Fortuantely for me they moved from their table and settled on the couch directly across from me. As they sat down the louder one politely asked, "Do you mind if we sit here and talk?"
"Not at all" I said, "but don't be surprised if I join your conversation."

I was feeling bold.

Sensing a potential ally the loud one invited me in, "By all means join us. Are you a Republican or a Democrat?"
"That's kind of a personal question when you don't even know my name" I replied.
Backpeddaling, the loud one explained, "I only asked because if you're a Democrat I want you on my side and if you're a Republican she'd want you on her side."

It was at that point I realized that these were not two like-minded souls mulling over the sad/joyous state of affairs. Rather they were polar opposites engaged in the most polite, and yet pointless debate in human history. They screamed stereotype. The loud one (Democrat) was vivacious with big bushy dark hair tousled in a devil-may-care attitude that I'm sure took her hours to perfect. She threw herself on the couch with arms and legs askew, confident in her own self-assuredness. The quite one (Republican) appeared very proper, she wore a modest ski sweater, turtleneck and had impecable posture. And her hair was perfect.

In fact they came across not as mere opposites but characatures, grossly exaggerated for the benefit of the viewing public (Me) so that there would be no confusion as to where they stood. I half expected Jim Lehrer or Charlie Gibson to jump in with a question from the audience or to notify them that their time had expired. These two were polished, determined, and not about to listen to, let alone be swayed by, the other's arguements.

Here is a sample of their exchange.

On The Bible
R: "I have been truly studying the bible for three years, right now I'm reading the Songs of Solomon. What is your favorite book?"
D: "I've read pieces here and there so I've probably read the whole thing by now but I don't have a favorite book. Besides There are so many flaws in the Bible and so many other sacred texts that I don't feel the need to be limited by just one."

On Self-Actualization
R: "I was raised in a Catholic family but we didn't go to church a lot. Then, three years ago I was born again and my life was changed. Now I live every day for the glory of God and I strive to live his Word. I go to church regularly and I'm in a study group as well. Next month we are going on a mission to Africa."
D: "I've been in therapy for years."

On God
R: "God is loving, righteous and just. He wants the best for us and only asks that we worship him by living his commandments."
D: "I think your God need lots of therapy."
R: "I won't tell him you said that."

On Spiritual Education
R: "My bible study group meets once a week. I also spend time discussing my faith with my husband and I meet regularly with our pastor."
D: "Have you read The DaVinci Code? It is the most enlightening book ever and it reveals all of the secrets the church has kept hidden in order to oppress women. I'll borrow (sic) it to you along with four other supporting books."

On Seeking Support
R: "You should meet our Women's Pastor, you would really like her."
D: "Why do you need a Women's Pastor? Can't you talk to a man?"
R: "I really appreciate having a Women's Pastor at my church. I wouldn't feel comfortable telling Pastor Bill that I am having trouble climaxing, for example." (I resisted the temptation to tell her that I could help her with that problem.)
D: "Don't you understand that the institutional sexism in our society is telling you that you shouldn't feel comfortable talking to men."

It was perhaps the most entertaining 30 minutes of my week.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


...our newest nephew, Hank David Detlie. Born March 22nd, 2006.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Birds Of A Feather

Tonight I read this really fascinating article in the City Pages, our local alternative weekly, about the potential bird flu pandemic. The article consists of an interview with Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease. He is widely considered one of the foremost experts on Infectious Disease around the world.

His essential premise is that the H5N1 virus that first appeared in Hong Kong in 1997 is a "kissing cousin" of the 1918 virus that killed 5% of those it infected. The genetic make-up is remarkably similar and the fact that both seem to have passed directly from birds to humans makes them different from the viruses that struck in 1957 and 1968. Unlike the 1918 virus, this one has killed nearly 55% of those infected. That is what makes it so dangerous.

He goes on to explain how this flu pandemic, if it even materializes, will spread much more quickly than most people realize and the we (the entire world) are woefully unprepared. He states that not only is a potential vaccine years away, but the entire heath care infrastructure would collapse under the weight of the overwhelming demand for just-in-time supplies. The devastating way in which hurricane Katrina separated people from adequate heath care, establishing evacuation as the only response, would be repeated in cities all across the country.

