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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sleepless and stumpy

I can't find my clever lever at this late hour, but I have to remind myself to congratulate the ad buyers for the overnight 4:30 am showing of "Scarface" on AMC. In one commercial break I saw commercials for...

ExtenZe, the natural male enhancement pill.


Relacore, a product that once claimed to reduce cortisol in the blood and cut weight gain and now markets itself as an herbal sleep aid.

I mean, in the span of 90 seconds, they hit the insomniacs and the self-loathers.

Talk about knowing your audience.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Who's the turkey now?

Well, I blew it.

I spent the first half of my life in the middle of Thanksgiving dinners hosted by some of the best home-cooking chefs I've ever known. My maternal grandmother and mom are two top-notch home-cookers and would put a lot of the television chefs to shame. My mom has always been, without question, just a good marketing rep away from a show on Food TV and a companion program on the Home and Garden network. My wife has long said that Mother Otis could kick Martha Stewart's ass. I do not disagree.

Much of what I know about the basics of cooking comes from the time spent under my mom's tutelage. From mother sauces (absolutely no pun intended) to dry rubs to the perfect seasoning for fried chicken, my cooking skills rest firmly on a foundation of learning at the original Mt. Otis.

Over the years, I've cooked many Thanksgiving dinners with my wife and many of our recipes have come straight out of my mom's kitchen. It's safe to say our Thanksgiving meals have always been good because of my mom. My wife, who admits she is still learning some of the finer culinary skills, routinely uses my mom's methods and is getting better in the kitchen every day (I won't mention how good she is at the risotto because that's an inside joke that's not appropriate for all audiences). Regardless, this is all a long way of saying that I know how cook a damned turkey. I'm good at it. In fact, I'd venture to say I've never cooked a bad bird.

Until this Thanskgiving.

I have a problem. I can't be around a cooking project without getting involved. Hubris and vanity are a big part of the problem. More often than not, I know I'm a better cook than anybody in the room. I'd venture to say I cook better than 95% of the people I know. Only my mom, grandmother, and a few friends are better around the kitchen than me. That kind of arrogance often leads me to either offering to help with prep work and stirring or, in the case of this weekend, completely taking over the kitchen. At the in-laws, taking over the kitchen is not a hard task. My mother in-law doesn't do a lot of cooking and my father-in-law, despite cooking well, would eat dinner on the floor in the garage if he thought it would make everybody else happy.

An so it was with a cocksure attitude and an old wooden spoon that I commandeered the In-Law Kitchen on Thanksgiving and went to work. On the bill was traditional Thanksgiving fare: Turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, yams, and rolls. I surveyed the battlefield and realized that there was little chance I was going to whip up a masterpiece. The shopping list had been bastardized. Overlooking the pantry, I decided the only hope for a successful mission would be to kick the turkey's ever-loving ass. Everything else might be marginal, but the turkey, I assured myself, would be perfect.

My method is nothing unique. I learned it from my mother, who I'm sure learned it from somewhere else. Regardless, it works like a sonofabitch, and I use it every time I cook a bird. It goes like this:


How to Cook a Turkey

Clean and prepare the bird. By prepare, I mean stroke it lovingly and tell it how sorry you are for the loss of its head and the cavity search. Take a medium-sized apple, a medium-sized onion, a few stalks of celery, and a stick of butter and shove them where the sun don't shine (on the bird, not yourself). Rub a small amount of oil on the bird's skin and make a dirty joke to whoever is standing nearby. My favorite is, "Did you know that salmonella isn't a sexually transmitted disease?" Then, take some rubbed sage and rub it all over the outside of the bird. Slice another onion and sprinkle the slices on top of the turkey. Slice another stick of butter into half-tablespoon slices and place them all over the outside of the bird. Wrap the entire thing in tin foil and put it in a roasting pan. Put it in a 325-degree oven and leave it the holy hell alone. Don't poke at the bird, don't open the foil, don't open the oven for the first hour and half. You'll be cooking the bird for three to three and a half hours (assuming the turkey is between 8-12 pounds). After an hour and a half, take the turkey out and quickly baste it with the butter and juices. Put it back in the oven as quickly as you can and don't touch it again for another hour and a half. After that time, pull back the tin foil, baste, and then let the turkey get roasty brown for 20-30 minutes. Pull out the turkey, carve it up, then pour some of the juices over the carved meat, and serve.


Sounds pretty damned easy, because it is. The result is usually a very moist turkey that has flavor but isn't overpowering or too outspoken (nothing fucking worse than an outspoken turkey at Thanksgiving -- and, yeah, I'm talking to you Uncle Tommy). Now, let me list a few ways this easy turkey (yeah, I mean, I don't think you can catch genital salmonella) can be messed up:

* Too much time out of the oven for basting
* Too many people poking their head in the oven to "see how it's doing" or "get that Thanksgiving smell going"
* Too much time spent getting roasty brown at the end of the cook
* Too many cuts into the breast to determine if the bird is properly cooked (even if it can't be transmitted by genital-to-bird contact, salmonella by ingestion and digestion of undercooked turkey can make for a bad shopping day on Friday).

Every one of the above happened on Thanksgiving.

With all the love I have for my wife's family, I have a beef with them and it is this: they need to take a portion of the money they spend on cars in a given decade and put it toward updating their kitchen. While I'm fully aware it is a poor musician who blames his instrument, cooking in a too-small oven that may or may not heat at the proper levels is no way to run a railroad (and yeah, I'm fully fucking aware I'm now mixing metaphors). Trying to cook 13 things in an oven that barely fits a nine-pound turkey means something is going to get screwed up. The result was a bird that took way too long to cook, a bird that had to be probed for doneness one too many times, and, verily, a bird that (after not being done after more than four hours) ended up being carved and...oh, jesus help me...microwaved to insure doneness.

The result was, as you might expect, failure across the board. In the end, I was the guy who screamed for the ball and then dropped it in the end zone. I was the guy who worked all night to pick up the hot chick and then passed out before we got to the good stuff. I was, in short, no better than the people who cooked their turkey with a blowtorch and a can of sterno.

The family was accomodating and didn't protest. Some of them even ate the damned thing. That is a credit to their character.

