24 April 2005

Blog on snooze

Kristen and I are off to Ireland for ten days.  Everything on Friday went swimmingly well. 

Being married rocks!

22 April 2005

Wasting time

It's noon here.  I'm getting married in 210 minutes.  You'd think perhaps I'd have more pressing issues than writing.  But the truth is, I'm bored.  I'm just sitting in a hotel room waiting for the time to start getting dressed.

This is surreal.  I still don't feel much in the way of nerves.  I feel like I am waiting to catch a plane or something.  We've been waiting so long for this day yet it still amazes me that it is finally here.

I miss my father today.  Dad never gave me advice about marriage because I never asked.  He respected the boundaries that his kids had on their lives, and thus only offered advice when asked for it.  I picked his wonderful brain thousands of times, but we never got around to discussing marriage.  I observed it though.  My parents were married for almost 42 years and I was around for the last 35 of them.  I learned many things about creating a loving family from my parents, and I will do my best to lead by their example in my own marriage.  If I am to be a good husband and father, it will be because of what my mother and father showed and taught me.

I am not the most spiritual person.  I struggle at times with the knowledge of science and the unknown of faith.  I want their to be explanations for everything, so at times I find it hard to believe things are so just because they are.  But as I have grown older I see examples of things happening that I believe are the result of faith.  I lost my father almost three years ago.  Nine months after he died, I met the love of my life, the woman that I was destined to spend eternity with.  I don't believe that happened by accident.  I think my father was looking out for me, and made sure he steered me in Kristen's direction.

My mother fell in love with Kristen almost as quickly as I did, and has opened her arms up to her, welcoming her into our family.

For what both my father and mother have done, I will always be grateful.  I may not be able to shake Dad's hand today after my wedding, but I will surely feel him there with me, just as I have every day for almost three years.

I will dance with my mother tonight, and we will celebrate the life that she and my father gave me. 

20 April 2005

Meet the new Pope, same as the old Pope

I don't have much of an opinion about the election of the new Pope.  I'm a little surprised that they chose such an old man, but Joseph Ratzinger was John Paul's right hand, and the Church isn't ready to let John Paul go quite yet.

I am amused, however, at those expressing disappointment at this choice, at those who had hoped for someone more liberal.  Seriously, what did these people expect?  There is nothing about the Catholic church that can be considered liberal, which is one of life's great ironies, given that Jesus was probably the most liberal of people to ever walk the Earth.

I read somewhere that of the 117 cardinals in the world, John Paul appointed 115 of them.  I'd think until that number turns over significantly, that there will be always be a European, ultra-conservative pope.

If I must broach the subject of religion, I'd rather call attention to this story.  I've seen quite a few pictures of this supposed image of the Virgin Mary, and the only one I've seen that even comes close to resembling anything like even a person is the first one in this CNN story.  Do people spend their days walking around actively looking for such things?  I'd love to have been there when the first person who noticed this stain passed by. 

Yes, I know, God works in mysterious ways, but underneath an expressway overpass?  At least the grill cheese sandwich episode from late last year had some "feast for a rapture" quality to it.

17 April 2005

Getting married in five days

So begins this particular week of my life.

Here is where I say things like "I can't believe it's only X days away, it seems like we just got engaged 14 months ago" and "I'm so nervous" and anything else a soon-to-be groom is supposed to say, but the truth is, I feel none of that.

I'm going to be 38 a month after the wedding, and at this point of my life I only get nervous when I know I am doing something that isn't good for me.  I'm not nervous at all about getting married.  I've never been more sure of anything in my life.

When Kristen and I started talking about getting married, she only asked me for one thing; she wanted at least a year to plan the wedding.  Having no idea what preparations where needed for a wedding, I took her word for it.  Kristen amazes me in hundreds of ways, but I think the thing that I admire most about her is the ability that she has to do things exactly how she wants to in the perfect amount of time.  We've spent the last year and two months planning what we think will be a proper celebration, and except for a few minor obstacles, everything has turned out perfectly.  It's no accident.  While I feel like I have been fully involved in everything, the fact is that Kristen is the reason why we are going to have a wonderful wedding.  She has kept the entire event in perspective and not let anything bother her.  As a result, she is going to have a wedding that is a true reflection of who she is and what we expect our life to be together.

