Monday, May 31, 2010

YouCut, You Save

It's striking that in a county so strong with patriotism and activism and prosperity, we are unable to restrain ourselves from federal spending. It's striking that in a country won by the blood of thousands, we repay that with a ridiculous national deficit.

It's striking that the very country for which men and women have fought and died is being defeated from within.

In honor of Memorial Day. In honor of those who gave their lives and those who served faithfully. In honor of this country that is hailed as the greatest country in the world, I'd like to share about YouCut.

This isn't about taking sides or pointing fingers. It's not about left versus right or picking apart programs that actually help people. It's about recognizing careless spending and getting control of a national debt that threatens the United States of America.

YouCut gives you, the citizen, the chance to vote on the program that you believe should be cut from the national budget. Your decision could result in millions or billions of dollars saved.

Then, at the end of each week, Congressman Eric Cantor presents the winning program to the House. They vote on whether to open the topic for debate. Their resulting vote is then emailed to you at the end of the week with a prompt to vote on the next string of programs.

Aside from voting in elections, this is the closest we can get to having a voice on Capitol Hill and saving our country from its embarrassing debt.

Friday, May 28, 2010

solving the world's problems one oil leak at a time

Figure A

Some time last week, Tad found this hilarious article and told me it sounded like something I would say. It was then that I shared with him my ideas on minimizing damage from a tsunami. (I had developed these ideas after that one tsunami hit not too long ago).

1. Make every building float. This way, when the tsunami hits, you can just ride it out like a surfer on a wave.
2. Build every building in the shape of a triangle. A point of the triangle faces the water. When the tsunami comes, it is quickly divided and must flow up the streets. (See Figure A)

And probably my best idea yet:
3. Construct a giant mesh screen/vegetable strainer to run along the coast. This way, when the tsunami comes, it will smash into the strainer and out the other side will come a gentle mist.

Although I think he was a bit scared at my eagerness for outlandish ideas, I must confess I am a sucker for a nonsensical yet sensical option. Consider my recent Facebook discussion:

AMANDA LUEDEKE wonders why the oil leak people haven't thought of duct tape.
ZACH: that would be too easy
DAVID: Yeah, but all the bureaucratic RED tape would get in the way.
HUNTER: The long answer is long, the short answer is that a mile down, the pressure is 2000 lbs psi, and 2000 lbs psi is a LOT.
AMANDA LUEDEKE: Ok, fine. Maybe they should try a huge wad of chewing gum, instead.
HUNTER: Apparently golf balls + tires are next. I've got to say, I do like their naming conventions. "OPERATION: TOP KILL" "OPERATION: JUNK SHOT" Who is in charge of this, Jim Phelps?

So just keep me in mind when you're facing a horrible disaster. I'm sure I'll be able to construct a way out of it.

I mean, HELLO! I totally survived this:

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Adventures of Mandi and Babe

Tad has said that if he were to write a children’s book, it would be called The Adventures of Mandi and Babe and would include all of the silly stories I have of my dogs growing up. Particularly, our black lab, Babe.

Babe was an ox. 100 pounds, I’d say. And definitely in the upper limits of the height index. I wasn’t a huge Babe fan. I mean, I liked him enough, but he could never replace our first dog, Traff (Yes, I was THAT child). Still, Babe made sure I had plenty of memories to make me miss him when he was gone…

The Falling Incident
One time Babe fell on me. I was sitting on the couch. Babe sat on the couch next to me with his back to me so that I could pet him. When I got tired of petting him, I stopped. The next thing I knew, Babe glanced over his shoulder at me. Then, he came tumbling backwards on top of me.

I was instantaneously buried in his fat and hugeness.

The Morning Incident
One time, Babe woke me up. It was sort of late in the day. I was dozing upstairs in my bed when I heard my dad very excitedly say, “Babe! Babe, go wake up Mandi. GO WAKE UP MANDI, BABE!”

And to my dismay, Babe came pounding up the stairs and jumped on my bed. He and I weren’t very cuddly, so he danced around on my bed for awhile as I yelled at him and told him to go away. Then, after I was successfully awoken, he left.

The Face-Licking Incident(s)
Babe liked to lick my face. He would do this by randomly attacking me as I sat on the floor. He was so huge, I was powerless until he had had his share of my face. Because of this, I tried to sit on the floor as little as possible. And every time I thought it was safe—every time I thought he had forgotten about our game because it had been like six months since the last attack—he’d still get me. It maybe took him twenty minutes or so to realize I was on the floor, but he’d still get me.

He didn’t do this with anyone else.

The Stale Graham Cracker Incident(s)
Babe would rarely go to his bed when asked. He would only go if you promised him a treat.

One night, I was so mad at him for demanding a treat. He was our dog, after all. He should gladly go to his bed when asked. So, I promised him a treat, he went to his bed, I locked him up, and left. Without giving him the treat.

The next day, Babe was super mad at me. He refused to come when I called, would bump into me on his way past, and wouldn’t budge from the couch or chair if I wanted to sit down. Finally, tired of having to deal with his moodiness, I gave him a treat.

It was as if nothing happened.

So ever since then, I always was sure to give him a treat if I had promised him one.

But of course I wouldn’t give him good treats. I’d give him stale graham crackers and stuff. I had to keep the upper hand somehow.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

where we live

We live in a second-floor apartment.

It was built in the 1940’s.

It is full of asbestos.

It feels like a bomb shelter.

