Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Because I have very fond memories of Halloween, I wanted to bring a bit of this American tradition to Wildeshausen. It is very important to me that the Dude knows about his American half. Thus, not really thinking things through, I decided to host a Halloween party for 12 babies and 17 adults. Although there were moments this morning when I thought that I was insane to do it, now that it is over, the baby is in bed and everything is cleaned up, I can say that it was a lot of fun . . . but still a bit insane.

In theory, the right elements for a baby's Halloween party are not difficult to assemble. First you need decorations, especially pumpkins. Isn't it amazing what you can do with a hot glue gun, old buttons, and pipe cleaners?

Then you need food.

The cupcakes were totally fun and easy to make; I used Betty Crocker. The popcorn balls posed a bigger problem. This was a typical case of "not knowing what you're getting into." I downloaded the recipe and it looked easy enough. I lucked out because I had a bottle of corn syrup left over from a few Thanksgivings ago.

The Dude was a bit whiny this morning so I put him down for a nap and dug in. I popped the corn and melted all the ingredients together. Then I added the popcorn to the gooey mixture. The directions said 5 cups of popcorn. It seemed like such a small amount. There was still a lot of liquid left. So I put in more popcorn and checked the recipe. 5 quarts of popcorn! Well, that is a horse of a different color. The mixture started to cool so I pulled out some to shape a ball. It was not long before I was up to my elbows in sticky popcorn before I realized that I had forgotten to grease up my hands to prevent sticking. And right at that moment, the Dude woke up.

I had to laugh. "Hang on sweetie, mommy is making a big ol' mess." I did wind up getting it under control. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of my "eyes": green olives wrapped in puff pastry.

Of course, no Halloween party is complete without goody bags of American candy to take home.

And for the babies a craft project. We used orange paint to make hand prints on a sign that said "My First Halloween."

The crowning achievement though was the costume, courtesy of the American Oma.

I wish I could say that I was going to take it easy tomorrow, but I am teaching a crash course in Business English tomorrow from 9am to 4pm. So I get up just in time to give the Dude his bottle and then drive to work. I made this commitment a year ago, and the only reason why I am keeping it is because the money is good.

So for now, I will go and have a glass of wine and hope that the Great Pumpkin will come visit tonight.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Yes, I got up this morning and downloaded the Obama commercial, infomercial, special, whatever. It was very well made and impressive. However, I am not sure that it actually changed anybody's mind. Most people have political tendencies, even if they are "independent" or "undecided."

The McCain campaign argued that it was over-the-top, however, I think that is a bit of the green eyed monster. ANY politician would love to have the opportunity to talk to the people like that. The ad was paid for with donations. I am sure that Obama donors have no problem with it, just as RNC donors probably do not have a problem with Gov. Palin's clothes.

What really got me going was the web ad below. I had the Dude in my lap and the tears started pouring. He looked at me a bit strangely and I hugged him even closer. He is the reason that I vote the way I do.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What I should have Blogged About

I should have told you about our most excellent visit to Bowel-town. Jen and Sparks were great hosts and even better, the Dude went along for the ride. He did well in the car. He did well sleeping at night. He did well in not puking on their carpet. Seriously, it was fun.

I could have also told you about how I must be smoking crack because I decided to host a Halloween Party for the babies in the Dude's play group. Now I am struggling to clean the house and track down corn syrup for my popcorn balls. Turns out that after 5 stores, I had some in my pantry.

Perhaps I could even tell you that it has gotten really cold here and the German and I are fighting about how long to leave the heat on at night. Sweetie, if I can see my breath, then I should be allowed to turn the heat on.

But, no, I have decided to bring the funny.

See more Thomas Haden Church videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Strange Twist

Hold on to your hats people because I am about to do something that I thought I would never do. No, not that. Get your mind out of the gutter. No I am going to defend Sarah Palin.

Now it is no secret that I think Ms. Palin is not qualified to be president. Furthermore, I don't agree with her on . . . anything. Most of the shots the media and comedians have taken make me giggle, but today I was left with a "Come, on!" moment.

