Friday, November 30, 2007


This news item is completely ripped off from Faroe Man, but I think it's cool enough that it should be repeated.

In October, Bill Clinton visited the Faroe Islands and gave a one hour speech on the environmental and social effects of a globalized economy. He devoted a large portion his opening remarks to the traditional turf roof buildings in the Faroe Islands. Clinton claimed that if every building had greenery on top, global warming would be greatly reduced. At times during his speech, he seemed almost obsessed with the turf roofs.

Now this news: Clinton has announced that he is greening up the roof of the Clinton Library in Little Rock. Indeed, it appears he's trying to bring a little bit of the Faroe Islands to Arkansas.

The above example of a more traditional Faroese turf roof house comes from this person's Flickr stream. There's a lot of great stuff there and I highly recommend you check it out.

The building is located in Saksun, a small village of 30 people on Streymoy. It appears to be a lovely place.


Thursday, November 29, 2007


I was shuffling through some songs on my iPod today when I stumbled across a long forgotten song called “Six Underground” by the Sneaker Pimps. It’s a great artifact of the mid-90s electronica and trip hop sound typified by Hooverphonic, Massive Attack, and of course Portishead. Listening to the song had two effects on me. First, it made me feel very old. I was in a very different place leading a very different life when this song was in heavy rotation on KCRW’s evening music shows. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but it’s been ten years.

Secondly, I realized I miss the internet boom. Those were good times, those late 90s. I was living in Los Angeles and pretty much being a bum. I lived in a garage apartment that cost me $50 per week… cash. With such low overhead, I didn’t have to work all that much, and I didn’t. But that sort of bohemian lifestyle was almost impossible back in the late 90s because of the internet boom.

Everybody was working. There was no way to avoid it. Once I made three phone calls that led to a bunch of people getting hired by some company bankrolled by the Crown Prince of Dubai. (They were going to be YouTube, but they got there a little too early.) I made $6,000.

Months later, I found myself behind a desk at an internet startup company that offered what was called “enhanced 411.” (Kind of like OnStar, but not successful.) I was in charge of marketing, or customer service, or perhaps copy writing. To be quite honest, I don’t quite know what I was hired to do. But I did have a desk, high speed internet access, stock options, and health insurance, so I wasn’t inclined to ask too many questions.

There really wasn’t too much time to ask questions because we were all busy playing Galaga and the “Back to the Future” pinball machine in the lobby of our shiny new offices. You see, back then us Gen Xers had decided to remake the workplace as a magical playland. As long as there were enough amusing diversions, the work would get done somehow. (We used to play office chair basketball in a warehouse in the back of our office, CNBC actually came to do a story on it.)

To a business major, this must have been an infuriating time. Hundreds of companies with no business plan were swimming in millions of dollars. There was a joke floating around the startups back then, it went a little like this:

Reporter: Your company is selling groceries over the internet and offering free shipping. You lose $8 on every transaction. How do you plan to make money?

Internet CEO: Volume.

Ah, I loved that joke. And for some, that joke counted as a business plan. It was easy to see that the fat times wouldn’t last once those billionaire investment bankers began asking exactly when they would start making money.

But it was a great party while it lasted, and when the Sneaker Pimps come on random play, I miss it quite a bit. In some ways, I would be perfectly happy to roll back the clock to those days before the Iraq war, before the Bush Administration, before 9/11. But in the years after the crash, I fell in love, got married, and had two very cool kids.

I’m not willing to give that up. But I do think I’ll listen to one more spin of “Six Underground” before drifting off to sleep tonight.

(*That's a lyric from "Sour Times" by Portishead. I briefly danced with Portishead singer Beth Gibbons backstage after a concert in 1998. I was really looking for a way to work that detail into this story, but it just didn't fit anywhere.)


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I don't know if its the rigors of the work week or an oncoming illness, but I'm crazy tired tonight. Too tired even to write. I actually fell asleep in my chair while trying to write that last sentence. Really.

So as I limp to the finish line of NaBlaPoMo, I do owe some sort of post tonight. As a little bit of filler, please enjoy another sketch from The State. Its only 40 seconds long, but it provides a pretty good example of what made them so absurd and so great.

I promise, I'll write something tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Several months ago, I wrote of the sketch comedy troupe The State and how excited I was that their neglected work was finally getting he DVD release it so richly deserves.

After several unsuccessful attempts to find it on Amazon, I went to The State's website so see what was going on. There I find this distressing statement:

"We are sorry to report The State DVD is now NOT being released this fall. We worked closely with MTV to make a great DVD set with lots of extras for the show, and the DVDs are completed, but they has chosen not to release the set at this time. We don't know why."

It's unclear from this post if MTV or its parent company Viacom will ever release the set. But it seems ironic that this company polices YouTube to make sure you don't illegally watch any of their copyrighted material, then makes it impossible for you to buy it legally.

Well, to hell with them. Here's another cool clip from The State. Perhaps one day we'll actually be allowed to buy it.


Monday, November 26, 2007


Just a few weeks ago, I shared some pictures of Nate and Will wearing some very silly looking winter hats. There was some novelty in this because they both hate wearing hats. But now they've got hat fever, and it's manifesting itself in some very funny ways.

