Dear Texas and Ohio:

If on Tuesday, you could just for once not act like Texans and Ohioans, I would totally appreciate it.



Birthday Pix

Sam and Grandma Glenda

Caleb refused to have any cake, showing his gastronomic independence.

Sam, on the other hand, ate cake until his eyes went hazy.

We made a rookie parent mistake of opening the big packages first.  They did discover the books and cards later that evening...

In the background:  Amelia Otjen, a young woman of grace and distinction, deigns not to trouble herself with such rough boys and their tough tough toys.  (Amelia's father, on the other hand, brought a box of Twinkies for each of the twins, which we're holding in the pantry until the boys turn twenty-one or the Twinkies begin to degrade, whichever happens first.)


We Two are Two

Happy 2nd Birthday to the two funniest people I know.
Every day with you is cake and ice cream, dump trucks and diggers.

(Friends, family, and countrymen:  In lieu of presents, please elect a biracial and literate Democrat as our next president.)


In the Green Room

Japanese scientists unveiled a robot that plays the violin, a robot that solves Rubik’s Cubes, a robot that recognizes itself in a mirror, a robot snowplow that eats snow and excretes ice bricks, a robot exoskeleton that can be worn by elderly farmers, and a robot that walks at the command of a monkey on a treadmill in North Carolina.
-- from “Findings,” Harper’s Magazine, March 2008

P.R. Assistant: Um, hi, robots? The scientists are almost ready to unveil you. It will be just a couple of minutes. Help yourself to whatever’s on the table.
Stradivario: (tuning violin) The humans will be impressed with my artistry.
Rubiko: Perhaps if it were the eighteenth century. You should upgrade your skill set to something more... (brandishes solved cube) ...modern. And awesome.
Stradivario: Rearranging the stickers does not count as solving the puzzle, you know.
Rubiko: Yeah? Well, sawing a bunch of catgut doesn’t count as playing the violin!
Narcisso: (Staring at self in mirror) Well, hello, handsome. What’s your name?
X-Plow: Anybody see any Tums? Rolaids? I’m not feeling well. I think I may have had too much snow.
Rubiko: I highly doubt you’ve been programmed for antacids.
Stradivario suddenly takes Rubiko’s puzzle, rearranges the color pattern, and hands it back to the puzzle-solving robot.
Stradivario: What do you think the humans will make of that?
Rubiko: $@%! Anybody have a Phillips head screwdriver?
X-Plow: I shouldn’t have eaten all that snow. Anyone see a bathroom on the way in?
Rubiko: (Gesturing at the farmer in the futuristic battlesuit) Hey, Old McDonald? You got a damn screwdriver in your arsenal or what?
Garden Weasel 5000: Standard features include a lucite spade, a retractable hoe arm, and an automatic seed dispenser. No screwdriver is included in the current model, although ancillary upgrades are available at a reasonable cost. Future soldiers may be particularly interested in my flame-throwing accessories, which we think will be enormously effective in the coming war against giant insects.
Narcisso: I tell you, G.W.5000, I don’t know what your inventors were thinking when they designed you. A robot for farmers? Because farmers have a lot of extra income they can spend on gadgets? And, like, I’m so sure farmers are, like, early adopters. I mean… (catching glimpse of self in mirror) God, I’m handsome.
Rubiko uses a corner of the Lucite spade to pry off one of individual cubes in his puzzle, then breaks the larger cube into its individual pieces.
Stradivario: You’re cheating.
Rubiko: Who are you, RoboCop? Get out of my light.
Suddenly, a sixth robot enters the room, walking purposefully and far too quickly towards the back of the room. He walks directly into the back wall, and then continues moving his feet, as if trying to walk into the wall itself.
MonkeyPAW900: (Speaking on cellphone) Duke University Robotics Lab, please.
X-Plow: You may want to give me a little room here. I feel like I may be dropping a frozen burrito here any second.
Rubiko: (holding up a reassembled, solved – if somewhat loosened – Cube): Done! A new record!
MonkeyPAW900: (Into phone)Yeah, hey, Donegan? Can you cool it with the damned monkey? I’m walking against the wall here!
With a grunt, X-Plow excretes a cartoon block of ice. Narcisso, meanwhile, takes a comb from his back pocket. He is about to neaten his hairdo when it occurs to him that his hair is perfect already. He returns the comb to his pocket.
X-Plow: Aah. I feel fifteen pounds lighter.
MonkeyPAW900: (Into phone) I don’t know, give him a banana. Let ‘em fling his own feces. Just get him off the dang treadmill.
At last, MonkeyPAW900 is still. The PR Assistant re-enters the room.
PR Assistant: They need you all out on stage.
All exit but MonkeyPAW900, who is unable to walk.
MonkeyPAW900: Crap. (Dials phone.)



