Monthly Archives: November 2011

I love this Republican race. Every time you think it’s getting boring, all you have to do is wait a little bit and everything changes.


The front runners have been changing just about every other week lately, for one reason or another. Romney faded a bit, Ron Paul charged, Herman Cain made a run for the top, and now Newt Gingrich has rediscovered his political mojo.


But why have each of them made the moves? Bad policy? A weak platform? Nope.


Herman Cain is now deeply involved in the personal problem defense–a standard for most politicians, where they get accused of an affair, sexual harassment, or some other impropriety. Of course, the first reaction of all candidates or politicians is to deny the accusations. Then there’s the pause, the gradual backpedaling, and then, in most cases, the admission that something happened.


What’s funnier is that Cain’s lawyer actually came out today and said that the press has no business investigating the sex life of a political figure…Where was this dude during the Clinton Administration?


And this week, I’ve discovered a web site to help support Ron Paul: The Official Pinups for Ron Paul site. Yes, my new favorite presidential candidate has groupies who have nearly bared all for the sake of his campaign. Check the site out simply because it’s amazing how many guns there are in the pictures…And I mean guns–real guns–and not something else.


Now if Herman Cain could just have had his accusers make a pin up calendar ages ago, he wouldn’t be having the problems he’s having now…


See you tomorrow.

So it’s been just over a week with the CPAP as my constant nighttime companion. I have to say that I think I’m sleeping more deeply and I’m waking up with fewer headaches. But I’m still getting used to the headgear.


That in itself was the longest and hardest part of my appoint to get the machine. The clinic had nine different choices for masks, from several models designed just to go over, on, or under the nose; to “full face” models, which sound much more intimidating than they really are.


It’s a mind-boggling process, trying to choose between them. I’d gone in wanting a face mask because the nose mask I’d had in the sleep study was pretty useless since I do breathe through my mouth at night. There were four different face masks to choose from, all with different fitting procedures and styles and sizes. One was too large on its own. The second had a T-shaped bar that went from the nose of the device up to the forehead and used leverage there to help keep it tightly on the face. The third was a maybe. And the fourth was actually reasonably comfortable.


It’s got a mask piece that only fits over my mouth, but then two little protuberances that fit to seal off my nose. The only problem so far is that sometimes in the middle of the night, I find myself having a constant slightly moist breeze blowing onto my eye (the CPAP also humidifies the air it blows into me) from one of the nasal tubes.


So far, I guess the machine is working: I’m snoring less, sleeping harder, so I guess that’s a good thing. I’ll find out for sure on my follow up appointment in a couple of weeks.


See you tomorrow.

Those were four days that went by quickly. But I don’t quite know where to begin.


We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. But my extended family also lost one of my aunts. She had been sick for some time, but her rapid decline and death was a bit shocking and very sad. The hard part is that she was a distant aunt–distant purely in the geographical sense, as she and my uncle live in Pennsylvania. I haven’t seen them more than four or five times in the last 15 years, but we’ve closely followed her illness now for just over a year and I never really expected this. But sadly, we’ve seen this and lived through a similar situation ourselves, so my heart just aches for my uncle and my cousins. It didn’t help that it came on the first Thanksgiving without my grandmother.


I have to say that I love Thanksgiving. It’s a wonderful holiday with great food, family, and ultimately, little pressure–no gifts are involved, and really all that’s expected is to cook, eat, and spend time with family and maybe friends.


Ours was a good time at my parents house: my kids always love spending time with my sister’s kids; my grandfather was anxious to see his family, so he and one of my uncles made the trip from Rochester. The food was outstanding, and we had a remarkable time talking, catching up, enjoying each other’s company.


And now Monday is on the doorstep to ruin that warm fuzzy feeling.


The rest of the weekend was spent resting, going to the new Muppets movie, and returning to the Sunday routine. No, we didn’t spend any time doing the holiday shopping thing–Black Friday shopping and I are guaranteed not to mix. I’d probably get all stabby on shoppers or something equally unflattering.