I don't know if I am conveying my feelings about this clearly.  I never thought about my wedding much when I was younger.  Up until I met Kristen and even well into our relationship, I was fairly certain that I was not ever going to marry.  It did not seem like something I wanted to do.  Looking back, I now know that I was mistaken; marriage was not something that appealed to me with anyone I had ever met before Kristen.  There is a world of difference between thinking that you don't want to ever marry and not knowing someone that you'd like to marry.

I could not sleep Saturday morning.  I was up by 5 AM and at 7 I decided to go for a walk.  It was a beautiful morning, clear skies, a slight breeze, and warm sunshine; a textbook perfect spring day.  Ordinarily I do not have trouble sleeping so early in the morning, and as I walked I wondered if perhaps my mind was starting to realize that our wedding was in less than a week and if my subconscious was getting nervous.  So I did what I do sometimes when I am looking for answers to things in the deepest reaches of my mind, I took an inventory of my mental state.

I found that I am far, far happier now than I have ever been in my life.  I have never felt as blessed as I do right now.  I feel like everything I have been through in this life has been worth it just to make sure that I am at this moment.  My mind has never been clearer, my course never straighter, and my faith never stronger.

That doesn't seem like the behavior of a nervous person to me.

I had no trouble sleeping Sunday morning.

16 April 2005

OK, OK, I won't mention horse bathroom habits anymore

1. If you played last week, did you actually go back to the very first edition of the "Saturday Six" to see what the first set of questions really were?  Were you surprised at the answer?  I am confused by this, so I will just go off on a tangent.  Where does the word "methinks" come from?  Is it something a pirate would say?  "Aargh!  Methinks I need some rum and a loose floozy!"  That seems too contrarian.  I suppose Shakespeare is more obvious, but really, why would he say something like "Methinks the King of Scotland has purloined my argyle socks"?  It doesn't seem very British. 

2. When you signed on to AOL today, how many new E-mails were in your Inbox?  How many were in your Spam Folder?  I usually have 5-10 new emails each day when I first sign on.  I rarely get spam.  I mean, I "get" spam, it's pretty much what's left of the pig after the pork chops, loin and ribs are taken, and speaking of spam, that reminds me of the Viking Spam song from Monty Python.  Perhaps the Vikings are responsible for introducing "methinks' into the lexicon.  It seems like something you'd say while rowing a boat with a huge dragon carved out of the front, while wearing a horned metal hat that conceals everything on top of your head except your long flowing blonde braids.  And I've been to Iceland.  They say lots of other wacky things there.

3. If there was one childhood friend from your youth that you could meet today to find out what happened to them, who would it be and why? When I was six I had a friend named Lee who moved away.  He called me once in the next year to say hello, but I haven't heard from him since.  I guess I wouldn't mind hearing the story of his life, but I have friends from high school that I have lost touch with that I'd rather re-connect with first.

4. How much weight would you like to gain or lose?  Whose body would you most like your own to resemble?  I've always been "fleshy" and accept that baring surgery, I always will be, but I notice that as I age I have more problems with my flexibilty, and I think it would be helpful to lose 25-30 pounds.  As with everything else in my life I expect that one day I'll tire of thinking about it and just do it.  I don't really have a desire to resemble anyone else.

5. What is the last CD or cassette you listened to in your car? "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" by U2 is in there at this very moment.  Can anyone tell me what "Crumbs from your Table" is supposed to be about?

