Friday, November 28, 2008

My Little TMI Friday

The scene: a sultry Friday evening during the summer of 1990 (early July, if I recall correctly) at Camp Lejeune in coastal North Carolina.

The players: five Marine corporals—Kruger (the guest of honor), Holst, Craig, Bob and, yours truly, the Foggy Dew.

The situation: a lot of beer, some bad judgment and an exceptionally poor sense of direction.

The event: Kruger’s farewell as he bids the Corps goodbye after four years of faithful service. He’s heading home to Wisconsin for some well-earned fishing and not being in the Marine Corps.

Don’t get me wrong, we all loved being Marines but, like all Marines everywhere on their first enlistment, we also loved the idea of getting out of the Marine Corps. When you hit the six-months-to-go mark, tradition allowed you to put up a calendar and begin marking off the days, and Kruger’s was down to his last weekend at Lejeune.

To celebrate Kruger’s gettin’ out the decision was made, and this is going to sound pretty stupid and lame but it wasn’t, to head up to the bowling alley on base to roll a couple frames while partaking $1.50 22-ounce beers.

Many. Many. $1.50 22-ounce beers. In fact, we were doing more drinkin’ than rollin’. When you’re a Marine corporal, well, that’s a pretty good Friday night. Beer, bowling and buddies.

About halfway through the evening the best, truest and most prophetic line my ears have ever heard was spoken.

“Hey Kruger, ya know what? Ya know what’s gonna happen now?”

Slurp some beer and add silly/nasty grin.

“You’re gonna be home in Wisconsin gettin’ ready to celebrate your last day of terminal and somebody, somewhere in some Godforsaken place is gonna throw a war.”

More beer. More taunting:

“You’re gonna wake up on your last day of terminal to the phone ringing and it’s gonna be Capt. Whathisnuts telling you to come on back ‘cause we’re deploying some fuckin’ place.”

“Go fuck yer’selves [Dew/Holst/Bob/Craig]," Kruger said with a terrified look, "If that shit happens, Whathisnuts is gonna get my answering machine telling him I’m in Canada fishing.”

Well, we all know how this story ends. About three weeks later, on Aug. 2, 1990, the late Saddam Hussein decides he really needs Kuwait’s oil more than the Kuwaitis do and invades. A massive coalition is built and Saddam is asked nicely several times to leave Kuwait. He refuses all of these polite requests. He and his “elite” army then get their collective asses kicked out of Kuwait and southern Iraq and the guys leaving Kuwait City then have the shit bombed out of them on the “Highway of Death” heading back to Baghdad.

Kruger did, in fact, get called back from his terminal leave, but he didn’t deploy with the rest of us. He ended up staying at Lejeune to nurse maid a whole bunch of FNGs who joined our unit, but didn’t get there in time to share in the glory of our great victory over the Iraqi army.

[Note: They say if you have to explain a joke it’s not funny, but really, this is. Why? Well, a little background on enlisting in the American military: When you hear about folks joining up for three, four or five years, it’s all a lie. They’ve all joined for eight years whether they know it or not. Part of it’s active (the three, four or five years), and part of it’s inactive (the five, four or three years remaining to equal eight). It’s this inactive time that scares the shit out of you because, until it's all over, they still own your ass. You’re the first poor sonofabitch they’re calling back when they need extra bodies. To hell with the Reserve and National Guard, the inactive ready reserve guys have all been on active duty and all, generally, know what they’re doing. This is what’s happened and is happening to a lot of guys today (stop loss), and this is exactly what happened to Kruger. And, being Marines who are deploying to a war zone, well, we all laughed and laughed at Kruger’s plight. Just like Animal Mother said in Full Metal Jacket, “Better you than me.”]

So, on to the TMI part of our evening’s entertainment.

The five of us staggered back to our barracks and hit the rack. Tomorrow was Saturday and we had some more drinkin' to do.

I fall into my rack (nautical terminology for bed) and the world promptly starts spinning like a 33 LP at 78 rpm. “Jane, stop this crazy thing…”

Then the little elf in the control room in my brain is hitting the emergency release button for every pressure relief valve between my lower intestine and my sinuses.

A lightning fast decision loop is started and completed and the answer’s not good: I’ll never make it to the head (nautical terminology for bathroom) in time…but hey, the floor’s tile, I’m already facing the open floor in the middle of my room and I've got a mop in the corner and I can just clean it up in the morning.

In retrospect this was a good, logical solution to my dire situation. Unfortunately, the decision was based on one badly flawed premise: That I was facing the open side of my rack and toward the center of my room…but like the clock on the nuke in any Bond movie, my time was running out.

The decision had been made. The switch closed. The flow reversed.

Yep, I gloriously puked up $10 worth of $1.50 beers at point blank range toward a cinder block wall. Six 22-ounce beers = more than a gallon of cold, golden goodness, in case yer interested. It’s one of those moments you now briefly wish you had on video, and are then immediately glad you don’t because your kids will never be able to find it while digging around the attic of your hard drive.

The amazing thing was when I cracked my eyes open the next morning I looked out into my room expecting to see a pool of slowly cooling and congealing vomit. But I saw nothing.

I was confused. Very. Very confused.