Turns out that the RNC has paid a lot of money for Ms. Palin's clothes.

Let me tell you why this doesn't matter:

1. It's the RNC's money, not hers. If they want to make sure that their candidate looks good that is their prerogative. They have got plenty of money. Personally, I think it is money well spent as I have envied many of her coats.

2. No one talks about the costs of Obama's suits or McCain shirts. If you are going to talk about one you should talk about them all.

The only thing that bothered me was how much they spent on a make-up artist. Because, seriously, the woman wears too much blush. Sarah, get your self a new make-up artist.

Oh, and one more thing, Sarah. Don't claim to be "just like me." I don't tote around Louis-Vitton. Although I wish I did.

That is all.

Grey Matter

On Monday we discussed what I will refer to as “classical liberalism” and yesterday we explored “classical socialism.” One theory promotes the individual and advocates a free market economy. The other argues that society as a whole is more important and that the means of production should be controlled by a central government.

It is clear from these two definitions that one cannot be both a liberal AND a socialist at the same time. I think it is also clear that neither McCain nor Obama are classic anything. However, there is a lot of grey area between the two.

Social liberals for example realize that some government regulation of the market is necessary. If not, then inequality rises to the point that revolution is possible and the free market is in danger.

Social democrats go one step further and argue that the state has a responsibility in ensuring the equality of its citizens. It does this via health care programs and welfare. However, the government must also be democratically elected and protect individual freedoms. Social democrats reject the “classical socialist” tenant of a planned economy.

How about a diagram? Let’s turn to one of my favorite things from grad school: The Ideological Spectrum. Based on what I read on both websites, I would place the candidates like this on the spectrum. I could not get the formatting correct, but imagine to the left side LIB and on the opposite end SOCI. The first tick is McCain. The second tick is Obama. Notice how close both are to LIB and how far from SOCI


Let us sum up our results of the last days inquiry.

First, liberalism and socialism are not the same thing. Second, Obama is not a socialist. Third, being a liberal is not necessarily a bad thing.

I have to agree with the comment left by Liz. Labeling is very important in politics. Labels, much like brands in the free market economy, provide a certain information short cut. If I can put someone in a box, then they are like this and this and this. Unfortunately, political policies are very difficult to fix in one box, and that is my problem.

By using inaccurate labels, campaigns are systematically dumbing down the electorate. No longer is a voter expected to go out and explore. No, her politics are handed out in easy to understand sound bites. The moment anyone tries to question the label, they are labeled “elitist.” We have stopped expecting the very best from our representatives and are happy to take the fancy label, even if it is a fake.

Some might argue that my last three blog posts are elitist. However, I think that I loose some of my intellectual street cred when I admit that “The Apprentice” used to be one of my favorite TV shows. On the other hand, I have also read Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Marx. I told the German that I believe I am a social democrat. He laughed. Hard. “Honey, you are way too far to the right (i.e. liberal) to be in the SPD.” Seems I don’t have enough socialist street cred to be a socialist either. So, feel free to judge me any way you like, just be sure to use the right label. I prefer Prada-esque.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Socialism is a 4 . . . 9 Letter Word

If you are going to have a discussion involving different political philosophies it is important to be on the same page regarding the meaning about these terms, which is the purpose of our inquiry. Please note that I am not arguing whose policies are better. That is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT line of inquiry. I am just saying that before you call some a “name” then you should know what that name means.

Yesterday we took a look at Liberalism. Let us turn our eyes to Socialism for a moment. The American Heritage Dictionary defines Socialism as:

Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy. The stage in Marxist-Leninist theory intermediate between capitalism and communism, in which collective ownership of the economy under the dictatorship of the proletariat has not yet been successfully achieved.

The first reference to “Socialists” appeared in the 1800s.

