Saturday, November 29, 2008

Europe Photo Entry #11: Innsbruck

We took another day trip to Innsbruck, Austria, to go hiking in the Alps. This is one where, yet again, the pictures just don't do it justice. I repeatedly forced Michelle to sing "The Sound of Music." OK, so it was really me singing it. Don't tell anyone.

Michelle takes a drink next to some friendly cows in a mountain pasture. The people that own the farm have an outdoor restaurant with some mean grub and an oompa band. When the tubas started playing, all of the cows came over and stood at attention. I think it was their anthem.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Europe Photo Entry #10: Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein ("New Swan Castle") is a castle in the Bavarian Alps right on the border of Germany and Austria. It was built by a Bavarian king known as "Mad King Ludwig". Ludwig had an obsession with swans, and his castles are decorated everywhere with swans on the inside.

Perhaps more significantly, Neuschwanstein is, according to legend, Walt Disney's inspiration for Cinderella's castle at Disneyland. As you can see from the pictures, if that's not true, it may as well be. It's a stunning sight, and sits between a valley and a mountain range that are as pretty as any place on earth. This was probably a top-five day out of our month in Europe.

The Alps on one side...And the valley on the other.This is Hohenschwangau ("High Swan Something-or-other"), Ludwig's "other" swan castle (you can never have too many), which is right next to Neuschwanstein. It was his "hunting lodge".P.S. After looking at these photos, I'm amazed at how well they turned out. This is one of those places that's just too beautiful to screw up photographically.

UPDATE: Michelle and I were watching "The Great Escape" last night and Neuschwanstein is actually in the movie! How did I not notice this before? It's during the part where two of the escapees steal a Nazi fighter plane. Weird coinicidence.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jack is Back

Apparently this is “pop culture” week on our blog.

Other than sports, there aren’t many TV shows I watch regularly. Basically just “The Office”, “24” and “The Biggest Loser” (Having lost 120 pounds myself, I’m transfixed by that show).
For those of you who watch the show, you know that “24” was horrible last season. Nothing made sense, and they forgot that the show is all about Jack Bauer killing terrorists without joy or regret, saving the world in the meantime.

Well, last night there was a two-hour movie as a prequel to the next season that starts in January. It was called “24: Redemption”. I thought that was a terrible name. While Jack may be “cursed” in the sense that he has to do all of the horrible things that no one else is able or willing to do, he doesn’t need to be “redeemed” for anything he’s done. He always does the right thing, even if the world hates him for it. Based on the name, I was worried that the show would turn Jack into this regretful shell of himself, apologizing to every middle-eastern dictator whose minions he has had the unfortunate need to kill.

I shouldn’t have worried. When Jack said to that loathsome U.N. weasel with the bad haircut, “Why don’t you go hide in the shelter with the OTHER children?”, I literally jumped out of my seat and yelped. If there has been a better put-down in any movie or TV show, I can’t think of it. If there were any justice in the world, the guy who wrote that line would win an Emmy, a Pulitzer, a Grammy (for the spoken-word album recorded by Kiefer Sutherland), a Congressional Medal of Honor and, most importantly, a Nobel Prize (it should be the Peace prize, but Literature works as well).

Oh, and Jack killed all of the African warlords, in case you were wondering.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh, Twilight

I realize that the majority of people who read this blog are Michelle’s friends, so I’m going to be careful in how I word this. I won’t be going to see “Twilight” with Michelle this week. She’s going with a friend, a woman, and that is as it should be. I’m not 100% against seeing a romantic movie with my wife, but it’s pretty obvious to me that “Twilight” is strictly a female phenomenon. Actually, “phenomenon” is the only way to describe it; it seems that every woman I know is obsessed with the books to an unseemly extent. It’s like their version of college football.

Indeed, I hear about it so much that I can basically piece together the plot without having read any of the books:

“Twilight”- In this book we are introduced to Bella, a highly intelligent, highly attractive high school girl who, like most such girls, considers herself above all those immature high school idiot guys. Along comes Edward. [Oh, the pretentiousness of that name! He could never go by “Ed” or “Eddie”, or even, to be unconventional, “Ward”. Nope, it’s “Edward”, as if he were some rich British exchange student, son of the 12th Earl of Saxony.]

