Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Tradition

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, which means I will be eating a lot of leftover turkey for the next few days, but the wonderful feast that Heather prepared was totally worth it.  My favorite dish is grandma's homemade stuffing (or as Heather points out, "dressing", since it isn't stuffed in the turkey), which Heather has graciously learned to make and ensures I have ample servings of every Thanksgiving.  This year we had my cousin Andrea over, as she is stationed here for training with the Air Force.  It was pretty cool sharing Thanksgiving dinner with a family member here in Texas, and the three of us had a wonderful time.  We all agreed that it doesn't feel like the Holiday Season when it's over 80 degrees outside, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the annual tradition of stuffing ourselves until we felt ready to explode, then sleeping it off for two hours.

It is interesting what traditions we observe, and to think of what life would be like had they been started differently.  For example, what if Macy's had decided to hold a giant clown show for Thanksgiving?  Would we have professional commentators commenting on a 2 hour show with clowns juggling, making animals out of balloons, and getting chased by rodeo bulls?  As much as I hate clowns, I think that would beat watching a parade with celebrity discussions on TV.  I mean parades aren't exactly pulse-quickening events when you see them live, but at least they are somewhat interesting.  Watching giant floats on my TV, even though it is much larger than the one I grew up with, just isn't the same as being there, which makes for what is in my opinion one of the most boring traditions in America. "Hey look!  It's a giant Sponge Bob balloon!  I can't wait to hear what Katie Couric has to say about this one!!"  "Be quiet, I can't hear the pre-recorded soundtrack of the pop singer who's currently lipsyncing his new hit single!"  Somebody knock me out with an untethered wii remote!

Watching football on Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is a tradition that I didn't appreciate as a child, but enjoy now.   I remember one of my cousins and uncle turning on the tube to watch the game each year, and I would go outside and find something more fun to do.  Now that I'm older, I really enjoy watching football, and apparently don't find as much satisfaction from trying to kick an empty 2 liter soda bottle through a crook in a tree (ready-made uprights) over and over again.  Ahh, the simple joys of life.  Just be glad we're not French.  If we were, there would be no annual presidential pardon of a turkey.  I can just see the turkey sized guillotine being rolled onto the south lawn.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanks for Making Me Look Good

The other day I was shopping at the Commissary, which is the military version of a grocery store.  I needed some TV dinners for lunch (although since I eat them at work I guess I should refer to them as cubicle dinners) and I saw an elderly gentleman, obviously an old retiree, who somehow made it out of the house without his wife stopping him; or possibly he has no significant other to provide dressing assistance, which was sorely needed.  While I take a bit of pride in my lack of fashion awareness, I don't feel it's to the level of incompetence that this fellow exhibited, which is saying a lot if you've ever seen me out in public.

This gentleman was decked out in gray shorts, ending at the knees, which was also the terminus for his black socks.  I'm not sure where I got the impression that black socks are not to be worn with shorts, or that they shouldn't be pulled up to the top of the calves, unless they are part of a sports uniform, but apparently this guy missed the memo.  The most memoriable piece of his ensemble however was the blue Air Force Physical Training (PT) jacket he was wearing.  Although I can understand the temptation to keep using military gear that hasn't seen the end of it's useful life after retirement, the PT jacket isn't exactly a well-designed piece of apparel to start with, and judging by this guy's age he was retired for at least a decade prior to the PT jacket's debut, which means he actually bought it specifically to wear with his civilian clothes.

All of this made me realize that there comes a point in your life where a person loses all sense of self-respect, or else any ability to make reasonable determinations on what will look absolutely ridiculous in public simply passes away with age, like one's sense of taste and smell.  In fact, perhaps sense of taste is like the other senses, and plaid pants are like using copious amounts of salt and pepper.  Maybe one's fashion sense simply develops cataracts with age.  Perhaps I too will find myself someday wearing gaudy clothing and not even realize it.  I have written a living will that instructs Heather to pull the plug if I ever start wearing Gold chains, pinky rings, a comb-over, or any form of polyester dress clothing.  I guess I'd better add knee-high socks and military uniform items mixed with civilian clothing to the list.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Some Things Never Change

This year I finally bought an e-reader and I absolutely love it.  It's so much more convenient than lugging around multiple books, and it allows me to easily switch between them, which is important, because I often find myself moving from one book to another in order to keep my short attention span from derailing my reading. 

