Top 5 Games of 2008

You know by now that I am a big fan of the games. Particularly the creative games from such companies as Days of Wonder and Mayfair. Not so much among the Hasbros and Milton-Bradleys of the world. In any case, as you’ll see I’m not just limiting the word game to games that I played in. Here goes my Top 5 Games of 2008:

5. Michigan v. Utah August 2008

I’m going to let these pictures do most of the talking on this one. Go Utes!

4. Killer Bunnies

I picked up a copy of Killer Bunnies for my birthday after I read a copy of the rules at Kara’s place (one of her roommates had it). The game play seemed unique, and now that I’ve had it out and played it with various groups of people, I can say that it is fun. Almost everyone that I’ve played it with have enjoyed it. Flo still hasn’t come through for me.


3. That Bang game in midsummer where I took out Chalsea in a one on one shoot out

Bang! was another game that I really really liked a lot this year. I got it for my sister for Christmas, and enjoyed it so much that I got it for myself. I selected one individual game as my top 5. We were playing at my apartment, at some point midsummer, and I had drawn the Renegade card and Chalsea had drawn the Sheriff. Somehow, I had managed to knock off a whole bunch of players in a very short time frame, effectively tipping my hand as to who I was. Somehow, it came down to a shootout between Chals and myself. I kept drawing cards that would keep her from shooting me, which was fortunate. In the end, I shot her and won. It’s very hard to win as the Renegade, so it was memorable.


2. Utah v. BYU November 2008

Another one where I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

1. Settlers of Catan

Ok, so Settlers of Catan will probably always be my favorite game. This year has been a great year for Settlers. I’ve had a great group of friends who like to play, and who make for a great game. The rivalries between Jonathan and myself, and between Jonathan and Mike, (Wow, Jonathan, lots of rivalries. What does that say?) have been epic. The victories have been sweet, and the defeats have been bitter. The occasional food has been delicious. I’ll admit that I even had to go buy two more chairs specifically so that I have enough seating for Settlers at my house. In short, I pretty much love Settlers of Catan.

No one has actually made a Settlers of Catan pizza yet, but now that I think of it, I don’t see any reason why this wouldn’t be a good idea.

So there you have it. My favorite games of 2008. What were yours?

It’s a wonderful Wii.

I thought I should jump on the bandwagon of posts about grandmothers. Actually, I just wanted to post a picture that I took today of my grandma playing the Wii. I brought my Wii home for Christmas, because I knew my family would enjoy playing it. I just had no idea how much.

Here’s Grandma playing the Wii. I think they got her to try Beach Vollyball and Bowling. She was doing pretty good with Bowling, but was having some problems getting the controls to cooperate. A pretty good sport, I thought.

My parents have been enjoying Boom Blox and some of the Wii Sports. My mother managed to beat us all at Golf on her first go.

And then there’s my nephews. I spent a few days visiting them, and they really had fun with playing the Wii too. I wasn’t sure if they were sad because I was leaving or because I was taking my Wii with me. I think probably both.

I think that it is pretty awesome that my Wii has now been played by four generations of my family. I’d say this birthday present to myself was well worth it!

Top 5 Listenings of 2008

This retrospective is probably one of the more difficult of the ones that I’ve written so far. I enjoy my music, but I don’t really think about it so much. How do I go about choosing my top 5 list for this one? I decided to broaden it to things that I listen to… that made my list making easier. I’m going to try to figure out how to make one of those embeddable music thingies too.

Anyhow- Here goes:

5- This American Life Podcast

Of all of my podcasts, I’m glad I started getting this one. I’d caught episodes here and there, but never with a concerted effort. For a while, my favorite run was on Monday night because I could listen to the new TAL podcast. I began to consciously avoid driving while TAL was on, so I could listen to it while running. My best TAL story was of me running a few days after Halloween on a dark and deserted road, and then having a story about rabid raccoons come on. On that run, I was later terrified by an opossum with beady little red eyes.

