Saturday, February 05, 2011

An infinite number of John Cusacks holding an infinite number of stereos (Awesome Covers Of Already Awesome Songs)

I went jogging today and listened to Pandora on my phone while jogging instead of listening to my iPod -- because with our new computer we had to reset iTunes and that meant that all my old playlists are gone, and I haven't recreated them yet, so I have no running playlist and didn't feel like sorting through the 12,000 plus songs on my iPod while I ran because if I skip too many songs in a row my iPod jams up, and if that happens it gives me an excuse to quit, but I was very intent on wanting to complete a six-mile run today because I realized last night that each month since November I've actually run less than the month before, so I have to reverse that...

... I'm still a little amped up from the run, and from doing my taxes, which had some incredible lows (we have to pay the feds $1,074) and some not-so-highs (we get back $674 from the state), so bear with me...

... and while I ran I listened to a couple of stations, beginning with Violent Femmes, but I soon quit that because, Pandora, Nirvana (a/k/a The Bee Gees of the 90s) have nothing to do with the Violent Femmes, and instead I switched to the Slow Club station, where I got this song around about mile 5:

That is an awesome cover (as the title implies) of In Your Eyes, and as I ran and listened to it, I couldn't help but think two things:

First, that song would be great in a sequel to Say Anything -- John Cusack could maybe play the song on the guitar, this time -- and isn't it about time that we got a sequel to Say Anything? Shouldn't we have found out if those two made it? I mean, they just got on that plane and that's it?

And, second, as awesome as that cover is, it really demanded some audience participation at the end of it. It almost seemed like he was waiting for it, too, wasn't he?

After listening to that version about ten times on Youtube, I looked at some other versions -- lots of other versions, making me imagine an infinite number of John Cusacks in an infinite number of rainy nights-- and found almost none that were really worthwhile. This band:

makes a big deal about how their cover had to be different, but it sounds more or less like the original.

Sara Bareilles' piano bar version is only adequate:

But I did stumble across this version -- a girl singing along with the song on her webcam, and doing a really good job of making the song her own while staying true to the original:

So kudos to her for having the second best cover of this song.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

The field is lovely, bright, and deep, But I have cries of joy to weep. (Super Bowl Poems for Friday's Sunday's Poem)

It's my third favorite holiday weekend of the year (after 1. Christmas Eve and 2. Black Friday), so what better way to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday than to have some poems written by middle schoolers? Green Bay's Edison Middle School challenged their kids to write Super Bowl poems based on Robert Frost and Joyce Carol Oates' poems -- which means those kids know more about poetry than you and me combined -- and here are the ones I liked best:

The Best Super Bowl!

— Jasmine Wright

I think that I will never see.
A man that is as big as he.

The defensive linemen by the name B.J.
He plays number 90 for Green Bay.

When he gives his belly a great, big shake.
It makes Green Bay have a minor earthquake.

The Green and Gold love to play all day.
Especially when they have a guy named Clay.

His hair is long, and blonde, and sleek.
He dominates the field week after week.

I know the Packers will win it all.
Because they are the KINGS of Football.


Ode to Aaron Rodgers
-- Irene De La Cruz-Gomez

I think that I shall never see
A quarterback as good as he

He truly is the very best
Scoring a touchdown is his quest

A man that practices all day long
So he can get big and strong

Number 12 will lead us to a win
That guy knows how to throw a pig skin

To Dallas, Texas we all will go
It doesn’t matter if there’s rain, sun, or snow

A Super Bowl win is what we’ll get
It will be a victory we’ll never forget


Stopping By Lambeau Field
— Rebecca A. Charniak

Whose field this is, I think I know
His plays are over the top though;
He will not see me in this crowd
But when he scores he puts on a show.

My lovely mother must think it queer
To scream when he is nowhere near
Between my living room and Lambeau Field
The happiest night of the year.

B.J. Raji gives his stomach a shake
To ask if the Chicago play was a mistake
The only other sound that was heard
Was the roars and cheers the crowd did make.

The field is lovely, bright, and deep
But I have cries of joy to weep
And Dallas to go before I leap
And Dallas to go before I leap.

And, no, I'm not going to put a Hot Actress. These are MIDDLE SCHOOL kids, you sickies.

Vistaprint coupon codes from Best Online Coupons may help win an election.

