Thursday, August 2, 2012

My bags are packed, I’m ready to go

New Smyrna BeachWell, not quite. We’ve got everything laid out, but Ken, the Master Packer (hush your mouth) still needs to get the suitcases loaded. And we aren’t leaving on a jet plane...since I stopped working, we’ve been driving down to Florida rather than flying. ROAD TRIP! Unfortunately, we can’t really take our time getting down there, so it will be Interstate travel. On the way back, we’ll probably get a little off the beaten path, and that is always fun and often an adventure!

It’s our annual trip to our timeshare at New Smyrna Beach, and I look forward to it every year. Some wonder why we go to Florida in the summer, but we like the hot weather and a warm ocean, and our timeshare is right on the beach, so we get a very brisk ocean breeze. We’re looking forward to seeing my Aunt June and Cousin Greg, who live in Daytona Beach and are coming down to have dinner with us. (Unfortunately, Greg’s son Russell is off doing military training as he prepares for his last year of aviation school at Embry-Riddle, so we won’t get to see him. An amazing and super smart young man!) Other than that, we have no real plans for our time in Florida other than our usual ‘vegecation’: reading, ocean, beer, sun, and visits to some of our favorite restaurants. (Mmm...a walk down the beach for a burger at Breakers! My mouth is already watering! And real Key Lime Pie!) Of course, this year, we’ll also be watching the Olympics in the evening. I think that’s a first for our Florida trip. In fact, I’m sure of it.

As for my reading, I’ve been struggling a little bit with Of Human Bondage. I’m enjoying it, but I’m not tearing through it, so I think I want to set it aside on this vacation and read something a little more fun. I’ve chosen The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe, about the 2008 Obama run for the presidency. Yes, I know I’m a little bit insane, but I started reading it today, and I’m already loving it! I’m getting fired up about this fall, so I’m happy with my book choice. My Kindle is well-loaded and ready for bear, so I may choose a fun book after that...maybe an Egyptian mystery or something like that.

On our way back, we’ll be making a stop in Charleston (I’ve never been there, so I’m looking forward to seeing if it’s a place we might want to revisit, like Memphis.), and then a couple of nights in Raleigh. I’m super excited about that, because we get to meet our long-time blogger and Facebook friend, the fabulous Ms. Sheria! She is a total peach, and I am so excited to meet her. Lucy and Ethel, baby! I guess that would make Ken Ricky...?

We’ll be taking our laptops and blogging from Florida, although I’m not sure if it will be every day. But there will be pictures!

First Amendment2Before I go, just a quick commentary on the Chick-Fil-A brouhaha. (And yes, I WILL be paying attention to politics while we’re on vacation! You have been warned.) This cartoon says it perfectly for me. I don’t dispute the right of Dan Cathy to spew whatever bigotry he wants to spew, and I don’t disagree with his right to contribute his money to whatever hate groups to which he wants to contribute. But rest assured: if you are the owner of a company and you come out with your thoughts on social issues, there are going to be people who disagree. And you know what? We have every right to push back, protest, and voice our disagreement. The First Amendment works both ways. I don’t believe anyone is suggesting that Dan Cathy should shut up and not voice his feelings about marriage equality. But I’m also not going to shut up about my opposition to that viewpoint, and I am going to continue to support the right for everyone to have the same rights as the rest of us. This is constantly being framed as a religious issue, but it is not. It is a human rights issue. Dan Cathy, you put it out there. Don’t cry ‘foul’ when people push back. Welcome to the jungle, baby!

For a couple of great reads about it, I recommend this recent entry from Hemant Mehta, as well as my friend Mark Olmsted’s blog post. I approve of these viewpoints.

Catch ya soon!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The GaffeMeister 3000™

Texting HillaryI’ll take a little break from writing about the Olympics (But hey, how about that Michael Phelps?! And how about the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team?! WOW!) and write about Mittens’ recent jaunt to England, Israel, and Poland.