The good news? He feels the H5N1 is not likely to have a major impact in this country largely due to factory farms. He explains it this way:

CP: Do you think the rise of poultry farms of vast scale has contributed to the viral soup that influenza viruses grow in?

Osterholm: Not really, and I'll tell you why. When you look at the rise of the really big bird operations, they are actually raised in these bio-security barns, which people have all kinds of problems with for entirely different reasons-humaneness and that kind of thing. They actually are very safe, generally speaking, because they keep the wild birds and the domestic birds separate. It's in Asia where you have all these small 20-, 40-, 50-chicken operations where the birds are living in open space with you-that's where the vast majority of the chicken population is at in the developing world. A good example is Turkey, where we're seeing the first cases outside of Asia now. This is taking the virus out of a tropical area and putting it in a temperate area that gets cold. Every night, those people bring their chickens into the house. It's just a very different mindset. And for as much as this is going to come here someday, [bird-to-human transmission] is not going to be a big risk factor to humans on this continent, because other than free-ranging organic birds that are out there, domestic birds aren't going to be at big risk.
The bottom line is that just like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, pandemic influenza happens. Whether this will be the one is impossible to predict. Read the whole article here.

No Accounting For Taste -Updated-

When it comes to food I'm willing to try almost anything once. So after reading Atilla The Mom's post on Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans I had to try them.

I've never been afraid to experiment with unusual flavor combinations. Yesterday I stopped at my favorite ice cream shop and had a cone of Guinness ice cream. It wasn't as good as I'd hoped but it wasn't terrible either. I tried the Salted Caramel and the Italian Strawberry made with balsamic vinegar but my favorite is still the the Roasted Garlic and Almond Chip ice cream. For someone who loves garlic it was a real treat. I also have a wonderful recipe for Garlic Chocolate Chip Cookies if anyone is interested.

Last night I asked FrankenKristin to pick up a box of Bertie Bott's during her daily trip to Target and this morning Luke and I sampled a few. We skipped by the usual flavors, (grape, lemon drop, cherry) and went right for the good stuff. Here is my assessment so far.

Ear Wax - As Atilla The Mom said, who's to say what ear wax should taste like. Nonetheless, it wasn't as bad as I thought.

Sardines - Holy crap! This really did taste like sardines. Even coated with sugar I still hate them.

Dirt - Again, right on the money. Luke spit it out, started crying, and refused to eat any more.

Grass - Not bad, but I had this one right after the Buttered Popcorn so I think my taste buds were a little biased.

Tonight we'll go for the vomit, worms and boogers. Thanks, Atilla for the idea.

++++++++++ Updated by Sven @ 9:05pm ++++++++++

The kids and I finished the box this evening. No Vomit, no Boogers, no Soap, but worst of all no Bacon. We did enjoy the Black Pepper. Emma was courageous enough to try Sardine (which she spit out as well) and Luke, who overcame his earlier traumatization, sampled Grass. Earthworm tasted supsiciously like Dirt. Go figure.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Homophone, Of Sorts

Whale Oil Beef Hooked.

(say it really fast)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Three Years Later

*At around 0230 GMT on March 20th, 2003, shortly after the 48-hour deadline for Saddam Hussein to quit expired, The United States launched its first series of air strikes on Baghdad.

*On May 1, 2003, speaking underneath a "Mission Accomplished" banner aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush announced an end to major combat operations in Iraq.

*On May 31, 2005, Vice President Cheney declared the Iraqi insurgency to be in its "last throes".

*Republican Senator Chuck Hagel declared that "we're losing in Iraq" on June 19th. 2005.

*To this date a total of 2317 American soldiers have been killed in the war with Iraq, 2180 since "major combat operations ended".

*Although it is nearly impossible to accurately count the number of dead Iraqis, the total is estimated to be more than 33,600.

*Based on congressional appropriations, the estimated cost of the war in Iraq is more than $248 billion.

My heart aches.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Caption Contest

What could Secretary Rice possibly be referring to? Does she know something we don't? Leave a caption for this photo in the comment section.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy Birthday St. Agnes

Today is my Grandmother's birthday.

She is essentially the only grandparent I have. Although I was in high school when my great grandmother died, all of my other grandparents passed away long before I was born. For 38 years she has been my sole connection to past generations.