As many of you know, I've been running for judge in our county. What you may NOT know about that is that it's REALLY hard to raise money to run for local judge -- the candidate can't ask for money himself, and even if I could, people don't necessarily pony up millions to a judge's campaign.

But I still need fliers, bumper stickers, magnets and yard signs -- and other printed materials, like labels and letterhead and envelopes -- and I've got to get those things on a shoestring budget.

That's why I bookmarked the Vistaprint coupons available through Best Online Coupons. Vistaprint has all the things I need (pens, stamps, notepads, other giveaways) and Best Online Coupons makes those things affordable to an underfunded (but very noble and worthy) judicial campaign.

One coupon gave 60% off all products; another gave free shipping -- which effectively MORE THAN DOUBLED my advertising budget just by using a
Vistaprint free shipping code available online, for free. If I can get stuff half price, I can get double the stuff. That means there might be TWO yard signs out there for me, soon -- more if I can get Sweetie to advance my allowance.

Best Online Coupons has coupons in more areas than that; they've got coupons in every category from A to W -- that's apparel to weddings, but I'll bet they'll find a Y and Z soon, so as soon as online retailers start selling yo-yos and zithers, you'll be able to save on those just like you can save on yard signs (hey, there's a Y!) and baby clothes and laptops and more with the coupons on the site.

So whatever you're shopping for, the Vistaprint coupon codes can save you money -- and maybe help me get elected!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Today in Wisconsin: The legislature votes to make itself irrelevant, and the AG says only Republican judges can be right. (Publicus Proventus.)

Quite a banner day in Wisconsin politics, as that headline suggests.

In news that seems boring but is far more important than you'd expect, the Wisconsin legislature today decided to do away with "separation of powers." From Channel 3000:

The state Assembly has passed a bill granting Republican Gov. Scott Walker oversight of state agencies' rule-making powers.

The bill passed 59-34 Wednesday was derided by Democratic critics as nothing more than a power grab. Walker and supporters said it will increase accountability and help to rein in agencies that craft rules that exceed lawmakers' intent.

State agencies carry out laws that legislators pass by developing administrative rules, which have the force of law.

The bill passed would add a number of new steps to the rule-making process, including extensive economic impact studies.

It would also require the governor to sign off on a statement outlining a rule's scope before work could begin on a draft.

Rep. Mark Radcliffe was the only Democrat to vote for it.

Here's what you need to know: Legislatures pass laws, governors enforce them. To fill in the gap between very-broad-laws and very-specific-needs, for a long time now the legislature has let government agencies make rules that help implement the laws. (Rules like the one at issue in this case.) Those rules have the force of law, but the legislature can always amend, revoke, or otherwise affect them.

Which means that the agencies make the rules subject to legislative oversight: if a rule is made that the public (or the legislature) doesn't like, the Assembly and State Senate can vote to repeal the rule.

But now, the rules will have to be approved by Governor Patsy. Which seems all well and good to the GOP that passed these rules -- but that's because their guy is in charge. How will they feel when a Democrat gets elected?

Having ceded rulemaking power largely to the executive, the Legislature has made itself irrelevant. It can pass a law-- but Governor Patsy (or any future governor) can keep that law from being effectively implemented by simply vetoing any rules an agency tries to pass. In the past, governors would have had to do something like withhold funding or give directives regarding how to enforce rules. Now, the Wisconsin governor's office -- already gifted with the power to craft legislation via the line-item veto -- gets rulemaking authority, too.

In fact, it appears in Wisconsin that -- unlike what the first US Supreme Court Chief Justice said -- it's the province and duty of the executive to say what the law is. And executive includes Wisconsin AG J.B. "Van" Hollen, who's decided that Republican judges are the only judges who matter, so far as he's concerned. Reacting to the news that a judge has ruled the Health Care Reform Bill unconstitutional, "Van" said:

Obamacare is “dead” and the state is not legally required to carry out the new federal health care law. Van Hollen, the Badger state’s top law enforcement officer, issued a statement in the wake of a 78-page ruling by a federal judge in Florida on Monday, Jan. 31, striking down the federal health care reform plan as unconstitutional: “Judge Vinson declared the health care law void and stated in his decision that a declaratory judment is the functional equivalent of an injunction. This means that, for Wisconsin, the federal health care law is dead -- unless and until it is revived by an appellate court. Effectively, Wisconsin was relieved of any obligations or duties that were created under terms of the federal health care law. What that means in a practical sense is a discussion I'll have in confidence with Governor Walker, as the state's counsel.”

