Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chicken George and an Ostrich…

I took the family out for dinner tonight.  We ended up at a new Japanese hibachi grill at City Center North (don’t remember the name).

Lauren had an excellent filet mignon.  Done right, that’s pretty hard to beat.  It was done right.

I ventured off the beaten path (one of my favorite things to do at a new restaurant) and tried ostrich mignon (for real).  Surprisingly (to me), it was more expensive than anything except the kobe beef.  I don’t know if that is because of the quality of the meat, or the scarcity of supply.

I anticipated it would be like chicken.  I was wrong.

It went on the hibachi a deep red… looking more like liver than chicken or beef.

It was very good.  More flavor than beef.  I thought it tasted a little like bison… with a hint of a sharp, gamey flavor.

If I had to do it again I’d get it a bit more on the rare side.

Overall, I’m glad I tried it.  It’s something different… and it was very good.  And now I’ve eaten ostrich.

It was the first time for Holly and Sierra to have the chef come and prepare the food at the table on the hibachi.  Our cook was spectacular.  Lots of flair and a great sense of humor.  The girls got a real kick out of his skills and personality.

Fun times.  Big bill.  Won’t happen again for awhile.

Okay… that’s the light part of this post.  Since I haven’t posted in a few days I have to give double-duty tonight because I’ve been anxiously waiting to post this next bit (the Chicken George part).

2 days ago I finished “Roots” while I was on my snowboard vacation (videos still to come).

First… Fabulous book.  A very stirring insight into a part of our national history that I think is ridiculously mishandled in school.

I look at the stupid books Andi has to read for high school and it doesn’t make any sense.  While some have great value, a shockingly high number offer absolutely zero value to Andi or her life.

It seems like she has to read and discuss them simply because they’ve always read and discussed them.  I don’t think they’ve changed the required reading lists in at least 25 years… since it’s the same list I had in high school.  And I’m not even kidding… it’s the *exact* same list.

Now, I know books like The Odyssey and The Iliad are supposed to be classics.  And maybe there are excellent reasons why they are not only required reading, but a significant portion of the school year for freshman English.  But I don’t see them.

Maybe I’m an ignorant troglodyte, too far removed from traditional education to get this.  But I think it’s a waste of precious time during a crucial period of Andi’s life to read “classics” like those.

Especially when there are books like Roots that are not only excellent reads… but have the potential to change feelings and beliefs so powerfully.

Why not make a book like Roots required reading?  Yes, it would probably ruffle some feathers.  It might make some people uncomfortable.  But isn’t that a huge part of the value?

It’s a book that caused me to feel different about myself.  I feel different about our history after reading it.  It opened a space for me to ask myself (and Lauren) some hard questions after reading it.

It created value in my life.

It’s sad enough that, statistically, most Americans will never read another book cover-to-cover once they’re out of school (it’s true).  That’s pathetic.  And I think at least some of that has to be because kids aren’t exposed to meaningful books that move them.  Books that challenge beliefs.  Books that make a difference.

Why can’t we do that?

I think “To Kill a Mockingbird” can move a teenager.  But Homer?  Give me a break.

And instead of the watered-down, dumbed-down, politically-corrected version of slavery they teach in U.S. History 101 (and that I learned), these kids should at least have the opportunity to be moved to tears by the harsh reality of slavery.  They should face the sickening truth of slave life head-on.  And they should definitely get to openly discuss the moral issues that are present, even today, in de-humanizing *any* person or class of people.

Okay… enough about that.  Just know that I think our educational system is way (way, way) off track in what they’re teaching my kids.  The more I learn what truly matters in life, the more I’m horrified at what passes for an education.  But that’s another post… or three.

If you haven’t read Roots, you deserve to.  Especially if you’re willing to steep in it a bit more than the average book.

