It’s Grillin’ Time…

Well folks, since it was briefly in the 60s and sunny outside, I was almost duped into believing it was Spring. Actually, I still believe it, only because the snow has sadly melted away, and those (in)famous April showers have started early. Last weekend, while the sun was still sunny and fun was still funny, we went and got ourselves a patio dining set for our deck. Ever since getting our house, I had been eagerly awaiting the day when I could eat a nice dinner out on my deck, in the fresh air. When it happened, it was a nice reassurance that heaven does not exist in an afterlife.

What’s next, then? Well, if you must pry (and please do pry, otherwise you might as well skip over to the next random blog), it is time to put the next piece of true American life on my deck: a grill. I have begun looking for an inexpensive, not necessarily large, gas grill to leave out and use regularly. I would, of course, prefer a charcoal grill for the flavor, but with a gas grill, stepping just outside to put on a few dogs, burgers, or, once I find where and how to procure it, carne asada. I think it would be durned sporty to be the local carne asada man.

Where to go for a good, cheap gas grill, you ask? Go ahead, ask. I won’t mind, go ahead and ask away. See? Was that so bad? It’s okay, I couldn’t hear you anyway. You sure are a nutter.

So where to get a cheap gas grill? My first few attempts have been over the local listings at Craigslist, and it seemed that I could make it another success story. For under forty bucks, a not-so-pretty but working gas grill from someone who just upgraded to a larger unit could be mine. But sadly, I have been burned. The last person I wound up playing phone tag for five days before he called me up last night to say that he had actually sold it. I don’t care for that sort of wheeling and dealing much of time. I would just like to say this: please, if you are dealing with multiple people when selling an item, let the potential buyers know that there are other parties vying for your stuff. I was sorely disappointed, truly.

Now, after all that rubbish, I am ready to start looking at cheap, new grills. I’m not looking for a side burner (I have a stove fifteen feet from my deck; they can see each other) nor a grill that can cook through a water buffalo. So now here’s a legitimate question for both of my readers: how much power do I need to just cook up burgers, dogs, chicken, and the occasional steaks? Does the BTU value make any sort of difference? I don’t yet know what sort of surface area I need, but not to worry, I won’t be getting anything sight unseen. I’m just wondering if there are particularly hardy or troublesome brands or other things to look for that I might miss. Please, dear people out there in radioland, answer my call~

Nukular Power…

As of late, mostly since the Democrats returned to power in Congress, there has been an increasing level of awareness and talk about climate change, global warming, foreign oil dependence, energy security, etc. Most of those categories arrive due to a single factor: oil. It has long been obvious that a nation relying on its majority of a resource to come from outside its borders is a sure sign of a loss of sovereignty. We are not a strong, independent state if what fuels our existence is not within our control. The producers of our crude could, at any time, arbitrarily raise the price per barrel and give our economy the equivalent of heartburn and remind us that our stability is at the whim of others.

This is one of the few things I agreed with President Bush on from his State of the Union. (Ha! You thought I’d never mention it again, but I did!) It was merely a part of a list when he was speaking of alternative methods of producing energy. But still, it was there. And here it is, the ability to reduce our dependence on foreign fuels, give our country a safe standard of electrical production, and even reduce our carbon emissions: nuclear energy.

The word nuclear has an unfortunate stigma attached to it. Yes, there are nuclear weapons, though only used twice, but there are other weapons, as I am sure you are all well aware, and all have been used to far greater extents. We, like the old nuclear powers of the world, are experts in not only making these terrible weapons, but experts in avoiding their use. And let’s face it, the only two remotely dangerous disasters with nuclear power facilities can’t possibly happen in modern plants. I won’t argue with Springfield’s nuclear power plant whose safety inspector is Homer Simpson, either, because damnit, it’s a funny scenario.

So why am I aiming for nuclear power to save the United States? Because, first of all, it works. It’s clean and safe. Don’t believe me? Just ask Japan and France. They have been at it for decades, due to their own homelands’ lack of resources. In fact, even the US does a fine job of using it, though we still are not as efficient with it as we could and should be. We only use nuclear power for about twenty percent of our electrical production. I still believe we could learn quite a bit from the French and the Japanese, simply because they have poured far more energy and resources into developing nuclear power efficiency and safety.

Now the political reasons for switching to using at the very least half nuclear electricity production? We are in the top ten of uranium mining countries in the world. That in itself lends to a great deal of economic security. We aren’t spending tons of money just moving the fuel from awfully unstable places in the world and leaving pipelines open for intrusion. It’s here; we have it. But what I think is even better is this: The number one producer of uranium in the world is… Canada! I love it. Canada is not Saudi Arabia, hell it is not even Russia. It is, by the greatest margins possible, the safest country in the world from which we can buy the remainder of the fuel we need. I think it is durned skippy to be investing even more money into our biggest trading partner, making them richer, and having them buy more stuff from us. I really do not know how to expand further on this idea; I think it stands well on its own.