The little guys recently got some hats from their Crazy Aunt Gail in Vienna. They look like the kind of hat Elmer Fudd would wear if he was an orphan in a Dickens novel. Here Nate modeling one...

Actually, now that I look a it, it also looks like the hat the lead singer if Spearhead would sometimes wear.Nate likes this hat quite a bit. It's not easy to get him to take it off. I believe the picture above is him reacting to such a suggestion... before he goes back to his favorite activity of emptying every drawer in the house that isn't child proofed.Will likes emptying drawers, too, but he doesn't like to face the camera while he does.The other difficulty in photographing Will these days is his tendency to run... everywhere...Will's other new hobby is roughhousing. If you're a dad, that's just about the coolest thing ever. Will will now run up to me an try to knock me over, then laugh uncontrollably as he's flipped around by his dad. Then he hides in his blanket, believing it makes him invisible.He's also a fan of running around the living room with the blanket on his head.This has resulted in more than a few head bonks, but does not appear to have diminished his cuteness in any way.
That's all the photos for this week. Enjoy.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007


This fine little hunk of writing represents the 300th post to this blog. It took about five years to hit 100, then an additional 11 months to hit 200. I'm proud to announce it took slightly longer than five months to move from that figure to 300. The speed with which I reached this small milestone is likely a product of my participation in NaBlaPoMo.

So what has happened over these past 100 posts? According to Google Analytics, this site has seen visitors from 64 countries including Tanzania, Columbia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Malta.

And what of the Faroe Islands? Just after post 200, I launched my campaign to earn more readers in the Faroe Islands, a small semi-autonomous group of islands in the north Atlantic. Since then I've gotten more than 400 hits from the Faroe Islands, representing some 85 unique visitors. A blog based in the Faroe Islands sends more visitors to this site than any other source except Google. That's no small task when you consider there are less than 50,000 people living on these islands. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue, and result with me actually visiting the islands one day. Time will tell.

As for content, there are some unusual posts sitting at the top of the pile. In 2006, I wrote about the children's filmstrip series "Patch the Pony." Apparently, there isn't a lot of information on the Internet about Patch, because that post was the most viewed page (aside from front page) over the last six months. The old post on the LA Clippers hat also draws a lot of traffic for reasons I have yet to understand. But sitting in the #3 spot is significant because it's a relatively new post. The post on my discovery of sheep! magazine hit this site only 10 days ago, but it caused a real spike in readership here. I guess people really love sheep. Or perhaps sheep!, as the case may be.

The search terms people have used to find this site have been varied and odd. The top few spots are taken up by various permutations of my name, which is to be expected. Next up is "Shahara Simmons," the wife of Clippers star Elton Brand. It's odd that I'm a top search result for this woman (who by all accounts appears to be a perfectly decent person), but I've just given in to it now.

But the strangest new popular search term that brought people here is "my girlfriend is a prostitute." Almost 40 people have visited this site while searching Goggle for that term. I was most puzzled by this until I realized that I actually wrote that sentence in a post on an old Dr. Dre song last year. So now I'm just amazed that this is such a popular search term. Is this really a big problem that people have? Perhaps I'm sheltered.

So I think I've peered into my navel long enough for one post. For longtime readers, thanks for sticking with his. For the newbies, hopefully you'll continue to find something of value in this space in the future. And if you're the Faroe Islands Tourism Board... call me. As always, if you have anything you'd like to see here in the next 100 posts, do let me know.


Saturday, November 24, 2007


It's Thanksgiving weekend, and we've been hosting family from out of town. That means I've not had access to my computer and the Internet at the same frequency for the past few days (people sleeping in the room I use to write).

The guests are gone and I've got to go back to work in a few minutes, so this post will have to be short and relatively content free. So, in the spirit of the season of thanks, may I offer the following list:

Things of which I am thankful:

1. Julie

Then, in no particular order...

2. Nate

3. Will

That's all for now, more tomorrow.

Friday, November 23, 2007


OK, I know the topic is a stretch, but news about the Faroes is really hard to come by in English. According to Faroe Man, there has been an a Danish Election that had implications for the islands, and the Faroe Islands soccer team lost to Italy this past week.

But I hate to repeat the fine work Faroe Man has already done, so go check out his site for those stories.

Instead, I'm diving down the bottom of the news barrel, and I've come up with a story about the BBC denying funding for a start up Gaelic television and radio service. Among other reasons, the BBC doesn't believe such a service can draw a big enough audience to make the endeavor worthwhile. But a supporter noted: ""The Faroe Islands has a community of 48,000, yet supports two dedicated television services, together with three radio stations."

So that's it. That's the Faroe Islands tie in to this extremely obscure story. How about a photo?

This is the village of Trøllanes on Kalsoy. It comes from a great Flickr photo set from this guy.

Kalsoy is known by some as "the flute" because it's long and skinny and has several tunnels drilled though it. The name means something like, "land of trolls." According to legend, the village would be overrun with trolls once a year on Twelfth Night. The villagers found this so awful that the left for a neighboring village each year. Then an old lady too weak to travel stayed behind and was menaced by trolls. When things were getting unbearable, she said, "Jesus have mercy on me."

