Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Time to Fix an Old Problem

It seems like abortion has been getting a lot of attention lately. And it hasn't just been the usual "it's good/it's bad" discussion. Instead the conversation has been more of the tenor of "it's bad, so what do we do about it?" And this is coming from both pro-life and pro-choice positions. There's been significant attention to the idea that we should do everything we can to reduce the number of abortions. Among plenty of other examples, Hillary Clinton recently acknowledged the tragedy of abortion. And Ben Stark posted this blog about crisis pregnancy centers, and the type of efforts they make. Then there was the rather disingenuous article by a pro-choice advocate who was arguing that the best way to protect abortion rights was to reduce the number of abortions. Suffice it to say, this topic has been on my mind a lot lately.

Even more importantly, I think the general tone of the country in recent years has been towards acknowledging the importance of life. Congress has passed significant regulations on abortion. Bush was re-elected. Roberts and Alito have been confirmed to the Court. And while this in no way means that Roe and Casey will be overturned in the near future, I think we can be hopeful that the nation is heading that way. I think we can be hopeful that in the long term abortion will again be illegal. And I think we can expect that in the shorter term there will be significantly more regulations restricting abortion.

Which means it's time for us all - both pro-life and pro-choice - to be worried about a new problem. Or rather, it's time to be worried about an old problem: the causes that give rise to abortion.

In a society where abortion is illegal abortions still happen. Sadly, they happen in horrible conditions, which frequently put considerable risk on the life of the mother. When abortions are illegal people who have and provide them are effectively coerced into secrecy, which causes even more problems. The simple fact is, making abortions illegal provides new problems.

Of course, these problems do not mean that abortion should be legal. These problems in no way justify taking a person's life. But they do mean that we have some gaping holes in society that need to be fixed.

The problems come in two forms. The first is the problems that cause people to choose abortion. These can be things as concrete and social as poverty, or as nebulous and individual as "having a child doesn't fit into my plans". So this means we'll need a wide variety of measures to help people with these problems. Educating people and preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place is a great way to start. Providing greater aid - and greater awareness of aid - to mothers and infants through programs like WIC is another excellent strategy. Creating channels of communication between pregnant teens and their parents, requiring both parents to provide some form of support for their children, increasing access to day care and health services, etc. All of these are things which need more attention and further discussion.

The second type of problem is what to do with unwanted children. Liberalizing and streamlining the adoption laws is a great way to start. We need to reward adoption, and we need to support the mother through the adoption process, which can be a very lonely and difficult time. We also need to invest more in programs which care for orphans and provide significant state-assistance to those who decide to keep their children. Essentially, we need to do all we can to make the children wanted and welcome in our society, and we need to help single-parents feel that same sense of community and care. Again, these are just a couple of the many ideas which need to be explored and implemented.

But why talk about these things now? After all, abortion is still legal. There are two reasons I can see that we should get the ball rolling now. First, these are simply good ideas. These things will help reduce the number of abortions, whether they're legal or not. And, if there's less need for abortion, then arguably there's less reason to have it be legal. There are those who would disagree with this point, but it's not really essential. What is essential, however, is the fact that these are good and important programs which address serious social problems.

The second reason is that it'll take some time for these to build up steam. I want to make sure these types of protective measures are put into place before abortion is outlawed (if and when that happens). If we're going to stop abortions we need to make sure the safety net is already in place.

Sure, I think it would be a good thing if abortion was illegal tomorrow. But that wouldn't be nearly good enough. It would be exponentially better if, in addition to abortion being illegal, the problems which give rise to abortion were also eliminated. These are both part of the same fight. We need to keep one eye on continuing the "make abortion illegal" front. But we also need to start paying more attention to the "causes of abortion" front.

When abortion is illegal we've only taken the first step. We will only be victorious when the social problems surrounding and causing abortion have been dealt with. We cannot stop fighting until all of those evils have been eliminated.

That is why it is time to start thinking about these problems now.