Well, the good news is that I’ve only got about 4 weeks of work left until I get two-plus weeks off. I’m looking forward to that.


See you tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we’re tucking in to what is sure to be a magnificent meal at my parents’ condo. It will feature the standards, and some not-so-standards. My gang of five will be there, as will my grandfather, my parents, and my sister and her family. Without question, it will be a great time and I’m looking forward to it greatly.


So I’ll take this brief moment to look back on the past year and give some thanks:


I’m thankful for all of the love shown to me during the last year by everyone.


I’m thankful for my kids and all of the joy and wonder and exuberance they bring to my life.


I’m thankful for my parents for continuing to try to point me in the right direction in my life and for still being parents, because we all need that constant source of love and support. And I’m thankful for just being able to pick up the phone and talk to them whenever I want to.


I’m thankful for great memories of my grandmother, because while I miss her, she’s never far away.


I’m thankful for a job that puts food on the table, a roof over our heads, and lets us live more comfortably than so many people on this planet can.


I’m thankful for breathing clearly.


I’m thankful for the computers and toys I’ve surrounded myself with in my life, because I really do love playing with them.


I’m thankful for my cat, because even though she’s very old and noisy and difficult at times, she still looks to me for love and comfort.


I’m thankful for humor, and joy, and wisdom, and sadness, and curiosity, and everything that makes us all so different from one another.


I’m thankful for the regular e-mails from my grandfather ultimately telling me that no matter what, life goes on and that this too–whatever “this” may be–shall pass.


I’m thankful for great food.


I’m thankful for this platform to open my thoughts to anyone who cares to read them. And I’m thankful to those of you who read it and continue to come back just to read what I write here.


And I’m thankful for my wife. Because she’s my dream and my grounding, my partner and co-conspirator, and never ceases to amaze me. She’s beautiful and witty and charming, and I’m so thrilled with the accomplishments we’ve made together.


Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy your meal and time with your loved ones.


See you tomorrow.

I had a grandfather named Newt, and you, sir are no Newt…


Oh yeah, wait a sec. Newt Gingrich, who’s currently striving to become the first president of this country to have an oddball name, has suddenly risen to the top of the Republican primary field, much like a dead fish rises to the surface of a lake.


I know. My grandfather was named Newt (okay, it was Newton), but by today’s standards, that’s a bit…well, odd. Sure, there are worse names available: Ulysses, Gypsum, Buzzsaw, Hal, Winthorpe, Buddy, Engelbert, Mitt…But Gingrich seems to play up his moniker a bit, as his website is simply “” There’s part of me that thinks he’s just trying to dare some of us to make fun of him.


And so I shall.


Propped up on the discarded remains of his ex-wives, Newt’s site proudly features trophy wife number three on the main page, where Callista tells us what she’s been up to as the dutiful wife and former home wrecker. Lessee…She’s met with supporters, addressed conservative women (all seven of them–and one was actually Michele Bachmann), “bonded” with other candidates’ wives (something there just doesn’t seem right), and personally flushed all Occupy protesters from the bird bath in the back yard. Yes, it’s been a busy week for her…


But Newt has always been a cerebral type, relying on history, reason, metered humor, sarcasm, and his ability to hurl truly injurious insults at opponents to make his way through political discourse. Let’s sample some of his brilliance as he gives us a direct quote on how to solve our budget crisis:

Creating jobs and getting back to 4% unemployment is the most important step to a balanced budget.

Um…Duh. You think? Who’s your economic adviser? A trained chimp?


He does offer up an idea whereby we taxpayers (remember us? The 49 percent who actually pay taxes?) would have an “optional” 15% flat tax. It’s like he’s appealing to the stoners, illiterates and lazy people in the country: “hey, why fill out the two page form and the schedules and stuff when you can just fill out this here postcard and send it in with your check and you’re done with your taxes for the year!” It’s like a procrastinator’s bonus: pay only 15% if you put off filing until April 15th! Fill out the card and send it in! The only problem here is that I think he’s trying to put too much on that postcard, as he says there would be an individual deduction of $12,000, and deductions for charitable donations and mortgage interest would be preserved. Is he going to include the complimentary magnifying glass with that card, or do I have to provide my own?


