Thursday, April 23, 2009

Unkie Kev

So, I've known my sister for quite some time. Almost thirty years, in fact. I remember when audio cassettes first came out and we'd record radio shows in the living room. Everyone else hated their siblings, but I couldn't see what was so horrible about a big sister. I remember when she thought I was a cool brother and would take me to high school parties when I was like thirteen. I can't believe my parents never said anything when I'd come home smelling like smoke (for the record, I didn't start smoking myself until several years later). I remember really understanding Dylan for the first time when I went to visit her at UW Madison. It was the first time I associated 'folk' with 'cool' - the beginning of my grassroots philosophy of public service, to stretch a metaphor. I remember the crazy pride that filled my chest when I spent a week with her in the Dominican Republic while she was working with the Peace Corps (see the 'Under the Mosquito Net' blog on the right). I had honestly never known any one who was making such a tangible difference in the lives of others. I remember when she first moved to San Francisco. It was so cool to hang out in a different city and know I knew someone, so I belonged - kinda. I remember when she got married to Bryan. I had been going through some tough personal times, but she (they both) went to such lengths to make sure I was okay, despite the heavy plate I know was in front of them.
My sister Bert is one of my favorite people in the world, and I could not be happier that she's going to have a tiny Bertlet that I can be the creepy Midwestern uncle to. Bert, I promise I won't teach him or her any swears until they're old enough to know not to say them in front of you. Just please don't give them the square-head haircut that Mom gave you. All the best from fly-over land, and most sincere congratulations to you and to Bryan!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Waiting for that midterm election...

So, Yes We Did, and all that. I'm jazzed. I really am. I've been super happy with Obama's actions as our chief executive so far. I don't even mind that he bowed to a foreign sovereign (in fact I don't really see what the big deal is). I feel really great that our eight year national nightmare is over.
However... for those of you who live in other parts of the country, it's springtime in America. For Minnesotans, we still have two years of our state nightmare left. Until 2010, we are still being lorded over by a man who I can only hope will go down in history nationally as a momentary hopeful, then forgotten, but state-wide as the single most obstructionist governor we've ever seen. Last year Tim Pawlenty vetoed a state record 34 bills - almost 8% of all vetoes issued by all MN governors since 1939. That's just one of his six years so far, and it looks like he's coming back with the same force this session. Last year, Democrats could only muster enough crossover votes to override one of them, and for that the six Republicans who did put the good of the state first to enact our first gas tax hike in 20 years were stripped of their committee assignments and (all but one) defeated handily in their suburban districts in November. Pawlenty just last year vetoed everything from a minimum wage hike to stem cell research to helping homeowners facing foreclosure to fixing our roads and bridges to a NON BINDING resolution calling for more openness with Cuba.
Here's my take: Pawlenty doesn't actually have the power to write and enact legislation, only to deny legislation from taking effect. Therefore, his ridiculous obstructionist pen is a study in the difference between doing nothing and doing something. He doesn't like what his options for action are, so he has denied any action from going forward. Meanwhile, the potholes are bigger and more plentiful (in my non-scientific study) than they have been in years, traffic and smog keep getting worse, more destitute people are slipping through the housing and healthcare cracks, and fewer bright young people can get an education simply because they are born into poor families. Guess what? Doing nothing is ALWAYS worse than doing something. While the cost of services and maintenance has continued to rise with the rest of the country, we have not been able to fund the programs we need to maintain service at the levels we in Minnesota are used to, just because our executive is under the thumb of local anti-tax interests and in the spotlight of national hype. I honestly hope T-Paw (even his nickname makes me want to beat my head against a wall) does run for national office in 2012, because it means he'd be ill-advised to run for Governor again in '10, on the likely chance he'd be defeated and rendered moot.
So, for all of you on the coasts, or in the Southwest, or even around the Midwest (cheers, Iowa), yes, I'm happy for you all. But please, send some positive, progressive vibes our way here in what used to be one of the bluest states in the union. And I believe we still are (we've gone Democrat in Presidential races longer than anyone else in recent history) - we've just been hijacked by the powerful marketing machine of the anti-tax lobby and forced down a bumpy, under-serviced road to neglect.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

They run everyone's plates on the north side.

So, I found out last night that nothing we do is really private. Allow me to explain:
I was on my way to the curling club to play our first playdown game of the spring, and I got no more than ten blocks from my house and I saw cherries in my mirror. I pulled over, and got out my ID. As I was digging in my wallet for my insurance card, the cop said, "Don't bother, you're suspended. Step out of the car, please."
This was news to me. I stepped out of my car, and they led me back to the squad car. With my hands on the trunk of the cruiser, she gave me the full pat-down.
An aside: when I'm on long car drives, I often find myself in truck stop bathrooms. If I happen to have three quarters on me, I find it funny to get the weird sex-toy items from the vending machine. I do this not with any intention of ever using the items, but because I find it funny and interesting to see what I get for my 3/4 dollar and to see the hilarious packaging that these items come in.
Back at the scene of the infraction, she was patting me down, and she took everything out of my pockets and set it on the trunk of the squad. My camera, my gloves, my Moleskine notepad, my wallet. She reached into the breast pocket of my coat and pulled out the "Horny Goat Weed" aphrodisiac supplement, took one look at it, and put it back into my pocket.
They then sat me in the back of the car (It was tiny back there - I can't imagine being over six feet with my hands behind my back and trying to fit in there), and I sat thinking this would be the time I ended up in lockup. I'd get bailed out, and whomever came to save me would stand there silently judging as the clerk on the other side of the glass assessed what had been in my pockets: "One Nikon Coolpix camera, one leather billfold, one 'Horny Goat Weed' herbal aphrodisiac." I was mortified just thinking about it.
They went through the contents of my backseat:
Cop #1: You know, you've got quite a bit of garbage in back, there.
Me: Yeah, I've been hibernating over the winter - I was going to clean it next week.
Cop #2: Do you have a girlfriend or a wife or something?
Me: Yes, I have a girlfriend, and she contributes to that mess.
Cop #2: Well then disregard my next statement.
Cop #1: What about those muffins? How long have they been in there?
Me: Those are carrot cake cupcakes. I just put them in there today to bring to the club with me!
All I wanted was to get to the club and wreak some havoc on sheet six, but someone had to criticize the way I live my commuter life.
In retrospect I have no reason to be upset, since they went ridiculously easy on me, considering I did in fact have an unpaid ticket from six months ago ("We should tow your car, but since you live so close you can drive home and park legally, but if a Mpls cop sees you driving again you'll get your car towed."), but at the same time, I feel a little violated. I mean, they made fun of my automotive hygiene. That hurts. I always thought my car was a sanctuary. If I invited a friend in, that was a privilege, and anyone curious about how I lived my life was SOL. Pull me over, yes. Drag me out of the car if you have reason to believe I'm up to no good. That's fine. But for god's sake, don't make fun of the fast food wrappers in my back seat. That's like finding Lipitor in someone's medicine cabinet, and making a cholesterol joke.
On a happier note, I got a hold of a friend to pick me up and take me to the curling club. The other team tied it up in the seventh end, and it looked like they were going to mop the ice with us. Shaun, our skip, came through on the last rock, threading it into the house to sit point and we barely won the game. Looks like I got ridiculously lucky twice last night.