As for me, I'm now considering buying a turkey and cooking it this weekend. If there was ever a time I needed to get back on the horse, this is it. Plus, I'm feeling pretty randy and I have a new bottle of oil in the cabinet.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Curiously thankful

I'll be the first to tell you, I've not been the biggest fan of 2006. In fact, it's pretty much sucked. A good friend died, my grandpa died, other friends suffered some really bad stuff, and I recently learned another good friend is about to move away. My professional life has been on a bungee and I've wound my way through stupid medical problems (and hence, bills).

Even getting to the Thanksgiving celebration was no reason to give thanks (other than surviving through it). A 7.5 hour drive turned into 10.5 hour drive thanks to some traffic issues that screwed my plans to make it through Atlanta before the afternoon rush.

Atlanta at 4pm on Thanksgiving Eve

And yet, on this morning (a morning on which I'm sitting at my in-laws, no less), I'm pretty damned thankful. My kid is gorgeous and smart. My wife is gorgeous and smart. My dog is still kicking. I'm still earning. All the medical bills are paid. I should see my brother again within the next month and he should get to see my kid. My mom and dad are healthy. And everyone seems basically happy.

That's all I really need. As long as I'm allowed to be thankful that 2006 is almost over, I can round out everything I'm feeling today.

Watching the Thanksgiving Day parade

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Friday, November 17, 2006

If I had real power

I would convince America to let me be its pool reporter for the new O.J. Simpson book and FOX television interview. It's not a personal selfishness so much as a desire to keep the book publisher and television network from making any money off the exploitation of the murder. If we could convince the masses that it didn't have to buy the book or watch the show, it might convince other money-grubbers to not try such sickness in the future. If just one person read the book and watched the interview, that person could report back on what was revealed and it would be over. Ratinggs and book sales would tank and we could all get on with our lives.

Fred Goldman, Ronald's father, has already requested that the country boycott the further exploitation of his son's death. The sad fact is, if a father's plea isn't going to reach the masses, neither will my appeal and offer to serve as the pool reporter. That said, I am more than qualified. As a long-time journalist, I have the credentials to do the job correctly. The summer I lost in 1994 and the months and months I lost during the trial qualify me as an expert.


I would require makers of gaming systems to give their glassy-eyed minions a 30% discount if they already own the previous version of a newly-released product. I would require a 50% discount if the gamers own two prior versions of the system. Finally, I would require that anyone who camps out for three days to buy the latest gaming system (one that apparently won't work with a goodly percentage of the prior system's games) have their house robbed and fridge unplugged while they are gone. Finally, I would require gaming companies to donate 5% of every sale to diabetes research and Jenny Craig.


I would dictate that all families be required to keep at least one pound of Capocolla ham in their homes, just in case I decide to stop by.


I would happily and without shame submit to a threesome with Norah Jones and Natalie Maines. My wife could come, too.


I would make Ecco brand shoes the national (nay, international!) footwear. A phone call this afternoon made me realize I've started converting the discerning shoer-wearer. Now, just a few billion people to go.


I would require all of you have a very good weekend.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Freedom from focusing

Update: Come here looking for an answer on the Jimmy Crack Corn Cingular commcerical? All your answers can be found at Jimmy Crack Corn and Cingular is Forced to Care.

So, after spending nearly four weeks focused on one unspeakable subject, I'm to a point at which I no longer have to sit and worry about whether I'm going to be working in Glendive, MT come 2007. The past four weeks aren't really a subject for for a public blog, but suffice it to say, they involved a lot of life and family choices that I wasn't really prepared to make. My wife was not pregnant and I wasn't deciding whether I'm gay. It was a professional thing that still isn't fully resolved. However, as I wrote to a friend yesterday, it's liberating to accept that normalcy is less the norm than relative chaos. So, there's that.

Now that I'm not unduly focused on whether the view out my window is going to change, my mind has been a wandering mess. My regular daydreams have become even more regular. I'm a silly, sappy fool that, for the moment, is bouncing from subject to subject. So, today you get the silt that's settled in my fingers. The following mental notes are in no particular order.


We live on a street that boasts five surburban tract homes. We have lived here for going on seven years and are the longest-running remaining residents of a street that is really hard to spell. Three of the four other houses have sold once apiece since we moved here in 2000. Our neighbors in those three houses are all great people and I could live on the same street with them for a long time without wanting for more or to kill them. The fifth house, the one directly across the street from our's, is owned by someone who doesn't live there. It's been leased several times in the last several years. The first resident was a fairly hot woman who worked in her yard in a bikini. We called her Repo, because the cops came and took all her shit one day. After that, an odd family that only came out of the house on Independence Day moved in. There was an odd People Under the Stairs vibe about them. After that, a preacher and his wife moved in. They didn't stay long. Bradoween 2005 was enough to scare anyone of serious faith.

Now, we have the people my wife has taken to calling The Pilgrims, in most part because the mother occasionally dresses like a Mayflower woman. They are home schooling people and of a faith I neither understand nor believe is actually recognized by the government. The woman of the house can occasinally be seen running into her house from her car. The man of the house ran his car into my curb on Saturday night, destroying a large slab of concrete that covers our neighborhood's drainage system. When I went out to ask if he was okay, he rebuffed me with a simple "yes," and drove his semi-crippled car into the driveway without another word.

I only bring these folks up because they are even odder than the People Under the Stairs who lived here a couple of years ago. That and the fact that the home schooling involves music instruction and one of the kids plays violin. (Some day I'll have to tell you about Halloween and how this house handled it). Now, usually, the kid plays his fiddle inside and plays it loud enough that I can hear it in my house. Recently, he's taken to playing the thing outside.

Here's the thing...the last couple of days "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" has been in heavy rotation on a local rock station. The Pilgrims, Charlie Daniels, and too much time to think...well, they've all got me daydreaming that the kid across the street might be the devil. If I hear anything about chickens kicking out dough, I may start re-examininig my system of faith.


Does Iran's President not look like the guy who would sell you a joint at some jam band show? He has this smile that says, "kind bud, fatty burritoes" and a beard that just doesn't fit a president.

