Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday's link-oh-rama

Lots of dog stories this week, which makes it a good week. Here's a dog-heavy link-oh-rama, with my main man Stanley not getting too worked about any of it:

** Labrador retrievers enjoy record 23rd year as most popular US dog.
Surpassing the poodle's 22-year reign some decades ago, the Lab has proliferated as a congenial, highly trainable dog that was developed to fetch game but has readily taken on other roles: search-and-rescue aid, therapy dog, competitor in canine sports and all-around family pet.
** Here’s one of the best columns you’ll find about puppies, dogs and love. David Rooks on: Why a new dog?
At midnight last night, out in the backyard in slippers, housecoat and hoodie, I looked down at the furry shadow at my feet. On her haunches, doing nothing much of value to me or her, Michael’s puppy quizzically looked up at me. “You’ve got some pretty big paws to fill there, little Lucy Loo.” I whispered. “But you know what, you’ll get there.”
 ** It seems like every goofy predictor, from computer to math formula, is picking Seattle to win the Super Bowl, except for these cute puppies. I'm going with the puppies, Denver 24-13.

** One of South Dakota’s last survivors of attack on Pearl Harbor passed away. Here was his story.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The ‘far away eyes’ of Amanda Knox

The Amanda Knox saga is quite interesting to me, from the railroad job being done on her, to the weird (or at least different than ours) justice system in Italy. It took another turn today.

The re-emergence of the case reminded me of the book I’ve been meaning to buy but haven’t yet: The Monster of Florence.

Ace has a great review of it in which he talks about this true-crime book being excellent, not for the crimes but the history and culture of that part of Italy. In this book, a Jack the Ripper type is running around killing couples parking in cars. And by "parking," you know what I mean. If you don't, your loss.
“And then there's the weird subcultures. Here's an example: When I first started reading I wondered, "How the heck can he find so many people (he killed 14, seven different couples) having sex in cars?" Well, there's an answer to that. In Florence, children -- adult children, I mean -- continue living with their parents until they're married. And they marry late. So there is a long period, say from age 17 to 27, when adults have no place of their own, and no sexual privacy, but are still, as you'd imagine, having sex. So it's a widespread tradition that dates -- even among engaged persons -- will end parking on country roads and having sex.
“Now, because of this custom of illicit activity in the country, another custom has become widespread: The "Indiana," "Indians" they're called in Italian, who creep quietly around in the night to... watch all the young people having sex in cars. These "Indiana" actually know each other and have dinner before their nightly outings, to talk about any sightings of "good cars" (cars where the more attractive women are having the more athletic sex) and share information about the best places to peep.”
As it were, a few nights ago I was sitting in my man-cave/library/spare room/greenhouse listening to XM and the Rolling Stones song “Far Away Eyes” came on. It got me trying to think of girls I may know with Far Away Eyes. A couple came to mind.

But today, when I saw those pictures of Amanda Knox again, I said to myself: “Self, THOSE are far away eyes.” She is who the Stones were talking about (never end a sentence with a preposition).

This is a great video of young Stones doing the song in 1978.

According to Wiki: In the lyrics, the lowliness of life and the possibilities in finding love are dealt with:
“So if you're down on your luck and you can't harmonize/Find a girl with far away eyes/And if you're downright disgusted and life ain't worth a dime/Get a girl with far away eyes.”

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Link-oh-Rama

We had 60 mph winds here today. I hate wind, but it does give me the opportunity to use my one and only wind joke: It was so windy today ... I saw a chicken lay the same egg twice!

Here's some linkage that blew in too (seems a little sports heavy this week, but deal with it):

** This is so stupid: What’s Your Home State’s Signature Cocktail? I’ve been known to have been a connoisseur of the liquorian arts back in the day, and I’ve never heard of this supposed “signature cocktail” of South Dakota -- "The President." Never had one, seen one, sniffed one, even heard tales of one. If I had to nominate the most popular drink I’ve seen served in bars that is more unique to SD, it would be a tomato beer with olives. Order that in D.C. or San Francisco and see what kind of looks you get.

