The Ties That Bind

Well….

$342.00 later, Scoop was indeed under the weather. Ear infection most certainly and, at least for the day, a sore front right let–so much so that he couldn’t walk well, stopped eating, etc. So, into the vet where they x-rayed him and found…..nothing. In fact, a little bit of soft tissue swelling, but nothing more than that. Here’s the fun part–he’s not limping much today. Still, I’ve been told to keep him off walks for a week and so today I went without him. It was….odd. Rest assured, he wasn’t happy. He followed me all the way through getting my walking clothes and shoes on, downstairs and out to the laundry room door and to the garage door where I bade him goodbye. He was miffed.

Meanwhile, his nightly intestinal issue occurred again last night after taking the previous night off. But don’t worry, Peanut chose that night to wake me up at 1:15 saying that her rat was keeping her awake. I put her back to bed and said, “don’t listen to the rat, OK?” She didn’t. And yes, she does have a pet rat. I don’t know what I was thinking.

In any event, Scoop was up last night at midnight, 2:15 and 5:00 A.M. I’m stupid, I know. I’m prepared tonight. I’ve pulled the sofa bed out downstairs and if he begins again his need to go outside, I will simply come down with him and leave his doggy door open whilst I sleep next to it on the sofa bed. That way, I can rest comfortably knowing that if ne’er-do-wells wish to take advantage of Scoop’s intestinal misfortunes-I’ll be right at the door and hear all. Oy. Oy….

Oy.

Peanut is apparently amped about Halloween tomorrow and has been in bed for an hour and a half now but isn’t quite asleep yet. Her mom testified to this a few minutes ago. Oy again. Stuff drives me crazy. Someday, when she’s sleeping ’till noon, I’m going to go into her room every half hour and wake her up starting at 6:00 A.M. and if she complains, I will simply reply “payback…”

I’ve got a few writing projects I’m working on, but little more I can do tonight. I’ve done some requisite research and for one news piece, I await one more phone call from an interviewee. I could probably write the piece now, but it needs a third voice as I have two already. The third would round out the story pretty well.

Sigh. What else can I say? I am suffering from over-exhaustion, very little sleep and a real need for things to quiet down around here so I can get some rest. I’m not getting that, so I think I’ll toddle off to bed and try to manufacture it for myself.

Goodnight.

Of Dogs, School and Polls

Now that my back muscles have generally reeled themselves up from slacking and hanging down like saltwater taffy on my bones, Scoop’s gone and gotten ill. Don’t know for sure–though I suspect ear infection. I’ve been cleaning gunk outta his ears for a couple of days, now. It’s like an archaeological dig in there. The girls in my house are grossed out by it, but I’m not strangely. No question that the stuff coming out of his thover is like digging out a Malibu hillside after a strong rainstorm, but he seems to appreciate it so much that I enjoy doing it for him.

Then there’s the past two nights’ nocturnal round. Between 1:30 and 2:00 A.M. nightly (or morning-ly), he’s been getting up needing to go outside and as he sleeps upstairs with us in our room with the door closed, that means someone has to get up with him on account of his lack of thumbs. So, that person is me. You thought my wife would be doing it?

Out we go and he…well, he squeezes off a few rounds, notably less firm than they should be if you catch my meaning, and he sort of ambles around the yard for a minute or two and then goes back upstairs, making a quick stop at the food cupboard to see if I’ll give in. I won’t. That’s what gets him in trouble in the first place. Up he goes.

So, you may ask, why not just leave your bedroom door open and the doggy door open and let him come and go? Fair question. Leaving the doggy door open, however, means leaving the sliding glass door unlocked and open and since it is downstairs and I’m upstairs along with the girls, I don’t cotton to that. There have been two burglaries in our neighborhood and I don’t want to send out the invitation. But, you say, Scoop will be on duty and he will have access. Yeah…Scoop’s not going to attack anyone and if he hears them, he may bark and wake us up–but then what. You want me to go down and face the burglar? With what, my charm?