If we had a Wayback Machine (and not the kind that reminds me of how Rapid Eye Reality looked over the past five years), do you think we might spend less time beating up the Taliban and Iraq and might have focused a little more on North Korea and Iran? I mean, whether Iran's main man smokes dope is not really worth discussing if he gets The Bomb.

Just askin'.


A recent legal ruling has re-affirmed my faith in the courts for five minutes. If you didn't hear, Panera Bread recently tried to get the courts to keep a Mexican eatery from opening in a shopping center in which the over-priced sandwich store had an outlet. Apparently, Panera had a deal with the shopping center that made it clear another sandwich shop couldn't take up residence in the same area. Panera argued that since Mexican restaurants serve burritoes, they shouldn't be allowed to open. A judge finally ruled that a burrito is not a sandwich and Panera lost in its bid to completely piss me off.

Problem about this is, I'm now spending way too much time thinking about the legal implications of this ruling and what other foods are not other foods. Most recently, I've been wondering whether coffee could be considered a soup.


I rented two movies last weekend, both featuring William H. Macy. "Thank You For Smoking" was okay but left me wondering if the comedic possibilities of the film were not fully tapped. I also rented "Edmond" because I like Macy and I like David Mamet.


See, I said I like Macy and I like Mamet. I said that, right? Okay, that said, "Edmond" was so fucking full of itself, it made me question if I really like Mamet. Macy was good, as usual.

Okay, here's where I'm all fucked up. Maybe I need to watch the movie again. I want to rail on it, but I feel like I do when a friend works hard on something that ultimately sucks and then asks, "So, whatta ya think?"

Anyone else seen this one?


Is it Earl? Cat got your tongue? Earl got your tongue?


I could spend all day doing this, but since I have a lot of work to do in the next few hours, I'm going to end this silliness here. Otherwise, I'm going to go off on something about communal living.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Endorphin Withdrawal

It's pretty clear how Americans feel about marriage. They work--like they have a fever in their gut--to make sure gay people (or any pair of people that isn't a man and a woman) cannot enter into a contract and call it marriage. They work to make sure family values are upheld at every turn. They work to keep everyone on the up and up and status quo. Gay folks are denied the privilege of getting married (unless they are closeted gay, speed freak, massage-getting evangelists) and the rest of America feels somehow safer because of it. Marriage between a man and woman, Americans believe, is the only kind that will work within our valued American framework.

That must be why, I see, Americans are largely happy about Britney Spears giving Kevin Federline the Dear John letter via text message. That, of course, is what marriage is all about. You make bad decisions about the people with whom you enter into contracts, you compound those bad decisions by adding more people (read: kids with no choice) into the equation, and then you finish it all off via international text message. Damn, it's good to see American marriage working the way Americans want it. I mean, darned if that little girl from Louisiana isn't the perfect picture of American Marriage.

Yeah, after 15 hours of live blogging on election day, my body succumbed to the dread illness that the kid and the wife have been battling and my happy endorphins are on hiatus. I popped some medicine around 9pm last night and fell into a fog. I watched "Live from Baghdad" for the tenth time and passed out on the couch.

The bottle of Dom remains chilling in the fridge. Despite we here at Mt. Willis being pretty happy about how the elections went, we're still trying to nail down the rest of our lives. The life limbo and the amount of snot on Mt. Willis mean the Dom will stay chilling. I'm hoping to drink it tomorrow night.

Thanks to everyone who had fun here on Tuesday. We, indeed, set a comments record for a single RER post. That was fun. With little to talk about but the failed marriage of two people that don't mean much in my life, I'll cut this short and let everyone get on with their lives.

Aside: I used to use this blog to compare my nightly dreams with my daily reality. I don't do that anymore, because I know dreams are really, really boring. But, I'm still trying to figure out last night's dream. I was on a plane and sitting next to a pretty blonde. The guy on the other side was hitting on her. I told her, "I'll pretend to be your boyfriend if you want." She did and we did. It was only later, after I introduced the girl to my wife, that I learned the girl was Drew Barrymore.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Day -- A Live Blog

Live Blogging Election Day 2006

I overslept. A squirrel has eaten a goodly portion of our Halloween pumpkin. Overnight brought a cold rain. L'il Otis is suffering from some odd malady that makes it difficult to sleep and even harder to be awake. Huge decisisons, both personal and societal, are on the verge of being made. It all sounds horrible, but something has bouyed my spirits. Today means something.

Yesterday, I suffered a mild panic attack in the middle of a Publix grocery store. I almost left my shopping cart in the middle of an aisle and left. Instead, I finished my shopping, came home, and laid on the couch with the kid. I ended up going to bed earlier than usual. It was like I knew today was going to be important.

Ten minutes ago, I told the wife, "I'm not sure what's going to happen, but there's been a shift."

Today is the day for everything, I think. So, I'm going to live blog it. Follow along if you like. Or don't.

11:00am--I bought beer yesterday. Some Sam Adams thing. In retrospect, I'm not sure I bought enough. Regardless, I just took a ten-year-old bottle of Dom and put it in the fridge to chill. I've had the bottle for almost two years and had no good reason to drink it. I'm hoping that I'll pop the cork later tonight. Don't ask me why. I'm not even sure. Like I said, I think there's a shift on the way. Speaking of shifts, my kid is trying to insist he's the female character on a cartoon he sometimes watches. When we try to convince him that he's a boy character, he protests, "No, I'm June!" While not necessarily the kind of shift I was hoping for, I'm not going to freak out quite yet. After all, there's always the beer.

11:39am--I've now showered, caffeinated myself, and re-read the local voter's guide. I've also laughed at the first comment I got on this post. I love absurdism. Here in a few minutes, I'm going to hop in Emilio and drive up to the polls. To be fair, our local elections aren't much to get excited about in terms of the candidates. I'll be voting against my Congressman because he supported the people who have turned my life upside down. Unfortunately, there's no candidate that can really beat him. I'll be voting Green in this race. I'll also be voting for a couple of friends who are running for local and state races, one of whom stands no chance at winning. The only thing that really has my dander up is a collection of Constitutional amendments. I'll be voting NO on an amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. I'll be voting YES on an amendment that keeps government from using eminent domain to take property that will ultimately go to private developers.

