Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone! Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating the holiday and Happy Holidays to those that do not. Here is Hobbit getting into the spirit. I hope that everyone can spend some time with family, friends, and loved ones this holiday.

Happy Rush Day

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Since moving to Germany a few years ago, I’ve come to recognize December 21st as Rush Day. If you’re a fan of the Canadian rock band, Rush, you’ve probably heard of their album 2112. Looking at the date format from a European view of day, month, year as opposed to month, day, year, that I grew up with in the U.S, you see that 21st of December is 21 12 year or 2112, giving us a chance to appreciate Rush Day every year (if you don’t celebrate the existence of the band more often than that already)

Spirit of Radio Live in Rio

I can’t tell you the first time that I heard a Rush song, although I think that it was probably “Tom Sawyer”, “Spirit of Radio”, or “Free Will”, but I’ve listened to Rush for almost 30 years. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them on three different tours and would never tire of seeing and hearing them live. No doubt that if you’ve listened to classic rock, enough you’ve probably heard Geddy Lee’s high pitched voice that has become a signature sound for the band. He is one of the premiere bass players in rock music and a lot of bass players out there have picked up the bass in large part because of him. Neil Peart has been the band’s drummer and lyricist going back to 1974. There is little doubt that he is one of rock’s best drummers. Alex Lifeson has often been overshadowed by Geddy Lee and Neil, but he is an integral part of Rush.

Closer to the Heart Live in Rio

Unlike a lot of other bands, Rush has been able to evolve and reinvent itself over the years. In their earlier days they were more of a Heavy Metal/Hard Rock band, later on they became more progressive, they went through a synthesizer stage, they went into back to their roots stage where they were more guitar driven. They've even incorporated a little rap into their repertoire (Roll The Bones).

Roll the Bones Live in Rio

Over the years Rush has come up with some pretty good lyrics. Neil Peart has been the primary lyricist of Rush over the years. Nobody's Hero shows society's obsession with celebrity over actual heros. Trees has long been one of my favorite Rush songs, in it there is conflict between the Oaks and Maples. In Free Will we see that even indecision is a decision. Ghost of a Chance talks about destiny and choices. I've included some lyrics that I have found interesting below.

From Nobody's Hero...

As the years went by we drifted apart
When I heard that he was gone I felt a shadow cross my heart
But he's nobody's Hero
- Saves a drowning child
- Cures a wasting disease Hero
- Lands a crippled airplane
- Solves great mysteries
- Not the handsome actor who plays the hero's role
- Not the glamour girl
  who'd love to sell her soul
From Trees...
The trouble with the maples     
and they're quite convinced they're right
they say the Oaks are just too lofty 
and they grab up all the light
but the Oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made 
And they wonder why the maples 
Can't be happy in their shade
and the trees are all kept equal 
by hatchet, axe, and saw.

Trees Live in Rio

From Free Will...

If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice

Freewill Live in Rio

From Ghost of a Chance

Like a million little doorways

All the choices we made

All the stages we passed through

All the roles we played

For so many different directions

Our separate paths might have turned

With every door that we opened

Every bridge that we burned

I don’t believe in destiny

Or the guiding hand of fate

I don’t believe in forever

Or love as a mystical state

I don’t believe in the stars or the planets

Or Angels watching from above

I believe there’s a ghost of a chance

Rush is an incredible band live. You can tell by watching the videos included here (most all of them are recorded in Rio) that the crowds really get into the music. Like many rock concerts there are the obligatory solos but Rush solos are anything but called in. Watching YYZ below or many of the other videos, you get a taste for how amazing the band is live.

YYZ Live in Brazil

Essential Rush Albums

Rush has produced so many albums over the years it is hard to narrow down and essential list of Rush albums that you should have, but I have made an attempt. Here are some strategies that you might follow if you have to narrow down your selections from the 30+ albums that are out there.

Go Live
Starting with All The Worlds A Stage through the CD from the Snakes & Arrows tour, Rush had followed a pattern where they would produce about 3 albums and then do a live album. All The World's a Stage has live versions of some of the oldest Rush songs and includes 2112, Anthem, Fly By Night/In The Mood, Something for Nothing, By Tor And the Snow Dog, Working Man/Finding My Way and others. Exit Stage Left includes Limelight, The Trees, Xanadu, Freewill, Closer To The Heart, YYZ, and others. A Show of Hands includes Big Money, Red Sector A, Misson, the Rhythm Method, many of the songs from their synthesizer period as well as a few older classics. Different Stages: Live is a 3 CD set that includes Dreamline, Driven, Bravado, Animate, Show Don't Tell, Test for Echo, Roll the Bones, Stick It Out, and the third CD is a live recording that the band did in 1978. I haven't heard the Snakes & Arrow's tour CD yet, so I can't comment on it.