I’ve thought it all out, you see. Besides, Scoop is nine years old and he does indeed have a threatening bark–but it’s reserved more for critters than people. And so if he were wandering loose about the house–he may well end up in the playroom which is where the sliding glass doors are and they have no curtains. So anything he sees go crawling across the patio is liable to get the Southern hunting dog treatment. If you haven’t heard a hound dog on the bay, as they say, or on the hunt, you’re missing one of life’s truly spectacular moments. It’s rebel yell meets the wolfman with a dollop of Yosemite Sam and it tends to wake the sleepers and dreamers, no matter what their state. He’s a mighty dog in many ways, but mostly in his vocal chords.

Meanwhile, the absurdity of the NCLB act plays on at our school. It is astoundingly depressing in so many ways to have such a profound focus on a multiple choice test that doesn’t really measure what students know. Imagine a year’s worth of learning broken down into about 75 multiple choice questions. Where’s the critical thinking? Where’s the independent thinking, where’s the chance for students to think for themselves. As a colleague of mine said, one day, these kids are going to have jobs and the boss will say, “I need you to come up with a solution to this marketing problem we have.” The kids will sit in the conference room and say, “can we have four different choices so we can choose the right one by process of elimination? Chances are, one or two of the offerings can be eliminated without even being discussed, so….”

Remarkable. It’s all politics, too. Apparently, parents weren’t happy with education–and rightfully so–so now they are? OK, go ahead. Tell me–your school has a high A.P.I. score. What does it mean? Does it mean your child is good in math, English, history, science, art, anything? Or, does it mean the kids know how to test well? Multiple choice tests are nothing more than tricks and once kids know how to outsmart the tricks, they can handle the test just fine. And yes, I teach them the tricks. I want them to score well–and then we move on and learn.

Lord, it’s annoying.

Meanwhile, new client to write for and a story to pick up on for the newspaper. I humbly beg you to read this article by the indispensable Jay Cost. He’s a statistician and an honest broker on the right: I suspect he’s right in what he says here. There’s something not entirely kosher about the polling data we’re seeing, though he cannot say precisely what. Whatever the case, one week from tonight–do yourselves a favor–and more importantly, do your children a favor, and vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin.

The Back Side

OK, look–allow me a moment of whining: I threw my back out again, lower back-not the neck, and Friday night was a blur of soccer practice for Peanut, cooking dinner and having some guests over. Problem was I had to do some of the cooking and I simply wasn’t prepared for the pain I had. I’m a bit better this evening, but still just a little tender so trying to take it a little bit easy.

Heck, that’s not even written well. Just goes to show you, I suppose. It’s been a fine weekend otherwise and I even got a good solid afternoon nap in on Saturday. That’s rare for me as I don’t do the nap thing very well. I can sleep in a car OK as long as I trust the person who’s driving. Something about the motion and such, I guess. But when it comes to napping at home, it’s not me unless I’m sick. So, I’m guessing that throwing out the back counts as sick.

I don’t take pain pills any more for all of the obvious reasons and while I do indulge in a few Advil, it was not a chemically induced nap into which I fell. My back was just tired of the fight. I’d stretched it a bit in the morning and even leashed Scoop up for a short jaunt, but I think that was just it–too much. Poor dog. It was the first time that he’s had to wait for me to catch up to him. I have one of those long leashes that lets out on a tensioned spool of about 25 feet and he never usually has to wait for me. I’m pretty quick, or at least quick enough to keep up with him. Not this time. I was slow and not very methodical in my walk, avoiding jarring steps and a gait that would stretch things a bit too far. So, good dog that he is, he waited for me. Patiently.

Next week, my mom and one nephew and my niece come to visit. Big brother Jerry is taking his wife on their neglected honeymoon (they got married in Hawaii where they lived at the time and never saw fit to take a honeymoon, I guess…). So, their eldest will go visit his dad while my niece and nephew come with grandma to spend a week with us here. We’re excited to see them all and it should be fun, if somewhat limited by the fact that Peanut has school and we’re at work all week. Ah well–some time is better than no time.

