Devil's Lake, Litter, Katrina, and other observations...

Today Erin and I ran up to Devil's lake for a hike. It was a very nice day and there were plenty of people out on the trails which makes me wonder if they took their day off or if they work nights like us. Should've asked.

Another thing that there was plenty of was trash. I picked up a few candy wrappers but next time I'm bringing a trash bag. Powerade bottles, energy drink bottles, and cigarette butts: oh my. My father is rolling in his grave. Of the things that bothered him most littering was near the top. And on the top of the littering hierarchy was the ever-infuriating cigarette butt. He once smoked but after the surgeon general said that they were bad he quit and took up some kind of personal mission against them. But I digress. The parody of hikers going into nature to get away from the trashy city/home/suburb and subsequently trashing nature is a pet peeve of mine and if I catch one in the act I will not turn a blind eye. And for the lady who through your trash out the window when I was behind you, "You are lucky I was so stunned that I neglected to get your license plate!" I still managed to open my window and yell but I don't think she heard:)

Why I hate politics...

Speaking of litter but some a little less controllable: there are still boats on the streets in Lousiana (Thanks to DB for the link). The woman in the article couldn't have echoed my sentiments better: "They sent boys over there (to Iraq) to fight in a war that never ends. Why didn't they keep the money over here when Americans are suffering".

No one expects that the Southern Coast should be in pre-Katrina shape by now but people did expect that priorities might change, that the focus would turn to American people and the real, somewhat preventable, problems Americans are facing. We are supposedly fighting a preventive war in the Middle East yet we can't re-build PREVENTATIVE state-of-the art (Denmark-like) levies to prevent another catastrophe in New Orleans. Residents of New Orleans acknowledge that the patch job on the levies won't support another storm so why are we not acting and putting our resources where we can truly make a difference for our own citizens?

I could blame certain politicians for their incomptetence but 99% of politicians are incompetent. The blame lies solely in the inability of us, the American public, to concentrate on more than what our TVs and corporate newspapers are spitting at us this second. As long as we refuse to insist that our politicians make domestic issues PRIORITY #1 then the neglection (and subsequent incompetence) will continue. As in any issue there is a balance but to insist we continue to spend billions of dollars in a country entrenched in a virtual civil war and then turn around and negelect our own is simply disgusting.

Distractions, distractions, distractions.

Gay Marriage! Here in Wisconsin we have a disgusting Amendment on the ballot aimed at making something illegal that is already illegal. Sometimes I wonder what the real motivation is behind things like these. There was actually a lengthy debate on TV tonight on whether or not to write descrimination into our constitution. What's at stake here is not the so-called "sanctity" of marriage (that is already protected), what's at stake is our image as an accepting and non-divisive society. I have faith that the fair people of Wisconsin see both the shallowness and pointlessness in this amendment.

Fact that blew me away today:

$6300 - Amount U.S. taxpayers will end up paying for every additional second spent in Iraq.

Life at Target...

...isn't all that bad. Erin and I have been working at Target for a little over a month now to pay the bills while we wait to hear from the Peace Corps regarding our departure date. After getting over the shock of becoming a creature of the night I've settled in quite nicely. I had reservations about working for such a large company but the ability to work the same hours as Erin, drive one vehicle, and spend time with her made the decision much easier to bear. Of course I miss learning from Seth at Bill Butler Builders but as he put it, "You gotta do what you gotta do." Even though we enjoy the work I think we've come to the conclusion that we probably won't work nights again unless the incentives are ten-fold. :)

Here's a link to an article. I think this person may dislike Walmart a bit:

My generation... sans self-censorhip! (Part 1)

With a little inspiration from Lee Rayburn (the MIC 92.1) I've decided to make more posts regarding my opinions on current issues. For a long time I've been engaging in a form of self-censorship probably attributable to feelings that my opinions or any opinion on a particular subject may be taboo or could insult someone I know to the point of harming relationships. Another possibility is that I may have feared how my opinions might be perceived. It probably involves a combination of the two, never-the-less I think that now, more than ever, younger generations need to stand up, devise, and voice their opinions about the direction that our country is headed. Younger generations are becoming more and more apathetic: towards voting, towards foreign relations, towards current events, and towards the political system in general. Two out 5 five people between the ages of 18-25 vote. I think my High School advanced American Government teacher said it best, "If you want to get kids to vote put a referendum on the ballot that will exite them: try reducing the drinking age to 18. The paradox that you have the possibility of being drafted to die for your country but aren't a legal adult until 21 always got me." Of course at that time (2000) the voter turnout for 18-25's was even lower.

So how exactly does the generation of politically active parents who spawned the civil rights movement, gave us the 26th Amendment, and protested Vietnam to the point of re-deployment raise a generation of apathetic, self-centered children? Anyone's guess is as good as mine but recent polls show that the majority certainly have opinions they just need an avenue to express them. Other promising data:

The fact is that this generation has more at stake than the majority of us do: a future.