All The World’s a Stage…

Exit Stage Left…

A Show of Hands…

Different Stages: Live

Just One Album

If you only wish to buy one album, Chronicles is probably your best bet. It has highlights of the band from the beginning (like Working Man, Fly By Night, and Finding My Way) up until 1990, when it was recorded. Of course 1990 is almost 19 years ago, so there are a lot of CDs that Rush recorded after this that you would miss!


Some Other Rush Albums You Might Want to Add to Your Collection

2112, Moving Pictures, and Power Windows are all albums that many Rush fans would agree should be in your collection. 2112 was originally release in 1976 and it includes 2112, A Passage To Bangkok, Something For Nothing, and more. Moving Pictures was originally released in 1981 includes Tom Sawyer, Rec Barchetta, YYZ, LImelight, and others. Power Windows was originally released in 1985 includes Big Money, Manhattan Project, Marathon, Territories, Mystic Rhythms, and others.


Moving Pictures

Power Windows…

The Alternative Era

I saw Rush on their Presto, Roll The Bones, and Counterpart tours, so I'm somewhat partial to these albums. With the albums Rush moves from the synthesizer era to alternative. Presto was originally released in 1989 and includes Show Don't Tell, The Pass, Presto, Superconductor, Red Tide, Hand Over Fist, Available Light, and others. Roll The Bones was originally released in 1991 and includes Dreamline, Bravado, Face Up, Ghost Of A Chance, Neurotica, and others. Counterparts was originally released in 1993 and includes Animate, Stick It Out, Cut To The Chase, Nobodys Hero, Alien Shores, The Speed of Love, Cold Fire, and others.


Roll The Bones…


Recent Albums

Test for Echo, Vapor Trails, Feedback, and Snakes & Arrows are all what I consider to be the most recent Rush albums. Each of them has some good songs although the degree that they're liked by Rush fans does vary. Test For Echo was originally released in 1996 and includes Test For Echo, Driven, and others. Vapor Trails was originally released in 2002 and includes One Little Victory, Ghost Rider, Vapor Trails, and others. This album comes after Neil Peart lost his
daughter (in a automobile accident) and his wife (from cancer), so you can hear the influence of these events in Peart's writing. Feedback was originally released in 2004 and includes Rush covers of Summertime Blues, Heart Full Of Soul, The Seeker, Shapes of Things, Crossroads, and others. This album is Rush paying homage to some of their influences with them covering songs from the 60's. Snakes & Arrows was originally released in 2007 and includes Far Cry, The Larger Bowl, The Way the Wind Blows, and others.

Test for Echo…

Vapor Trails…


Snakes & Arrows…

So I hope that you've enjoyed my 2008 Rush Day. I hope that you'll go listen or watch Rush. If you'd like to catch up with the band you can find their tour schedule and other news at their official website, you can read about them at Wikipedia, and if you'd like to play their music on your guitar you can find many of their songs at Chordie (I'm sure that some of the better music stores also have Rush sheet music as well). So I'll leave you now with Rush playing 2112 Live in Rio.

2112 Live in Rio
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Mein Restaurant Final Tonight

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tonight is the final of “Mein Restaurant” on Vox in Germany. Which restaurant will win and get to stay open, will it be Graurocks in Hamburg or the Grinzektaze in Munich?

Five couples were cast to open restaurants and after a series of competitions, one restaurant would be selected to stay open. Restaurants opened in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Leipzig, and Munich and not it is down to the finalists. Couples had to come up with themes, business models, renovate locations that were in pretty bad shape, all in all you watched the couples pour their hearts into their dreams of owning and operating their own restaurants. It was a lot of work and you can only imagine how it must feel to have put so much blood, sweat, tears, and soul into the restaurant only to have it taken away from you, because only one will stay open.

The concept for the show appears to go back to Australia, where they had two seasons in 2004 and 2005. The concept has also been used in Belgium, Denmark, New Zeeland, and the Netherlands. You might consider this another one of the many reality television series that we’ve seen the last several years like, Big Brother, Survivor, and so on, but it just seems to have taken the genre in a more positive direction.