6. RAPID FIRE QUESTION #1:  "The last time."  When is the last time you:
a. ...Lied to someone you care about? This is a loaded question.  Not sure exactly when, but sometime in the last week I said that I had already taken care of something when I was going to later that day.
b. ...Were tempted to reveal a secret that no one else knows?  It's been a while.  I really prefer to not know anyone's secrets so that I am not tempted to tell.  Ah, screw it, you can find the gold under the third rock behind the shed at the corner bakery.
c. ...Payed a bill online? My auto insurance in February.  I'm in good hands.
d. ...Saw a movie trailer that made you want to see the movie it advertised? The trailer to the new Star Wars movie looks intriguing, but I haven't seen the previous two so I doubt I will see this one.  I will probably see "War of the Worlds" because of the trailer.
e. ...Took an aspirin or pain reliever? A day or so ago, but I anticpate taking one for my back as soon as I am done with this.
f. ...Hung up on someone? Since the introductions of caller ID and the do not call list, I can't remember the last time I hung up on anyone.
g. ...Turned down an invitation to a party? I lead a fairly mundane life, and thus don't get a heck of a lot of party invitations, but I do recall something arriving in the mail last year inviting me to the Republican party, and I burned it immediately. 
h. ...Filled your car's gas tank? Last Saturday.  And I'm really, really tired of hearing about gas prices.  Go ahead and jack it up to $5 like it is in the rest of the world and force us to make some sacrifices already.
i. ...Had an unexpected knock on your door? UPS this week sometime dropping off a wedding present.  I love how they leave before you answer the door, so if you weren't home the potential is there for someone to snag whatever it is that was bought for you, and since you were never aware of it you never write a thank you note, and that person never forgets, and ultimately refuses to attend your funeral.  But hey, what can Brown do for you?
j. ...Ate a meal that left you absolutely stuffed? It's been a while, probably over the holidays sometime.  Wait, wait, what am I saying?  I went to Vegas last month and ate at three different dinner buffets, though to be honest I only remember eating too much at the Aladdin.  I'm such a name dropper...

When an equine's gotta go, it's gotta go

There's got to be a word or phrase to describe the act of completely screwing up a song lyric.  I am reminded of this because I heard a song Friday that I hadn't heard in a long, long time.  And when you look up the index of my life, under "most blatantly misjudged lyric," this song appears.

When I was in high school I was a big fan of The Police (still am).  On the 1980 album "Zenyatta Mondatta" (and I'm sure Sting and the boys were not under the influence of any hallucinogens when they came up with that title) is a song called "Voices Inside My Head" which isn't much of a song, really.  After a funky instrumental intro, all you hear is Sting wail "Voi-cccccccc-eeee-sssssss inside my hea-dddddddd, ech-ooooooooooo things that you sai-dddddddd" over and over for three minutes or so.  There's a little distortion in the background and Sting had a tendency to slur a little back then, so it's not the easiest thing to decipher, unless one had bothered to actually read the titles of the songs on the album before listening to it, but that's another matter.

Anyway, hearing this song Friday reminded me that, for the first, oh, fifteen times maybe that I heard this song back when I was a misguided teen, I thought Sting and the boys were singing about something else.

Like horses.

Doing something related to bladder relief.

On my head.

Go, listen to it now, and tell me that is not what you hear.

Nothing, really

So I guess life is sometimes like a "Seinfeld" episode.

I was out running a few errands Friday afternoon and needed to swing by the post office to mail a few things.  I never get out of the car to do this, I can just drive up to the mailbox on the left side of the road across the street, but I have to drive past the main entrance of the PO to do this.

Today, being April 15th, the street was cluttered with many cars.  There's about six decent parallel parking spaces directly in front of the post office.  People were waiting for cars to leave so that they could park in their spots.  I was stopped in traffic for about five minutes, unable to get around the jam.

Cue the bass beat here, please.

Two cars ahead of me, the driver let someone pull out of a space.  He then pulled up just ahead of the now empty space, and put his car in reverse (I saw his tail lights go on).  As he was doing this, the car directly in front of me pulled into the parking spot, cutting off the car that was reversing into the space.