My grandmother did not have an easy life. As with it was for many children growing up in the depression she had her share of hard times. A straight "A" student, she was pulled out of high school during her senior year and sent to work in a meat packing plant along with nearly everyone else in South St. Paul. Some of those struggles followed her into adulthood but the one thing she never accepted was defeat. Regardless of the circumstance she never doubted her ability to succeed. She regularly worked more than one job, paid off her house in record time, sent two children to private school and managed to save enough to by a lake place up north. She is the true embodiment of a feminist although she'd likely spit in your face if you called her such.

Some of my best childhood memories involve my grandmother. It was because of her that I learned how to fish. She taught me how to drive, took me to baseball games and drove me nearly everywhere. She is the person I can always count on, no matter what I might need. When it came time to buy my first house, I didn't make enough to qualify for a loan so she agreed to co-sign along with me. She would give the shirt off her back in order to help someone in need. And then, of course, she'd offer to mend over and over again. Her talents as a seamstress are unsurpassed and she is rarely ever compensated for her worth. Gratitude is usually enough for her.

Long before I was born she invested her hard earned money in a lake place. It was the thing to do in the '50s and although she understood it for the investment that it was, she did not buy if for financial purposes. Her reasons were rooted in family. Although she enjoys the place as much as anyone she has made it very clear that she bought it so that "youse kids" could enjoy it. Now that she is blessed with a ton of great-grandchildren she is just as clear that the place is meant for them as well. I love that place almost as much as I love my own home and I have her to thank for it.

Last year was a rough year for my grandmother. She suffered a few physical setbacks that have limited her mobility and necessitate a bit more care than she is used to. She is fortunate to have three loving children who have made it their responsibility to ensure that the rest of her days (be it 20 days or 20 years) are filled with the sort of love and enjoyment that she has provided to the rest of us. Last November she moved to Arizona for the winter. This is the longest I have ever gone without seeing my grandmother and it has been a difficult adjustment. Although I know this move was tough on her (as well as the rest of us) I trust it allowed her the opportunity to rest, heal and rejuvenate so that she can return to MN as ornery as ever. Gladly, she comes home at the end of the month.

As is often the case when people age, she has been talking about the future in terms of the things she has yet to witness before the Lord takes her home. For the last few years she has identified the two milestones that separate her from fulfillment. My daughter makes her first communion in May and my nephew will graduate high school next year. As those event approach I keep feeling as though I should bargain with her, or the Lord, to keep her around a little longer. Surely she'd like to see Emma be confirmed, that's only a few years off. And while she's at it she may as well stick around for the rest of them as well. Besides, Taylor will get married someday and wouldn't she love to see that too? If I have learned anything about my grandmother it is that you DO NOT tell her what to do. She'll do what she damn well pleases, thank you very much. For all I know she'll outlive us all.

Although I'm sure she knows it, I doubt I tell her as often as I should. So here goes. Grams, I love you with all of my heart and all of my soul.

Happy Birthday, Love Michael

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

How Can I Help You?

It is a good thing I am not an advice columnist. As much as I try I just don't have a lot of patience for stupidity.

I often wonder what kind of person writes to an advice columnist. I understand that some things are extremely personal, and God know therapy ain't cheap, but come on? Are we really so disconnected that the only way to find impartial practical advice to life's problems is to seek guidance from the newspaper? Sure newspaper advice is great for settling a bet or instructing us as to the proper placement of a second salad fork but some of the questions people ask are beyond comprehension. In fact some stories are so ridiculous it's hard to believe they're real.

Take for example this letter to the Advice Diva, which recently appeared in the local paper.

Dear Advice Diva:
Now that my girlfriend and I moved in together, I am starting to notice her wretched TV habits. Her favorite shows are those bad celebrity reality ones - "Dancing With The Stars," "Skating With The Stars" - you name it and she watches it.
Why is she so interested in the lives of celebrities? Is she unhappy with her life?
Signed - Sick of Celebs

In a misguided attempt to be helpful, The Advice Diva spews some ridiculous pablum about balance and boredom. My answer would have been along these lines:

Dear Sick:
WHY THE HELL DON'T YOU ASK HER YOURSELF, YOU IDIOT! Good God. Is that really all you can find to complain about? You must be a petty little man. How long has this been bothering you? How long did it take you to finally write to me? How long have you waited for my reply? Do you mean to tell me that you made the decision to live with this women but you don't have the balls to ask why she likes to watch celebrities on TV? Buddy you've got problems much bigger than I can solve. Someday soon you will be a perfect candidate for this service.
Signed: Crabby-Ass Advice Columnist