That's interesting for two reasons: First, while the AG is correct that the judge's decision was the "functional equivalent" of an injunction, meaning that federal officers are presumed to obey the law, and the law is here that the Court found the law unconstitutional, the AG doesn't say why he will listen to Judge Vinson and not other judges.

Judge Vinson is one of four judges to have ruled on the law so far -- and two of the four found it perfectly constitutional, while two have ruled against it. So how can "Van" Hollen pick which judge to listen to.

Secondly, if "Van" feels bound by everything a district court says, why isn't he making sure that same sex couples can marry in Wisconsin? After all, didn't a federal district court rule that marriage is a constitutional right? Yes, one did.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

I didn't get to read the paper yesterday morning. (Life With Unicorns.)

Looking for a post? It's been removed and can now be found in my book "Life With Unicorns." Look for it on Amazon and Kindle. Click here for a list of all my books.

More time at the library (Life With Unicorns.)

Looking for a post? It's been removed and can now be found in my book "Life With Unicorns." Look for it on Amazon and Kindle. Click here for a list of all my books.

This is not a snow day. (I Get Paid For Doing This.)

I'm at work today. Most people aren't, but I am. And that's because even fifteen inches of snow isn't a snow day in Wisconsin.

This was what greeted me when I went outside at 7:00 a.m. this morning:

Forty-two minutes later, I'd shoveled most of the driveway and gotten all the way done with the sidewalk and front porch:

And then I still made it into work by 9 a.m. I understand if you live in a place down south where snow is rare, but a Wisconsinite taking a day off because of heavy snowfall is like a Hawaiian calling in sick because of sunshine.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Maybe the elderly and the sick can get health care from the Packers. (Publicus Proventus)

I know it's a small thing, but as Wisconsinites get ready to hear, tonight, how Governor Patsy is going to pay for the cash handouts to his buddies in business-- most likely by simply asking poor people to die in the street rather than get health care -- I couldn't help noticing that state workers (who Governor Patsy otherwise hates) were spending their (taxpayer-funded) time increasing the (taxpayer-funded) costs of government... by promoting a private business: lighting the Capitol Dome to celebrate the Packers' Super Bowl trip.

Think that's easy or cheap? Guess again. From
Early Monday morning, [State employee who presumably Governor Patsy wants to fire after she's done working] Trumpy ... unlocked door after door and led lighting expert John Hyatt and his colleague Jen Ahlstrom up multiple narrow passageways so they could transform the Dome's normal white glow to Packers team colors for the week leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl. The process involves securing colored gels over a total of 48 large round lights set atop the building's four wings. Sometimes the gel frames can easily be attached with screws and wingnuts, but usually some muscle or a Swiss Army knife is needed. .... For Hyatt the saga really began over the weekend, when he set off from Grand Rapids, Mich., with the frames and gels on a six-hour drive to Madison. Hyatt used to keep the equipment in his office on State Street near the Capitol, but he decided to close up his shop here in November due to tough economic times — and a moratorium on colored lighting for the Capitol. The moratorium went into effect this fall, said state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, until members of the State Capitol and Executive Residence Board can agree on a policy about who can illuminate the dome in special colors. ... Typically, the Capitol is lit in honor of nonprofit causes, such as red for National Heart Month and pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the groups pick up the tab. This week's lighting will cost the state $1,800.

So we have the money to pay specialists to drive up to Michigan and then tramp around the Capitol fixing the lights to celebrate a team that's not even located in our city and which earned profits of nearly $10 million even in a terrible economy, but we don't have the money for health care for the poor?

Nice priorities. Maybe alongside the Super Bowl commercial tally this weekend, we could also have a little counter showing how many Americans die each year of treatable diseases: 45,000 people each year. You have a 40% greater risk of death if you don't have health insurance, leading to 123 deaths per day from lack of insurance. Or five an hour.

So while the state spends $1,800 -- a miniscule, but symbolically important sum -- on lighting the dome this week to celebrate the Packers, think of this: during the 168 hours that the dome is lit up 825 people will die because they didn't have health insurance.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ninety-Four: Part Twenty-Five: Wherein Present Day Me Continues Reading An Old Letter And Gets To The Part About The Sheep's Eyeball.