My early favorites on the German show were the couples from Leipzig and Munich. I was really sad to see the Leipzig couple go, because I really liked the couple and thought that they had a good concept with their family friendly environment complete with a Kiddy corner. In the episode that aired 16 December, a consultant estimated and showed the remaining two restaurants how much money they might earn in profit if they were to win based on how they’ve performed so far. The Grinzekatze incorporated a nice cocktail bar into their restaurant from the very beginning and were expected to make a nice profit, while the Graurocks appears to be catering to a more upscale crowd that doesn’t want cocktails (or so Conny seemed to think). It should be noted that the jury on the German series includes celebrity cook Tim Mälzer.

I’m looking forward to see who wins and wonder if there will be another season. Tonight we’ll find out if the Grinzekatze or the Graurocks will stay open. Gutten appetite!

Photo credit: "Dining Restaurants" courtesy of savensail

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Knut The Polar Bear is Two Years Old

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Today is Knut's second birthday. You might have forgotten him by now, but he is the polar bear whose mother refused to take care of him and he became an overnight celebrity shortly afterwards. While the spotlights have faded and most of the cuteness has warn off, he still is a large attraction at the Berlin Zoo. In honor of his second birthday I've assembled some videos that I have found on him, from when he was a little bear cub to his first birthday.

Knut on CNN and ProSeiben (a German Network, so the last part of the video is in German)

Here is an adorable song song by a younger fan of Knut

Knut at six months old

Knut at one year old

I hope that you've enjoyed this look at Knut. If you're ever in Berlin, why not go to the zoo and pay him a visit. By the way I heard that Knut might become a father in a little while as had had been mated with a couple of other bears at the zoo. You can also visit Knut's website or read about him at Wikipedia. Happy Birthday, Knut!

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 27, 2008

As America celebrates Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for Thanksgiving. I’ve always enjoyed the holiday because it brings families and friends together, and oftentimes even strangers are welcomed and made to feel as though they belong.

For nine years I lived in Dallas, Texas and it became a custom that I spent Thanksgivings, Christmas Eve, and Christmas with the Perez and Tristan families. Since my parents and sisters were back in Michigan and my grandfather would fly off to spend the holiday with my Aunt DeeAnn and her family and he was often gone over several Christmases as well, I enjoyed spending these times with the Perez and Tristan families. Both families made me feel very welcome. I worked with Raul and Francisco (Francis for short) and we attended the University of North Texas together and we became friends, while Francisco and Raul had been friends since kindergarten. I had always thought that it was really great how both families had welcomed me.

The Tristan family had a tradition that that Mrs. Tristan and daughters would make pounds and pounds of tamales and I really enjoyed them (every now and again when I’m in a Mexican restaurant I’ll look to see if they have tamales and if think about ordering some and think of the homemade tamales of the Tristan family). They also had a big get together on Christmas Eve. Francisco has a few brothers and a couple of sisters and add in his nieces and nephews and it was often a pretty large get together. Francis has been a very good friend over the years and we asked him to be the godfather of our oldest daughter, he and his wife flew out to Germany to be at the baptism and I have so many great memories of all the years that I have know him and his family.

I often tie those three holidays together and think of them as one, but I did start writing about Thanksgiving (didn’t I?) Thanksgivings I usually spent with the Perez family during my Dallas years. Raul was the middle son and had one sister and a niece and a nephew. There was usually a nice turkey and many of the Thanksgiving dishes that many of us know and love. During those years I saw little Jena her brother Marty grow. Before I left Dallas, I saw both of Raul’s brothers get married and I even flew back to Dallas after moving away to be at his sister’s wedding.

Since moving to Germany seven years ago, it has been more of a challenge to celebrate Thanksgiving. First of all, the day that the American Thanksgiving is celebrated is not a national holiday in Germany, so to have the day off requires making arrangements to take the day off (which I have done several times, but it didn’t work out this year). You don’t usually find turkeys over here like you do in the U.S., so one time a friend of ours was able to arrange that we got a turkey from some Americans they knew that had access to a PX. One year we celebrated with another American from Michigan and her then boyfriend (now husband). Another year we went to visit some friends that were living in the U.K. at the time. This was even more memorable because it was my first Thanksgiving outside of the U.S. and we drove through the tunnel between Calais and Dover, commonly referred to as “the Chunnel” since it goes under the English Channel. My mother had passed away that September and dad had flown over to see us so it was all that more memorable.

I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving. I’ve also enjoyed how it brings people together and that while you do tend to think about things that you’re thankful for, you don’t need to be of any particular Christian denomination, so the holidays tends to unite people and drive them apart. So I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and maybe remember some of your more memorable ones.

