More Thoughts on W-M

Our friend Mike posted his thoughts on a trip to a local hotspot on his blog. It seems that many people are struggling with the balance of supporting locally or regionally originating stores and the realities of the wallet. Fortunately, New Hampshire has a very prevalent network of local businesses, and we also have a Wal-Mart. It's actually a pretty nice mix of options.

I learned a lot about Wal-Mart's business strategies in the documentary The Age of Walmart. There is a funny part about Wal-Mart transitioning into China. Definitely worth the watch.

I went to Walmart (please pardon the previous hyphens) today. I have to admit that, like Mike, I'm not a big fan of going to the store. I'm actually not stoked about going into any store that has so many people in it. There are just certain human activities that drive me crazy. For instance:

I'm definitely not perfect, but I always, always, always put my cart in the right place after I use it. Do the people that leave them out think that they're creating jobs, stimulating the economy? Really, they're just eating up the plum parking spaces and scratching up cars. This is so frustrating to see when Walmart has clearly provided a lot of cart corrals so the walk isn't that far for anyone. I guess I like mega-business after all; I just don't like some of their customers.

Do the right thing--put your cart in the corral.

Update on Addy

Greetings, all. A few weeks ago I posted that our dog wasn't feeling too hot. Well, Addy is still under the weather. She has a curious lump under the skin near her back leg. She seemed to be doing better a week ago, but we found another lump on the other side of her body. She's been to the vet several times since President's Day, and the poor little puppy spent most of today getting poked and prodded.

As of today, her doctor has ruled out the agressive forms of cancer, which is awesome news. The second lump has receded significantly. More awesome news. The first lump has yet to back down, so we're watching that one closely. Also, Addy is not feeling that hot. It's hard to get her to eat, and she just wants to lay down all the time. We've started a different round of medicine tonight, so I'm hoping that we see some improvement in the next couple of days--at least in her activity level.

It's been over two weeks since she brought me a ball to throw, so I'm ready to get my little puppy girl back and running.

In the Kitchen

Big shout out to Tiffany. She gave us a starter for Friendship Cake/Bread. I'm mashing that bag just like the instructions say. Mrs. Jernigan (very much a grandmother to me) used to make this stuff, and I thought it was fantastic. I can't wait to get to get this batter cooking, but waiting seems to be the name of the game. I'll write more as the recipe gets more interesting.

I'm on break from school for the week, so I've got a little more time to do some crafty things (like a jigsaw puzzle). Anna and I enjoy being in the kitchen, so I sometimes watch cooking shows or programs to get ideas for a meal or a snack. Today, I happened upon "Big Bry's Western Style BBQ." Big Bry seems to be a decent enough guy (he's hilarious in the post-credits blooper reel) and probably has some good recipes, but the production value is what really makes his program shine.

Big Bry probably showed up to shoot with some meat and some notes. He moves through six or seven pieces of meat and does something different with each of them--plus a potato salad! While Big Bry educates you a enough, someone in the clipping room decided that Big Bry's video needed additional textual guidance in the style of The Colbert Report's The Word segment. This text plays several crucial roles in the program:

1. It labels things that Big Bry has mentioned but that the viewer might not yet comprehend.

2. It wards off cannibalism/unhealthy relationships.
3. It allows for show sponosors and comes up with crazy uses for endorsed products.
4. It applies Zen philosophy to BBQ.

5. It displays safety information.
6. It displays Big Bry's marital advice in a place where everyone feels safe.

7. It allows the viewers to feel poetic about their potential meal.

Man Against Wire/Man on Wire

It's Oscar night, and I'm telling you now that the movie discussed below is going to take best documentary (and Slumdog will take every category that it's nominated in--save for Sound Mixing).

Anna and I are now using Netflix. Like blogging, we've come to the party fairly late in the game. Because I love being contrary, I really enjoy messing with their algorithm that determines what movies I'm supposed to like. I will lie to the website and tell them that I hate a movie that I have loved since my eyesight and cognitive abilities met just so that a machine doesn't gain some algorithmic advantage over me. My distrust of technology, however, is rooted in the movies that I've seen. Remember Honey, I Shrunk the Kids? That was the prototypical technology tragedy of the modern age.

If you haven't seen Man on Wire, I suggest you do. The movie is the story of Philippe Petit--a tightrope walker who walked the gap between the Twin Towers in the 1970s. The real fun of the film is the story about how they gained access to the top of the towers. They did not have permission to do this walk, so they are remarkably resourceful in the quest. You will come to love Petit as well, even with all of his quirks.