What would I have done if I lived back then?  For something that is so obviously morally repugnant, would I have had the courage to stand up and be not just a voice of reason… but one of revolution?  It’s easy to sit here 200 years later and say “of course.”  But if it were that easy, how did it ever even start?  How did that first foothold of gross immorality get established?

The common opinion (at least it’s what I was taught in school) is that because they were judged as less-than-human, blacks were treated as nothing more than property… as perhaps a step or two above livestock.

After reading Roots, I can’t agree with that theory any more.  That explanation treats slave owners and society as simply being ignorant… having a deficit of knowledge or understanding.  Which is complete crap.

I think the opposite is true… it’s not that blacks were treated as property because they were thought to be somehow less-than-human.  It’s that people were forced to de-humanize them in order to justify immoral behavior.

And if you don’t think that same moral challenge is squarely before us today then you’re nuts.  And blind.  And ignorant.

And that’s why I really question how “easy” it would have been to not just reject slavery… but to passionately fight against it as the abomination it is.

Because even today humanity does way (way, way) too much de-humanization to justify our immoral behavior.  It might not be on the same obvious, black-and-white (pun intended) scale as slavery… but those same moral issues (and our responses to them) are at the heart of war.  And pornography.  Often religion.  Sometimes politics.  Economic and social classes.  And, unfortunately, racial and ethnic dis-integration.

And we like to think we’ve kicked that immorality to the curb.  That it’s something we don’t have a problem with.  And we’re wrong.  Horribly, devastatingly, sickeningly wrong.

But you have to go deeper than slavery to see that.  I couldn’t have seen it without the story of Roots.  Seen how humanity re-defined humanity to justify.  To soothe conscience.  To even proclaim with righteous indignation the superiority of an outrageously immoral action and lifestyle.

And it’s not just that we did it.  It’s how easy we did it.  How comfortable that lie became.  How it became “true” simply because we said it was true.

That’s how powerfully we fool ourselves.  And we’re frighteningly good at it.

Perhaps I’ve made no sense at all in this vitriolic post.  If you get it, congratulations… you’ve read between the lines and I appreciate that you made the effort to do so.  This isn’t about slavery, or history, or the guilt of a white, middle-class American man… it’s about how easy it is to fall into the trap of de-humanizing others to justify our wrong and selfish actions.  And reading a book like Roots really brings it into sharp focus.

Think about your reaction to the following groups of people… Terrorists.  Muslims.  Democrats.  Republicans.  Mormons.  Communists.  Nazis.  Illegal immigrants.  Smokers.  Alcoholics.  Abortionists.  Prostitutes.  Murderers.  Rapists.  Environmentalists.

I could go on for a long time.

And the point isn’t whether I agree or disagree with any of the people named.  Some of them do terrible things.  Some of them are just people who believe differently than I do.  Some of them are simply passionate about their beliefs… that I may or may not share.  And some of them are so far removed from my beliefs and lifestyle as to be barely recognizable as descending from the same species.

But that does not give me the right to de-humanize them, to see them as anything less than another person.  My brother.  My sister.  If you’re so inclined, even a child of God… or whichever deity may be meaningful to you.

And it’s freaking hard to overcome.

Because we must de-humanize.  Make them somehow less-than.  Else we could never justify the waging of war.  Or our judgments.  Our punishments.  Our disregard.  Our scorn and contempt.  Our self-righteousness.  Our arrogance.  Our ignorance.

Think we don’t still struggle with slavery?  You’re wrong.  It’s morphed and shifted and redefined itself.  It changed shapes and colors and size and boundaries throughout the years.  It’s hardly even recognizable anymore.  But it’s there.

And it’s one of the epic struggles of humanity… maybe even THE defining struggle of humanity… to overcome the separateness and difference that we “see” in our minds with the paradox of unity and diversity that we “know” in our hearts.

