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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

THE FOUR YEAR OLD COMMENTS ON CURRENT EVENTS 

Her grandmother reports that she had the radio on yesterday, with the four year old safely ensconced in the back seat. A commentator was opining on the upcoming Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of the New Hampshire parental notification law. The four year old eagerly piped up:
We have a new hamster at day care!
Our little pundit.

Monday, November 28, 2005

HOW WELL DO YOU GET ALONG WITH YOUR IN-LAWS? 

I am very fortunate in that regard and I now have another reason to be grateful: they've never served roadkill turkey to me on Thanksgiving.

Others are not so lucky. This morning I received an e-mail from a good friend of mine about her Thanksgiving feast:
[My father in law] hauled his family to a cabin with little heat in sub zero temps, no plumbing, [my mother and brother in law] had colds so it was more then just the mice spreading germs and he served a bonafied road kill turkey. yes that's right, [My father in law]'s boss saw a wild turkey get hit by a car, pulled over, picked it up and thought "I bet [My father in law] would like this" and [My father in law] turned around and said "I think I'll serve this to my family".

I'm home, warm and clean and thankful for all the things I have in life that challenge me and give my life color!

Hope you had a fun weekend.
Well, I did, if you count lying around alot, eating (domestically raised) turkey, shopping a bit online (no visiting crazy stores for me) and taking the four year old to see The City Children's Nutcracker (I think her high point was being beaned by a foam cheese wedge tossed by one of the roller-skating mice).

Note to Ann: unlike mine, at least your Thanksgiving was PETA-approved. I'm sure you will find this fact a great comfort.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

SPEAK SOFTLY AND CARRY A BIG UMBRELLA 

There's a juicy story about wild turkeys on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today. It seems the birdies are fighting back! A cautionary tale this Thanksgiving eve:
In April, Will Millington was riding his dirt bike down a narrow trail in Norman, Okla., when he stopped before a flock of wild turkeys. The hens scattered, but two toms flared their feathers and stalked toward him. Then they suddenly leapt in the air, beat Mr. Millington with their wings and tried to scratch him with the sharp spurs on the backs of their legs.

Mr. Millington frantically revved his bike's motor. Thirty yards down the trail he looked back. "They were running after me," says the 46-year-old property manager. "That was kind of spooky."
The story reports that this year alone a Massachusetts Wildlife Department district manager has gotten 25 calls for advice on coping with aggressive turkeys and a wildlife conservation officer in Pennsylvania has had to kill 42 turkeys in response to behavior ranging from attacking a child on a tricycle to scratching cars. A public relations entrepreneur was pursued by 30 of the creatures when she passed a farmers' field where farm-raised wild turkeys were pecking for grain:

A passing friend stopped her pickup truck and Ms. Kosheff ran around it several times. The turkeys kept up the chase, although she says "they were too stupid to split up or change directions" to trap her. Finally, Ms. Kosheff got in the truck, where, she says, her friend "was laughing so hard she almost choked on her Dunkin' Donut."
The problem might be that our appeasement policy has failed:
Wild-turkey flocks have a pecking order. If they live around humans, some of the dominant toms may begin to include people in that order -- at a level below themselves, says Jim Cardoza, a turkey expert at the Massachusetts wildlife agency. Wild turkeys "get used to people and incorporate them into their view of society," he says. Some behavior, such as putting out bird food and slinking quietly away, can encourage these lordly males to think that humans are a subservient life form, believes Mr. Cardoza.

Biologist James Earl Kennamer, senior vice president of the National Wild Turkey Federation, an Edgefield, S.C., hunters' group, has studied wild turkeys for 40 years. "When they think you're one of them, they'll fight you to show who's dominant," he says. "If you turn your back, they'll take it to mean they're dominant."