Editor's Note: I was hoping to get a sweet picture of me crossing a tightrope, but it seems that the right side of my body is much heavier than the left. It's going to take some time to re-learn the craft after so many years.

Puzzle Completed

It was time for some old-school (and relatively inexpensive) entertainment, so I picked up a couple of jigsaw puzzles at Target. The one I was most looking forward to was the New York City panorama puzzle by Buffalo Games. It was a great puzzle and presented a several challenges. First, it was not in color, so there was one less way to distinguish one piece from another. Second, over half of the puzzle's picture is water, so those pieces certainly took the longest. Towards the end, we were relying only on the shape of the piece to allow us to solve it.

I really like the entire line of these city panoramic puzzles. I'd really like to do the Boston puzzle if we work on another one of these. They are terrific pictures, and the end product is around three feet in length--the perfect size to fill an empty wall. Plus they're only 750 pieces per puzzle, so they're not the biggest time commitment. Anyone done a good puzzle lately?

Tip: Target had their Big Ben-brand puzzles on sale. I don't know if it's everywhere or how long it lasts, but I picked up a beautiful 1000 piece for under $4.00. Also, look for the Charles Wysocki Americana Puzzle Collection if that's your style.

The Better Brain

During my reading about the doping and steroid use in baseball, I've been reminded of a video series that I really enjoy: Ethics in America. There are two versions that you can watch through Annenberg Media's site. You'll have to sign up for a free subscription, but this will give you access to a wealth of educational videos.

The Ethics in America series (I and II) are certainly my favorites. Each episode in the series gathers a roundtable of VIPs (including Justices O'Connor and Scalia) to take on a certain ethical topic. There is a moderator that walks around and creates hypotheticals, giving each panel member a role. Through the series, the moderator teases out the ethical issues, pitting viewpoint against viewpoint. It reminds me of what law school is when it's at its best.

"A Better Brain: The Ethics of Neuro-Enhancement" is a great episode that discusses the use of brain-enhancing medicine to do better in school or at work. Illegal steroids and banned substances are an easy answer, but the issues tackled in this video are more difficult. Give the series a chance; this is a great way to think through an issue and to learn the art of persuasion.


Shameless Plug: My copyright law article was recently published, and you may view it online by clicking here. It's not too terribly long and includes a reference to H. R. Pufnstuff. If you want a hard copy, let me know; I have a ton of them.

Over the Line

Snow is on the way again, so it's time to think about how we're going to get our exercise in. We have a Wii (see picture), and we both love the bowling. But we might need to think about getting out and cracking some real pins soon. Anyone up for it?

I grew up knowing only one kind of bowling: Good Ol' Ten Pin. Like the local skating rink (SkateLand? Is that right, Miltonites?), the bowling lanes reminded me that I was not built for success on wheels or with a thirteen-pound mass in hand (or any combination of the two).

Our local bowling alley in Concord, however, does things a little differently. When you walk in, the place looks and sounds like a bowling alley. There is red carpet all over the walls with fuzzier, yellow carpet spelling out "BOUTWELL LANES." And you will hear bowling balls hitting the floor and pins cracking into one another. It's great. What makes it even better is that they practice candlepin bowling at Boutwell's. The bowling balls are about the size of a softball, and the pins are straight and without a curvy figure. It's very difficult to get a strike, so you get three rolls per frame. The best part is that your arm will still work after you go and play.

I know that I comment on bathrooms a lot (probably too much), but Boutwell's has an interesting set-up for their water closet. Out in the lanes, the device that clears and sets the pins is not automatic; you must hit the reset button after each frame. When you go in the bathroom, however, don't expect to touch anything. It's technology at its best: no-touch flush, hand-wave soap and rinse. I truly believe they've put the technology in the right place and kept the old-school charm in their lanes.

From the Floor: Not Today

Adelaide Macaroni Padgett is a puppy, specializing in sleep and play. She is author of The Perils of White Puppies in New England and Growling at Windmills. Her series for this blog, "From the Floor," strives to provide a commonplace-if not subaltern-view of newsworthy events.
Pembroke, NH--I'm not feeling well today. I had to go to the vet yesterday, and I'm supposed to keep my activity to a minimum. I won't be blogging today; rather, I'll be laying on my favorite pillow and occasionally going to the bathroom. When I'm up and running again, I'll give you my thoughts about the deepening recession from a pup's perspective.