4- Pandora Playlist – AltRock Mix Tape

My old go-to Pandora Playlist. (You can listen to it at the link back there.)  When I’m busy at work, and I need to focus, I pull up Pandora and set it to this playlist. I’ve got it so well trained that it only plays me music that I will like. Unfortunately, that means I don’t get any new music anymore. (See #2 below). 

3- Artist – Ronnie Day (The Album)

I really don’t know why, but I can’t listen to enough of Ronnie Day’s music. Most of my playlists include at least one of his songs right now.  I don’t really know what else to say, other than you should listen to some of his work.

2- Pandora Playlist – IndieAlt Mix Tape

My new go-to Pandora Playlist.  (Again, you can listen at that link).  I got a little tired of my AltRock Mix Tape, after I trained it so well. So I seeded this list with The Decemberists, Ben Folds, and the Killers. It’s a pretty good playlist.

1- Hum Hallelujah – Fall Out Boy

My Power Song on my iPod+Nike system. I’ve learned that it’s worth a good half-mile at a decent pace, especially right at the end of a run. And it will move me. According to both Last.fm and iTunes, this is the song I listened to the most in 2008.

So there are my Top 5 Listenings of 2008. Anyone else have any favorites from this year?

Bonus #1:

I heard this song by Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet on NPR and rushed home and bought the whole album. It’s Bluegrass meets Traditional Chinese folk music. It’s really quite awesome.

Bonus #2:
Ok, I think I figured out how this works. I’ve added a handful of the songs that I mentioned here, plus some that got thumbs up on my Pandora playlists, plus some that Last.fm and iTunes say that I listened to a lot this year. Enjoy!


Top 5 Recipes of 2008

As well established readers of this blog will know, I enjoy cooking. So what retrospective of 2008 would be complete without a list of recipes that have influenced me this year. I’ve tried out a lot of new recipes this year, and these are the ones that I loved the most and wanted to share with you all.

5- Zucchini “Crab” Cakes

Amy made this recipe for one of our regular get-togethers to play Settlers. I loved the recipe so much that I tried and failed to replicate it by myself, and eventually just broke down and asked Amy for it. With my CSA this summer I had no dearth of zucchini and summer squash, and this became an easy dinner recipe that I relied on time and time again. This recipe is very easy to both scale and tweak. Add extra little bits of whatever you’ve got (ham, cheese, other veggies, whatever) or vary the spices and you’ve got a completely new experience.

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning TM
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine zucchini, egg, and butter or margarine. Stir in seasoned crumbs, minced onion, and seasoning. Mix well.
Shape mixture into patties. Dredge in flour.
In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until hot. Fry patties in oil until golden brown on both sides.

4- Amy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I blogged about Amy blogging about these cookies. I’ll refer you to her recipe for the details, but these are far and away the best cookies you could ever make. Ok, maybe I’m gushing, but this recipe sings. And instead of hoarding the recipe to herself, she shared it! And now you can try them too. I’ve made them several times and they’re great.

3- Cranberry Relish

I’m a cranberry geek. I love cranberry sauce, but its very rare for me to get well prepared sauce not from a can. (Has anyone ever gotten good stuff from a can? I don’t know!) For Thanksgiving this year, I decided that if I wanted good sauce, I would have to make it myself. So I did. And it was good. I trialed the recipe twice, and got slightly different results, but the outcome was great both times.
Cranberry sauce

Here goes:

Cranberry Sauce
1 C Water
1 C Sugar
1 Bag Cranberries (12 oz)
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1/2 orange
Apple Pie Spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)

Bring water and sugar to a boil, dissolving sugar. Add orange juice and cranberries. Return to boil (It’s hard to tell, because there are now more cranberries than anything else in the pan, and not terribly important, just get the temp back up). Lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cranberries will start to pop. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries have softened and the liquid starts to gel. Add zest and spice to taste. (I just dumped it in, I didn’t measure… probably 1-2 teaspoons.) Mix on the heat for another minute or so. Remove from heat, pour into serving dish. The gel will harden as it cools. When it has come to room temp, put in the fridge until showtime.