Apparently trolls hate the name of Jesus, because that one utterance caused the trolls to scream and run away. There have been no troll problems in Trøllanes since.

Good to know, because I'd hesitate to visit any village overrun by trolls. They tend to be poor hosts, what with the menacing and all.


Thursday, November 22, 2007


This is apparently the web sensation that’s sweeping the nation. Someone decided to steal this idea from this other person, then it became something of a meme and Ransom Note got tagged, then he tagged me. (Is that clear enough?)

What you do is list things about which you are suspicious, then tag someone else. There isn’t much else to it, no minimum number of suspect things, no explanations required. So here I go, here are six things of which I am suspicious (Ransom did eight, but good ideas degrade when passed on):

1: Politicians who want to protect my children.
I remember Bill Clinton signing some bill about online decency and mentioning how my children needed to be protected from it. In the 80s, Tipper Gore wanted to protect my kids from naughty music. All I can think is, “who’s going to protect my children from you?”

2: Food that’s trying to masquerade as some other food.
I’m looking at you, carob. You’re not chocolate, not even close. Why do you keep trying to pass yourself off as chocolate? You’re not chocolate, do you hear me? Same goes for tofu. You’re not chicken/beef/pork/whatever, you’re a soy product. No shame in that. Just stop pretending.

3: People who have too many motivational posters.
If you need to be surrounded by posters with pretty pictures and captions like, “Working Together, We Can Win!” or “This Will Be an Awesome Day, Because You Say So!” then there is something seriously wrong with you. Anyone who needs that much convincing that there is meaning to their lives is likely leading a meaningless life. Some motivational posters, however, are acceptable.

4: Vegans.
Especially on Thanksgiving. They need to be watched very closely. I don’t exactly know why.

5: Anyone selling something.

6: Unexplained smells.
On more then one occasion I have left my house in pajamas and flip flops at odd hours looking for the source of an unexplained smell. I’m not crazy, mind you, but if I smell something in my home, I’d better know its source.

Now that I’ve revealed myself to be a paranoid and unpleasant man, my next duty is to tag the next generation, I nominate:

Birchsprite. She’s always looking for topics to post on. Try this.

Faroe Man. I think we definitely need to hear the Faroese perspective on suspicion.

Daddy D. Southerners can be very suspicious sorts.

Dooce. Because it's kind of like sending the President a chain letter.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I'm looking back through the archives and realize that I never wrote here about an odd incident at work last February. A man drove a white van up to our station and threatened to blow the place up. Roads were closed, our building was evacuated, and SWAT teams were tucked into every little nook and cranny for about a half mile.

After about four hours, the man surrendered.

I bring this up now because someone at work stumbled upon some video of the incident on You Tube (is that one word or two?) Ironically, this is video taken by the local newspaper. My video is better. Alas, it is not available online. (the voice you hear narrating the thing on the phone is not me)


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


It arrived today, and I couldn't be happier!Thank you Sam. I hope you shirt arrived today, too.

Sheep! fan's drink of choice? Archer Farms (Target house brand) sparkling water. It's not expensive, but it gets the job done.

P.S. OK, so there was a little swelling after the oral surgery.


Monday, November 19, 2007


For this week's batch of baby photos, we though we'd try some product placement. You see, back in 2006, our friend Ronnie made a pair of blankets for the as-yet-unborn guys. Once they were born, they fell in love with these blankets. They have to have them when they sleep, and they routinely run towards their blankets and bury their faces in them. So why not a picture of the two of them holding their blankets? Well...
This one turned out OK, but the lighting was all wrong, so perhaps I could try to move to another position and...Hey Will, look into the camera. Nate, try sitting down and moving your...That is not what I had in mind. Not at all...We've clearly lost control of the situation here. Perhaps next week.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007


Q: What do I have in common with the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain?

A: We both contain significant quantities of titanium.

While the Guggenheim got it's titanium from its world famous architect, I got mine from an oral surgeon in Oregon.

Many months ago, one of my molars crumbled to bits inside my mouth in a scene I was positive was a dream until I got the dentist bill months later. Upon further inspection, dentists realized that I had two teeth that needed to be removed... a sad byproduct of my impoverished days in the 1990s where I was spending my money on food (which decays your teeth) rather than dental care (which keeps your teeth from rotting).

In the months since I had those teeth extracted, I've been spending my time healing and assembling sums of money the size of which could be used to buy a small car. Instead, I'm buying new teeth. And the first step happened on Friday.

What happened was this, some surgeon put me to sleep, then screwed titanium rods into my jaw. The idea is that bone will grow around these rods and then they'll put in the new teeth... made out of a diamond-like substance!

The new grill will have to wait a few more weeks, but the titanium is in, and I guess it kind of suits me. After I was woken up from my 2 hour surgery, the nurses said, "you did great!"

Great? I just lied there unconscious for 2 hours. But I was great. Everyone has to have a talent, and I guess mine is allowing people to screw titanium into my skull.

I'm only half joking. I've had an amazing recovery. I had two painkillers Friday night (oh, the hallucinations I had) but that's it. I had almost no swelling, so I actually was on TV Saturday, just 24 hours after I surgery. So perhaps I really am good at being operated upon.