This week is the build-up to Halloween, of course. Unnerving holiday, Halloween. Oh, not the devil and ghouls stuff–that’s just kind of fun. No, it’s that Halloween tends to be a noisy holiday, even when it’s on a Monday night and this year, it’s on a Friday. This will mean parties and noisy kids in the neighborhood and all manner of such silliness. Ah well. It comes once a year, yes?

Just finished a quick wine article and I’ve got another piece to do tomorrow for the newspaper which makes me happy. On Tuesday, I have a new client for whom I’m doing some copy-editing. That too is a good time. Hopefully, my back muscles will start to cooperate a little bit more. Meanwhile–off and onward.

D'Alfonso-Curran Wines

I wrote a post last night and don’t remember what it was about. The site server went down before I could post and I was left with what I thought a decent post—disappearing into the ether. Alas…

I get to do a small tasting room profile on D’Alfonso-Curran wine tasting room and I’m pleased about it. Kris Curran is an astoundingly good wine-maker and while I don’t know her husband, Bruno D’Alfonso, I have had his wines and they are silky and delicious.

I have a claim to fame about Kris, though. A few years ago, I hosted a wine tasting and auction fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of the Conejo Valley. I was given the task of introducing the wines and the winemakers and talking a little bit about each of them. I volunteered for the duty and was happy to do it. I met a lot of fine wine industry people for the two years that I hosted. Kris stands out among all of them, however.

It was indeed a great fundraiser, though I have to confess, the people at the event were rather tight with their money. This fact rendered both my wife and Ms. Curran (she was not married at this time) rather affected. They found the combination of wealthy people and their lack of willingness to part with said wealth at first disturbing, then annoying, then silly, then humorous. Their opinions grew ever stronger with each glass of wine.

My wife Susan has many fine traits. One trait she has is that she is comfortable with people who are honest with her and down to earth. Kris Curran is one of the more down to earth people we’ve ever met and she and Sue got along famously. They essentially got drunk together and laughed heartily at the situation going on around us.

I’m not writing this very well and it is a first draft, so do forgive me. But the two went outside and were just laughing uncontrollably. Here I was left to finish up the festivities for the evening and so as quickly as I could, I finished up and joined Kris and Sue outside where they were finishing a glass of wine and laughing.

We left that night with promises to keep in touch, but we never really did. I suspect that will change now as today’s interview of D’Alfonso-Curran’s tasting room manager was a real treat for me and I’ll write about them with not only respect for the great wines they produce, but also the fact that Kris Curran is a good and decent person for whom my wife has a strong affection. That alone is reason to write, no?

Two Weeks to Go

So, I’m watching Joe Biden speaking after hearing Sarah Palin. Make no mistake–she kicks his ass every which way but loose. Her entire sound-byte was about how untried Obama is–in Biden’s own words–in International Crises.

What’s Biden talking about? How much George Bush’s financial policies have ruined the nation and how McCain is George Bush. Let’s look at that because I’m going to go with Palin’s speech as a given. She’s right. Biden said himself that Obama is untested.

But Biden is standing there talking about Bush’s “failed economic polices.” I’m not even going to link it for you–I think you can do it yourself. Why are we in the mess we’re in? Well, some politicians–Republicans included, mind you, thought that everyone in America deserved to own a home. So, they started Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two agencies funded by the US Government to allow people to get liar loans–loans that they knew they couldn’t afford, to buy homes. They were told that housing prices always go up, never down. They were told that they could re-fi once they got their adjustable rate loans. Yes–let’s look at how well that worked out.

Who was that, by the way? Yes, that was Barney Frank and the Democrats who wanted that. Now, the economy is in a mess and make no mistake–both parties share blame. But what did President Bush do? What did John McCain do? Oh, alright: Here. Here’s what they did.

‘Nuff said.

All is Not as it seems

All bright and sunshine today, I suppose. I continue to struggle with the numbers in the journalism class at the high school. I have 19 kids enrolled and there should be 20. Thing is, people don’t really want to take the class because it is not college preparatory and our school has now made a big deal of college prep. classes saying that all of courses should be college prep. Yeah. Well….