Sometimes people write in with these far-fetched scenarios that SCREAM for immediate intervention. And yet they feel the best solution is to bare their soul to the whole world through the newspaper. Yesterday, a woman wrote to Dear Abby asking what she should do about the 60-year old married man for whom she is house sitting. Her dilemma went like this:

This morning, I awoke at 6:15 to my door opening. The husband came into my room, said he was cold, and jumped into my bed. He was naked! I told him he was a freak, jumped out of bed, rushed into my bathroom, locked the door and got ready to leave for work. I didn't see him before I left.
Should I call the wife and tell her what happened? I am staying at a friend's tonight because I don't want to run into him again. I no longer feel safe with him there. Should I find a new place to live? I'm 31 and he is in his 60s. Yuck!
Signed: Grossed Out in California

Let me get this straight, a married man, twice your age, sneaks into your bedroom naked, jumps into your bed claiming he is cold, leaving you in fear for your safety, and your first thought is to write a letter to and advice columnist? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? Do you really need to wait for my permission to tell his wife, and then GET THE HELL OUT? Good God woman, I'm surprised you didn't castrate him.

Maybe I'm not a good counselor.

We'll See About That - Reprise

OK, so some of you are bored by all this talk of weather, but those of us who love being outdoors get jazzed whenever there is a significant weather event. A few days ago the Twin Cities had its first major snowfall in over a year prompting schools to close, roads to clog and Minnesotans everywhere to collectively rejoice. Our "big storm" coupled with Charlie and Rhonda's rain, and Gitsul and Kim's snow has generated a flurry of weather related discussion in our little blogoland. Songs of praise and thanksgiving, reminiscence of childhood and a more innocent time flew from our keyboards. One even offered to celebrate with a fertility ritual. It's these little pleasure that keep us alive and make life interesting. At the very least it give us something to talk about.

Today, I am perplexed. Can lightening strike twice? The weather people here are predicting another significant snowfall (6-9 inches) beginning late tonight into tomorrow. If they are right we could exceed the season-to-date snowfall in less than 4 days. Is it too good to be true? I've been reluctant to trust the weather people with any prediction ever since the day 9 years ago when they predicted no rain for days, Because of that I felt comfortable take my motorcycle to work. That afternoon I ended up riding 45 miles home through a piercing downpour. I don't trust these people.

There's an old saying that goes like this, "fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again!"

Color me skeptical but I doubt we get more than two inches.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Happy Pi Day

Today is March 14th. In honor of this special day, the Math Department at work is offering free Pi on a first come first served basis. I had pecan.

Here are the first 314 digits of Pi. Below is a link to ten thousand.


Little known Pi fact:
If you typed out one billion decimals of Pi the number would stretch from New York to Kansas.

Pi humor:
Q: What do you get when you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by it's diameter?
A: Pumpkin Pi.

The Digits of Pi.

Monday, March 13, 2006

"Whoa, It's Like Narnia!"

That was Luke's exclamation as we came upon this part of the trail on our snowshoe hike this afternoon. I half expected to see Mr. Tumnus or one of those other human-animal hybrids President Bush warned us about.

It's done snowing. The grand total is 11 inches.

Snow Day

"It’s coming down
Snow lays on the chain fields
There’s a blessing on the ground"

So I was wrong. It continued to snow all night.

I awoke this morning to nearly 6 inches on the ground. And its still snowing. Because it is so warm (nearly 30 degrees) the snow is really heavy. The trees are sagging from the weight as the snow sticks to the branches like oatmeal. The wind is blowing pretty hard which makes it looks like an old fashioned blizzard. This is certainly the biggest snow fall of the season. In fact it is first real snow we’ve had all winter. It has been unusually warm here and we haven’t gotten much in the way of precipitation.

Regardless of how much snow we get it won’t come close to the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. That storm was the stuff of which legends are made. It began snowing on the morning of October 31 and didn’t stop until November 2nd. When it was all over 28 inches fell, which in this part of the country was a record. Folks in the UP wouldn’t think twice about a 28 inch snowfall but we don’t usually get that much all at one time. The whole metro area came to a halt and every storm since is measured in comparison. What is often forgotten is that we had another double digit snowfall a few weeks later. That took place the day Gitsul got married. We had to shovel the sidewalks of the church in our tuxes so the guests could get in the building.