** Stu Whitney pretty much nails it with: Richard Sherman and the death of sportsmanship.

** And in more Super Bowl news, want to bet on how many times Peyton says "Omaha?"

** Kevin Woster with a touching story of putting down his farm dog.

** Seems my padres from Norway will be continuing to spread the funk at the Olympics.

** Carl Hiaasen has a little fun with A-Rod and the story he wishes he could tell.
 Lunch is a shark-fin smoothie followed by a complete transfusion (there’s a kid who hit .348 in Triple A last year, a big fan. He swaps blood with me. And each night, before bed, I slather myself head-to-toe with a totally organic cream made from aloe leaves, fresh kale, mint shavings and bull testicles. 
Anybody asks, you tell them to forget all the bad things they’ve heard about A-Rod. I’m an all-natural man who leads a clean, all-natural life.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Finished: Dorsey's 'Pineapple Grenade'

Reading a Tim Dorsey book is like watching Spongebob Squarepants. You kind of giggle along, laugh once in a while, then when it's over you think: Man, I just wasted thirty minutes of my life.

But then when the next book comes out or the next episode comes on you waste another thirty minutes.

And by "you," I mean me.

I just finished my 13th Dorsey, Pineapple Grenade, featuring crazy mass murderer Serge Storms and his druggy buddy Coleman. Each book is set in Florida and it alternately makes you want to visit the state and never step foot in it.

Goodreads gives the book a 3.91 out of 5. I gave it a 6 out of 10. It's disjointed, weird, funny at times, and really contributes nothing to society or the literary world, but I liked it anyway.
Miami has always set the weirdness bar, but Serge Storms is back in action and ready to pole vault over it. 
First, there’s the media frenzy over the “Hollow Man,” a gutless corpse found on the beach. And yet people think it’s perfectly normal to find dead sharks in the middle of downtown boulevards—or to spot black mushroom clouds behind the airport. Then there are the roving bands of carjackers who suddenly find themselves inconvenienced. Not to mention people lurking outside sex-addiction meetings.
He has a new book coming out Jan. 28, Tiger Shrimp Tango, and like a crack addict I'll be buying.

A couple quotes from the Grenade:
"I say the guy back in our room has it coming." 
Serge nodded. "And I respect your opinion because you smoke marijuana. You're chemically biased against violence and job applications."
And, under the influence of truth serum, Serge is questioned:
"Who do you work for?" 
"People in need, future generations, endangered species, lost tourists, the disenfranchised underclass, strippers with hearts of gold trying to support a child on a single income ..." 
"What is your mission?" 
"To save the republic, cheer on the home team, stay ahead of the curve, read the warning signs, respect my elders, support the troops, spend more time thinking about landfills, harness the untapped power of avoiding all your relatives, try not to fart around women ..." 
"Maybe I gave him too much."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Guest review: 'Slow Getting Up'

By Wesley Roth
"An NFL football team is not built to depend on one man. It is built to rely on one system. The men are temporary. The plan is permanent. The scouting department brings in the talent, and once thy're in that front door, they become cogs in the machine."
So describes Nate Jackson's view of the NFL. Jackson played six seasons in the league as wide receiver and tight end. This book is about the nitty gritty life of those striving to survive in the NFL: to make the practice squad, to make the starting lineup, to land a spot on special teams, to make it as a starter.

"Slow Getting Up" provided to me a whole new prospective on life in the NFL and the punishment that players go through for their dream. Jackson has an amazing sense of humor and snark as he tells of his career in the NFL and NFL Europe and the super-obscure United Football League. Blunt and honest, this book would be of interest to any NFL fan. The book was enjoyable as I have been a Broncos fan my entire life (and my parents first date was to a Broncos game at the old Mile High back in 1971)!

Jackson's view of the game is summed up early in the book: "A football dream is easy to spot. Turn on SportsCenter and they'll show you what it looks like. Tom Brady's life. Peyton Manning's life. Fairy tales. Storybooks. The football dream I had as a child unfolded much differently. But it has still unfolded. Every crease and every line, every grunt and every pop, I'm playing the game I love. The grass is still green, the hits still hurt, and the ball in flight is still the most beautiful sight I know. I will chase it to the ends of the earth."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday's link-oh-rama

I spent last weekend looking at naked tomatoes online, but I'm hoping to step it up this weekend. If you're interested in vegetable porn, I suggest Two days ago I received the joyful email that says spring is around the corner, but more accurately "your order has shipped."

It made me wonder though, if you order a mail order bride, do you get an email saying "your order has shipped?" Just curious, no other reason, really, just curious. Before I dig a deeper hole, here are some links to more interesting stories:

** I've never been in a rock band, but I've been a groupie, and I'm guessing this dude at the City Pages nails this: Six people who make the worst bandmates. I like his reference to the "fingerless gloves of terror."