Thank god we're given some tips to cope with the menace:
  • "carry an umbrella to poke at the turkey"
  • "get your broom and swat the turkey away"
  • spray them with a garden hose
  • yell or bang pots and pans
  • get a dog
Spitbull's advice: Eat them. Yum.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

REMEDIAL READING 

Andrea Harris digs her own grave. I just toss in the dirt:
Stereotypes abounding

This strikes me as a really stupid statement:
Does anyone else find it odd that conservatives — the staunch upholders of history and tradition — typically live in and defend decidedly newfangled suburbs, while liberals — the bold advocates of progressive change — typically live in and defend decidedly old-fashioned neighborhoods? I’ve never been able to figure that one out.
Okay, test, just how many dumb ideas are packed into that little rhetorical question? For the record, the yards of the homes in the rather older former suburb (as opposed to the “newfangled” ones) that I live in, which is now actually very near to the city centers of Orlando and Winter Park, mostly sported “Bush/Cheney” signs during the most recent presidential election. I did see a Kerry/Edwards sign — torn into three pieces by the side of the road. And there are a lot of Jewish people in the neighborhood too. One of the homes I walk past on my way to work had a Sukkot shelter in its yard during the week of that festival.
Okay, test, just how many dumb ideas are packed into that little belch of a post? First of all, before you break your arm patting yourself on the back for finding stereotypes in that "really stupid statement," maybe you should pop her into reverse and notice that THAT WAS THE WHOLE FRICKING POINT. The stereotypes of conservatives and liberals don't match (part of) their behavior. (Oh, and "aelfheld"--whatever the hell an aelfheld is--the reason I didn't have a "keyboard meltdown" when I referred to liberals as “the bold advocates of progressive change” is that I can read past the fifth-grade level and sometimes when I write I get real wacky and go way way out on a rhetorical limb and put down something that isn't actually 100% in earnest. Next time I'll throw up some little signposts for you so you can follow along with the big kids.)

And I'm really cranked for you that your "rather older former suburb" in a red state 2,000 miles away from the older neighborhoods of my blue-state metropolis is "mostly" Republican. All that means is that my point isn't universally generalizable (according to you, at least; our co-blogger John grew up in Florida and lives there now, so maybe he can weigh in). Huh--stereotypes aren't always true. Gee, that really surprises me! (Note to aelfheld: I'm joking!)

Look, I'll try this again. If the proverbial visitor from Mars came down to Earth, and you told him that there's this one group of people that is generally suspicious of departures from tradition, and there's this other group that isn't, and there is this one neighborhood over here that hasn't really changed much at all for 75 years, and there's this other one over there that was a cornfield five years ago, and then you asked him, "hey Mr. Martian, where do you think the two groups are likely to live?" it seems pretty obvious how he'd answer. But he'd be wrong, at least in the Twin Cities. I think that's odd. That's all. I just think it's odd. I don't think it's one of the unfathomable mysteries of the universe (though you sure as hell haven't advanced the ball any), and I don't think it means that conservatives are evil hypocrites, and I don't think it means that liberals are evil hypocrites (well, they are, but not because of this).

And what makes it more odd to me is that during this whole city vs. suburbs debate we've been having in our little network of blogs here, and that was the backdrop for my post, no one has argued along the lines of "you know, as a conservative I'd love to live in one of those older, traditional neighborhoods in Minneapolis or St. Paul, because it seems like it would fit well with my basic philosophical and tempermental outlook, but I can't because [fill in the blank]"--because it costs too much, or because there's too much crime, or because the schools suck, or because it's run by DFL weenies, or because whatever. That I would understand. What I don't understand is why a desire to live in an older neighborhood doesn't seem to have entered into anyone's calculus at all. It seems to have been a complete non-factor. Again, I'm not arguing that it ought to be a factor, or that conservatives are wrong for living in Lakeville, or that liberals are wrong for living in Mac-Groveland. You can all live wherever the hell you want, I don't care (though the further from me the better, especially if you have a dog, teenagers, or a car alarm. Or if you like to feed the neighborhood squirrels. God, I hate that.). I just think it's surprising.

Oh, and it's swell that there "are a lot of Jewish people" in your neighborhood, but what the hell does that have to do with anything?

FUNNY HA HA 

The eight year old is enamored of pun-filled jokes and keeps regaling us with them. I'm not very good at faking laughter at the punch line but it seems I'm good enough to satisfy the eight year old, who is then encouraged to come up with more punny jokes. And I'm good enough to inspire the competitive spirit in the four year old who just came up with this doozy:
Four year old: Why couldn't the jar of jelly ride its telephone?
Eight year old: [look of puzzlement]
Four year old: This is an easy one!

