Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fixing Airport Security

After hearing about this story this morning, in which a man used a fake Id and an expired boarding pass to get on a plane in New York, I had some questions.
Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, a Nigerian-born man who was found with the stolen ID and up to 10 old boarding passes containing various names, was arrested Wednesday after attempting to board a flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta; five days after passing through layers of airport security at New York's JFK airport to board a plane with a day-old boarding pass.
My first question was, how is that so many things that are a potential threat to airline safety get through TSA checkpoints? For example, a man can carry four knives through TSA checkpoints. A well-known myth buster, can get a 12-inch saw blade through TSA checkpoints. Bombs can get through TSA checkpoints. Guns can get through TSA checkpoints.

My second question was, how can so many things that obviously aren't a threat to airline security get caught. The bomb link above notes that a water bottle was confiscated. Toddlers are searched. Old ladies are practically strip searched. Somehow, a man with a fake Id and an old boarding pass got through. When asked, all the TSA spokesperson could say was:
Generally speaking, though, the TSA said in its statement, "Every passenger that passes through security checkpoints is subject to many layers of security including thorough physical screening at the checkpoint. TSA's review of this matter indicates that the passenger went through screening.
In other words, "We checked to make sure he didn't have a water bottle. We don't check to make sure your boarding pass is valid." Great.
I'm thinking that the TSA needs to spend more time checking the validity of Ids and boarding passes and less time worrying about water bottles and nail clippers. I understand that Ids can be hard to check since each state's looks different and very few (if any) agents can -- or should be expected -- to be able to spot a fake.

What if a passport were required to fly? U.S. passports now contain microchips, holograms, and other hard-to-fake features. The biggest argument against this is cost. While a typical driver's license is cheap to obtain, passports can cost over $100 and are almost as expensive to renew. What if they were as cheap to obtain as a driver's license?

Wouldn't it be a more effective security measure to be able to ensure that the person getting on the plane is the person who is supposed to be getting on the plane? That wouldn't ensure that no plane ever gets attacked or blown up ever again, but it would be a lot more sensible than the system we have to day, which focuses on water bottles and shoes rather than on who's getting on the plane. Partnered with metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs, we'd be a lot safer with a lot less hassle.

(Crossposted at Say Anything)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Photos from the Tri-Cities Tournament

This weekend MJ's travelling team played in the Tri-Cities Tournament, which is hosted by the Red River Soccer Association and held at locations in Fargo and Moorhead (I didn't say the team had to travel far). The Pumas lost all three games, showing how far Moorhead competitive soccer has to go. However the girls played hard and were in every game (4-3, 6-2, 2-0 -- okay maybe not that second one).

Here are a few photos:

You can see all the pictury goodness here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Music Diaries: Amped Up

I finally broke down and bought a small practice amplifier for my old electric guitar. I bought the guitar back in 1988 or so. It's an Ibanez EX series. I got it for about $200 which back then was like a gajillion bucks. It still sounds pretty okay though, and it holds its tuning alright. That's pretty good considering that guitar didn't see the light of day very much between 1990 and 2011. I did take care to store it properly, so good on me.

Anyway, now I can hear the licks I'm trying to play and I can tell better if I'm getting it down. Cat Scratch Fever doesn't sound the same on an acoustic, and it's not much better on an unplugged electric. I got a nice little amp at Schmidt's Music after I tried to go to Marguerite's only to find out that they close at 6:00 pm on weekdays because, well, shut up, that's why. Anyway, it's a nice little Fender Mustang I which is rated pretty highly as a practice amp. It can crank at 20 watts even though it's the size of a paper shredder (no, seriously -- it's sitting on the floor right next to my paper shredder and they're the same size). My guitar couldn't be happier.

Now I can start learning some of the dulcet riffs of my childhood. Stuff like Judas Priest, Heart, and Krokus. Yeah, Krokus kinda sucks but I always liked that one song. Sue me.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Special Sauce Edition

This was a bad week for cooking. I made dinner Monday night, though I can't for the life of me remember what it was. Tuesday was soccer practice, so I took MJ to McDonalds, which is something I really hate doing, but time was against us. (A quick aside -- it's not that I don't like fast food. That's the problem; I love it. Because of that I try to avoid it like the plague. Sometimes it doesn't work out though.) Wednesday Donna had a hair appointment and I had an errand to run, so we grabbed some dinner out. Thursday we were taking the wedding band out to scope the venue, so we made some sandwiches and had a picnic after work. Friday MJ had a soccer game and after that we had tickets to the Redhawks game. Hello foot long chili dog and beer, goodbye nutrition.