1827, from Fr. socialiste, in reference to the teachings of Comte de Saint-Simon, founder of Fr. socialism. Socialism is attested from 1837, apparently first in reference to Robert Owen's communes. "Pierre Leroux (1797-1871), idealistic social reformer and Saint-Simonian publicist, expressly claims to be the originator of the word socialisme" [Klein]. The word begins to be used in Fr. in the modern sense c.1835. Socialista, with a different sense, was applied 18c. to followers and pupils of Du. jurist Grotius (1583-1645).

In contrast to Liberalism, which focuses on the importance of the individual, Socialism emphasizes the importance of society as a whole. Individual interests come second to the interests of everyone within the society. Although, socialists also want individuals to be free, they define freedom in a radically different way. That is, an individual can only be free when everyone in society is equal.

The philosophical origins of Socialism can be found in Robert Owen (1771 – 1858) and Saint-Simon (1760 – 1825). As manager and part owner of a mill in New Lanark, Owen was disturbed by the living conditions of the workers and especially of the children. In 1817 Owen began to advocate a form of socialism as a way to alliviate poverty. His reforms at his mill in New Lanark actually increased productivity and profit. In 1825 he even purchased land in New Harmony, Indiana in hopes of implementing his reformist principles, but his experiment failed miserably.

Saint-Simon shared the same negative view of human nature as Hobbes. The “hand of greed” drove men and created inequality. He was not convinced that the liberal view could save society and therefore societ had to be reorganized. Saint-Simon was a strong influence on Karl Marx (1818 – 1883), perhaps the most well known socialist philosopher.

Karl Marx argued that only an overthrow of the government via the proletariat in which all power and capital became centralized in a central authority would create a just and equal society. Socialism, however, was only a transistion phase to the communist utopia.

Essential to all of these theories is the absence of the free market and government control of the means of production.

So, now that we know what socialism means, we can look at the newest allegations in the campaign and decide if Obama is indeed a socialist.

To make a convincing argument, you need evidence, and I am not talking about rehtoric. There are several things that we can look at: voting records, speeches, writings, and proposals. I went to the Obama website, downloaded and read his “Plan for America.”

In those 43 pages, I read nothing about the nationalization of industry. I also did not read anything about the abolition of free speech. I did read, however, about his proposed tax cuts. Obama proposes to cut taxes for households making less than $250,000.

It is this proposal that lies at the heart of these accussations. You can look at it two ways. On the one hand, Obama is trying to take a burden off the middle class in order to promote the economy. Or, he is redistributing wealth. I have to admit that this is the first time that I have heard a tax cut referred to as socialist. Although the idea of no taxes is very appealing, they are, in a way, a necessary evil. Goverments do things like build roads, clean water, provide schools and health care to those who need it.

In the end, I do not think that you can label Obama a socialist. He does not want to do away with the market economy, which is essential to socialism. Now, if you would like to refute my argument, please present me with evidence to the contrary, and I do not mean taxes, as that is obviously in the eyes of the beholder.

Finally, I want to comment on something that McCain made regarding politics in Europe.
"At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives. They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Senator Obama."

Germany, contrary to what many seem to believe, is NOT a socialist country. I have no idea why this myth continues to exist. The German pointed out that he lived next to a real socialist country for many years, i.e. the former East Germany. He snorts loudly when making comparisons. East Germany turned out to be a broke country with a crumbling infastructure. Nobody I know wants socialism to take root here. In short:

1. There is no universial health care in Germany. The government requires health insurance but does not pay it. The government does not pay for my health insurance, or that of my father-in-law, friends, etc. Rather, I pay 50% of my health care and my employer pays the other 50%. I can provide my paystub as evidence. The government only pays for the health insurance of the unemployed.

2. The government does not own the means of production in Germany. Germany is a free market economy.

3. There are certain regulations, such as on banks and energy. This is to ensure that consumers do not get ripped off.

4. Freedom of speech and press are protected with in the German constitution.

Tomorrow, we will turn to the last part of our analysis, including social democrats vs. social liberals. Why the confusion? Are these labels even helpful? Or, put another way, who the hell cares?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dr. Strangelove OR How I learned to Stop Worrying and Learn to love Liberalism

The other night I got into an intense discussion about politics with a person that I admire and respect. We do not share the same opinion on . . . well, anything; but our discussions are engaging and interesting nonetheless. When I got off the phone I was a bit bothered by something.