Photo credit: "Thanksgiving Turkey, white background" courtesy of davidlat

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Obama's Election

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Ms USA" courtesy of weirdvis

Much will be written and much has already been written about Senator Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States because of the enormity of the event, I hope that you’ll indulge me and give me my moment. Going back nearly two years ago (has this campaign only been two years? it has seemed so much longer), we’ve seen so many things in this election that we hadn’t see at anytime in recent history (and some things that we haven't seen before) that we knew things would be different. Some Obama supporters would say it was destiny, but when you look at the tickets that were offered by both major parties, this was going to be a historic election regardless of who won, there would have been a woman as vice president, had McCain/Palin won and there is now a president elect who has African-American ancestry.

I have to say that I have become part of that group of voters that both major campaigns were chasing after. I have become disillusioned with both major parties and felt that both parties seemed to represent big business and special interests more than my fellow Americans; that Republican or Democrat, neither seemed to be moving the country in the right direction. So often, although the two major parties’ candidates might seem worlds apart on some “hot button issues” (or whatever issues the strategists decided to focus on) the results most recently have often not really been a choice at all. Dan Carlin often refers to the choice between Democrat and Republican as being Hertz and Avis; that both parties are really the same. Having seen the 2000 presidential election end up in the Supreme Court and further legal debates about the 2004 election; one party try to impeach a president for lying about an extra-marital affair, while some of its key members weren’t exactly squeaky clean; one president that was labeled Conservative has presided over one of the biggest expansions of government and deficit spending that has surely displeased many “Conservatives”; and the state of California impeached a governor because he was “unpopular” not that he had committed a crime or some act that impeachment was truly designed for. It seems that there is so much effort spent on getting power and once you get power to try to change the rules to keep the other guys out, that neither of the two major parties seemed able to tackle the difficult issues that needed to be solved. These events don’t even go back to the Vietnam War and Watergate! It is absolutely amazing to me that we had the Energy Crisis in the seventies and we didn’t seem to learn our lesson. I guess that you could say that I’ve become cynical of American politics.

I watched the election coverage on November 4th (already November 5th where I was in Germany) with anticipation. I was flipping back and forth occasionally between CNN, C-NBC Europe, and Sky and keeping an eye on how many votes had been projected by each network. Almost immediately after the polls closed in California, CNN was projecting Senator Obama to be the President Elect. I watched the huge crowd that had assembled in Chicago awaiting the newly elected president. You could see the excitement in the peoples’ faces that they were so happy that Senator Obama had won. The faces of the people weren't just of people happy that their candidate had one, but more being overwhelmed in a historic moment, that they now had a sense of hope that maybe never existed for many of them before. Reverent Jessie Jackson was fighting back the tears, you have to wonder what he was thinking as the Senator from Illinois spoke. As I was listening to Senator Obama’s speech I was thinking that this speech will be remembered for generations like Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

In American politics there has often been one candidate that broke the ground for future candidates. There was a time when America would not have elected a Catholic as president for fear that the president would listen to the Pope above the needs of the country, but Al Smith ran and many years later a Catholic Kennedy from Massachusetts was elected. There was a time when a divorced man could not have been elected president, but when Ronald Regan ran in 1980, hardly anyone noticed that he was divorced. Reverend Jessie Jackson made a few attempts at the White House but didn’t get the nomination for the Democratic Party that he sought, but you can’t help but think that this helped to break some of those barriers down. Back in 1984 Geraldine Ferraro was the first women to run as a vice presidential candidate for either of the two major parties, certainly this helped pave the way for Senator Clinton to have the success that she had in her campaign, also it now wasn’t so odd when Senator McCain choose Governor Palin as his running mate.

Senator Obama said in his speech that this election victory wasn’t the change that they were seeking but a chance to make the change that so often had spoke of. Many people will say that an African American man being elected as an American president is a victory for the civil rights’ cause. Certainly this one election doesn’t end all the years of discrimination, hatred, and mistreatment but what a message it has to send out to people from all walks of life, that they to can aspire to be president one day or anything else that they put their minds to. In future elections, race and gender will likely play less and less of a role and we can hope that the quality of the candidates themselves and their positions on the issues will be more of the focus.

This election has been very long, partisan, negative, and has really torn people apart. I for one really disliked the “palling around with terrorists” remark that was made about Obama, which seemed to imply that he didn’t have America’s best interests at heart and couldn’t be trusted. A talk radio culture has sprung up that makes its’ living by tearing America apart and creating resentment and division between people. Dan Carlin touches on this division in his latest podcast “Permanent Division”. I have been annoyed for several years how the Conservative movement has been able to paint “Liberal” as a dirty word, chant “Tax and Spend” to scare people away from any candidate that wasn’t in the "Conservative" camp. Even when candidates are "moderate" or more center, someone is always trying to present them at "too liberal". In the closing days of the campaign, many Republicans were trying to paint Senator Obama as a “Socialist” and some have even gone onto to say that he had Communist or Marxist leanings. I read a nice editorial that claimed that Obama wasn’t a “Socialist”.