Four year old: [Turns to me] Why couldn't the jar of jelly ride its telephone?
Me: [look of puzzlement]
Four year old: Think! Do you give up momma?
Me: Yes.
Four year old: Because telephones don't have wheels! Bikes have wheels! Cars have wheels!
Well there you have it. Late Night at Spitbull.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

CITY CITY BANG BANG 

Like Mitch, I voted for Randy Kelly in this past week's mayoral election. Unlike Mitch, I live in Minneapolis, not St. Paul.

I couldn't bring myself to vote for Frick or Frack, so that left me with the momentous decision of whose name to write in. It's a surprisingly difficult one--after all, if you can vote for anyone, you can vote for, well, anyone. I considered both The Mayor and his opponent Fuzzy Lumpkins from the very funny Powerpuff Girls episode referenced by Eloise the other day--highly recommended, if you've never seen it. But I settled on Kelly on the grounds that he was an actual human being who was actually running for mayor and who was easily the best of the four candidates in the two cities, a few miles and a border be damned.

Funny thing is, Kelly had as good a chance of prevailing on my side of the river as he did on Mitch's.

Which brings me to another topic introduced by Mitch and amplified elsewhere: city vs. suburbs. Why do Eloise and I live in Minneapolis, anyway? For me (Eloise can speak for herself, though I think we're in agreement on this) the bottom line is pretty simple, and it's what I suspect is the bottom line for most people: aesthetics. I just like the look and feel of our Minneapolis neighborhood better than I like most of what's in the suburbs. And I'm sure that most inhabitants of the suburbs feel the same way in reverse. The other factors--crime, taxes, schools, commuting times, etc.--are not negligible, but for me they are decidedly second-order. They work to push me toward or away from my aesthetic preference, but they don't determine that preference.

I am of course ignoring the biggest factor of all: cost. Still, I think that most people start with their aesthetic preference as the ideal, look for what they can afford in that respect, and only depart from that if the other factors are quite weighty. We were lucky to buy in our neighborhood in 1993, just as the run-up in prices was starting. Today our house is worth probably three times what we paid for it 12 and a half years ago, and while some of that appreciation is due to improvements we've made, it unquestionably would be harder to buy a first home around here now than it was then. But even if we were in that situation, I'm sure we would look for a house in this or a similar neighborhood.

There's also a historical dimension to this debate. Much of the residential housing stock in Minneapolis was itself considered suburban when it was first built. Our neighborhood, known as Kingfield, is in the southwest quadrant of the city, near Lake Harriet but east of Lyndale Avenue. It was built mostly in the 1920s and 1930s, is dominated by bungalows (like ours) and smaller four-squares, and is essentially indistinguishable from the Morningside area of suburban Edina where I grew up and where my parents still live. The tonier neighborhoods just west (Lynhurst) and south (Tangletown) of ours are of roughly the same vintage but with bigger and more architecturally diverse houses, are closer to the water (Lake Harriet and Minnehaha Creek, respectively) and are essentially indistinguishable from the Country Club section of Edina (which is itself perched on Minnehaha Creek). I realize that when 21st Century Twin Citians speak of the suburbs, they typically have newer, sprawling places like Eden Prairie and Lakeville and Woodbury, not older, distinct-from-the city-in-name-only places like Edina and St. Louis Park and Mendota Heights, in mind. Still, it's worth remembering that today's "inner city" neighborhood was yesterday's bucolic enclave.

And there's a related sectional dimension. When our law school friends who now live in New York City or Chicago visit us, they don't see our neighborhood as urban at all. That's because they live in places that really are urban: bustling, high-density, apartment- and condo-dominated, and so on. Very little of Minneapolis and St. Paul is like that, so to many outsiders, this "city vs. suburb" debate would look like a "one kind of suburb vs. a slightly different kind of suburb" debate, which sort of takes the zing out of it.

One more thing. Does anyone else find it odd that conservatives--the staunch upholders of history and tradition--typically live in and defend decidedly newfangled suburbs, while liberals--the bold advocates of progressive change--typically live in and defend decidedly old-fashioned neighborhoods? I've never been able to figure that one out.