12:22pm--It's a misty rain outside, not enough to soak you, but enough to make you feel damp when you get back inside. It's a short drive to my precinct. It takes me down a road called Nature Trail, through a tunnel of orange and yellow deciduous trees, and to a middle school that has been renovated since I last voted. Walking in, a girl in a Buckeye's fleece hands me a yellow explainer sheet on the multitude of Constitutional amendments. I step in the L-Z line and a white-haired lady checks my drivers license against the voter rolls. I'm put in a ten-deep line that mirrors the ten-deep line on the other side of the room. The room is made up of people from 20 to 80 years old. There's a cute blonde with her husand in the A-K line. There's a 45-ish woman wearing tight jeans in the front of my line. A tired-looking guy in my line has his two kids with him. They are well-behaved and that makes me happy. There's a guy two in front of me that I know that I know, but I can't place him. He has a southern man's moustache and looks at me like he knows me, too. We don't speak.

It takes me 13 minutes to make it to the front of the line. By this time, I've decided the woman in tight jeans should give it up and start wearing loose-fitting clothes. I've re-read the amendments explainer. I've read the menu for the middle schooler's lunch (hamburgers or chicken fingers). I've kept a wary eye on the old couple that stepped into line behind me. The man is quietly sneering at the electronic voting machines. He refuses to look at a book that explains how to use the machines and groueses a little bit more. When it's my turn to vote, I'm led to my machine. The woman who voted before me didn't follow the instructions and, while she has cast her vote, she didn't complete the process to submit her electronic ballot. The poll worker who led me to the machine calls over another poll worker. She says, "It takes two of us, right?" I assume this means there is a protocol for these situations. Together, they submit the ballot. I feel like I should be uneasy about what happened, but I'm not so much. While it's frightening that it happened, I kept an eye out and nothing nefarious happened. The ballot went through. I tried to forget my screening of "Hacking Democracy."

Aside: CNN just broadcast video of my governor, Mark Sanford (a good guy whom I've had the pleasure of speaking to many times), being turned away from his polling place for forgetting his voter registration card. What's funny is that I was only required to show my drivers license. Sanford is a recognizable face, especially in the small community in which he lives. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.

I vote quickly, having memorized my voting guide. Our state attorney general, a man I dislike a great deal, is unopposed in his race. Rather than skip the vote, I decided to cast a write-in vote for BadBlood. He has some good ideas about putting the smackdown on the bad guys.

I return my yellow explainer sheet to the girl in the Buckeye's fleece. She asks me if I want a sticker. I say "yes," and smile. She peels the "I voted" sticker off a large roll. I reach out to take it from her, but she looks me squarely in the eye and puts the sticker on the right side of my chest with a firm push. Somewhere in my head, I assign some greater meaning to that moment and walk back out into the rain.

12:49pm--C.J., living proof that I can be good friends with right-wingers, has accused me of stealing his live-blog idea. He failed to notice this portion of yesterday's post, in which I explained the evolution of my political thinking:

Tuesday night is normally reserved for dinner and cards with my buddies. As I have plans to that effect later in the week, I'm bowing out of our normal routine. Instead, I think I'll sit here, watch the returns, and maybe even live blog our country's greatest pot hole potential.

What this actually proves is that C.J. and I, while different colors in the politcal spectrum, think alike in many respects. I encourage you to keep up with him over at Up For Anything.

Also, Absinthe and RJ have already indicated they'll be hijacking the comments of this post to comment on how the day is going. I invite all of you to do the same. If I can't sit in a bar with my friends and live this day to the end, I might as well do it here.

My wife just walked out the door to go vote. She wore a shirt that read, "GEEK" across her chest. "I'm going to cast my rainbow," is what I think she said as she walked out. Even if I misunderstood what she said, I really like it.

1:17pm--The wife has just returned from voting. She's worked up a rant about the handicap voting procedures (which, admittedly, are lacking in good sense). While she had no idea I cast my vote for BadBlood in the state Attorney General's race, she apparently had much the same idea and cast a write-in vote for our local police chief, Willie Johnson (seen left).

To kill time, the wife and I are periodicallly checking in on a trial we've been watching on Court TV in which a garbage man is either being railroaded or not in the death of a fashion writer. The trial was rather interesting, but Court TV's Ashleigh Banfield grates on the good sense of any person of reasonable intelligence. Banfield predicted the jury would be back with a guilty verdict in less than 45 minutes. The jury has now been out for almost two hours.

"Well, at least we know Ashleigh Banfield was wrong," the wife said. "Slut."

1:49pm--Well, if anything, today is making me laugh, if only because the comments in this post are already as funny as anything I've read all day long.

As one source of my frustration with the American government revolves around the online gaming prohibition that was attached to the Port Security Bill, I'm considering playing online poker all afternoon.

2:09pm--Zippy reports (via the ever growing comments) that, like Mark Sanford here in South Carolina, two Congress people in Ohio couldn't vote because of lack of ID or voting machine problems. In New Jersey, CNN reports that one campaign is accusing the other of chaining and locking a polling place door. In Wisconsin, a polling place has been closed (and now moved outside into the cold) because of a bomb threat. In Oklahoma, squirrels ate through some power lines (must've tasted like pumpkin) and knocked out power to a town of 6,000. In Virginia, there are reports of Democrat voters getting phone calls that threaten arrest if they try to vote.

So, whatta you think? I've got a funny feeling about today, but I can't quite place it. What's going to happen here?

2:37pm--Your continued visits here have bouyed my spirit. If you're looking for others doing the same, check out...

Up For Anything
67 Degrees (legislative reporter in the land of Kinky Friedman)

2:49pm--So, I'm what music people would call an alt-country fan. I'm not much for today's Nashville. Give me some Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, Robbie Fulks, Starkweathers, Steve Earle and the Dukes (or any other Steve Earle, for that matter) over Faith Hill, Brooks and Dunn, and Carrie Underwood any day. Give me Willie, Waylon, Kris, and Merle and I'll let you keep Paisley, Urban, and Jackson. (You see what just happened there? I didn't catch it until I wrote it. The good ol' boys are easily identified by their first names. We're not on a first-name basis with the new guys).