So along comes Saturday and it's time to make something at home before I forget how. I'm in the mood for chicken, so I thaw some. MJ's been talking lately about how much she loves spinach dip, so it occurs to me that I could make a nice little sauce that, while no where near as thick as a dip, would still have the flavor. So I whip one up and she loved it.

Asiago Spinach Sauce

1/2 cup asiago cheese (grated)
1/2 cup of fresh spinach (chopped)
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt

Okay, before we get into the sauce (which is super easy -- I don't know why I'm wasting your time with posting this, actually), a quick word about the chicken. I just cooked this in a little olive oil over high heat to sear it. I seasoned it with sea salt, fresh black pepper, chili powder and tarragon. I know that that combination might make you scratch your head. I have no doubt that if Gordon Ramsey were reading this, he would be sitting at his computer laughing and calling me clever things like "bloody tosser". That's okay. Believe me if you will: that combination worked.

As for the sauce, it starts with a classic cream base: melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour and whisk until blended. Add the cream and chicken stock and up the heat to medium-high. Be sure to keep whisking so that it doesn't clump. Once it start to boil, add the spinach, salt and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium low. If the sauce gets too thick you might need to add some more chicken stock. Basically, you want it to be thick enough so that it doesn't run all over the place, but not so thick that it won't run a bit when you put it on a plate. Think more gravy than syrup. Add the cheese just before you start plating.

Speaking of plating: I put a few tablespoons on the plate first, then place the chicken breast ever-so-lovingly on top. This sauce is very rich and flavorful; a little goes a long way. You definitely don't need to drown the chicken with it.

I cooked some fresh green beans in garlic, olive oil and a little white wine and whipped up some garlic mashed potatoes to round out the dish (I'll post that recipe some day). I also quartered some mushrooms and sauteèd them in a little butter and garlic (seasoning with a little salt and pepper) because, hey why not.

As for the drink part of this meal, I stayed true to my current obsession with malbecs. Tonight it was a 2008 Alamos. It was a pretty heavy wine, though it apparently isn't a pure malbec. According to this review it's got some cabernet in it. Whatever. It was actually pretty good. Very spicy and heavy. I got it for $10, so, hey, you can't go wrong. I'm still drinking it as I type this so make of that what you will.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Quick Though Exercise: Applying Government Logic on a Micro Level

Listening to Tim Geithner try to explain how raising taxes is necessary in order to preserve the current size of government was enough to give me a headache. It's like watching someone try to explain to you that the Earth is flat. This fictional person isn't lying; he really believes the Earth is flat. No amount of explanation on your part about mercator maps and telescopes and space shuttles taking pictures and nobody having ever fallen off the edge of the Earth into deep space will convince him otherwise. He just answers in a sanguine fashion, "Yes, I understand all that. But back to my point. The Earth, being flat..."

Geithner (and most of the current administration) appear to take the following as givens:

1. The deficit is unsustainable.
2. Government must not be made to shrink.
3. QED, taxes must be raised.

That may seem an oversimplification, but watch the video at the link above. Geithner says,
"If you don't touch revenues and you leave in place the tax cuts for the top 2% that were put in place by President Bush, if you leave those in place, and you're trying to bring our deficits down over time, then you have to do exceptionally deep cuts in benefits for middle class Americans and you have to shrink the overall size of government programs, things like education, to levels we could not accept as a country."
The problem is, there is no level of cuts that don't get attacked with words like "draconian" any time they are proposed.

The list above could be more broadly deployed thusly:

1. There is no problem that government can't fix.
2. There is no problem that can be fixed by shrinking government.
3. QED, taxes must be raised.

Look at Geithner's argument: we can't shrink government enough (in his opinion) to deal with the deficit. So rather than spend less money, we need to keep more of the money that workers earn. How that is supposed to stimulate the economy I will never understand. But let's do a quick thought exercise:

Frank is unemployed. He hasn't held a steady job in over four years. He gets one just long enough to requalify for unemployment benefits then leaves. He has a cell phone with a nice data plan, a computer, a nice car, cable TV, and all sorts of other amenities.