Bella and Edward live in an appropriately gloomy town on the coast of Washington. Bella finds herself strangely attracted to Edward’s pasty white complexion and brooding countenance. She’s also stunned by his rock-hard body [Um, Honey, should you be reading that?]. They begin to date, fall in love, etc., but then Bella finds out that Edward is a vampire. No problem though; he only drinks the blood of animals. Just make sure to keep him away from your sanguine little Fluffy. Vampires are immortal, so Edward is actually like 150 years old or so. Not sure why he’s still in high school; maybe he didn’t want to graduate without a girlfriend.

Apparently there are other vampires who drink the blood of humans. Not only are they dangerous for regular folks, they also want to kill vampires like Edward who don’t. I’m not sure why this is. Can’t they just make fun of Edward like the rest of us make fun of vegetarians?

Even if the story didn’t have vampires, it would still be considered a “fantasy” book for the following reason: Bella wants to make out with Edward, but he is always slowing things down. Sure, this happens all the time. Then the Easter Bunny makes a dramatic entrance as he’s being chased by a hungry Sasquatch. OK, that second part didn’t happen, but the story wouldn’t be any less plausible if it had. Like I said, it’s a fantasy book. At each of these “romantic” scenes, the women readers swoon, thinking, “There really are men out there who love a woman without wanting to proceed too quickly to making out. How romantic.” When I was single, I thought it was enough that we Mormon boys weren’t trying to, well, break the Law of Chastity. The bar has now been raised.

“New Moon”- In the 2nd book, Bella proceeds to ruin a good thing by vacillating between Edward and a new guy named Jacob. Jacob is a werewolf, by the way. Apparently dating only one Halloween monster wasn’t “dangerous” enough for her. This is a watershed moment, as women readers are divided into “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” camps. Jacob doesn’t treat Bella nearly as well as Edward does. The decision between them is nonetheless difficult for Bella because, well, she’s a girl and girls like jerks. [Every guy right now is nodding]. Hey, even Hitler had a girlfriend.

“Eclipse”- Not really sure what happens in this one, other than more consternation about whom Bella will pick. She eventually settles upon Edward, which makes her the first woman in history who, when faced with a decision between two “dangerous” guys, picks the one with less facial hair.

“Breaking Dawn”- Edward and Bella get married and Bella becomes pregnant with a vampire baby. Vampire babies are different from human babies because they are like a parasite which consumes the mother’s blood and makes her extremely ill. Oh wait, that’s just like a regular baby.

So there you have it; I’m not too worried about Michelle falling in love with Edward because I am at least as solicitous and protective of her as Edward is of Bella. I may not have his rock-hard abs, but at least Michelle hasn’t bought a “Mrs. Cullen” sign yet. [Ladies: you can purchase them from my friend Kristyn: ] I don’t get it, and I never will. But then, Michelle’s not going to sit down for the Ohio State-Michigan game this Saturday either…

[Editor's Note: I thought Michelle would laugh at this post. She didn't. She said it was "kind of funny, I guess." Her rebuttal is forthcoming.]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Europe Photo Entry #9: Dachau

The Dachau Nazi concentration camp is located just outside Munich. When we originally planned our trip, we considered going to P0land, which would have allowed us to see Auschwitz. The difference between Auschwitz and Dachau is that Auschwitz was an extermination camp specifically designed for killing. Dachau was begun as a work camp for Jews, POWs and political dissidents. It was the first large-scale concentration camp. Eventually a gas chamber was installed, but historians believe that it was never used. Nonetheless, at least 20,000 people died in Dachau due to disease and starvation, and over 200,000 were crammed into its barracks. In the end, it was good that we ended up going to Dachau instead because Michelle said she wasn't sure she could have handled Auschwitz. Arbeit Macht Frei: "Work Makes You Free"
The Exterior of the Gas Chamber
The interior of the gas chamber, labeled as a shower.
This is where the zyklon B pellets were poured in.

This shower head isn't even hooked up to a water pipe.
The Crematorium
Each row that you can see in this picture used to be a barracks. Bizarrely, many Soviet POWs stayed at the camp for years after the war ended because they didn't want to go back to Russia. The barracks were destroyed sometime in the 60s.A cell for higher profile political prisoners.
A table used for beatings.
A plaque for the American liberators.

Europe Photo Entry #8: Munich

We used Munich as a jumping-off point for various cities throughout Bavaria. We did spend a day seeing the sights of the city itself. My personal highlight was eating some delicious pretzels and sausage at the famous Hofbrauhaus beer hall. We only have video of that, though.

