It should go without saying...

...but it doesn't. None of the viewpoints or opinions expressed on this blog reflect the views and opinions of the United States government, the Peace Corps or anybody else besides me!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Barack; Beer Noodles; Bye

So, this is it: where the rubber meets the road. Time to put my money where my mouth is. Departure day. I'm not nearly as nervous or anxious as I was expecting to be. Of course, it has been 21 months since I began my online Peace Corps application. That's a really long time to get really comfortable with the idea of moving to a nice little hut on the other side of the world. And, as we say in Oklahoma, this ain't exactly my first rodeo: I've left home, by myself, for parts unknown to do a job I knew very little about several times before. Kalyn's campaign, my internship in DC, the midterms, the Obama campaign all qualify. In many ways, this is simply the next logical step.

The truth is, I've been bored out of my skull since the election.

Anyway, I was happy to pass my last night in Oklahoma by watching Barack's speech. I wasn't underwhelmed at all, he was clear, rousing, statesman-like. All in all, I'll be leaving America with a good taste in my mouth...literally, actually, because the other thing I did was fix the mega-fantastic culinary sensation of my own design now sweeping the finest, most stylish cafes and sophisticated ristorantes of Europe: Beer Noodles! I just had to have it one last time before I go.
I invented beer noodles one hot, hungry summer night back in 2006. It was around midnight and I was famished. There was nothing in the kitchen except beer, beef, raman noodles, a thing of fiesta style grated cheese and taco seasoning. So, I combined that unwieldy collection of raw ingredients and turned them into probably the most delicious thing that's ever been cooked. Of course, beer noodles hasn't really caught on yet. It's possible I might be the only one that's ever actually agreed to try it. My roommate at the time refused to even take a bite on the grounds that my imaginative approach to cooking couldn't possibly make up for my utter lack of aptitude and, even were they to be perfectly prepared, beer noodles would still represent a serious health hazard. But only if you believe cholesterol and salt don't promote cardiovascular health (a damn lie, if you ask me).
Anyway, so long and thanks for all the fish! J Kebs out!

Goin' Away Par-tay; The Wedding To End All Weddings; Addressing Congress: Barack's Finest Hour?

Well, we finally had round two of my going away party. It was pretty well attended and it was a lot of fun. I'm just going to upload a few snapshots, letting a picture be worth a thousand words.

To the left, I'm cutting my going away cake. I'm wearing the grass skirt my aunt got me as a joke present and my waterproof Steve Irwin hat. Last night, we had a rainstorm in Oklahoma and I went outside and sat in it with my Steve Irwin hat and my waterproof, convertible-to-shorts pants, to test them out. They worked very well.

The day after my going away party, a good friend of mine named Kalyn Free got married. I originally met Kalyn back in 2004 when I was an intern on her congressional campaign. Since the conclusion of that spirited but ultimately unsuccessful attempt, she has gone on to greener pastures: founding her own political action committee for Native American candidates, becoming an At-large member of the Democratic National Committee and suing Continental Carbon for the awful mess they created near their big sludge plant in Poteau or Pawnee or some other such place. Anyway, when most people get married they throw a wedding. When Kalyn gets married she throws a three ring circus, complete with dazzling special effects and a guest list that's a who's who of Oklahoma politics, including the Lt. Governor Jari Askins and one of the vice-chairs of the Party (I don't know how I got included in this august assemblage).

The groom was Steve Bruner, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer and a tribal councilman. He arrived at the wedding in a helicopter...yes, a helicopter. To the sound of the "Mission Impossible" theme. I didn't think to take a picture of it, unfortunately. But just when the impression I had somehow stumbled into a "Magnum, P.I." rerun was becoming quite distinct, Kalyn arrived in the conestoga wagon pictured above ("The Bruner Schooner") to make an equally big splash. The vows were mercifully short and followed by a large fireworks display.

The reception following it was pretty fancy. Good food, good folks and (most importantly) free beer and wine.