One day he realizes that his unemployment benefits aren't going to cover his rent, cable, cell phone, car payment, and his active lifestyle (he likes to go to bars). Frank has two choices: he can stop going out to bars, get rid of his cable, maybe sell his car for something cheaper, get a cheaper cell phone plan. Or, he can go to the unemployment office and say, "I can't get my spending in line without exceptionally deep cuts in my lifestyle to levels I could not accept as a layabout. You need to give me more money to cover my bills."

Tim Geithner and the current administration are Frank.

(Crossposted at Say Anything)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

President Announces Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan

President Obama has announced his plan for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. In short, the plan is to recall 5,000 troops this summer, another 5,000 by the end of the year, and an additional 20,000 by September of 2012. Leaders on both sides of the elephant/donkey divide are criticizing the plan.
"It has been the hope of many in Congress and across the country that the full drawdown of U.S. forces would happen sooner than the president laid out and we will continue to press for a better outcome," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leading a chorus of disgruntled Democrats who took the president to task, albeit politely.
Okay, so the Democrats are unhappy that it's taking so long. What's the Republicans' problem with the plan?
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, warned Obama not to sacrifice the gains the U.S. has made in Afghanistan, while Arizona Sen. John McCain said the drawdown was too rash.

"This is not the 'modest' withdrawal that I and others had hoped for and advocated," McCain said in a statement following Obama's prime-time address to the nation Wednesday night.
So the drawdown is too much, too fast. No surprise there.

I think it's far more likely that the reasoning behind the plan has much to do with the timing; the bulk of the troops will be coming home just before the 2012 election. I think the administration is just hoping that it will give them something positive (from its point of view) to use as a talking point in the late stages of the campaign next fall.

(Crossposted at Say Anything)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some Other Warning Labels the FDA Might Want to Consider

Hey, look! The government is launching its next offensive in the war on tobacco! Now, at least 50% of a cigarette package's surface area will have to include disgusting images portraying the possible consequences of smoking:

No kidding.

It seems only fair that other dangerous products get treated the same way. To help the FDA along, I've mocked up some helpful warning labels to add to some existing products that are known to cause illness, death, and other negative words that get lawyers all a-twitter. (Click to enlarge)

Seriously. There's even some pseudo-scientific
mumbo jumbo to back it up.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Breaking the Fourth Wall

So our first round of trying to sell the house didn't go so well. It was on the market for six months. It got looked at three times and there were no offers. Our first realtor had us put it on the market without addressing the leaky basement. We weren't being underhanded; we didn't throw carpet down there and try to make it look liveable and thus foist the problem off on the next owners. We were just up front about it being leaky and explained that this is why the house was inexpensive. No go.

Yeah, just as I thought. bowler hats, a
garter belt, some jacks... and a little mold
So now we are on to our second realtor, who advised us that, no, we really need to do something about the basement. So last night we had a contractor come out and appraise the situation. Basically, he told us that the drywall needs to be cut out along the west side of the house so that he can try and find what he believes is a crack in the wall. The outside seemed to be in good shape, so he believes we won't have to go the (more expensive) route of digging up the outside of the house. Whew.

Anyway, Donna and I are a bit apprehensive about what we're going to find on the other side. Hopefully it will be benign, like Al Capone's vault or Sarah Palin's emails. Otherwise, this could get very expensive. We'll find out tonight when the contractor comes back. With tools.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Music Diaries: Today I am a Man

The guitar playing has been going well. Even though I took a week off to go fishing the callouses on my fingers were still pretty much intact when I got back and one of the first things I did when I got back home was get a little practice in (Donna was not yet back from a trip to her parents' home).

Banging away on chords is fun, and I'm getting better at the transitions. But I have to admit that after a few weeks I started getting the itch to, you know, play something. Something other people would recognize (not that anyone is going to hear it anytime soon). So I began looking on YouTube for some famous riffs so I could at least practice these chords on songs I like. That software is great, but I don't share the same level of affection for Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead and Tom Waits that the author does. Yeah, yeah, they're all important to the canon, I get it. But still...