Get on your dancing shoes
There's one thing on your mind

Sunday, January 29, 2006


You can either walk everywhere, or drive everywhere. Which do you choose?

Are you ready boots? Start walking!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I'm the Man of My Own Dreams

I had this incredibly vivid dream last night where I was being attacked by an anaconda. Or a python... I didn't have time to properly identify it. Definitely not a boa constrictor though.

Anyways, it felt incredibly real. It had clamped it's teeth into my right hand and was beginning to knot it's body around my legs and waist. I struggled mightily to fight it off, but it just wouldn't listen to reason.

Players only love you when they're playing

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Up With Equality, Down With Toilet Seats

There's a new movement designed to improve life in our great country, and it's a bunch of crap. Literally. They call it potty parity, and the basic premise is that there should be at least twice as many restroom "outlets" for women as there are for men.

The movement (pun intended) is based on the scientific fact that, on average, women take twice as much time in the bathroom as men. Thus, given the same number of toilets, women often end up waiting in line while men can just zoom in and out. Potty parity would work sort of like a handicap in golf - given that women usually take more time/strokes to reach the hole, we'll adjust the number of toilets/strokes taken to help off-set their inability to perform to par.

Because let's face it, that's really what this is about: Men have set a bathroom standard that women just can't live up to - at least as far as speed is concerned (sanitation, scent, and general cleanliness are entirely different matters). For starters, a trip to the bathroom is just less complicated for men. There's no monkeying around with sitting or wiping or stockings or (shudder) feminine hygiene issues. It's just zip, stream, zip. And sometimes flush. And once in a while, wash.

Plus, men require less space then women. The average square footage devoted to a urinal is approximately a third or less of what it takes to put in a stall. So in addition to being faster, men can have three "outlets" where women can have only one. Heck, on the toilet space-time continuum, we're just running away with this thing.

And while there are all sorts of reasons why women are slower, ultimately it just comes down to genetic superiority. Y-chromosome equals speedy urination. And speedy urination means I'm done five minutes before my X-chromosomed spouse, who's waiting in that ridiculous line stretching out of the women's bathroom. So really, anything that decreases her bathroom time also decreases the time I spend waiting for her to get out of the bathroom. Maybe I should be all for this potty parity movement.

But this isn't one bandwagon I'll be hopping on anytime soon. Because it seems that those supporting the idea might be taking it just a little too far. According to the Yahoo! story, John Banzhaf, a professor at George Washinton's law school and the self-proclaimed "father of potty parity" says, "I'm pushing the idea of filing federal complaints, in other words, making a federal case out of potty parity. [Ignoring potty parity] constitutes a form of sex discrimination ... and violates the constitutional tenet of equal protection."

Huh? This is the battle that some of our finest legal minds are waging? They want to sue so that women can have more toilets then men? Is this really where we should be focusing our energies? And where do they propose to get all these extra toilets? If they take them out of the men's room then there'll be less urinals and men will also be facing those long lines (and if we figure a 3 to 1 ratio that's a lot less urinals). Plus just imagine what that reduction would do to the urinal cake companies! As go the urinal cakes, there goes the country - down the drain!

I'm also forced to wonder what could be next? Surely these same people would demand that there be wider parking spaces for women drivers? Or that math classes come with two different gendered grading scales? Or should we mandate that men have automatic GPS systems, in effect forcing them to stop and ask for directions? Or that men carry a purse filled with all the things they and their children need?

Or maybe, instead of suing so that women have more toilets, we could just require that men sit when they go to the bathroom. Only then will we finally break through the porcelain ceiling.

There's blood in my mouth 'cause I've been biting my tongue all week

Roe v. Wade Day

A year ago I put up this post about abortion and when life begins. It's long, but it's a good read, and really investigates the critical question in the debate. Check it out.

There's one more kid that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Of these three options, which would you rather be?