Jesus H. Christ on a jumped-up sidecar, what a train wreck. What an embarrassment. I would like to apologize to the citizens of each country, but especially to the British. My friend Leanne suggested that we start writing apology notes now, and perhaps a Harry and David fruit basket is also in order. I agree, because this was a fucking JOKE.

I’m sure you’ve read about it, so I won’t go into detail. He immediately began making friends and influencing people by saying that maybe London wasn’t entirely prepared for the Olympics. Never mind the fact that the British press had voiced many of the same concerns, and in much stronger terms; he was there on the eve of the Olympics, and you don’t just walk into someone’s house for a party and say, “Hey, looks like you didn’t prepare properly for this!” No. You say, “Oh, everything looks great! Your house is beautiful, the food looks wonderful, and if we run out of booze, one of us can run out real quick and get some more. Thank you for inviting us!” THAT is diplomacy. I’m surprised I have to explain this.

The British hated him. Headlines ranged from “Mitt the Twit” to “Who Invited Him?” He was called a wazzock and a wanker. (I was familiar with the latter term, but not the former. I approve of both.) The PM and London’s Mayor both ridiculed him and unloaded the snark. Yes. Embarrassing.

After pissing off one of our closest—if not the closest—allies, Mittens was off to Israel, which was a little more welcoming since he’s long-time good buddies with PM Netanyahu. Things went pretty well for him there, as he said what big donors wanted to hear at a fundraiser, which amounted to yes, we will support Israel no matter what. Then he had to step in it a little bit a lot and insult the Palestinians by saying that Israel’s success has to do with a difference in “culture” and “providence,” as in the Palestinians aren’t as “cultured” nor do they have the advantage of “divine providence,” but then he walked it back and said he wasn’t talking about Palestinian culture, just culture in general, kinda like how the U.S. is successful and Mexico isn’t, ‘cause Mexico’s culture isn’t as good as the United States’, and then people found stuff in his book that said EXACTLY that about culture, and then he wrote an op ed saying that yes, he really did mean that culture has lots to do with a country’s economic success, and...for fuck’s sake, Mitt, pick a stance already! And stop insulting people! Stop stepping into the middle of a conflict that has been going on for thousands of years, one that has no easy solutions, one that many Presidents (and better men than you) have tried to negotiate over the years!

[deep breath]

Oh, and then the deputy PM of Israel said that the Obama administration has actually been pretty good to them. Heh.

Okay. Off to Poland. Again, a fairly welcome reception there. Apparently Lech Walesa really likes the dude, for some unknown reason. The Solidarity trade union wasn’t as enamored, and distanced themselves from Walesa’s support of Mittens and issued a statement that they stand in support of America’s unions.

There were plenty of other Bizarro World occurrences along the way, from Romney talking about looking out the “backside” of No. 10 Downing Street (Good grief!!) to him praising Israel’s health care system (’s run by the government, Mittens) to his press secretary telling reporters (who were definitely being dicks) at Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to “kiss my ass...this is a holy place...have some respect,” and it began to verge on the surreal. Yes, because if someone gets up in my grill at a cemetery, I like to say, “Kiss my ass...have some respect.”

Texting Hillary2Then Mittens came home. Finally. Thankfully.

I guess his goal was to show that he was ready to lead, and that he has the diplomatic chops to deal with various foreign dignitaries. Well, you fucked up, Mittens. You were an embarrassment to our country, you showed that you don’t have the slightest idea of how to be diplomatic, and you made it apparent that you are incapable of picking up on obvious social and psychological clues, let alone subtle ones. It’s not surprising. When you live in the privileged bubble of the extremely rich, you forget how to deal with people. You expect everyone to respect you, because you have forgotten that respect is earned, not bought.

I don’t know how much impact this will have. We have a ways to go before the election. But I hope it sends a subtle message (one that I’m sure Mittens would be unable to intuit) to those undecided voters that this guy just doesn’t play well with others. Even those who are supposed to be his bestest friends.