Everybody knows that you can't do that.  You can't pull in to a parallel parking spot with the front end.  You have to back it in.  The driver who had done this was miffed, shall we say, to see his space taken by such a blatant violator.

Words were exchanged.  Certain digits you'd find attached to a hand were displayed.

I'm not much for intervention.  I prefer to observe behind the lines of action, but in times like these, when such a blatant wrong has been committed, I can't help myself.

As I crept forward I rolled down the passenger side window and shouted "You can't do that!  You can't pull into a parallel parking space with your front end!  What's wrong with you?"

Both drivers looked at me like I was insane.

12 April 2005

A plea to do better

I was told that my last answers to Patrick's Saturday Six were far too boring.  So in the spirit of "Hollywood Squares" I am going to assume that I am being asked these questions while residing in the center square:

1. Where did you buy the last fast food you ate? Phil's chilli shack, where "We give you the finger every time."  McDonald's I think, sometime in February.  I don't do fast food much, though you'd never guess that by looking at me.  Irish genetics...

2. What was the last movie you watched in a theater? "Sideways."  Imagine my surprise when I found that it was not about the true adventures of what happens in the middle of the night at the city morgue.

3. When you walk into a room, what do you think people notice first about you? The fact that I have one oversized eye, centered directly on my forehead. What do you wish they'd notice first about you? My gigantic ears.  (One of these is true)

4. You win a special lottery but you aren't allowed to keep any of the money.  Instead, it must go to a single charitable organization.  Which would you choose and why? The Republican National Committee, of course.  I don't see how this fine group of people has been able to accomplish anything these last four years with virtually no monetary support from the masses.  Why, the way that the GOP has been shunned and scorned by big business and religious groups makes me shake with anger! 

I need to go bathe now.

5. What was the subject of the most recent E-mail you forwarded? I've never forwarded an email, no matter what those goofs at Quantico say.

6. Without looking, which of the previous five questions would you most expect to have been asked in the very first episode of the "Saturday Six?"  After you answer, if you go back to the first edition, don't reveal the answer here.  I don't know, and I can't think of anything pithy to say here.  I just want a pop tart.

09 April 2005

The power to change

I paid $2.45 per gallon for gasoline when I filled up my car early this week.  That is the highest price I have ever paid for gas since I started driving almost 22 years ago.

And guess what?  I'm fine with it.  In fact, I'd be willing to pay more.

I think the price of gas and the way most people of this country react to it is one of the more expressive examples of how we have become a country of excess.  Judging from what I have read and seen on the news about gasoline prices, you'd think people were going without food just so they can fill up their cars.  In reality, American consumers still pay less for gas than most other countries in the world.  I will be traveling to Ireland next month and driving for a week, and I expect to pay upwards of $5 per gallon there.

Recall the weeks before the 2000 presidential election.  Recall how the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, vowed to do something to get gasoline prices, which were only approaching two dollars per gallon then, under control.  Four years later, has he done anything to control rising prices?  Of course not.  If Democratic candidate Al Gore had been elected instead, do you think we'd be paying less now for gas?  Of course not.  There's no reason to expect a president to be able to do anything about the price of gas in a capitalistic economy.  It is up to the consumers solely.  You and I control the price of gas.

I think about that all of the time when I see or hear someone complaining about the price.  What are you doing about it?  What is your plan?

One of the simplest lessons of economics is the law of supply and demand.  It is an inverse relationship.  When supply is high, demand is low.  When demand is high, supply is low.  The latter situation means higher prices.  The reason we pay so much for gasoline now compared to past times is because demand for gas is as high as ever, while supply is lower than in previous times. 

And while there are factors regarding the supply of gasoline that reflect on the companies that refine and supply gasoline in this country, one has to be remember that it is a business, and if there were not money to be made off this, these companies would not be involved in it.

