This will (somewhat) chronicle the next, and so far best, chapter in my life! I've moved to Hockessin, DE with an amazing woman that I am happy to call my fiance, and soon my wife. I also have a great house, dog, and couldn't be happier!

28 November 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

There is something liberating about smoking an Ashton and having a dram of Bruichladdich.

It also make this stupid blogger formatting wizard somewhat less frustrating. Such are the benefits of good cigars and great whisky.

Anyway, on to the point of this post!

Tanya invited me to her relatives' house for Thanksgiving this year. She warned me that they are crazy people and I should be prepared to be surprised and possibly shocked at dinner. Luckily, I've experienced 32 years of Craig (and our associated extensions) family dinners, so I'm pretty sure that nothing would surprise me.

However.

Tanya's family IS crazy! But, they're incredible as well. Very genuine and very funny. I had an absolute blast at dinner.

We showed up and the wine had already been flowing. Quite a bit of it! The best part was that is was homemade. The origins are somewhat shady, but after talking to Jim...I found out that it was made somewhere in South Philly. Not exactly wine country or the Napa Valley, but it was good. Granted, it was twice as strong as regular wine, but tasted great. There was also some homemade lemoncello that Tanya's Uncle's (Anthony) Mother made. Linda was her name. Not only did she make the lemoncello, but she made cookies, cranberries and cranberry mold (both from fresh cranberries by the way!) that were to die for. Tanya has already professed that she would like to be that woman someday. Hey, I would like to be that woman someday. If I could prepare food like this...I'd consider it!

The entire dinner was absolutely amazing. I tried a small amount of everything. I took what I would normally consider about half a portion of each dish and I still had literally mound of food on my plate. By the end of the dinner, I wished I had worn sweat pants instead of slacks. I needed the extra room!

I was the DD, so I could only sample the aforementioned drinks, but Tanya had no such inhibitions. Let's just say she'll fit right in with the Craig's at any family function;)

We actually forgot that we brought the camera until well into the meal. We managed one quick shot of the table, put the camera down, and it didn't surface again for several hours. Tanya decided to take a lot of candid shots of her family, which came out great. Unfortunately, we didn't get any shots of the two of us, but we'll solve that at the next family outing.

This was a great Thanksgiving! Her family is awesome. Can't wait to introduce her to ours!


Here are the pics:

Tanya's cousin, Phil, helping prepare the table. On the right is the aftermath of the first round of eating. We are all trying to mentally prepare for dessert.



The Matriarch. This is her Uncle Anthony's mother, Linda (on the right).



The two primary cooks. On the left is Tanya's Aunt Gabriella. Her Aunt Lee is on the right.



Tanya and her Uncle Anthony. And then again after a couple lemoncellos....



Yes, she was blowing kisses. On the right is her other Uncle, Chris.



Though not alcohol induced, I was getting pretty tired. That's what eating your bodyweight in awesome food will do to you!




What a great Thanksgiving! I can't wait until the next one - probably Christmas.

Great times with great people! Thanks Tanya!

Renegade

Sometimes this cat does some funny stuff. Weird, but funny.

I wouldn't have thought the bathroom sink was comfortable, but apparently he did.

Hey - at least I didn't find him curled up in the toilet!



This picture was actually a while ago. Now, most cats could do this no problem. You know, most cats are good jumpers, graceful, good balance, etc. Not Renegade. He has all the grace of a drunk offensive lineman on ice-skates. How he managed to balance on the back of this chair I'll never know....

Formatting...

By the by...I hate the way this blogger formats what I'm typing in here. So, in the post below, when I say "bottom", "top" it's probably displayed on the left or right. I think you'll figure it out. You're all smart people.

This thing's "preview" function doesn't preview what you're seeing here, so it's anyone's best guess as to how these show up....

I'm Way Behind! I'll start with the Dog Show, then move on...

Last Saturday, Tanya, her friend Taylor, Taylor's daughters, and two of Tanya's cousins and I went to the National Dog Show, in Reading, PA. The Philadelphia Kennel Club usually has these in downtown Philly, but this year they opted for Reading.

In any case, it was a blast! We didn't even go into the big ring for the judging because, well, who cares. The fun part was walking around outside the big ring and looking at all of the varieties of dogs. It was very interesting. We saw dogs that you would normally only read about or....see at a dog show!

One of the things Tanya noticed was that the dogs were so well behaved inside the ring when they're being judged, but when you get them outside the ring, they turn into lovable, fun pets like any other dog you've ever met. The vast majority of the owners and handlers were very nice and more than happy to talk about the dogs and let us pet them.

I also think I've decided on my future dog. I didn't get a picture at the show, but I found this one online:




It's a Rhodesian Ridgeback! They're supposed to be a handful, but they're great for runners. These dogs were originally bred for lion hunts in Africa! Very cool dogs. I met one at the dog show and they're very beautiful. That ridge on their back is actually just hair that grows in the opposite direction. Strange, but kind of cool!