Anyway, the result is that many kids don’t want to take the class and since it isn’t college prep. I don’t really teach it like one, though I should. The problem again is finding the balance between expecting the kids to do the work, and driving them away with the work. Oh well–I have nothing pithy or funny to say about it. Well I could, but I don’t want to offend just about everyone–including myself. I could write funny and pithy things about lots of stuff in the school where I work, but you know–I work there and at some point, it may actually get back to the people I write about. Isn’t that nasty? Occasionally, I think to myself that I ought to write my blog as though I am going to run for political office. But realistically, that would make my posts awfully short, no?

Oy.

Writing-wise, I’m keeping rather busy and I enjoy it. I’m still a working journalist, but I am in the process of luring clients for doing some marketing work. I really enjoy both types of writing actually because they’re both fairly challenging and each is unique. Marketing offers the chance to be creative within a pretty strict framework and journalism offers the chance to craft stories that explain events and concepts without embellishment. It’s been wonderfully good practice, actually.

The election approaches and I’m still not convinced–about “The One’s” inevitability that is. I guess I’ll look back here and see come November 4th, but I have a hunch that regardless of the current hype, John McCain will be the next President. I do hope so, of course–I’ve made my case and taken my stand. And right now, it certainly is leaning Senator Obama’s way, but I tend to agree with Limbaugh that the “inevitability” is media generated just as in the election of 2000, the exit polls were all saying Gore won handily. I think the media, quite frankly, lies. And if it’s not actual lying directly, then they circumvent the truth.

Take this story about Sarah Palin. The headline, indeed the basis of the piece, is that Palin is out of step with Senator McCain on the issue of gay marriage. She is quoted as saying she doesn’t support gay marriage and voted against it in Alaska. It’s not until a few paragraphs in that you realize that John McCain completely agrees with her except that he doesn’t think there should be a Federal Constitutional amendment. He supported an Arizona proposition banning gay marriage. Palin’s comment was essentially something to the effect of, “I’d like to see us go that way….” It’s not like she said, “I support a Constitutional amendment on marriage and disagree with Senator McCain on that.

Meanwhile, in the story–buried deep in–is Slow Joe Biden talking to Ellen DeGeneres. In his debate with Sarah Palin, he said he would not support gay marriage. But when Ellen DG asked Biden what he thought of California’s Proposition 8, he said he’d vote against it–thereby supporting gay marriage. Now–what’s the actual story here and who is actually in disagreement with their running mate? And which one does Slow Joe believe, if indeed he knows the answer.

That’s the kind of crap people read every day and then assume that the headline says it all. It’s also the reason that while I’m not naive enough to be supremely confident, I still hope, I still believe—and I still think John McCain will be the next President.

So What?

Powell endorsed who? Yawn. So what? Well, the so what is the factor that he’s well thought of–as he should be. But this isn’t about a realistic endorsement. As the article quotes a source close to Powell saying…”does anyone really believe that he would have endorsed Obama if he were six or seven points behind in the polls?”

It’s still the elitist thing. I’m convinced I’m right about this. Every conservative, and there are a handful–and Powell was never really one of them (he’s “concerned” about appointing more conservative justices to the Supreme Court bench? Yeah–so am I. I want more of ’em)–that has turned on Governor Palin has, at their core, the same complaint that they won’t actually say out loud and it is this: “Sarah Palin is not a Washington Insider, she’s not an elitist, she’s written no books, nor ever been employed by The Atlantic, The New Yorker, National Review or any others–and she is not an ‘intellectual!'” Yeah. That’s correct. But see, these people, like their absurd liberal counterparts, Obama among them–that is if he did indeed write his own book–are more moved by the cocktail parties they can have than they are by real policy, real work, and real people.

No–Obama and most liberals still don’t get mainstream America. Yes, he’s leading in the polls–but I doubt those polls. Again, at this time four years ago, Senator Kerry was leading, too.