But as usual for a Republican, Gingrich focuses entirely on the concept that business create jobs, and ignores the fact that to get jobs created, businesses need to feel more confident about the economy and to get that done, consumers need to spend more money in goods and services. And for that to happen, unfortunately, something needs to be done to help increase the confidence of American workers that their finances and jobs won’t get completely screwed over by greedy businesses who seem to want to do nothing but make their shareholders happy.


Gingrich aims to either imitate Reagan as president, or is planning on resurrecting Reagan in zombie form, because ol’ Ronnie is mentioned several times across the site. In fact, it seems very much like Gingrich is planning on just copying Reagan’s policies and changing names where appropriate: in place of Contras, we have “radical Islamics;” instead of a “Star Wars” missile defense system, we’ll have “advanced military weaponry” as the result of increased math and science funding (there’s your education policy, folks!); and just like Reagan, Gingrich wants to issue executive orders for as much as he can, so just like Reagan deregulated the airlines and oil and natural gas prices with executive orders, Gingrich wants to eliminate…um…any bias against healthcare workers who don’t want to perform medical procedures that they may find morally questionable. Yes, that will change the world…


And the last thing that really baffles me: I’ve been trying to figure this one out for a while now, but why is it that the cost of every product and service drops as economies of scale, competition, and the free market take hold, but healthcare is apparently immune to this concept? Shouldn’t it cost less to do things like my nasal surgery than it did 15 years ago? I’ve been trying to figure out how in the world it cost $15,000 for a doctor to pull stuff out of my head. And something’s wrong when people really are having to weigh the need to purchase a drug versus buying food. Is our society so backward that we no longer see the well being of our citizens as the government’s first priority? Social services, education, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, WIC…why are these programs villified when compared to cutting taxes on businesses to create jobs?


Just whisper the answer to yourself, because we all know it…And we should be ashamed that we do.


So a little more soapbox than I’d planned, but the regurgitated Reagan agenda can do that to a guy. Remember: Vote Newt 2012 to relive the ’80s…And not in a good way.


See you tomorrow.

The first snow of the season called for a soup and bread dinner tonight. So I went back over fifteen years for the inspiration for the soup.


You see, out in the wilds of North Dakota where we were for those two-plus years, there was a soup offered on restaurant menus, at soup suppers, and community gatherings that neither of us had heard of: knepfla (or knoepfla, depending on which spelling you accept). It was so ubiquitous there that if I were to identify a signature dish of the region, it would actually be this soup.


It is so popular and common and beloved that at one community soup supper fundraiser, I was asked to make a soup simply so that there was a choice besides knepfla and chicken noodle. I made a French version of minestrone. When we got there, I brought my large-ish pot of soup to the kitchen, and found it desperately outnumbered by eight equally sized or larger pots of knepfla. My pot was placed next to the also-rans…er, soup, as it settled with the one pot of chicken noodle. At the end of the night, I went to gather my pot and found that it was still nearly full. To this day, I believe that I was the only one in town who had a bowl of it.


Knepfla soup is German, and it’s basically a soup that was invented by someone who decided to take a vegetable soup and make it less healthy. Well, okay, that isn’t entirely true, but it’s a potato soup, cooked in chicken stock, with carrots, celery and onion, and after the potatoes and veggies have simmered in the stock for a while, you add a simple egg dumpling and let it cook for a while. Then at the very end, you add half and half or cream and let it sit for a bit off heat to let it thicken a bit from the flour in the dumplings.