And, if humanity has mastered anything in our time on this earth, it’s not technology.  Or science.  Or spirituality.  Certainly not economics.  Or relationships.  It’s our stunning capacity to justify our actions.  To tell ourselves a story.  And believe it.  Not because it’s true… but because we must.  Because believing anything else would reveal to ourselves our weaknesses and abhorrent selfishness.

We tell ourselves these irrational stories not because we’re ignorant.  But because we’re selfish.  And we would rather believe a lie (especially one where others will support our justifying tale) than change our behavior.

The good news is, seeing and acknowledging this seeming trait of the human condition is a good portion of the battle.  Awareness is crucial to overcoming.  Mastery starts with something so simple as recognition.

I’m excited for that.

I think Dad would be proud.  At least I hope he would.  We often wandered to the edges of this discussion after 9/11.  Poking and probing at the dichotomy of sacred patriotism and de-humanizing justification.  Good talks.  Deep talks.  Hard talks.

Privately, Dad felt different than most.  I think maybe I’m experiencing now some of what he felt back then.  I wish I could talk to him about it more.  He had a knack for helping me to clarify my feelings and insights into something more solid than a maverick idea rattling around somewhere on the borders of my ignorance.

So I’m sorry that I couldn’t express this more clearly.  My inability to write what I feel is aggravating and frustrating.  Words fail.

I am a passionate, emotional man.  Roots caused me (or, more accurately, created a space for me) to really ponder how I am afflicted with this challenge.  It’s difficult for me to express the scope of what I feel.

I love it when a book does that… transcend the words and the story.  Challenge me.  Change me.

Roots did.

Monday, February 8, 2010

“I Gotta’ Be Honest, Here… I’m a Little Stressed”

That was my quote to Chris as we passed through Cedar City.  It was raining.  And 30 degrees.

Hmmm. Icy roads.  Freezing weather.  Only missing the middle-of-the-night pitch-black darkness vibe to totally creep me out.

Oh, wait… it was 11:00 PM, overcast, and black as pitch.

I didn’t think I would be that affected by driving in those kinds of conditions again.

I was wrong.

So I was a little stressed for the last 2 hours of my trip up to Brian Head.  Cold.  Icy.  Snowing.  Mountain roads.  Dark.

Oh, yeah.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Fun times.

But I’m finally here.

Love the Volvo.  No problem handling the conditions… including the 4-wheel-drive only mountain roads for the last 6 miles to the resort.

Atrocious gas mileage, though.  Seriously.  Maybe 16 MPG on the highway.  Ugh.

But it got me here safe.  And it’s got plenty of power.  And lots of room.  Got 2 full-size snowboard bags and a bunch of other luggage with plenty of room to spare.

I was really pleased to discover the Cedar Breaks Lodge (where I’m staying) shares a parking lot with the Brian Head Ski Resort.  Slept in this morning after a long drive and got in a great half-day of ‘boarding.

Absolutely stunning conditions up here.  It’s about 25 degrees and sunny (which is fantastic boarding weather).  We got 7 inches of new powder last night and it made for unbelievable boarding.

I don’t think there were 50 other people on the mountain.  Definitely one of my better boarding days.

I have some video.  I’ll post it tomorrow.

Also, it’s beautiful up here.

The first time I ever saw Cedar Breaks was when my dad and I drove up here a few years before he passed.  He wanted me to see what he thought was one of the most beautiful places in Utah.

He was right.  I’m glad he shared it with me.  Very peaceful and serene when I board alone or hike around the resort property.  I’m right in the woods.

The view out my bedroom window is stunning.  Last night I just sat by my fireplace and watched the moon shine off the snow in the trees out back.  Definitely my kind of place.

I’ll see if I can get some decent iPhone pics (I don’t carry a camera) and some Flip vids to post tomorrow.

Also, I make this invitation every year when I go snowboarding… if you want to come up and board with me then I’d love to have you.  I can only think of a handful of people that might take me up on that.  Specifically, I’d love to see the twins or Jason head down.