“Maybe the puke elves visited in the night and cleaned up for me,” I thought. “Or, maybe…wait a minute, what the hell is that smell? Why’s the wall covered in…awwww, crap, it’s all coming back now.”

I made myself get up right then to clean up the mess. Aside from cheeseburgers, lots of water and a handful of Motrin, there ain’t much on God's green earth that’ll kill a hangover faster than having to clean up your own puke at 8 a.m.

Thankfully it’s pretty easy to clean still-damp puke from painted cinder block and linoleum tile. While I still would have like to have aimed 180 degrees in the other direction, at least in aiming at the wall I kinda contained the mess and it was a lot easier to clean up.

Still wasn't no fun, though.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It just keeps on giving

Amazing to think Fundies made it on a list* of gifts we don't want to receive this Christmas. Really, I ask you, who wouldn't want a pair of these?

With a slogan like "Half the fun is getting in them, the other half's up to you" you'd think these would be flying off the virtual shelves.

According to Shop in Private, "Fundies are a classic gag gift. Unlike other gag gifts, you can imagine someone actually bringing these home and trying to use them. Ewww. Perhaps you had better not imagine that."

The gymnastics of trying to don a pair of Fundies stagger the mind a bit and, seriously, now that you're in "the position" who the hell really wants to go to the effort of slipping a pair of oversized granny panties on?

Apparently there are uses according to one of the customer reviews: "I bought these for me and my lesbian girlfriend because our double headed dildo was always slipping out. They work great!"

OK, I can see that.

*Gift #1, the "Life Gem" is especially creepy.

Thanks or TMI?

I was trying to decide if I wanted to go with something TMIy today or, in the spirit of the holiday tomorrow, be thankful for something, anything. And, I figured, since I have to come to work on Friday I'll save the TMI until then to entertain y'all.

Lessee, what am I thankful for?

Family. I've been pretty lucky when it comes to family, gains have exceeded losses. Considering the fact I and both of my brothers were Marines, that's saying something. Also, come next month, there'll be two new additions to the family unit when my brother and his wife welcome children three and four (girls two and three).

Friends. I'm lucky enough to have not one, but two best friends: the Doc and the Director. I've known them each 25 years now and really don't remember when my life didn't include them. Add in my friends from college (in order of acquaintance): Sarita, Anderson, Liz, Lawyerman and Disaffected Scanner Jockey and that makes me kinda like Lou Gehrig.

Other things I'm Thankful For:

I've loved and lost and loved again (and lost, again) You can't have the sweet without the salt.

I'm employed.

I have two invites to dinner tomorrow night.

Psycho T came back for his senior year.


I live in a city with great (free) museums.

My Williams-Sonoma rolling pin.

I don't have to drive on 95 tonight.

Random, stream of consciousness blog posts.

Those little things holding the ends of your shoelaces together so they go through the holes.

The coming Festivus season.

Sundresses in the spring and skimpy tank tops in the summer (to look at, not to wear).

Turkey. Stuffing. Cranberry sauce.

The hope of better days to come.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things that annoy me... Commercial edition

As I was rubbing the sleep out of my eyes this morning while waking up to the friendly, intelligent banter of the Squawk Box crew, my predawn groove was jolted like someone dragging the needle across an LP. For those of you who don't know what an LP is, or what happens when you drag a needle across one, look it up Junior.

What could spoil my morning visit from Joe, Becky and Carl, with weather by super-hottie meteorologist Britta Merwin? (Yeah baby, she was a cheerleader in college.) It was the commercials, the commercials made me do it, officer.

I've heard many complaints lately about Toyota's "Saved by Zero" ads, which indeed are enough to begin chipping away at the fragile edges of anyone's sanity. But today there were three ads, run within about five minutes of one another, that grated on my inner ear.

The first one was for that lovely little product you can use to soak up excess moisture anywhere: Shamwow!. Even the name annoys me. And the stupid-ass telephone operator headset the jackass selling them is wearing. Is there really any reason to get so excited about a glorified washcloth? I think not.

Second, "Billy Mays here..." Anything Mr. Mays is selling you can be sure I won't be buying, even if he left the screen and took a Black&Decker loaded with 1/4-inch drill bit to my kneecaps.

Today's example was Mighty Mendit. Apparently, even though it sticks shit together, it isn't a glue. It's "a flexible bonding agent that grabs, adheres and interlocks the fibers of virtually any fabric for a permanent repair." According to Webster's, a glue is "any of various strong adhesive substances." Hmmmmm, Mighty Mendit sounds like a glue to me.

The last and final product placement driving a nail through my skull this morning was for something called Zoombak. The commercial's not that bad, it's the concept of the product that makes me as uneasy as a virgin at a Tailhook convention.

For those of you who don't know what Zoombak is, it is a small transmitter you can hook to your dog's collar, or plant in your teenager's car. The system works by combining GPS and cell tower signals and lets you keep track of your dog...or your teen.

I got no problem with keeping track of your dog, it's the whole LoJacking of children I've got a problem with. Take, for instance, this "testimonial" from the company's Web site:
Karen S. — Spring Hill, FL-- I let my son use the car and he was going to a friend’s house. I checked his location (he doesn't know about the tracker, it’s hidden in the dashboard) and saw that he was miles away. I called him and he stated he was studying and would be home in a couple hours. I had my husband drive to his location and found him at a party -- was he surprised to see us at the door! He is still trying to figure out how we found him.