1. A well-loved but not-critically-acclaimed movie star, with legions of fans, incredible fortune, and a life of luxury.

2. A political genius with the power and influence to shape the path of our country, and in fact the world.

3. A brilliant artist or writer or thinker whose genius goes unrecognized in this life, but whose works resonate throughout time, like Michelangelo or Dostoevsky or Socrates.

Ok, which do you pick?

And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Few Quick Thoughts on Gonzales

For starters, if you're interested, I'd check out SCOTUSblog for more information about the ruling/how and why Justices ruled the way they did. For the record, SCOTUSblog is my new favorite blog. Next to my own of course.

I do want to throw out a couple of comments trying to answer the question "what next?"

First, in the immediate future, (within the next 3 - 5 years), I see two responses to this court case. One, Congress could pass a law which explicitly gives the attorney general the authority to prevent physician assisted suicide. This case didn't say Congress couldn't regulate in this area, only that they hadn't actually done so yet. Two, States will probably get more explicit. 49 already prohibit physician-assisted suicide. Those that want to keep it illegal will either make no change or alter their laws to be more strict. Those that want to legalize it, following Oregon's lead, may do so, but probably with much debate and difficulty in their state processes. I'd predict California as the next-in-line state to legalize physician assisted suicide. But that's no more than an educated guess, based largely on my lack of respect for California's ability to use political power to do anything other than what they perceive as trendy.

In the middle future (5 - 25 years), I see a prolonged social discussion about this issue. Arguments on both sides will be advanced. Eventually, more and more states will sadly go Oregon's way (unless there's federal action). Oregon hasn't created a problem-free statute, but if you're gonna go for physician-assisted suicide (PAS), they've at very least got the appearance of safeguards built into the process, so it looks very neat and clean. People will see that cleanness, not worry about the moral implications for society, and slowly take a more tolerant view towards PAS. Sort of a "live and let live" policy, only this is clearly more along the lines of "live and let die".

In the long-term (25 years +) PAS in the states starts to look more and more like it does in places like Holland. This means things like parents deciding their terminally-ill minor child should have PAS. We'll shift away from the terminally-ill requirement, to one which only requires pain of some sort to justify ending a person's life. The numbers of people electing to end their own lives will rise steadily. The sick and disabled will be seen by loved ones (and themselves) more as "burdens" (particularly financial burdens) who should be eradicated instead of cherished. The belief that life is inherently valuable will continue to erode.

We might not make it to the point of forced euthanasia. But I'm inclined to think we'll go a long way towards putting societal pressure on entire classes of people - especially the elderly and disabled - to end their lives through PAS. Just like there are those who argue parents should abort every disabled child before they're born, there will certainly be those who argue that people who are "a drain on society" owe it to society to end their lives.

It's a scary proposition. And though we've got a long way to go before things get as bad as they could, we're already on the way there. Let's face it, the step from always prohibiting PAS to allowing it at all is a big step; but the steps between allowing PAS and euthanasia are each pretty darn small. We've already taken the biggest step. I say we turn around before it's too late.

Weakly mind, weakly... ooh I go home...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Gonzales v. Oregon - The Opinion

Check back later today for my thoughts on the Gonzales v. Oregon case. I'm a little disappointed in the result, but not especially surprised. If you'll recall, this was the case involving Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law. I wrote about it here. I didn't quite predict the result - I was thinking it would be 5-4 if O'Connor was still on the court (in the same direction that it do go). But I didn't foresee Kennedy going the way he did (especially after the Raich case last year...). Anyways, I'll be posting some thoughts on physician-assisted suicide generally too, so watch for that. I've written about all that before too. You can also find a great review of the case at SCOTUSblog. Ok, check back later!

I haven't said enough

Coincidence? I Think Not.

Has anyone else ever noticed that the beginning of Stevie Nicks' (of Fleetwood Mac) Edge of Seventeen and the beginning of Destiny's Child's Bootylicious are exactly the same? Check it out.

