Friday, February 29, 2008


Matt and I stayed up to watch Obama’s speech last week. Again. This is the second week in a row now. I’m sure we’ll be watching next week, also, whether he wins Texas and Ohio or not. We’re both on board with him.

My mother doesn’t think he has enough experience in Washington yet to run for president. She obviously hasn’t listened to him talk. That’s his whole point. Washington doesn’t work anymore. He said last week that ‘Washington is where ideas go to die.’ I couldn’t agree more. The ‘old guard’ has made quite a mess of this over the past few decades. We’re still in a WWII mindset, Vietnam mindset. Women at home making babies mindset. Blacks should know their place mindset. This is not going to change until we change out the current group, the last of the WWII generation and their kids, the baby boomers (the ‘entitlement’ generation).

I was reading the article in Newsweek this week about Michelle Obama and started thinking about exactly what the difference is between what the Obamas are talking about and the way the media is spinning what is really going on here. All this talk about change, all the talk about McCain’s age and Hillary’s stigma, etc etc, isn’t what this is about at all. This is about the pre-civil rights generations moving aside in favor of the post-civil rights generations. It’s our turn. And this covers race, it covers gender, it covers gays/lesbians. Economics and jobs. Middle class and poor.

Michelle is asked in the article what she would do as first lady. She’s very vague, stating that she would need to see what resources were available to her and such. But she does say one thing that really stuck out to me: She is interested in issues women face balancing work and home.

How many first ladies have *ever* had this problem? The vast majority of them have been affluent enough that they never had to hold a job outside the home, and those that did usually quit as soon as they were married or pregnant.

Michelle has, and still does, work outside the home. The article goes on to state that ‘black women have never been burdened with the luxury of choice’ whether or not to work. They only recently came out of debt, when his book made the top of the best seller list. This is a person just like us, a family that was trying to make ends meet despite having good jobs and everything they are promised under the American Dream. This is a new generation, a new mindset for our government. How many rich old white male senators have ever faced the childcare issue? When was the last time we had a young family in the white house with young kids? Isn’t it time for something fresh?

I’ve been accused more than once that I don’t have any ambition. My mother has told me this before, about something stupid that happened in 3rd grade. Yes, I’m serious. Anyway, I have often been concerned about this, too, because it appears to me that I don’t have much ambition. Go back to school? Yeah, maybe someday. No real drive, though. Get a better job? Well, I don’t really like my current job, but it pays well and such, so no, no real drive there either. I just don’t see the point.

But get me in a situation where a group of people needs help and damn, I’m all over that. Which got me to thinking: personal ambition vs. group ambition. Look at that in terms of politics: most politicians throw out a lot of talk about helping groups of people: poor, homeless, women, people without health insurance, middle class, unions, all those poor sods who got sub prime mortgages. Has anything really changed in the last 20 years? 30 years? I mean, for the better? No, not really. It’s all talk. Most politicians are corporate people, too: they will help you only if it gets them money or power (or both). And the middle class really doesn’t have it to give. The poor certainly don’t. On the other hand, big oil and big pharmaceutical lobbies? Yeah, they have a lot of money and power to give. Who’s going to win every time with the people we currently have in DC?

So, enter Obama, who’s been promising change and such just like many before him, including Hillary. Why do I believe him over her? Well, the evidence backs it up: he was a community organizer in Chicago. He went to the sections where people had been laid off from steel mills and gave hope and listened, worked to make their situation better. He knows constitutional rights, because he taught constitutional law.

Hillary? She was on the Board of Wal-Mart at the same time Obama was working the streets in Chicago. I know this because one of my cousins took her seat on the Board when Bill was elected president. So, yeah, I think she’s going to give us the same old, same old. It will be big business as usual, just like we’ve got now.

I identify with his activism. He is walking the talk. I think he’s the only one who is.

The Obamas are dynamic about this change and it is infectious. We don’t need another WWII generational president. We don’t need a president that was so arrogant about her chances to get the nomination that she couldn’t even manage her campaign properly and ran out of money (how could she manage an entire country if she’s this short-sighted?) I really do believe he’s the right person in the right place at the right time, and for the right reasons.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

From Russia with love! Or maybe Korea!!

In this installment we will cover:

-Updates about the refi and the job ap
-The surprise trip on Saturday
-The Visiting ‘O’ the Grandmas on Sunday

We had the finale of the whirl-wind refi of our mortgage on Friday, when Jeffrey, a local Notary Public, came to visit us and witness our signing of all the paperwork, and I mean an inch-high stack of paperwork. Fortunately he was a really nice guy, about our age, and we all talked about some interesting things.

Jeffrey, it seems, had a friend in Taneytown who was married to a small person (he called her a dwarf), and they had two kids (also small people). Apparently, they were really, ah, rednecks. Anyway, this guy called Jeffrey at 2 in the morning one night. He was in tears, he said he’d just seen his wife coming out of another guy’s house. And Jeffrey, who was still half asleep, said…

Wait for it….

“Are you sure it was her?”

To which the man yelled: “How many #$^!& dwarves do you know in Taneytown?!?!?”