I would be happy to see gasoline prices approach the $3-$3.50 range, simply because I think that once those prices became reality, we would finally start treating the situation more seriously than we do now.  I think it is the responsibility of all Americans to drive sensible vehicles and think about ways to conserve gasoline.  There are both good and bad reasons to drive an SUV.  I respect people who drive them because of the convenience they offer for their job or family situation, but there are also plenty of people driving an SUV that do not have a responsible reason for doing so.  And there are plenty of other drivers and cars on the road that are poor choices. 

I also think higher prices will force a lot of bad drivers to be on the road less frequently.  I drive on local expressways quite a bit, and there a lot of scary drivers out there.  Approximately 40,000 people will lose their lives on American roads this year. 

It really is great to be an American, truly, but I wish we could sometimes get everyone to step back and take a look at how we live.  We are consuming massive amounts of non-renewable energy and have no real ideas of what to do to conserve it.  Drilling for oil in Alaska is irrelevant; whether or not you support the idea, there's not enough oil there to make a difference.  All we are doing there is delaying serious talk of conservation for another year or two.  There have been some improvements in the auto industry in the past few years.  The development and launch of hybrid vehicles is encouraging, but many people are currently unable to take advantage of this technology as it is cost prohibitive.  Unfortunately, the laws of supply, demand and price hold true in the automotive industry as well.

It is a mistake to look at our government for help in lowering gas prices and coming up with alternative ways of producing energy.  The government, despite which party holds power, has a far too intimate relationship with the captains of the energy industry.  Ours is a capitalistic society and as such, those with the most power will always be involved with energy industry.

There are thinly veiled examples of how this relationship works.  For example, this year you could receive a tax credit for purchasing either a new hybrid vehicle or an SUV.  Next year, the tax credit for the hybrid purchase will disappear.  The purchase of which car makes the higher ups happier, do you suppose?

When it comes to gasoline, I believe that the people have the power.  The problem is that most either do not realize it, or that they are focusing on the negative aspects of rising prices.  We have the power to change things, power that lies in our legs when we walk instead of ride, in our wallets when we purchase responsible cars instead of gas guzzlers, and in our brains when we take the time to inform ourselves of the situation and then work towards viable solutions.  The power does not lie in a shrug, in an attitude that says that there is nothing that can be done, while we fill up again and again and again.  

02 April 2005

Pretty freakin' early for a change

1. What is your favorite fruit?  Pineapple  Favorite vegetable? Broccoli  Favorite type of meat? Chicken  What food causes your diet the most trouble?  Snack stuff like cookies I guess

2. What food do you think has the most ridiculous-sounding name? Rhutabaga

3. If you had to pick one of the following to experience, which extreme adventure would you choose:
  A) Skydiving I don't care for plummeting
  B) Mountain Climbing Not since "Cliffhanger"
  C) Scuba Diving I lack proper bouyancy...
  D) Surfing in Hawaii ...and shark repellant
  E) Arctic Hiking in Alaska Antartica instead
  F) African Safari  Hopefully someday
  G) White Water Rafting "Deliverance"-nuff said

4. What skill do you most wish you could suddenly acquire in your sleep this evening? Cooking

5. How many active prescriptions do you have at the moment.  Of those, how many do you take regularly? Two, and I take them both daily

6. You're considering a major change or a big decision awaits you.  Are there any special images you ever dream that tend to guide you in one direction or another or that seem to suggest that the option you're considering is the right one? I don't think so.  I only have two or three images that ever repeat in my dreams.  One involves working again in my former retail career.  I also dream a lot about witnessing tornadoes and airplane crashes, though never together.

And on this date...

Maybe I ought to stop reading the almanac.

Every day the Chicago Tribune prints a daily almanac of historical events that occured on that specific date, and they place it smack dab in the middle of the obituaries.  Recently, I've been catching names listed in obituaries and upon further review, notice that I recognize some of the newly deceased.

I'm too young to be doing this.

I've seen parents of people I went to school with, teachers, and people I know through work.  I even saw my own name once.  Let me tell you, if you are feeling sleepy, that seeing your name above an obituary tends to snap you to attention.