So, a word about the president's health care reform plan. Barack is giving a big speech tonight to Congress hoping to win over enough votes to get something passed. The issue of health care reform is one that I take very personally and was one of the reasons I went to work for him during the general election. I've been pretty disappointed with his performance on this issue (and others) thus far and I'd like to believe he'll give a great, public-option saving speech tonight, but I'm expecting to be underwhelmed. On a brighter note, at the wedding on Saturday I talked to our old campaign manager from Kalyn's campaign in 2004 because he knows a lot more about such things than I do about health care. I asked him what he thought the chances of the public option's survival and eventual implementation. He surprised me by giving it 55/45 in favor.

Of course, I'm a lefty liberal so I think the public option is absolutely essential for creating real reform. Actual, I'm in favor of the single-payer system, like they have in Britain or Denmark or Spain or Italy. But, maybe real reform will have to be a much more gradual change than I'd like. Maybe he'll get some of what he wants now and come back and get the rest later, perhaps in the second term. Whatever happens, it'll surely be a lot harder without Teddy. And, if anybody can give the great, sea-changing speech we need to salvage this effort, it's Barack.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I'm a refugee again; Tyson's exercise program

Well, as pf the 31st I'm officially moved out my apartment. These last ten days--now nine days--I'll pass at mom and dad's in nearby Claremore. Every time I have to move back home for whatever reason I always swear it's the last time. But this time, I really, really for real mean it. (except for when I get home from the Peace Corps; that post-Vanuatu job search will be interminable).

Above is a picture of my now former apartment. It may have been a crappy little efficiency with spiders and other insect infestations and noisy neighbors and the loudest air-conditioning unit this side of 1959, but I'm really going to miss that place. Yes, it was a hovel. Yes, the insect infestations were largely the result of the squalor I myself created with my "relaxed" attitude towards cleanliness and trash disposal. Yes, I expended literally zero effort on interior decorations, so the place had kind of a grim, Soviet-era cinder block apartment feel to it. But, I was very comfortable there. I lived there considerably longer than any other place (not counting mom and dad's). I'll miss it.
I didn't make much of an effort to clean. Sure, I made a good faith showing of mopping and vacuuming and dusting/scrubbing things, but I knew the second I handed over that $300 deposit when I moved in that I would probably never see any of that money ever again, and I made peace with that inevitability a long time ago. Towards the end of thre move, I started throwing stuff away rather than go to the trouble of carrying it to the car. I just left some stuff behind in the apartment on the theory that they'll have to hire somebody to clean the place up before the next resident moves in anyway, those people might as well have to throw stuff away I didn't have time for, too (I also left half a bottle of vodka behind to soften the blow).

In other parents have two dogs. One of them is a pug named Tyson. Tyson is a strange dog. He has many undesireable traits and bad habits: he's ugly, fat, cowardly, abysmally stupid, shamelessly sycophantic. He's also pretty much deaf. And I seriously think he's coming down with some kind of doggy schizophrenia--he periodically barks or growls at the sky (he's like a reverse watch-dog: when he barks we know nobody is there because if a stranger was really approaching, Tyson would be cowering in the dog igloo).

Of that laundry list of problems, I'm concerned with the obesity. He's nearly twice the normal, healthy weight of a pug and he pants constantly, even when he hasn't been exercising. So, I've decided to whip him into shape before I go. Today, we took our first walk around the neighborhood. We walked around a new development that just went up a short ways down Old 88 from my parents' house. As you can see, we encountered a nice little pond with a fountain thing out in the middle of it.

Really, the only form of exercise Tyson seems to enjoy and is willing to do regularly is swimming, so I thought we'd head over to the pond for a closer look.

Tyson didn't need any encouragement. He jumped right in before I could even get the leash off of him. He just waded through all the bushes and plants right next to the shore, launched himself in and took a quick little swim, lapping up water as he doggy-paddled (as is his custom in the pool, as well.

I was afraid he might run into a snake or swim clear to the other side and then go thrashing off into the underbrush, forcing me to chase after him. I don't know why I ever thought that. He never goes crashing off into anything.

I think he had a good time. And I think this is a much healthier way for him to lose weight than that doggy weight loss solution mom has started dropping into his mouth every day (I wish I was kidding about that: I think the vet saw Tyson's morbid obesity as a ticket to a cool $80 profit).