America’s image around the world has sunk quite a bit in the last eight years and there is a lot of mending that needs to take place. The way that we have conducted our "War on Terror" has really helped tarnish our image. Dan Carlin did a podcast about torture a while back that will make you think twice about some of the things that have been done in the name of keeping America safe. But all things considered, people around the world seem to have been hoping that Senator Obama would be elected, so that America could move away from much of what it has done in the last few years. As an American living outside of the U.S., I can see what public opinion outside of America has been and I’ve seen that people have been excited about the possibility of Senator Obama being elected. I watched Senator Obama’s speech in Berlin on television and you could see that the crowd was excited and there were a lot of people that went to see him make this speech. People as far away as Australia have written about the election of Senator Obama and even the SEO world seems to have learned something from him.

Senator Obama has inspired a lot of young people to vote and become involved. In several of the past elections there has been talk about young people getting involved and making a difference, but this time it did finally happen. Have the post Baby Boomers finally shed the chains of apathy and decided that they wanted to make their voices heard and wanted to see what they could do? The Baby Boomers have talked a lot about changing the world, but much of the generation that was against authority became authority, and while some progress has been made in the Civil Rights area, many issues remain that need to be solved and worked on. Are the post Baby Boomers up for the task? Will they continue to shake off the apathy that they’ve previously accepted as the norm? Only time will tell, but it is encouraging none the less.

I really liked the part of Senator Obama’s speech where he talked about the 106 year old woman from Atlanta, Ann Nixon Cooper, and all she has seen in her life. As parents most of us want a better world for our kids and can relate to Senator Obama’s speech where he asked “if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?” Many of the problems and issues that we don’t tackle today only become harder and more expensive to tackle in the future and is if fair to burden our kids and grandkids with such things? That part of the speech is reminiscent of President Kennedy challenging America to put a man on the moon.

I find hope in the gracious concession speech that Senator McCain made. In the past there have been some really challenging elections and America was able to unite again after the votes were counted. In more recent years the differences and animosity has lingered past the elections. I do truly hope that our leaders will be able to put aside their partisan differences and work on the huge issues that we’re facing today. I hope that the country can come back together and that while we may disagree we don't have to be disagreeable, that the people will realize there isn't a need to hate those that are different from you. I have included Senator Obama’s speech from Chicago and Senator McCain’s concession speech below, so you can read through what they said, also you can watch videos of the two speeches from the two links provided.

Senator Obama’s Victory Speech from Chicago

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled --
Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics -- you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to -- it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington -- it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek -- it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers -- in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House -- a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -- I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world -- our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down -- we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security -- we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright --tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America -- that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing -- Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time -- to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth -- that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Senator McCain’s Concession Speech

Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful Arizona evening.

My friends, we have -- we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.

A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Sen. Barack Obama to congratulate him. To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Sen. Obama believes that, too.

But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.

America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.

Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

Sen. Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer him my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day. Though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.

Sen. Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

It is natural. It's natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again.

We fought -- we fought as hard as we could. And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours.

I am so deeply grateful to all of you for the great honor of your support and for all you have done for me. I wish the outcome had been different, my friends.

The road was a difficult one from the outset, but your support and friendship never wavered. I cannot adequately express how deeply indebted I am to you.

I'm especially grateful to my wife, Cindy, my children, my dear mother and all my family, and to the many old and dear friends who have stood by my side through the many ups and downs of this long campaign.

I have always been a fortunate man, and never more so for the love and encouragement you have given me.

You know, campaigns are often harder on a candidate's family than on the candidate, and that's been true in this campaign.

All I can offer in compensation is my love and gratitude and the promise of more peaceful years ahead.

I am also -- I am also, of course, very thankful to Gov. Sarah Palin, one of the best campaigners I've ever seen, and an impressive new voice in our party for reform and the principles that have always been our greatest strength, her husband Todd and their five beautiful children for their tireless dedication to our cause, and the courage and grace they showed in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign.

We can all look forward with great interest to her future service to Alaska, the Republican Party and our country.

To all my campaign comrades, from Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter, to every last volunteer who fought so hard and valiantly, month after month, in what at times seemed to be the most challenged campaign in modern times, thank you so much. A lost election will never mean more to me than the privilege of your faith and friendship.