So that’s done. I also finally got the application materials done and emailed in to FEMA last night, and I received a receipt notice this morning. I’m not thrilled about the job, I think I’m overqualified, but that’s the way it works around here: I’m overqualified for the support positions, but I’m not qualified for the training and administration positions. If I want to get a fed job, I need to get my foot in there somewhere. Tom of the Dancing Pecs told me that once they find out I can chew gum and walk at the same time, they start giving more job duties, and then you start getting more qualified for higher positions.

On to Saturday: Matt told me a week ago that we had a date on Saturday, and it was a surprise. So Saturday comes, we hop in the car and he drives us down to Frederick….through Frederick….down 270….where the hell are we going….Finally it dawned on me: we were going to the new Russian market he found down in Germantown. And yes, that’s where we were going. He was upset that I’d guessed. It is called the Russian Gourmet
a small shop but with LOTS of stuff.

They have a couple freezers and coolers with drinks, cheeses, and frozen peirogi and raviolis available. Shelves and shelves of jams, canned pickled mushrooms and other things, bottles of beet juice, loads of chocolates, tins of different pates and smoked fish in oil. Teas. Coffees. Those really good, heavy, dense eastern European breads. And a deli with meats and cheeses (mostly) from eastern Europe and the Russian states.

When we got there it was busy, but soon we were the only people there. Matt started asking about some of the meats in the case, and the next thing you know they’re giving us samples of every meat and cheese we asked about. And chocolates, too, samples of those. Very nice stuff. Great people. They also had magazines in Russian and CDs.

Almost all the labels were entirely in Russian. We had no idea what some things where and relied on pictures on the packaging to help us. For example, they had several bottles of sodas in the cooler. Some of them had pictures of pears or oranges on them, and we could figure that out. But one of them had a picture of two bells on it, and another had a picture of a nice woodland scene with a lake. Pond scum soda? So we asked, and the woman said “Oh, that is soda.” And we asked if it tasted like bells, and she laughed. The Bell Soda was a clear soda, sweet with no real flavor. The Woodland soda was herbal, and we bought a bottle of that.

We also got several tins of smoked herring and such (Matt loves these), some tins of shrimp pate, a few loaves of bread, some candy, some sliced meats and cheeses, some lamb ravioli for Grandma Helen, some pierogi for Matt’s parents, tea for my mom. It was a very nice place, and we will definitely go back.

Two doors down from the Russian place was an Asian and International market called Lotte’s. It is a regular sized grocery store, big for an international market. We went in there next. All the signs here were in some Asian script and English, so that made us feel better, but the labeling was again predominantly in an Asian language and had little English, so if it wasn’t obvious from the packaging what was in it we really didn’t know.

It was very interesting to me to see the differences between this market and your average American market. The produce section was larger and had some different things: maybe 4 varieties of eggplant, 7 varieties of bok choy. They had some fruits that you don’t see in other markets. The seafood section was huge with tanks of living, swimming fish and live crabs and things. I’ve never seen a seafood section that big, it was probably as big as the inside of your average McDonalds, including the bathrooms and cooking area. Big. The meat counter was tiny. They had more varieties of tofu than I have ever seen before. And they had quail eggs available for purchase.

We found a display of pumelos
in the produce section. They were the size of small bowling balls. The ones they have at Giant are usually the size of large grapefruits. The only other Caucasian couple in the store quickly ran over to us and said “What is it?!? Have you had them?!? How do you eat it?!?” It was really funny. We said we thought it was like a grapefruit and we’d never seen any this big before. They seemed disappointed that we couldn’t help them.

Lots and lots of canned oriental veggies like bamboo shoots and such. An entire half aisle devoted to dried kelp and seaweed. An aisle of ramen noodle-type packages with more variety than I thought possible. They had an ‘American’ aisle, and a ‘Mexican’ aisle. About 15 types of electric rice cookers. An excellent variety of spices and seasonings.

We didn’t get any veggies or seafood. We got a pound of freeze dried shitake mushrooms at a really good price, some frozen pork lumpia, a bag of star anise (89 cents! The pound bag was $2.99) and some galangal. Matt picked out some shrimp crisps (which sound awful but are pretty good). I got some rice cake-like sticks that were REALLY good and we need to get some more. We picked up two bottles of non-alcoholic Sangria from the Mexican section.

And as we were walking through the soft drink aisle, I looked over and said, in loud shock: “My god, they have Pocari Sweat!!”, which is a Japanese non-carbonated drink that has many positive ions. Dave Barry wrote about it in his Dave Barry Does Japan book, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy a bottle. It is sweet and flavored with grapefruit, but it is also a little salty, just barely, which reminds you very much of….sweat….when you drink it. It was ok. I wouldn’t go out of my way for it, but I’m glad I had a chance to try it.

All in all, we had a great shopping trip. We’re definitely going back to both places, to try some different things.

Sunday was Visiting the Grandmothers day. We first went to visit G. Helen and give her the lamb ravioli. She loved them. We sat and talked with her for a while. Then we went over to visit G. Mary V. I had some work to do there, she needed some of her necklace clasps converted to magnetic clasps, so I did that. I also got a pendant on a chain that needed some finagling to get it on. She was very happy and fed us really good tuna casserole and salads, then an apple tart. She’s an excellent cook. She is almost totally deaf now, and is going in for a cochlear implant surgery at the end of the month. I really hope all goes well, I’d love for her to be able to hear again.

Busy. I’ve been tired lately, but fortunately the refi is done and the job ap is done, and now I can focus on some other things that need done.