Anyway, last night was not the best night for television (save Studio 60, which I continue to enjoy), so I let the wife watch the Country Music Awards. No big surprise, the Dixie Chicks (probably the most vocally and musically talented group of popular country artists) were nowhere to be found. Take from that what you will, but it's further evidence, as far as I am concerned, that I have no real reason to check out the pop country stations.

3:21pm--So about half of what I was expecting for today (the part of everything that is of a more personal nature) will likely not be decided today. I'm not too bummed about that. Delays on that front are more expected than you might guess. So, today's attention is now fully turned to the more important issue, and that's the direction of America. With the ten-year-old bottle of Dom chilling in the fridge, I wonder what is exactly Dom-worthy. I mean, in the two years I've been waiting to pop the cork on the bottle, I've not come up with a decent reason to open it (does champagne go bad?). Now, I wonder what, if anything, will move me to open it tonight. While I'm not necessarily rooting against the Republicans, I am rooting for change. By definition, the Republicans losing control of Congress will mark significant change. However, if most of the predictions come true and the Dems take the House and the Republicans hold the Senate, is gridlock worth celebrating with the Dom? Or do I need complete change? Or, will I just drink the beer that's been in the fridge since yesterday (damn, a beer sounds good right now).

What say you, comment monkeys?

3:34pm--Well, after a great deal of consideration, I've decided to throw my support behind the candidate that has helped me get where I am today. While I respect everyone's opinion, for me, there is a clear choice.

3:51pm--Absinthe, once content to air his views in my comments section, has decided to solitarily stew at his own semi-live blog. And speaking of his stew, I know the wife is going to approach me here in about 30 minutes and ask what we're doing for dinner. I figure neither of us feel like cooking (although Absinthe's stew sounds pretty good and I could use the cooking exercise), I figure we'll go with takeout. She'll suggest pizza. I'll suggest Chinese. We'll likely end up with cold cut sandwiches out of the fridge. Nothing sounds good right now, except Absinthe's stew, and I don't figure to get over there in time to get a bowl. And suddenly, that shift I felt at the beginning of the day is starting to feel less good. Not sure what it is, but I don't feel as good all of a sudden.

4:16pm--If you're the type of person who gets his fix off election results, you'll be interested to see how the major networks are handling exit poll data this year.

...a consortium of five broadcast and cable networks and The Associated Press that commissions exit polls of the major races - have decided to sequester two analysts from each news organization in a secret "quarantine room" in New York, where they alone will get access to the first waves of data from precincts around the country.

Stripped of their cell phones and Blackberries - and even monitored when they use the bathrooms - the representatives will be able to study the results of the surveys, but will not be allowed to communicate them to their newsrooms until 5 p.m. Eastern. They must sign legal affidavits guaranteeing they will not reveal any data before then.

Some of you who are not political animals may not know it, but there are those of us who watch election returns like we watch a sporting event. Ze Frank said today, it's like watching a marathon of World Series of Poker coverage on ESPN. While I'm fairly confident he was beig sarcastic, it rings true for me.

4:48pm--True to form, my wife hit me with a pizza request. I have little interest. Just doesn't sound very good. She said Wok Inn was fine if I'd go pick it up. Also doesn't sound very good. There's an Italian joint up on the corner where I could get some takeout, but...well, yeah, doesn't sound very good.

Thee quarantined exit poll reporters are due out of their locked room in about ten minutes. That's when we should start getting some soft numbers on how things will look tonight. That said, exit polls are pretty notorious for being unreliable (witness the past several Presidential elections).

5:10pm--Exit polls are coming out as I type. However, trying to listen over a kid who is a little angry is not going to work.

5:13pm--Alright, he's calm. Early exit polls say a majority of voters think either party can handle terrorism and that their voting direction was based largely on national rather than local issues. Corruption in Washington took #1 as the reason people went to the polls. Pundits are saying all of the above is bad for Republicans, to which I respond...well, duh.

5:19pm--C.J. has disagreed with what he believes is spin about the above exit poll data. I think I have to disagree with him. If terrorism his the #2 spot for importance in voting, that is a push for Republicans, as people said the believe either party can handle terrorism. If Iraq is #4, that's not great for the Dems, I agree. I would've expected it to be #1. Still, at #4, one would assume that means a majority of people voting against a Republican administration. So...

#1 Corruption--Plus for Democrats
#2 Terrorism--Push
#3 Economy--Plus for Republicans
#4 Iraq: Plus for Democrats

I'm not putting a lot of stock on the exit polls (kinda like sports betting, methinks). However, if someone gave me $100 and said lay it on one side or the other based on the above information, I'd gladly lay it on the Dems.

5:28pm--Food time. I went with chicken parm. Wife went with something shrimp related. The kid got the sketti. Back in a bit.

6:00pm--Back from dinner. Meh. Gotta talk to the guy about how to cook chicken parm. I was about to talk about how the rain has picked up here and the voting was probably done for the day, but the local news shows long lines at polling places. Not that it matters much here, though. I try not to talk too much about the blue state vs. red state stuff, but South Cackalacky is pretty damned red. Hell, the Gamecocks boast garnet as their school color.

6:12pm--Oh, and evidence I need to turn off the political coverage as soon as the night is over? My kid called the wife "macaca" during dinner.

6:19pm--In case you spent the last few weeks reading Dilbert and eating ice cream, here's what we're watching tonight:

  • Democrats need net gain of 15 seats to take control of House--Most pundits are saying this is lilkely to happen. If it doesn't, Republicans can celebrate and Democrats can sit in confusion and wonder where they went wrong...again.

  • Democrats need net gain of six seats to take control of Senate--Most pundits are saying this is much less likely than the Dems taking the House. If it should happen, I think it would be equivalent to the 1994 victory by Republicans. if it doesn't happen, Democrats will have to hope they take the House and Republicans can feel happy with a moral victory.

  • 6:32pm--The benefit of being a former political journalist is having friends on he ground tonight. One reports that polls in at least one South Carolina county will stay open 8:00 tonight because of a vting machine problem. The area is primarily African-American. A judge made the call late today at the request of the Dems.