My first go with the recipe, I simmered for less than 10 minutes, and the berries were more whole and the gel less firm. The second round, which I brought for dinner, I simmered a little longer (I wasn’t paying attention), and it worked out fine, and set up a lot harder.

2- Spring Rolls

When I went out to Salt Lake this spring, I surprised my MBA friends. They’re always inviting me over to dinner, but rarely give me enough advance notice to get out there. This time I told them I’d go (which was the part that surprised them!). Jodie was hosting the dinner, and since I was staying at her place, I weaseled my way into helping make it. Or mostly watching Jodie make it. The appetizer course was Spring Rolls, which are fancy and very simple to make.

Spring rolls

I later hosted people for a roll your own dinner, and also forced them upon my family over the 4th of July. I think I ended up taking them to a mingle as well, except I called them Summer rolls.

This is another recipe that is very customizable to whatever you have available.

Here’s a basic recipe:

Spring Rolls

1/4 pound vermicelli rice noodles, soaked in boiling water to barely tender (2 to 5 minutes), drained, rinsed, and drained again
1/2 pound Asian barbequed pork, lean beef or chicken, thinly sliced, or thinly-sliced tofu, or any fairly dry cooked vegetable or meat
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise (optional)
12 lettuce leaves, washed, dried and thinly sliced
1 to 2 cups shredded carrots, or other vegetables shredded on a cheese grater
1 bunch spearmint, washed and dried
1 bunch coriander or basil, washed and dried
20 rice paper rounds (6 to 7-inch diameter)

1. Moisten rice paper by rubbing with water, or dipping in hot water for a few seconds. Let stand a few moments until softened.

2. On the bottom third of the rice paper round, make a small pile of rice noodles, a few shreds of meat, half a shrimp, some lettuce, carrot, and a leaf of each herb.

3. Roll up the rice paper over the filling, taking it halfway up the uncovered portion of rice paper. Now fold in the side flaps and continue rolling until you have a tight cylinder. Put on a plate and keep covered with a damp cloth.

You should serve these with dipping sauces. One easy dipping sauce is Sweet Chili sauce, which you can find in most Asian sections at the grocery store. Another easy sauce is Peanut Sauce. In a small sauce pan, add 2 parts peanut butter (natural and chunky is the way I like it!) to 1 part hoisin sauce (another Asian section staple). Heat it up a bit while stirring. When it seems well mixed, add some coconut milk or water (or both) to thin it down. Whisk vigorously and serve.

It’s that easy! (Special thanks to Jodie for helping me refresh my memory of how to make these, especially the peanut sauce. She is absolutely awesome!)

1- Indian tomato sauce

I love this next recipe. I’ve blogged it before, but I’m going to go ahead and put it here again. Because I love it that much. And because you probably won’t click the link. I discovered this in my How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook (by Mark Bittman), when Melanie, Leilani, and I were having one of our Vegetarian cooking nights. We did Baked Garbanzos with Fresh Cheese and Spinach (basically a fancied up saag paneer). But this sauce was the star of the show. I’d make this for dinner every day if my stomach wasn’t so sensitive to tomatoes.

Here’s the recipe:

Spicy Indian Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 cups.

4 T butter or 1/4 c neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
one 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 T minced fresh chile or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste
2 T garam masala or curry powder
1/2 t chili powder
large pinch sugar
2 c chopped ripe tomato (about 1 lb. whole), preferably peeled and seeded, or drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cream or coconut milk
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 t cumin seeds
1 t mustard seeds

1. Put 3 T of the butter or oil in a deep skillet over medium0-high heat. When the butter is melted or oil is hot, add onion, garlic, ginger and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garam masala, chili powder and sugar and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook and stir until spices become fragrant, a minute or two more.

2. Add tomato and cook, stirring frequently, until it starts to release its liquid, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and cilantro and keep cooking and stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.

3. Turn heat down so the sauce bubbles gently and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato breaks up and the mixture comes together and thickens, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. (The sauce may be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before proceeding.)

4. Put remaining butter or oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add cumin and mustard seeds and toast them until they begin to pop. Spoon over the sauce just before serving.

