Thursday, August 30, 2007

Designed To Sell

The BF and I watch this show frequently on HGTV. Designed To Sell is your basic $2,000 budget-per-show re-do that helps the lazy, unmotivated, clueless homeowners get the maximum dollar amount for the home they are planning to sell.

First off, you have to catch the episodes with carpenter Steve Hanneman (left); he's quite the cupcake. He's not on the show's website, so I'm not sure where he went and what he's doing now. But his personal website is "under construction" - so that's a good sign. He's still not as hot as Carter Oosterhouse (or The BF for that matter), but then few are.

But I digress.

The show is good enough. I mean I watch it when it's on. But the thing I don't like about this show is the host, Clive Pearse. He more or less just gets on my nerves. He was apparently a big deal on the BBC, but over here he's just annoying. He fails at being "spontaneously" funny, and he moves and stands uncomfortably, especially for a host of a television show. He tries to disguise his doughy shape with too-large shirts, yet keeps an open collar to show off his collection of jeweled neckwear. Besides all that, I hate the way he says the word "plants".

In sharp contrast to him is Designer Lisa LaPorta. On the outside, she is the combination that usually makes me roll my eyes to the back of my head: short, female, perky, overachiever. But in spite of all that, I really like her. She's not a bit overbearing, and I've never seen a design of hers that I didn't like. She's creative without being condescending.

Aside: sometimes, Lisa gets a little strange. During one of her "Lisa LaPointers Moments" (cute huh?), she was imparting wisdom on how to maximize the curb appeal of your home: Step 1, take down the dilapidated old mailbox from your house. Step 2, paint the mailbox -- and then a 3 minute commercial for suspense -- Step 3, put the mailbox back on the house. Step 4, stand back and admire your work and the value it has added to your house. I mean. Come on. Really?

But as much as I watch and like the show and hate the host, I also sometimes have a problem with the budget unveiling. On one episode, they said they only spent $30 of their weekly $2,000 budget on paint; that's $30 to paint two rooms, one of which was at least 14x30 and already painted slate blue. There's no way only $30 of paint did the trick. I just painted my 10x12 bedroom and it cost me $52. Also, on a recent episode, they added stainless appliances to update a kitchen, but the items failed to make it into the budget at the end of the show.

Still the show does teach and explain well, so it does its job. I just wish they would get rid of the awful host. The designer, however, can stay. Oh yeah - and bring Steve back too!
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Uncommonwealth

There are 4 states in the US that don't call themselves states. They consider themselves commonwealths. Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have all gone against the grain and decided they didn't want to be called the same thing everyone else was. You know what the difference is between a state and commonwealth?

Absolutely nothing. Legally, they both mean the same thing. Has nothing to do with how the government is run, the year they became ratified or joined the Union, how they issues taxes, nothing. Okay, technically a commonwealth is said to govern itself for the common good of its people. But isn't that what ALL states do? If a state doesn't govern itself for the common good of its people, then who is it governing for?

So why have these four chosen to be commonwealths when the other 46 chose to be called states? I'm not complaining - just pointing it out.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Springfield, Part Deux

Today I continued my Lincoln tour. My first stop was the
law office of Lincoln while he was an attorney in Springfield,
the several years prior to his presidency. I ended up getting my own private tour of the building since I was the only person there at the time. It was interesting to see how the court system was set up in the mid-1800s, as well as to see the office Lincoln shared with different colleagues during his 25 years as a practicing lawyer.

Next stop was just steps across the street to the Old State Building. At first I was impressed by the building. It looked like it had been well-restored, with impressive Senate and Representative Chambers, and I was imagining the statesmen like Stephen Douglas giving one of his great orations on the very spot on which I stood. And I was snapping pictures left and right. Until the guide admitted half-way through the tour that everything we were seeing was new. The original building, while located on that acreage, was completely dismantled in the early part of the last century and that 98% of this new building's contents were basically fakes. With that, I raised an eyebrow and sneered (those who know me have seen this look), and proceeded to delete 20-some images from my camera (thank God for digital). I turned around and left the tour and the building.