So, on to the show. Here are some pics and a little bit of commentary!
Here is a pug (funny little dogs), and some kind of terrier.



I thought this was hysterical! The poodles (even the mini ones) are trained to sit like this when they rest so that they don't mess up their groomers' efforts. This guy looked like he'd had quite enough. If he was a Craig dog.....he'd be thinking it's high time for a drink!



These are two of Tanya's cousins. Diana is on the left and Ava is on the right. They are with a Black Russian Terrier. They are getting one of these in about a week, so we snapped a picture of them with their future dog (well, the same breed anyway). They're great dogs, very nice, but very big!


This was another funny one. The picture on the top is a close up of what you see on the bottom. It's a giant poodle, and if you're having trouble understanding what you're looking at (I know I did...and I was standing two feet from this thing) - imagine that the dog is sitting like the Sphinx and facing the groomer. The little puffs you see on the top are on its hips. The gray is the dog's skin. After talking to some of the poodle owners, apparently these puffs are functional. They keep the dogs' joints warm while it's hunting, but clip the rest of the fur to keep it from catching on stuff. Whatever.

This little Bijon was funny. Then, there's the dog below. Ava nicknamed him "George Washington." This is a male dog by the way. I'm guessing they don't let this dog play with the Rottweilers and Pinschers, lest it's ego be irretrievably shaken...



A big Schnauzer! And Ava with her favorite of the show - some kind of Sheep Dog. I forgot the name, but this particular dog's name was Toby. Somehow...that just fits.


The Irish Wolfhound. Very cool dog, and HUGE. And of course, a Bulldog. Love these guys. He didn't look too happy to be in this cage though!



Finally, this guy on the top didn't look too happy to be there. Beautiful dog though. And on the bottom - Tanya's favorite. Basically, these dogs are one walking wrinkle...



That was the show! If you ever have a chance to go to a dog show, I highly recommend going. It's cheap entertainment and if you're an animal lover, you can't go wrong!

19 November 2008

Okay, Hol. I'll try it!

I don't usually do these things, but Hol did one. I figured, what the hell...

Your hair color? Brownish
Your mother? Funny
Your father? Professional
Your favorite thing? Triathlon
Your dream last night? ?
Your dream goal? Family
The room you're in? Office
Your hobby? Guitar
Your fear? Spiders
Where do you want to be in 6 years? NSC
Where were you last night? Home
What you're not? Naive
Wish-list item? MONEY!
Grew up? Uninhibited
Last thing you did? Typed (ah, ah, ah...)
You're wearing? Nomex
Your TV? Movie
Your computer? Work
Can't live without? Family
Your mood? Apathetic
Missing someone? Yep
Your car? Useful
You're not wearing? Suit
Favorite shop? Williams-Sonoma
Your summer? Racing
Love someone? Yes
Love/Hate Relationship? Swimming
Current addiction? TopChef
Your favorite colour? Red
Last time you laughed? Yesterday
Last time you cried? Dunno

So that's my list!

05 November 2008

My $.02 On the Election

WHY I VOTED FOR MCCAIN

Strength versus standing. Period. This is not a choice I wanted to make, but one I felt necessary. I was on the fence up until I pushed the button for the McCain/Palin ticket. I firmly believe that restoring our status in the world should be among the top priorities for the new administration. However, I worry that Obama will not be strong enough to resist the manipulation of the “Washington Institution” that may try and bend him to someone else’s wishes when it comes to this much needed responsibility. If this happens, it will be obvious to the world, and today we cannot afford for the world to perceive us as weak. Better to maintain our current perception than to turn into a Britain, or Spain, or other country that is “pretty good” but will not retaliate when provoked or attacked. McCain may not have given diplomacy as much of a chance as Obama will, but if I have to choose between maintaining our security and improving our world standing, I have to choose security. I realize that these are intimately related, but you have to start somewhere. The rest of the world may “like” Great Britain and Spain more than the U.S., but the fact is – both of those countries suffered multiple terrorist attacks (or potential attacks, or both) and the U.S. has suffered none. The incoming President must re-establish the United States as the leader of the free world and as a country that everyone admires, and he must do so in the interest of the people – not in the interest of Congress or the Presidential Cabinet. He must also do so without jeopardizing our deterrent as the most powerful country in the world.