Valentine's Weekend, 2009

On Saturday afternoon, we went down to our dog groomer's place of business. They do a great job making our dog look beautiful, and we know that they take good care of her. On this particular occasion, Addy did not have to be groomed. Rather, they were hosting a fundraiser for SPCA. It was great! You could buy raffle tickets and place them in paper bags appropriated for the things that you wanted to try to win. Anna tried for a gift certificate from her hair salon and a few other things. There was also a dog named Benji that was available for adoption. He was a great dog and hit it off with Addy as a fellow white-furred puppy. We do hope that Benji gets placed in a loving home.

On Saturday night, Anna and I had reservations at the Common Man. One word: delicious. I didn't know what the vegetable of the day was, so I was stoked to find sweet, cinnamon-filled butternut squash on the plate. The best part was "the show" that preceded dinner when a man came through wearing extremely short denim shorts. My legs were freezing just thinking about the pain this guy must have felt. It was pretty clear from his other garments that this guy works somewhere that requires him to wear shorts and that he didn't have time to change before bringing his sweet thang to dinner. Whatever the explanation, I had chill bumps for the guy.

On Sunday, Anna led her choir through Moses Hogans's arrangement of Wade in the Water. She was pleased, and the congregation loved it. Afterwards, Anna, Wendy, and I went to Daniel's in Henniker, NH for another terrific meal. If you've never been, Daniel's has a spectacular view of the Contoocook River for you to enjoy while you dine. They also have a dill salad dressing that is "to die for."

We wrapped up our afternoon by heading down the road to Quilted Threads, a quilting shop that carries everything you could possibly need to quilt, learn to quilt, or just to be inspired/warmer. We have several friends who quilt (including Erin, who has an online store for her baby quilts), and I'm always impressed to see how creative people can get within this medium.

So, we've had a busy weekend, and I haven't even told you about the dinner party and viewing of Young at Heart. That post will come soon.

My Last Tortilla?

Last night, we went to Boston to pick up Wendy. She's a friend that we met when we lived in Cincinnati. Megan joined us for the ride because--wait for it--we went to Chipotle on our way down. Megan, Anna, and I all love Chipotle burritos, but we don't have a restaurant close to us in Concord. So, we usually get a burrito whenever we head down towards Boston.

The thing I never understood about Chipotle was why some people would get the burrito bowl (a burrito without the tortilla). The tortilla is delicious. In my mind, I concluded that these people were trying to cut out carbs. But how would eating a big bowl of rice help in the big picture?

Well, I looked at the nutritional infomation and discovered that (as pictured above) the tortilla alone is 290 calories. Check out the amount of sodium too: 670mg. If I'm adopting the Eat This, Not That mindset, the bowl option cuts out some major calories and salt yet delivers the flavors of the burrito innards.
The worst part is that I'm capable of eating two burritos at once. I've done it a few times. I had no idea what I was doing to my body!
I love my Chipotle, so I'm glad that they make the bowl option. Because we don't get Chipotle very often, I don't feel bad about getting the full burrito, but I will probably opt for the bowl option when we move back to the Queen City and can/will have Chipotle more often.

From the Floor: Sorry, Virginia.

Adelaide Macaroni Padgett is a puppy, specializing in sleep and play. She is author of The Perils of White Puppies in New England and Growling at Windmills. Her series for this blog, "From the Floor," strives to provide a commonplace-if not subaltern-view of newsworthy events.

Pembroke, NH--For two months we've allowed Mr. Kringle (also known as Mr. K) to live with us. I went to my grooming session in December, where I met this bearded, red-nosed man. When my ride came, he departed with us.

At first, Mr. K seemed great. He brought me gifts later in the month as a reward for my good behavior. I became suspicious, however, when I heard some squeaking in the house. When I confronted Mr. K about the sounds, he denied that he had-or even knew about-a squeaker. I wanted to believe him, but his obese figure and flamboyant coat would certainly allow him to smuggle a squeaker into Padgett Manor--a flagrant violation against my rules (and sensibilities).
I watched him for several weeks, and I kept hearing about his squeaking from others. Finally, I realized that I would have to interrogate Mr. K, robustly interrogate him. First, I removed his eyes. Nothing; the guy wouldn't budge. Then I plucked every hair from his beard. Still no results. I'm afraid that I went too far when I opened his neck and allowed his fluffy innards to see the light of day (pictured). Still, his death justified such cruel measures because-during the procedure-I found the squeaker that Mr. K denied during his interrogation.