And now two bonuses:
Bonus #1: My favorite new spice: Garam Masala. Technically, a mixture of spices, garam masala is an Indian spice, which packs such an incredible punch of flavor. I had been using my own mixture until I realized there is an Indian grocery just down the road a bit. I found it, and I’ve been finding ways to use it ever since. So far, I have seasoned my Thanksgiving backup ham with it and a lentil soup. I’m looking forward to the other ways that I can use it!

Bonus #2: A Christmas cookie recipe: Rolo Cookies.
I got a great response to these on my cookie trays, and thought I’d share the joy. Clicky the linky above. Mmm!

So there you go. My favorite recipes of 2008. What are yours?

Top 5 Moving Pictures of 2008

To round out the year, many of the blogs that I read are doing their year in summary posts these days. I thought I’d follow suit. I’ve compiled several lists of my favorite things from 2008. I think that it will provide a welcome relief from other recent subjects.

This first list is rather broad. I’m counting anything that I watched, on a big or small screen, for the first time in 2008. And basically, it’s just the 5 things that stand out in my mind. I probably forgot more than I remembered.

Here goes:

5- Strangers on a Train –

I had people over to watch this classic Hitchcock film, after asking Brian of Brian Presents fame for some recommendation to spice up my Netflix queue. The Carousel scene haunts me to this day.

4- Sherlock Jr

Another Brian Presents entry. This was my initiation into the world of silent films. I laughed, I cried.

Here’s the Chase Scene from the end (Be warned, it’s long, but well well worth the time to watch it.)

3- Iron Man

Iron Man proved a point to me. Don’t always believe the critics. I had heard a scathing review on my way home from work, and had no intention of seeing it. Fortunately, somehow I managed to stumble across the Rotten Tomato index for the movie. It was a stunning 93% fresh. Apparently, the poor review that I’d heard on NPR was the only bad review. It was a fun fresh movie.

2- Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

I’ve already talked this one up. It was so clever and witty that it inspired me to dress as Dr. Horrible for Halloween. If you still haven’t seen it, check it out at Hulu.com.

1- The Constant, LOST season 4, Epsiode 5.

Hands down the best episode of LOST, ever. EVER. I don’t even know where to begin. The whole Desmond / Penny plotline is one of the most wrenching, raw, real emotion parts of the show, and the story, the directing, and the acting all came together in one beautiful episode. If the rest of the show fizzles out (highly unlikely), The Constant will have made the whole series worth it to me.

I’m not one to cry, but of all of the shows I saw this year, this one brought me the closest to tears.

You have to be well grounded in Lost lore to really understand this episode, so I won’t put a clip. If you aren’t, you should be. I think ABC.com is still streaming all of the episode from all of the seasons. Go! Now!

And a bonus:
Show I most like to complain about:

Heroes Season 3. The plot is rambling all over the place. Foreshadowings are ignored, characters are taken down inconsistent paths. I watch, and I hope they tie a nice bow on it, but it doesn’t happen. What happened to Heroes, Season 1? That was awesome.

So there you go. My top 5 Moving Pictures for 2008. What are yours?

Questions and answers

This will probably be my last post about the auto industry for a while.  I’m sure that you’re tired of reading these long winded posts with me begging for your understanding.  Unfortunately, the Senate failed to act on the bill, largely due to resistance from Republican Senators.  Fortunately, it looks as if the Administration will tap the TARP funds to provide short term relief until the next Congress is sworn in.  
One of my friends saw my previous post about the bridge loans and asked me some questions, which I think are fairly common.   I spent a good bit of time responding, and felt like the results were good enough to share.  With her permission, I’ve attached her unedited questions and my unedited responses.  I am by no means an expert, but I feel fairly confident in my understanding of the issues.  