This is Michelle in front of the magnificent Nymphenburg Palace.

This is still on the palace grounds. The sign says not to let your dog drink from the trough, but there's no problem with people is there?
Here's Michelle in Munich's English Garden. Remember in "I am the Walrus", when John Lennon sings about "sitting in an English Garden, waiting for the sun"? Well, we had to see what the big deal was.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Get the Missionaries to the Obama Home, ASAP!!

In this interview transcript, I see an opening here for Mormon missionaries:

OBAMA:" …There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell."

FALSANI: "You don’t believe that?"

OBAMA: "I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup."

Obviously, he's never heard of the doctrine of baptism for the dead.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Catching Up

Haven’t posted for awhile…

To catch you up on things, I should start by showing you this picture of my beautiful wife. You see, as we’ve been putting up pictures of our trip to Europe, both of us have mixed feelings because we weren’t in the best of shape at the time. Traveling/graduating/moving/staying with family/saying goodbye to family and friends/studying for the bar exam will do that to you. Also, Michelle wasn't able to do her hair while we were over there. Both of us have lost about 20 lbs since we came to Alaska, so I thought you ought to know just how good she looks now. I’m quite proud to be her husband. Speaking of the bar exam, I passed. It’s a minor miracle when you consider that in the two months before the exam, I 1) spent over a month’s worth of potential study time in Europe, 2) spent a few days back east for Logan’s wedding, 3) did not take a review class. I had a lot of doubters (i.e., “Aren’t you supposed to go on vacation AFTER the bar exam?”), and I was tempted to gloat over them. However, gloating is beneath me. Instead, I choose to gloat about being too good to gloat, which is morally superior. You see the difference, don’t you?

In other news, congrats to Nate for leaving the dating pool permanently next month, and congrats to Elder Sumpter for reentering it in a big way next week after two years of missionary toil. I wish I could be there for the un-retirement ceremony when they pull your jersey down from the rafters.

If you don’t want to hear anything more about the election, don’t bother reading the rest of this. Trust me, I understand.

First, I’m proud that our country has come a long way, in a very short time, from Jim Crow to electing a black man as president. In fact, I dare say that this is the only non-black-majority country where this would be possible at the present time. I wish it weren’t quite such a big deal, though. Everyone’s been patting America on the head as if it were some emotionally disturbed child who had managed to go an entire day without throwing a rock at his teacher’s head. My point is, I think America’s been ready for a black president for a while now. Does anyone remember the mid-90’s when something like 70% of everybody said they would vote for Colin Powell if he chose to run? So by all means, let’s be proud of country, but let’s not pretend that we came out of Apartheid last week. Obama’s victory has far more in common with Bill Clinton’s or even George Bush’s election than it does with Nelson Mandela’s (and we should be grateful for that).

Second, I would encourage anyone who’s really distraught over this election to calm down a bit. Of all the elections in my lifetime, this one had the fewest real differences between the candidates. On economic stuff, McCain and Obama are basically from the same Republicrat Party which believes that Government Can Solve All Your Problems If We Just All Work Together. I hope that someday a titanic, Reaganesque hero will raise his mighty sword to smite the Socialist hordes that would turn us into a Macrocosmic Canada. John McCain was never going to be that guy. On social issues, Obama may be pro-abortion, but when did you ever hear McCain address abortion? We do know that McCain is pro-marriage, since he’s already had two of them (bah-dum-CHING!). And when it comes to the war, I simply refuse to believe that Obama is prepared to surrender in an Iraq War that we are currently winning. Obama is a smart guy, and I don’t think he’s going to turn the Democrats into the “surrender at all costs” party for another generation.

Now that there is a liberal in the White House, liberals, and the media in particular, will begin to talk about how we have to finish the job, defeat our enemy’s, etc. They will pretend that they have always supported the mission of our troops, just as the media in 1984 said, “We have always been at war with Eastasia.” It’s infuriating, but it also might be just what the country needs.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Vacuum...

So I'm currently lacking a healthy and stable relationship with our vacuum. It doesn't pick anything up. I end up going back over it as a "human vacuum" doing what it should have done. In the past, vacuuming has been the chore I enjoy the most and I love the way the carpet looks afterwards. I need help. I need a vacuum I can rely on. One that will be there day in and day out to do what it's asked to do: suck up trash. Does anyone have a vacuum that they are passionate about? I welcome all thoughts.