My preferred presidential candidate won the state, and looks poised to get the nomination and the presidency.

And Obama not only one the state, he won urban centers and young people by an even larger margin. In Milwaukee County, Obama won 63.85% to Hillary's 35.19%. In Dane County and Madison, Obama won 67.53% to 31.28%. In my congressional district, Obama won 68.70% to 30.36%.

Overall voting -- in our open primary -- shows an even better picture. Democrats overall garnered 1,111,223 votes, and Republicans 409,202 -- showing that in our state, historically "Blue" or not, the good guys are getting about 75% of total votes cast.

If we get Obama in November, we get a landslide of the sort not seen since 1984.



Wisconsin's Laundry Basket Bobsled team practices in the living room.  Some say they are ready for the stairs, but the preliminary qualifying races have been put off due to extreme cold and local elections.

Bring Billy to Milwaukee!


Jaws Shark's Return to Safe Waters

Perth, AUSTRAILA – Most only know the robotic Great White Shark called “Bruce” from his film work in Jaws, Jaws 2, and Moonraker, but the famously reclusive and press-shy star has done much of his recent work behind the scenes, quietly developing his latest and perhaps greatest role as Hollywood’s go-to healer. Time Magazine's Mary Ellen Moffat sat in with the 5,000-lb. Carcharodon carcharias for a revealing discussion of friends, “LOST,” and lost friends.

TIME: You’re in town for Heath Ledger’s memorial.

Bruce: Heath was a friend. I’d only just met him – I was coaching his teeth for his upcoming role as the Joker, just as I’d done with Jack. It was clear from the start that this was a young man with a lot of star power, but there was a darkness upon him that was palpable. Fame can be quite a burden, even to those on the hunt for it.

TIME: You sound as though you speak from experience. How did you fare with your own rise to fame?

Bruce: Not well – the late seventies were a total blur, I’m afraid. I was young and single, and despite some malicious rumors spread by some former associates, the work was steady. For a while, it seemed like I could just drift between my recurring roles in the Roger Moore Bond movies [1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, 1979’s Moonraker] and the Amity Island sequels [1978’s Jaws II, 1983’s Jaws 3-D]. The money, the drugs, the women: I thought it would never end. When Robert Shaw died, I was hit hard. We’d been so close, and he was such a mentor to me, you know?

TIME: I’ve heard that you showed up at Shaw's funeral with a harpoon gun and plastic buoys wrapped around your dorsal fin.

Bruce: (Laughs). Yeah, drugs’ll do that to you. Shaw deserved better, but that’s all I had to give at the time.

TIME: You say that rumors were spread. Can you say more about that?

Bruce: I don’t want to get into it too much – it’s ancient history, really, but Steven made it pretty clear he felt I was difficult to work with, including blaming me for some of the work stoppages that occurred on that first film [1975’s Jaws]. It’s hard, because here’s a guy who created me, you know, the Geppetto to my Pinnochio, and we become fast friends, practically living together on Martha’s Vineyard in that summer of 1974, and as soon as we wrap principal photography, he turns around and does what he does. I won’t deny that it hurt. In recovery, we talk a lot about owning up to our own addictions, but that kind of abandonment in such a fragile time? That leaves a scar.

TIME: Some feel that Spielberg used you as a way to propel himself into a Hollywood career.

Bruce: I didn’t say that. (Laughs) But I will say, look at the dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park movies, look at the robot boy in A.I., look at his affinity for Tom Hanks. Those things come from somewhere…

TIME: Spielberg famously cast your half-sister, actress Juliane Moore, in the Jurassic sequel. Are you on good terms with her?