2008 Ford Focus Washington State Drive

I promise to post something not auto industry related shortly.  Maybe a recipe or something.  We haven’t had one of those in a long time.
Questions and Answers:

Ok, if I am wrong or you see a different take on things, maybe you can explain them.  But here’s my problem with giving Ford and the other motor companies a loan…
 
Why do they need a loan in the first place?  If Ford made a profit in their first quarter and made some cost reductions, well, gas prices are down and while the credit crisis is still very serious, I think that it might be getting better.  So why do they have to have this loan to survive?
Here’s the long and the short of it.  Last year, the US auto sales were something like 17 million new vehicles (This is industry sales, all cars sold in the US).  During the first quarter, the sales rate was trending around 15-16 million cars for the full year, not great, but not shabby either.  By the time the second quarter got here, it had fallen a little more, primarily due to gas prices.  At the same time, the price of steel doubled, from about $500 / ton to $1000 / ton.  Over the summer, the credit crisis starts really fouling things up.  By October, industry sales are trending at 10 million units on an annual basis.  By November, the Year over year (That is, Nov-07 to Nov-08) sales dropped by about 35-40%.  Simply put, the # of cars sold in the US has fallen dramatically to levels that are unsustainable for the industry.  We have a fixed cost base that requires we sell a certain # of cars to pay the bills (bills that we will have to pay regardless of how many vehicles we produce.  Think health care benefits to our retirees, or energy costs to keep the assembly plants heated, things like that).  The American consumer simply isn’t buying right now, not from Ford, nor from anyone else.  
In normal times, the companies would just go to the credit or equity markets and get the funds to cover it.  Unfortunately, no one is lending to anyone.  People can’t get loans for their houses, the auto companies can’t get loans for their fixed costs.  
Ford is fortunately in the best situation of the Detroit.  GM and Chrysler are on the verge of running out of cash.  Ford obtained credit and lines of credit back in 2006, before the credit markets froze up, and so isn’t facing the same liquidity problems.  In fact, we aren’t asking for loans right now, but rather a line of credit (think a credit card, available when you need it, but the cash isn’t in your pocket right now.) in case of a failure of one of our competitors or in case the recession doesn’t end as quickly as people are projecting.  
Ford’s biggest fear right now is that the failure of one or both of the other two Detroit companies would cause a large scale disruption within the supply chain. Basically, as an industry, we have something like 75% overlapping suppliers.  We buy our parts from the same people that build parts for GM and Chrysler.  Now, imagine if one of those suppliers suddenly lost a third of their business.  It’s not an easy obstacle, but you might be able to get past it, maybe.  If 700 or 1000 suppliers and sub-suppliers suddenly lost 1/3 or more of their business, not all of them would stay in business.  Suddenly, Ford wouldn’t be able to build cars, simply because they can’t get nuts or seats or steering wheels.  Obviously, it would take time to find someone to make the new widget, test it to make sure it is safe, and get that new part to the assembly plants.  If Ford couldn’t sell cars for all of that time, it would put us in a very dire position.  That’s why we are asking for the loans to be given to the other two companies. 
 
What is Ford going to do once they get this loan to make things better for the American citizen?  Are they going to lower the cost of all their vehicles?  Make it easier to get a car loan?  Maybe build even more factories and create more jobs? 
I’ll answer this one in general, because Ford isn’t asking for the loan right now.  The other two need the money simply to survive a few more months to restructure their costs.  They will probably use the money to continue development of new cars, including the Chevy Volt, and other new green technologies.  They will use it to retool plants to make these new cars.  But with the legislation as it stands right now, basically they are buying themselves some time.  According to the bill that the House passed, they have until March 31 to develop and implement cost reductions.  This will probably  include wage cuts and other concessions, a restructuring of debt (i.e. reworking the terms of loans, swapping GM stock for debt, other things like that).  I haven’t read the GM or Chrysler plans, so I don’t really know what they are planning.
I do know that Ford has dramatically shifted development of its product line up to focus on smaller cars and more fuel efficient cross-overs.  We are doing that independent of the government financing, but that requires that we retool plants that once produced trucks and SUVs to be able to produce Focuses and Fusions, etc.  Not inexpensive.
I doubt that the companies would lower the prices of the cars, because the cost of material and assembly hasn’t fallen off that much.  Selling at a loss, especially when you have a big government loan to repay, probably isn’t a great idea.  Hopefully, they would be able to make car loans more available, but that has more to do with the ability of the financing companies to raise capital.  Ford Credit is still making loans and leases, although I’ve heard that isn’t true for many of the other car credit companies.
 