So I found a few videos and wrote down the chords. I can pretty much play the entirety of Hotel Yorba without screwing up too badly. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being "the beginning of Chopsticks on the piano" and 10 being "Any Yngwie Malmsteen solo", Hotel Yorba is about a 2. But it's something, and it's a fun song.

But last night I go to a point where I could play something meaningful, something that all creatures of the Earth respect and love. Something that every guitarist must be able to play before ever dreaming of entering the pantheon of musical greats.

I can play the intro to Cat Scratch Fever.

Today I am a man.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Monday Tuesday Morning Awesomeness (6/14/2011)

Some links to start your day while I get ready to celebrate MJ's tenth birthday! This was supposed to post automatically Monday morning but for some reason it didn't. So, better late than never?

  • Someday the sun is going to explode and kill all life as we know it. Wanna see that on a micro scale? Of course you do!
  • What do you do when someone leaves a profanity-laden message on the answering machine of your movie theater complaining about being kicked out of a movie for texting? You play it before every movie as a warning to others!
  • This is probably fake since I can't figure out why she would post it, but it's pretty funny nonetheless. To sum up: she really cares deeply about cats and needs a date.
  • An Australian has built the perfect vehicle for outrunning stormtroopers on Endor.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Tapenade with Mushrooms

On the list of things I never thought a (then) eight year old girl would love, tapenade would have to be number one with a bullet. It's all the things I hated as a kid: it's unappealing to look at, it has a strong odor of olives, its contains ingredients I had never heard of (capers) that look like miniture peas, bane of my young existence. Then you smear it on bread. There is no way I would have eaten this as a child. MJ loves it, showing once again that she is a smarter kid than I ever was.

This isn't a meal of course. It's an appetizer/finger food. Despite the fancy name it's actually very simple to make. It has a consistency something like caviar, and even looks a bit like it. Rest assured there's no fish eggs in here though. That would be gross.

Tapenade with Mushrooms

Six pieces of french bread, about 4-6 inches long
1 cup portobello mushrooms (sliced)
1/2 cup kalamata olives (or your favorite)
3/4 tbsp capers
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp thyme
3 tbsp olive oil (divided)
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp butter

fresh parsley (chopped)

Over medium heat melt the butter. Sauteè the mushrooms, sprinkling with salt, pepper and oregano, until soft, about 4-6 minutes. In a small bowl mix 2 tbsp of olive oil and the balsmic vinegar. Submerge the mushrooms (you may want to let them cool first) in the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least a 1/2 hour (overnight doesn't hurt; the longer they soak the more flavor they'll retain).

In a food processor combine the olives, remaining oil, garlic, thyme, capers and lemon juice. Pureè until smooth. That's it; you made tapenade!

You can let that set for a bit while you melt some butter or margarine in a microwave. Brush on to your bread and sprinkle with some more oregano. Place in an oven (or toaster oven) and toast that bread until it's a little crispy. Spread the tapenade in a thin layer on the bread (a little goes a long way) and top with the mushrooms. Sprinkle a little chopped parsley and impress your friends.

Tapenade is fun to make because it's easy; you don't have to chop anything. That means it's a simple matter to enjoy some wine while you throw everything in the food processor. Tonight I tried a new one, Red Guitar red. It's another in a long line of $10-$14 wines I grab when I'm at the liquor store. It's "a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha" that has a "rich, powerful flavors, ripe fruit, and a passion capable of warming the heart even in the cool recesses of the cellar". Whatever. It was okay, but it really seemed to me to be a light fruity merlot. It had that consistency anyway. It's not bad, but for the money I can get some Root: 1 cabernet which is much better.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Pan Seared Walleye

Fish frys are great. But sometimes you get a filet so fat that deep frying it violates local ordinances and another method is called for. When those occasions arise, pan searing is a great way to go. It's pretty simple to do and you get some great taste out of few ingredients. You want the fish to be the star.

Pan Seared Walleye

walleye fillets (or heck, use whatever fish you want)
olive oil

two roma tomatoes (diced)
1 small onion (diced)
1 clove of garlic (minced)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp tarragon

Season the fish with the salt, pepper and paprika. Pour a bit of olive oil into a skillet and heat on medium high to high. You want the oil to be hot. Use enough so that the fish will submerge about a third of the way. If the oil starts smoking, it's past time you got started. Place the fish down and press with a spatula. You hear a lot that this squeezes all the juice out of meats and fishes, but when pan searing you want to get a nice, well, sear on it. Pressing it down for a couple of seconds helps with that. Don't squeeze the life out of it, just press it a bit.