Next up, the actual teeth. I've spent so long with these gaps in my mouth that I don't know how to truly smile anymore. I'm sure if I pay them a few thousand more they'll teach me that, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Google Earth is cool and everything, but if you're looking for images of the Faroe Islands, you're out of luck. You can see the islands when zoomed fully out, but that's about it. If you zoom in even one click, it all turns to mush.

But, quite by accident, I have stumbled upon a pretty good resource for maps and satelite photos of the Faroes. It's called Kagi.fo, and that's just about all I know about it. I had to spend about a half hour messing around with it before I realized there was an "English" button that made some of the instructions a little easier. The interface is a bit clunky, but if you click the "orthophoto" option on the left, you can start to navigate your way through the satallite images.

And that's where the fun begins. If you're familiar with the placement of villages on the islands, you can swoop in and check out landmarks and football pitches and the like. And the resolution is pretty good in most places, especially in Torshavn. If you've got a bunch of time to burn, I highly recommend you check it out.

This week's Faroe photo comes from this guy's Flickr stream. It's the village of Nólsoy, which is on the island of the same name. Nólsoy is the island visible from the capitol village, Torshavn. It's also the home of many relatives of Ogie, a regular reader of this blog. This pic is for you, Ogie.


Friday, November 16, 2007


If you dream it, it really can happen...Photo courtesy of Flushed Face (her co-worker, actually).

Faroe Friday will appear on Saturday this week.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007


It's been 15 years of wondering, and today I finally figured it out. And to think it all happened by accident. I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's back up a bit.

Back in the early 1990s, I was attending college in Utah. With the benefit of hindsight, I'm not quite sure why I was attending school in Utah, but I was. Each morning, I would walk up to campus and cut through the faculty parking lot. On the back of a Volvo was a red bumper sticker with white lettering that simply said "sheep!"


What did this mean? Why was this guy so excited about sheep? Was he trying to warn us about sheep coming our way? If this parking lot was near the agricultural department, that would be one thing. But the school's livestock farm was several miles to the north, and this parking lot was near the health center and engineering building. So that's just... I don't know... odd.

Each morning I was confronted by this strange bumper sticker, and each morning I would contemplate its meeting.

Eventually I pointed it out to my roommates. They weren't at all helpful in trying to figure out what it meant, but soon we were all prone to shouting "sheep!" to each other for no real reason. (It really is a pretty fun word to shout. Try it.)

At this same time, my friends and I were editors of an underground newspaper called "Student Review." Each April, we'd put out a spoof issue of the campus paper. That year, we chose "sheep!" as our banner headline. Such was our fascination.

Fast forward 15 years. I'm looking at Deputy Dog (a blog I link to on my sidebar) and I find an article on "Five Strange Magazines." The first one is called "Miniature Donkey Talk." Then the second magazine is... wait for it...


I could not have been more excited. It's a magazine. A magazine that declares itself "The Voice of the Independent Fockmaster." The most recent issue has an article on long wool and, "How Much Cider Vinegar To Add To Sheep Water Tanks."

This was huge news. I sent an IM to my friend Sam, one word: sheep! As you can imagine, he was very excited about the discovery.

Sheep! is now online, and they even have a store. One may purchase the curious red bumper sticker I saw all those years ago. But unfortunately, the sticker now has some extra words that would likely clear up the kind of confusion that I experienced for so many years.

They've got shirts, too, and that was the icing on the cake. In what I imagine will be a Christmastime tradition, Sam and I each bought sheep! shirts for each other.

That might not sound all that significant (although it does sound a little gay), but consider this: Sam and I are going head to head in fantasy basketball this week. We should be mortal enemies. Yet instead, we're exchanging gifts.

If two rivals in a pretend battle can become put aside their differences because of the sheep! shirt, what else is possible? Perhaps the sheep! shirt can be used as a tool of peace throughout the world.

I suggest an experiment. I'm going to sent President Bush a sheep! shirt, but enclose a note saying it's from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Then I'll sent Ahmadinejad a shirt, but claim it's from Bush.

It's hard to know if it will work, but don't be too surprised if you see a photo of Bush and Ahmadinejad shaking hands over a negotiating table while wearing matching sheep! shirts. (And if I had any photoshop skills at all I'd produce just such a photo right now.)


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I’ve had Radiohead’s latest album, In Rainbows, kicking around in my head for about a month now. That’s long enough for the hype over the unique “pay what you want” pricing to die down. Long enough for the initial shock to fade. And what’s left is great collection of songs that is bearing up well under repeated listens.

If I could say one thing about In Rainbows, I’d say it’s comfortable. Not comfortable as in middling, or safe, or predictable, but enjoyable.

Radiohead’s last three albums have been significant pieces of music, but I’ve admired them more than I’ve actually liked them. Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief all had their moments, but they weren’t albums I’d want to make a part of my life. Not like OK Computer, anyway. In the decade since that album was released, I’ve come back again and again for reasons both personal and musical.

And with In Rainbows, Radiohead has released an album one can feel comfortable spending lots of time with. Sort of like a really smart best friend who’s easy to be around. You have to pay close attention when talking with someone like that, but it’s really not that hard and well worth the effort.