Holy! Crap! Batman!

Yet another wonderful example of helicopter parenting. How the hell is your child ever going to learn to survive in the big, bad world with mom and dad hovering over their shoulder every waking and sleeping moment? If you have such a complete lack of trust in your child, well, that's a symptom of a much larger problem I think.

As much as Karen S. wants to believe Junior doesn't know how he was discovered, he's probably figured it out already. Kids are a lot smarter than mom and dad give them credit for. And probably a lot smarter than mom and dad.

Reminds me of when my family first got cable back in the Stone Age. The thing that sold my mom on having it installed was the safety of the "lock box," allowing her to deny my brothers and I access to the evils of HBO while she and my dad were out for the evening. The first time they went out it took a 12- 11-, and 9-year-old about 15 seconds to figure out that if we just unscrewed the cable from the box and put it right into the TV we could watch all the R movies we wanted.

My guess is Junior's either wrapped the his parents' carefully hidden leash in a couple layers of tin foil (shiny side in, of course), cut off it's power supply (it only lasts five days without a charge) or yanked it from the car entirely.

"Don't know what happened mom. Wow, someone must have broken into the car. Incidentally, why were you tracking me?" Nervous silence. "Thanks a lot. I though you said you trust me. I wish I'd never been born..." and so on and so forth.

Don't get me wrong, parents have every right to be concerned about their kids. I know my niece, who just started driving, probably scares the hell out of my sister. I know that someday, when the first boy comes to pick up my best friend's daughter for a date there he'll be, cleaning his shotgun and pistol at the kitchen table while he chats with the boy. And God protect the first boys sniffing around my brothers' daughters.

As a wise man once said, daughters are God's revenge for being born a man. And while Sam Colt made all men equal, some of us are a lot more equal than others.

I would much rather have my child know they can call me at 3 a.m. to say they've been drinking (or other stupid things) or are in jail even, knowing there'll be no immediate repercussions. The next day there might be some consequences, but that's a lot better than the scary alternatives.

Parent's are there to catch you when you fall (I know mine were), but the landing is a lot softer when it's cushioned by trust.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sad Milestones

Every boy remembers his first time with sadness. Something that starts off so hopeful, and yet turns to ashes in a briefest of moments.

You know what I'm talking about. That first time you see her as you open it up for a better look. But then something catches your eye.

"No. NO!" Your mind screams that can't be right. But as you look closer at the vital statistics you see it's true. For the first time in your life you're looking at a Playboy centerfold who's younger than you.

It's a sad milestone we all reach, sooner or later.

"Why? Oh why!" we wail, "Couldn't this have waited another month? Or year? I'm only 19 and my life is over."

OK, maybe it's not that bad, but it's still a hard blow to take. I passed it long ago, but the pain remains and I'd hoped to never feel that way again.

But the news I heard this morning was like Mother Nature ripping a Band-Aid off my knee.


And then, just for good measure and a little extra special pain, rubbing some kosher salt in the fresh wound.

I ask you, "Didn't we just finish up one of the longest and most excruciating presidential campaigns ever just 21 days ago?" For the record, we did. And now I see this headline on the news this morning:

"Only 1,443 day to go."

What. The. Hell?

It's true. The man above and to our right, Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-Louisiana, was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Saturday night. Ostensibly, he was there giving a speech to 800 or so guests at a dinner sponsored by the Iowa Family Policy Center, but we all know what it was. It was the first stop on the 2012 campaign trail.

Let me say that again: The president-elect has yet to raise his right hand with his left on a Bible and swear to "...Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution..." and there's already folks lining up for a shot at his chair behind the Resolute Desk. Barack Obama hasn't even finished filling the seats for his first Cabinet meeting yet and the line's forming for 2012.

And here's where I tie naked women and good writing to the chief executive of Louisiana: Jindal, the first Indian American elected to a governor's mansion is 37 years old. Yep, for the first time in my life, there's a guy running for president who's younger than me.

Didn't think I could do that, did ya? Sure, it's easy to put the governor of Louisiana (or the governor of any state for that matter) together with naked women, but it's a damn site harder to connect them with good writing.

Even though the former Rhodes Scholar hasn't announced it yet, we all know Jindal's going to take a run at the presidency. Either that or he was innocently making a speech in the state where the first primary contest will be held in four years. Why the Hell else would someone go to Iowa? In November?

I'm a huge fan of free speech. But maybe, in just this case, I just might get behind a restriction on campaigning for president, if only for the sake of my sanity.

The English dramatist John Fletcher said "Deed, not words shall speak to me."

I think it's time anyone who wants to be president of this country take that to heart and start doing instead of talking. The best way for Bobby Jindal, or Barack Obama for that matter, to make their case for the Oval Office in four years of for them to shut the Hell up and do. Do the business of this country, We the People's business, not the corporations' and banks' business, and work with us to make everyone's lives better.

That's how it should be done.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Words, words...and more words

I was going to go off here today on a bit of s spiel about bailing out Detroit or, depending on my mood, a really annoying Enterprise rental car commercial. But not today, thanks to the NYT and its "This Day in History" feature.

Today, like in Gladiator, we look back to hallowed antiquity as it is the 145th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Here is a .pdf of NYT's story from this day, 145 years ago, when half of our divided country came together to dedicate a cemetery on the ground that had been a great battlefield less than five months before.