"It’s coming down
On account of winter
All the roads are closed and the stores are for vagabonds"

This part of the country is completely dependant on the automobile. If fact, President Bush was looking at us (with the smarmy look of his) when he said that the country is addicted to oil. Public transportation here is pretty lame. We have a mediocre bus system and one light rail line which runs between the airport and downtown Mpls. Thus we are all dependant on cars for commuting to and from work. My drive is about 30 minutes on a normal day but on a day like this it would take me nearly 3 hours. Last year we had a six-inch afternoon snowfall and it took me over three and a half hours to get home. I was not looking forward to driving this morning so I jumped at the chance to take a vacation day rather than spend the whole day in my car.

"It’s coming down
Slow day for the teacher
And her wheels are spinning ‘round"

Not surprisingly most schools across Minnesota are closed for the day. What is surprising is that the school my kids attend is one of them. Because it is geographically small and a high percentage of teachers live in town, this district almost never closes. When I was a student, we only had one snow day in 12 years and that was a decision made by the Governor who closed all schools because the roads were covered with 2 inches of ice. Half the kids still showed up anyway, myself included. Fortunately for me the district I work in is also closed today so I am able to stay home with the kids.

"It’s coming down
If your lanes are crammed with children
There’s blessing on your town"

I’m not sure what we’ll do today, the kids have already been outside for an hour throwing snowballs, rasslin’ with the dog and basically just being kids. Once it lets up a bit we’ll probably build fort. In the meantime I think I’m going to make soup.

"It’s coming down
Go home
Go home and take a snow day"

Lyrics courtesy of "Snow Day" by Trip Shakespeare.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

We'll See About That

It's snowing tonight.

The weather people claim we will have 10" by noon tomorrow.

I doubt we'll get more than 2".

There's No Tomorrow

I haven't been around much the last four days as my attention was focused on the Minnesota Boys State High School Hockey Tournament. This year's tournament was better than average with the best game being the Friday night semi-final between Grand Rapids, a small town on the Iron Range with a rich tradition in hockey, and Hill-Murray, a private Catholic School in St. Paul, also with a rich tradition in hockey.

The Class A and AA Championship Games were both won by private schools, prompting the usual chorus of boos from those claiming that private schools have a strategic advantage because they are not bound by geographic limits. That may have been the case in days past but for the last 20 years Minnesota has had an open enrollment policy allowing high school students to attend school of their choice as long as it is for "academic purposes". There are many reasons to harbor resentment toward private schools but, at least in Minnesota, academic recruiting is no longer one of them.

The more egregious affront to the tournament was the decision, some 10 years ago by the High School League, to switch from a single class tournament to a two-class format. The justification for the change was that it would allow a greater number of students to cherish the "tournament experience". Unfortunately the tournament has lost some of the magic that prompted Sports Illustrated in 1981 to label it the single greatest high school sporting event in the country. Better than Texas Football, Oklahoma Baseball or Indiana Basketball. The net effect of a two-class tournament is similar to that found with modern language translations of Shakespeare classics. It might be more accessable but the beauty is lost.

One tournament tradition I enjoy is counting the number of cliches that have become so much a part of televised sports. Every year I keep track of how well the newest crop of high school athletes are able to emulate their heros by stating the obvious, spouting one-line aphorisms, and basically answering inane questions without actually saying anything.

Here are my favorites from the weekend.

* Bring our "A" game
* Take it to the next level
* Draw first blood
* Offensive shootout
* Took the crowd out of the game
* They still have hope
* The goalie stood on his head
* Good call by the official
* Good non-call by the official
* The next goal is will be huge
* Crunch time
* They found a way to put the puck in the net
* We've gotta take it to 'em
* We just need to play our game
* They left it all on the ice
* They came to play
* When you put the puck on net, good things happen
* He can score from anywhere
* He is a pure hockey player
* He's a complete player
* We have to come out flying
* We need to move our feet a little more
* He was robbed
* You can't say enough about him

Someone has taught these kids really well.

La Dolce Ita

Sohia is a friend from college. She stared blogging a few days ago and she has hit the ground running with her rendition of The Boxer.