[Note: the song samples I've been finding don't have the very beginning of either song, so you can't really tell. But I swear to you, download them if you have to. They're exactly the same!}]

Just like the white winged dove... you've gotta work your jelly

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dave's Not Here, Man

Just like every financially astute couple, Laura and I are consolidating our loans. We started the process way back in June, but things keep happening to set us back. Though we're still getting June's great rates, so no worries there. But this morning I got a phone call from our consolidation service specialist, Darrell. It was one of the funniest phone conversations I've ever had:

D: "Hello, Mr. Novak? This is Darrell Shelton your consolidation service specialist."
M: "Yes?"
D: "Is Mr. Novak or Ms. Guetter there?"
M: "Yes, this is he."
D: "Can I please speak with Matt Novak?"
M: "Speaking."
D: "I'm sorry, is this the Novak household?"
M: "Yes, it is."
D: "Is Mr. Novak available?"
M: "This is Matt Novak."
D: "Well then, would Laura Guetter be there?"
M: "This is Matt. You're talking to him right now."
D: "Mr. Novak is available?"
M: "Yes. This is him."
D: "Ok, I see. Well then, can you please let him know that this is Darrell Shelton returning his call, and he can reach me at XXX-XXXX. Thank you. Goodbye."
M: "Yeah, sure. Whatever. Goodbye."

Please connect me to a friend of mine

Mmmm, It Tastes Like It Looks

A couple days ago my wife purchased a 3-liter bottle of the strangest pop (or soda for you freaks out there) that I have ever seen. It was Big Fizz brand pop, which can probably be safetly categorized as an "off" brand. There were several flavors to choose from, including cola, lemon-lime, root beer, and grape. Then, there was the best flavor I've ever seen, and the one she ended up purchasing: Red. Honest-to-God, red flavored pop. I just grabbed a Pepsi.

Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

After 6 Years

It's official. My unofficial boycott of Dave Matthews and The Dave Matthews Band is officially over.

Six years ago, when I was in my freshman year at St. John's, I started an unofficial boycott of Dave Matthews. The biggest reason for the boycott was that I just heard his music too freakin' much. Every song on every radio station was Dave Matthews. I mean, the only radio station we could tune in at St. John's was KFDM (Krazy For Dave Matthews), but still, you can remember that time too, right? It was like, if there was oxygen, then there was Dave. I couldn't walk to the bathroom without hearing a Dave Matthews song blaring from one of my neighbor's rooms. I can still recall several occasions when I'd just be sitting in my room, minding my own business, when suddenly I'd hear his trademark sound - you know that "whiiiiiiinnnnemumblemumbleeeaaahhhhhh" - over the synthesized drum beat and annoying pingy guitar thing that he did. That's right, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Basically because back then all his stuff sounded the same. Anyways, I heard way too much Dave.

Plus, to add insult to injury, it seemed like every third guy in St. Mary Hall had some sort of strange man-crush on the guy. I bet there were literally 10 rooms - out of about 30 - on my floor that had Dave Matthews posters on the wall. And I think the RA had a Dave Matthews Band bed-spread. Yeah. That was... weird.

In my neighbor's room they had a gigantic poster. I mean, this thing was frickin' huge. I know I'm short and all, but this was bigger-than-life-size huge. The biggest guitar string had to be at least as wide as my forearm. So about half way through the year, when I was already sick of Dave, I was helping my neighbor rearrange his room when the poster fell off the wall and gave me a wicked paper cut.

And at that point I knew I'd had enough. It was time for a boycott. I could deal with too much whiny music and all the strange, unexplainable man-crushes, but once Dave Matthews physically assaulted me, well, I just had to draw the line.