How long to cook on each side depends on how thick the filet is. It shouldn't take too long, however. The filet in the picture above took about 3-4 minutes per side and came out perfect. If that looks good to you, then you're done. Enjoy!

Otherwise, you can heat a teaspoon of olive oil in another skillet on medium-high. Add some minced garlic and sauteè for about 30 seconds. Add some diced onions and sauteè again -- while reducing the heat to medium-low -- for about 2 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Add some diced roma tomatoes, tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep cooking for another 3-5 minutes, or until the tomatoes are softened but still firm. Spoon it on top of the fish and take it to the next level.

Normally for a companion wine I'd suggest a dry chardonnay. But I just got back from a week long fishing trip during which I drank entirely too much alcohol. With this dish I had a giant glass of skim milk.

Here Fishy Fishy

I'm going to tell you a story. A story of may flies and walleyes, Animal House levels of alcohol comsumption, a steakhouse that wasn't, urination, and beginner's luck. It won't always be pretty. It might offend some of you with more delicate constitutions. Some of the language may be borderline harsh. I apologize in advance for all of this. But it's just a story.

If you look closely you can
see the kitchen sink.
It was a Monday, Memorial Day actually, when friend and coworker Bob[1] packed up a truck and headed down to South Dakota to meet up with another friend and coworker, Jim, and his boat. When we arrived the wind was howling, causing swarms of may flies to careen into my face and, when it was open, into my mouth. Jim warned us to avoid the "patches that look like mud" on the ground, as they were actually the remains of hundreds of thousands (millions?) of may flies. Apparently there was some sort of insect turf war. I guess the may flies won, as they certainly maintained air superiority.

To all the workers who died building
this monument, rest in peace.
We loaded up the boat and headed the four hours west to our final destination: a state park in central South Dakota I later found out was known for the Great Rattlesnake Manifestation of 2009. Let me just say it's a very good thing I found this out after we were driving back to Fargo and leave it at that. Being Monday evening, the campground was almost deserted. There were maybe two other campsites occupied close enough that we could see them. We quickly made camp, starting with the giant tent Jim brought along. Once it was up and we dismissed the hundreds of day laborers we hired to help, I quickly dubbed it the "Tim Mahal". Jim. Jim Mahal.

With that it was time to mix a drink. Okay, second drink. We had one while supervising the tent workers. As unlikely as it sounds, drinking would become a recurring theme of the week. More on that later (read: shocking statistics to come). I broke out some really excellent hot dogs and cajun brats from Thielen's Meats (after having boiled the brats in beer before leaving Fargo; I'm not a barbarian). After washing those down with some Crown Royal we hit the hay, ready to hit the water early in the morning.

The next morning the wind was gusting up to 476 miles per hour. Naturally, we set out to find a bay or something we could hunker down in to fish, cause after all, what are we, girls? We got on the water and fought the wind for a couple of hours. At one point Poseidon rose from the depths of the bay and hurled a wave at us. It was 100 feet high if it was an inch. That didn't really happen. But we did get tossed around to the point that we all three simultaneously said, "f--- this, let's go back to camp and drink." So we did.

First catch of the trip.
Wednesday dawned and things looked a bit brighter. The winds were a manageable 15-20 and the sun was coming out in dribs and drabs. It was a little cold on the water, but it was welcome after our run-in with the water god the previous day. Being the rookie[2] I needed some pointers on how to catch walleye. Apparently dragging a leech along the top of the water is not the preferred method. Huh. Anyway, Bob caught our first two fish of the day. Jim got one too, and I was feeling like an extra anchor since I hadn't gotten even a bite. Then I caught the next four fish of the day, including a 29 1/2 inch monster that nearly cracked the hull getting it into the boat. Good times. Oh, and we were doing "Lithuanian Shots" everytime we caught a keeper. A Lithuanian Shot is when you guzzle from a liquor bottle because (1) you don't have a shot glass and (2) you're trying to get loaded, duh. We took our limit (of fish, not booze -- that would come later).
Biggest catch of the trip.