** You've heard of the Bakken oil fields. You may not have heard of this writer. But he went there and wrote about it and wrote and wrote. It's interesting.
Three hundred miles due north of Deadwood, South Dakota and roughly half as many years past its 1870s heyday, a new gold rush is threatening to give that storied spectacle of exuberant capitalism a run for its money.
** Jack is back! Nuf said.

** From "Growing Up Clown"
Watching your mom act as a clown isn’t very startling after you’ve spent an hour watching her morph into one. In fact, that’s exactly why she had me watch her put on her makeup and wig: to demystify her clownhood so I would always know she was still there under the greasepaint.
** In India news, this doesn't sound suspicious at all.
Ms Tahrar, who denied having an affair with the minister, tweeted after she heard of Ms Pushkar's death: "I'm absolutely shocked."
** If you are interested, and I don't know anybody who is not, there is a Facebook page dedicated to and petition seeking to deport Justin Bieber to Canada. Be a belieber!
"You guys are evil," he said in 2011. "Canada's the best country in the world. We go to the doctor and we don't need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life, you're broke because of medical bills."
** This is probably as good a preview of the Patriots-Broncos game you'll find.

** I haven't watched it for years, but peeps tell me Harry Connick Jr. has revived American Idol. He's cool. I could see that. This week's music link: The Way You Look Tonight.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Finished: Krauthammer's book

Charles Krauthammer is my favorite columnist and talking head. I don't agree with him on everything (I've yet to meet that person) but he makes a lot of sense even on the things I don't agree.

He's not a fire-breathing sloganeer. He presents his opinions in a well-thought-out manner and with a healthy dose of dry humor.

His book, Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics, is a collection of his columns and essays and is awesome. It's part history, politics, current events and baseball. It should be mandatory reading in high schools throughout this country.

People often call him a conservative, but I wouldn't. Frankly, he only gets that title from George W. Bush haters because Krauthammer was pro-Iraq war, pro-surge. He's also pro-abortion, an intelligent-design critic and is anti-capital punishment, hardly conservative ideals. I find him to be about as true of an independent as you can find, unlike those who claim to be moderate or independent because they just want people to think they are deep thinkers or want to avoid taking a side on anything. He actually is independent.

Even Goodreads tabs him conservative, but what do they know:
Readers will find here not only the country’s leading conservative thinker offering a pas­sionate defense of limited government, but also a highly independent mind whose views—on feminism, evolution and the death penalty, for example—defy ideological convention. Things That Matter also features several of Krautham­mer’s major path-breaking essays—on bioeth­ics, on Jewish destiny and on America’s role as the world’s superpower—that have pro­foundly influenced the nation’s thoughts and policies. And finally, the collection presents a trove of always penetrating, often bemused re­flections on everything from border collies to Halley’s Comet, from Woody Allen to Win­ston Churchill, from the punishing pleasures of speed chess to the elegance of the perfectly thrown outfield assist.
Krauthammer is also disabled and in a wheelchair, which many people don't realize mostly because he doesn't write much about it, complain about it or play the victim.

I find him to be quite an amazing, well-rounded, very-intelligent, temperate individual -- something people from all political persuasions should strive to be.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Friday's late Link-Oh-Rama

Sorry for the late link-o but I was out watching a war hero movie. Myself, Junior and book review extraordinaire The Rothinator went to the opening of Lone Survivor tonight.

It was good - kept 200 people deathly quite and still for two hours, which isn't easy to do. Kind of early in the year to hit my quota of the year for attending movies, so I might have to pass a continuing resolution that will allow me to attend another if deemed worthy. (The Noah trailer looked good.)

If you ever get the chance, like now, check out Mark Wahlberg's wiki page. He's done some stuff.

** Here are 19 quirky conundrums only book lovers understand.

** This is cool. The World's Most Dangerous Trail on Mt. Huashan Leads to a Teahouse.

** This is a darn fine idea. SI photograph's Kate Upton in zero-gravity. Genius.

** Good news, Spring Training Spring is around the corner. Twins pitchers-catchers report Feb. 17, the rest of the team Feb. 22. Can't come soon enough. Find your fave team dates here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The rabbit died

I noticed a while back that I needed to update my bio on the left to reflect the loss of Johnny Depp and the addition of Prince. Unfortunately, Prince the Rabbit encountered health problems and had to be ... ummm ... extinguished yesterday before getting his due blog bio update.