Check it out.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What's In A Name

I ran across FrankenGirl's blog yesterday. What drew me to it was the name, since I lovingly dubbed my wife FrankenKristin after her brain surgery last fall. I have no reason to believe that FrankenGirl had brain surgery so I am left to assume she chose the name for some other reason. She is literate, astute and a tad feminist.

On the heals of the 78th Academy Awards and the success of "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp", which was awarded Best Original Song, she has begun a discussion into the culture and language behind the whole pimp thing, here and here.

It's worth a read.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How To Be a Good Counselor

For those of you thinking of entering the counseling field, here are few tips that will enable to you to look, feel and sound more confident.

1. Create a list of “buzzwords” to be used when meeting with clients, consulting with colleagues and writing reports. Here are few examples.
- check-in
- touch base
- drop the ball
- issues
- root cause
- appropriate
- piggy back
- follow-up
- speak to
- debrief

2. Nod your head while speaking. This not only affirms the importance of what you are saying but notifies the client that your opinion is correct and should not be challenged.

3. Emulate your favorite pop culture therapist. Daytime TV and self-help book shelves are filled with straight-talking-tell-it-like-it-is soothsayers. There is always room for one more Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura.

4. Try to appear culturally competent by hanging a Native American dream catcher or a poster of Martin Luther King Jr. on your wall. If you can, learn a few Spanish phrases.

5. The root cause of all of the client’s issues can be blamed on his or her father. Regardless of the complaint all therapeutic paths lead to dad.

6. Make sure that everything you say, especially statements, sound like questions? Be sure to raise your pitch at the end of each sentence? That way your client will really know you care?

7. Don’t hesitate to use your work as an opportunity to sort out your own issues. Remember, therapy is a two-way street.

8. Always state the obvious. If a client tells a horrific tale of abuse, neglect, and emotional distress there are no more comforting words than, “That must have been hard.”

9. When leading a group therapy session be sure to make at least three people cry. If there are no tears, there is no therapy.

10. Most importantly, counseling is about showing compassion, without really caring.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Same Blog - Different Name

I was never really happy with "Michael Stanefski's Weblog" as the name for this blog but I had to choose something so I figured it would do. However, thanks to Rusty, I have changed the title to Sven's Personal Memos.

Please adjust your compasses accordingly.

BTW, I find it interesting that blog is not recognized by the spellcheck.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Vinyl Records

One of my favorite performers is Todd Snider. He is witty, sarcastic, prolific and can craft a helluva hook. In 2002 he released a song called Vinyl Records which is an ode to the those old wax discs we all grew up on. The song begings with these lyrics:

"I’ve got a dusty old pile of vinyl records sittin’ on my floor
I’ve played each one of ‘em over and over a dozen times or more
All I’ve got is a beat up chair a mattress a fork and another to spare
And that dusty old pile of records on my floor"
I too have a dusty old pile of records on my floor.

My record collection began when I purchased a copy of Glass Houses by Billy Joel. From that point on I was hooked. Every two weeks I would cash my McDonald's check and make the drive out to Cheapo Records to peruse the new arrivals. When I finally made the switch to Compact Discs I had ammased over 500 LPs. Many of whom were like old friends. Sadly, my phonograph needle passed away about 8 years ago and much like Mr. Snider my records became nothing more than a dusty old pile taking up way too much floor space. In fact, the last time I listened to a record my wife and I were still childless.

Last week all of that changed. I finally broke down, made the trip out to The Needle Doctor and picked up a new Shure needle. Like starting a lawnmower for the first time in spring, my old turntable coughed and sputtered but eventually spun back to life grateful for the opportunity to once again trace those waxy grooves.

It has been fun to dig out some of those old gems I had nearly forgotten about such as The Velvet Underground, The Bodeans, Rickie Lee Jones, and of course Glass Houses. Best of all, the return of my turntable has allowed me to revist some of those old Mpls bands I grew up on. Being a child of the '80s in MN one's thoughts turn immediately to what was dubbed the Minneapolis Sound. This genre was lead by the likes of Prince, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and The Time.