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. From time to time, I'll recap that year. This is part 25. Click here for a table of contents.

As you may remember, from the last time I posted an entry in this ongoing kind-of-a-memoir, I found some old letters I'd written home from Morocco, and it's almost like time-traveling, and almost a lot more like a time capsule, in that I get to see, first-hand, what 1994 Me was like and also see a lot of things that 1994 Me was very excited about talking about, things that 2011 Me has completely forgotten.

That last post -- three months ago, now -- had reprinted the beginning of my first letter home, written on May 31, 1994 -- or, as I wrote it in a totally nonpretentious way, 31 May 94; Tues.

Here's where I left off. Having detailed my flight to Morocco -- my first time on an airplane ever, I wrote to my Mom and sister (the recipients of all the letters home) this:

The JFK-to-Casablanca trip was really rough; we had to keep our seatbelts on most of the time because of turbulence. Then, Casablanca was fogged in, but he pilot still tried to land twice. It was sort of like being on a roller coaster with 500 other people. I had to have other students explain to me what was going on, because all the flight announcements were in French & Arabic.

So let's dive in to the continuation of that letter! As before, I'll be throwing in comments from 2011 Me.


We got into Casablanca about 8:30 a.m.; it's only a 5-hour time difference, but I'd been awake 23 hours or so by then (we all had). The organizers brought us up to Rabat right away. (It's about a 1 hr. trip.) The 1st day, we were shown our school ("Cite Universitaire -- City of Knowledge")

[NOTE: that's not at all accurate. Babel Fish says Cite Universitaire means "university residence."]

And met our host students; mine is Nadia Acherki. She's 23, majoring in English lit. We slept in our dorm rooms that night.

[NOTE: I hadn't known, when I was signing up for the trip, that I'd stay with a host family, let alone that the host student would be a girl. This is shaping up to be a pretty hot story, right? Like "Road Trip 3: Road To Rabat!"]

The next day, we moved in with our host families for a week.

[NOTE: See?]

[NOTE: These teasers aren't in any way accurate. Sorry.]

Mine live on Rue Dakar, right near "downtown" Rabat.

[NOTE: I'm pretty sure those quotation marks, present in the original, were meant to convey a smug sense of superiority. Because, you know, I was so cosmopolitan at the time. Way above those Moroccan rubes who only thought they knew what a 'downtown' was.]

There are 7 of them: Nadia, her Mom, her grandma, her 2 sisters: Sanna & Rasheeda, her Aunt (I don't know her name), and her uncle, Hamid. Their apartment is about the size of Bill's [NOTE: that's my older brother], a 4th floor walk-up. I don't know if they're rich or poor; the whole city looks poor to me.
that's the end of page 1 of the letter. Remember, I put quotations from songs at the top of each page of my letters back then. The quotation at the top of page 2 is a suitably inspirational-sounding quote that's a perfect fit for a wanting-to-seem-important college student

"And do the things you should have done."
-- Jethro Tull, "Skating Away"

[NOTE: Get it? Because it's about traveling. Kind of]
Back to the letter, page 2:


Of them, only Nadia speaks good English.

[NOTE: Unlike your letter writer.]

Rasheeda speaks a little, and Hamid speaks some. (Except they all know the 3rd-World-slogan: "No problem.")

[NOTE: I really think I should've been punched a lot more than I was, back then. I wonder if 17 years from now, I'll look back at 2011 Me and think what a jerk I was back then/now. If so, maybe I need to rethink how I live my life.]

They say it all the time, sometimes for no apparent reason. It's a nice family, but tiring. They all keep watching me, (see what the crazy American does!) and trying to talk. It's something all the Moroccans do when they find out you're American.

[NOTE: I have been in Morocco, as I wrote that, exactly one week. I had probably met about 10 Moroccans... which I obviously felt to be a representative sample.]

They love to talk politics & religion and if we all really own guns. Everyone was excited to learn I'm studying "politics" (they don't know "political science") Among the most common questions I've been asked:

1. Anyone can own as many guns as they want, right?
2. What do I know about the CIA? (They're really afraid of the CIA.)
3. What do I think about the Gulf War? (Kind of a tricky question, here.)
4. What's it like, being Christian?

