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Campaign Trail Odd Couple: Iowa and NH

[Happy New Year! Gonna make a pot of beans and watch them Gators ... Also a nap will be necessary, and analgesics, and possibly a blood transfusion ... ]

[My story in today's paper.]

GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa -- Two states guard the campaign trail as though they own it. Their influence on national politics is wildly disproportionate to their modest populations. Neither has anything that could be called a large city, or a slum, or a sprawling suburb. Both are dotted with small towns where everyone knows everyone else. One is very white, the other whiter still.

Iowa and New Hampshire have defied all predictions of their impending obsolescence. By the time Iowans finish caucusing Thursday and New Hampshirites vote in their primary five days later, the course of the 2008 presidential race may have been shaped, before many people in 48 other states have even paid much attention.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D), whose own state of Michigan tried unsuccessfully to edge its way into the early primary picture this year, has dismissed one of those states' outsize roles in the primary process -- New Hampshire's -- as "cockamamie." And it's easy to understand the jealousy the rest of the country feels over the attention lavished on voters there and in Iowa.

In Grundy Center, for example, a farming community in northeast Iowa with a population just a hair over 2,500 (98.8 percent non-Hispanic white), presidential candidates have pulled into town to make stump speeches 13 times, according to a recent tally by the Des Moines Register.

When challenged, leaders in both Iowa and New Hampshire respond with one voice, citing tradition and the dedication of their citizens as justification for their special role. But beyond their status as campaign-trail behemoths, Iowa and New Hampshire have little in common.

As is apparent to any candidate or strategist or journalist shuttling from Manchester to Des Moines and back (flying over such temporarily irrelevant places as Ohio and Illinois), the two states are about as similar as ethanol and granola. As dirt and granite. As a John Deere tractor and a moose.

There is the recurring linear/bent, flat/rugged, dull/eccentric distinction. Iowa is a place where the relatively flat terrain has been graded and plowed and laser-leveled even flatter on behalf of industrial agriculture. From the air it is a checkerboard, defined by "sections" platted long before humans busted the prairie sod. Amid the corn and soybeans, the occasional human structure pokes up like a jimson weed.

New Hampshire, by contrast, is heavily warped and woofed. It is full of mountain hollows and tumbling streams and roads that refuse to go in a straight line.

Iowa, as any campaign strategist quickly discovers, is physically a much bigger state (23rd largest in size, 30th in population). The caucus formula gives weight to small counties, meaning a typical Iowa campaign trip takes a candidate to places that haven't had a nonpolitical tourist since the 1800s. Most people in New Hampshire (44th largest in size, 41st in population) live in the southern part of the state within screaming distance of one another.

Iowa has monocultures (corn, soybeans, evangelical Christians), while New Hampshire has micro-cultures (dairy farmers, factory workers, college professors, art colony inhabitants, Slow Food advocates, lumberjacks, commuters to Boston).

Iowa's farmers and evangelicals are potentially huge voting blocs. In New Hampshire there are no voting blocs, and citizens have such an independent streak that a candidate would be lucky to carry all the registered voters in any particular household.

Some Iowans think their system is superior. Bob Brinton, city attorney in the town of Clarion, says caucuses are "much better" than a primary because people have to get up in front of their friends and neighbors and take a stand. A caucus doesn't involve "indifferent people who don't give a damn anyway," he says.

[Click here to keep reading.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 1, 2008; 9:32 AM ET
 
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Next: Who'll Win Iowa and NH?

Comments

first?

Posted by: frostbitten | January 1, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Reading this article was a fun way to start the new year. It shows the depth of research that is characteristic of Joel's work. I learned a lot from reading this, since, to me, both Iowa and New Hampshire are strange unknown lands of mystery.

Enjoy the day everyone! For the much-dreaded "Day After The Day After New Year's Eve" is fast approaching.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 1, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Human structures like jimson weeds. Pretty harsh assessment considering how noxious those weeds are. My friend, the former Pork Princess, remembers piling into the family car for Sunday drives after church looking for weeds (of any sort)and everyone ready to report on anyone who let weeds grow in their farm fields contrary to county ordinances. Just magnifies the difference between Iowa and New Hampshire I suppose.

Posted by: frostbitten | January 1, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Happy New Year's Day, everyone! (I'll play straight woman for TBG here).

Iowa and New Hampshire deciding the nominees in 2008 is beyond belief. It's like a local poll making that decision, I don't care what the tradition is. Are we even talking about tens of thousands of "votes" here? I didn't think so.

Or maybe we need to throw another tradition out--declaring the winner after Iowa and NH. Wait until after Super Tuesday at least. It could be like the Triple Crown of politics.

Posted by: dbG | January 1, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Great article Joel. If "the biggest problem facing the counry is 'scriptural ignorance,'" and reporting on people who have allow their weeds to grow are representative of the way Iowans think, then it is a strange and alien place indeed. New Hampshire has more diversity in its population, but still isn't much of an indicator of country wide feeling. I find the whole primary process quite ridiculous. Of course, we here in MA get all the political ads for NH and at this point, we either switch channels or mute the sound when one comes on.

Happy New Year to all. I'm going to try to find some warm mittens and a hat today and any other bargains that come my way. Then a nice nap by a warm fire will feel good.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | January 1, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I love the monoculture/microculture contrast. I've never seen it put that way before.

As for why these atypical states have so much influence, I'm reminded of the line in Charlie Wilson's War about why Congress says one thing but does nothing. "Tradition, mostly."

Posted by: yellojkt | January 1, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Happy New Year, everyone.

I'm going to read more of this in a minute, but I wanted to give a shout out to greenwithenvy for his care of a state trooper who'd had a car accident this morning. You did a good thing, sir.

Going to run out to the store momentarily, but wanted to wish everyone a good day of football (*sigh* even Joel's Gators), Twilight Zone episodes, sunshine, black-eyed peas, cabbage, friends, familu, and the best in 2008.

bc

Posted by: bc | January 1, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

SCC: "family".

bc

Posted by: bc | January 1, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

*standing ovation for gwe's most excellent deed*

bc, isn't Familu Henner on this year's version of the "Apprentice?"

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 1, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Note to self: When one has the opportunity to sleep in, one really must turn off the alarm that is set to 4 a.m. (to get the Stickman to the airport).

Very nice article Joel. In fact a heck of a nice series of very different articles over the last couple of weeks.

Posted by: dr | January 1, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

The sectionalizing of the US (exclusive of the original 13 states and Texas) is a marvel. The Government actually surveyed nearly everything from the Appalachians to the Pacific. Albeit Florida is studded with Spanish land grants (especially to a guy named Arredondo) and my one-time corner of Wyoming had some really odd slivers resulting from bad initial surveys.

One outcome is that American cities tend to be laid out with roads on the section lines, half-section lines, and so forth. Modular urban areas, like carpet tiles.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 1, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Happy New Year. Wow... I haven't boodled all year. I've missed you guys!

:-)

Posted by: TBG | January 1, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Only in the West, Dave. Around here, anything goes when it comes to streets, and generally does.

Cassandra, just got an email from Mr. T saying that a firefighter in Rockingham County was killed in an apparatus rollover this morning. Not a good way to start the year.

Posted by: Slyness | January 1, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Hee Hee

Posted by: Anonymous | January 1, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Here's Bob Herbert's take on 1968. This is the last paragraph:

"We discovered in 1968 this deep, almost mystical bond that existed between Robert Kennedy and the Other America. It was a disquieting experience for reporters. ... We were forced to recognize in Watts and Gary and Chimney Rock that the real stake in the American political process involves not the fate of speechwriters and fund-raisers, but the lives of millions of people seeking hope out of despair."

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/01/opinion/01herbert.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

Posted by: Maggie O'D | January 1, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Those hee hees are a response to TBG's knee slapper, not the accident.

Posted by: b9 | January 1, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Year, y'all! The Ivansfolk went with a friend to enjoy the downtown Opening Night, concert by the Flaming Lips (most excellent) and rejoice in an "extremely expensive, slightly dangerous" downtown fireworks display (description courtesy of Wayne Coyne, Flaming Lips impresario). This was the first time the Boy has stayed downtown until midnight to see the fireworks. By the time we got home, we were too tired to toast. We had our champagne in breakfast mimosas this morning (okay, perhaps that should be present tense).

The Lips did a wildly successful sing-along of their protest anthem, "The Yeah-yeah-yeah Song" -- and here in supposedly red-state country too. The punctuation to most phrases is "yeah yeah yeah" repeated several times. Coyn explicitly pointed out this was written in response to the current administration, exhorted the audience to take the lyrics to heart and vote in November, and said something along the lines of "Let's not elect another dumb**** like this again."

If you could blow up the world with the flick of a switch
Would you do it?
If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich
Would you do it?