I don't know -- I don't know what more we could have done to try to win this election. I'll leave that to others to determine. Every candidate makes mistakes, and I'm sure I made my share of them. But I won't spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been.

This campaign was and will remain the great honor of my life, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Sen. Obama and my old friend Sen. Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the next four years.

I would not -- I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century.

Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it.

Tonight -- tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Sen. Obama -- whether they supported me or Sen. Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.

I hope that you have enjoyed this post. Please feel free to subscribe to this blog and check out my Systems-Overload blog. Feel free to add your comments but please refrain from vulgar and obscene comments, a healthy discussion is welcome.

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Our Recent Visti to Erperheide, a Center Parc

Sunday, October 12, 2008

We recently spent several days at the Center Parc location called Erperheide in Belgium.  The girls had a blast and Christine and I enjoyed ourselves as well.

Anna and Sarah "working on the farm"

Although we have had several vacations, this is what you might really call our first “family vacation”.  Center Parcs are really designed for “family vacations” with a lot of activities for kids.  There was a huge indoor pool made up of a dozen or so pools (including one indoor/outdoor pool), various water slides (including a couple of pretty impressive slides), a wave pool, and many other pools.  There was also a big indoor playground for the kids.

Feeding the goats

Our friend Claudia was also with us.  She had been at this Center Parc before, so we had our own expert along for the ride.  She has been to a couple of other locations with some other friends of hers.  It was nice to have Claudia along.

Anna was all excited about the water slides.  She went on the smaller of the two big ones with Claudia and then talked me into going on it with her.  By our second to last full day at the park, Anna had managed to ride the big one several times.  She kept wanting to go down the slides and you practically had to pull her away.

Anna and her little friend


There were several nice activities available for kids to get involved in.  Sarah got to dress like an Indian (Native American to be politically correct).  The kids did a nice little dance for the parents when we came to pick them up (I posted a video of this at our YouTube Channel and have embedded it in this post).  Anna attended one activity where she got to make a decorative Halloween Witch.  Both girls got to “work on the farm” and got to feed some of the goats and animals there.  In addition they got to pet a couple of rabbits.  As you can probably imagine, Anna requested that we get a goat, rabbit, and so on.  Anna went on a pony ride with Claudia while Christine and I picked Sarah up from one of her activities.  I took Sarah on a pony ride, but I didn’t hear where I was supposed to take the pony and ended up taking Sarah and our pony on an extended trip around the park.  After realizing that I had made a wrong turn or so, I tried to turn the pony around and he (?) didn’t want to cooperate.  I did get some funny looks from people as we walked along where there were no ponies.  Sarah had a lot of fun and we did get our monies worth on that pony ride!

Sarah dressed as an Indian


On Wednesday we were visited by our former neighbors from when we lived in Belgium a few years ago.  First Edith and Evelina met us in the pool and later on Gert met us after he finished work for the day.  The Center Parc that we stayed at was only two exists away on the highway from where we had stayed when we lived in Belgium.


We did a lot of swimming in our time at Erperheide, so I wouldn’t mind not going to the pool for a little while (so I can at least get that chlorine smell out of mind). We had a great vacation and will probably be going to Center Parcs again in the future. With locations in Belgium, France, Germany, and Holland, we’ll have some choices to make.  I posted several other photos in a folder at Flickr.

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Beardie Walk in October

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Beardie Walk- October 2008

Last weekend we attended another Beardie Walk. Anna and Sarah went with us this time. Hobbit's mom and an aunt were there, in addition to four of Hobbit's sisters, there was a cousin as well. Hobbit was the only male, but he didn't seem to mind being outnumbered. The weather was cooperative, we had a nice autumn day for the walk. Unlike the walk that was held back in July, this walk was open to all of the people that had bought puppies from our breeder and many of Hobbit's farther flung siblings didn't attend. It was a nice event and we look forward to the next meeting.



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Copenhagen and Malmo

Friday, September 26, 2008


In June I was on a business trip to Copenhagen. I took some pictures of Malmo, Sweden and Copenhagen while I was there. I finally got around to putting them into a photo album @flickr.

Statues in Malmo City, Sweden

Since all the hotels in Copenhagen were booked my first night, I booked a hotel in Malmo City, Sweden. My flight was delayed so I arrived late at night. I took a train to Malmo City, but since it was so dark outside I didn't really get to see a whole lot. I had a nice view of Malmo City from my hotel (I've included some of the pictures that I took from the hotel in the Flickr set). The second picture posted here is of some statues that I saw on my way to the train station. but many of them didn't turn out osed My first night there I stayed in Malmo City, Sweden. The train trip back to Copenhagen included some amazing views of the sea. There is an incredible bridge connecting Malmo, Sweden with Copenhagen. The Øresund Fixed
Link was quite a construction project as it connects Sweden and Denmark, spanning an awful lot of water and it goes through Pepparholmen and artificial island via a tunnel. Since its opening in 2007, approximately 18 million vehicles and over 44 million people have crossed the bridge.