Much has been made of the fact that this is Radiohead’s most rock and roll album since OK Computer. And why not? In Rainbows has plenty of guitars and Phil Selway has apparently reclaimed his job from that drum machine (and he sounds amazing on this album, I might add). But in many other ways, this collection of songs is something quite apart from traditional rock and roll. Strings feature prominently on about half the songs. And many of the tracks are gorgeous in a way I think rock and roll was never intended to be.

Perhaps the best example of this is “All I Need.” This was the track that caught my ear the first pass through the album, and it’s still a favorite. It starts off as little more than a simple rhythm and bass line. Thom Yorke begins singing what is essentially a love song, but with lyrics like “I’m an animal trapped in your hot car.” The song builds with glockenspiel and various found sounds. Then, with one minute left, the song explodes into a sea of shimmering white noise. Strings, keyboards and glockenspiel (Radiohead does amazing things with that instrument) compete for space with Yorke’s voice as it repeats, “It’s all wrong, it’s all right.” It’s the kind of noise you just want to let wash over you in for an hour. Absolutely beautiful.

While Radiohead lyrics can be pretty difficult to decipher, I’m pretty sure they’re singing about sex in a lot of these songs. “I don’t want to be your friend/I just want to be your lover.” is a far cry from the mostly abstract lyrics of earlier albums. It’s a little jarring at first to hear Radiohead sing about sex… kind of like when you learn that all the nerds in high school were getting laid at band camp. But it’s still interesting to hear Yorke sing about people for a change.

As for the digital format of the album, the process of downloading and paying for it were actually quite pleasant. I haven’t been bothered by the supposedly inferior bit rate. I really would like some liner notes, but that’s a minor trifle. In the end, it’s all about the music. And the music is wonderful. It’s been in my head for a month now. I like it there. I can’t wait to hear the second disc next month.

To answer the question everyone asks about the question, I sidestepped the whole “how much to pay” question by shelling out 40 pounds for the disc box. Had I only purchased the download, I would have paid somewhere between 5 and 10 dollars. And after listening to it a couple of times I would have felt like a thief.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007


This week brought us my favorite British costume drama, the State Opening Of Parliament. Last year I wrote extensively on the ceremony, so I won't repeat the process this time around except to make two points. First, nobody does oddball ceremony like the Brits. Second, when you see all these civil servants dressed up like elaborately costumed characters from Alice in Wonderland, it's not hard to imagine why the British empire collapsed on its own weight.

I'm an avid watcher of the British House of Commons on C-SPAN. It really is some of the best reality based entertainment on TV. And the British accents make it seem much less sleazy than American politics. I'm slowly getting used to the new cast of characters, but Gordon Brown just isn't as entertaining as Tony Blair.

But State Opening isn't about new characters or entertainment, it's about old ceremony and tradition. And one curious tradition is one carried out by a Labor MP named Dennis Skinner. He's been in Parliament about as long as I've been alive, and he's one of the chamber's most colorful characters. He's regularly suspended from parliament for saying nasty things.

During the State Opening of Parliament, this guy named Black Rod comes into the House of Commons and requests the MPs come to the House of Lords to hear the Queen's speech. For a few decades now, it has been tradition for Dennis Skinner to make a wise crack immediately following Black Rod's request.

Last year, Skinner said, "Is Helen Miren on standby?" But this year he said, "Who shot the harriers?" I saw the movie "The Queen," so I got last year's joke. I don't understand this year's joke at all. Is the Queen shooing down harriers? The jet? The minor league football team?

I'm in over my head. Limeys, can you help a Yank out?

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Monday, November 12, 2007


While Will has been walking for the past several weeks, Nate has stayed pretty close to the floor. Instead, Nate has become fast friends with his little musical walker. He spent much of the past weekend running down the hall with it.

Then he turns around.And starts running in the opposite direction.It's enough to make Nate so happy that he forgets that he has a large bunch of his lunch stuck on his face and a Ralphie haircut.Then, on Friday night, it happened. He was actually using me for balance when he let go, and began walking. He took about three steps before falling to the ground and squealing with delight.

In my mind I've discounted the importance of seeing the first of things with the kids. Will started walking while I was at work and Julie was away on business. But when we eventually saw him walk, it was just as cool. Perhaps I'm wrong, though. Seeing those first steps of Nate and his perfectly giddy reaction was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Glad I was there.

And what of Will? Unfortunately, I don't have any really good single photos of him this week, so I'll have to make due with a photo of the two of them taken about a week ago. But Will looks cuter in this shot, so it kind of evens out.

That's all for now.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007


I work some pretty long hours on the weekends. I'm not complaining because I get three days off during the week, and that's very nice. But Saturday's can be a bit rough when I leave for work after spending three days hanging out with the twins. They get used to having me around, and often cry when I go to work. Then I hardly see them until Monday.

But if they miss me too much, they can always flip on the TV.
That'll probably ruin his eyesight.


Saturday, November 10, 2007


Another post on torture today because it's such a rich vein for comedy. Kind of.

I'm a little ashamed to admit that the first time I heard about the latest round of US "enhanced interrogation" techniques, I started laughing out loud. This isn't because I think torture is especially funny, but because I watch British comedy.

About one year ago, BBC America broadcast a show called "Knowing Me, Knowing You." I was a fake talk show featuring an incompetent ABBA obsessed host. It's a very funny show and the host, Alan Partridge (played by Steve Coogan), became a nationally recognized comic character.