If you could watch everybody work while you just lay on your back
Would you do it?
If you could take all the love without giving any back
Would you do it?

And so we cannot know ourselves
Or what we'd really do

With all your power (3x)
What would you do?

If you could make your own money and then give it to everybody
Would you do it?
If you knew all the answers and could give to the masses
Would you do it?
(Yeah yeah yeah yeah/no no no no)

Are you crazy?
It's a very dangerous thing to do exactly what you want
Because you cannot know yourself, or what you'd really do

With all your power (3x)
What would you do?

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Returning to Earth, I loved the story, Joel. Actually read it in the paper first for a change. I have decided to pay no attention to Iowa; much like that man behind the curtain, it only has significance while people believe. If we stop believing, it will go away. I mean the caucuses, of course, not the state itself.

Congratulations, greenwithenvy, for a deed well done. Cassandra, Loomis, I hope you feel better and your New Years Days are good.

I liked RD's comment last night that we should be thankful for getting through another year, and remembering those who didn't. I haven't seen any resolutions yet. Even though I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions, here are mine: to take obstacles and challenges as lessons in patience, to be present in the moment wherever I am, and to be kinder to everyone even when they don't deserve it. More prosaically (and probably a more realistic goal), to lose weight.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Once again, neither the Achenblog nor the Boodle made it on to this year's In/Out list--as an In or an Out.

I knew I was old the day I realized I didn't know what 98% of the things on either list were. That was probably about 15 years ago.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/features/2007/year-in-review/the_list_2008.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: TBG | January 1, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Yes TBG - each year the list has gotten more and more inscrutable. I mean how can pregnant 16 year olds be "in" while sex is "out"?

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 1, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

The only reason I see why the Iowa(New Hampshire) thing is important is because of the racial make-up of the region? I mean it does not reflect the "melting pot" factor, right? Maybe I need to go back and read the kit again. Knowing me,I probably missed something.

TBG, who decides the "in and the out"? I did not know any of that stuff,well maybe Chris Rock, Harrison Ford, Tyler Perry. Is this list based on scientific research or the bloated thinking of someone sitting in an office cubicle(?)?

Love the song, Ivansmom.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 1, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, was that Richmond County or Rockingham County? I live in Richmond County with Rockingham, NC as the county seat. I don't think the paper is out today, and I haven't heard anyone say anything about it. Do you have more details?

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 1, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm getting an advertisement that asks for your dreams. If they choose your dream, you get a chance to tell them how you're going to acquire this dream. Now my question, and I know this sounds silly, but what about my dream if they don't choose it. Do I throw it away or revamp to try and win? Do I submit another dream? Do the people sponsoring(I think AARP) this contest get to keep my dream and do what they will with it? Will the sponsors of the contest help me to have my dream? Can I submit a dream wherein I dream I win the contest? I want to scream, are you people real?

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 1, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Did I kill the boodle?

Oh, well, let me go and play somewhere else.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 1, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra - I think that Joel is pointing out that giving so much electoral power to two states that really are not representative of the country as a whole is a little silly.

And has for the in and out list. That would be Hank Stuever, the Washington Post's Official Cultural Watchdog.

http://www.hankstuever.com/

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 1, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Hey Cassandra, you didn't kill the boodle, we're just restin'. I am, at least, now that I have put up all my portion of Christmas (ornaments and lights off the real tree, mantel decorations). Now Mr. T has to do the rest, when he gets home.

I was thinking Rockingham County was close to you, Cassandra, but I looked it up and it's not, it's north of Greensboro. Shows you how much I know about the geography of NC. Oh well, now the whole world knows about my ignorance!

Posted by: Slyness | January 1, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Going off-topic for a second, I see that the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet" is on the SciFi Channel now, a magnum opus of Shatnerian acting and eye makeup.

OK, back to your regularly scheduled Boodling...

bc

Posted by: bc | January 1, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, with one hundred counties and the names of those counties similar to towns and hamlets in the State, hey, who can keep up? Don't feel bad. It was honest. On your end of the State, I don't know one thing, not one. Take me to the mountains, and I'm lost. And on the east coast too. It's a lot to keep up with. And I've always believed some of these folks in naming these places, may have had one too many drinks when the name flamed their brain. You think?

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 1, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Cassandra, the list WAS put together by bloated thinking of someone sitting in an office cubicle. Although I was intrigued by bibimbap. Man, I need some of that!

Just researching the procedures of the Iowa caucus. I can't see the value in it except that it is early. I think actual learning would come from anyone who walks away with the contest, a superwinner. There are none. Next!

I am very proactive. I had my hangover on Monday and got it out of the way.

Driving in my truck I came up with an essay to write on hypertext-like forms in traditional communications media. I ought to write it now.

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

In North Carolina, at least it's easy to remember that there's 100 counties. Georgia went crazy making counties. So did Florida, in unpopulated portions of the state.

Florida, being a General Land Office survey state, has Meridian Street in Tallahassee (it's on the Tallahassee Meridian from which the surveys started). Gainesville is a perfect section line town complete with a street numbering system that in effect gives you latitude and longitude with respect to the square.

Thinking of imposing a grid on nature, the Romans seeemed to like doing that. A while back, I had read a story on the Baptistry doors in Florence and took a peek at the city on Google Earth. Spotted a rectangular square surrounded by perfectly straight streets. A bit of checking and it turned out to be the original town laid out by Julius Caesar. The Spanish built copies of Caesar's Florence all over their part of America. According to a recent scholarly book, they went straight to the Romans to figure out how to run their vast new empire.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 1, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I think the Iowa and NH affairs are important, because in the smaller settings the candidates have to answer citizens' questions and endure close-up scrutiny. This makes them better sources for reportage (such as Eugene Robinson today) than states where the campaign consists of TV ads and made-for-TV events. The outcome of the voting only reflects the opinions of people in those states which may or may not be representative of the nation as a whole, depending on the issues raised, so we shouldn't take that too seriously. We're still going to get our chance to vote here in CA, and we'll send a lot more delegates whether we're first or not.

Posted by: LTL-CA | January 1, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Dave, I grew up in those parts and since you mentioned Gainesville I thought I'd ask if you are around that area. I was both a Seminole and a Gator.

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Thank you all for being so gracious.

Actually, naming counties in NC was worse than somebody sitting in a cubicle trying to come up with names. It was done by politicians.

That explains everything, doesn't it?

Posted by: Slyness | January 1, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

PA has a number of electoral votes also, but if we have no say in who the candidate running is, how much does that really matter?

Stats from the 2004 caucuses and primaries.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_caucus
Democratic turnout: about 124,000 caucus-goers
Republican turnout: couldn't find a figure

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_primary
Democrats 219,787
Republican 67,833

Agreed that these contests are given entirely too much weight, but the fact is, they are.

It's no wonder we don't feel represented when, for all intents and purposes, a little over half a million people pick the nominees.

Posted by: dbG | January 1, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVkJ1Bf-QzU
Huun-Huur-Tu, Mongolian throat singers.

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

TBG, you make me feel so much better! I thought that with teens in the house you might have a better handle on what that in/out list refers to.

Happy New Year to all. In a show of our true fogeydom, Raysdad and I went to an early (4:30) dinner, then came home to a bottle of champagne and the football games.

My only input to the New Hampshire primary is to try to influence my brother in law who lives there. Mission #1: convince him that Huckabee's tax plan is the work of a nutjob.

Posted by: Raysmom | January 1, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Jumper,did not mean that in a "mean-spirited" way. And I followed the link, RD, posted, and read some of the guy's articles, and I'm still laughing. He was a bit hard on Micheal Jackson, though. And the "Roadkill" thing was hard to read. I don't like deer meat, and I suspect eating roadkill deer meat would not be any better. Love the Laura Ingalls' piece. My sister loved Little House on the Prairie(?).

Got to go. Want to check on my dad. I called him this morning, and told him I would show up today.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 1, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfavWh6JJ1E
Baka Beyond, a euroafrican musical group, live in Oxford.

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I saw Huun Huur Tu in concert a few years ago - they're wonderful - I can't help smiling when I hear throat singing. Many of the rhythms are like a horse cantering, so I can't help but like that too. Did you notice the carved horse head on the guitar-like instrument in the video?
http://www.huunhuurtu.com/

I'm just glad someone's going to caucus or vote soon - let's get this show on the road! I suppose I should figure out when and where my state's caucuses are held. In 2004, the one I could've gone to was in a bowling alley, which I thought was hilarious.

Went for a walk, so starting off the New Year right, and without breaking my resolution on Jan 1.

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 1, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

No, I sort of sympathise with journalists who have to come up with "end of the year" articles, because I imagine them trapped at their desks. Bloated or not. I have friends working at newspapers. Let's wish them Happy New Year. This includes you, Joel.