Friday, November 11, 2005

VOTE MAYOR FOR MAYOR 

The Kool-aid Report is conducting a highly scientific poll to determine the all-important question of who should be Mayor of the MOB. Spitbull endorses the candidate known as "One of those MAWB Squad chicks." The stump speech is a winner:

I did notice that at this moment, MAWB Squad and Dementee are neck and neck. Now, if I wasn't a little paranoid about Dementee coming over and burning down my house and turning my dog into a shish kabob, I would point out that he has contributed to the DFL under a false name and has a picture of Hillary in the glove compartment of his car. He sent flowers to Norm Coleman to thank him for his ANWR vote. He uses bath salts.

Of course, I would not point that out to the general public because Dementee likes to field dress kittens and eat sewer caps. A guy like that...well, you just don't want to have him for an enemy.

Or mayor.

I'm convinced.

Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

DON'T SMILE 

John's post yesterday invites a revision to the threat level joke:
The French government recently announced a raise in its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The normal level is "General Arrogance", and the only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate".
"Impose ineffective curfews" has to be added to the mix somehow.

After this recent report from The Australian, it strikes me that the German version could also be updated:
Employees at Nuzwerk, in the eastern German town of Leipzig, are required to sign a contract binding them to arriving at work in a good mood and leave at home the gripes about colleagues and work conditions.

"We made the ban on moaning and grumpiness at work official after one female employee refused to subscribe to the company's philosophy of always smiling," office manager Thomas Kuwatsch said.

"She used to moan so much that other employees complained about her complaining.

The current version of the joke:
The Germans also increased their alert state from "Disdain" to "Dress in unform and sing marching songs". They have two higher levels: "Invade a neighbour" and "Lose".
Perhaps "disdain" should be changed to "Impose irrational bans."

Friday, November 04, 2005

WHAT CAN I SAY? WE ARE A WARLIKE SPECIES 

War is everywhere: the Iraq War (over, and yet not over), the War on Terrorism, the War between the Sexes. Depressing, scary, frivolous. Which would you go with as a post topic? Well, like Maureen Dowd, I'm going to pick the frivolous one. In fact, I'm going meta-frivolous: I'm picking Maureen Dowd herself.

Ms. Dowd just published a book, Are Men Necessary? On Sunday she published a companion piece in the New York Times Magazine lamenting the unpleasant détente between the sexes as it appears today:
Many women now do not think of domestic life as a "comfortable concentration camp," as Betty Friedan wrote in "The Feminine Mystique," where they are losing their identities and turning into "anonymous biological robots in a docile mass." Now they want to be Mrs. Anonymous Biological Robot in a Docile Mass. They dream of being rescued - to flirt, to shop, to stay home and be taken care of. They shop for "Stepford Fashions" - matching shoes and ladylike bags and the 50's-style satin, lace and chiffon party dresses featured in InStyle layouts - and spend their days at the gym trying for Wisteria Lane waistlines.
And, most damning, Ms. Dowd is not one them. A Mrs., I mean. She's figured out the reason too. It's because she's just too smart:
At a party ... a top New York producer gave me a lecture on the price of female success that was anything but sweet. He confessed that he had wanted to ask me out on a date when he was between marriages but nixed the idea because my job as a Times columnist made me too intimidating. Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed. He predicted that I would never find a mate because if there's one thing men fear, it's a woman who uses her critical faculties. Will she be critical of absolutely everything, even his manhood?
Well, isn't it obvious? Not, to Slate columnist Katie Roiphe who yesterday published a smack-down entitled: Is Maureen Dowd Necessary?:
Could there possibly be another reason that the attractive, successful Dowd has not settled down? Something that is not in the zeitgeist, or the political climate, but some ineffable quality of her own psychology? It would seem wrong to raise this question about a woman writer, and in fact about any writer, but Dowd uses her experience with men as template for her theories so often, and marshals her failure to marry as evidence so frequently, that she herself raises the question in her reader's mind.
You don't say.

I also noticed that it doesn't seem too smart of Ms. Dowd to ignite a new war between the Missuses and the Mizzes with the automatic corallary to her thesis: married gals are either dumb or duplicitous. Or both.