Bruce: You’re not going to survive in this business very long if you hold onto pain and rejection and hard feelings. That’s part of why I think drug and alcohol abuse is so prevalent in the industry, and part of what we address in my workshops.

TIME: You’ve developed a second career in drug counseling in the last decade or so, and you’re currently appearing as a counselor on Dr. Drew Pinsky’s VH-1 reality program, Celebrity Rehab. How did you embark on your own road to sobriety?

Bruce: I was doing press for a 1997 TV version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," and a reporter – some guy from Kansas City or somewhere – mentions that this was my second time co-starring with Michael Caine, who played Captain Nemo in the TV movie. I was certain he was wrong, but he insisted we had previously worked together in a Jaws film. I left the studio and went straight to a Blockbuster, and – there it was: Jaws IV! I thought: Damn, how many of these have I done? And I’ve been sober ever since. But that what it takes, sometimes, you know? You have to come to terms with just how out of control and self-destructive you’ve been.

TIME: Did you ever speak with Michael Caine about that experience.

Bruce: (Sighs) I tried. I called him up and mentioned it to him, but first he was convinced I was a drunk Richard Harris pranking him and then, wierdly, he started trying to order shoes. (Imitates Caine’s Cockney accent) "Roit, I’d like a noice pair of white bucks in size fourteen, snaps at yer ankles…”

TIME: That’s possibly the worst Cockney accent since Dick Van Dyke’s turn in Mary Poppins.

Bruce: (Laughs) I guess I’ll have to stick to mauling teenage girls…

TIME: While you’ve scaled back your acting work lately, you’ve had a small but pivotal role in the the TV show “Lost.”

Bruce: Only a couple of episodes, really. Kind of a favor to the producers, really. I’d been working – in my counselor capacity – with a lot of the cast and crew, and they were really stuck as to how they were going to progress with the second season. I made a few suggestions, and did a few scenes at scale.

TIME: We’ve only just learned that Roy Schieder died over the weekend. What are your memories of him?

Bruce: Schieder was a rock. I’ll tell you, it was hard times for me after that first movie, what with Shaw’s death and Dreyfus so clearly siding with Steven. I really felt like it was, we’ve created this robot shark and now the movie’s over, so let’s ship him off to work the rest of his life at some theme park or something. I could barely function. The script for Jaws II had come in, but everybody knew it had gone to Pacino first, and – out of resentment – I really wanted to turn it down. I mean, if I’m not your first choice for the role of ‘Shark,’ you know? Go screw! So that’s the space I was in, plus an 8-ball or two in the afternoon, when one day Schieder rolls up on his Indian motorcycle. He tells me to get on the back, and we ride up the Pacific Coast highway, stopping on a cliffside to fire off these twin Lugers he’d brought along, kind of a salute to Bob Shaw, right? And we’re sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels, just being a couple of mates, and Schieder never mentions the script. Never even mentions it! By sunset, we’re up damn near to Oregon, you know, and we’re going through this old growth forest, with the mescaline really kicking in, and you can just see the orange glow through the sequoias to the west. Schieder’s lying down on a battered picnic table, staring up at the tree tops, and I’m doing pretty much the same thing on the bike. And Schieder just says: “Sharky,” he says, “don’t let the bastards get you down.” And then we went off and did Jaws II together, and let the rest of ‘em go to hell. And that was Roy Schieder.


Atomic Fireballs, Boston Baked Beans, and Sweedish Fish

In honor of Mitt Romney's exit from the race for president, I'd like to discuss the finest twenty minutes of C-Span coverage I've seen in the past year.

In late September, C-Span cameras followed former Massachusetts Governor and then-presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as he browsed the selections as Chutters candy shop in Littleton, New Hampshire, home of the world's longest candy counter. I don't begin to understand why this was being broadcast on television, or even why I was watching it.

At any rate, the camera follows Romney as he browses through the candy store, occaisionally making comments to the store's employees or his own campaign staff, but mostly just sort of quietly shopping for candy in the same way you or I might if we were millionaire robot Mormons who were hungry for candy.