But my most recent find was the name of a woman who was a junior high classmate of mine .  It had been years since I had even thought of this person, but a glance at the name along with a full read of the obituary confirmed that it was that person, that she had died.

This makes me feel particularly old.  And maybe not for the reason you'd think.  I always feel it weird to read an obituary; I'm alive, and I'm reading about a person who isn't.  It's not pleasant, but that's not the reason this one makes me feel old.

How can I explain this without coming across as crass, or worse?  I don't think I can, but I will explain it anyway.  I swear that I am not a pig.

What I remember most about this person is that she was the first girl in my class to transition to womanhood, visibly, if you know what I mean.  She was the lesson in the most obvious way women become different from men.  This was sixth grade, and I am referencing observations only, the type you make from across a classroom or school cafeteria.

I barely knew this person, might have had one or two conversations with her back then.  But, through no fault of her own, she was responsible for one of my earliest "aha!" lessons.

I can't help but think about that, knowing that she isn't alive anymore.  Maybe it's the way my thought process has changed in the almost three years since my father died. 

Yeah, I gotta stop reading that almanac.


01 April 2005

Full service, maybe

Ah, self righteousness!

Recently a woman attempted to have a birth control prescription filled at a downtown Chicago drug store (one that I am VERY familiar with, by the way) but was turned away because the pharmacist on duty had a "moral objection" to birth control.

May I suggest a career change, sweetie?

I have no problem with people having strong moral beliefs.  I like to think that I have a few myself.  But I would think that if I had a moral objection to certain parts of my job, I'd either change my belief on that issue or I'd leave that job.

That's why mothers who concern themselves with making sure their kids have a healthy diet generally do not work at McDonald's.

And yes, I think that is the first time ever I have connected morality to McDonald's.  I'm being a bit extreme.  I know, shocking.

In my time as a manager for a drug retail company, one of the things that amazed me was the reverence that most customers had for pharmacists, especially among the older clientele.  Pharmacists were treated like doctors.  A pharmacist refusing to fill a birth control prescription based on morals could cost a lot of business.

I can only imagine dealing with a situation like this.  The safe thing to do would be to defer to the higher ups and let them handle everything, but I'm sure this customer complained to management right away.  I'm not sure how I would have responded.

But I know I would have rolled my eyes as soon as I was alone, and reached for the antacid.

I'm reminded of this incident by reading this.  The governor of Illinois wants it to be a law that a prescription has to be filled regardless of "moral beliefs."  I'm not sure I agree with that, I don't believe government needs to be involved in everything.

I'd support a law requiring that pharmacist to switch careers though.

A little less conversation

I had my say about the Schiavo case a few days ago, and I was prepared for that to be my last words about it.  But I had CNN on this morning when it was announced that she died, and I saw a few things that repulsed me.

First was Reverand Frank Pavone, a Catholic priest and "spokesperson for the Schindler's" (good Lord, how many representatives did these people need?  Tell me again that this was not an overblown media event), ripping Michael Schiavo for his "continued cruelty towards Terri's parents."  Hey, Rev, you're a priest right?  Why don't you act like one and save the verbal smackdowns for confession?  No one really cares about your opinion.  I never knew that the white collar was so perfect for clipping on a microphone.

The second thing that irritated me was the inevitable statement from the President.  Remember, "W" stands for "wisdom": 

"Today millions of Americans are saddened by the death of Terri Schiavo. ... I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected."

You know, I really just want to keep him out of this.  I really do, but when he makes such a assinine statement like that, I can't help myself.  So the President wants all Americans "valued and protected"? 

Apparently he's been enlightened, because he wasn't always saying that.  Another great example of how Bush jams nothing but BS down this country's collective feeding tube.

I sincerely hope y'all weren't tired of hearing about Terri Schiavo.  Between the media and our politicians, she'll have a legacy the size of Elvis'.