However, during that same time, while the city of Minneapolis was awash in purple, a whole different side of the Minneapolis Sound was emerging out of the rubble of the Punk movement. Those pioneers, bands such as Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, The Suburbs and Soul Asylum, not only created some of the most important music of the '80s, but they paved the way for the mega-commercial success of what came to be known as the Seattle Sound. While many of these bands have re-released their earlier work on CD most reside in the "where are they now" file. It is these albums that I am looking forward to spending time with. Plus, it has been an additional treat regaling my kids with stories of the good old days when you used to have to go ALL THE WAY TO A STORE to buy music.

So welcome back Phones, nice to see you again Flaming Oh's, glad to hear you're doing well Trip Shakespeare. Let's sit for a while, we have so much to catch up on.

"One time in San Francisco
I was standin’ in an airport line
In one bag I had all my clothes and in the other was all them ol’ records of mine
The lady said I could only bring one bag
I had two, Oh what a drag
I had to jump on the plane and leave all my clothes behind"

Am I Overreacting?

Today, as I was coming back to work from a meeting outside the building, I saw a woman pull up to the door and leave her car running while she ran inside. I thought this somewhat foolish as there are 3400 high schoool kids here just looking for something to do. Then I noticed the young child buckled into a safety seat in the back of her car. That put me over the edge.

Is it just me or is that incredibly stupid?

Perhaps it was fear or maybe righteous indignation but I decided to stand by the car until the woman came back out. She wasn't gone more than a minute and when she came she asked I was waiting for. I told her I was making sure no one stole her kid. She mumbled something about only being gone a minute and then promptly sped off without another word.

Maybe I'm overreacting but it seems really, really dumb to leave an unattended child in the back of a running car.

Pine Needles and Septic Tanks

We were "up north" this weekend. Those of you not from Minnesota may not be familiar with the tradition of going up north but it is damn near an expectation where I come from. For umptimillion years my grandmother has owned a lake place in northern WI and as long as I can remember we have spent weekends up there relaxing, working, or in the case of my dad, relaxing by working. The place gets used much more in the summer than the winter but the family and I managed to steal away for a few days of snow based R&R last weekend.

This is snowmobile country and the majority of winter visitors spend their time whizzing through the woods hopping from bar to bar in a constant effort to stay warm. We used to snowmobile when I was a kid but as is the case with many of the activities I enjoyed growing up, it has become far more expensive than we can afford with two children and one income. Thus we spent much of the weekend sledding, hiking and rasslin' in the snow. I also had a chance to take some pictures, this is one I particularly liked.

In between tag team bouts with the kids and chasing after the dog I had a chance to peruse the local classified ads. Among the many entries for boats, lots, and old fishing gear was a whole section devoted to septic services. Perhaps this is similar in other parts of the country but in northern WI it seems that the septic business attracts people with a certain propensity for word play. Sort of reminiscent of the gravediggers in Hamlet. Maybe you need a sense of humor to do that kind of work but really appreciated these two ads:

Steve's Septic Service
"We take crap from anyone"

Porky's Pooper Pumper
"No pooper to big or to small"

All told it was a great weekend.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Be Faithful to the Gospel

WARNING- I need to be serious here for a minute so exercise caution in reading further.

The other day I went to an Ash Wednesday service at one of those big suburban mega-churches on my lunch hour. I've been to Mass at big churches and Cathedrals around the world but there is something a little odd about a church that looks like a Rocky Mountain Hunting Lodge. I understand that there is more to the church than the building and if I was a member of their parish I would probably feel differently. Especially because a woman led the service which is unprecedented in a Catholic church and frankly centuries overdue. Nonetheless, I think I'll stick to my little basement church with the school on top. Its not perfect but its home.

The same day I got an E-mail about a group of Catholics in Congress who released a Statement of Principles explaining the relationship between their faith and their public commitments. The basic premise is this:

"As Catholic Democrats in Congress we are proud to be part of the living Catholic tradition -- a tradition that promotes the common good, expresses a consistent moral framework for life and highlights the need to provide a collective safety net to those individuals in society who are most in need. As legislators, in the U.S. House of Representatives, we work every day to advance respect for life and the dignity of every human being. We believe that government has moral purpose."