During eight months out of the year, my little fertilizer machines get to enjoy life in the lush garden, nibbling the fruits (vegetables) of my labor down there and providing oftentimes the most interesting conversation of my day. Then when winter hits I move the rabbit cage up by the house, put it under the plum tree outside the kitchen window, so I don't have to trudge through the snow to feed him. And we can wave at each other in the mornings.

Last weekend I noticed his cage was messed up, the straw was all strewn around, his water was upended and his food container all kittywampus. And he seemed to be sitting funny. Upon inspection, I found he couldn't move his back legs. They were limp. He couldn't hop. He was unhoppy.

My theory is that a coyote or the neighbor's rowdy dogs down the road decided to charge through their invisible fence and came up here to terrorize Prince. While he doesn't normally let the elevator bring him down, he probably raced around in circles and injured his back.

So I brought him in the house for a few days, hoping maybe it was a strain or something. But he never got better, just pulled himself around by the front legs a little bit. So he needed to be put down (and that's a story for another day).

He was a good rabbit. Prince was the only bunny who I could let out of his cage in the garden, and he'd hop around, eat some lettuce and some grass and then hop back in his cage. Others, like the vagabond Johnny Depp, I'd have to chase around and corner and tackle to get him back in.

So, I think the ultimate compliment for a rabbit is: He was a good rabbit. And Prince was.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How to be funny without sex, swearing

I've always admired Jerry Seinfeld for his ability to be funny without being crass. I'm far from a prude and also enjoy Chris Rock, Dennis Miller and the late George Carlin. But, frankly, if you eliminate dirty jokes from a comedians repertoire, he's delivering from a smaller bag of material, which to me would seem to make it that much harder to get yucks.

I've never been one to swear much. When I do, it's never around the kids, usually involves a hammer hitting my thumb, or sometimes when I've been hanging around people who do swear a lot, then it seems to slip out a little more often.

As for writing, while I love double-entendres, I don't use profanity much except in some dialogue. Two reasons for that. One, is probably just spending so many years in the journalism business you can't be dropping F bombs in your stories and expect it to get it past the editors (unless you're working now at some online pubs); and the other reason is my mom reads most of what I write and that pretty much keeps me on the straight and narrow.

But back to Seinfeld. Here's a good, in-depth story about him and what he's been up to lately: Jerry Seinfeld talks about how to be funny without sex and swearing
"Comedians are known for having long marriages," he says. Why? "I have to apologise for the self-serving answer I'm going to give you, but: we're smart. If you're smart, you stay married if you can. Marriage is hard for everyone – that's a basic fact – but it's a better life if you can do it. Very nice. Very relaxing. Very enjoyable."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Finished: Robert Parker's 'Sixkill'

"Sixkill" is the 39th and final novel in Robert B. Parker's Spenser series, as Parker went to the Great Bookstore in the Sky back in 2010. I love this series. Remember the "Spenser for Hire" shows back in the 1980s? Based on these, yup.

From Goodreads:
On location in Boston, bad-boy actor Jumbo Nelson is accused of the rape and murder of a young woman. From the start the case seems fishy, so the Boston PD calls on Spenser to investigate. The situation doesn't look good for Jumbo, whose appetites for food, booze, and sex are as out sized as his name. He was the studio's biggest star, but he's become their biggest liability. 
In the course of the investigation, Spenser encounters Jumbo's bodyguard: a young, former football-playing Native American named Zebulon Sixkill. Sixkill acts tough, but Spenser sees something more within the young man. Despite the odd circumstances, the two forge an unlikely alliance, with Spenser serving as mentor for Sixkill. As the case grows darker and secrets about both Jumbo and the dead girl come to light, it's Spenser - with Sixkill at his side - who must put things right.
This was a fun book, read it in two nights, but I had some moments where I cringed.

Zebulon Sixkill (named after Zebulon Pike of Pike's Peak fame) is a Native American, and that's where some of my quibbling comes in. I thought Parker went over the top in the back-and-forth white man vs. Indian jokes. It was like the only Native Americans Parker ever heard of were Injun Joe in Tom Sawyer or Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Hey, I like a good joke as much as anyone, but the paleface, white eyes, scalping, firewater, etc., jokes seemed a little below RBP standards - pretty school yard stuff, in fact. He gets around any racist type stuff by having Sixkill tell most of the jokes on himself, but there again it's like Parker relied way too much on lame stereotype humor.