During the course of our telephone conversation I was called both a liberal AND a socialist. Now being called these things does not really bother me. What bothered me was that it is impossible to be both at the same time.

Let us take a look for a moment at these two "buzz words," which have perked up during the election campaign over the past two weeks. Because I am trying to make and important point, this discussion will take place over three different posts.

First, I will start with liberalism. Second, I will turn to socialism. Finally, I will demonstrate how the two are philosophically opposed to each other, and I will reflect on which of these boxes that I belong in.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines liberalism as:

A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority. An economic theory in favor of laissez-faire, the free market, and the gold

The Online Etymology Dictionary also discusses liberalism's long history:
c.1375, from O.Fr. liberal "befitting free men, noble, generous," from L. liberalis "noble, generous," lit. "pertaining to a free man," from liber "free," probably originally "belonging to the people" (though the precise semantic development is obscure), from *leudho- "people" (cf. O.C.S. ljudu, Lith. liaudis, O.E. leod, Ger. Leute "nation, people").
Earliest reference in Eng. is to the liberal arts (L. artes liberales; see art (n.)), the seven attainments directed to intellectual enlargement, not immediate practical purpose, and thus deemed worthy of a free man (the word in this sense was opposed to servile or mechanical). Sense of "free in bestowing" is from 1387.

In order to brush up on my political philosophy, I turned to John Gray's book Liberalism. Liberalism developed as a political philosophy around the mid-1600s. Although many political philosophers debate about any ancient notions regarding liberalism, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) is regarded as one of the first. Hobbes's view of human nature, however, is different from the positivist notion that is popular with classical liberal philosophers. Hobbes argues that humans exist in a state of war, but come together in a civil association in order to ensure peace.

What made Hobbes's theory so radical, as well as continues to tie him to liberalism, is his "uncompromising individualism" (Gray 1995: 10). Benedict de Spinoza (1632 - 1677) also placed the individual in the center of his political theory. Gray draws an interesting contrast between the two:
Whereas, for Hobbes, civil society was always likely to fall back into a barbarous natural condition of warfare, for Spinoza the free man would always be a rarity; most human individuals and most societies would always be ruled by passion and illusion rather than reason.
John Locke (1632 - 1704) brought together the important elements of liberalism in his Second Treatise on Civil Government. In contrast to Hobbes, he thought humans were more reasonable and tolerant. In a natural state all men are free and have the right to defend his “life, health, liberty, or possessions.” This sounds vaguely familiar . . .

Also important to American liberalism was the French Enlightenment, including the works of Montesquieu (1689 - 1755; i.e. The Spirit of the Laws) and Rousseau (1712 - 1778; i.e. The Social Contract). Rousseau's opening line in The Social Contract is significant for many liberals: "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains."

Essentially, liberal theorists emphasized the individual; that all men are free and equal, and that freedom means freedom from coercion. Therefore, government must be limited in its powers and responsibilities because a strong government would threaten individual rights. I am really condensing a lot of political philosophy here, and I am sure that some of my grad school friends would disagree with me, but I only have a blog here and not a dissertation, so I am trying to keep it short.

As mentioned above, liberalism is also an economic philosophy made famous by Adam Smith (1723 - 1790; i.e. The Wealth of Nations). Liberal economics emphasizes the importance of a free market economy. A lassize-faire economy regulates itself and distributes goods most efficiently when left alone.

As time passed and the industrial revolution and governments of the U.S., France and England got older, liberals got a little worried. When they looked at the world around them, it appeared that perhaps the invisible hand was not so efficient. Although technically free, poverty and inequality were rampant. This led to a strain of liberalism often called "social liberalism." Social liberals believe that some market regulation is necessary in order to ensure the survival of capitalism (i.e. John Maynard Keynes). Furthermore, man can only be free when greater equality exists and therefore governments should promote health care, education, and a minimum wage, which reflects the philosophical influence of the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

I think that it is this strain of liberalism is what McCain is accusing Obama of being. However, as I will demonstrate tomorrow, social liberalism is NOT "Socialism" (please note the big S). Although advocating some regulation by the government, social liberals are still dedicated to the idea of a free market economy and a non-coercive government.

