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Wide White: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Pooping out a baby

There are elements of both disgust and amazement in this story. I bolded two lines in the story - one that amazes me and another that's a disgusting reality of India.
AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - A newborn baby girl survived an ignoble birth after slipping down the toilet bowl of a moving Indian train onto the tracks when a pregnant woman unexpectedly gave birth while relieving herself on Tuesday.

"My delivery was so sudden," said the Bhuri Kalbi, the mother of the infant, born two months prematurely. "I did not even realize that my child had slipped from the hole in the toilet."

Kalbi, a 33-year-old woman from a village in Rajasthan, fainted on the toilet seat after the birth for a few minutes before waking up and alerting her family.

"They stopped the train and ran on the tracks to find the baby," she said, speaking from her hospital bed in the western city of Ahmedabad.

Railway staff at a nearby station were alerted and soon found the newborn girl lying uninjured on pebbles by the track. She is now in intensive care because of her premature birth, doctors said.

Most toilets on Indian trains are filthy chutes emptying directly onto the tracks.

Disney World pictures

This blog is democratic. People asked for pictures, I'm giving them pictures.

Then again, people have asked me a whole lot of things that I haven't caved into. So maybe this is a democratic republic. Or maybe it's a monarchy and I just decided to listen to the people in an act of goodwill.

Whatever, here are the pictures you asked for!

Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom
Epcot (See Spaceship Earth - I thought it was a golf ball for years - in the background across World Showcase Lagoon? That Packer shirt garnered its fair share of compliments and banter...)

Tutto Italia - a phenomenal restaurant (with a price to match) in Epcot's Italy. It was a great place to celebrate our anniversary! Afterwards we stuck around for a fireworks and light show on World Showcase Lagoon.

Cinderella's Castle - along with Spaceship Earth - are in my opinion the two most distinct icons of Disney World.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More light rail transit coming

It's virtually a done deal. Minneapolis and St. Paul will be linked by light rail.
We have a route.

Not proposed, not envisioned, but planned — and supported by just about every public official with a say in it.

That's the bottom line after two votes Wednesday chose the route of the Central Corridor light-rail line linking downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis via University Avenue.

What we'll get is a $909.1 million, 11-mile, 20-station train running every 7 minutes, 30 seconds, 21 hours a day, seven days a week for a fare price that likely will be comparable to a bus ticket.
"This is a quantum leap forward," said Peter Bell, chairman of the Metropolitan Council, which will build the line beginning in 2010 and run trains starting in 2014.
So there are the warm fuzzies.

Here are the not-so-warm-fuzzies.
While many leaders called the votes historic, plenty of questions remain.

If the federal government signs off on the plan, the line will transform areas in its path, and no one has yet figured out exactly how. For example:

-- A six-block stretch of Washington Avenue through the University of Minnesota will be closed to cars — and possibly buses — to make way for the two-car trains. Streets surrounding the U's East Bank and West Bank campuses will be significantly altered to handle the traffic; no one yet knows how.

-- University Avenue will be ripped up and resurfaced to accommodate trains running down the middle. Bus schedules will be altered, with some service being eliminated, some scaled back and two north-south routes added. Of the 1,156 curbside parking spaces now serving the thoroughfare's businesses, many will be gone. No one knows how many or how to deal with it. No parking lots are planned.

-- Downtown St. Paul will see trains running along Cedar Street, with parking eliminated and southbound traffic reduced to one lane. The block bounded by Cedar, Minnesota, Fourth and Fifth streets will be diagonally bisected to accommodate the tracks and a station. Along Fourth Street, parking will be eliminated and traffic reduced to one lane — no one knows which way yet — as the train travels to Union Depot in Lowertown, where more roads and potentially buildings will be altered by tracks leading to a train maintenance yard near the Lafayette Bridge over the Mississippi River.

-- The previously rail-less region will have a virtual transit party at the new Minnesota Twins stadium in downtown Minneapolis. There, riders from the Hiawatha Line (serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America), the planned Northstar Line (serving Hennepin and Anoka counties and points northwest) and the Central Corridor will share a station.
Although it is not definite, Bell and others involved said it is unlikely cars would be able to use the Washington Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River, creating a traffic engineering imbroglio.

The plan adopted Wednesday calls for $39 million to deal with traffic snarls created by trains along the entire length of the line, and Bell said he fears, given the scenario at the U, the amount is "woefully inadequate."
Today is my last day riding the light rail from the Mall of America, as I'm moving this weekend and will be back on the bus. However, it's been a great resource to have. Is it worth raising our taxes over? I don't think so. But every metropolitan area in the country undergoing economic growth has a mass transit formula that goes beyond buses and the regularity and smoothness of the train has made it a very attractive option. It has also provided a great business route for those flying into the airport and heading downtown. Ridership on the Hiawatha Line has exceeded expectations by 65 percent.