It has cement walls covered by plaster and paint.

Our bathroom sink has two faucets. Our toilet doesn’t have a tank.

The heat comes through radiators and the air through window units.

The windows tilt open. They don’t all have screens.

The blinds are made of metal.

There are not enough electrical outlets.

We live on the south side of town.

We park in a parking lot. It doesn’t always get plowed in the winter.

There is an outdoor basketball court adjacent to the parking lot.

Guys shoot hoops there nearly every night, weather permitting. Black guys or white guys. Sometimes both.

There is a Vietnam vet who lives in a house nearby. He claims ‘they’re coming’ and sits up in his attic, listening to radio frequencies.

There is a coffee shop a block away. Guys who wear skinny jeans work there. The types with bangs in their eyes.

There is a church across the street with an empty bell tower.

If you spend enough time in the apartment during the day, you will hear a car accident on the street below. Then, you can run to the window to see if you need to call 9-1-1.

You’ll also hear sirens every few hours.

And people yelling.

And sometimes domestic disputes at 3 in the morning.

And really loud Mexican music at 2 in the morning. (But this will go away as soon as the traffic light turns green).

Generally the hours between 4 and 6 are docile. But then morning traffic starts again.

And the street below is busy busy busy.

If you keep the blinds open at night, the street lamps will keep you up.

If you leave them closed, it’s pitch black.

We dream of packing up and moving to some suburban two-story. With a yard and a fence and a cul-de-sac. It could be on a lake. Or framed by mountains. It could come complete with a pond. Or the American Dream.

It's inevitable, almost. That transition to permanency.

But I can't help but feel that once we're there I'll be bored out of my mind.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Story of Little Lord Fauntleroy

I think I’ve always had a strong opinion on books. At least it seems that way. Growing up, we had to read a certain number of childrens classics every school year and write a book report on each. And no matter how much my mom pleaded, I would not read Last of the Mohicans. Or The Yearling. Or The Wind in the Willows. I just wouldn't.

It's probably a good thing, too. Because the one time I gave in, didn't go so well.

I particularly was bothered by books with orphaned protagonists. They were (and still are) just so overdone. But of all the books about sad orphans, none were as wretched as Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Each time we went to the library, my mom excitedly pulled Little Lord Fauntleroy from the shelf and tried to get me to agree to read it. It certainly didn't look good. The cover photo was from some 1960's movie, starring some poofy-haired British kid and a cranky old man. And the title was all in cursive and yellowish. Not appealing in the least. But in a moment of weakness, I agreed.

I tried to make it, I did. Day after day, I kept the pages turning. Night after night I optimistically told myself the story would only improve. But it didn't. The old man was still old. Still cranky. The British kid was still British. And surprisingly well-behaved. And everything pointed to a grand finale in which the old man softens and adopts the boy.

And I could have cared less.

With three pages left, I'd had enough. I put the book aside and informed my mom that I wasn't going to finish it, and that there wasn't anything she could do to change my mind.

But your book report! We only have INSERT A VERY SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME HERE left in the school year!

Leave that to me, mom.

And she did. And we went to the library, and I picked out Little Women. The beastliest book I could find. Just to prove that this was so not a problem.

And I had it read and the book report written in probably the same amount of time it would have taken me to labor over those last three pages of Faunt and write some terrible lie about how much I had enjoyed its dry personality.

And that is the story of Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Around the Fort: Abby Brown's Chocolates

State Street, though known for its narrow lanes, bazillion stoplights and surprising number of car dealerships, is much loved for the portion known as Old Town (or maybe it's Old Towne? or Olde Town? It's hard to tell. I can't ever take the time to read the sign, as I'm always too busy trying to not sideswipe the car in the lane next to me).

Old Town is full of quaint specialty shops and restaurants. Abby Brown's Chocolates is one of them.

Priding itself as the candy store for adults, Abby's is full of chocolate delights, presented in an old-fashioned way. Among the barrels of delicacies and jars of sweets, Cassie (my partner in crime) and I saw Lemon Cheesecake Fudge, Swedish Fish, Giant Malted Milkballs, Chocolate-covered Oreos, and Cherry Cordials.

It was staffed by an older woman who made fun of Fort Wayne the whole time (which I thought was hilarious). She came here from Denver.
I wanted to ask her if she was Abby Brown, but I figured that would probably be weird. And awkward, if she wasn't.
Come to think of it, it would be awkward if she was, too. Because what do you say after that? "Awesome." And then silence.

Contrary to the photo, it wasn't too overwhelming, and, because you could buy it by the piece, price wasn't a problem.

I came out with an 8 oz. bag of chocolate-covered pecans and a 4 oz. bag of gummi bears. I think I paid somewhere around $4.50.

And the verdict? Well, I'm no chocolate conniseur, but I really had a hard time stopping myself from eating the whole bag of pecans. There was something caramel-y about the chocolate. And the pecans were so deliciously roasted (not sure they do that there in the shop, but still).

Tad still hasn't sampled the gummis, but I'm sure they'll be excellent.

Abby Brown's Chocolates
Mmm Factor: MMMM (4 of 5 Mmms)
Atmosphere: 5 of 5 (for the Norman Rockwell feel)
Authenticity: 5 of 5
Overall Experience: 4 of 5 (the lady was kind of weird at first, but warmed up later. I think she was just ready to get out of there ... it was 5:30 on a Friday, after all. They close at 6.)