If you read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or the Federalist Papers, you can clearly see the influence of liberal political philosophy on the founding fathers. All of the founding fathers were liberals. Big ones in fact.

However, the word "liberalism" has gotten twisted within the American media and is now regarded as a pejorative term. Why is being a liberal a bad thing? Liberalism is the basis of the U.S. constitution. If you are pro-America, wouldn't you consider yourself a liberal too?

I will leave you pondering that thought. Come back tomorrow and we will discover whether or not Obama is a socialist and why McCain need to take a closer look at "socialist Europe."

PS One last great quote that I found on the internet:

"Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others." [Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary," 1911]

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Life Sentence

Yesterday the German received a life sentence. No, he is not responsible for the recent crime spree in Wildeshausen. Yesterday he received his permanent civil servant status.

As a teacher in Germany, the German is considered a civil servant. Teachers here undergo rigorous training. First, after 4 to 5 years of university, where you major in education and minor in the subjects that you will teach, you must endure 1 1/2 years of student teaching. During this time you teach a full class load and attend a seminar once a week where pedagogical things are discussed. A potential teacher is also observed several times, must write a final paper and pass an oral exam. After that you enter the system as a teacher.

However, your first three years are considered something of a trial time. After three years you are once again observed during your teaching and have to submit a paper. If your principal feels that you have done well then you become a permanent teacher / civil servant.

The German has worked so hard to get to this point. When he was 20 we wanted to do something practical, so he became a banker. After doing that for a few years, he felt like he was selling his soul. The red carpet was rolled out for rich customers, whereas people who needed real help were given the cold shoulder. He decided to do something for his society and became a teacher.

The German teaches vocational school and does not always agree with the training he received. He often comes home frustrated because a lot of what was taught and what he learned did not prepare him for the day-to-day realities of the classroom. He teaches in a school in a pretty bad neighborhood in Bremen. There are about 75 different nationalities represented among his students. Most of the students either lack the basic knowledge needed for their classes or are so demotivated because they feel that they have no real future. "How do you teach these kids?" he asks me time and again.

Becoming a civil servant was the last major goal that he had to accomplish. When he came home last night we had some sparkling wine and toasted his achievement. He smiled and leaned back into the sofa. Then he looked at me with a bit of panic. "Now what?" he asked.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

UPDATE High Crimes

This morning the German and flipped through the newspaper and had coffee. We found out the reason for the helicopter buzz last night.

Someone robbed our local Aldi supermarket last night. With a gun. They then ran off towards the woods that are not far from our house. Dude, this ain't Cops. It is Wildeshausen?!?

Also in the paper was a report of a break-in yesterday. Someone smashed through a balcony door and stole almost 1000 Euro from an apartment. Now, I don't think this crime was random. Those guys had to know that there was money in that apartment. Why try so hard to get in if you are not sure that there is something in there?

I was dumbfounded. The wallets, guns, breaking doors. What is going on in my tiny town?? I looked at the German and he smirked.

German: This is Wildeshausen. It is dangerous . . . and ghetto fabulous.

Claire: Dude, get over yourself. We have been to south side Chicago. We know what ghetto is.

German: Welcome to the Jungle, baby.

Claire gives her best "Whatever!" look.

German: [still smirking] ow, my balls.

A Little Worried

When I read this today, I got a little worried. And frightened.

Calling Obama a Terrorist

Hatred at McCain Rally

In Florida, Palin Goes for the Rough Stuff

McCain said that he wanted change and would not sling this kind of dirt. I believed him. Obama gives as good as he gets and is slinging it back. You could argue that at least one of the them "should be above all this." However, they both saw what happened to John Kerry when you do not defend yourself against attacks, i.e. lose an election. But after watching how the Palin and McCain are reallying getting people wound up, I am worried about how far this will go.