Whereas our concerns lie mostly with the immediate, self-serving, present: 

  • lowering taxes
  • eliminating terrorism
  • lowering oil prices
  • anti-gay marriage amendments
  • war
  • corporate protection to maintain low prices

Future generations are going to be living with the issues that we neglected to confront adequately:

  • alternative energy
  • personal freedoms/civil rights
  • International political currency/standing
  • Global Warming Effects
  • Education
  • Debt/interest on that debt/balanced budget
  • Out of control corporations

In any situation there needs to be a compromise:

  • We need to simultaneously confront terrorism and maintain our civil rights.
  • We need affordable energy but we also need viable alternatives.
  • We need to confront global warming but we also need to pollute our environment for day-to-day living.
  • We need to improve education but we also need to accomplish all of the above.

My opinion tends to lean towards compromising our immediate needs for the benefit of future generations. Why not:

  • impose a gas tax to fund alternative energy studies and applications. First step in a "if you pollute it, you pay for it" society.
  • phase out and pseudo-eliminate government funding of the interstate highway system by instead implementing an interstate toll system. First step towards a "If you use it, you pay for it" society.
  • Sign the Kyoto and phase in harsh penalties for those polluting the environment we all share creating a promising environment for the creation and incubation of new ideas. First step towards a "find a need, fill a need" society.
  • phase out uni-lateral military operations. We live in a different world and all-out war against third-world "rogue nations" should no longer be considered. The price tags (both human and monetary) continually rise and shady no-bid contracts continue to be given to political allies creating if not corruption, then the appearance of corruption. Maintain the strongest military in the world for defense purposes and defer to the United Nations for offensive tasks. Wars affect the world, the people of the world should have a say. Reduce military spending and re-establish the US as a role-model nation. First step towards a "the best offense is a good defense" society.
  • fund education and create new motivations. Current policies advocating repeat standardized testings of students and basing school funding and grants on those results creates an environment in which teachers have no other options but to teach almost exclusively to prepare students for those standardized tests. This eliminates from the students' learning experience and creates an environment that reduces the morale of teachers . The education of our children should not be experimented with. First step towards an "invest in our future" society.
  • Phase-in mandatory one-year civil service commitments for young adults. Hear me out on this one. Between the ages of 18 and 25 able adults (non-parents, mentally and physically able) will be required to serve in a civil service of their choice. Be it the military, Americorps, Teach for America, the Peace Corps, the clergy, Green Peace, or countless other non-profit organizations (programs to be audited and approved by Congress) adults will have the opportunity to voice their values through their choice in commitment. The residual effects will be development and incubation of social values, social/societal/world improvement through the commitment, and the lack of a need for intensive recruiting/drafts. Those who chose not to participate can make a one-time payment of $20,000 (increases according to inflation) or face a significant income-tax hike until the amount is recovered by the government. Assuming that roughly 30% of the population will commit this will certainly increase the amount of funding needed for federal volunteer programs but taking into consideration that military spending will be reduced, opt-out payments will be coming in, and a swarm of ambitious volunteers will be heading into areas of our country most-needing assistance. Rebuilding environmentally damaged areas of the US? Filling vacant teaching positions or assisting an over-loaded teacher? Cleaning up the environment? Performing needed government research?
    Of course there are plenty of holes and "what if's" in this extremely rough idea but as a person in that age group I think the idea may be worth considering. I may expand on it in later posts and draft another letter to my favorite Senator Russ Feingold and get his take (his office really good at writing a detailed responses to questions). This will be the first steps towards a "better America".

All the above opinions are mine and not Erin's. She kinda thought the civil service requirement was a good idea though :)


An Afternoon Underground

This afternoon we headed to Cave of the Mounds near Mt. Horeb. We weren't surprised at all when we arrived and there were three school buses in the parking lot and 100 kids running around - the next controlled tour would be in a couple of hours. So we fired up the Kia (literally - these days passing children tell their daddies that it sounds like a race car) and headed into eccentric Mt. Horeb to check out a restaurant that dad used to rave about, The Grumpy Troll.


The restaurant has 7 different Grumpy Troll brews (we recommend the Trailside Wheat and Imperial Stout), exceptional food, a relaxed atmosphere, and WI-FI (which nerdy me felt obligated to take advantage of). We didn't have time to check out the Mustard Museum, maybe next time. :)

Here's some pictures of us in the cave...

The temporary cave dwellers.

A Cave Pool - We weren't luck enough to see any blind fish :)

Stalagtites and stalagmites.

Erin staring into the delicate, developing caverns.

The tour was very interesting, the history was fascinating, and the cave was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. I recommend everyone stopping in and checking it out, along with the Grumpy Troll, if you are passing through.


Us at the Grumpy Troll.

A Wonderful Weekend In San Francisco

About a month ago Erin and I hopped a plane to the San Francisco area to witness the marriage of my brother Aaron and his lovely wife Bernice. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was amazing. The 10 course meal held us over until the next night :) We also spent a day walking around aimlessly through San Francisco. Here are some pics. The rest are under the photo section.

The newly-weds (Aaron and Bernice). Congrats guys!
Us being weird at the reception.

Us in front of the bay bridge.

Erin being "MONK-ish"