On Foreign Affairs: this did it for me. While I think that President Obama’s ideas will have better luck with international relations, I have serious doubts about his ability to stand up for what he believes and to follow through with his promises to be more diplomatic. I strongly support the notion of diplomacy first (one of President Bush’s only successes in this arena was when he finally stopped beating North Korea over the head, sat down and talked, and they dismantled their Yongbyon nuclear reactor), but Obama has to maintain that vision. I worry that VP-elect Biden and others in Washington (Congress, the incoming cabinet and outside agencies) will try to manipulate President-elect Obama and bend him to their wills. I have not liked Biden ever since he put forth and voted on a “non-binding resolution” on Iraq that was a slap in the face to our military. Some of the verbiage read, “it is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq." As the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, could not his efforts and those of his committee be better spent trying to help the situation in Iraq from a diplomatic approach, instead of wasting taxpayer money and the government’s time on a clearly partisan and completely useless piece of legislation? I also think that his ideas on what to do with Iraq are ludicrous. Not only are they ignorant and shortsighted, but logistically, they are impossible. Imagine trying to separate New York City by ethnicity or religion. You wouldn’t make it two blocks.
The one thing I will say for President Bush is that his strength of character is admirable. The man made a decision and did not waffle, regardless of attacks – even from within his own administration or party. As we used to say in the Army, “…the only bad decision is the one that’s never made…” and I saw that in President Bush. While I did not agree with many of his decisions, I respected the fact that he made them with what he believed to be the best interest of his country. Obviously, not everyone will agree on every decision, but that is why being a leader is so difficult, and why someone has to eventually make a decision. I wonder how many people who criticize President Bush would have the intestinal fortitude to make the decisions he has had to make? Probably not very many. I saw that kind of strength in Senator McCain, but not in President-elect Obama. To those who disagree, I ask that you watch McCain’s concession speech for a lesson in class, professionalism, and character.
I hope for all our sake that Obama will have that strength because while we do not need to go rattling our saber around the world anymore, we do need to improve our relationships with many countries. It will take a very strong leader to re-establish our leadership, draw the world’s admiration again, and do so without starting any more wars.

On Domestic Policy: generally speaking, this plays little into my decision making when it comes to the Presidency. The current “financial crisis” is over-inflated I think. No doubt it hurt the Republican ticket and party, but to think that this is the single-most important issue facing the nation is a bit of an over-statement. Granted, the housing market is in shambles, and the car-loan industry is probably next, but the market will recover, and I believe quickly. I may be somewhat na├»ve, when it comes to global finance, but I do work in an industry that is a key indicator of the economy from many viewpoints – the petrochemical industry. I have long maintained (as have many) that market speculation was the primary driver for the rapid rise in the price of crude oil. Did anyone notice that as the violence in Iraq steeply dropped in the spring and summer, and the focus of the nation (and world) turned to the election and the financial upset, that the war took a back seat in everyone’s mind? As the war goes, so goes the speculation about crude oil. The price per barrel of crude is directly tied to the instability in the Middle East. Notice how events in Venezuela, Nigeria, and even hurricanes hitting our own shores are at best a blip on the screen of crude prices. When the War on Terror became a back-burner issue, what happened? Crude oil began a steady decline to currently be at a level less than half of what it was in July. I am positive that an economist or anyone who disagrees with me will delve into an argument about supply and demand, but I have a hard time believing that. Airlines are still packed, people still have to get to work (has no one been in a traffic jam since the price of crude spiked?), mall parking lots are still full, people still need things made from petroleum derivatives – so no, I do not buy the supply and demand argument for a second: that decreased demand has driven down the price of crude oil.
My point of all of this is that I do not think the Presidency will have much of an effect on “turning the financial crisis around.” This was far from foremost on my mind as I was deciding for whom to vote. As for the other domestic issues, energy is the only one that remotely ties to what I do care about: foreign affairs. A brief aside about energy – I am not overly concerned about what either candidate does or does not do about alternate forms of energy, etc. Those endeavors will largely be steered by special interests and lobbyists with little influence from President-elect Obama (or Senator McCain if he had won), and besides, we will be dependent on oil and its derivatives for quite some time.

On Palin: this was a tough one to get over. I suppose that I thought if McCain were healthy enough to get through this campaign, hopefully he would make it at least another four years. All of the fears I have with Obama being manipulated by the Washington establishment I would triple for a President Palin.

I do think that Obama has the potential to be a great President. I sincerely hope that he will look at his historic election for what it was – historic. And NEVER bring up his race again. Moreover, I think he should downplay his race in the future, lest people start to think the only reason he was elected is that he is an African American. I do not believe this, but I believe it would be in the best interest of everyone if the world did not believe it either.

If he sticks to his strengths – inspiration and charisma, as well as his desire to diplomatically restore our world standing, but at the same time keep our security at the forefront; I do believe this could be a great four years. He just needs to ensure he fulfills these inspirational goals.

At times I am optimistic to a fault, and on President-elect Obama I am cautiously optimistic. He will need a little bit of McCain’s “maverick” quality to repel the Biden-institutionalized thinking inside the Beltway, and as long as he does so, he will have my full support.

JAC – 5 November 2008