I was especially saddened because I do not think that McCain wants people to shout "kill him" (i.e. Obama) at his rallies. Say it ain't so, John.

Monday, October 06, 2008

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

If you think this post is about Obama hanging out with terrorists or McCain's connection to the Keating Savings 'n Loan scandal, then you would be wrong. No, this post is about how every time that I begin to think that I am awesome, God likes to have a chuckle and take me down a notch.

Saturday morning started off innocently. The German and I play this "game" on the weekends. We both pretend to be asleep when the baby wakes up at 7am. We secretly hope that by lying there long enough that the other will get up and feed the kid, or that the kid will just go back to sleep. I used this with my cat; just keep my eyes tightly shut and hope that she would be quiet. Did not work with the cat, doesn't work with the kid. But between the German and I, I won on Saturday.

The Dude was in a pretty good mood and his poor little rear was finally starting to heal. My FIL was coming over to put a gate on our stairs and I decided to head to the store to get a few things. First I stopped by the post office and dropped my absentee ballot in the mail and then I headed off to Rossmann, a local drug store.

I ran into a friend of mine from my baby play group. She was contemplating the vast array of baby food. She had been breastfeeding and was making the switch. Because the Dude's been on solids for several months she asked for my help. I stood with my back to the Dude's stroller and put on my best "knowledgeable" voice. The Dude laughed and played with his stuffed animal and after a few minutes we said goodbye.

After picking up some diapers (the entire reason for the trip out), I went to the check out line. As the cashier rang up my purchase I reached into the side pocket of my stroller to get my wallet. The pocket was open. I had closed that, hadn't I? And my wallet was missing.

At first I was embarrassed. I told the women to hold my items and I went back to the previous store to check and see if I had left it there. I have done this before so it was not that shocking. However, that cashier said that she had definitely seen me stick it back into the stroller. Then the reality of the situation dawned on me. Someone had stolen my wallet. My wallet, which not only had my driver's licence, car registration, ATM cards, health insurance cards, but also 40 Euro in it.

I went back to Rossmann and informed them that someone had lifted my wallet in their store. The women at the store were very helpful and immediately called the police. I desperately tried to get hold of the German. When the cops came in, I was a bit surprised. The cop leaned down and said, "Hi, Christopher." Turned out to be the husband of another woman from my play group. Dude, Wildeshausen is really small.

Both the cop, and later the German, tried not to laugh at me. Why? Because I should know better. NEVER turn your back on your child or belongings for even a minute. I beat myself up for hours because, in fact, I DO know better. I felt like such an idiot. Moreover, I was more upset about having to replace all of those stolen id cards. Screw the 40 Euro, I don't want to have to deal with bureaucrats more than I have to.

Then I got angry. WTF!! Just because I had my back turned, does not make it okay to steal my wallet. And who steals from a child's stroller!?

Later that afternoon the doorbell rang. It was my friendly neighborhood Spiderman, I mean police officer. A women had found my wallet in her bio-trash bin. My wallet smelled like a land-fill but everything was still there. Except the 40 Euro of course.

This morning I read in the paper that another wallet was stolen in a shop just down the street at about the same time that mine was. Hmm. A crime ring here in Wildeshausen? Well, maybe not. But the entire time that I was typing this blog a helicopter was circling. What are they looking for I wonder? Have those master criminals moved up from wallets to cars?

Friday, October 03, 2008


A friend of mine in grad school had a secret. Our professors often praised her wonderful insights and her well read back ground. Everyone liked her, as she was a very genuine person and thought of her as a bit of a "star" in our department. I asked her once how she did it. She giggled and responded, "Low expectations, Claire. In my interviews I did not want to overly impress people, that way when I got here, no matter how well I did, it would be okay."

I think that this was a bit tongue in cheek as the girl was brilliant and downplayed her intelligence because she did not like drawing attention to herself. However, it was a comment that stuck with me. In 2000 I watched as W. "exceeded expectations" and got elected. You can decide for yourself how well that has worked out.