Who is to say that this loan will be put to good use and not wasted?  Is there any guarantee that jobs will not be lost and things will get better even if it is made?
It’s hard to say how you would be able to tell if it is put to good use.  The current legislation would have the President appoint a “Car Czar” who would monitor the progress of the restructuring, report back to Congress on a regular basis, and would have some say in the decision making process, especially large expenditures.  During the Chrysler bailout in the early 1980s, this kind of watchdog was put in place, and it seemed to be effective.
There is of course never any guarantee.  From my point of view, I’d rather take the risk that it might not work than the certainty of failure.  
 
 
Why should a company get a loan when we, the average American family, cannot even get a loan to consolidate our debts and make it a little easier to get by each month?  Is that really fair?
We can’t get a loan from anyone either.  However, if we don’t get the loans, and the industry fails, by some estimates between 3 and 5 million people will lose their jobs.   I don’t think that’s a good solution, by any stretch of the imagination.  I, like many others, thought that the other bailout was supposed to make it easier for the average American family to get loans.  Somehow, that hasn’t happened yet.  The government has serious questions to answer about that, but I digress.
 
I love ya and want you to keep your job, but if not giving this loan helps to make things just a little bit more fair, if that money could go somewhere else to help more people, then why shouldn’t it?  (And I’m not talking welfare and food stamps either)  Why can’t this loan money be put directly into the hands of those who have high amounts of debt and are trying to pay it off instead?
Again, I don’t have a really good answer here.  The government previously approved $700 Billion for just that purpose.  The amount of loans that are being requested by the auto companies isn’t chump change, by any stretch, but it also isn’t (relatively speaking) a huge amount of money.  The principal difference that I see between large scale debt relief and a bridge loan to the auto industry is where that money will be going.  Debt relief is basically paying back money that has already been spent, (an investment in the past), while the bridge loans will be investments for the future, investments that will pay back by creating value in the economy.  Both would add liquidity to the larger economy, but only one creates ongoing value. 
 
I’m not trying to be mean or cruel.  I just want to understand why this will make such a difference and why it is so needed.
I understand that many people don’t understand the gravity of this.  Some people don’t understand the complexity of the auto business, or the long lead times, or the costs.  Thanks for giving me the chance to explain some of it.  If you’ve got any more questions, I’m willing to answer any and all of them.  

A favor to ask

Hey Folks-
Brady again, asking you to support the Domestic Auto Industry. It appears that an agreement has been reached to provide about $15B of loans to GM and Chrysler so that they can last until March. During that time, they are to negotiate with creditors, labor unions, shareholders, and other stakeholders to bring themselves into a reasonable cost structure. Some are calling it “Bankruptcy Lite”. A “Car Czar,” appointed by the president, would monitor progress and ensure that taxpayer dollars would be well spent. Additionally, the government would benefit on the upside with stock positions in the companies.

This plan seems reasonable and will protect the taxpayers. However, even though there is reportedly agreement between the House of Representative and the White House, Republican Senators are threatening to block passage of this bill.

If the automobile companies are allowed to fail, hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs. You know at least one of them. Hundreds of thousands of senior citizens may lose benefits from their pension plans. You probably know at least one of them too.

There has been lots of talk lately about Energy Independence, the concept that we rely too much on foreign countries for oil and other energy. If we allow the largest domestic manufacturing industry to fail, we could find ourselves in a similar situation, relying on foreign countries for cars and other heavy manufacturing. Do we really want to go there?

At the end of the day, I am asking you, my dear readers, to do me a personal favor. If you live in, or have a credible connection to, a non-Michigan state, will you call or email your state senators and ask that they support the Auto Industry Bridge Loan program? This is especially important if you live in a state with Republican Senators. (Cough… Cough… Texas… Cough… Utah… Cough… Wyoming…)

Tell them that you are calling to support the job of one of our friends, the pension of one of your grandparents, the future of one of your children. Please, as a favor to me, call them. Here is a link that will help you find your Senators:

Here’s some more reading for you, if you’ve got nothing better to do:
Seven Myths about the Automakers

And don’t forget the Ford Story!