On one episode, Alan hosts a political debate between three candidates from the major parties and one member of a gonzo party whose members all wear bald caps and promote head slapping as a remedy for everything. It is perhaps my favorite sketch in the entire series.

The only downside was that I now find the words "head slapping" instantly funny, even out of context. So when I was listening to NPR and heard the reporter say that the US was using interrogation techniques "including waterboarding, stress positions, extreme temperatures, and head slapping," well I just started laughing. I was appalled by the story, but I just couldn't stop laughing at the "head slapping" part.

So now I present to you the head slapping sketch in its entirety. It's about 10 minutes long, and that may be more time than you've got, but if you fast forward to 5:30, you'll get to the good stuff.

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Friday, November 09, 2007


If you're a native English speaker, Farose can be a pretty difficult language to figure out. While it's based on old Norse, it has a mostly oral tradition. It wasn't even written down until the 1850s. Once they started writing it down, the lettering often had little to do with the pronunciation. I've bee noticing that a lot when looking at place names in the Faroe Islands.

For instance, when you fly into the islands, you land on the island of Vagar which, of course, is pronounced, "vow-whar."

And that's just the start of it. Hvannasund is pronounced "kwana-sund." Gjógv? "Jek-v."

I thought I knew how to pronounce "Kirkjubøur." I believe Norwegian is has a bit on common with German. So if you pronounce Kirk like the German for "church," then turn the "j" into a "y" and pretty much guess what to do with the "ø." What do I come up with? "keerk-you-bore." Not even close. Try: "cheer-chi-ba."

On top of it all, there are mystery letters, namely "ð." I don't know what that is or how you pronounce it. I'm told it's not pronounced at all in many cases. So Eiði is pronounced: "ay-ee."

I could probably spend the rest of my life tryin to figure out how to pronounce "Viðareiði." Would you believe it's ", vee-ar-oy-yee"? That's what some book told me, anyway.

This week's Faroe photo comes from a collection on Flickr. It's of a village called Mykines on a island of the same name. Only 20 people live on the island and it's considered by many to be the most beautiful of the Faroe Islands. It's not easy to get there. Rough seas can make it impossible for helicopters and ferries to arrive and tourists are advised to avoid Mykines if their schedules are too tight. They may not be able to get back on time.

And in case you're wondering, it's pronounced "mitch-i-ness."


Thursday, November 08, 2007


...is not plastic.

It arrived in the mail a few weeks ago and I didn't really know what to do with it. Without asking me, my bank replaced my normal ATM card with a gold debit card. Gold. For a guy who once lived in his car, that's not the kind of color I had ever expected to see staring back at me from my wallet.

I remember when gold cards were first introduced in the 1980s. I was working in a fish store and some guy handed me the colored piece of plastic. He gave me a look that indicated I was supposed to be impressed. I just smiled and began leafing through the newsprint mailer the credit card companies sent us each week.

If you're older than 40, you don't need to read the following paragraph: You see, kids, there wasn't always an Internet or credit card machines and stuff like that. Instead, each time we had a credit card purchase, we had to look up in the credit card mailer to see if the card had been cancelled or used in some kind of fraud. If there was any question, we had to call a toll-free phone number.

Checking on credit numbers was a time consuming and cumbersome process and most customers would get impatient with us. But Gold Card Guy was quite upset that I would even dare check his card. It was a GOLD CARD! What part of GOLD CARD didn't I understand? They don't just hand these out to anyone.

As it turns out, his card wasn't stolen, and his purchase went through without any further hassle. But I learned an important lesson from this exchange: people with gold cards are dickheads.

In the decades since their introduction, credit card companies really will hand out gold cards to just about anyone. The colored plastic arms war has produced platinum cards, and even mythical black American Express Cards that can't be applied for and are only for the super rich. (They really do exist. I knew the guy who ran the call center for the a competing white card put out by Visa. But that's another story.)

So gold status in the credit card world doesn't mean as much as it used to. As near as I can tell, everyone who has a Washington Mutual ATM card now has a gold card. But I'm still uncomfortable whipping out a gold piece of plastic when I buy something. I feel like that wanker in the fish store all those years ago.

Today I actually made my first physical purchase with the card. I was buying pizza.

"How do you want to pay for that?"

I hand him my new gold card and say, "They just sent me this. I didn't ask for it or anything."


"Oh, it's just... they mail these gold things to anybody. I don't know why."

"It's all fine by me as long as the computer approves it."

"Oh yeah, I understand. It's just odd, you know... they paint your ATM card gold and you're supposed to feel honored by it or something."

"Sign here."

"I mean, they're everywhere. What's the big deal with it being gold, right?"

"Your pizza will be ready in about 15 minutes."

"If it takes longer, that's no big deal for me. I'm just a normal guy. I'll wait like everybody else."

"We'll bring it right out to you when it's done."

Overall, I think it went pretty well. Perhaps I am cut out for gold card membership after all.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007


The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted and it appears pretty much a certainty that Michael Mukasey will be confirmed as the US Attorney General in the near future.