Last night Governor Palin went into her debates with Senator Biden with decidedly low expectations. Everyone said that as long as she did not say something phenomenally stupid, then she would win the debate. Wow. What does that say about the state of our politics when we are willing to live with just "doing okay," and mediocrity?

Now, I also had low expectations for the Senator. He has a tendency to run on (and on and on) and leaving me with the feeling, "Say, wha . . ?" However, this potential double sided train wreck was not enough to keep me awake last night. I watched the re-run on CNN this morning.

I have my own secret to confess. Are you ready? I was captain of the debate team in high school. Shocking, isn't it? I often watch these debates with a fake ballot in my head and try to judge them.

Yes, Governor Palin did not suck. On the other hand, she was a master dodger of questions, something that is normally a big no-no in debate. She had clearly learned some talking points and, dear God and Biden be damned, she was sticking to them. Biden was also on a chain. In the end I think this was good for both their tickets. Although I felt so-so about both, I would most definitely feel better with Biden as vice-president. In my opinion he had a better grasp of knowledge and ideas. I felt like Palin was trying to sell herself a bit too hard. The German actually turned to me and asked, "Why does she keep smiling like that? It's creeping me out."

As a bookend to the debate, the German and I rented the movie "Idiocracy" last night. Jen and Sparky recommended it. In the movie, a "regular Joe" wakes up 500 years in the future to find that the human race has not evolved, but rather devolved and the nation has become, for lack of a better word, idiots. In the movie, the most popular TV show of the day is "Ow! My Balls" and the Oscar winning movie is "Ass."

The German laughed hysterically during most of the film. I was very quiet. Why? Because some of it did not look the the future, but sadly like politics today. It reminded me of a comment that I read about Palin. "She is just like me or my sister! Isn't it cool that some one like your sister could be president?"

HELL NO! Trust me people, you do not want my sister running the country. I want my public leaders to enunciate. I want them to have "book learnin'" and "edumication." I want the very best of the best in office. However, in today's media driven politics, the "smart" guy is labeled "elitist" and the "dumb" guy is "folksy." Do I want a president that I can have a beer with, or a president that can thoughtfully negotiate a treaty with world leaders? It is your decision, really, but I know where I come down on this issue.

Joe Biden really surprised me. Because of his reputation and some of the dumb stuff he has said over the past few weeks, I was sad about my low expectations. However, I think they were unfounded. He came across as a thoughtful, intelligent and personable. He even made me cry.

Now if I could just get the German to stop saying, "Ow! My Balls!"

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Shampoo Syndrome

When was the last time you looked at the back of a shampoo bottle? The directions are ridiculously easy:

lather, rinse, repeat

Since the Dude came along, I often feel like my life is a shampoo bottle, although mine would read:

cook, clean (this includes the house, laundry and the Dude's butt), repeat

It is not so much that the days are boring, but they seem to have a certain "sameness" to them. One day is hard to distinguish from the next. I spend the morning with the Dude, playing, cleaning and honing my Hausfrau skills. The German and I play the "switch game" at 4:30 when I head out and pretend to be an adult for 2 hours and teach English. The evenings are filled with ironing, TV and (when I am lucky) going to bed early. I get up at 6:30am every day and it starts all over again.

When I noticed this a few weeks ago I decided to become a bit more proactive about mixing up my day. Now I throw in a bit more blogging and some volunteer work. But still the days are the same. It dawned on me a few days ago that everyone experiences this. Although I am sure that Donald Trump's "sameness" is a tad different from mine.

For me it has been a bit startling as I have always been a goal orientated person. I was always working towards something; a degree, a deadline, a destination. Now that I am at my destination, I find spinning my wheels a bit discombobulating.

Some days I get more done than others. Today I have fed the baby, changed diapers (only three times so far; damn diarrhea), baked cookies, graded papers, worked a help desk, done some laundry, cleaned the bathroom, made a roast and watched Baby Einstein with the Dude. And the day is only half over.