So that's how the boycott started. And here's how it ends. With a Dave Matthews song quote on Philosofickle:

All the little ants are marching
Red and black antenna waving

Monday, January 09, 2006

I Still Don't Know What to Do

I can still remember when I was 8 years old at this time of the year. School was starting back up after a couple weeks of Christmas vacation. I was in Mr. Osmundson's class. He was - still is - a terrific educator: patient, gentle, authoritative, and convincing. Yet the first memory that comes to mind for me is of him squatting next to my desk - he was a tall man, or at very least he seemed to tower over us third graders - and answering some question that I had asked. He kept working to make sure that I understood the answer, and how we got to that answer, exactly like a good teacher would. But I no longer cared about the answer to my question - when he spoke, I was awash in halitosis, and instead of focusing on the answer my mind was on convincing him that I understood so that he would stop inadvertently breathing that awful breath on me. I had a great teacher, but it's funny how my third-grade mind internalized that single moment, to the point that I now can almost feel that warm, rotten breath on my face whenever I think back.

There are other memories too, of course. I remember having a crush on a girl name Kristi. I remember Brandon Miller calling me a "skinny toothpick with glasses." And I remember coming back from Christmas break.

I remember coming back from break, because I remember the question:

"What did you get for Christmas?"

This question became the lifeblood of any conversation that first week back. In the morning before class, at lunch or recess, on the bus ride home, it didn't matter when or where - comparing Christmas loot was the first order of business. If a classmate got a good gift - say a Nintendo - it could completely shift the social order of the class. After all, as a third-grader you have limited capital to spend on gaining and keeping your friends; basically, if you want to garner good will from your classmates, you've only got birthday party invitations and toys. Better gifts and parties translates to more social capital, and more social capital translates to more friends.

Most of my best friends had a different teacher than I did, so I was already suffering socially. Plus, in my family, third-grade is a sandwich year, where you sacrifice your large birthday party so that you can have a relative birthday-feast in second and fourth grade. By Christmastime, knowing what I knew about my upcoming birthday, things were looking grim. I needed some good loot if I was going to weather the social storm.

Naturally, I can't recall today a single gift I got at that Christmas. What I do recall though, are the conversations I had with my friends. That was the year I learned to hate the question; that was the year I became aware of poverty.

My hometown has a very interesting cross section of society. We're cut in half by the Mighty Mississip, so we've got less actual territory then most Midwestern cities. But we've got a sizeable population, around 65,000. Because there's less territory, the tax base is small, and so we're home to a disproportionate number of low-income multiple-dwelling building projects. These are generally set towards the middle of the town, with the opposite end of the wealth spectrum set on the further edges of town. Near the river is where the wealthiest live, and by the golf course and the lake there are large developments of homes for those who would easily fall into the "upper-middle class" bracket. Sandwiched between the two extremes is a large contingent of middle and lower-middle class. The city developed strangely because a major highway and a railroad run directly through the town at opposite angles, and with the river, everything's just an entire mess. Draw a few geographically-convenient school lines, and you'll mix the very well-off and the very-not-well-off. This makes for enlightening third-grade conversation.

I remember feeling very bad when comparing Christmas gifts that year. My family certainly wasn't poor. But we certainly weren't upper-middle class either. So my Christmas haul was probably somewhere in the middle of the pack.

The first people I talked to must have been from one of the well-off families, and must have done significantly "better" than I did. I remember being asked "is that all?" after disclosing what I'd received. It felt pretty lousy. I had been excited about my gifts, but this kid had taken that all away from me. When he recited the list of all the things he'd gotten I must have felt pretty jealous, because I can recall feeling as if I'd gotten almost nothing by comparison. It felt pretty low.

But then I spoke with another classmate, from the other end of the spectrum. Feeling down from my last conversation, I listed off what I now considered to be a pretty meager list. Then, he took his turn. He was very excited to tell me everything he'd gotten, but his list didn't take very long. I remember thinking - I didn't say it - exactly what the previous kid thought about me, "Is that all?"

There I was, pouting over how "little" I'd gotten for Christmas. And here was my friend, still completely excited and thankful despite getting what I perceived to be so little. Not only that, but he was completely amazed by my Christmas gifts, and instead of being jealous, he was happy for me. I felt sick. And I felt powerless. And I began to realize that poverty affected real, good people, and that something should be done.