Those who don't ride the light rail hate it, and understandably. But those of us who ride it or have ridden it can understand the appeal to expand it across the metro area. Let's just hope the funding to accomplish that has some sanity to it. I have my doubts...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Out of Office" replies

I got these today on a work forward and I'm really tempted to use them...
1. I am currently out of the office at a job interview and will reply to
you if I fail to get the position.

2. Sorry to have missed you, but I'm at the doctor's having my brain and
heart removed so I can be promoted to our management team.

3. I will be unable to delete all the emails you send me until I return
from vacation. Please be patient, and your mail will be deleted in the
order it was received.

4. Thank you for your email. Your credit card has been charged $5.99 for
the first 10 words and $1.99 for each additional word in your message.

5. The email server is unable to verify your server connection. Your
message has not been delivered. Please restart your computer and try
sending again. (The beauty of this is that when you return, you can see
who did this over and over and over...)

6. Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queuing system.
You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in
approximately 19 weeks.
3. was my personal favorite.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A newlywed no longer

My lovely wife and I were married a year ago today and I couldn't be happier!

Thanks to a gift from her parents, we're spending the weekend in Disney World. They called two weeks ago and asked if we wanted to come since they'd already be here. They're paying for almost everything! Thanks Mom and Dad!

UPDATE 2/26: I tried posting this on 2/24 from my phone but Blogger doesn't work from Windows Mobile and I can't remember the email address I had set up two years ago to post remotely. So, this is coming two days late...

We wound up hitting up all four parks in three days. Simply put, it was a blast and a much-needed vacation!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Waiting for Cubs tickets

My wife gave me money for my birthday to cover Cubs tickets. They go on sale today. I'm trying to get tickets for a Cubs-Cardinals game (I'm a big Cardinals fan).

I have online "waiting rooms" open in both Mozilla and IE and I've had my phone on "continuous call" for an hour and a half with a busy signal every time.

So far, just one Cardinals game has sold out. So far...

UPDATE: Three Cardinals games are now sold out. Three more weekend games are still available...


5 of the 6 Cardinals games had sold out. I got tickets for September 19th, a week and a half before the end of the season. That means the game will be either crazy and electric or absolutely dead with no postseason meaning. Either way, I get to see the Cardinals at Wrigley!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Barack Obama's empty past

I don't like Chris Mathews' style, as I think he comes across a bit arrogant, but still, he does make the point (or is the state senator the one making the point?) that Barack Obama has accomplished little to nothing legislatively.

I think this will be a huge problem for him against McCain, who has nothing but a long string of legislative action.

H/T: Michael B. Brodkorb

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More tax increases for Minnesotans

I won't say what has already been said, but for those in Minnesota who are interested, check out Andy's post on the impending tax hikes in Minnesota.

Just 5 Republicans are needed to override Governor Pawlenty's veto of this bill, assuming it passes (which it's guaranteed to do). The Democrats seem to have persuaded enough Republicans to join them.

There's still hope though, as the hubbub created over this is apparently having an impact.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hilarious FedEx commercial

This needs no commentary from me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Setting records in marriage - 83 years strong

How cool is this?
White Bear Lake couple marks 83rd wedding anniversary

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn.—A couple from White Bear Lake celebrated 83 years of marriage Sunday, possibly setting a record.

The Guinness Book of World Records was researching the possibility that Clarence and Mayme Vail qualify as the longest-married couple alive.

"It's unbelievable," Mayme Vail told WCCO-TV.

Clarence Vail is 101 years old, and Mayme is 99. They were teenagers when they married in 1925, when Calvin Coolidge was president. And they've known each other even longer, meeting when they were in the 8th grade in Hugo, Minn.

"He had gone through the 8th grade in the other school, then he comes to our school—smart as a whip," said Mayme Vail, who still exercises and participates in Bible study classes at the assisted living center where the couple now resides.

The Vails had six children, 39 grandchildren and 101 great grandchildren. Mayme Vail said the key to a long marriage is patience and humility.

"You've got to admit you're wrong now and then," she said. "I've had to do it."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hope for a Democratic splinter

This looks to be the Democrats' year. They have two candidates with enthusiastic support while Republicans struggle to rally around anyone.