Great boarding.  Small crowds.  Multiple terrain parks.  Powder and groomed powder everywhere.  There’s even a tube park right next to my resort if you want to bring kids (yes, Brooke, I’m talking to you).

Oh… and no phone service up here (for AT&T.  Apparently Verizon is fine.  Grrr).  But at least I get really crappy internet.  So I’ve got that going for me.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Volvo, FTW…

Hey… something finally happened in my life.  Yeah!

After months of hemming and hawing, arguments with the 2 mes, and lots and lots of false starts, I finally got a car.

I haven’t had one for 1 year and 10 days.  Not since this.

In the end it came down to the Audi Allroad Quattro v. the Volvo XC90.

The Volvo Won.

I love the Audi.  Probably too much.  It was my emotional choice.  The Volvo was the far more practical choice… although also more expensive.

I love it.

I need to get it outfitted for mountain biking and probably snowboarding with a complete Yakima rack kit and then I’ll be ready to get back the lifestyle I want to be living… outdoors and adventurous.

I get to put the AWD capabilities to the test this weekend when I drive up to Brian Head to go snowboarding in Southern Utah.  They’re expecting another snowstorm the day I drive up.  Should be a miserable drive driving leading to a fantastic day boarding.

Bring it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Socks…

I’m excited.  I got new socks today.

I know… not typically a post-worthy event.  But today it is.

First of all, I’ve been wanting new socks for months.  But they never seem to rise to the top of the to-do list (assuming I actually had a list… which I don’t).

But next week is my annual snowboard trip.  And I wanted to make sure I had new socks for the trip (I take socks seriously when it’s cold).

So today I headed out to REI to pick up some new socks.  Here’s the damage…


If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 6 pairs of socks with a 10% discount for buying more than 3 pairs and a 10% (I think) co-op discount.  Total bill: $83.28.

Now, normally I wouldn’t spend that much on 6 pairs of socks (I don’t think… it’s been awhile).  But they had some cool socks that I just had to try out.  So I got 1 pair of 6 different kinds to see which socks I like best (it will be hard to beat my Timberland socks).

1 Pair is just for “extreme snowboarding.”  I’m not sure what makes them uniquely qualified for ‘boarding… but I guess I’ll find out next week.  I felt a little embarrassed that I’d been snowboarding with just dumb old ski socks this whole time ;-)  Who knew?

The others were all hiking socks (which is why I’ve wanted new socks for so long… my good hiking socks are wearing out… and disappearing).

Lauren and the girls laughed at me when I tried on my first pair.  I like them, though… and they might even be my favorites.  I’ll know for sure after my morning hike tomorrow.

In the mean time, have a gander…


Nice, huh?

Warm?  Yes.

Comfy?  You bet.

Dorky?  Absolutely.

Just wait until my kids see that I have a second pair of toe socks.  They’re already embarrassed by/for me.  I mean, what’s funner than getting something you enjoy *and* embarrassing your wife and kids at the same time?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Junior Politician…

You may remember last year when I tattooed my head to help Holly get elected student body president at her school (

Well, Holly accomplished what all student-body presidents *want* to do… but few actually *get* to do… she managed to get recess extended by 10 minutes for grades 4 through 6.

Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Here’s the story…

In an effort to reduce the food waste at lunch time the school decided it would extend the lunch period by 10 minutes for each class.  The extra time would only be applied to the cafeteria time of each class… not recess.

Holly didn’t like the new rule.  So she drafted a petition and obtained the signatures of the entire 6th grade class at her school.

Here’s her petition…


Dear Mr. Michels,

As a 6th grade, we think that we need extra time at recess. We don’t need extra time to eat. The current lunchroom time is sufficient for us. It doesn’t take us as long to eat as some of the younger students, so giving us 5-10 extra minutes to eat would be a waste. We think that the younger students in kindergarten to 3rd grade should get the extra time to eat, and 4th through 6th grade should get recess. The younger kids have a harder time focusing on eating their lunch, and they don’t understand the value of money enough to care that they throw away half their lunch. As 6th graders, we understand that and also can just eat faster. As it is, we are usually sitting at the table waiting to go outside when our lunch time is up – we don’t require more time to eat.