His hearings brought up the rather uncomfortable subject of torture. I was always understood that we (meaning the United States) didn’t torture people. But once stories about Abu Ghraib and secret prisons began appearing in the news, I was forced to confront the grim notion that our hands aren’t so clean.

Perhaps most galling was the revelation in the New York Times last month that the US government was publicly declaring torture illegal, while secretly looking for ways to torture more people in US custody.

And on top of it all, Mukasey refused to say whether or not waterboarding is torture (hint: it is).

The White House argument for waterboarding (simulated drowning) goes a little something like this: the US is waterboarding prisoners, but the US doesn’t torture. Therefore, waterbaording isn’t torture. It’s logic that would make Socrates proud.

Furthermore, argues the White House, these “enhanced interrogation” techniques that include stress positions, sleep deprivation, extreme hot and cold temperatures, and head slapping, are not inhumane or degrading… and they provide useful and accurate information.

I’m willing to believe our president when he says this, and I’m willing to go him one better. If these techniques aren’t inhumane or degrading and provide great information, let’s give congress the power to use them as well.

Imagine how much more forthcoming Alberto Gonzales would have been if he had been taken out of a freezer, placed before congress and asked:

“Why did you fire those attorneys?”

Gonzales: I don’t recall.

(sound of head slapping)

Gonzales: Ouch. I still don’t recall.

(sound of water being poured down a man’s windpipe)

Gonzales: Oh, now I remember, I’m an incompetent partisan hack.

This should make C-SPAN much more interesting.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007


For lovers of fake news, it's been nothing but bad news for he past several days.

The Writer's Guild has gone on strike and there's no telling how long that may last. While the movie business may be unaffected, and sitcoms should stay around for at least a few more weeks, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart was the first to go. They ran what was the first of what will likely be man reruns tonight. And they'd just gotten back from a one week break, too.

Stephen Colbert's show is in reruns, too, but there was even more bad news for him last week. Colbert was in the midst of a run for the White House when the South Carolina Democratic Party decided to end all the fun.

His idea was to run for president in South Carolina as a Democrat and a Republican and perhaps snag a delegate in the conventions next year. It was a brilliant idea that hit a few legal snags. Campaign finance laws limited what he could do and how much he could spend and he had to drop his bid to get on the Republican ballot. (They were too expensive.)

But it was the Democrats who were the real killjoys. Even though Colbert paid his fees and even campaigned in the state, they wouldn't let his name appear on the ballot.

The seriousness of their candidates? They let Dennis "I saw a UFO at Shirley MacLaine's house" Kucinich on the ballot. Mike Gravel? He's on the ballot, too, even though he made this ad. Watch that ad and tell me Gravel isn't much more of a joke than Stephen Colbert. In case you didn't watch, you should know that the campaign ad involves Gravel staring into the camera for over a minute. Then he turns around, throws a rock into a pond, then walks away. The whole thing takes three minutes and is one of the most bizarre political things I have ever seen.

He's in, Colbert's out. Go figure

But fake news downers aren't just confined to our fair shores.

The guy in the picture on the left is named Fasi Zaka. You probably don't know who he is. I didn't know who he was until I heard him on NPR this week. Zaka hosts a current events show in Pakistan called News, Views, and Confused. From what I can tell, it's something like a Pakistani version of the Daily Show.

Last week Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared emergency rule and shut down broadcasts at all non-state TV stations. As you might imagine, News, Views, and Confused is no longer on offer anywhere in Pakistan, and it will most likely not be broadcast again while Musharraf is in power.

On NPR, he said his joke about emergency rule would have gone like this:

"The head of Pakistan's army, General Pervez Musharraf declared emergency rule on Saturday, clamping down on political opposition leaders including the country's supreme court justice. President Pervez Musharraf has not announced if he favors this action."

When I heard that joke, I felt truly sorry this guy isn't broadcasting. He's really funny. Perhaps he can come over here or a while. We could use a decent laugh while our comedy heroes walk the picket lines.


Monday, November 05, 2007


Note: Julie took these pictures (she takes a substantial majority of photos you see here, truth be told) and I don't know what setting she used, but some of them look a bit odd. But we had a family meeting and decided that they are artistic photos and are supposed to look like that. So there.

Things are cooling off quickly here in the northwest. So the boys need hats. This is not as simple as it sounds, as the little guys don't like wearing hats. But just this week we found some has they like to wear. The bonus? They're pretty funny looking.Will's hat is blue with white reindeer on it. It has four very silly looking tassels on the top, but you can't really see them in this photo. So we'll try another.OK, you really can't tell in that photo, either, but he is grabbing his crotch. It's his tribute to "Thriller" era Michael Jackson. Care to try for a third view of the hat?OK, you can't see the tassels on that shot either. It's a shame because it's the silliest thing about the hat. You're up next, Nate. Can you bring the cute and the silly?Yes you can. Nate is actually so enamored of his hat that he cries when we take it off. It's cute... as far as crying goes.
So it appears silly hat day may turn into silly hat month. (Months?)

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Sunday, November 04, 2007


As I mentioned last week, I and a few thousand other people have signed up for a challenge to post to our blogs every day in November. Fair enough.