The only know picture of Lincoln at Gettysburg

It's an interesting speech. Just 272 words and 10 sentences long, lasting barely two minutes, its words still ring true to this day. The most interesting line, and the line where Lincoln got it the most wrong was this, "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."

He was half right, we haven't forgotten what was done, but we also haven't forgotten what was said...except, of course, Edward Everett's two-hour speech preceding Lincoln's brief remarks. Funny how these things happen.

I bet, if a random group of us were to write down the 10 most important addresses in the English language, not only would Lincoln's words be there, but we'd probably agree on five of the remaining nine.

Here are 10 of my favs (minus Lincoln's) from newest to oldest:
  • Ronald Reagan's 1987 remarks at the Brandenburg Gate, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev -- Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's in 1963, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
  • John F. Kennedy's 1963 address in Berlin, "Two thousand years ago -- Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was 'civis Romanus sum.' Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is 'Ich bin ein Berliner.' " (For those of you who skipped Latin, or didn't watch The West Wing, "civis Romanus sum" means "I am a Roman citizen.")
  • John F. Kennedy's 1962, "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon... (interrupted by applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
  • John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address, "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
  • General of the Army Douglas MacArthur's 1951 farewell address to Congress, "The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away."
  • Franklin Roosevelt's 1941 speech to the nation after Pearl Harbor was attacked, "Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."
  • Winston Churchill's 1940 address during the Battle of Britain, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day…"
  • Lou Gehrig's 1939 goodbye to baseball, "Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
  • Franklin Roosevelt's first inaugural address in 1933, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

This list, as I look over it now, contains no women. That, obviously, is a major gap in my admittedly limited, misogynistic, Euro-centric education. I took a women's studies course only because it was a requirement. So sue me if I can't remember, off the top of my head, a famous speech by a women.

It's also a pretty white list but, perhaps, one day in the future, we'll be adding a speech or two by the incoming president to the list.

The floor is now open for nominations for additions and deletions. You must choose, but choose wisely.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tortured souls...

Saturday morning, as I was flipping channels and doing my wake-up routine, I came across an episode of Inside the Actors' Studio hosted by eminent interviewer James Lipton. It was a special episode, the 200th and the format was a bit different.

Like most "special" episodes for this type of show, it was a clip show with selections from many of the previous 199 shows covering a 14-year period. What made it really special was Lipton was in the right-hand chair being interviewed instead of interviewing. Filling in, and filling in well, for Lipton in the left chair was Dave Chappelle.

Among the interesting topics the two covered, and the one that struck me the most, was the fact that many of our most famous actors have lived through great personal pain and suffering. Most of this pain came in the form of their fathers hitting the road and not looking back (Chappelle and Lipton's included).

And this is when it struck me: I'll never be a good writer or artist since I haven't had nearly enough pain in my life. Of course, by saying this I'm just inviting the Fates to screw me over like some character out of Greek mythology. Oh well, nothing I can do about that now.

I was talking with a friend last night who's had more than her fair share of difficulties in this life, making me all the more aware of just exactly how normal mine has been.

In my time, I've lost two people I love, both of them to cancer, but neither of their deaths was wholly unexpected. Among my parents and brothers and sister there is a total of 97 years of marriage...and not a hint of divorce. I have five nieces and three nephews and two more nieces scheduled to make their debut sometime next month (and not a minute too soon for my sister-in-law, I'd say).

As a reporter, though, I've covered my fair share of death. Traffic accidents, murders, drownings, death penalty verdicts (five times), fires, plane crashes, and for one very special week in April 2004 when Shane Goldman's family allowed me into their lives after the 19-year-old Marine was killed during his third tour in Iraq. After his casket arrived late in the evening at the funeral home in Orange, Texas, his mom, Jan Manshack, one of the strongest women I've ever hand the honor of meeting, asked the gathered crowd of more than a hundred to join her in singing "Happy Birthday" before the clock struck midnight and her son's 20th birthday ended.

Do these count? Or have they, over time, merely immunize me to other's suffering? (Currently, I'm leaning toward B, but I'm hoping to change that.)

I've lost a job, been fired actually, and at the time it seemed like the end of the world. But it really wasn't. In fact it freed me up so six months later I could take a job I really.

I've lived through or covered more than a dozen hurricanes, but never suffered a loss in the wake of one of these storms. In fact, after 2005's Hurricane Rita, I think I was the only person in Southeast Texas who didn't lose anything and wasn't eligible for any assistance from FEMA.

My cars have been broken into twice, but all I lost were a radio and some tapes. The second time the thief was even kind enough to lock the door on his way out. I don't think this counts as personal pain. Annoyance maybe, but not pain.

Perhaps the only place I've had a bit of uneven luck is in the dating world. I've been lucky enough to love and be loved in return, but like many of us I'm still searching for that one special girl I want to spend a bunch of time with (and, of course, she with me).

Which brings us, finally, to the point. What I've been wondering is this: Can you lead a ordinary but, at the same time, extraordinary life?

Monday, November 17, 2008


That most wonderful time of the year is finally upon us. No, I'm not talking about the Christmas season, that doesn't show up for another two weeks.