We can all sleep well tonight. Padgett Manor is clear of all squeakers. To make an example out of him, I left pieces of Mr. K all around the home, warning all squeaker-carrying entities that their destruction is near.

Mr. Padgett Goes to Concord

I'm taking a course in lobbying this semester. I'm really enjoying it, and the professor is a practicing lobbyist. He's particularly enthusiastic about teaching us the ins and outs of the legislative system, and enthusiasm is one of the indicia of good teaching in my book.

One of our assignments is to actually observe the state legislature in action. I chose to follow a piece of legislation before the New Hampshire House of Representatives that seeks to abolish the death penalty. It is currently in committee (pictured). State law only allows the use of the death penalty in certain circumstances (e.g., killing a police officer, murder for hire), and a jury exercised that allowance this fall in the trial of Michael Addison. Addison was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a Manchester police officer who was pursuing him. So, the stage was set for a very emotional hearing.

One of the nice things about New Hampshire is that its legislature is highly representative. It's one of the smallest states, but it has the largest House of any state (400 members). The representatives are only paid $100 per year plus their mileage, so their task is truly a labor of love for the state. Be not mistaken; these are not yokels that operate as unripened politicians. From what I've seen, these are exceedingly smart and sophisticated people who know how to operate effectively within a political environment. [Author's Note: Notice in the picture above that the chairman of the committee gets a taller back on his chair. This is because political power and the degree of lumbar support are directly proportional.]

Anyone can attend and testify at a committee hearing, and it appears that some retired citizens make a habit out of coming to these hearings and offering their opinions of the issues. Generally, the committee chairperson recognizes people in the following order:
  • the bill's sponsor
  • any other representatives that want to testify
  • organizations (NH Defense Lawyers, etc.)
  • people with an identifiable interest (pastors, former police officers, etc.)
  • everyday citizens

I expected that there would be some emotional fireworks at this hearing, but very few people attended. The testimony that I saw was carried out with civility and without excessive passion. While this is a good thing if you're trying to legislate, it is relatively boring to watch.

If you stick around for an entire hearing on an issue like this, you will hear all of the arguments spelled out in their most persuasive form early on in the hearing. From there, it's the same old song with a few exceptions that brighten the session. My favorite testimony came from a man that testified that he had read a book about San Quentin prison. In the end, he offered to loan it to the state should it fund a death penalty study commission--but declined to loan it to the committee itself because of his experience in loaning out books. This book seems to be out of print, so the committee has an exceedingly difficult decision to make now.

Criss-Cross Kitty

It's a little hard to tell in the picture, but there are tracks in the snow in our back yard. They make a crude 'X' in the snow. Our home is close to a state park here in New Hampshire, so we actually see a lot of wildlife even though we live just off of a major highway: ducks, butterflies, skunks, deer. We even had a moose hanging out in our front yard one time--right by the bedroom window. It's something I will definitely miss when we leave.

But there is also a neighborhood cat that really likes to use our property as a short cut to get between his place and his lady friends' places. It just so happens that I watched as the cat walked across the yard both times when he made these tracks. It was funny watching him go across the snow, falling in with each step. I've never been able to read a cat's facial expressions very well, but I know what it looks like when a guy is asking himself whether having a lady friend is worth all of the trouble of treading through the snow. Sorry, Mr. Cat. You should stick to the plowed streets next time.

Night on the Town

On Saturday night we hit the streets for a good time. We grabbed some dinner in Manchester and then did a little shopping. Anna had a gift certificate to L.L. Bean, so we stopped by their store to see what we could find. We aren't in any real need for clothes, so we just looked for random stuff. We ended up getting two pair(s) (whichever plural you prefer) of sunglasses.

Always fashionable, Anna got a sweet pair with flowers on them. They had another version of the same glasses with pink-tinted lenses. She didn't like them; neither did I. Pink lenses are reserved for the charlatans and recreants amongst the "Hollywood" crowd. If you, my reader, own a pair of sunglasses with pink lenses, you are the exception to the rule.

As for me, I wear prescription glasses at all times. I've always struggled with sunglasses--though I want them really bad. However, there are limited options for people like me. I could wear transition lenses, but I don't like the lack of control. I could also buy a pair of prescription sunglasses. The problem with this option is that switching pairs of glasses (normal to sunglasses, sunglasses to normal) causes me to get dizzy. I hate that feeling, and I just can't drive while I'm feeling like that. The option that I've exercised recently is simply wearing a regular pair of sunglasses over my prescription glasses. You'd think that it would look awesome; it does not. However, it works, and it's comfortable.