It's funny the things that an 8-year-old internalizes. I can still remember the tremendous wave of guilt that came over me. In fact, I still feel it's sting today when I think back on third grade. Next to Mr. Osmundson's halitosis, it's my most vivid third-grade memory: the warm rotten breath of guilt blowing in my face, making sure I always understand.

Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Questions for the Catholics:

Laura came up with some good questions. I couldn't answer them. The Catechism couldn't either. That's right. What do you have to say now Vatican fathers?

If the Church teaches that Mary remained a virgin even after Jesus' birth, how come we don't also hear about her husband, the ever-virgin Joseph?

And, if they remained ever-virgin, doesn't that mean they weren't married? Because you need to consumate in order to be married. At least, that's what I told Laura...

Our little pony-tailed girl growed up to be a woman

Friday, January 06, 2006

Media Update and Recommendations

The last movie I saw in theaters was The 40-Year-Old Virgin. And I now own it on DVD, so that should give you some idea of how long ago it was released. So if you've noticed a dearth of movie reviews, the long and the short of it is that I just haven't been to a theater in a long time. And when I finally get to one again, I'll probably be seeing something that was released weeks before, and therefore a review will probably be moot. But maybe one of these days I'll get to a movie on its opening weekend, and then I'll put up a review again.

Though I haven't been out to theaters in quite a while, I've gotten my fair share of movie watching in lately. Mostly Christmas movies. But Christmas movies - the good ones at least - have a special watchable quality to them, and somehow they never get old. How else can you explain the fact that on Christmas Day TBS broadcast A Christmas Story for 24 hours straight? Or the fact that in that time frame I watched it twice?

Sadly, A Christmas Story is not one of the Christmas movies that Laura and I own. We really just started building our Christmas collection this year (after all, it was our first Christmas together), and it already looks pretty solid after some wonderful gifts. I think we're up to six Christmas movies. Plus we now own Christmas lights, a 3-piece (plus manger) Nativity set, a cut-out Christmas tree glued onto a paper towel tube (I was feeling craftsy). But back to the movies... Of the six we own, two are essential Christmas movies: White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life. To these movies I would add only A Christmas Story as an essential film, making a grand total of 3 essential Christmas movies. But maybe I'm overlooking something? Are there other flicks which people would add to this list of essential Christmas movies? (And for the record, I'm still debating The Grinch)

I should say briefly that I'm well aware that Christmas is past, and maybe I should move on to thinking about Valentine's Day, like our local Rite Aid. But I'm still in the Christmas mode, and I think it's ok to extend the season out a little bit. Especially since I had a really great Christmas.

We hadn't seen family in a long time, so that was great. Plus, I got some great gifts. Some nice new shirts, a beautiful new wallet, and in addition to the Christmas movies, we added some other awesome DVD's to our collection.

Like the Kill Bill movies. And The Godfather trilogy. Which, I didn't realize, just had the 3rd film made in 1990. Are there people out there who remember when the third one came out? I don't recall it at all. What was the motivating force behind it? Was it just the chance to make more money? I mean, I haven't seen the third one yet, but I hear it's awful. Is it really awful? Or is it just awful in comparison to the first two? (I mean, they are two of the greatest movies of all time). Someone who already knows, help me out on this one.

We also got the first season of Arrested Development (we already owned season 2). Which is the funniest show on television. Unfortunately, it'll be off of television soon, because too many idiot viewers think bland sitcoms with laugh tracks are better. Seriously people, you've got like 3 shows left before it's off the air, possibly forever. Mondays at 8/7 central. On Fox. WATCH THIS SHOW. Then, go buy the DVD's. Then, contact ABC or Showtime both of whom are considering picking it up from Fox. Or heck, even contact Fox. And when you do, kick them in the groin for not supporting this show more fully. And when you talk to the other networks, tell them to grow a pair and put on more sitcoms like Arrested Development, instead of idiot "safe" programming like 2 and a Half Men or whatever other crap they show.