What's got me all turned on and ready to go like a teenage boy on his way to a prom after party with the good girl who's just a little slutty?
Well, it's the hope, deep in my heart, that another banner like the five on our right, will be added to the rafters of the Dean Dome in April. (The actual banner won't be added for almost a year, but the NCAA championship is in April). For those of you who come looking for witty political analysis, relax, this isn't turning into a sports blog. I am, however, a UNC basketball fan and will, like the president, from time to time report to you on the state of the Tar Heels' season.

It's been a long time since a team like the Heels has been assembled. With five seniors, a deep bench and the returning National Player of the Year in 6-foot-9 Tyler Hansbrough, they should be fun to watch. So I'm going to take pleasure in each and every one of their games this year. Except, as it turns out, the first one.

Carolina played it's first game of the year against Penn Saturday (while the football team was losing up in College Park), and for some reason the networks in the D.C. area chose not to show the game. Go figure. No matter, it was a workman like effort by the boys in blue who triumphed 86-71 over the Quakers. (This was done without injured senior starters Hansbrough and Marcus Ginyard.)

Tuesday's 9 p.m. game against Kentucky is a match-up of college basketball's two winningest programs (1,966-1,950 in UK's favor). The game is the anchor of ESPN's 24-hour inaugural
College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. ESPN is calling it the "first annual," but you can't have a first annual anything, cause you never know if there's going to be a second one, so I'll just stick with inaugural for now.

Thirteen games in 24 hours in five time zones. Some good games (see above) and some dogs (Idaho State v. Hawaii? Liberty v. UNC Ashville? C'mon) and at least one potential blow-out of cosmic proportions:
Florida Gulf Coast v. reigning national champion and third winningest program ever (1,943) Kansas.

It's enough basketball to make you think about buying some Depends along with the beer and chips before settling in for the long haul.

Or not. On the Depends. Definitely on the beer though. Nothing goes better with Kentucky uber-fan Ashley Judd crying as UK loses than a frosty adult beverage.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Measure of a Man

From Popular Mechanics, a list of 100 things every guy should know. Let’s see how I stack up as a man in the eyes of the PM's editors and writers, shall we? The skills I feel comfortable with are in bold, for those I don’t, I offer excuses.

1. Handle a blowout
2. Drive in snow
3. Check trouble codes – take it to the dealer. While there are some I can figure out, what the hell good is it going to do me if I can’t fix it myself?
4. Replace fan belt – so, there’s an emergency fix for this, like when you’re crossing the desert and you’re fan belt breaks you can use a pair of your wife/girlfriend’s pantyhose, aside from that, take it to the dealer.
5. Wax a car
6. Conquer an off-road obstacle – learning how to do this is a lot more fun when the vehicle is a Humvee with USMC painted on the side. You're a lot less concerned about nicking the paint.
7. Use a stick welder – the caveat to this is that I know how to use a MIG (metal inert gas) welder. Does that count?
8. Hitch up a trailer
9. Jump-start a car

10. Perform the Heimlich
11. Reverse hypothermia – anything involving nudity is fun, even near-death experiences.
12. Perform hands-only CPR
13. Escape a sinking car

14. Carve a turkey
15. Use a sewing machine – Yes, even I had to take 7th and 8th grade home ec.
16. Put out a fire
17. Home-brew beer – I understand the concept, I just don’t see the purpose when you can have someone else do it for you.
18. Remove bloodstains from fabric – why remove the stain when you can just bury the body?
19. Move heavy stuff
20. Grow food – see #17 above.
21. Read an electric meter – you know, I initially didn’t bold this one, but in retrospect, I recall learning how to do this.
22. Shovel the right way
23. Solder wire
24. Tape drywall – this isn’t bolded because, while I’ve never done it, I’ve watched enough This Old House to probably fake it pretty well.
25. Split firewood
26. Replace a faucet washer
27. Mix concrete – another good way to get rid of blood stains…
28. Paint a straight line
29. Use a French knife – WTF is a French knife? OK, looked it up, it’s a chef’s knife. Put a check next to this one please.
30. Prune bushes and small trees – isn’t this something for the guys hanging around outside Home Depot?
31. Iron a shirt
32. Fix a toilet tank flapper
33. Change a single-pole switch – I can even do it with the power still on.
34. Fell a tree – I even have a merit badge for doing this.
35. Replace a broken windowpane
36. Set up a ladder, safely
37. Fix a faucet cartridge
38. Sweat copper tubing
39. Change a diaper – you’d think with five nieces (with two more on the way) and three nephews I might have gotten around to learning this, but no.
40. Grill with charcoal
41. Sew a button on a shirt
42. Fold a flag

43. Treat frostbite – Not only was I a Boy Scout, I was an Eagle Scout.
44. Treat a burn – See #43.
45. Help a seizure victim – See #43.
46. Treat a snakebite – See #43.
47. Remove a tick – See #43.