No one but me probably notices, but I always try to stay on topic of the kit in some way. I see I have violated that with my music links. I don't feel bad, though!

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I like the album "60 Horses in my Herd" by Huun-Huur-Tu. I bought myself a MP3 player for my truck that I can plug in USB memory sticks directly in front, so I have been collecting and converting music and loading my memory sticks today - and the abovementioned is finally on a stick. I'm also playing it now.

I'm a big "world music" fan. For some reason I hold the theory that Paul Simon set the "movement" back 10 years with "Graceland." I don't know why exactly, except that it had limited appeal, but more and different and, I think, much better, music was becoming available about then. Most valuable in this effort has been Peter Gabriel who has worked quietly behind the scenes, introducing musicians from varied parts of the world and producing.

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeNU600stLA&feature=related
Afro Celt Sound System (with Sinead O'Connor) - Release

Theebadeebathatsallfolks

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

You're right, dbG... we do feel like we make no difference because some rubes in Iowa and New Hampshire are picking our candidates.

Not that we're not rubes... we're just not the rubes with the unusual influence.


Took the kids to the mall today to buy Son of G a pea coat. He and the gf are going to NYC tomorrow and the high is forecast to be 22°F. He needed a nice coat anyway.

Besides.. now I can say "Is that a pea coat you're in?" which is one of my family's favorite stupid jokes. (You've got to say it out loud to realize how [not] funny it is.)


Posted by: TBG | January 1, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Which candidates would do well in PA, etc., but are going to be eliminated by the first few states like IA and NH?

Posted by: LTL-CA | January 1, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, I spent several years in and around Gainesville working temporary jobs for what was then the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I spent more years in Jacksonville, and am now hurricane bait in Vero Beach. And of course the back part of the living room is full of young potted palms and cycads right now, waiting out the incipient cold snap. They look nice. Maybe I need to keep a few indoors permanently.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 1, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Vero. I love it. Er, that is, I mean, you tourists should not go there! It's awful!

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Just thought I'd mention that the Gator/Michigan Capital One Bowl has turned into a dandy.

Mich up, 38-35 with 3:00 to play, and Florida has the ball.

Oops, FL went for it on fourth down and didn't make it, turns the ball back over to Mich on the FL 24 yardline.

Can FL keep Mich out of the endzone (assuming they give up a 3-point field goal), and get the ball back with enough time to get a touchdown? We'll see...

bc

Posted by: bc | January 1, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

This has been driving me crazy. What are the little lizards called that we refer to as "chameleons" all the while knowing they are not really chameleons, in Florida? They were so common we would not lament finding their mummified selves in between the windows, but now, years later, I find myself missing their little lizard selves.

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

They are probably anole lizards. Pet stores sometimes sell anoles under the name "American chameleons."

http://www.hilozoo.com/animals/AR_anole.htm

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 1, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, I think you are referring to "anoles."

http://www.anapsid.org/anole.html

Posted by: kbertocci | January 1, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

RD, you are way too quick. I wish there was a way to go, "I got it! I got it!"--something I NEVER had occasion to say while playing softball or doubles tennis, but once in a great while I could do it here.

Posted by: kbertocci | January 1, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I used to keep anole lizards as a kid. Unfortunately, because of profound ignorance on my part regarding their nutritional needs, their life expectancy was not high.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 1, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Year, everyone...again. We went to see Charlie Wilson's War last night, but the darned thing was sold out. I couldn't believe it...I was teasing my husband about how boring we were to be seeing a movie on NYE! I'm glad to hear the frosties liked it. So, we came home and watched about 10 episodes of "The Office" season 1 and 2 and drank a little more than 1 wee glass of wine. We have only started watching it this season so we had some catching up to do...it's pretty funny.

TBG - I'm glad to know my son's taste in coats has been validated by a college student. He told me he wanted a pea coat for Christmas. I couldn't believe he knew what it meant.

bc - thanks for the mention of an informal BPH! I am going to make it up to DC for one this year, for sure.

Jumper - my husband talks about world music, but I thought he just used that as a term to describe stuff to me. I try to listen to him with a decent amount of respect, because his entire family is steeped in all kinds of music. His brother writes operas for crying out loud. Me, I'm the kind of person who just knows what I like. Fortunately, we have made sure the kiddies have had lessons of all sorts so they won't be such ignorami.

My New Year's resolutions are similar to Ivansmom's, with the additional resolve to not allow my teenagers to get my goat on a regular basis. They seem to be on the path of being productive members of society, good, caring, hard-working, well-mannered (so I'm told). But it seems to me that they get their jollies by busting my chops every minute of the livelong day.
Whew! Seems like I've got my work cut out for me, doesn't it?

On kit, I'm with mostlylurking... As long as this darned campaign has started so ridiculously early, let's have some kind of results, instead of these incessant polls.

gwe - very nice work. I'm glad you were there for that trooper!

Criminy - I think this is called boodlehogging!

Posted by: Kim | January 1, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, would those be geckos? That's what climbs around in our windows, anyway.

Posted by: bia | January 1, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Sigh, too slow, and probably wrong, too...

Posted by: bia | January 1, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, that's the same Huun Huur Tu CD that I have - ha! I really enjoyed Joshua Bell last night too. I was thinking about how different those approaches to music are, and yet there are many similarities, down to the shapes of the instruments. Last night was the first time I saw Bolero performed - never realized the violinists strum their instruments during part of it.

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 1, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Years everyone! Good to see you all here having fun... possibly some of you may have had too much fun last night?

Miss you guys greatly!

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | January 1, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

In the Philippines, I loved having geckos in the house. They were supposed to be good luck. I think they were just too hard to keep from getting in.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 1, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I don't know, LTL, I'd just like a chance to find out. :-)

Posted by: dbG | January 1, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Climbing lizards with well-developed adhesive toes. They are 6 - 8 inches in length. A pink dewlap (throat fan) under the neck is found in both genders although it is much larger in the males.

That's them! I seem to remember a while back some sort of late-developing adolescent fad involving clamping the little rascals on the earlobes. I mean, I grew up weird, but jiminy.

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Kim-I gave Mr. F a hard time for buying our tickets ahead of time, and chuckled in the near empty lobby of the multiplex only to find that we had to find seats very close to the screen. By the time the movie started there wasn't an empty seat to be had.

Ma Frostbitten called this morning to compare NYE notes, watched Joshua Bell, planning for travel in '08, and by the way "your Aunt's house burned to the ground yesterday." Not to worry, the family is safe, and there is no shortage of insurance or income to cover their costs, but her Finnish genes could not bring her to start a phone call with this info or call on NYE and chance ruining a good time with needless worry. As they say in MN, "could've been worse."

Posted by: frostbitten | January 1, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Hi Dolphin Michael! We miss you too.

Gosh, Frostbitten, I'm sorry about your aunt's house, but how charmingly told was the tale.

The Boy and I would like a lizard pet, and an anole seems lovely. However, Ivansdad is not yet persuaded that we should house a reptile (other than the attic snakes, for whom we do nothing and who eat any pesky rodents in summer). Really, I just want to be the Lizard Queen and that is hard to do without any subjects.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2008 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Forty years ago, when we went to Florida, we occasionally would go to Vero Beach to a particularly fine restaurant the name of which I have forgotten. It was always a festive event, to drive the 40 or so miles from Melbourne Beach. Even then, Vero was a Very Nice Place.

Posted by: Slyness | January 1, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Attic snakes? *Attic snakes?*

And I was hoping to get through the day without shaking my hands in horror as chills went down my back.

Posted by: dbG | January 1, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Yes, dbG, they were there when we moved in and are still, as far as I know. They're just harmless black snakes. We know of one for sure but I believe there to have been two, or possibly more. They never ever come down into the house, and we haven't seen much of them for a year or so. I think they originally got in through holes in the eaves, which we fixed. For a time they went in through a garden closet. There's nothing like watching a 5-foot snake climb up - or down - a brick wall. It is absolutely fascinating.

In summer, of course, they spend a lot of time outside, but at one time they did hibernate in the attic during winter. We used to feel compelled to tell electricians not to worry, after one came down, very shaken, to ask if we knew there was a six-foot snakeskin up there.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, as I think I might have mentioned before, if The Boy wants a reptile, I would go for a Leopard Gecko. They are much easier to care for than an anole.

My son has had a Leopard Gecko for over seven years now. It survives quite nicely on a diet of calcium-dusted mealworms. (I raise these with a minimum of effort in a 5 gallon bucket in the basement.)

The Leopard Gecko is a very calm and pleasant animal who tolerates being handled well.

Anoles, on the other hand, are very manic lizards that love to escape.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 1, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I used to have trolls in the basement. I will not, however, tolerate attic snakes. I would sooner brood attic ferrets.

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Man, you can find pictures of darn near anything on the internet.

http://www.bryangardner.com/blog/2005/May05/Moab05/RachelLizard.jpg

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 1, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't have my mealworms any other way. Great on the grill, as well.