But the “Joe the plumber” argument is the argument that works. Most of us are out here wanting to work hard, willing to make sacrifices and people who start their own businesses are the heart of this country.

Look, I’m a high school English teacher, have been for 18 years. But government employees are NOT the heart of the country. Our money comes directly from people who had the guts, the courage and the will to start their own businesses and employ people. This is how the country works–literally. Lower taxes, you’ll get more tax revenue. That’s not political, friends–that’s history. That’s why John Kennedy lowered taxes saying in his speech, “A rising tide lifts all boats…” Indeed. If Senator Obama’s plan is to raise taxes on those making 250K a year or more, watch as the country slides further into recession and maybe even depression. Why? Because those are the people creating jobs–that’s where the tax base comes from and if their taxes are high, they won’t be employing people. Unemployment will soar and we’ll go further down the rabbit hole.

So–no more guilt by association. No more name-calling. No more absurd and ridiculous talk about Obama’s youth, rhetorical skills or whatever. He’s dangerous: He’ll create a domestic policy that is anti-trade, pro-tax, anti-small business and anti-average American while attempting to “spread the wealth” the way he sees fit. He’ll create a foreign policy strategy that is bound to put us into big trouble when he withdraws us from everywhere, cuts military spending and refuses to deal with border security. We’ll be attacked again–and what will Obama’s view be then? “We should sit and talk with them.”

Sorry. McCain is the only man that should be President now.

Marcello

Marcello is a little room of a restaurant up in Thousand Oaks sitting in a strip mall in the shadow of the once glorious, now majestic-Thousand Oaks Mall. It was good 10 years ago–and it’s good now.

We were able to hook up with our friends the Zylstras, down from their new home in Danville and our friend Janel Perez. Her husband Randy is a fire captain in Los Angeles and alas, he was on duty last night. We made sure to call him and give him a gentle ribbing…

The food wasn’t spectacular, but it was unique and fresh. Both Dave and I ordered a pork medallion special that was the aforesaid meat in a wine and butter sauce with peaches. The resulting combination was truly delicious, if not inspired. My wife makes an amazing dinner of pork and apples, but I daresay the peaches added a touch of sweetness that offset the savory sauce.

Sue had a risotto dish with shrimp that she said was “heavenly.” Enough said. Janell had a bowl of what appeared to me to be a kind of boulliabase with shellfish. It too was good. Lisa rounded out the evening with the lasagne special which had a pork ragout and she said it was also unique, very good.

Now–here’s the thing. We’ve been, like most folks I guess, watching our finances pretty closely. We actually prepared for this evening a month in advance, believe it or not, by saving money because we knew that the Zylstras were coming to join us. Our vacation last summer to see them–and the resultant one full week up the coast of the state took a lot out of us financially and we worked hard to come back from it. I point this out not to give details of our financial life, but to accentuate that though last night’s dinner was indeed excellent, it was also remarkably expensive. Was it worth it? Time with family and friends is always worth it, I suppose, but I can think of other places I’d eat for that kind of money.

So, as I’ve said, I’m no businessman. But I begin to see that value has to be something that more folks think about. I don’t mind paying for a good meal–if it’s really good. But with the economy the way it is, I have to admit that if I was running a restaurant, I’d be looking for ways to attract customers without soaking them–so that way, they’d come back again. Repeat customers, after all, is the heart of any business–no matter what it is.

Perhaps I am learning something from some of the marketing I’m doing.

It Ain't Over…

And yet still, here I am. I have many friends with whom I work and they are liberals. Some of them are so liberal as to be as liberal as the Democratic Presidential candidate this year. They take endless pride in arguing with me and I’m an arguer, so more often than not, I have let them. In recent weeks, however, I have changed….

I’m not as easy to bait as I used to be and for good reasons: I know I’m not going to win. These folks have been solidly liberal all their adult lives and many before they were adults. I’ve got too many other missions in life to make mine turning these guys conservative. So, I find myself ignoring what they say sometimes.