Military Know-How – I’m not even going to address these…
48. Shine shoes
49. Make a drum-tight bed
50. Drop and give the perfect push-up

51. Run rapids in a canoe – See #43.
52. Hang food in the wild – See #43.
53. Skipper a boat
54. Shoot straight – not only can I shoot straight, I can hit ya from 500 yards. (Rifle Expert Badge-Sixth Award, Pistol Expert Badge).
55. Tackle steep drops on a mountain bike – I used to have a collection of broken bike parts as a testament to my learning this skill.
56. Escape a rip current

57. Build a fire in the wilderness – the building is the easy part, it’s the getting it lit that can be a challenge. But rest assured, I know how to do this as well.
58. Build a shelter – Folks make fun of Boy Scouts, but get lost in the woods even once and everyone’s looking for the guy with the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge.
59. Find potable water

Surviving Extremes
60. Floods
61. Tornados
62. Cold
63. Heat
64. Lightning

Teach Your Kids
65. Cast a line – remind me to tell you the story about my first fishing pole some day.
66. Lend a hand – what the hell is this suppose to mean?
67. Change a tire
68. Throw a spiral
69. Fly a stunt kite
70. Drive a stick shift
71. Parallel park
72. Tie a bowline – OK, here is my secret shame and where my Boy Scout training breaks down. For the life of me I’ve never been able to get the rabbit to go around the tree and go back down into his hole. I’ve tried to compensate by tying figure 8’s on a bight, but it’s still a blow to my manhood.
73. Tie a necktie – one of these days I’m also going to learn to tie a bow tie.
74. Whittle
75. Ride a bike

76. Install a graphics card
77. Take the perfect portrait
78. Calibrate HDTV settings – Didn’t know you had to do this. Hmmmm, I’ll have to look into this.
79. Shoot a home movie – is this really a skill? Can’t you just put the camera on the tripod and hit record? Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more…
80. Ditch your hard drive – see #91.

Master These Key Workshop Tools
81. Drill driver
82. Grease gun
83. Coolant hydrometer
84. Socket wrench
85. Test light
86. Brick trowel – I have too much respect for masons to take bread from their tables.
87. Framing hammer
88. Wood chisel
89. Spade bit
90. Circular saw
91. Sledge hammer
92. Hacksaw
93. Torque wrench
94. Air wrench
95. Infrared thermometer
96. Sand blaster – Just ‘cause I’ve never used one, but I figure I could pick up the skill pretty quick.
97. Crosscut saw
98. Hand plane
99. Multimeter
100. Feeler gauges
So, there you have it, my PM Man Score is…Wow, only 81*. I’m a B- as a man. Well, I can fix that. Off to get some Levi Garret, a sand blaster, a box of Huggies and a sailboat to work on the man skills over the weekend. Come Monday you won’t even recognize me.

Guys, how did you do? Are you manly men, or do you merely play one on TV? And ladies, how manly are you? Do you still need us, or are we becoming obsolete? Anyone want a chaw?

*Like Alaska and Minnesota, the list required a recount. Adding in #s 7, 21 and 29, I’m up to an 84. Whew! I’m feeling much more secure as a man now.
**For those of you who don't recognize him, that's the Steel Drivin' Man, John Henry.
***The one thing I haven't mastered is getting Blogger to do what I want when it comes to line spacing and such. That really annoys me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quick enforcement of the law...

Yesterday Arjewtino was kind enough to let me know I'd been "called out" in Wednesday's Letter to the Editor in The Express about my post last week criticizing California voters and their stupidity. Here's a screen shot of the letter:

I have two things to say about this letter. First, that was a really quick exercise of Godwin's Law:
"As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

There were only 13 comments on the post and neither I, nor anyone else who commented, ever came anywhere close to calling the good people of the Golden State Nazis. It was so much easier to just make fun of their stunted intellectual development.

The comments ran the spectrum from anonymous criticism of me for singling out Apple Inc. despite its opposition to Prop 8, to the final two comments from a reader named "Sarah" calling me and others hypocrites for, wait, let me make sure I get this right, "Making jabs at religious groups while stereotyping those entities as gay-hating cults..."

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Time will tell.

I have been doing some thinking on the subject during the past week or so, and I'm still organizing my thoughts before digging into the passage of Prop 8 (and other like it across the country last Tuesday and before). So sue me. It's been a busy week at work.

Second, and more personally, this comment goes out to the editors of The Express (who have committed this sin twice) and Mr. Dino Drudi who apparently didn't bother reading the whole post because, if he had, he would have known the name of this blog is not, in fact,

The name of the blog is The Foggy Dew
, kinda like how is the address of my good friend the Disaffected Scanner Jockey. To my eternal regret, when I created this little virtual soapbox, "" wasn't available to me, so I went with the next best thing.

A little background: The Foggy Dew is a song of revolution and rebellion lamenting the failed 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin. Here's the first verse of the song, and the connection between "the Liffey swell" and "The Foggy Dew."

"As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I
There Armed lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by
No pipe did hum nor battle drum did sound its loud tattoo
But the Angelus Bell
o'er the Liffey's swell rang out through the foggy dew"

OK, rant over. Let's get it right next time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

There not be whales there...

So, according to the repository of all human knowledge, today is the 38th anniversary of the Oregon Department of Transportation' shall I put this...failed attempt, to clean up the state's beaches...with explosives.

Long story short: big dead whale washes up on beach. ODOT is given the job of clearing the whale away because, apparently, roads and whales are both big things so the job obviously falls right into their area of expertise. After a period of serious thought, and with what must have been a fire-breathing boss breathing down their necks because homeowners are calling him annoyed about the stank emanating from an 8-TON DEAD WHALE, someone had an idea. As with many ideas, it was borne of desperation.