Hey I-mom!!! Starting a new job tomorrow. A bit aprehensive.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | January 1, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, RD. I knew I wasn't imagining it.

Posted by: Jumper | January 1, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Oh God. The only thing creepier than having snakes in the attic is breeding meal worms in the basement.

Posted by: TBG | January 1, 2008 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I disagree w/ you TBG... basement makes more sense than on the kitchen island. Basement sounds better--keep it down there where you keep all the ogres and guys with chain saws.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | January 1, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Now now. I do not think raising mealworms for a lizard is especially creepy. Now, raising them as an entrée, well, that's another thing altogether.

http://www.hollowtop.com/finl_html/mealworms.htm

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 1, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

ScienceKid #1, way back when, wanted some kind of herp (reptile). The problem is that all reptiles that eat meat want only live prey. Turtles are fairly boring (although I had a little painted turtle as a kid, and we now keep a red-eared slider in a 70-gallon tank). Those lizards that primarily eat plants are reputed to be expensive to acquire, expensive to maintain, and prone to spontaneous acts of dying for no apparent reason. Snakes, unlike lizards, are stupid enough that they don't need to actively hunt live prey in order to believe that they have caught live prey. You can thus thaw a frozen mousie, hold it in front of the snake, and wiggle it a little. The snake bites, devours, and is satisfied for another week or two. We got a corn snake. The Kid can wait until college to consider acquiring a lizard.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 1, 2008 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Hey Tim! Happy New Years ...

I can see the Science family running their shopping cart down the rodent aisle looking for good deals on frozen twelve-pacs at the grocery store.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | January 1, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

One time, the ScienceSpouse called me in Hawaii to inform me that we had 100 mice in our freezer, the result of a massive bulk purchase. I imagined a small caravan of mice in parkas, hiking across our frozen peas. Unfortunately, hurricane Isabel came through town and knocked out our electricity for a week, when we had not yet made much of a dent in the supply. You should not feed a spoiled mouse to a snake, because they are very prone to infections, so our mighty mouse investment had to be thrown away.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 1, 2008 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, RD. I am glad you reminded me about your Leopard Gecko recommendation. I am a bit apprehensive about the mealworm wrangling, however. I have no basement. Is there any noxious odor or other unpleasantness which comes with the bucket of mealworms?

I also like the snake/frozen rodent option, but there is almost no hope at this point of Ivansdad agreeing to a full-blown serpent.

Jumper, the mayor of our fair city announced an initiative yesterday for our citizens to combat obesity by losing a collective 1 million pounds. He held his press conference in front of the elephant enclosure at the zoo. He noted that many U.S. cities looked like elephants, but we should all aspire to look like ferrets instead. Really, he did. I cannot imagine who gave him a ferret to use as an example, or why.

Good luck on that job, Dolphin Michael. I'm sure you'll do well.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Dolphie... Good luck on the new job. Just bring in bucket o' meal worms for lunch and you'll impress them all right out of the gate.

Posted by: TBG | January 1, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Raising mealworms is extremely easy and doesn't produce a noticeable odor. In essence all you do is put some type of bran or other grain-based meal in the bottom of a plastic container and dump in some mealworms from the pet store. Toss in a slice of apple every week, and top off the bran with some more every month or so. Pretty soon you will have a thriving colony. About once a year you need to scoop out the beasties and start all over again.


Here's a site that talks about it.

http://www.efinch.com/mealworms/mealworm.htm

There are many sites on the internet that talk about raising the things in a much more complex way, but for a pet lizard the single container system works fine.

Of course, for the squeamish, you can simply buy a container of mealworms from the pet store. They are pretty cheap. I just find it easier to rear my own.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 1, 2008 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Thanks you guys! It means a lot!!!

I am actually a lucky little boy , this week. I met a wonderful woman last night... One could say that I am on a roll (hopefully not a Kaiser), I would say (and when would you think that you would meet someone on New Years Eve?) Then again!? I need Tim, jkt, or BC to get me the odds.

Talk to you later!

BTW, The real joke is that she is almost an Achenneighbor.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | January 1, 2008 7:22 PM | Report abuse

I am so glad I didn't find this conversation till after New Year's dinner!

We had all the stuff to ensure good luck in 2008: pork loin in BBQ sauce, mustard greens, hoppin' john, squash casserole, homemade biscuits. And we finished the Christmas cookies, so we can all start anew on our diets in the morning.

bc, Mr. T has been kind enough to get the air compressor out and fill my tires. The icon went away! He also filled tires for younger daughter. We are safe again.

Posted by: Slyness | January 1, 2008 7:24 PM | Report abuse

I really liked this reporting--especially the details and the contrasts. Monocultures and micro-cultures. A true test of a caucus or primary would be to have voting in states that are neither of the labels Joel used, but multicultures, say California or Florida, as examples.

Cassandra and Slyness, thanks for the good thoughts. I caught another cold. The nose has cleared relatively quickly, but the deep, disturbing cough remains (again, much like November). I was at the doc's on the 26th, before the cold set in, and the doctor, based on symptoms I described (no bloodwork) thinks I have the MRSA bacterium. This bacterium is a staph that is resistant to the *cillins. Anyone ever have this? Looks like I'll be undergoing some tests in January for other things. There is no doubt I could take better care of myself. Cassandra, we've just got to get ourselves feeling better!

Tomorrow in Iowa promises to be an interesting day. Five days later, New Hampshire. It seems bothersome that our next presidential candidates could be chosen before Valentine's Day! Given the differing nature of both locales, perhaps the outcomes of these early voting states will be entirely different. I hope.

Posted by: Loomis | January 1, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Loomis... Yikes... that doesn't sound good. I hope you're feeling better soon and that everything turns out OK.

Posted by: TBG | January 1, 2008 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Year all. Just peeking in for a moment to exult over my Wolverines who held on to beat the Gators. Nice to see a win in a Bowl game for a change.

Now I'm getting ready to grit my teeth and reach for the mute button (or, alternatively, read a book or hundred) in anticipation of the political ads. I know around here, it's gonna have to wait until the conventions, but I'm ready to explore my inner bookworm anyway (don't know if they're related to mealy worms (and I don't think I care to know)).

May 2008 be good for all of you and for all of us.

Over and out and about.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | January 1, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Have enjoyed today re-reading and reading gardening books in between writing documents about climate general circulation models. Here is something that Error would have liked knowing in the groundhog wars:

"...set lines around the perimeter of your yard and tie strips of BADGER-SOAKED URINE to the lines." (my emphasis)

This advice from Dora Galitzki, former NY Times garden writer, writing in _ The Gardener's Essential Companion_.

Oh my on the mealworms, frozen mice, and herps. What some people keep in the freezer! I know many corn snakes, Ivansmom, and they would be much easier to keep and feed than legged-izards. Fortunately, CPBoy'e friends keep such "aminals" at their houses and not mine. We have a doglet and for year had a quaker or Monk parrot.

I do, however, want to keep gold fish in a small garden pool, but if we get everything we want now, then we have nothing to look forward too.....someday.

Posted by: College Parkian | January 1, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I thought I pressed Preview! MEANT
*Badger-soaked urine strips
*CPBoy's

(and other lapses)

And, good for you, Dolphin Michael on a classic New Year's Eve.

Posted by: College Parkian | January 1, 2008 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Dolpin Michael, you're on a roll. Enjoy.

Loomis, I'm sorry to hear about the potential MRSA. I agree that the real test would be a vote of multicultures, rather than Joel's excellent characterizations of Iowa and N.H.

Here in Oklahoma we don't ever see any presidential ads (certainly haven't yet), as everyone assumes we will vote Republican for president and the Repubs don't waste money bickering amongst themselves here. Several Repubs have visited though, and Edward and some of the other Dems as well (I cannot attend political fundraisers for professional reasons, so try and stay out of that loop).

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2008 8:44 PM | Report abuse

CP-what some people keep in the freezer indeed. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more)

Loomis-hope you feel better soon.

Posted by: frostbitten | January 1, 2008 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, I'm glad to hear your tires are back up to pressure. It's good that you have those on-board pressure indicators, most cars don't have them. I check my tire pressures every week or so when I'm doing my weekly 5-minute walkaround, checking oil & fluids, looking for stuff lodged underneath the car, etc.

DM, glad to hear of your good luck meeting a nice neighborlady. And fugget about the odds, you're already way ahead of the game, sir. It's up to *you* to make the most of your good fortune in this New Year. I know you will.

A friend of mine discussed the idea of having a worm-powered indoor composter in the kitchen. I wouldn't want one in my kitchen, and my friend's wife would have none of it either.