Obviously, the first thing you want to do when you come off the water with your limit of fish is to go back to camp and fry them up. So obviously we headed to a place called Bob's Steakhouse[3] instead. Bob's Steakhouse is the most unique steakhouse in the world in that it only has three steak entrees on its menu and all three of them are the same cut. 90% of the menu is not steak. That said, the top sirloin was pretty good and they almost managed to cook it rare for me. Seriously, no chef ever believes me when I say I want it rare. That's a post for another day though. Anyway, it was pretty good and they had a full bar there so it was fine.

As an aside, I had no idea how spiny walleye are. When you get one in the boat they lay there, all passive, until they sense you are about to touch them. Then they spring themselves into the air and all these defensive weapons in the form of spines fly out from all parts of the fish, impaling everything in site. My fingers and hands were cut to shred before I just started shooting them once I got them into the boat. If you've never seen this phenomenon, this is what it looks like:

A walleye with defensive spines deployed.

Wednesday night, more drinking, etc.

Thursday would prove to be a seminal day in the history of fishing. The weather was absolutely perfect. There was a bit of a breeze, just enough to keep the water moving  but no enough to make it difficult to navigate. We didn't catch anything like the monster from the day before, but we did catch both our limit and take three walleye over 20 inches (which was also a limit). More importantly we beat a 1.75 of Jack Daniels to death with our livers. Since the dawn of time man has yearned to destroy a 1.75 liter bottle of whiskey from within the confines of a fishing trip. Well, we did it. And we looked good doing it, too. That evening we did fry up some of our freshest catch and it was delicious.

Thursday night, more drinking, etc.

Linda's: home of the $24
six pack of Busch Lite
Friday was basically a repeat of Thursday as far as the weather and our success at catching fish. It was a bit hotter (around 82 as I recall). We didn't drink nearly as much, having suspended the "catch a fish, drink a shot" rule due to the small poles flying tiny white flags that unceremoniously thrust themselves through our torsos by our failing livers. Good time rock -n- roll! We fried up some more fish for dinner and killed off the last of our beans that night. On the way back to camp though, we decided to break our treaty with our livers and get some more booze, so we stopped in Akaska[4] and picked up two liters of Jack. Do not ever do this. Apparently the town's sole source of revenue is the taxes it levies on alcohol. One liter of Jack in Akaska goes for $32.50. This is not a joke. I've been in three card monte games that didn't rip me off this badly. Of course, this didn't stop us from paying.

Saturday was our last day on the water, so we wanted to make it count. To show you how serious we were, we only packed beer on the boat this time. Yeah, I know, right? Like I said: serious. Now, when I say "beer", I mean Coors Lite, which is to beer as reality TV is to reality. That is to say, it bears no relation. But canned beer was the logical choice to take camping and boating, and when I'm going to drink cheap beer I want it to taste as much like water as possible. Thus, the Coors Lite. Seriously. Drink a Fat Tire or a Rogue Dead Guy and follow it up with one of these. I dare you to tell the difference between Coors Lite and bottled water. Anyway, we brought 48 of these and were down to our last 20 or so. In the cooler they went. They would not return.

We caught one short of our limit, and only one over 20 inches, so it wasn't our best day of fishing. That's not to say it was bad. Jim did an awesome job of finding the spots where they were biting and keeping us over them, so after being frustrated most of the day we started hitting late. On the way back to shore we discussed the liquor situation, which at that point was dire. We had a 1/2 bottle of $32.50 Jack at camp. We had exhausted the beer. So, yeah, we went back to Linda's and bought a liter of Crown Royal. It was the right decision.

Remember the fallen.
 (Not pictured, 48 cans of beer.)
That night we finished off the dogs and brats, supplementing it with a little bit more fish. We also killed off all the booze. Our liquor bottle population was decimated at this point. It was like we committed whiskey genocide or something. Heck, I haven't even mentioned the words "Jim Beam", because he was with us for so brief a time. He was there and gone like leaf in the wind. The next day I gathered the bodies. They were stacked like cordwood, having given their lives to shorten ours.