    6:53pm--Well, the polls in many eastern states are about to close. I'm wireless on the laptop in the living area of my house. Right now, we're watching Wolf Blitzer, with MSNBC as a backup. I'll turn to FOX if things go poorly for the Republicans. I think my kid just opened a beer in the kitchen. I need to go tell him that we have to wait at least an hour.

    7:00pm--CNN now projecting that Virginia voters more than likely have passed the ban on same-sex marriage. Not sure if that is any indication in the big Senate race there. Regardless, it's not the kind of sign I like to see. Of course, reading anything into this amendment is not really worth it at this point. As an aside, CNN's graphics would be more useful if they didn't change them every three seconds.

    7:07pm--Three potential pick-up House seats for Democrats in Kentucky and Indiana are all skewing Democrat in early reporting. Only one of those has a significant precinct percentage, though.

    7:15pm--In recent minutes, we've turned over to MSNBC in an attempt to save our eyes. CNN's graphics strobe light was getting to be a bit much. We'll head back to CNN after our eyes have rested. In other news, I think the germ factory kid may have given me his cold.

    7:20pm--From the old Otis homestead, a few areas in Southwest Missouri (a key state in this year's election) have...get this...run out of ballots. Talk about turnout.

    7:23pm--Via Absinthe...a look at CNN's exit polls shows key states skewing Democratic.

    7:53pm--With the new round of polls set to close, I'm feeling a little better. I laid on my floor with the kid and watched some coverage. "Daddy, watch the news?" he said. Also, not that I think it will happen, but if former college and NFL quarterback Heath Shuler should beat Charles Taylor in the North Carolina House race, I'll open the Dom just on principle.

    8:00pm--Who is out there reading in Ohio? Is the governor's race there any indication of how the night is going to go for DeWine? Locally, the precincts are just starting to report. The absentee votes are skewing Democratic, but that will change like a mother-effer in the coming hours. One thing is clear: my NO vote on the same-sex marriage ban will be counted, but not result in South Carolina looking less like a backward, Deliverance, red state.

    8:05pm--C.J. points out that CBS has already called Sherrod Brown the winner in the Ohio Senate race over Dewine, marking one pickup for the Dems.

    8:24pm--Uncle Ted just called. He has the distinction of not having been mentioned so far in today's live blog. He's eating kielbasa, dirty rice, and a piece of pie he requisitioned from his neighbors. If they are the neighbors I'm thinking of, they are likely very interested in the outcome of today's votes.

    Also, a friend (okay, it's G-Rob) stationed in the state captial tells me there might be a chance our doofus Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer might get beat by a Democrat. Of course, it looks like all of SC's Dem precincts are coming in early, so who knows.

    8:34pm--From the comments section and Boy Genius:


    Voting against him is the best thing I've done since landing on the ground in PA. God bless America.

    8:45pm--Can I believe Chuck Schumer? He just told Democrat HQ that the tight Senate race in Virginia is close now, but the heavily Democratic precincts in the northern part of the state have yet to come in. Do I believe that?

    9:01pm--While I'm making some hot chocolate, pol sleuths CJ and Absinthe have dug up some data that suggest Webb could infact pick up a lot of votes in the coming hours in his effort to unseat George Allen.

    9:19pm--Hot chocolate with butterscotch is damned soothing for the soul. Feeling bouyed as we speak.

    9:26pm--Three Senate pick-ups for the Dems now with Ohio, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. As Jeff Greenfield just said, that's halfway home. Virginia, Missouri, Montana, and Tennessee are the states in play. Dems need three out of four to pick it up. To be honest, I just don't see Virginia and Missouri going the Dems way. That's not based on anything but a gut feeling and having lived in Missouri for 23 years.

    9:32pm--Nothing official yet, but the word on the street is Tommy Moore is just about finished in his bid to unseat populist, maverick Governor Mark Sanford in South Carolina. Still waiting on word on the Lt. Gov race. A moral victory here would be Andre Bauer losing.

    9:36pm--As a matter of full disclosure on the above...I voted Republican in the governor's race. While Sanford can't get along with the legislature and has a bit too much money to fully understand the populace as a whole, his fiscal policies fit right in line with what I think I governor should have. Plus, Tommy Moore is one of the good ol' boys. When I saw Republicans for Moore and saw who those Republicans were, I knew Moore was a no-go.

    9:38pm--Another reason Dems lose in South Carolina...according to my source...the last three songs played at the Democratic party:

    Electric slide
    Honky Tonk Ba-donk-a-donk

    9:43pm--Associated Press calls SC governor's race for Mark Sanford.

    9:45pm--C.J. has me convinced the Senate is no longer in play for the Dems. Virginia's Arlington County seems Webb's biggest hope at this point. Virginia is the key there. Optimism in L.A. suggests it's possible, but I think C.J. has swayed me to believe it ain't going to happen.

    Absinthe disagrees. He's combing through the precinct numbers and says:

    "A lot of precincts outstanding in Richmond City, Petersburg City, Norfolk City, Loudon County, Arlington County, and those places are going to Webb by anywhere from eight points to better than 2:1 (and they're much more populous - the districts in which Allen has a large margin are already at 100%)"

    9:55pm--Apparently my home county has suffered some sort of meltdown and can't count my vote (or anybody else who lives here). This could be interesting.

    10:21pm--Methinks it's time for a beer. If you've not yet opened yours, I invite you to join me.

    10:29pm--Frankie is keeping an eye on the Talent-McCaskill race in Missouri for us. It's been flipping and flopping there. McCaskill who jumped out to an early lead is looking to be fading fast.

    In other news, C.J. over at Up For Anything is going out on a limb and calling Virginia for George Allen. He writes:

    "Based on my questionable mathematical skillz, I'm calling the U.S. Senate race in Virginia for George Allen (R), which effectively ends the Democrats chance of regaining control of the Senate. Allen leads by 30,000+ votes, and an analysis of the outstanding precincts shows Webb could pick up as many as 27,000 in counties he's done well, but Allen is also likely to pick up at least a few thousand."