The truth is, I’ve never made it until tonight. As I said, you couldn’t spit in Garrison without hitting some source for knepfla, so I never had a reason to make it out there. And I’ve talked about making it back here for years, but just never have. It turned out well–a little more pepper in this recipe than it usually had out there, and I think I’ll cut down on the celery and onion next time, but besides those tweaks, it was almost spot-on. So you can head over to my food site and see a picture of tonight’s flashback dinner. Oh…And if you head over there, the breads are no knead bread and homemade french bread. There are pictures of those there, too.


See you tomorrow.

By the time most of you read this tomorrow, I’ll have been outfitted with my very own, shiny new CPAP machine.


Yes, the sleep doctor called me to deliver the results of my sleep study: I don’t stop breathing–at least for any period of time longer than a second or two–but I do have sleep apnea, and was registering as many as 70 events an hour. Which, I was told, was pretty bad. And that was on my side…Where most people have improved conditions.


Just like me to throw medical convention on its ear.


So tomorrow morning, I’ll go in for the appointment to get the machine. Apparently it’s adjusted for the scientifically calculated flow that is supposed to counter the events I have. I’ll be shown how to use it, clean it, play music with it, how to charm the hose like a snake…


In another month, I’ll have a follow up with a respiratory specialist. For what, I’m not entirely sure, but they told me that appointment had to be scheduled at the same time.


So tomorrow night, I’ll go to bed sounding like Darth Vader. We’ll see how well it works.


See you tomorrow.

Patrick has his first band concert of the year tonight. It was a great show, and it’s always amazing to me to hear the improvement year over year. (I plan on converting over and posting some video of the performance here hopefully this weekend.) But watching my kids in band performances make me regret missing out on band opportunities when I was a kid.


Piano is a great instrument: it’s huge, expressive, complex, bright, dark and rich all at the same time. But it doesn’t lend itself to, say, marching band. Or most high school bands or orchestras. There just isn’t room or a place for it usually in those cases.


On occasion in my youth, I felt like I was missing out on something by not being in band–kids in smaller groups like that had a bond that was unique to them. They seemed to have those inside jokes or looks or something that they just wouldn’t share with the rest of the world, and maybe that’s why I wanted in.


But there were downsides, too. In band, there are concerts. I had recitals. You have to prove yourself and fight for a solo in a band concert. In a piano recital, you are the show…At least for your song or songs in the set.


Oh, I had my chance to join a band: jazz band, senior year. Early in the school year, the established pianist decided he just couldn’t handle the load, so he left. The band was a month away from one of their first performances or competitions, I don’t recall which, and as I knew a number of the members of the jazz band, I was asked to join. There was no audition required, no permission of the director. He deferred this choice to the band members.


I turned them down. First off, their practice was at zero hour, which was 6:30 in the morning, if I recall. That meant driving to school every day, or catching a city bus at some horrifically early hour to get to school on time. Second, it meant more practice time required, and at a time when I was already looking ahead toward cutting back on piano time, it seemed to fly in the face of that concept.


But third–and this is the one that just kind of sticks in my craw, simply because it’s one of those things where the grown-up in me wants to go back and smack my younger version–I was positive that I wouldn’t be able to handle the style required to play jazz piano. I’d watched the band perform, and I knew some about jazz, and the piano was one of the central instruments in the genre. And I didn’t think I had it in me to play that way.


So I never tried. I never joined. I never was in a band. Twenty-five years later, I really wish I was, even if it was just for a few months because I couldn’t handle the material. Because of that, I always watch my kids with pride as they perform with their bands. They have that something that I won’t have but always secretly wanted.


See you tomorrow.

When I got to work today, we had only a few lights on. Not a big deal, I thought, sometimes people turn them on or off. Besides, it’s sunny outside so it shouldn’t be a problem.


But quickly, I discovered the problem: There was some sort of electrical issue that our crack mechanical staff was working through in the building. Hence the problem with the lights. The outlets and such were fine for a couple of reasons: first, they are on a backup generator, but also, I guess that set of circuits wasn’t affected.


So for most of the day, the lights were off, occasionally blinking on for a few minutes at a time, but quickly going dark again. And as I said, it wasn’t a problem. It was sunny out, and we have a lot of windows in our area.