However, since we sit in the classroom all day, a longer recess period would be much more appreciated. The older you are, the more exercise it takes to stay healthy. We think increasing the amount of recess we have would help us get exercise. Since most people just sit at the lunch table, they tend to talk more because they have nothing else to do.  If we get outside sooner, we won’t be as loud inside. We see the following as the pros of having a longer recess:

  • We get more exercise and run off more energy, helping us to be calmer in class
  • We’re allowed to talk to friends longer after being in the classroom all day
  • The teachers will have more time to eat and to catch up on whatever they have to do.

Some of the cons of having a longer recess might be:

  • People coming in with more problems at recess
  • The younger students might complain if we are given an extended recess and they aren’t

Please consider our advice. We’ve attached a petition of the students who would like a longer recess. Thank you for your time and consideration.

The Quail Run 6th Grade


As a marketer, I couldn’t be more proud.  She got almost everything right (I would have reversed the pro/con order).

As a father, I’m impressed that she saw something she thought could be better and went and did something about it.  Very cool.

I’m not sure when this whole thing goes into effect… but I do know that her petition was accepted and enacted.  Grades 4-6 will get 10 minutes longer for recess.

Seriously… when was the last time a student body president actually delivered longer recess?  Now if she could just do something about that infernal homework.

Go Holly!

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Can’t Keep Track…

…of all the pets we’ve had.

It started 17 years ago when I wanted to surprise Lauren.  I brought home our first animal.  A cat named Samantha.  Sam, for short.

And that started a running theme in our family.  Namely, that it’s not just Lauren, Andi, Holly, Sierra and me in this family.

At the moment there’s also Monte (the stray dog Andi and Lucy found while visiting Brooke in Utah… that the Eliasons were kind enough to drive home for us).  Lilo, our black fluffy cat who serves as the animal patriarch of the house… and he knows it.  Bear, a sleek grey cat who is presently terrified of the next member on the list… Luna, our beautiful snow-leopard bred kitten (Lauren’s most expensive gift for Christmas 2008).

Home just isn’t home for us without animals.

To date we’ve had 3 dogs.  At least 10 cats (way more if you count all the kittens we’ve been through).  1 pig.  Several turtles.  Too many fish.  A snake.  A guinea pig.  Lizards.  Frogs.  And more, I’m sure.

Plus all the strays and charity case animals that Lauren and the girls are constantly bringing home.  From birds to dogs to anything else.  They love animals.

And now…

Introducing Justin and Joseph (or Larry and Buster if you ask Holly).

Sierra’s new Russian Dwarf hamsters.

I know.  We’re a little nutty.

We actually went to the store hoping to come home with a new tarantula.  That was Plan “A” and was soon discarded when the pet store had no tarantulas.  Plan “B” was quickly hatched by Sierra.

(by the way, here’s a quick parenting tip… don’t bring your 8-year-old daughter to the pet store expecting to get a pet only to discover the pet you want isn’t available.  Because you’re still going home with a pet.  That’s just how it works.)

So now Sierra has 2 new roommates.  Because she swears she’ll take care of them.

Uh-huh.  We’ll see.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I’m not sleeping well.

I go to bed.  I’m tired.  Often *extremely* tired.

And my brain decides that would be the time to kick in to hyperdrive and not turn off.

I’m used to my schedule getting off-kilter because I’ll work odd hours.

But this is different.

I can’t sleep.  It’s driving me crazy.

I.  Can’t.  Sleep.

I want to.  I certainly *need* to.  And I can’t.

I don’t want to resort to medication.  I might have to.  It’s that bad.

How do you turn off your brain?