[NOTE: Those really were very common questions that first week. I remember that.]

And, 5. Do I like Whitney Houston? (She's really big, here.)

[NOTE: That, too, was a very common question.]

The family thing gets on my nerves because (1) they're always hanging around waiting to see what I'll do, and (2) They eat all the time.

[NOTE: Everyone reading this blog by now knows that I'm really not crazy about people and tend to like to spend my time alone or at least in small groups of people. Notwithstanding that, it's entirely possible I mis-read the situation back then -- in fact, it's completely likely -- and Nadia's family wasn't "waiting to see what I'll do" but, rather, being very polite and attempting to make sure that I was comfortable and taken care of, being in a strange country where I didn't speak the language. MY GOD, I was a jerk.]

The Arabic word for "eat" is pronounced "cool" and it's all the mom says to me. You can't explain easily that you're (a) full, or (b) not that hungry for goat. And they eat a lot. They have breakfast (bread, cakes, tea, coffee); tea (cakes & tea); lunch; tea; and dinner. Then, sometimes, more tea. Breag, big huge loaves, is served with every meal. The "cakes" are mostly almond pastries. You all sit around a low table, and it's served in 1 big dish (no plates, but they'll give you a fork or spoon if you want, even though they think it's weird.) Most of the food has rice, chickpeas, raisins, cucumbers, squash, carrots and/or potatoes, mixed in randomly. They usually can't explain what I'm eating, and I've learned not to ask (more on that in a bit.) They don't drink with their meals, and when they drink something, it's tea, coffee, Ikuka (Coke, warm), milk (gross) or yogurt (like warm, soupy Dannon without fruit.) I drink water, or, sometimes, coffee, because I want caffeine and they don't have diet Coke here.

[NOTE: One reason I was so focused on food... and diet soda... was that at the same time as I'd begun going to D.C. and Morocco, and doing things like that, remember, I'd also decided to lose weight, resulting in my losing just over 100 pounds in six months, and also developing what would more or less be an obsessive fixation on exercise and food that would last several years, and would see me get down to 162 pounds and run 15-17 miles at a shot before, one day, abruptly stopping that kind of thing. Now, while I don't want to necessarily re-start that whole thing again, I wish I had a little of the madness that I could maybe use about 3-4 times a week to make me go exercise.]

(There's no "diet" anything; I had trouble explaining it.)

[NOTE: Imagine that! A poor country where many people don't get enough to eat can't understand the concept of deliberately starving oneself to look good.]

Mostly, the family eats chicken, but, as atreat for me, they've cooked 2 special dishes: "Real Italian Spaghetti" (noodles & fish, no tomato sauce); and, of course, couscous.

Couscous is the national dish; they make it on Friday (their holy day.)

[NOTE: I have no way of knowing if that's true, then or now.]

There's 3 kinds: (1) Sweet couscous (not bad), (2) "Couscous of the 7 vegetables" (no meat, real salty), and just 1 time per year, (3) "Couscous with the HEAD OF A SHEEP."

I'm not joking. We got here just after the big festival when everyone had a sheep slaughtered. (It's related to the story of Abraham.)

[NOTE: I'm pretty sure that in that part of the letter I'm relating what Nadia and her family told me, as opposed to "just making things up."]

So they saved the sheep head (in the 'fridge) to cook for me. So here I am, excited about getting to try couscous

[NOTE: Really? I don't think I was being sarcastic there, so when I'm not a jerk, I'm kind of a nerd?]

which is rice with a zillion veggies in a bowl the size of a small table, and they're handing me bits of meat, which all tasted weird, but, hey, I didn't know. Then they told me what I was eating. I didn't really believe at first, so they pushed aside all the other stuff, and there was this boiled sheep's head. All in all, they said, I had cheek, tongue, ear, and eye. (The eye is special; they gave me one.) We then had a fairly complicated talk about just which parts of an animal Americans eat, and how it's served. I was about to learn the Arabic word for puke.

[NOTE: On that, I'll end this entry. That actually happened, though, and I actually did not barf, but only because I reminded myself...this is true... of that scene in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom where Indy ate all that weird stuff, and decided that if he could do it, I could do it.]

Click here to go on to part twenty-six

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