Speaking of funny shows, I've got to applaud NBC for sticking with two other very funny shows, My Name is Earl and The Office. In light of what I just said about Arrested Development, this may seem odd, but My Name is Earl is the funniest show on television. Also, The Office is the funniest show on television. Ok, neither of those statements is true, since Arrested Development is the funniest show on television (honest). But they're both awesome. And neither of them follows that crappy idiot "safe" sitcom formula with a living room set and a laugh track and a quirky friend and/or neighbor. No, these both are much more original formulas. They're intelligent. They build on themselves and create their own little heavenly comediverse (comedy and universe combined) (comediverse can also be an attempt to gather comedians from a wide variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds). So watch these shows too. Thursdays at 9/8 central on NBC.

And, one last little media-related issue. I've started to read a book. I don't usually have time for leisure reading when I'm in school - when you read as much as a law student does, the idea of picking up a book, no matter how great or entertaining that book might be, does not usually have much appeal. But this book is different. It's called The Areas of My Expertise. And basically it's like an almanac of complete world knowledge and other tidbits. Except that it's all made up! It's hilarious. And brilliant. I've even got my sister doing a piece from it for speech this year. My guess is she goes all the way to state with it. And if she doesn't, I'll blame it on a J.O.D. (judge on drugs). Just like when I was in speech. Except, of course, that my sister is good at speech, whereas I refused to practice or take responsibility for my suckiness. Those were the days.

And of course you can't become if you only say what you would have done

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I Wish I Wish I Hadn't Killed That Fish

So Laura and I decided it was about time we pulled our wishbone from our Thanksgiving turkey. We each grabbed one of the two prongs, made our wishes, and pulled. Unfortunately, I came up with the short stick.

Even worse still, so did Laura. In our pull the two ends broke off just below the center, where the wishbone comes together. The center, on the other hand, shot off to the far corner of the kitchen, mocking us with non-wish fullfillment. It's not a good sign when you both lose. This semester is off to a great start.

They point the cannon at you

Monday, January 02, 2006

What I Did Over Christmas Vacation

What a vacation!

A few sample thoughts and stories:

We started our break at the Novak household. Gorgeous snowflake lights and a softly-glowing nativity decorated the front yard, welcoming us home with the perfect beauty and peacefulness of the Christmas season. Completing the almost Rockwellian scene was a soft snowfall and a gigantic snowman standing complete with the mandatory seasonal garb - two eyes made out of coal, mittens on stick arms, a wool scarf wrapped around his neck, and sitting atop his head, the traditional bright yellow Christmas hard hat.

It was good to be home.

After visiting some friends that first evening, Laura and I snuggled into a warm cozy bed and drifted off to sleep. The next morning we awoke to the happy sounds of children playing. And when I say "happy sounds" I mean loud, strange noises, frequently followed by wailing.

In and among the usual crashes and shrieks there was Maria, who apparently couldn't remember all of the words to the Beatles' song "Here Comes the Sun", because we heard her sing the same line over and over. "Here comes the sun, dah-dah-dah-dah, here comes the sun, dah-dah-dah-dah, here comes the sun, dah-dah-dah-dah, here comes the..." On and on, at least a dozen times in a row. And a little later, she started up again, only this time she tried to get everyone to sing along with her. And none of them knew the rest of the words either.

And then there was Josiah (age almost-4) and Caine (age just-barely-2), who made strange "tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-THUD!, tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-THUD!" sounds. We finally figured out what this noise was when Emily, who was trying her best to supervise, frantically yelled "This is the last time I'm going to tell you kids: STOP RUNNING INTO THE WALLS!"

And a short time later we heard Theresa's voice call out with an exasperated question: "Ok, who put an apple in the toilet?"

And people wonder why we stay in bed so late...