Now, here’s my last trick to getting us weaned off foreign oil and standing on our own again: coal liquefication. Now, it is an old idea, turning hard coal into a liquid fuel, but it has been worked on for nearly a century, and with a few more pushes in the right direction (such as the price of crude exploding again), this could be an economical alternative, and again, produced in our own backyard. We are the second most productive miner of coal in the world (first is China, by a lot). So why not just make gasoline out of it, using our home-grown coal or nuclear energy, and take care of ourselves?

Now I just need a train system in the US that rivals the EU, and I’ll be a happy little pup~

A First For Me…

Yesterday held a first for me. It was the first time I have ever had to take a sick day for family illness rather than personal. On Monday, Austin apparently had some sort of bug and threw up twice at school. Poor little guy, I felt awful for him. What made me feel even worse was that although I gave the daycare my cell number, the signal does not always go through, so I didn’t learn about it until after my afternoon Jazz class ended at five. I really wanted to be there for him and get him home to recuperate as well as ease my worries.

I’m not exactly sure what my feelings were on Monday afternoon, other than to simply get to my son. I really despised myself for not catching the phone call when it happened. Maybe it was a full feeling of being powerless or helpless. He was there, at school, not his mommy nor his daddy there to take him into our arms and clean him up and get him to rest his poor tummy. All I really know is that I didn’t like the situation one bit.

Of course, by the time he got home (he’s getting picked up by Mommy these days), he was fine and chipper, just like usual. He rarely shows when he’s feeling sick, almost to the point where I don’t think he really grasps the feeling of illness. Lucky him…

So I called in and took the day off to make sure he relaxed and got fed smaller portions of food to ensure his stomach would stay settled. Sadly, it meant that I had to plop him in front of the television most of the time, but I consider that more of using a tool to keep him still and allow his body to recover from whatever it was that got him so sick.

It was definitely a first for me. I have not had to take on the caring father role before like that; it was all new. Lots of things in my life, although I knew they would eventually happen, I never really saw myself actually doing. Let alone at my young age (which I think makes it an exceptional challenge.) C’est la vie~

Mmm… Daily Dish…

Much of my downtime here at work, of which there seems to be less and less, I do my best to keep myself informed of the happenings in the world. I actively watch the BBC, listen to NPR podcasts, have finally repaired my links to use the Economist online (thanks, Dad!) and have been delving a bit when I can into what is strangely called the blogosphere. I suppose it’s a better term than ‘bloggernet’ or ‘blogmania’ or other concoctions. However, I do think that blogs, and how they are handled by the majority of heavier users, is nice. I think it’s an amazing resource for writers, artists, and thinkers to share more directly with a wide audience, and makes an easy pathway to written debates.

As I have mentioned before, the internet’s promise does come with a price. If you check anywhere with a message board or blog reply system, you’ll very readily find the knee-jerk, foolish, and grammatically-lacking reply. I got a clean view of it when reading a review of Roxio’s Toast 8, and the responses to the review were empty to the point of being vacuous. Responders would rarely add in their two cents to the review, but would instead tear into one another’s poor responses. It was almost painful to look at, because my train of thought always goes to questioning the quality of humanity and why bother continuing to work at being upstanding and thoughtful.

I sure do get sidetracked easily. The point of my writing this blog is to point out a blog Ben had recommended to me a while back. I’ve taken to reading Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish regularly throughout the day. Not only is he a great writer and reading him will link you out to many other wonderful things in the world, but he does epitomize the thoughtful courtesy in a blogger that I am writing about. It’s amazing what happens when someone touting themself to be a proper conservative. I start agreeing with a great deal of the ideas they put forth.

An awesome thing that happened while in Mr Sullivan’s corner of the blogosphere has been a debate between he and another writer, Sam Harris. Sullivan has a strong Christian faith, and Harris is a vocal Atheist, and somehow, somewhere, they wound up in a debate, Is Religion ‘Built Upon Lies’? All the content aside, it’s a grand thing to see two people, who obviously enjoy one anothers’ writing, have two different views and manage to politely tear into the other man’s arguments without coming to a terrible standstill. My father and I have long talked (debated, yelled, whatever) about the idea of proper discourse between people of different values and ideas. My dad and I do our best to keep in touch with how the ‘other side’ reasons, ‘the other side’ being just whomever happens to have a contrasting opinion. It is grand work by Messrs Harris and Sullivan, and I hope to find more of it in the future.

Oh, and as a final note, I would like to mention how much I love my Apple computer (specifically PowerBook) and the Dashboard with Widgets that exists in OS X. I cannot count how many times I have hit F12 and typed directly into the dictionary. Aside from all the other nifty things I use, that dictonary access has sped up my writing and research, and I especially like the etymology that is included with most definitions. It definitely (ha!) lends itself to more accurate usage.


Where Have All The Flowers Gone…

Too long since my last post, yes, I know. My life leaves little room for freedom of thought, and even less room for freedom to write. I think the trick may be to write in much smaller pieces than trying for a fully formed thought and conclusion. Especially since I rarely come to any sort of a conclusion, rather I find myself left with a whole different set of questions leading me back to the beginning. Quite like Socrates, no? Of course not.