I don't want to see reproductions of things. The whole fun of pursuing history is ... well ... the history of it. I want to walk the same floor boards as Washington, Look out the same window as Jefferson, sit in the same chair as Franklin, climb the same staircase as Lincoln. I'm not interested in a reproduction or a remodel. Otherwise, I don't really see the point.

Dinner at Jimmy John's, followed by a much-needed nap (I think I was just getting crabby), I hit the gym. I slept very well.

My visit to Springfield was nice. I didn't get a chance to visit Lincoln's gravesite, but as The BF said, "Now you have a reason to go back." (He thinks I'm a nerd.)
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Monday, August 20, 2007

Springfield

Yesterday I drove to Springfield so I could visit the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library. The drive down 55 was simple enough, if you like cornfields -- 'cause that's all you're gonna look at for the 3-hour drive.

But I digress.

I checked into my hotel and then made a bee-line for the museum, which, fortunately enough, was just two blocks away. Suffice is to say, after I arrived at the museum, they needed to mop up behind me. The place is incredible. I am a little bit of a Lincoln Assassination buff (ok, maybe a tad more than a bit), so by proxy I've come to read quite a bit about Lincoln (although I've read even more about John Wilkes Booth). So I had a great understanding of the man and his life. And while walking through the exhibits (which I photographed without knowing that's against the law), I got the same feelings I used to get when reading about an ancestor I had uncovered. A vague sense of familiarity swept over me.

The Library is at least 50% larger than any other presidential library in existence (at least this is what the brochures tell me). The Museum is very interactive, with life-size, lifelike statues of Lincoln, his wife and sons, and other men and women of the time. And yes, even Booth is present (eerily enough, you can see him in the picture at left, just over the shoulder of Tad, the youngest son, as if he's watching and spying on Lincoln still).
Sometimes when I go through a museum, I am happy to go it alone - going at my own pace, seeing the things that interest me most. But here, I had wished someone was with me. For one reason, I would have loved to have my picture taken with the Booth figure but felt too uncomfortable to ask a stranger. But mostly, I wanted to share something that interests me so much with someone who means something to me.
A quick glance at my watch showed me that I still had 55 minutes to walk to the Lincoln home and get in the last tour if possible. A brisk walk several blocks south and I was in the next group heading inside the only home Lincoln ever owned. With the exception that the fence is not painted white, the house is an exact replica of itself from 1860. Even though it was interesting to walk through the house, I didn't feel a connection to it like I did when I visited Mt. Vernon. When visiting there, you get a feeling of the presence of George Washington. Perhaps it's because Lincoln's house is almost void of anything really personal. It's just furniture in rooms. It was worth the tour, but not worth a trip on its own. At least not for me.

Tomorrow, I plan on visiting Oak Ridge Cemetery, where Lincoln is buried (after I actually do some work, that is). It's so fascinating to me to trace this man's steps. Although my interest lay more with the assassination than any other part of Lincoln's life, it's still interesting to learn more about who this man was. Now if I could just find a tour like this that centered around Booth, I'd be ecstatic.

But then - come on - isn't this picture just a lit-tle creepy?


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Baby Voices

One thing that completely throws me off balance is standing in front of a full-grown adult woman who opens her mouth to speak and out comes the voice of a 2-year old. What is this phenomenon? This NEVER happens with men. You'll never hear a grown man open his mouth and sound like he's 3. Granted, puberty might help this, but how does this happen only to women?

Do straight men find this attractive? Is it supposed to be sexy or do guys find it a turn off?
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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Trip Home

Made a surprise visit home to see the family this past weekend. It's always good for me to get back to my roots now and then, and my family knows exactly how to put me back in my place. And I sometimes think that I tend to be the voice of reason for all of them, perhaps because I am so detached from their daily lives. I can offer a very objective opinion on matters and I believe they all look to me for that.