"Hey, lets blow it up and let the tide, seagulls and crabs clean up the mess."

Mass delusion follows and everyone else says, "Yeaaaah, that'll work."

In the end 1,000 pounds of explosives were used. Go here to see the video of the result. (I tried to upload the video, but Blogger hates me. The link you want is the fourth one down in the left column. Trust me, it's worth it.) Some of the other videos on the site, especially the 1984 and HAL ads and the one about Clinton's last days in office, are also well worth a look.

The video of the clean-up effort is even better than the video I posted this weekend.

Trust me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I took these pictures on Veterans Day last year. 

This is what it looks like to lose someone. Even more than 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War the pain remains. Thirty years from now will we be the ones still paying tribute at a memorial to the men and women fighting our battles today? I can only hope so.

What do they see in the reflection? The image of an father or older brother who was taken away too soon? How about a grandfather or uncle they never had the chance to know? 

I generally don't like it when people say the reason our republic survives is only because of those who served in the military because, and this is coming from a vet, that's just not the case. The republic is here because of all of us. We've all contributed to the cause. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines just made it safer for all of us as generations went about the business of building the country.

I don't know why this quote came into my head as I was writing this, but for some reason it just seems right today. It's from the opening of "The Devil and Daniel Webster" which I read in my eighth grade lit class and, to this day, it remains one of my favorite stories. 

"And they say that if you go to his grave and speak loud and clear, "Dan'l Webster-Dan'l Webster!" the ground'll begin to shiver and the trees begin to shake. And after a while you'll hear a deep voice saying, 'Neighbor, how stands the Union?' Then you better answer the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper-sheathed, one and indivisible, or he's liable to rear right out of the ground. At least, that's what I was told when I was a youngster."

Happy Veterans Day on this, the 90th anniversary of the War to End All Wars.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Happy 233rd Birthday USMC!!

Where Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue

In a tavern in Philadelphia 233 years ago, the United States Marine Corps was born. Why a bar, you ask? Well, where the Hell else were you going to find the proper types to join the Colonies' first two battalions of Marines? Also, the first recruiting bonus was a beer (we came cheap in those days).

I've celebrated many Marine Corps Birthdays and I'm as proud of today as I was on my first during boot camp back on Parris Island (mainly because we got the day off and the drill instructors treated us almost like Marines). Marines, past and present, celebrate today as their birthday.

And while most of the Marines here in the United States have today off (and tomorrow for Veterans Day), there are others around the world celebrating the day in much rougher circumstances. Perhaps they're on patrol in Iraq, or on watch at a lonely outpost high in the mountains of Afghanistan or, like generations before them, aboard ships crossing the vastness of the seas.

No matter where they are the spirit of Gen. John A. Lejeune's 1921 Birthday Message will echo in their souls.
"On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousands of men have borne that name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the Birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argome, Marines have won foremost honors in war and in the long era of tranquility at home generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas so that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the Birth of the Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation and has long been the distinguishing mark of Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the me of our nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps."
Semper Fidelis!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

On Target

A leftover from my days covering the military are the feeds from a couple of newsgroups. Here's a link to an interesting video one of them has posted.

The "post-game" comments are about what you'd expect from a generation who grew up playing Halo, Marathon and Call of Duty. Still a cool video.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

WTF California?

Are you seriously kidding me?

California voters outlawed gay marriage yesterday, but approved a ballot measure giving egg-laying chickens more rights.

Are you seriously fucking kidding me? What the fuck is up with that state?

How the hell do you go into a voting booth and say "I think we need to be nicer to chickens and give them enough room to stand up, spread their wings and turn around, but screw those fags and dykes they don't deserve the chance to love someone and be happy."

Fucking morons.

You know, I've never in my life contributed to a political campaign (a little hangover from being a reporter, and I don't like any of them enough to give them my money), but this is a fight I'd donate a couple of bucks to.

Well, I do know one thing, I don't travel that much so saying I won't go to California isn't that big a deal. But I'm going to do my best in the future to avoid buying anything that comes from the state. Who's with me? Just thinking about it, there's a California-based company selling songs for a buck a shot. Wonder what Apple would do if it started losing huge sums of cash because people stopped buying songs from iTunes?

And damnit, I really wanted a new Mac. Sorry Steve, won't be buying anything from your company for a while.


All Things are Possible

Is it me, or does it feel like a great weight has been lifted from our collective national shoulders?

I'm not talking about how President Bush will soon leave office. Rather, as a country, we overcome many of the barriers we the people put in our own way during the past half-century.

"Americans sent a message to the world," President-elect Barack Obama said late last night in Chicago's Grant Park. "We are and always will be the United States of America."

Obama was gracious in his compliments of John McCain, who I hope surprises us in the months ahead by working with his new president.

"We are better off for the service and sacrifice of this brave and selfless leader," Obama said of McCain. Can you imagine what they could do working together?

Now that we've elected a president who promises us change, we must now hold him and everyone else in our government accountable for that change. As Obama said, his victory Tuesday belongs to us.

"Our Union will be perfected," Obama promised. "America we have come so far, we have seen so much, but there's so much more we have to do."

Time to get to work.