Watching the Sugar Bowl pregame (since the Rose Bowl went critical-mass at some point during the third quarter), and someone needs to tell the producer that he's breaking some law of physics by having Fran Tarkenton's Well And Truly Flyaway Bad Hair and Jimmie Johnson's Overly Prepped Plastic Fantastic Hair on the same set. Tempting fate like having a particle and anti-particle in the same container.

Yes, Loomis, tomorrow should be *very* interesting. I suspect we'll know who the GOP and Dem Presidential contenders are by the end of the month, much less Valentine's Day. Should make for a very interesting time between the primary/caucus season and the Conventions during the summer.

If the GOP or Dems had any ba--s, er, brains? - they'd have a season of the Survivor reality TV show to determine the VP running mates on the run-up to the Conventions, and have Jeff Probst announce the winners at the Final Tribal Council during those Conventions.

"The Tribe has *spoken*!"
Indeed.

bc

Posted by: bc | January 1, 2008 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Here in Tampa you'd never know the Dem's were even running, in MN it's the Rep's who don't seem to exist. Now I know Florida's moving of the primary and the Dem candidate boycott means there aren't too many events to cover, but good grief, that Spears girl got plenty of ink and she hasn't been touring the state either.

Posted by: frostbitten | January 1, 2008 8:50 PM | Report abuse

I meant to add that I hope the docs can come up with some effective treatment for your bacterial infection, Loomis. Scary stuff, indeed.

bc

Posted by: bc | January 1, 2008 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, best wishes with the ailment, whatever it is. I have a creepy feeling that we're in an age of emerging new infections.

Politically, nothing is happening in Florida. I get phone calls from one candidate's people, but that's just fundraising. I've seen a very few Romney signs, not much else. This county would seemingly vote for Bush if he were on the ballot.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 1, 2008 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, good that you are paying attention to the Staph you may have. CPBoy is also colonized (a technical term) with MRSA. Many of us are. Bit of a mystery why some of us get so sick. CPBoy is immune-compromised but is OK (knock wood, everyone) even with the pesky staph on his skin. He also has a bizarre bacteria associated with fisherman and surfers (imagine the chill) in the BALTIC. CPBoy has never touched Baltic waters, to my knowledge. That bacteria, Shewanella, is also a bio-remediator, as it can eat up oil spills....

Wow. I don't like being such an expert on this, but I hope you feel encouraged, Loomis. Take care and follow-up, but MRSA is not always the death knell.

And Frosti, I am laughing at the freezer possibilities. SciTim, during Isabella, you would not want to put that package of frozen delights on the barbie...do peeps here recall the spontaneous three days of continous neighborhood grilling as the meat thawed in the power outage?

Posted by: College Parkian | January 1, 2008 9:19 PM | Report abuse

MRSA, Loomis? Wowza! That is truly a nasty bug, responsible for several deaths and a number of baaad infections in this part of the world. It seems to breed where people are in close quarters, like school locker rooms and dormitories. Firefighters who are diagnosed with it hereabouts have to go on light duty till they're well again.

Don't mean to scare you, but please take care and get the appropriate treatment sooner rather than later!

Posted by: Slyness | January 1, 2008 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Toodles boodle. Colt Brennan and the rest of the Hawaii team need my full attention. I hope Mr. F does not have a stroke. He is already so upset with the refs it's hard to believe they find him sane enough to have a security clearance.

Any pundit like prognostication on Iowa? I'm going to go out on a limb and predict Edwards and Romney.

Posted by: frostbitten | January 1, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Holy Batman! Frostie, my nephew, a professional political operative, and I were just discussing the upcoming election, and we agreed that the most likely candidates are Romney and Edwards. We may be right, but as they say, it's too early to call it.

Posted by: Maggie O'D | January 1, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

frostbitten - you would be shocked at who they give security clearances to.

Loomis. Best of luck, that's nasty news but I have a feeling you are up to the challenge.

Least favorite day of the year tomorrow. The kids go back to school and the office will get all noisy again.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 1, 2008 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Good stuff on Halberstam from one who knew:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/30/magazine/30lives-t.html?ref=magazine

Posted by: bill everything | January 1, 2008 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Wow, RD, the Boy doesn't go back to school here until Monday. All the worker bee parents are not-so-secretly relieved to get back to the office for some nice quiet. All, that is, except those with no child care, who bring their kids along. The rest of us are sympathetic and happy to see them. After all, they're not OUR kids.

I'm hoping to get to sleep early after all this dissipation. Here's for dreams of mealworms fed to the candidates, with an audience of lizards judging the results. Fondue, all, and vaya con queso.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2008 10:01 PM | Report abuse

On the bright side, it could just be a persistent viral infection, Loomis.

I was pretty sore to get x-rayed and bloodwork done to be told it was just a viral thing and to go home and get better. That's what I was doing for 3 weeks...

That said, if you clearly have symptoms of bacterial infection (including elevated white blood count), don't kid about with it.
After abundant rest (I truly feel like a lazybones), after an outing to kin and kith, I took Wilbrodog for a real longish walk through the woods, I think over 1/2 mile.
He is thrilled no end to be out and about again, even if it's just to watch me play cards or do mundane errands.

He was jumping harder than a speed rope jumper when he saw the leash and work gear come out today. Alas, I'm afraid Wilbrodog develops cabin fever rather easily. Don't blame him; it's not like he has doggy video games to play when he's bored.


Posted by: Wilbrod | January 1, 2008 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, there's a market to be served! Can you imagine what canine video games would look like?

Posted by: Slyness | January 1, 2008 10:33 PM | Report abuse

That post seemed a little less than coherent now that I take a fresh look at it.
To clarify, I was walking Wilbrodog 1/2 mile in around 0 degrees F (aka -18 C).

I suspect Wilbrodog would happily try RD's homemade mealworm cooking. As for me, I'm not so sure I would. I remember my hamster relishing mealworms, but no, I've never been tempted.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 1, 2008 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Foot controls on a big mat with protective frames, like DDR!

Maybe two of them, so the dog could race back and forth to keep playing!

And great graphics with lots of motion! And fun noises, and voice commands!

And maybe a heavy, solid rubber ball to bounce on a flat button...

I want one. Bad.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | January 1, 2008 10:45 PM | Report abuse

I have noticed today that a lot of the marching bands are playing tunes from the 70's. I heard Journey, Deep Purple and a very good rendition of Stairway to Heaven by the Illinois marching band.

I have enjoyed the games today and the company. Michigan vs Florida was the best,sorry Joel.

They are calling for snow overnight here in west by god.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 1, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Yes, greenie, but *nothing* is going to top the University of Maryland Marching Band's rendition of "Thriller" complete with the Zombie Dance, is it?

bc

Posted by: bc | January 1, 2008 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom: //They never ever come down into the house//

How do you know they don't slither through the crawlspaces and do snakey dances in the living room when you're asleep? (Think . . . Steve Martin doing King Tut).

Peer at you through the heating vents, hanging by their scaly tails?

Check out the freezer for frozen mice when they want a snack?

Laugh behind your back at what you're wearing to work today?

Dogs are too polite to do the last, at least.

Someday I'll learn to deal with Tuesday holidays. I kept thinking it was Monday, and I'd have tonight and tomorrow night to finish off bridesmaid jewelry before the rehearsal dinner on Wednesday. Duh. And I'd thought my all-nighter days were done.

One resolution for the year: No making cookie platters for baby or bridal showers or weddings. Or bridesmaid jewelry. It's pretty dull making the same necklace and earrings 7 times in a row.

Posted by: dbG | January 2, 2008 12:35 AM | Report abuse

dbG chides me with, "I don't know, LTL, I'd just like a chance to find out. :-)"

I get the basic abstract argument but can't accept there is a real problem with the set of candidates without some concrete evidence. Does polling show that Richardson would run in let's say 2nd place in FL or NJ, and therefore shouldn't be eliminated by the conservative folks in IA and NH? BTW, I'm a flaming liberal atheist, but don't mind that candidates should have to pass the test of more conservative people. This country is down deep pretty conservative, as we are led to believe that we have a 3000 sq ft air conditioned house and an SUV (which makes us incredibly wealthy on the world scale) because of our individual virtue and hard work, ignoring the fact that if we worked just as hard at the same job in Myanmar we'd make maybe 1/20 as much for reasons unrelated to our effort or ability.

Posted by: LTL-CA | January 2, 2008 1:00 AM | Report abuse

,..Hence our interest in not having America turn into Mynamar.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 2, 2008 3:09 AM | Report abuse

Two resolutions I'd like to make this year:
1. Cut down on the number of funerals I'm invited to.
2. Go to more weddings!

For the last few years, I've been stuck in a rut.

Posted by: Pat | January 2, 2008 4:20 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle, and Happy New Year.

Scotty, c'mon, get yer tail outta bed. "Morning, Cassandra. Loomis, stay in bed, drink a lot of fluids and hot tea with honey.