I’m just glad he picked up his ball and came home before he started an international incident.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

10 Reasons Why I Love the Olympics

London Olympics
1. I enjoy learning a bit about the history and culture of the host country. This is mostly present in the opening and closing ceremonies. We are often let in on little jokes that are special to the host country, and we get a chance to relate to the country and understand them in ways we probably haven’t been able to previously. Their goal is to impress us and make us love them. I can honestly say that after watching London’s opening ceremony, they succeeded in those goals, at least with me. Some people found it bizarre, but I’ve always kind of dug the bizarre and unusual, so I loved it! We’ve planned a visit to the British Isles all along, and we’re now talking about doing it in a couple of years. The music alone reminded me how much I love the British music scene...what a wonderful connection we have with them there. One quick example: Mick and Keith were obsessed with American blues. They took those influences and created the Rolling Stones, which in turn shaped our music scene. (I give that example because I love the Stones; there are many others to be made.) Danny Boyle used British music history perfectly in the opening ceremony.

2. The Olympics are about equality. Every athlete has a chance to compete against the best in the world. Obviously, many countries have larger Olympic Committees with bigger budgets and more money for training. But any incredibly talented athlete who is willing to put in the work necessary to train is a competitor. I’m guessing that Jamaica doesn’t have a huge Olympics training budget, but look what Usain Bolt did in the last Summer Olympics. Amazing! This equality is even more apparent this year, as the U.S. Olympic team has more female than male athletes for the first time in history. Every country participating has female athletes, including countries that have very oppressive policies towards women. One of the most powerful moments for me was seeing the Saudi Arabian women athletes marching with the team, flashing the victory sign. Sure, they were marching behind the men...but they were THERE. They’ve come a long way, baby, but still have a ways to go!

3. Even tiny nations are present. Again, large nations have large contingencies and lots of money, but small nations can compete, too. Last Olympics, I remember looking up Eritrea, so I could learn more about it. There were other small nations this time around that I’d never heard of, often with only two or three athletes. How much it must mean to them to be representing their country on the world stage!

4. These athletes are literally the best of the best. Their athleticism and talent is just amazing to behold. They have trained for thousands of hours, given up much of their lives, and have bled, cried, and puked in order to get to this point. Their focus and dedication is amazing to me. Some of their physiques take my breath away, both male AND female. Probably the best example of that is the gymnasts. Wow!

5. As I watched the opening ceremony, I was struck by the young, smiling faces of the athletes. They are so excited to be there, representing their countries, and they have so much living ahead of them. They embody the hope of youth. They remind me of how I felt at that age, and they help me realize that I still have much of that hope. I wish the best for them all, both at the Olympics and beyond. Not everyone will get a medal, but just being there means that they have already achieved something remarkable.

6. On a related note, I also noticed during the ceremonies that we are pretty much all the same. If the athletes were in their street clothes rather than their team uniforms, they would just sort of all blend together. Although you might be able to tell what region or heritage a person comes from, you would be hard-pressed to specify which country they were from. This speaks to the “equality” thing, and the Olympics remind me that we are all on this planet together, and that our similarities are greater than our differences.

7. Politics is usually left out of the Olympics. You may see a little bit here and there, but in general, the focus is on sport rather than ideology. The most notable exception to this was the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow and the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. We boycotted the former, along with several other nations, to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; the USSR and several other Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the latter as a response to OUR boycott. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that at the time. Sad about the boycotts, I suppose, but supportive of my country’s decision. I do not feel that way now, and believe that politics should not affect the Games or punish the athletes who have worked so hard to get there. Besides, Jesse Owens’ dominant performance in track and field at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin—which Hitler figured would show the superiority of his Aryan race—were one of the best statements that could have been made, peacefully, against an ideology. Still one of the most powerful moments in Olympic and world history, over 75 years later.

London Olympics Tower Bridge
8. As someone who was obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology in grade school, I love the history of the Olympics. Begun in ancient Greece, the purpose now is essentially the same purpose as then: to bring together the best athletes in a spirit of competition and love of sport. Various sports have come and gone, and the athletes no longer compete sans clothing, but the essential philosophy of the Games has not changed. I think that’s pretty cool!