There has been in the news lately Viacom suing Google over its content being placed on YouTube. There is a small addendum that is needed to that basic titular line, however. ‘Content being placed on YouTube’ should have the words ‘by users’ tacked to the end. It is not YouTube nor its parent Google that is downloading television shows from its TiVo and putting them online for a profit. The common folk are the users, people completely separate from the workings of Google.

A large portion of the debate will return to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. This act was designed to secure the copyrights of media in digital formats, but still protecting distribution and search companies from being considered infringing on copyrighted material. It is nearly a coin flip on which side of the DMCA a court ruling may land.

My own thoughts on digital copyrights are a little tough to nail down, but generally fall in favor of freeing digital media from copyright. In fact, I do believe that anything digital is unable to be copyrighted. Any material in a digital format may be copied essentially infinite times without damaging or decreasing the quality. The best analogy I have heard is that of fire. If I have a candle, it does not take away from my light for another to come up with his candle and use my flame.

As a regular computer user and even somewhat qualified technician, I know that the digital world cannot be contained. It is positively amazing what it means for humanity. Even when someone or some group gets shut down, there are immediately people available to fill the void, whether it is a legal activity or not. All information can be cracked, and thanks to the constantly growing internet, can be shared beyond measure. We are only beginning to see the revolution that is happening to the world, and the only thing that compares to this transition is Gutenberg’s printing press (and also creation of copyright itself).

From another perspective, I am also a musician, and at a stretch, an artist. And you know what? I have absolutely no problem with the free sharing of music and art. The world is better for having it out among the people. Besides, a recording or an image holds no candle to hearing music performed live, to seeing sculpture in a gallery, to going to a movie theater. I play music because the challenge is in the process, and the art in the performance. I think that the digital revolution will do a better job separating the manufactured art from the true artists. Also, God willing, it will challenge people to make movies worth actually paying ten bucks to see, rather than the vast majority being worthy only of a bootleg copy a week after the premiere.

Now of course there are the pitfalls that follow the promise of the revolution. With the infinite ability to copy and share, there will always be that portion of the population who will copycat and try to take credit, and now also an even greater percentage of innocent misinformation, such as giving one person credit for the work of another. But I think that anyone who does any bit of follow-up work or just uses a little skepticism when seeing information will be just fine when it comes to the garbage that is and will always be floating around.

The part that might be the hardest to handle the revolution would be the art of writing. But, so far as I can tell, it is actually seeing something of a boon rather than faltering. I think that people of the blogging community are setting wonderful precedent on linking to one another’s work and so many other outside sources. Actually, it beats the snot out of having additional text inserted in your work as a standard essay would. Rather, in blogs, it is merely a word that is a different color that may send the reader to a location being cited. Also, regarding writing, I don’t see Amazon or Barnes & Noble suffering at the feet of change. Of course, it is sadly at the expense of small, independent bookstores. But I digress.

At the end, I see the sharing of arts in such a ready way as a wonderful change. It will, of course, mean the death of the recording industry for music, but then again, the recording industry has been pretty well strangling music to death, so it’s a good comeuppance. Besides, I have always thought that music was an art, not an industry~

A New Beginning…

Ah, the world does keep on turning, and change occurs constantly. The big change was that today Michelle started her first day working for Target Corporate down in Minneapolis. She managed to take the bus on her own and be nearly forty minutes early. It’s only about three o’clock now, but after waking up a little after five this morning, I’m doggin’ it a bit. After this week I’m sure we’ll be quite used to the whole early routine. How odd and strangely sudden-feeling it is to be up and about and living and working as though we are grown ups. Seems like only a year ago I was living it up in college, hitting the pub for happy hours after classes and work, looking forward to the future with hardly a thought in my head…

Of course, I still don’t really have a thought in my head now. Some things just never change.

I’m just so proud of Michelle, she’s taking a huge new leap, and it’s going to be a lot of running around the Target building, lots of corporate training, something I don’t know if I’d be able to hack without inciting a riot or launching a union revolution. But she’s a much better employee than I, so she’ll do well. I completely envy her taking mass transit down to the city, especially since I’ve now gotten word that in 2009, there will be an actual rail system coming up our way along Highway 10 (for those readers who know this area) that will connect to the light rail of the cities. Plus, the cool thing is the transfer station will be where they’re building the new Twins ballpark, so life will definitely be sweet. Y’know, except once there’s a new ballpark, ticket prices will never be at the $6.00 cheap seats again, and I’m almost certain we can kiss dollar dog nights goodbye as well.

To top off her commute, Target offers a beyond sweet deal for taking transit. For under thirty pre-tax bucks a month, automatically deducted, she gets a card she can use on MetroTransit (the city bus and rail system out here) as much as she wants, wherever she wishes to go. Consider the fact that a single round trip for her down to Minneapolis during rush hours is five fifty, and it becomes an absolute no-brainer. I tell you though, spouses should get those cards, too. Get to baseball games without paying parking or even driving around the Metrodome? I’m there!

The Season is nigh, and a man can dream~