However, the two Democratic candidates' success may be their demise.
Democrats fear superdelegates could overrule voters

(CNN) -- Some Democrats say they fear their party's method of picking a nominee might turn undemocratic as neither presidential candidate is likely to gather the delegates needed for the nomination.

Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are running neck and neck toward the party's August convention in Denver, Colorado. Most projections show neither getting the necessary 2,025 delegates in the remaining nominating contests before then.

Party rules call for the votes of superdelegates -- 800 or so party officers, elected officials and activists -- to tip the balance. The party instituted the system to avoid the turmoil that a deadlocked race would create at a convention.
While pledged delegates are allocated with the understanding they'll vote the way their state went in its primary or caucus, superdelegates are free to vote however they want. And even if they pledge their support to a candidate, they're free to change at any time.
If the superdelegates were to tip the balance against the popular vote, the turmoil would last long beyond the convention, longtime Democratic Party strategist Tad Devine said.

"If a perception develops that somehow this decision has been made not by voters participating in primaries or caucuses, but by politicians in some mythical backroom, I think that the public could react strongly against that," Devine said.

"The problem is [if] people perceive that voters have not made the decision -- instead, insiders have made the decision -- then all of these new people who are being attracted to the process, particularly the young people who are voting for the first time, will feel disenfranchised or in some way alienated," he said.
Whether those superdelegates stay committed to their candidates, even if it means tipping the outcome of the race against the pledged delegate lead or the popular vote, could split the party.

"It's in a total contradiction of the way the Democrats have set up their primary process, with all this proportional representation," said CNN political analyst Amy Holmes. "The whole point of it was that no one could walk away with the elites. And if this is decided by superdelegates, I think the Democratic Party morally is going to be looking at each other and say, 'What did we just do?' "

Devine said it could hurt the party in the general election.

"I think it will hurt us particularly because so many of the policies that we're saying we will pursue in government as Democrats are based on fairness, whether it's the tax policies that we advocate or the social programs we want to advance, there's a fairness component in all of that," he said. "People need to believe, I think, that our process is fair as well, if they want to believe that our policies will be fair."
If the Democrats have a drawn-out primary all the way to their national convention in Denver this August and then cap it off by choosing the candidate who failed to amass the popular vote, they're in a world of hurt. After the flack they've given Republicans over George W. Bush's victory over Al Gore in which Gore won the popular vote but failed to assemble enough electoral votes to win the electoral college, I have trouble seeing their party recover very well from that kind of division.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A nickel towards a house

My dad, grandpa, uncle and cousin came to visit for two nights at the beginning of last week. My dad brought along with him an envelope from my 5-year-old sister, Lisa.

Lisa had heard that her big brother is buying a house (we're moving March 1st) and she knew that houses must cost a LOT of money. So, she made sure my dad brought with him this envelope to give to me.

There was no card or piece of paper inside the envelope. Just "to Joey from Lisa" scribbled on the outside of the envelope. Inside the envelope was a lone nickel. She told my dad that she wanted to give Joey some money to help pay for his house.

I'm keeping the 1999 Jefferson, along with the envelope it came in. After all, college is awfully expensive, Lisa will be 18 in 13 years, and you can't underestimate how far a nickel could go...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The birth control didn't work...

My wife and I spent this last weekend babysitting four kids age 1 to 7. We were told it would be nothing short of effective birth control by a number of people.

After 44 hours with the kids, I can't say that the supposed "birth control" was effective. In fact, my wife and I both enjoyed the opportunity to see how we operated in that environment and we both want kids just as much as we did before.

We both had fun seeing how the other one handled various scenarios. One scenario played itself out a number of times and we reacted very differently. Example: E takes a toy from or otherwise interferes with the normal course of the life of K. K screams (actually, shrieks is closer) in response. My wife's response was to reprimand E for interfering with K. My response, however, was to K for the screaming.

Me: "Are you hurt?"
K: [through tears] "No."
Me: "Then should you be crying?"
K: [through tears] "But he - "
Me: "No, should you be crying?"
K: [muffled response, head hanging, as tears slowly subside] "No..."
Me: "Okay..."

From there I'd either steer her to ask E to stop what was being done or to come to a grownup to resolve the problem. Once that was done, I'd respond to E and tell him to quit bugging the snot out of K.

My wife wanted to know why I didn't respond to E first since he initiated the whole thing. My response was that if I did that, K would learn that she could get what she wanted (an adult to ream out E and get him to stop) by screaming and crying. I didn't want her learning that screaming would accomplish anything with us. The tough thing about watching those kids for an extended period of time is that I don't know how her parents respond, but when you're babysitting, you effectively have to start from scratch with the "rules" for those two days and kids know it.