    10:48pm--ALARM! ALARM!

    If I just understood Tim Russert correctly, NBC has called North Carolina 11 for Heath Shuler. And in checking CNN...indeed...evil incarnate Charles Taylor, longtime incumbent in western North Carolina, has been defeated by a one-time quarterback.

    Taylor is old school Republican. The race in these parts was us ugly as they come. The GOP went all out to turn Shuler into a monster. They failed and Charles Taylor is coming home. Hopefully he'll hole up in his mansion and get scabies.

    11:07pm--Let's be honest with ourselves here. The Dems aren't going to take the Senate tonight. Even if Virginia comes in, MO, TN, and MT aren't going to.

    11:31pm--I voted for a Green Party candidate today. She got all of 1% of the vote (and that was likely rounding up). Over in Virginia, the number of votes pulled in by the Green Party candidate could've given the Dems a pick-up seat. Kinda makes me wonder.

    Networks are projecting now that the Dems will, in fact, take over the House, so they have that going for them. And as my buddy said the other day, "Sweet, sweet gridlock."

    11:50pm--Webb has just pulled slightly ahead in VA. That means I'm not going to bed quite yet. In other news, Kyl won in AZ as expected. Still, the spiteful Otis was hoping for a big upset there.


    It's Missour--EEEE
    Not Missour--AHH

    12:32am--Tennessee is off the board. That leaves VA, MO, and MT and Dems need all three. I'm eating Wasabi peas.

    12:33am--George Allen is talking to his folks in Virginia right now. "This has been an interesting election and the election continues," he said. I may or may not have heard him correctly, but I think he also thanked "macaca" for being there.

    12:40am--In Missouri, Claire McCaskill has just pulled into a slim lead. Jackson County (KC area) is coming in strong for her, as expected. 31% of the votes remain to be counted in that county. St. Louis County is not a strong Democrat county like St. Louis City, but it is trending McCaskill, as well and still has 70% of the vote to come in.

    12:45am--And just like that, Talent has jumped back ahead of McCaskill. That said, McCaskill has a chance. In Montana, with 35% of the vote in, Tester leads by about 8%. So, let's look at this for a few minutes. I give it 9-1 that the Dems take both MO and MT. But, if they do, that leaves VA as the Florida of 2000. The recount will be an insane process and could take weeks. Litigation, protests, and...well, likely locusts will all be in order.

    12:52am--In six degrees of seperation news, J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), one-time sportscaster for my old TV station and incumbent Congressman in Arizona, has lost his bid for re-election.

    1:05am--Jackson County, MO just came in big for Claire McCaskill. She's now got a small lead with the rest of Jackson County and St. Louis County still to come in. The question is whether my people down in Southwest Missoui have the numbers to push Talent back over the top. If you missed it, the Joplin area (about 45 minutes southwest of where I grew up) ran out of ballots today. That means it will be a while before we see the votes out of that reddish area of Missouri.

    1:28am--Now 14.5 hours into this experiment, I will admit, I'm finally tired. Sam Adams Light doesn't not taste like Sam Adams. Wasabi peas are great for a small snack, but not for a late-night meal. Three outstanding Senate races mean the difference between a decent Democrat victory in the House or a sweep that will give them full control of Congress. I'm currently deciding whether I want to ride this one out. After all, the Dom is still chilling in the fridge.

    1:47am--Um...I think McCaskill could win MO. In looking at the outstanding precincts, it's either going to be a McCaskill win or it's going to be very very close. She's about to take the stage in Missouri. And I'm not going to bed yet.

    1:51am--McCaskill declares victory. Holy, holy, holy.

    1:53am--Funny. Seems there is a Dem strategy in place to declare victory before even the knee-jerk networks call it. It happened in VA and now MO. As Absinthe pointed out to be, it's all about perception, especially in the case of a potential recount.

    2:02am--So, with 15 hours of live blogging under my belt, I'm calling it a night. With the House locked up for the Dems, three races remain that could make a big, big difference. In VA, Dems have declared victory. In MO, Dems have declared victory and the networks are calling it for Claire McCaskill. In MT, the Dems are leading. As they just said on TV, it looks like, as Montana goes the Senate goes. I'd hoped to crack the Dom tonight, but there are wagon trains in Montana still bringing in votes. As tomorrow (well, today) is important, as well, I'm calling it quits for the night. Thanks to everyone for the fun today.

    Dom on Wednesday?

    Labels: ,

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    How I got here

    A couple of months ago, I watched some bad television magazine piece (I think it was 20/20) about people who are--for whatever reason--not at all interested in sex. They marry other people who are not interested in sex. They spend their entire lives not poking or getting poked. And they are happy about it. As a guy who long ago crested his sexual peak (and, my, what a trip over the mountain that was), I still find it amazing that there are people who can even claim not to have sexual desire. I mean, I think about sex many times in a given day (sometimes more than a couple of times an hour). Hell, I'm thinking about it right now. Hold on a second...okay.

    About a year ago, I wrote "Does My Vote Count" for the defunct (?) Tri-Clops blog. In that screed, I was pretty honest about my apathy for the political process. And, if I'm being honest, I still believe much of what I wrote then. That said, I have a list of candidates and their platforms sitting beside me right now. Tomorrow morning, I will head up to the local middle school and vote in every race I'm allowed. Why? I got just angry enough to do it.

    For political strategists, I am a confounding voting animal. I don't make much sense. I'm not swayed by party politics, jingoism, or guilt-by-association politics. The fact that a church guy from Colorado liked speed and homosexual rub-and-tugs doesn't make me think my local Republican governor is a bad guy. Furthermore, the fact that John Kerry is a buffoon isn't going to keep me from voting for a Democrat.

    When I finally decided I was going to re-enter the political world, I had to ask myself why? I had to ask myself how I got here politically.

    For those of you who don't know, I was raised in a Republican house. Up until I was 17 or 18, if you'd asked me, I would've told you I was a Republican. I'm not sure I knew what that meant back then, but for all practical purposes, it meant supporting Reagan and talking bad about taxes. Back then, it was really easy to be a Republican. I went to school in a rural community in which I knew a grand total of two black people and one effeminate guy. I didn't meet any Jewish people until I went to college. That's not to say anything about race or politics. It's just to say, I was really, really isolated from the real world. What's more, as my father was a businessman and a successful entrepreneur, it was easy to put my shoulder behind the reduction of taxes and the elimination of the inheritance tax.