I was satisfied with it until we got to L.L. Bean. There, Anna found a pair of sunglasses made to fit over prescription glasses. Yes! From the labels, it appeared that these glasses were reserved for elderly men who drive RVs. I didn't want the cashier to deny us service because I didn't fit that description, so I started talking about the RV that we don't own: "I'm thinking of trading in Old Windsail. It just doesn't have the power that it used to--like when we drove over through the Rockies and then over to Seattle. The riggings (?) are poorly designed too; I like staying in the Wal-Mart parking lots if we can, but the adapters don't seem to fit their equipment anymore."

It was at the discussion of the riggings that I realized that the cashier was more likely to sell us the sunglasses if I just shut up. So I did. Ashamed of my lack of RV knowledge, we headed to the local bookshop. I was going to find a book about the recreational vehicle lifestyle, but I got sidetracked and forgot all about it. I'll write about my new book in a later post. All in all, it was a productive evening. I probably won't seek out information about RVs; rather, I'll let it come to me as it does. True serendipity.

Remembering Dr. Corts

Anna and I found out that Dr. Corts passed away. He was the president of Samford University while Anna and I were students there. From our experience and all accounts by others, he was a brilliant leader and did some amazing things while at the school, particularly in fundraising.

Anna tells a great story about Dr. Corts: One of the school clubs had a video scavenger hunt where the largest prize would go to those that went to the Dr. Corts's home and had tea with him. Of course, the entry was likely intended as a joke, but Anna's group took the challenge head-on. When they arrived, Dr. Corts welcomed them in, explained that his wife was away, but that he would be willing to give it a go. He came up with lemonade and cookies as a great treat. Full points were awarded. I should also mention that all the participants had teased their hair out as part of the competition.

When I was a senior, I represented the school in a couple of competitions. One day I was invited to Dr. Corts's office because he wanted to wish me luck. Again, he was a gracious host, taking time out of a particularly busy day to get to know me and tell me that I had his full support. There was a rumor floating around that said Dr. Corts actually had a secret office where he did all sorts of important work. I thought that, since I was there, this meeting was a perfect place to find out the truth. When I started asking the hard questions, Dr. Corts revealed that he, indeed, had two offices. The one that everyone knew was the one with all of the windows, the perfectly placed books, and the clean desk. In all actuality, there was a panel in the room that would push out and lead to his working office. He asked if I wanted to see that office. "Most definitely, sir." It wasn't particularly cluttered, but it was funny to see his "paper garden."

Among all of his incredible accomplishments, I think one of Dr. Corts's best was his demonstration of kindness to some of the goofy students that came through SU.

My Sistah Says She Can See You

We have a favorite restaurant in Concord. It's called the Common Man, and the food there is generally fantastic. In fact, Anna and I have reservations there for Valentine's Day.

They have a table with crackers and an enormous block of cheese for a free appetizer. If we're there for a special occassion, I usually have their prime rib for dinner, and I always enjoy their seasonal vegetable. But one thing about the restaurant makes the C-Man stand out.

The bathroom is pretty typical in most of your sensory categories. It smells like a bathroom. It looks like a bathroom. It feels likes a bathroom. I don't yet know if it tastes like a bathroom. But, the sound of this bathroom is haunting. The restaurant pipes in the voice of a local comedian. She tells these yarns about living in New England, and she does so with a thick accent (she has a sistah, and an idear).

Those old tales are distracting, but there are distractions in the restaurant as well. On the second floor, there are some couches and rocking chairs for the people that prefer heavy padding in lieu of a standard chair. It's part of the ethos of the restaurant. What is interesting is that one of the couches presents a direct line of sight into a window in one of the bathroom stalls (pictured above).

If someone sits down on the toilet, no one can see what is happening. But there are some men who prefer to urinate while standing at a standard toilet instead of a urinal. Perhaps it is privacy; perhaps it is experience. I don't know. What I do know is that there is a direct line of sight between a couch and the stall (see sketch). You could sit there all night and watch the feeling of relief come over men's faces. It's hilarious and gross all at once. The Common Man really should frost that window or put up some curtains. So, if you're a dude and eating at the C-Man, you've been warned.