But some people are taking things to a whole other level. An elite band of 25 have signed up to leave comments on every participating blog. This seems like complete insanity to me, but the first person taking the challenge hit my blog a few days ago, and left a very nice comment. Furthermore, it wasn't just one saying "tag!" She actually watched the Halloween video and commented on that.

To return the favor, might I introduce you to Snorskred. It's an Australian woman who has taken on the Norwegian name for "avalanche." Sounds odd, I know, but it seems to work. She is a "scam baiter." I hope to figure out what that is soon.


Saturday, November 03, 2007


I've already written on two separate occasions about Oregon's absurd outlawing of self service gas. Despite the fact that were are several years into the 21st century, Oregon's gas stations are stuck somewhere back in the 1950s. You have to pull up to the pump, and wait for some guy to pump your gas for you. It's kind of a hassle.

Over the past two years, only once have I openly flouted state law by pumping gas myself. But today, things got out of hand.

I'm in a hurry to get somewhere, but I'm almost out of gas. I pull into the closest station and wait at a pump. There are 7 other pumps at the station, and cars are pulled up next to all of them. Nobody comes up to my car, so I get out to see what's going on. Every single driver is waiting for a single attendant, who is in his little booth on the phone or something.

I look both ways, grab a nozzle, and start pumping. I thrust my fist in the air and shout, "Power to the people!"

An older woman gets out of her car and says, "Can you just do that?"

"Why not? I went to college, I think I'm perfectly capable of filling a gas tank."

"Yeah, me too. I grew up in California, I know how to pump gas."

"Take the power back, my sister!"

She swipes her credit card, grabs a nozzle and gets to work.

A third person gets out of her car.

"Really, can you just do that?"

I point to the gas station attendant.

"If he cares, let him come out of his shack and stop us."

"This is ridiculous, I'm going to start pumping my own." And she does.

"That's right, millions and millions of people in 48 other states* will pump their own gas today with no repercussions whatsoever. Don't let this lame station attendant keep you down."

Just then, my handle clicks. I'm full. I grab my receipt from the pump and get back into my car.

"Fight the power!"

I drive off. In the rear view mirror, I see the attendant finally leave his shack. I don't know if he was able to stop the other people from pumping, and I don't care. The idea is out there and it's spreading. There's no way you can stop it.

The revolution starts today!


Friday, November 02, 2007


I like to think of myself as the fountain of all Faroese knowledge, but this is an utter lie. I've never been to the country and have only been reading about it for couple of months. So I am forced to admit there are several sources out there much more worthwhile than me.

This week, we'll introduce you to one such fine source. Her name is Jennifer Henke and she splits her time between the San Francisco Bay area and Fuglafjørður, a village of about 1,500 people on the island of Eysturoy. The photo you see above was taken by Ms. Henke (her friends call her Jenny) near her Faroese home.

I'm still reading through the story, but Jenny is an American who has relatives in Fuglafjørður and decided to spend a year there after she retired (please correct me if I'm wrong). That was in July of 2005, and she's back there now. I haven't gotten up to the part where she explains why she's back and how long she'll be there.

But the point is she writes about it all on her blog, Jenny's Year Abroad. It's a great first person look at the Faroe Islands from an American's perspective. The fun stuff is in the little details of life she writes about, walking to the post office, visiting the grocery store, trying to learn the language. Its mostly stories about real life. The kind of stuff the guide books don't write about.

And, as you can see, she's a fine photographer as well.

So please check out her site early and often. I know I do. I'll put a link on my sidebar under "Faroe Islands Resources."


Thursday, November 01, 2007


Yesterday we went to a Halloween parade in Ashland. While we were there, we were interviewed by a reporter for the city's newspaper. We're all on the video at about -4:43.

For those of you wondering about my costume, I was a rapper. I purchased a rapper's medallion at Wal Mart. It was gold and said "Big Time Money." I was concerned that people wouldn't know what it was, so I left it in the box that said "Rapper's Medallion." (It was sort of my shout out to Minnie Pearl.)

NaBloPoMo, IT'S ON!

Note: A comprehensive report on all our Halloween trick-or-treaters can be found just below this post.

This month, I've gone and done something foolish, I've joined the army. Not exactly the army, but I have made a long term commitment (long term meaning 30 days) that I'm not sure how I'm going to keep.

You see, I was at someone else's site last year and I read about National Blog Posting Month, then someone else I kind of know signed on for this year's run. I was not about be outdone by those two, so I decided I needed to get in on the action, too.

People who sign on for National Blog Posting Month agree to post to their blogs every day during the month of November. At the end of the month, people who actually came through will be eligible for prizes.

But I don't care about the prizes, I just want to beat Birchsprite and Ransom.

But in the harsh light of day (or late night, whatever the case may be), I don't know how I'll be able to keep this commitment. November is sweeps month in my line of work, I've got oral surgery in a few weeks, guests are coming over for several weekends, and I think there's some major holiday happening around there. I'm a busy and unimportant man, where will I find the time?

Then there's the quality issue. A post a day is fine, but do people really want to read 30 posts about how difficult it is to come up with things to write about? Right now, I've got something of a regular posting schedule going. Baby pictures over the weekend, Faroe Islands on Friday, and some other humorous thing in the middle of the week. That leaves four other posts each week.

But like the people at AA say, "one day at a time." Let the games begin.

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