After a day or two I unfortunately came down with a pretty bad bug. This really set-back our plans for visiting with folks because it was such a severe illness. Sometimes when you get sick, you can fight through it, and still manage to participate in some of the functions of daily life. You know, things like eating and talking and moving voluntarily. But this was no ordinary sickness. No, this was a severe strain of that most dreaded sickness: the 24-hour flu and spastic colon. About a week before our visit much of my family had come down with this bug, and apparently there was a germ or two still floating around. With my immune system still weakened from an earlier attack I call "finals week", I was no match for the 24-hour flu and spastic colon. It was utterly miserable. There would be no eating or talking for Matt, much less moving voluntarily. Instead, the 24-hour flu and spastic colon had reduced me to the point where there were only two things I could do, and both involved chunky-liquids being expelled from my body.

Sometimes simultaneously.

It was not fun.

After I recovered we traveled to Wabasso, to see Laura's family, and share all the wonderful holiday joys with her family: gifts, carols, cookies, and the 24-hour flu and spastic colon. Yes, I'm sorry to say that I inadvertently brought with me a little bit more than holiday cheer, and a couple Guetters also came down with the dreaded illness.

But on to happier things. Like whooping cough.

One of Laura's brothers attends a school where there had been an "outbreak" of whooping cough. There was really only one student who had it, but to prevent the disease from spreading, several students were quarantined, along with their roommates, if they suspected they might have caught whooping cough. Apparently this led their student newspaper to solicit answers to the question "if you had to be quarantined with any one person, who would it be?", to run in an article. Being an ardent Twins fan, my brother-in-law (B.I.L.) wrote in that he'd like to be quarantined with Joe Mauer. Apparently not everyone knows who Joe Mauer is (despite the fact that he led all catchers in batting average last year), because the student paper published their story, misquoting B.I.L. as saying that he wanted to be quarantined with John Mayer.

Which is really too bad for B.I.L., because now everyone thinks he's gay.

Apparently he called up the editor and asked for a retraction. According to B.I.L, the conversation went something like this:

B.I.L. - "Could you please print a retraction? I don't even like John Mayer."
Editor - "Then why did you write his name?"
B - "I didn't. I said I wanted to be quarantined with Joe Mauer."
E - "No, I'm pretty sure I know who you said you wanted to be quarantined with."
B - "Um, no. I wrote down Joe Mauer."
E - "No, you wrote John Mayer. I'll have to find that piece of paper so I can prove it to you."

Even if he were to get the Editor to believe him, I don't know that it would do much good. Apparently they don't print much more often than once a semester, and with the way rumors fly around a small campus, my guess is the damage is already done. Plus, if they did print a retraction, everyone would just think he liked the athletic type over the musical type.

One final story, to bring this whole vacation full circle. On New Year's Eve, the last night we were in Minnesota, Laura and I attended my cousin's wedding. My whole immediate family was there, and we had a terrific time. At one point, while waiting for the dinner to begin, Josiah decided that he needed to use the bathroom, and I offered to take him. When we got there, he led me back to the stall, and I helped him onto the seat. After a minute or so of clenching and grunting, all while I held him so that he didn't fall through into the bowl, he decided that maybe he didn't have to poop after all. So he stood up, turned around, and proclaimed "I just need to pee". This too took considerable effort, and I waited patiently behind him. When, all of the sudden, he was finally able to squeeze out a small stream, he quickly pumped his fist and shouted "OH YES!".

He sounded like he'd just won the lottery.

After he finished, he reached over to flush the toilet. Being a public restroom, the toilet was a high-pressure contraption, and very quickly and loudly the water was flushed down the pipe and replaced. Apparently this too was cause for excitement, because, not thirty seconds after the "Oh yes!" exclamation, Josiah again raised his voice with a joyful "whoosh! AwwwwYEAH!"

Sometimes, I'm amazed by the things children can find pleasure in, whether it's watching a toilet flush or running into a wall. Spending the holidays with our family was awesome. We hadn't been home in far too long, and we both had a wonderful time (when we weren't battling the 24-hour flu and spastic colon). Being back in D.C. is nice too, but you can be sure that we'll be homesick until we're back in Minnesota again.

And I say it's all right