Sunday dawned and we packed up, tired but a little sad to be going. It was a great trip, and I give my eternal thanks to Jim and Bob for inviting me. I hope I acquitted myself well. If not, at least I got to drink a lot. I learned quite a few things on the trip and have memories to last a lifetime. Some things I'll never forget:

"I like your outfit."
"Hey, I caught a rock!"
"I like a fat wiener in the ash."
"What just fell in the water?"
"You're interesting to talk to."
"Hey, I caught another rock!"
"I'm becoming a Crown bigot."
"I have to write this s--- down."

[1] Names have been changed to protect the intoxicated.

[2] I've been fishing plenty of times before, but my only experience walleye fishing involved catching every other type of fish other than a walleye, up to and including giant squid.

[3] No relation to the Bob on our trip, which isn't even his real name anyway. Are you paying attention?

[4] Town motto: 'It's like Alaska with an extra K!'

For all the pictures you didn't see here, check out the online photo album.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why is the Media Trying to Make Me Like Sarah Palin?

I am not a fan of Sarah Palin. Not that I dislike her as a person -- I don't know her. But she is a politician with possible aspirations of being President of the United States. As such, she suffers from the same terrible flaws that our current president did when he was running. Very little actual time spent in the trenches of government (Obama was a first time senator, Palin was governor of Alaska) and a foreign policy portfolio that is emptier than PNC Park when the Pirates are in town. For me, these were critical flaws that made supporting Obama impossible and should be doing the same for Palin. There's just one major difference: the media is spending an inordinate amount of time trying to make me like her.

The media is absolutely obsessed with making Sarah Palin look bad. Slate has a running feature called Palinisms which chronicles the supposedly dumb things she says (nothing in there about 57 states, near as I can tell). The major media outlets run with any story that may cast her in a bad light, uniformly bypassing the "layers of fact checkers" which supposedly gives them a sense of superiority in their war with bloggers. All this negative press would be enough for me to get over her terrible accent and feel sympathy for her. But it goes beyond that: she keeps being shown to be in the right in these hatchet job stories.

First there was the famous "I can see Russia from my house" line. Actually, Tina Fey said that in a Saturday Night Live sketch. What Palin actually said was, "They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." Turns out that she was right. It soon became conventional wisdom however that the Fey quote was really Palin's and a cottage industry in trying to make her out to be stupid was born.

The Left blogosphere erupted when Palin, while addressing a crowd in October 2010, stated it was too early to "party like it's 1773." Media types, including Gwen Ifill of PBS, rushed to point and laugh. Of course, it then dawned on people that Palin was addressing a local Tea Party group and well, the Boston Tea Party happened in... I'm sure you can figure it out.

Later, Palin used the term "blood libel" in reaction to another media uproar: the idea that conservative talk show hosts and politicians were responsible for inciting violence after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. Palin herself was mentioned as a perpetrator after it was revealed that she had used campaign materials that contained crosshairs. This was quite the double whammy: not only was Palin an instigator of violence, but she misused a loaded term while defending herself! There were three problems with this: one, Palin was not the first person to employ crosshairs (or the last). Two, there's a lot more evidence that the Left is responsible for violent acts than the Right. Three, it turns out that Palin not only used the term correctly, but that she wasn't the first. Earlier uses didn't seem to stir up much reaction though. It's like there's an agenda out there or something.

The latest controversy was over Palin's comments during a trip to Boston about Paul Revere's famous ride. In them, she spoke the following words:
He who warned, uh, the ... the British that they weren't gonna be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and, um, by making sure that as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free ... and we were gonna be armed.
First, let me point out that I love how the writer left all the "uhs" and "ums" in there. Quotes are usually cleaned up to make the speech sound more cohesive) unlike a transcript which is supposed to be verbatim. More importantly however, it turns out that once again, Palin knows more about history than the people mocking her.

I'm sure I'm leaving out all sorts of other episodes in this vein, but this is plenty. All these "Palin moments" are having the effect of making me sympathetic to her. On a basic level I don't like it when I see a bully plying his trade. I root for the underdog. I understand on a gut level that the media doesn't like Sarah Palin. I understand even that they fear her running against Obama in 2012. I get it. I think she's unqualified to be President. If she got the Republican nomination, there's a 98% chance that I would leave the Presidential ballot blank. But there used to be a 100% chance back before the media started working so hard to make me like her.

(Crossposted at Say Anything)