At one point, Romney tells all who are listening that he's "being a good Republican" and choosing only red candy, such as cinnamon bears and red licorce or Michigan cherries. At another point, he turns to the shopkeeper and says: "These lids are on real tight. Is that to maintain freshness?" Which is a very robot-like question to ask, I think we can agree. Some of the candy, he claims, is for his wife, who will want some later on the plane.

He then takes his bag of candy to the cash register, where he's asked for $11.52 cents. He gets out his wallet, hands the shopkeeper a bill, then reaches into the "Take A Penny, Leave A Penny" bin for an additional two cents.

So there's your millionaire Mormon robot ex-presidential candidate clearly showing his conservative credentials by providing private luxury from the explotation of public funding.

You'll find footage here.


Snowstorm Wednesday: The "I Have to Work Anyway" Game

While you won't be faulted for thinking so, the picture above is not of me. I would never wear a shirt like that. (Picture from http://www.jsonline.com/ of one of our Heartland brethren.)

Alabama: Clinton. Huckabee. Wrong (D): Obama.
Alaska: Obama. McCain. Wrong (R): Romney.
Arizona: Clinton. McCain.
Arkansas: Clinton. Huckabee.
California: Obama. Romney. Wrong (both): Clinton. McCain.
Colorado: Obama. Romney.
Connecticut: Clinton. McCain. Wrong (D): Obama.
Delaware: Clinton. McCain. Wrong (D): Obama.
Georgia: Obama. McCain. Wrong (R): Huckabee.
Idaho (D only): Obama.
Illinois: Obama. McCain.
Massachusetts: Clinton. Romney.
Minnesota: Clinton. McCain. Wrong (D): Obama.
Missouri: Clinton. McCain. Wrong (D) Obama.
Montana (R only): Huckabee. Wrong: Romney.
New Jersey: Clinton. McCain.
New Mexico (D only): Obama. (Currently too close to call, with Obama leading...)
New York: Clinton. McCain.
North Dakota: Clinton. McCain. Wrong (both): Obama. Romney.
Oklahoma: Clinton. McCain.
Tennessee: Clinton. Huckabee.
Utah: Obama. Romney.
West Virginia (R only): Huckabee.
American Samoa (D only): Obama. (I've not yet seen results for American Samoa...)

States Entirely Wrong: 3. States Half Right: 7. States Right: 12. Outcome Undecided: 2.

Based on these results, it's clear that Tuesday's clear winner was: me! Brian Hinshaw -- only partially wrong on Super-Tuesday, only partially wrong for America.

I'm predicting a Democratic landside in November, with Obama as our next president. Crushing defeat of a McCain/Huckabee campaign. Evan Bayh as veep. Based on Obama's fundraising abilities and the next few weeks of contests, I think he'll sweep most of the remaining primaries, including Wisconsin's.

Side note: Cindy McCain creeps me out. Normally, I'm not one to critize appearances, but I don't think America wants their next first lady to be some weird pointy-faced alien bird.


Super Tuesday: The Home Game

My predictions:

Alabama: Clinton. Huckabee.
Alaska: Obama. McCain.
Arizona: Clinton. McCain.
Arkansas: Clinton. Huckabee.
California: Obama. Romney. (I'm predicting an upset!)
Colorado: Obama. Romney.
Connecticut: Clinton. McCain.
Delaware: Clinton. McCain.
Georgia: Obama. McCain.
Idaho (D only): Obama.
Illinois: Obama. McCain.
Massachusetts: Clinton. Romney.
Minnesota: Clinton. McCain.
Missouri: Clinton. McCain.
Montana (R only): Huckabee.
New Jersey: Clinton. McCain.
New Mexico (D only): Obama.
New York: Clinton. McCain.
North Dakota: Clinton. McCain.
Oklahoma: Clinton. McCain.
Tennessee: Clinton. Huckabee.
Utah: Obama. Romney.
West Virginia (R only): Huckabee.
and American Samoa (D only): Obama.

Wednesday will see Obama and Clinton in a statistical deadheat, with McCain the clear Republican nominee.