Since I am cheap, and also because I feel my education was lacking in a good solid foundation of classical literature, I have decided to focus my energies mainly upon reading all the classics I never consumed growing up.  I started with some web searches for top 100 lists of books, culled the ones that seemed especially well known or potentially interesting, sprinkled in some well known titles that hadn't made others' cut, and came up with my own list of 100 books to read.  Ok, it's actually about 105, but let's not be anal here.  The great thing about reading these books is that not only are they intellectually stimulating, and serve as a sort of window into the past, but they are totally free!

On the down side, they certainly don't tend to be page-turners like modern books.  While one can read through a well written modern novel in a few days (or possibly even in one sitting), getting through a book written in a completely antiquated style from a bygone era, often using words that have fallen out of the common vernacular, is not a fast process to say the least.  It's still enjoyable, however.  I would compare it to the difference between going to McDonalds and staying at home and creating a home cooked meal.  The one is faster, easier, and more convenient, but the other has its own reward that comes at a slower pace and with more effort, but which can't be compared with mass-produced food eaten in an environment surrounded by screaming kids.

On occasion a classic surprises me with a special treat.  While working my way through Thomas Hobbes' tome on society and government, "Leviathan", I actually found myself laughing out loud at the combination of realizing "wow, some things never change" and the author's unique way of expressing his exasperation.  In the passage, written in old style English of the time of course, he has this to say about elitists who not only think they are smarter than the common man, but who try to demonstrate their superiority by writing a lot of hard to comprehend nonsense that sounds highly educated but doesn't really say anything.  If you have ever taken college courses you have probably come across these folks, either as professors or in your reading assignments.  But Let me share a slice of Hobbes' actual words, where he gives an example from his own day and posts his commentary on it.  You can still hear his aggravation in this piece written over three and a half centuries ago:

"What is the meaning of these words: 'The first cause does not necessarily inflow any thing into the second, by force of the Essential subordination of the second causes, by which it may help it to work'?  They are the translation of the title of the sixth chapter of Suarez' first book, Of the Concourse, Motion, and Help of God.  When men write whole volumes of such stuff, are they not mad, or intend to make others so?"

Remember that line and you can use it the next time someone is trying to dazzle you with their intellectual superiority that translates into undecipherable gobbledy-gook.  "Are you out of your mind, or are you simply trying to drive me out of mine?"  Well said, Hobbes, well said.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

If the Shoe Fits

I'm not what you would call "fashion conscious", which is another way of saying I have no real style, unless jeans and t-shirts are a style, and not just me being lazy and placing comfort above all else in my clothing choices.  I noticed this morning that my t-shirt that I got at Yellowstone a few years ago has a hole in it, which means I apparently need to visit another tourist attraction or run another race - since this is where the majority of my shirts come from. 

I'm regretting a little bit my decision last week to turn down an offer for a free shirt.  I heard that there was a blood drive going on to collect blood to send to Afghanistan for the troops' use there, and they were short of O negative donors.  Since I'm O negative I headed down to the bloodmobile to make my patriotic contribution; unfortunately I was unable to make a donation due to medicine that I am on.  Also unfortunate was the fact that the nurse didn't make this conclusion until after we had gone through the whole rest of the screening process, including pricking my finger (hemoglobin levels were good) and detailing the 16 countries I have visited (nothing disqualifying there).  As a consolation she offered me a free t-shirt, but somehow I just wouldn't feel right wearing a shirt that declares that I gave blood when, in fact, I didn't.  If she had produced a shirt that said "I tried to give blood but was disqualified" I would have taken that, both because it would have been true, and to keep people guessing as to the reason: "Does he have a new eagle tattoo across his back?  A piercing, maybe, or some blood borne illness?"

Fortunately my stock of t-shirts is still sufficiently deep to guarantee a rotation of fresh shirts daily, but my trail shoes are also in need of replacement, and my shoe roster isn't as deep.  So I spent last week performing one of my least favorite  activities - shopping for clothing.  I think I may have finally found some shoes that meet my criteria - comfortable, with decent traction for off road hiking, and not ridiculous looking (at least to me).  Unfortunately the store didn't have my size, so today I have to continue the quest.  I'll be glad when I'm done shopping, and I'm sure my feet will be grateful to slip out of these 2.5 year old shoes and into something a little more comfortable.