Bill, thanks for that link about the late great David Halberstam, one of my heroes, and the piece is written by another of my heroes, Neil Sheehan. Can't ask for better than that. Here's some choice excerpts (and ones that delinate the year 1968, from the previous kit):

"We were politically suspect [as reporters in Saigon]. We ought to be fired. Many of our editors doubted us. David was just 28 when we teamed up, and I was 26. How could these kids be right when a four-star general and a senior diplomat said they were absolutely wrong?"

---

"The confrontation with Harkins and Nolting brought out the combativeness in him. To David, they were not just fools and liars. They were criminal fools and liars. They were bringing defeat on the nation, throwing away the lives of American and Vietnamese soldiers and slaughtering old men, women and children with air and artillery bombardments, all for nothing. At the annual Fourth of July celebration at the ambassador's residence that year, Harkins was stunned when David, scorning the hypocritical civility most of us were still willing to indulge in, refused to shake the general's hand."

---

"One night we were so wrung out from days of covering demonstrations, dodging police batons and choking on tear gas that we kept dozing over our typewriters. We considered giving in to our exhaustion for a few hours of sleep, but if we did we might not finish our reports in time for the first plane in the morning. "A reporter doesn't have a right to be tired," David finally said, ending the discussion."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 2, 2008 6:05 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all, and happy first day of work in a new year. I got up at the normal time and am very glad and thankful the holidays are over. They seem to get more stressful and exhausting as the years go by.

Pat, I like your resolutions. However, I will say that funerals will always be with us, which is why I want to have friends among young people. As for weddings, they seem to be generational. Wait till your kids hit their twenties, and you'll be going to lots of them. A year or so ago, we had three in eight weeks. It was fun.

Mudge, I enjoyed that article also. Wonder who will emerge from the wars in Iraq and Afganistan to fulfill those roles?

Posted by: Slyness | January 2, 2008 6:55 AM | Report abuse

Ahem, Slyness. By my calculations, it's the 9th day of Christmas. For me, that means I still have time to do gifts for my kids.

The party season ends after the Superbowl!

Posted by: Pat | January 2, 2008 7:10 AM | Report abuse

Whatever works for you, Pat!

I would keep the tree up till Epiphany, but it's been decorated since December 1 and thus is a fire hazard.

What really does me in is Mr. T's Snow Village, which takes up a 4 foot by 8 foot piece of plywood in my sunroom. It's cute but the work involved does me in. Thank heavens younger daughter is home and was available to assist last night as we boxed everything up.

Posted by: Slyness | January 2, 2008 7:18 AM | Report abuse

'morning boodle and Happy New Year!
Linda Loo, underlying viral infection topped by bacterial eye, ear and throat infection has been bugging me at different intensity for the past week and a half. I don't know the name of the buggers (no test made) but cephalexin seems to take care of the bacteria (bacterii?) quite nicely. It's good not to hear your voice booming in your head when you are talking and I also realized that breathing is vastly underrated; it is a most excellent activity when performed through clear ducts and pipes.
There is something wrong in the world, the Fungi is heading to Costa Rica for 2 weeks while I'll stick around, most likely to shovel or blow snow every other day. He got a gig helping a crew of biologists collecting samples in the Costa Rican jungle. It has ben a recurring project for this team colaborating with a Costa Rican institute. This year they want to concentrate on collecting poisonous and venomous insects and arthropods. Of the joy of looking for venomous scorpions and ants under rocks and stumps. This is why they send 20 yo boys in combat I guess, they are fearless.
Maybe more later, I've got to walk the Puppy and blow the last 4 inches of snow we got yesterday. Last December has been the month of december with the most snowfall in Ottawa's record. Great!

Posted by: shrieking denizen | January 2, 2008 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Jeezy-peezy, 'Mudge, can't a guy recover from celebrating the anniversary of meeting his future spouse in relative peace???

Yes, NukeSpouse and I had our first date on New Year's Day. All sorts of wonderful symbology there, doncha think? And it's turned out pretty damn well so far...

*back-to-the-old-routine-but-very-happy-to-turn-another-calendar-page Grover waves*

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 2, 2008 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, Scotty, didn't realize the day had such significance for you. Please give my regards to Nukespouse, and tell her happy anniversary.

I am at my desk all shiney and spiffy and had my first cuppa coffee -- and have nothing whatsoever to do. Last week I wrote an entire chapter of one of my novels, and I'm going to write another chapter this week. Foretunately, I have four or maybe five chapters plotted out in my head, so I'm rarin' to go. (For me plotting out is a two-edged sword; now that I know what's gonna happen, the writing tends to be a bit of a chore and a bore, kinda like stenography. But I usually find something that keeps me interested and wanting to know what's gonna happen next. Last week's chapter went pretty well. The one after this looks to be a chore, since it's basically an "info dump" chapter, and I hate those.)

*wandering off now to scout out some breakfast*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 2, 2008 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Quite alright 'Mudge, and thank you from both of us.

*wondering how the Sonic Disruptor and blue bottoms fit into 'Mudge's plot*

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 2, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

The Post editorial pages takes a good shot at Bush's alleged [read: mythical] "compassionate conservatis," at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/01/AR2008010101685.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

No sonic disruptors, Scotty -- but you got me thinkin'. Maybe that's what my plot needs.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 2, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Happy New Years to all who are wandering, sullen and resentful, back into the glaring light of work. Or maybe that's just me.

The more I think about this caucus system the more I dislike it. Caucuses seem like phone surveys, they only reflect the opinion of those with enough leisure time to devote to the process.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 2, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

The NYT Magazine's year-end piece on Halberstam pointed out that he and other reporters were the ones accurately assessing the Vietnam war, and the President would have been better off reading the paper than whatever was coming through official channels.

I've always supposed that was the case, especially in situations like Vietnam. All the more reason for appreciating the Post's slightly diminished flock of nosy, curious reporters.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 2, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Ah, to be retired and beyond independantly wealthy...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/01/AR2008010102135.html?hpid=artslot

*L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 2, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Re: The land divisions from yesterday. The division of land into sections, townships, etc. came about through the passage of the Land Ordinance of 1785 by the Continental Congress. It established this method of land division through the Northwest Territories, which later encompassed most of the western states. The colonies had land divisions based on royal grants from England, subsequent divisions through primogeniture, resurveys, etc. In many cases in the east, property lines were determined by local geography (ridge lines; rivers and streams; big old trees, etc.). Out west, not so much.

Posted by: ebtnut | January 2, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, you're writing novels? A number of them at a time, no less. Do you have any already printed? I'd love to read them.

On-kit, is it JA's unstated assertion that those nice Iowans have commandeered the nations political process for their own self-serving agenda? That is, they picked the dates of their caucuses for the sole purpose of being able to say to the nation, "I'm first", like they were boodlers right after a new kit has been posted? I think that's ascribing way too much selfish motive. If so, why do all of the candidates fall for this ruse?

Posted by: Don from I-270 | January 2, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Don,
"Tradition, mostly."
That's my mantra for 2008.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

The land survey is tidy:
Township = 36 sections, 36 square miles
Section = 1 square mile/640 acres
Quarter section = 160 acres
Quarter quarter section = 40 acres.

Not to mention that you can specify, say, the SW1/4 SE1/4 sec 16, T2S, R3E.

Records are kept by the US Dept of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management.

Some of the original survey records are valuable for reconstructing pre-settlement vegetation. The first such effort seems to have been by J.T. Curtis at the University of Wisconsin, I think back in the 1950s using quantitative assessment of "witness trees" at the corners of sections. These days, records are being used to reconstruct the Everglades.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 2, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

We discovered on our family road trips that once you get west of about Columbus, Ohio, the country starts on what we call the "grid system."

That means for travelers like us, who eschew interstate highways, we can turn right, then turn left anywhere and we'll still be heading west toward our destination. We have found ourselves on tiny farm roads and going through little towns undiscovered by even the four-lane travelers.

I wondered what the heck I was ever going to do with my minivan's built-in compass. Any one road in my neck of the woods can take you all four directions before getting you where you want to be. But that compass sure comes in handy when we're in Grid System Territory.

Posted by: TBG | January 2, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Of course - the methane-powered sonic disruptors are *always* an excellent plot device in any novel.

Sort of a Deuce ex Machina, if you know what I mean.

[I cannot believe I went there]

bc

Posted by: bc | January 2, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

LTL, if I have offended you, I'd like to offer my sincere apologies.

The problem I see with Iowa and NH is too often the frontrunners are decided by a caucus process and an early vote. While the reportage is better, the emphasis placed on those 2 results does America as a whole no favors. I really would like to see what would happen if that weren't true, I wasn't being sarcastic. Half a million people shouldn't be enough to determine the frontrunners. It's scarier than snakes in the attic! :-)

The NYT has a piece (early this am) which makes RD's point that the caucuses are for those who have the leisure time to make them. The comments by the Democratic and Republican chairs on why it's unnecessary to change the caucus times to enable more participation are also scary.