    College affected me a lot like it affects most people. After moving away from home, I developed a greater sense for the people who actually make up society. My earlier conservative leanings shifted to the left. During my years in college, I routinely told people I was a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. Looking back, I'm not sure if I really understood what that meant, either.

    The past ten years have been witness to a slow evolution in my political thinking. Usually, it's been more issue-based. It took me a very long time to decide that, while I don't think I would ever choose abortion as an option, I would not impose my choice on anyone else. After a very long time in which I considered myself a proponent of the death penalty, I now believe that, however satisfying it might be to see a child-killer put to death, it's not enough to make up for the possibility an innocent person might be killed. I believe in supporting the American military, but reserving the right to question the cause.

    So, where am I now? Well, I am not a Republican and I'm not a Democrat. I still believe in reducing the tax burden on everybody (if you don't, check out 60 Minutes' piece on Congressional pork and wonder if you'd rather keep some of the taxes you're paying). I still believe in smaller government and reducing the intrusion of government on our lives. In the past, those might have been Republican causes. Any more, I don't think so. What's more, I believe I was long ago abandoned by the Republican party.

    I wonder if the Republicans understand what they've done. In the past, I might have looked out for my personal interests (money, etc) and voted for a Republican, even it meant stomaching some ugly institutional social policies. Now, I'm willing to vote against Republicans, even if it means my self-interest is hurt. That is, I'm willing to stomach things I don't appreciate about the Democratic platform for the chance that I might not have to be ashamed of my government, confounded by authorized prisoner torture, or sick that people who have spent time in shadowy CIA prisons might not be allowed to speak to attorneys for fear they might reveal what interrogation techniques the spooks use.

    So, tomorrow, I will vote the candidate and not the party, even if I know for a fact the candidate has zero chance of winning (my wife and I have agreed that we're both voting for, indeed, the Green Party candidate in our local Congressional race). I will vote my conscience.

    A friend of mine who gets weekly transfusions for his bleeding heart told me last week that he's hoping, at a minimum, Democrats will take over the House tomorrow. Why?

    "Sweet, sweet gridlock," he said.

    There was a time in my life that I might have scoffed at him. Now, it seems like a reasonable idea. After all, if your parking brake slips on a San Franciso street, would you rather your car get stuck in a pot hole halfway down the road or roll all the way into the bay and sink?

    Tuesday night is normally reserved for dinner and cards with my buddies. As I have plans to that effect later in the week, I'm bowing out of our normal routine. Instead, I think I'll sit here, watch the returns, and maybe even live blog our country's greatest pot hole potential.

    And, in lieu of that, at least I'm not sexually apathetic. I wonder if my wife would wear her "I voted" stickers in a sexy place?

    Labels: ,

    Sunday, November 05, 2006

    In lieu of...

    news about the thing the wife has taken to calling That-Thing-We're-Being-Annoyingly-Vague-About, how about another glimpse into suburban happy life?

    That is all.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    What we can learn from John Kerry

    I believe John Kerry.

    I do. I believe he mucked up a joke written by a member of his staff. I believe he actually meant to criticize the President instead of indirectly insulting the members of America's military. I believe him. I really do.

    And because I take John Kerry at his word, I think I'm fair in saying, "Johnny, you're part of the problem."

    In case you don't read blogs or watch the news, here's what Kerry said:

    "You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

    And here's what he was supposed to say:

    "I can't overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq."

    So, what do we have here? Well, we have a number of things. First, we have a speechwriter who is probably better off writing copy for the J.C. Penney catalog. Second, we have handlers that don't see that their man is well-ennough prepared to deliver remarks that require a certain amount of practice. Third, we have a politician who doesn't own a highlighter.

    But most of all, we have evidence of the biggest problem facing American politics. If we are to believe the analysts, next week's elections are some of the most important in more than a decade. If we are to believe the activists the minority party, America is at a crossroads in both domestic and foreign policy and if things don't change now, we're all screwed.

    Facing this importance, rather than focus on some pretty damning talking points (read: legalized torture, increased tax burdens, ever-growing national debt, a war that's gone awry, the rape of the Posse Comitatus Act, and the Republicans evident desire to protect America from itself--formerly the role of the Dems), Kerry and his people chose to go with the old school route of simply insulting the opposition. And they did it badly.

    My point is this: If you're trying to get a promotion at work, and the guy you're trying to beat out has run the company into the ground through a series of arrogant moves and screw-ups, you don't use as your main evidence, "Boss, just look at him. He's dumb." There's a reason Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert exist. They're funny. They make the jokes. Humor is a great device if you use it well. But, if you ain't funny, don't try to be. It just doesn't work.

    So, Kerry and his team have accomplished a lot this week. They have tried to be funny and failed. They have handed an issue (and with it, the beginning of momentum)right back to their opponents. At a time when they were most likely to capitalize on American dissent, they made themselves look stupid. It's not a matter of what he meant. It's a matter of how what he said can be spun. Less than a week before mid-term elections and the news isn't talking about what America needs. It's talking about man who failed in a Presidential bid and how he has become a pariah. That is, the news is doing exactly what the White House wants it to do: not talk about what's happening.

    Nice work, Johnny boy. You should be getting your "thank you" note from Karl Rove sometime next Wednesday morning.

    Labels: ,

    Shameless Happy Plug

    Of note this Halloween:

    The kid received two football costumes as gifts from grandparents on both sides of the family. He's worn both many times, but for the big day, my boy picked the right one. I'm quite happy.

    Our neighbors...well, this one may just have to wait for video. Oddest shit I've ever seen.

    Advertisting inquiries to:
    blackjack terminology
    New canadian casino online poker web, which is owned by 888 casino announced launching before a few months. They are focusing only on Canadians and their specific needs (e.g. payment methods etc.),so you are able to play online games such as poker comfortably in your national background.

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