Maybe there aren't as many Native Americans in Boston as there are in South Dakota, but the NAs I know are a heckuva lot funnier and more clever than Parker makes Sixkill. If you're going to attempt racial humor, you better make it funny to make it worth the risk.

Otherwise, the plot is good. I really enjoyed the dialogue Spenser has with his girlfriend (though more Harvard references than necessary) and his adversaries.

I'd recommend any Spenser books, but on this one you'll have to cut him some slack for the lame attempts at humor.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A 2-percent better Link-Oh-Rama

One big link, a couple shorties, and Taylor Swift just because of the six degrees of separation rule:

** Punters are generally the most boring of NFL players. You don't hear much about them. They're pretty vanilla, and pretty replaceable. Former Viking punter Chris Kluwe, however, is not vanilla, but found out he is indeed replaceable.

In a nutshell, he was one of the rare punters with a personality, plays in a rock band, likes video games, and injected himself into the gay marriage debate last year in Minnesota. After an average season, the Vikings cut him. Not one to go quietly, he came out with an op-ed a couple days ago whining about his situation and narcing out one of his coaches.

Here's his column. Chris Kluwe: I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot

And the Viking players are coming to the defense of their coach. Obviously somebody is a liar. But who knows. Frankly, I don't care what any punter thinks any more than my plumber or tax preparer thinks. (You kick a football for a living!). And I don't care what a special teams coach says any more than, actually less than, my mechanic, my Schwan's salesman, and my barber. (You teach people to kick a football!)

But what I do care about is this dude who wrote a really funny satire on the situation. I wish I'd thought of it. For best effect, read the Kluwe column first, then the Joe Mauer: I Was Moved to First Base Because of My Stance on Milk
Controversy erupted in Twins Territory on Thursday, as Joe Mauer claimed he was moved from catcher to first base not due to concussions, but rather because of his long-standing public support of 2% milk as the "best milk" and skim milk as "the worst milk."
"I was a major league catcher until I was moved to first base by two cowards and an anti-2% milk bigot."
** Apparently the Wall Street Journal has at least 50 friends: We asked 50 of our friends—from April Bloomfield to Mike Tyson—to name their favorite books of 2013

** This weeks mystery music video is from the group with this great lyric: Take a shower, call your mom, you ain’t livin’ like you should.

** And that's it for the links this week. Go surf your own interwebs and send me anything you find interesting. markhaugensd at gmail dot com (I don't know why people do that, but if it makes me look hip and cool, I'm all in.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I took 2013 off; fortunately not everyone did

Looking back on 2013, it occurred to me that I really didn't accomplish much. I wanted to run another marathon - didn't. I wanted to finish another book - didn't. I wanted to romance Jennifer Love-Hewitt - not even close, bud (to quote John Bender).

But what I lacked in motivation/hard work/energy, my family made up for, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Wifey saw a years-long dream of a new Newman Center building come to fruition at the S.D. School of Mines. It's a cool church on the edge of campus, packed with college students every Sunday night now, and is turning into a valuable meeting/fun/study place for the kids on campus. I got teary-eyed at the dedication Mass. It was cool. I was happy for her.

The elder daughter interned for an awesome U.S. Senator in Washington, D.C., during the summer; and decided to go another semester of college to pick up a second major. She's engaged and does a good job helping raise her little brother.

My youngest daughter is a sophomore at SDSU (gosh that's difficult for this Augie guy to type). But she seems to have really found herself. She's excelling at her elementary ed/special ed classes and seems to have nabbed a good boyfriend, named after a hat, and they've been hanging out for over a year now. She also had a great time at a new job manning the store at a nearby campground/resort.

The boy, 16, continues to bring a smile into the house nearly every day. We enjoyed our second father-son fly fishing trip to Montana, and I live vicariously through his baseball success, wishing I'd had 1/10th the talent he shows. He could throw that speedball by you (to quote the Boss).

Throw in the two clown dogs, Stanley and Huck, and it really was a laugh a minute in the Haugen house throughout 2013.

I guess I'll gladly take another lame-duck year of my own, if it means I get to watch the rest of the fam succeed and enjoy life. That's the kind of guy I am. (Que Colline Raye.)