The sun reflecting on the harbor in Copenhagen

My second night I got a chance to see some of Copenhagen. Walking around the harbor I was very impressed. Of course there were some of the nautical sights that you'd expect to see, but in addition there was a vibrant and active city centre. In the very first picture posted above you can see some of the varying color of the city. Imagine that you're looking at the bridge in the harbor area facing the sun streaming down, on your right is a series of cafes and restaurants. The last picture is a status of Hans Christian Andersen, famous author and one of Denmark's most famous people, may of his stories are translated into English and available here. Standing at the statue you can see the Tivolli Gardens, a fairy tale amusement part. I really enjoyed my brief sight-seeing in both cities and would love to see both cities during longer visits in the future.

Hans Christian Andersen

Tivoli Center

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September 11th, Seven Years Later

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Irish Tombstone taken in March 2006

The Seventh Anniversary of September Eleventh is upon us. In honor of this event I decided to write about one of the victims of that awful day. While I was putting together my post for the Sixth Anniversary last year I ran across a Project 2996, a site dedicated to preserving the memory of those victims and decided that I wanted to participate for the seventh anniversary. Preserving people’s memory is important to me, if someone is remembered by anyone, then they can never truly be gone, their memory lives on.

What is my connection to September Eleventh, you might ask? At the age of 55, my mother lost a battle to cancer in the time between the first and second planes hitting the World Trade Center. My father was drawn to the television coverage (as much of the world was) and when he returned to my mother’s side she had passed away. I moved to the Frankfurt, Germany area in April, 2001 (I’m not in the military; it is marriage that brought me here). I was working that day and my wife called me and told me about the World Trade Center and asked me to come home. I rounded up the person that I car pool with and we drove home. On the way home I listened to AFN (Armed Forces Network, radio broadcast for soldiers, and one of the few English radio stations that I can pick up in my area) and they were broadcasting NPR (National Public Radio) coverage and the magnitude of what had happened was starting to sink in and I was becoming aware of more of the details. When I walked in the door my wife gave me the news of my mother’s passing, as coverage blared on CNN in the background. From that moment on, whenever I hear of September Eleventh (which is pretty often) I think about my mother.

Remembering David W. Laychak

I was trying to decide who I wanted to write about and kept running across David W. Laychak’s name, so I seemed drawn to him. I’ve never met or knew David, so the information that I have used to base my post about him was first gathered from stories and articles that I have found on the internet and later I was fortunate enough to be able to get some of my information from David’s sister Molly Laychak Whalen). This is my attempt at remembering David Laychak. He was working in the Pentagon on that September day.

The Father

David is the father to two children. Zachary was 9 and Jennifer was 7 at the time of his death. Losing a parent at any age is always tough, but it seem especially unfair when you’re a child and you lose a parent. David taught Zachary how to ride a bike and I read that Jennifer was looking forward to being taught how to ride a bike by her father. Dave was the coach of all Zachary’s football teams while they lived in Arizona. I can imagine the excitement David felt when he found out that his wife was pregnant with Zachary and with becoming a dad. How thrilled he must have been when Zachary was born. How ecstatic he must have been to find out that his wife was pregnant with Jennifer. With each child parents get to experience a whole world of firsts: first real smile, watching them take their first steps, watching them crawl, their first words, their first tooth, the first time that the eat vegetables (or try to wear them as the case often is!). How proud David must have been when his kids learned to read and write. Being a parent is one of the most important things that people can do in their lives and David brought two children into this world that will live their lives and keep his memory alive. David’s kids submitted a nice electronic card in honor of their father that you can see at Defend America.

The Husband

While giving birth to children is one of the biggest events in anyone’s life, your wedding day is right up there as well. David met Laurie Miller while working at the Pentagon. Both shared the fact that they had been military dependents. Laurie’s dad had been stationed in Hawaii and as such she attended and graduated from Hawaii Baptist Academy in 1980. They met when Laurie interned at the Pentagon one summer. Their first date was a Jimmy Buffet concert. They married in Manassas, Virginia and honeymooned in Cancun, Mexico. Laurie worked for NASA for 10 years before becoming a substitute teacher and raising her kids. They were married 13 years at the time of his death.