Posted by: dbG | January 2, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Them guys at the Times is always stealin' my ideas.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 2, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Since my shoulder is still bothering me, I find this article perversely comforting.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/01/AR2008010101202.html?hpid=sec-health

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 2, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Scotty, I think I met that guy (in the retired test pilot story)-- he's had his Yak-3 at air shows, I believe.

And if you noted at the bottom of the second page, it quotes a Pax spokesman, John Romer. John and I are old friends, still talk regularly--and he was my boss when I worked at Pax River. We ate lunch together probably three days out of five. If I'd still been working there, I'd have been all over this story back when it happened in November. (The Post story is a tad misleading when it says Nalls was "the only Marine" at the test pilot class at Edwards AFB in 1985. This may be technically true--but the Marines are a small branch of the military, and its air wing even smaller still. Test pilot classes at Edwards and at Pax River only have about 20 to 25 students, and at any given time only one or two may be Marines. They tend to go to Pax River (being affiliated with the Navy) rather than Edwards, which is predominantly Air Force and Army. But both test pilot schools have extensive exchange programs, and any given class at either school is likely to have a handful of students from other branches as well as from any of a dozen or more foreign countries. There is almost always at least one Canuck, often an Israeli (such as the Israeli astronaut killed in the space shuttle crash), a Brit, an Australian, and pilots from other NATO countries: France, Germany, etc.

So yeah, he was the only Marine -- and the Canuck was the only Canuck, and the Brit was the only Brit, and the Navy pilot was the only Navy pilot in that class, etc., etc. It means nothing. (John Glenn was the only Marine in his test pilot class at Pax River.) (FYI just for Loomis: every test pilot class of 20 to 25 students now routinely includes two to four women in every class. And general FYI, in any given class, less than half the students go on to become test pilots per se; the other half become test flight engineers or even ground test engineers, even though every one of them actually gets to fly various kinds of aircraft. They "major" in one of three types of aircraft: jets, prop planes, or choppers, although they learn to fly every one of the three kinds. The school lasts about 10 months, and at Pax they induct two classes per year, one beginning in the winter and one beginning in the summer. So at any given time there are about 40 to 50 students at Pax. I don't know the numbers at Edwards, but I would imagine it's about the same.

(The main difference between the two schools in the operating environment. At 40,000 feet and Mach 2.6, it doesn't matter -- but the rest of the time, it does. At Edwards, they are in the high desert, and operate out of a dry, hot environment a lot of the time; also, the Air Force and Army are almost exclusively land-based aircraft. The Navy and Marines operate at sea level and at sea, in a wet, damp environment, and they have the additional chore of having to make shipboard landing, whether jets on carriers or choppers on a variety of kinds of ships. So the training as well as the testing are significantly different in those respects.)

There, that ought to be enough airplane talk to engender a massive retaliatory strike against the bunker and the shop steward's office, led by a band of doily-waving assault troops and a reinforced heavy Lladru battional armed with 1.6 mm faux Kincade oil paintings of lakeside cottages by moonlight. Keep yer heads down, fellas. This is going to get nasty.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 2, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Happy New Year, dear Boodle friends. It is going to be a good one, I feel.

Very interested in the land division explanations. I know in most of ROC a very British system of counties is used, with some counties or other more natural divisions (such as inhabited islands, etc.) still electing Sheriffs (or Reeves) as the leader of the local government. We should get Shriek or dmd to tell us about the different system in Quebec, based on the French feudal system, which results in Rangs and other units.

Serious question for students of American politics: how does the system of division contribute to gerrymandering of districts, etc.? This is something that is nearly incomprehensible to the rest of the world.

Posted by: Yoki | January 2, 2008 9:57 AM | Report abuse

TBG, Iowa has been busy removing European grasses and planting prairie species along its back roads. The Europeans tended to go dormant during the summer, while the natives thrive in the heat.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 2, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Yoki-if congressional districts followed local jurisdictional lines, section boundaries etc. they would be more regularly shaped. They do not however, and that is why the Frostrents are in a district represented by a right wing gun nut, and their neighbors half a mile down the road in the same city, same ZIP code, same public school district (even same school attendance area) have a different US Rep. State legislatures have the power to draw congressional districts based on the decennial census, which used to mean they would be redrawn every 10 years. Without editorializing too much, a certain party decided that wasn't often enough since the party in the majority in each state tends to draw lines that favor its incumbents. A formerly "safe" seat can be skewed toward the other party or even eliminated. To my mind, Gerrymandering is in the eye of the beholder. Say you have a major river flowing into one of the world's busiest seaports in your state. Fifteen miles away from the water the economy and culture are so different you might as well be in a different country. A district that follows the river/port and takes in the similarly situated people who live and work on the water and its shore based industries. These folks have more in common, though they live 50 miles apart, than they do with the tobacco and hog farmers who live 15 miles away.

Posted by: frostbitten | January 2, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

SCC: ...and its shore based industries makes a lot of sense.

Oh for those Pork Princess Preview skills.

Posted by: frostbitten | January 2, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Thanks frostbitten.

Posted by: Yoki | January 2, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Padouk, you like this story about a Penna. Dutch woman who made good: Auntie Anne, of pretzel fame. Good story, not what anyone would expect. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/01/AR2008010102081.html?hpid=features1&hpv=national

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 2, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

You'll get no doily talk out of me, Mudge. I am best described today as 'wandering, sullen and resentful, back into the glaring light of work'.

The History of surveying the continent is actually very interesting. David Thomspson was one of many who came and ended up being seduced by the land that became Canada.

http://www.northwestjournal.ca/V1.htm

Posted by: dr | January 2, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Mudge - thanks for pointing to me to that story. Although I certainly know about Auntie Anne's pretzels (I believe my personal purchases directly subsidized their Hummer) I had no idea of this aspect of her life.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 2, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Those things Auntie Anne sells may be pretzel-shaped, but they are most certainly not pretzels. They are simply butter sticks. Delicious butter sticks.

Posted by: TBG | January 2, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

They are manna from the gods TBG. Nothing less.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 2, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Really, really expensive manna from the gods.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 2, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Great. Now I'm all hungry.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 2, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Hey, some maroon op-ed colyumnist at the New York Times wrote a piece about the year 1968. Sheesh. How unoriginal. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/01/opinion/01herbert.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

I liked the piece our guy wrote much better.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 2, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Mo MoDo's favorite colyumnist sunmmarizes the Dem race this way: "The Democratic race -- three lawyers married to lawyers who talk too much -- is very tight and very volatile."

Good one, methinks.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 2, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

frostbitten,
If Congressional districts followed section lines, they'd look pixellated, like the new Army camoflage.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 2, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Good morning(?), friends. I don't know what time of day it is. The grandsons are back home and in school, and the daughter brought back the g-girl. These folks don't intend for me to be child-less. The word "grandmother" does not mean babysitter, it speaks of a higher level, as in, grand.

Pat, your idea sounds great. I am trying to get myself together this morning for a funeral this afternoon.

And people, it is so coooooooooooold, here. I mean it feels like the wind is blowing off ice. I went out to get the trash container, and I don't really want to go back out.

Loomis, I do hope you beat whatever is trying to keep you sick. Before the first day of the New Year, I got a letter notifying me it is time to get the breasts squeezed again. I don't like that test.

And Ivansmom, you are one tough cookie. Snakes in the attic? I would give them the house. I don't like snakes either. I mean knowing that they're there, and still living in the house. Brave. Oh well, living in the mobile home, I probably had a few too. Just didn't know it.

Mudge, Scotty, Slyness, and all *waving**, slightly off beat. Slyness it is just too cold for words here. Is it snowing in your town?

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 2, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

A little Navyspeak friendly poke at Mudge, since he's already set battle condition Zebra, and is standing at General Quarters:

Mudge is/was a brownshoe? A BROWNshoe?

Like absolutely everyone else in the boodle, I eschew predjA little Navyspeak friendly poke at Mudge, since he's already set battle condition Zebra, and is standing by at General Quarters:

Mudge is/was a brownshoe sailor? A BROWNshoe?

Like absolutely everyone else in the boodle, I totally eschew prejudice and stereotyping based on the color of a person's skin. But the color of a person's shoes ..... well now, THAT's a horse of an entirely different color. Here I thought that Mudge was an A.J. Squared away seaman of the highest order. Now I find out that he was a *brown*shoe for a while. I'm so verklemept.