Things back home seem to be good. My dad is purchasing another outdoor shed. He already has one in the back of the house that has become more of a workshop and less of a storage unit. So now he wants to get another one to house the lawn mower and snow blower. My visit home was successful in finding a location for this new building. My parents were going to put it directly across the sidewalk from the other one. It would have been a huge mistake. I found another spot that follows both form and function. All that HGTV The BF makes me watch is starting to pay off.

My sister has since taken in two borders since I saw her in June. Two of her son's friends are now living in her house as well. Neither of them get along with their parents and are in transition from college to adulthood - that murky phase where you graduate and don't know what to do next. Fortunately, one of them just got a job as a teacher and the other one is house shopping. So they are making strides at least.

My brother Matt and I worked out together one day - a shoulder and back routine. I am still sore from it. But it's fun now and then to lift with someone else. It certainly pushed me more than I normally push myself.

And my brother Mike had a housewarming party at his new home. He invited his family and friends. While we were there, the thought struck me that this had to be one of Mike's proudest moments - hosting a party in his own home surrounded by all the people he cared about most. Mike's had a tougher road than the rest of us, but he persevered. His tenacity has paid off and he's now a dedicated husband and father, and certainly someone I admire very much.

So these are the people who keep me grounded: they are big-hearted, driven, supportive people. All of them are constantly guilty of simply doing the right thing. They all make me laugh and take my game up another level. It's good to be with them. Even if just for a weekend now and then.
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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Re-Bourne

I personally love the Jason Bourne trilogy by Robert Ludlum. And when the first book was made into a movie, I loved it even more. I totally buy Matt Damon as the amnesiatic title character. Seeing the latest installment, The Bourne Ultimatum, is on my to-do list. With this movie, comes the end to Ludlum's series (even though author Eric Van Lustbader wrote two more Bourne novels, The Bourne Legacy and The Bourne Betrayal).

Given that, it's almost impossible to NOT come up with a few more titles to possible future installments as the Bourne series grows:

Bourne to Be Wild - Jason Bourne wakes up in a Nairobian hut and needs to fight his way across the jungles of Africa.

Bourne Free - the follow up to Bourne to Be Wild, Jason has since tamed an elephant, cheetah, zebra, hyena, and gnu to live in peace and assist him on his journeys.

Bourne Ready - returning from Africa, Jason sits at Gate B34 at Kenosha Regional Airport, just waiting for something to do.

Bourne in the USA - in this two-parter, Jason awakens on a bench in Asbury Park, NJ, and he has no idea where that is.

Bourne to Run - Figuring he can't do any worse, Jason announces his candidacy for president, even though he has no idea who he is. Given the competition, Jason wins by a landslide.

Bourne Loser - Jason wakes up in a comic strip and thinks the artist has made him a little "too hippy".

Natural Bourne Killers - Jason wakes up in the trunk of a car driven by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis while traveling across the country on a Route 666 killing spree.

Bourne Again - in a takeoff of 50 First Dates, Jason keeps waking up on the same day over and over again, and to make matters worse, Andie McDowell is there every morning.

Help me out here!
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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

We Tried To Tell You

Historical Bush Approval Ratings



Bush's approval rating plunges to new low.

WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush's approval rating plunged to a new low of 26 per cent, making him the least popular US president since Richard Nixon, a poll released on Thursday found.

The Newsweek magazine poll showed that 26 percent of Americans, just over one in four, approve of the job Bush is doing, marking his lowest level of backing since taking office in January 2001.

"In fact, the only president in the last 35 years to score lower than Bush is Richard Nixon," the report said. "Nixon's approval rating tumbled to 23 percent in January 1974, seven months before his resignation over the botched Watergate break-in."

The survey found that the public's disillusionment with Bush spread from the Iraq war to domestic issues, with 73 percent of Americans disapproving of the job Bush has done with Iraq and a record-low 23 percent in favour.

Nampa-AFP