That's just one example of a number of them that came from two DINKs who had two whole days with nothing to worry about besides taking care of the kids. I think we learned two things. First, we're going to love being parents! (At least we think we will.) Second, we've got a ton to learn still!

Anyway, thanks to J, E, K, and C for being great this past weekend! We love you guys!

Friday, February 08, 2008

My mom has a blog


(I know, that was your reaction to the news.)

Check out Three Syllables and link up with Keithslady!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Huckabee's last chance to win

Mitt Romney just dropped out of the race for president, giving Mike Huckabee his only shot at winning the Republican nomination.

After Super Tuesday I told my wife that I thought Huckabee still had a shot, as long as McCain didn't win the majority of delegates. How?

Look no further than West Virginia for how it would work. They nominate a candidate at their state convention, not through a primary or caucus. The candidate who receives their nomination must win a majority of votes from all of the delegates present. Romney led after the first round of voting, with Huckabee in second and McCain in third. However, Romney didn't have a majority, so a second round of voting ensued. McCain's supporters switched to support Huckabee and he was able to garner a majority of support and win.

Similarly, all of Romney's delegates are now free-for-alls. Those votes will have to be given to either McCain or Huckabee at the Republican National Convention. Romney and Huckabee have been considered to be more conservative than McCain (though I think there's an argument as to how true that really is), and it's very possible that a bulk of Romney's delegate votes at the national convention could go to Huckabee. If that's the case, he could secure the nomination.

Huckabee's odds of winning are still slim to none and the race is seen as a virtual win for John McCain. However, if Huckabee can perform well in the next few primaries (as in, he has to win them), he could still be in this thing.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mr. Likable Pawlenty

People like the governor.
A new statewide poll found that Gov. Tim Pawlenty is more popular than the Legislature, and that the second-term Republican governor has admirers across the political spectrum.

The poll by Minnesota Public Radio and the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute found 55 percent approved of Pawlenty's job performance, while 39 percent disapproved. Views on the DFL-controlled Legislature were more mixed, with 46 percent saying they approved compared to 44 percent who disapproved.
Pawlenty scored highest among Republicans with 84 percent in support. Among Democrats, he garnered a 37 percent approval rating. "And I think that's generally very good news for the governor," Jacobs said.
Watch for him to be a leading vice presidential candidate if John McCain gets the nomination. He's a governor and a McCain supporter in a swing state that's hosting this year's Republican National Convention. McCain likely won't be able to choose another Senator because it would be more of the same, which likely leaves him choosing a governor.

Pawlenty gets a bad rap from some conservatives in Minnesota for his support of ethanol, the global warming issue, and public transportation. However, he's largely unknown on the national scene and is reliably conservative on social issues and on holding the line on taxes. I have a feeling Tim Pawlenty will be McCain's man.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I voted for Mike Huckabee

Along with a majority of people in my precinct and the other precinct we voted with (he dominated here). But it looks like he's going to lose Minnesota. As great as his victories tonight are, it's still looking like McCain's race.

And I still can't get excited about this year's election...

Monday, February 04, 2008

The best Super Bowl commercials

Exhibit A.


Exhibit B.

E*Trade Talking Baby - Baby Buys Stock

Exhibit C.

E*Trade Talking Baby - Baby & Clown

Exhibit D.

Doritos Mouse Trap

Friday, February 01, 2008

Still trucking

This story comes from a small town 80 miles from where I grew up.
MEDFORD, Wis. - Frank Oresnik is on the verge of making history driving his old standby — the pickup truck he says is about to pass the 1 million mile mark.

Oresnik took the 1991 Chevrolet Silverado to the Oil Ex-Change Quick Lube in Medford on Thursday for what he expects will be its last oil change and tuneup before hitting the magic number.

He said the truck is 1,200 miles from a million, and once he hits the mark he will retire the vehicle.

"I feel almost like the longtime NFL player as he goes into his last training camp knowing this is the end," Oresnik said.

He credits proper maintenance and a good measure of luck for allowing the truck to rack up so many miles. He said he's had more than 300 oil changes and tuneups at the Medford business, going in every 3,000 miles.

The truck has had four radiators, three gas tanks, five transmissions and six water pumps, but the engine has never been overhauled, Oresnik said.

He bought the Silverado in June 1996 after the original owner put 41,000 miles on it. Oresnik uses the vehicle to deliver seafood in three states, putting on about 85,000 miles a year.
Now that's impressive! I wonder if Chevy will capitalize on this guy with using his truck in an advertisement?