Case in point, passing through the men’s room today, one of my colleagues told me in his proud fashion that his daughter was working in Nevada this weekend to “paint the state blue.” Evidently, she’s doing politics this year. His daughter was in my class when she was a senior and I got to know her–exceptionally smart kid and a good and kind way about her. But what am I to say? So, “good for her. I wish her luck…” I said. What else should I say? “I hope she fails miserably, loses her job and comes home despondent and destroyed, sinking herself into a whiskey bottle and lamenting that the nation isn’t socialist like she wants it to be…” Nah. That’s not nice. Besides, I’d be too into it.

So, no–I don’t believe the polls, though I think it’s a very close race. I really still think McCain has a good chance to win–but that remains to be seen, of course. I think one thing is clear: He did well in the debate last night precisely because the debate was real. Both candidates did very well, I thought. And yes, I do think Rezko, Wright, Ayers and the rest are indeed fodder for the campaign, but they are not the major issue: McCain did the right thing by framing this as a political discussion about taxes, free trade, military preparedness and experience. That’s what’s going to win. In the end, I believe firmly that people are going to be reticent to turn a recessionary economy over to one party rule especially when that one party is pro-tax, anti-trade, anti-business and pro-surrender. It really is that simple. Will it happen? We shall see. I’ve been wrong before—but I have faith.

Meanwhile–speaking of small business. I’m cooking some more irons in the fire and I know I’m not the only one. Americans all over the U.S. are planning, working and hopefully, executing–their intentions to create more income streams for themselves. That’s as it should be–and those people, myself included, are none too happy to let the President or the Congress “spread the wealth.” I’m quite capable of doing that myself, thank you–but that’s the point isn’t it. After all–in that telling moment at the rope line with the now famous “Joe the plumber,” Obama was speaking his heart. He wants to take your money and give it to people he deems worthy of it giving you no say in the matter. You should be thankful for the opportunity to let him redistribute your wealth, you hard earned money. That would explain, of course, why Senator Obama’s own personal charitable giving is so abysmally low: He believes the government should take it from him and hand it out rather than choosing that himself.

Me? I’ll stick with the original: I’m the best custodian of my own income–well, in fact, I’m not. But, my wife is. I tend to be a spend-thrift where my wife knows how to save….thank God.

I have Zinned…

The election grows close and I grow worried. I do, I mean it. I think there’s a possibility that people are going to put Obama/Pelosi/Reid in charge of our flailing economy, making it flail even more. I think that with the nit-wit triumvirate (OK, Obama isn’t a nit-wit, but the other two most certainly are–their approval rating is lower than the President’s for heaven’s sake!) may cause real and lasting damage to this country and I think that the ensuing wars that are certain to rear their heads in the next couple of years are going to require focused, steady leadership that Obama and company cannot deliver.

Besides, I’m not a socialist. And make no mistake: Obama is.

So, there’s that. Then, I have to contend with the latest wine stuff I’ve got going on. We lost the Zinfandel we were making and though the Cab is in grand shape, I still feel its loss. I wish that I didn’t. There are plenty of other things to be upset about, the aforementioned being one of them. But I wanted Zinfandel.

I’ve wrapped up a few stories tonight but I have a few more to do. Still, I’m hunting high and low for even more writing work. Allow me to shamelessly plug my services as a marketing writer and journalist, by the way. Know someone who needs a brochure? Kindly send them my way, won’t you? Web content? Newsletter? E-mail blasts? Here I am, friends, your hungry neighborhood wordsmith ready to take up your cause.

Well…

School is, well….school. But, it is October which means there are plenty of fires burning. I’m astounded. I actually heard one newscast today speaking as though these fires were a brand new thing. Just flick back on my blog folks–we’ve got fires going back about the past five years now–and every year, it starts in either September or October. Yep–Santa Ana winds and dry brush= fires just as sure as 16 year olds, cars and whiskey=mayhem and death (OK, that last bit stolen from PJ O’Rourke).

It is what it is, friends. It’s how So. Cal works. Alright, I have a lot of stuff on my head and none of it related. I’m probably overly tired, so I’ll sign off.

Did I mention I miss my Zinfandel?