9. I love seeing the pride the athletes have, not just for their own remarkable accomplishments, but for their country. Who doesn’t get teary-eyed when you see a guy from some tiny country standing on the medal stand and weeping as his national anthem is played and his country’s flag is raised? Or a woman from the host country standing with honor as she receives her medal and the crowd sings their national anthem along with her? Gets me every. damn. time. To revisit #6, it’s a reminder that others love their country as much as we love ours, for reasons every bit as legitimate and honorable.

10. I get to watch sports I don’t normally watch, or am completely unfamiliar with. Late last night, I watched women’s weightlifting. This afternoon, I’m watching men’s water polo. Believe me, in non-Olympics years I don’t plan a big spread of snack food so we can hunker down in front of the TV for a water polo match, and I don’t plan Women’s Rowing parties! But during the Olympics, I am fascinated by all of these and more. Coverage is 24 hours for this Olympics, between various TV channels and live streaming. These athletes, no matter what sport, have worked hard to get here. I honor them by watching, and I am actually pretty fascinated by some of these unfamiliar sports. I try to balance it so that I can get things done, rather than be glued to the TV, but for the next couple of weeks, the TV will be on all day and much of the night. I’m happy to give CNN a rest for a while (although I’m still getting plenty of news in my daily reading) and enjoy the competition, no matter what it is. I love some of the usual favorites: gymnastics, track and field, swimming, and of course, basketball! (I’m a Hoosier!) But I enjoy whatever I watch, and found myself cheering for some of those surprisingly small women doing the clean and jerk last night! (And yes, I had a brief chuckle at the name of the event. The other one is the snatch. For real.)

So those are the main reasons I love the Olympics. We are proud supporters of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and we watch the Games faithfully. I get seriously choked up and weepy when watching, because I have so much respect for what these athletes have accomplished. I celebrate with them when they triumph, and I feel bad for them when they don’t. I won’t say “when they fail,” because none of them are failures. Making it to the Olympics means that they are all champions in my book. There is something
pure about the Olympics to me. I love sports, as most of you know, and the Olympics is a potent distillation of all that is good and right about sports and the spirit of competition. There are often scandals, and ongoing problems with doping. But that takes nothing away from the essential meaning of the Olympics, which is the world’s best athletes representing their countries and coming together in amity and the spirit of friendly competition. That is very powerful to me.

One extra bonus for why I’m loving the London Olympics, specifically. These ladies got to carry the torch part of the way. That is Patsy and Eddie from the British comedy “Absolutely Fabulous,” which I adored when it aired on Comedy Central several years ago. They’re still hilarious!

London Olympics AbFab

Over and over

MistakesLittle blog o’ mine, I’ve been neglecting you! I am so sorry. I’ve been enjoying some nicer weather over the past week, and now I’m all caught up in the Olympics. I’ll be writing more about the Olympics soon, but in the meantime, something has been nagging at me. I’ll write about it real quick and then get some sleep!

In reading some stuff online, I have to wonder how people can make the same mistakes over and over again. I have certainly made some doozies in my lifetime, and I’m sure I’ll make some in the future. When I was younger, I know I took way too long to learn certain lessons. Once you reach a certain age, shouldn’t you have started to figure things out, though? Doesn’t there come a point when you think, “Wait a minute...I’ve seen this movie before”? In fact, you may have been the star of that movie!

I don’t really have a point here, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made some really bonehead mistakes in my life. However, I try to limit those mistakes to a couple of times, especially as I’ve gotten older, and I can’t help but wonder why anyone close to my age would continue to keep making the same bad decisions over and over. If things continue to go wrong, doesn’t it make sense to stop and figure out if your own behavior is part of the problem? Isn’t that logical?

I suppose for some people, there is an element of being a perpetual victim. When things go wrong, it is someone else’s fault, and they had no part in it. There are definitely situations when that happens, but if there is a recurring pattern in your life, I think it’s wise to do a little soul-searching and think about whether you might be part of the problem. We all make mistakes, but the point of making mistakes is to learn from them and not continue to make them.