Posted by: Don from I-270 | January 2, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

See, I'm so verklempt that my cutting and pasting went adrift up there. Sorry.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | January 2, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Hey Cassandra, it's not snowing here but it was 24 when I set out for my walk at 7:45. Yes, I had many layers. It's interesting: at about a quarter of a mile out, my hands are so cold they are starting to hurt, but by the time I'm at the half-mile mark, I've generated enough body heat that they're okay. Cold+wind is not a fun combination, though.

Posted by: Slyness | January 2, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Interesting article on Auntie Anne, Mudge, thanks! It is almost impossible for me to walk by an Auntie Anne's place without getting a pretzel. I try to just split one with my daughter, but many times that's just not going to fly.
I also enjoyed your post about pilot's and training. To describe Edwards AFB as hot and dry doesn't do it justice. In the early 60's my dad was on an Air Force team that was dispatched around the area whenever there was a crash, day or night, to "pick up the pieces" literally. He had some crazy stories, many years later.

Hope everyone is having a reasonable re-entry, if it is a re-entry day for you...it is for me and it isn't pretty. I just decided to walk and away and boodle for a moment or two...

Posted by: Kim | January 2, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

As I have read online, MRSA can be life-threatening. As CP pointed out in her interesting and informative post, the doctor feels that I, like her son, am colonized by the bacteria.

The problem I have with it has been going on for the better part of the past year--is painful, annoying and persistent (I needed the passage of time to realize how persistent)--and has to do with the skin where there is friction with clothing (horrible pictures online showing the bacteria gone really awry on the skin-yech!). From what I have read, the bacterium colonizes in the nose and can migrate, and the doc believes or hopes a month of tetracycline will do the trick in killing the colony.

I am equallu as bothered by the cough. And more scared of the following. Coming on three years since I had my breasts squeezed, as Cassandra kindly put it. Picking up my mom from the hospital after her operation and seeing the surgery site and the tube put the fear in me big time--all the more reason to go. And my main reason for the doctor's visit on the 26th ended up with the doctor recommending that test that dr had recently. I'm being way too personal.

I am really behind in getting the house in shape--not to mention the yard--because of the bad cold, so had better turn now to domestic bidness. Luckily my husband was much entertained while I was sick. The computer he built himself fizzled, so all his spare time during the last month has been spent trying to determine if the problem is his CPU or his motherboard. In the past week, while I rested and slept, he was digging through the guts of the machine.

Thanks for the comments about MRSA. I've heard of drug-resistant bugs, but I'm now paying a lot more attention since the bug hit me. Odd that CP's son has a bacterium from the Baltic? That seems even more strange, but given the amount of worldwide travel and the proclivity for bugs to find new hosts on order to both survive and propagate, well...

The Iowa caucus is tomorrow. I was off by a day. The polls show Huckabee and Obama leading...will voters turn out and support those two, pushing them to the fore of the race for the White House?

Posted by: Loomis | January 2, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The all-lawyer Democratic power couple line-up is interesting, but not uncommon. Dan and Marilyn Quayle were both lawyers. In the current GOP race, only Romney, Guiliani, and Thompson are lawyers and none are married to lawyers.

The best line in Dowd's column today was:

"She is speaking in a soft, measured voice in these final days, so that, as with Daisy Buchanan, you have to lean in to listen. But is she really different than she was in the years when she was so careless about the people around her getting hurt by the Clinton legal whirlwind that she was dubbed the Daisy Buchanan of the boomer set?"

Dowd has adopted the Buchanan metaphor from Joe Klein, but Maureen makes it her own.

http://dowdreport.blogspot.com/2008/01/daisy-does-des-moines.html

Posted by: Mo MoDo | January 2, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Never fear, Don, your misgivings are misplaced. I was never a brown shoe; I only traveled amongst them the better to understand their mysterious doings and chronicle their arcane deeds in my newspaper. I remain in my heart a thorough-going black shoe.

(There was a point in my life when my dearest wish and aspiration was to be the skipper of a tin can, preferably an old-four stacker of the Wickes class [none of this Fletcher-class, Spruance-class, Burke-class, Kidd-class stuff for me, nosirree]. I'd have settled for a minesweeper, too, although they were gone by then. But then, so were the Wickes tin cans, alas. I'd have done well on subs, too--didn't mind the claustrophobia, confined spaces, lack of sunlight, etc. I'd have been a he11uva tin can guy.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 2, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, good for you, braving the elements.

We had our "first cold wave of the season" right on schedule last night and this morning at sunrise it was about 40 degrees with a strong wind out of the north. It slowed me down some; I just kept saying to myself, I hope the wind keeps up, because if it's like this tonight I won't have to pedal at all on my way home. Like you I started out with cold hands, even with gloves, but by the time I arrived I had shed the gloves and unzipped my jacket (sweater underneath) and was even sweating a little.

I make fun of Floridian weather forecasters who talk about "wind chill factor" as in "It's 65 degrees but with the wind chill it feels like 61" -- but I believe there was legitimately a wind chill factor today. When I was about 75% of the way to work, two guys in a car said to me, "Do you want a ride? It's cold!" And I said to them, "What, doesn't it look like I'm having fun?!"

I'm not sure they were convinced.

Posted by: kbertocci | January 2, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Here's one for Joel, a local tractor story:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/stories/MYSA010108.01B.CIFTractor.2875b6b.html

In the 16 years since he retired from CPS Energy as a mechanic, Pete Mahula has restored 11 antique tractors.

In the process, Mahula has collected a significant "boneyard" of old parts behind his St. Hedwig home, a sea of rust red that is easily spotted while driving along FM 1518.

"He started gathering up all this, in my book, junk," said his wife, Marjorie Mahula. ...

A sign hangs above one door: "Most of my money I have spent on tractors and beer, the rest I have wasted."

Posted by: Loomis | January 2, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

What about the Sperry Docksider Navy? Huh? What about us?

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The Sperry Docksider Navy? Alas, yello, that has been the branch of the Navy I have been in for the past several decades. Do you observe the proper [read: Annapolis style] protocol in re: socks, i.e. do you eschew them? No self-respecting Docksider-wearing Eastport admiral would EVER be caught dead wearing socks. And the said Dockesiders MUST be about four years old, borderline raggedy, of the brown Elkhide variety [as opposed to some of the variations, such as the brown-and-blue two-tone, the Timberland with the reinforced arch, the thoroughly disreputably addidas variants, etc.]

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 2, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Well, Mudge, I'm so relieved to know that you were only fraternizeing with the "enemy". I guess the rest of the boodle is either so inculcated with Navyspeak, or so inured to my sillyness that they didn't even bother to ask what this brownshoe / blackshoe business was all about. In any event, it was all in fun, as you knew.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | January 2, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Mudge but what of the HH wearing branch or the colourful croc wearing branch?

Posted by: dmd | January 2, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I have been attempting to decode this mysterious cant from the context. Black shoes, I feel certain, is a Navy reference. Brown shoes must be either Marines or land-lubbing civilians. Am I correct?

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 2, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Tim, the black shoes are the ship-based Navy. The brown shoes are the people who fool around with them newfangled flyin' machines.

dmd, anyone who appears aboard one of my vessels wearing crocs finds themselves keelhauled.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 2, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I'm a Vans shoe guy myself, though I'm all for MB FMPs.

On other people, of course.

Loomis, I've see automotive versions of that yard. You never know when you'll need that Lotus or MG parts car...

bc

Posted by: bc | January 2, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

BTW, I've always wanted a Harrier in my garage.

It'd make for a *great* commuter vehicle in DC traffic, VTOL capability makes for relatively easy parking.

bc

Posted by: bc | January 2, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm enjoying the conversation AND an extra couple of days off before returning to the paragraph sweatshop. We actually watched Rachael Ray's talk show while eating breakfast this morning. One guest was a guy who brought in different animals. Then they played a little game where an animal was in a box and Rachael had to reach in and touch it and guess what it was. The last animal was an African Giant Millipede--really gross and ugly. Just from the audience reaction, she didn't want to reach in. So she told the guy, "If you pull it out, I promise to touch it." 'Nuff said.

We're leaving this afternoon for a few days at the country house to celebrate Raysdad's birthday. So I'm off to the store to buy him a nice single malt to celebrate.

BTW, if I understand the definitions correctly, Raysdad started out as a brown shoe (you can always tell a pilot, but you can't tell him much), then switched to black shoe. He's now the topsider variety, his favorite pair of which is dusty blue and pink, mostly for the reactions they generate, I think.

TTFN.

Posted by: Raysmom | January 2, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I beg to differ bc, this would be a great commuter vehicle in DC traffic-lower operation costs, and fun to tinker with. Not to mention the high survivability in the event the engine fails.
http://www.redtoyz.com/images/300csun.jpg

Alas, the TH-55 Osage is no longer used in the Army's rotary wing training, depriving today's aviators of a lot of real fun.

Posted by: frostbitten | January 2, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

new kit, folks.

Posted by: Kim | January 2, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

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