The Brother

David was respected and loved by his siblings. His older brother Jim has been the president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund (you can donate here), and hs given a huge part of his life to seeing that a memorial was built to honor those people that lost their lives at the Pentagon that day. The memorial is scheduled to open on the Seventh Anniversary. . His sister Molly Laychak Walen) wrote a couple of really nice tributes to David. She wrote a short one at the Progressive Independent and a longer really nice one at Legacy (note when I checked her entry was on page 3). You could tell from what she, wrote that Molly really loved her older brother. Jim had mentioned in one of the many interviews that he has had, that he was only doing what David would have done for him as well. David also had a younger brother Mile, who keeps more to himself and isn’t as public a figure as the other siblings. You could probably say that having a father (LTC (Ret) Robert Laychak) who server 31 years as an Army officer probably brought the siblings closer together. Living at a number of military posts across the U.S. and even in Terhan, Iran, meant moving a lot and relying more on each other. The family was stationed in Iran in the early 70’s so it was before the whole Iran Hostage situation. Molly, being the baby sister of three brothers, was teased a lot. There are so many families where the siblings have strained relationships, often having very little to do with each other for years, so it is nice to see where siblings do love their brother. I wonder what it was like at their dinner table. Did they have any special family traditions? How did they celebrate Christmas?

The Friend

When you live your life well, you’re bound to make some great friendships along the way. David was a groomsman at Roland Clavien’s wedding in September 2000, and Roland wrote foundly of how David was so happy for him on his wedding day and how David was always so happy when others were happy. Roland discovered that David had died after returning from his honeymoom. Roland also wrote about how David had been so happy that he hugged him, something that David hadn’t done in the previous 15 years. I wonder about some of David’s othe friends. Who was his best friend? Who was his first best friend? It must have been nice to have had David as a friend.

The Athlete

David received Varsity letters for football and baseball (four in total) while attending Hayfield High School in Alexandria, Virginia. He was the winner of Hawk’s Claw Award as top male student/athlete while in high school. Dave was starting quarterback in his senior year at high school. As quarterback in one high school game in 1978, Dave had four thouchdowns, including two where he threw passes to his brother Michael, the headline in the sports section f the local newspaper said “the Laychak-Laychak connection” Dave played quarterback and defensive lineman at Brown University on a football scholarship. He coached several football teams, in addition to his son’s teams while living in Arizona, he coached 6 to 8 year olds in his twenties in Northern Virginia. He was well liked and respected as many parents wanted Dave to be the coach of their kids’ teams. Dave liked hiking, mountain biking, and a variety of other sports.

In the Community

During the years that they lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona, they Attended church at “Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church”. Dave was so liked and respected that the community built a memorial in tribute to Dave at Tompkins Park by the flagpole. The first picnic ramada is named after Dave. Sierra Vista holds a ceremony in honor of September Eleventh every year. After moving to Manassas, Virginia, David and family attended St. Francis of Assisi in Triangle, Virginia.

The Person

From what I have read, David has come across as a kind and good-hearted person. He had genuine concern and cared for people and he shared in the happiness of others, he was happy for other people when they were happy. He was able to inspire people around him to become better people. He was nicknamed bucko while attending college. His favorite meal was meatloaf, I know that a lot of people joke about meatloaf and don’t like it but here must have been something special about the meatloaf Dave’s mom made (hopefully I will hear the story behind it one day!). He earned a B.A. in Organizational Behavior from Brown University. He earned an M.B.A. from Syracuse University. He enjoyed the desert scenery and open spaces during the nine years that he lived in Arizona. Dave served the Department of the Army for almost 18 years, reaching the level of GS-14. He loved his country and was proud to be able to serve his country as a civilian employee in the Department of the Army.

I hope that you have enjoyed the glimpse into David W. Laychak that I was able to provide. If you have anything about Dave that you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment. If you have anything about any of the other September Eleventh victims that you’d like to share, it is welcome in the comments.

What can I do in honor of September Eleventh?

  • Go to Project 2996 and write about one of the victims
  • Donate to the Pentagon Memorial or become involved in one of the other memorials being planned
  • Participate in the Rattle the Runway Ride a motorcycle ride that is held yearly in honor of September Eleventh victims
  • Organize your own motorcycle ride or event in your area in honor of the victims and their families
  • Pray for the victims and their families
  • Don’t ever forget (I know that I won’t)

**I’ve run across a lot of links in preparing this post that I plan to share via our Tumblelog and other social bookmarking sites that I belong to in the near future.

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