A well kept secret

It is a fairly well kept secret that I really enjoy dancing. Mostly because the only dances that I usually have any association with are the frenetic, frantic, mostly arrhythmic, awkward “Mormon Singles Dances,” which I kind of hate. Unfortunately, I think my cover is blown as of last night.

I have been pointedly avoiding these types of dances for the last four years, ever since I moved from Laramie to Salt Lake. At some point, they became very unpleasant for me. I was speculating last night that it had something to do with when I became fat and lazy in Salt Lake and my endurance took a nosedive. My interpretation of this kind of dancing requires a whole lot of energy and staying power, which I didn’t really have in Salt Lake. Add to that the whole “Make a fool of yourself in front of people that you barely know and maintain at least some hope of asking out on dates,” and it was a recipe for disaster.

I have been pointedly avoiding the Hill Street Soiree for the last few years. My first year, I really didn’t know people well, and my second year, I may or may not have purposely procrastinated writing a talk to have an excuse to leave before the dancing got underway.

Some background, I think might be in order. The Hill Street Soiree is what some might call a Big Deal. This is the one Hill Street Ward activity each year to end all activities, quite literally. The Soiree, in its 8th incarnation last night, is a semi-formal dinner dance held in December each year. The HSAC goes all out: a catered dinner, a marvelously decorated space, and lots of music to dance the night away. The other singles wards in the area are typically invited to the dance (We’ve selfishly kept the dinner to ourselves in the past.) This year, it was an official multi-stake activity, and much better attended than the other activities this year.

I had planned to go last night, and avoid dancing. You know, to go along with the plan of keeping my enjoyment of dancing secret. During dinner, we discussed leaving to test out my new surround sound system. As the dance started, I moved as far away from the dance floor as possible to talk to others who weren’t dancing. Everything was going according to plan. I decided that I should probably make an appearance on the dance floor. So I headed out on what I thought would be a good crowd dance, but which turned out to be some bizarre hip-hop-like called line dance. Talk about genre defying music. I don’t line dance, I haven’t got the coordination for it, so I sat it out, but I was close to the dance floor. Way too close…

At some point, my resistance cracked. I ended up on the dance floor, and I. Had. A. Blast. I couldn’t stop. My endurance has been finely tuned over the last year, to the point that a 9 mile run seems challenging only in trying to find 9 miles to run it in. I couldn’t use that as an excuse. The headache that I had been planning to use as an excuse went away. I had nothing.

I tried to leave early towards the end of the dance. That didn’t work. I got sucked into a few dances that I couldn’t avoid dancing too (such weak will power, must… keep… dancing…) and suddenly it was the Last Dance. I’m principled enough to not skip the last dance. That’s just bad form. But suddenly, my chances of showing the front that I don’t like dancing was clearly gone. After all, I had stayed to the end, and ended it on the dance floor.

Ah, well, at least we got to dance to the Numa Numa song.

I’ll add some photos once I can steal some from Facebook. Strangely, by 10:30 the day after the Soiree, no pictures have turned up yet.

Things that I covet

Most people can safely ignore this post.

This post has two purposes. My sister asked me what I want for Christmas, so I checked my wishlists, and came up with some things to kind of give an idea. (I’m notoriously hard to buy for, I think.) Obviously, this list is pretty heavy on the book side, but it gives an idea of what I’m thinking about.

Second, it gives me a chance to try out my new Amazon linky thing. I signed up for the Amazon referral program for another project I’ve got in the works, but wanted to try it out. Apparently, if someone clicks through to Amazon from one of these items, and actually buys it, I get a 4% commission. Or something like that. Anyhow, don’t expect to see many of the referral links here, but maybe every once in a while. But if you do want to get Ender in Exile, click through and share the love. 😉


Oh, and don’t miss these things down here:

MetroParks Pass

Michigan State Parks Pass