It did cause problems in some interior areas of the building: conference rooms, the kitchenette, and the bathroom, where I once nearly had to feel along a wall for the sink.


But then it became 3:30 and 4:00. The sun glared in directly into the windows at eye level. So shades were drawn. And darkness fell across the help desk. And as the sun set, the shades were reopened and it got darker and darker–our workspace lit with only a couple of the overhead lights that are connected in to different circuits, and by the monitors on our desks.


Until the lights came on. 10 minutes before I left. At least I could see my way out of there.


See you tomorrow. Or not, lights permitting.



We here in Lathropworld are a tech-focused bunch.


Everyone in the house has at least one computer–and for the most part, that computer isn’t a complete relic. All of us have at least one e-mail address. Two of us have websites and blogs. Three of us have Facebook pages. One of us manages more than just her Facebook page.


Oh yes, we’re heavily plugged in to the world. In fact, if utility service were to fail here and the internet were to go out, we’d probably notice that before the lack of electricity. But not heat. Jenni and the girls are chronically cold.


So I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone who knows us, and to probably to people who are acquainted with us in passing, that we’re expanding our reach in cyberspace.


Twitter has been a little bit elusive to me, I’ll have to admit. I’ve had an account for a couple of years, and in that time, I’ve only managed a paltry 133 tweets. Now that I think about it, I should have tweeted during my sleep study, just to see how that screwed with the results. But you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard, coming up with 140 characters to simply pass on a message, or comment on something you thought of or saw or heard at that moment. Sure, there are people who have turned their tweets into a running commentary of their lives, but there are many, many others who have made it an art form. So for the last couple of years I’ve had an account, I’m mainly used @Lathropworld as a means to get news and information quickly and instantly without having to dive through piles of websites.


So I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with Twitter. Jenni got on and embraced it completely and is truly remarkable in what she tweets, retweets, and the like. Of course, she also manages the Twitter and Facebook accounts of Luther Seminary, so she’d better be good at it, I guess. But I do admire what she does there and on Facebook because it isn’t over the top or stupid or irrelevant. It’s smart, and interesting, and funny.


Well, on Friday, she convinced Patrick to jump into the Twitter pool. So y’all can follow his feed. Even if you don’t have an account, you can still hit the link back there and see what he posts. I think he’d be great at this, because he’s incredibly creative, and the stuff that pops up in his brain is mesmerizing, and I think he’d be well served to share some of that with the world…So I’m trying to convince him to do that, and to set up his account to take tweets by text from his phone. (If you want to help the cause, just mention this to him, too…He’d love to have the encouragement.)


Not to be outdone, and having been searching for a while to be a bit more creative in my internet presence, I finally fleshed out my broader plan for using the Twitter to tweet and twit. So the @Lathropworld account will be my primary personal account, but two others, more anonymous (yes, I realize mentioning here that I’m setting them up makes them less than anonymous) are coming: @WiseThingsISay and @UnderRuled. @WiseThingsISay is destined to be a place where I can just post random stuff, mostly oddball thoughts and funny stuff. @UnderRuled will be my political forum.


Oh, and I set up one more site for you to check out. I have the goal to take more pictures (and maybe even recipes) of things I cook. So I set up a Tumblr page (kind of an odd combo of blogging and Twitter–short and easy, but more flexible than Twitter).


I know, I don’t have much of anything (or nothing at all) up at any of those pages, but that’s coming, trust me. Just keep checking. (By the way, I’ve added the Twitter feeds to the sidebar over there on the right).


So sign on to Twitter! Get your own account if you don’t have one! Tweet back to us, retweet us and follow us (really! We’re lonely and pathetic that way…). Of course, if any of that really made no sense to you, maybe it wouldn’t be the best thing for you. Or you could just drop in on those links once in a while to see what we’re all up to.


Thanks for paying attention.


See you tomorrow.

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November 2011
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