Oh, any bets on what the new puppy's name will be?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Congratulations John McCain

It takes a strong, fine, honorable man to give the speech John McCain just gave conceding the election to Barack Obama. I think he summed it up well when he said, "Whatever our differences we are all Americans."

That is what this was all about.

He sounded a lot like the old John McCain in his concession. I think if he wasn't smeared in 2000, McCain might have made a good president, but that day passed.

He has served America his entire adult life, more than half a century, and deserves our respect. He will continue to have a voice in our government, so we haven't seen the last of the Maverick.

McCain closed with this statement to Obama, "I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and who will be my president."

Let us all wish that for our next president.

Memories of Elections Past

Today is my second national election in a row where I'll have nothing to do but watch the returns. Like an old, retired dog who sees everyone getting ready for the hunt, that's what today's like for me as a former reporter who only has voting to look forward to today.

Of course I spent a bunch of those elections in Texas where the results are about as preordained as those in the District, but it was exciting nonetheless.

Election Day is a day reporters look forward to in the same way my 4-year-old niece looks forward to Christmas and her birthday. Unlike Christmas though, we generally slept in on Election Day and headed into work around 2 p.m. so we'd be fresh when the tallies started rolling in after the polls closed. The time between coming in and the first returns was generally spent calling the candidates and making sure you had a good number for when you called them later on in the evening.

The losers' quotes were often the best, if they answered.

Your stories were already written, generally. This was done to get a jump on the game, but I'll never forget the time when the mayor's race in Vidor, Texas, (one of the towns I covered) ended up in a tie. Something like 437 votes for each guy. That wasn't nearly as weird as the fact that the town next to it, Pine Forest, also had a tied mayor's race (73 each or something like that).

Or something like that. It was late by the time we got the returns and time has fogged the memory.

Never let it be said small-town politics are boring. Those were the races we lived for: local and full of emotion.

There'll be a lot of emotion tonight, but on a much grander scale -- and a part of me wishes I could be part of the experience. For just one night, I could be back in that newsroom watching the clock tick down and then, as the polls closed, hit the phones and badger the county clerks until they gave me the numbers. Hammer the story out with my editor hovering over everyone's shoulders seemingly at once demanding more words.



Oh well, at least I'll get a good night's sleep tonight.

First Returns

For anyone interested but who didn't stay up to see the results, and I assume that's most of you, the tiny town of Dixville Notch, NH, voted at midnight. The first returns in the 2008 presidential election are as follows:

John McCain - 6
Barrack Obama - 15

By the by, this is the first time since Hubert Humphrey defeated Richard Nixon 8-4 in 1968 a Democrat has won in Dixville Notch.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Go Stillers!!

Turns out Michael Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a homie and fellow Pittsburgh Steeler fan. (Or, as we say back home in the 'Burgh: "Stillers.")

Anyway, he did an interview with the Post, but here is one of the funnier parts. When talking about going to Pittsburgh for games:

"He won't reveal how many CIA security personnel accompany him to Heinz Field, where 'every seat is a good seat, unlike FedEx.' But he acknowledges Pittsburgh is a more popular trip for his personal detail than, say, Dubai.

'It seems as if they think Pittsburgh is a very threatening environment,' he said. 'Because it seems I have a larger footprint going to Steeler games than I do going to some hostile countries in the world.' "

Go Steelers! Beat them 'Skins!

The race to 270 begins...

After a long journey we’ve finally come to the penultimate day of the election. There’s nothing left for me to say that hasn’t been said by countless voices during the past two and a half years.

This election reminds me of Otto von Bismarck’s quote: “Laws are like sausage, it’s better not to see them being made.” The soon-to-be-completed campaign makes me think of sausage. Incredible sums of money have poured into the campaign grinder, nasty things have been said on both sides and yet, the end product will be a symbol we can hold up to the world’s huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Come January 20, there’ll be a parade down Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues, a celebration led by the American military. But none of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in those formations will have had anything more to do with the selection of our new president than you or I.

And to me that’s the greatest beauty of America.

What do I mean by that? We’ve had 43 presidents in the last 232 years, but our government hasn’t changed. Every four years since 1786 when our fledgling republic chose George Washington as its first president, we’ve selected a new leader and we’ve done it peacefully.

Name me another country that has, over more than two centuries, moved from one leader to the next every 5.3 years on average without a shot being fired? No matter what happens tomorrow, we can sleep safely Tuesday knowing we’ll wake up Wednesday with the same government we had the day before.

We’ll have a new leader of the executive branch, and several new members of Congress, but the same government. A government that could use a few tweaks here and there, but overall one I’d choose over any other.

And, finally, for those of you thinking this has been a nasty election, I direct you to the 1824 contest between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Jackson won the popular vote and, unlike a certain candidate in 2000, he also won in the Electoral College. But, because there were four candidates, he didn’t have a majority.

So the vote went to the House where Henry Clay, who came in fourth place in the election, was the Speaker. The House voted for JQA on the first ballot… and Clay became Secretary of State.

Jackson was, history tells us, more than a little annoyed at the outcome. But don’t worry, he came back to easily beat JQA four years later.

Whoever wins tomorrow should remember what JQA’s dad told him after his defeat of Jackson. John Adams, our second president, said this to his son: No man who’d ever been president would ever congratulate another on winning the office.

Vote early. Vote often (kidding about the second part, I grew up in Chicago).