politically (co)wrecked

Two things of note. Well, actually three, but I'll only briefly mention the fact that I have now added a somewhat humorous profile picture, so it doesn't really count. I do encourage you to check it out, though.

The first thing of substance has to do with polar bears on melting ice floes. Dear polar bears: You're welcome here in our little hamlet. It's been fricking freezing lately. Granted it has warmed up in the past couple days, but it was still cold enough last night and today to dump so much snow that even the law school cancelled classes. Bottom line, if this whole global warming thing has got you worried (I've seen the pictures, and I admit they got me a bit depressed), I assure you it's plenty cold down here. And we've got lots of drunken frat boys that you can gobble up, should your tummies get hungry.

Secondly, what would ya'll do if you were given $100,000? I went to get my Air Force physical Tuesday (all clear, unless the urinalysis ends up showing the doobies I was smoking while driving to the processing center) and at one point I was sitting with an Army Guard enlistee who graduated from high school a couple years ago. I asked him what his main motivations were for joining the guard and there were primarily two. First, he was looking forward to getting training in small arms repair, so he could figure out how to convert one of his rifles from semi-automatic to a fully automatic. Second, he knew of someone who came back from Iraq with $100,000 worth of combat pay, etc. and he was looking for the same thing. I mentioned that $100,000 would be an awesome down payment on a house, which was when the conversation faltered a bit. Yeah, he said after a brief pause, but I'll probably just rent. I'm going to totally blow my money (his words, not mine) -- buy a dirtbike, car, quad, and a bunch of instruments so my friends and I can start a band. This guy is on the tail end of two years dedicated solely to paying off credit card debts, but apparently he didn't learn a whole lot during that time.

So here's the politically incorrect part: I know that there are people who run into circumstances bigger than themselves, etc., etc., but after learning about many of my wife's co-workers and having various interactions of my own, it's become pretty evident that many (if not most?) of the people struggling financially are in that situation by their own doing. There is no inalienable right to cell phones, big screen TVs, or eating out. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. Being manager at her store, my wife makes the biggest salary, but we are on the bottom end when it comes to "stuff" bought. If we can't afford it, or if we can afford it but think the money would be better spent elsewhere, we don't buy it.

I can see that I'm sounding more and more like a crochety old man, so I'll quit now. Politically incorrect point is, while some people find themselves in hard times due to circumstances admittedly beyond their control, a lot of other people exacerbate, if not outright create, the situation with little help from a conveniently amorphous "society". So there you have it. Respond freely.


hu who?

If you will, please allow me yet another post based on extremely tenuous celebrity connections.

The wife attended a round table yesterday that featured some corporate big wigs as the facilitators. One of them related a story of when she was at corporate headquarters a little while ago and was en route to a meeting. At one point (I'm unclear as to whether this was in an elevator, during a pre-meeting discussion, or what) she notices a man standing beside her whom she had never met before. Wanting to be friendly, she turns, introduces herself, and asks, "What do you do with the company?" His response: "I'm...the president of China." It turns out she was speaking to the guest of honor at this big meeting she was about to attend. Whoops.


On an unrelated note, I'd like to express my pure joy over the fact that primary season is upon us. For whatever sick reason, I get more excited about elections than I do about Christmas. What with the primaries spread out as they are, it's like having a political advent calendar. I guess that means Super Tuesday is the big prize you get on Christmas Eve.


best-laid plans of mice and men

Over break we had a Thai friend visiting us for several days. Overall this is a good thing, but preparing for her arrival reminded of when the wife and I were preparing for our move to Thailand by reading different books on Thai culture. I remember thinking back then, "holy cow, there are a lot of ways to screw up." No pointing your feet at others. No touching people on the head. No making kids look you in the eye if you're scolding them. Don't, don't, do.

By the time our friend arrived we had made several sweeps of the house to make sure that things were in culturally sensitive order. My old school picture of the Thai king was put above eye level. A mutual friend in Thailand was consulted as to whether our visitor, who is Thai but not Buddhist, would be offended by our buddha head and hands. We even prepared some Thai dishes for when she arrived, knowing she had been eating western food and isn't a huge fan.

So the evening after she arrived we asked if she wanted to watch a DVD. After looking through our collection, she decided on an Adam Sandler flick -- Anger Management. Sounds good. That is, until that scene I had forgotten about, where Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson spend about 10 minutes beating up on Buddhist monks. And using such choice phrases as "tell me how you can call a 400 pound man the model of restraint." The kicker was probably when Adam Sandler pulled one monk's robe up and starting swinging him around by his bright orange underwear.

It was like watching a sex scene with your parents, except a hundred times worse. My only consolation is that we actually got the movie in Thailand, and our friend was the one who chose it as our evening entertainment. Still, I don't think that quite makes up for it.