Their goal is to rescue political debate in the Catholic church from those who have tried to use it as a weapon to advance one issue and one issue only, abortion. It is interesting to note that this group is NOT pro-choice but rather includes people on all sides of the debate. The idea is to return to an emphasis on Catholic Social Teaching including economic justice, dignity of the human person, preferential option for the poor, stewardship of the land, and the promotion of peace. This statement came on the heals of a platform released by the Ohio Democratic Catholic Caucus called the 95-10 Initiative which would provide real, meaningful solutions to abortion including fully funding WIC, ensuring access to affordable prenatal health care for ALL woman, increasing domestic violence funding and prohibiting insurance companies from labeling pregnancy as a pre-existing condition.

Not surprisingly the confederacy of dunces are out in force. Shortly after the statement was released, Tom McKlusky of the Family Research Council attempted to shift the debate back to abortion by stating that,

"What is at the core of being Catholic is the life issue, and that's something the pope has never strayed from," he said. "While other issues are important -- such as helping the poor, the death penalty, views on war -- these are things that aren't tenets of the Catholic Church".

This is a gross miscarachterization of Catholic principles and is in direct conflict with Pope Benedict XVI's Lenten Message which reflects on our responsibility towards the poor. It is this responsibility that leaders in our government and those claiming to represent "Christian" faithful have summarily abandoned.

One particularly interesting aspect of this debate is raised by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne who contrasts the difference between the way John F. Kennedy's Catholic faith was perceived as he ran for President in 1960 with that of 2004 Presidential candidate John F. Kerry. President Kennedy made very public statements regarding the separation of church and state and iterated clearly that "no Catholic prelate would tell the President how to act." In 2004, several bishops forbid Catholics from voting for Senator Kerry because of his political views. In Senator Kerry's case the opposition was due solely to his belief that federal policy should ensure that abortions are safe, legal and rare.

It seems that discourse within the Catholic faith has been hijacked by those who are unable to see beyond one issue and have lost site of the common good for ALL. The unfortunate effect of this narrow focus is that we have lost site of true Catholic social teaching. This is not only detrimental to our country but contrary to the development of faith.

This Lent we focus on the Gospel of Luke, who underscores the compassion Jesus showed for the sick, the poor, and those on the margins of society. His is the only gospel to include the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. Perhaps people of faith, both in and out of politics, can take a lesson from Luke and move toward a truly compassionate government.

Here ends the lesson. Now back to your regularly scheduled silliness.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Kanye Was Right

It seems Kanye West was right.

Sports Quiz - Answer

Ok Charlie here it is. My sister actually guessed correctly but she is afraid to post.

Q: Among the four most popular professional American sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) there are only two days per year when no games are scheduled. Which days are they?

A: The day before and after Major League Baseball's All Star game.

I told you it was anti-climactic.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I Heard It Was True

I read an article in the paper today about a couple who put what they believed to be a germ infested pile of cash in the microwave to disinfect it only to see the whole wad go up in flames. The writer, believing this to be an urban legend, tried the experiment herself.

Which got me to thinking about some of the stupid shit I've tried, "because I heard it was true".

* As much as I wanted to be scared, no gruesomly murdered pre-teen girl appeared in my mirror-no matter how many times I chanted her bloody name.

* Somwhere in the garage I still have a can of coke with a nail in it.

* Despite his best efforts Harry Potter has not turned me into a satanist.

* I have yet to go blind.

So, what stupid rumors have you tested, just to see of it works?

Back to School

I have been taking a Wednesday night class at the local community college and I have to say it has been rather fun going back to school. The class is called Drugs of Use and Abuse. It is taught by a former ER nurse who is just about the flightiest person I have ever seen. One of my classmates referred to her as "that old lady from Grumpier Old Men". I believe she was referring to Sophia Loren. This teacher is pretty goofy and gets a kick out of talking about "the good old days". Recently, she told a story about being exposed to lead in the drinking water at a state hospital she used to work at. I think that explains a few things about her.

Sitting in a class full of 20 years I feel like the elder statesman. With the exception of one other woman I am clearly the oldest person there. Last week a one of my classmates was actually talking on her cell phone during class. Some of these kids are pretty cool and I've actually had a bit of fun. She told us that the evening class (which we are) is scoring 10 points higher on her test than the day class which blows me away because they are OPEN BOOK TESTS. How do you screw up and open book, multiple choice test? Next week is spring break, which, when you are 38 years old and married with two kids somehow looses its appeal. Rather than go somewhere exotic I think I'll just take a nap.

Anyway, it has been a lot of fun and I think everyone should go back to school (Or go for the first time) every once in while just for the experience.