Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hong Kong Trip Part VI

I actually wrote most of this post back in February in the weeks after I got home. It sat as a draft in blogger mocking me any time I thought about blogging. I needed to finish it up before writing about anything else, right? And then Facebook got in the way. I only have a certain amount of time to spend online, and Facebook started to suck up all of that.

Tonight, however, I need to write and Facebook just isn't going to cut it. So, I am going to consolidate the last couple of days of my trip into one post and send it out into the ether so that I won't feel guilty about writing what I really want to write tonight.

The highlight from Thursday was our trip to Stanley. The vast majority of my time in Hong Kong was spent on the north side of the island. I only ventured across the Victoria Harbor into Kowloon once (excluding passing through on my way to and from the airport). Stanley is on the southern end of Hong Kong Island, so getting there involved driving through different scenery. Despite being one of the most densely populated areas in the world, only about 25% of the territory's landmass is developed. The rest, some of which we drove through to get to Stanley, is too steep to build upon.

Buildings in Repulse Bay at the foot of the mountains. The structure under the green tarps is under construction. That's bamboo scaffolding surrounding what is doubtless a very modern building.

Stanley is probably best know for its open-air market. The deals one can get from bargaining with the merchants attract both tourists and locals. Most of the gifts and souvenirs I brought back home were found here. We also had wonderful Dim Sum in Stanley.

The boardwalk at Stanley

I spent Friday morning with Monte and Finn in the park at Quarry Bay. There are quite a few parks in Hong Kong. The mountainous part of the territories are largely nature reserves, but the urban areas do have many parks. The largest section of the one in Quarry Bay runs along the harbor, but there are many other smaller sections that wind between highways and parking lots and apartment building. Some of these sections are connected by footbridges, others are noncontiguous and can be reached by walking a few blocks on the sidewalks.

On this walk, it was remarkable that so many people in the park were exercising. Many were doing tai chi, some with swords or fans, some were jogging, and other were making seemingly random movements (like raising their arms or squatting in a, um, non-graceful manner) . It was rare in my time in Hong Kong to see anyone who was overweight. To get anywhere, you need to walk. Despite the quantity of dumplings that I ate during my trip, I lost 6-7 pounds. In a lot of ways, this kind of urban lifestyle can be much healthier than my current life in the suburbs.

Quarry Bay
Tai Chi in Quarry Bay

On Friday evening, we met up with one of Matt's colleague, Tuan, and took the ferry over to Kowloon. At 8:00pm every evening with good weather, there is a "Symphony of Lights" on both sides of the Victoria Harbor. The best view is from the promenade at Tsim Sha Tsui. It was interesting, but not worth a special trip to be at TST at 8:00. If you go and want to take pictures, be sure to arrive early so you can set up your tripod.

View from Tsim Sha Tsui
It was crowded at TST.

While in Kowloon, we found a Vietnamese restaurant. Tuan, who is a Vietnamese-American, helped us order, but it must not have been particularly memorable because I remember Tuan and I trying to talk about The Wire without spoiling Matt and Monte more than I remember the food.

Kowloon at night.

And then, on Saturday morning, I started my flight home. Sniff.

Before my trip, I knew I would love spending time with Monte and Matt and Finn. I did not expect to love being in Hong Kong as much as I did. I am planning to return before they move back to the States. There is more to explore, more to photograph (and I'm a much better photographer today than I was on this trip), and much more to eat!

The rest of the pictures from my trip can be found on my flickr site.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hong Kong Trip Part V

We switched things up a bit on Wednesday morning. Rather than venturing out of my own while Finn napped, we talked with my parents on Skype.

Talking to Grandma
Talking to Grandma and Grandpa

Skype is just one of the biggest differences between my sister's 2 year stint in Hong Kong and the 2 years my parents lived in Hong Kong before I was born. My parents talked to my grandmother once on the phone during those 2 years, and she had to save up for that phone call. Monte, Matt, and Finn videoconference with us and with Matt's family almost weekly for free. I was not surprised to see that Finn's teeth were coming in because I saw them on Skype a week before my visit.

Most of Wednesday was spent on Victoria Peak. We grabbed some sandwiches before catching the tram and picnicked up at the top. I'm told that the pollution was low and the visibility was pretty good for the winter.

View from Victoria Peak
This is a relatively clear day in Hong Kong during February

During the winter, winds from out of the north bring China's pollution to Hong Kong, but a combination of the Chinese New Year and the global economic downturn have shuttered enough factories recently to make a visible difference in air quality.

For the first time on my visit, I actually got a bit chilly. The wind was strong on the north side of the peak, so it felt good to step into a Pacific Coffee after our walk. This place had the best view of any coffeehouse I've ever visited. Many a Sunday afternoon are spent with Monte and Finn walking around the peak while Matt is grading papers at this Pacific Coffee.

At Pacific Coffee on Victoria Peak
Finn is scheming how to get his hands on his Momma's mocha.

On the way home from Victoria Peak, we stopped at the Chestnut man's cart near their apartment for some roasted chestnuts and a sweet potato. The chestnuts smell great, nice and smokey, but the taste leaves something to be desired. The sweet potato, on the other hand, was magnificent.

Chestnut Vendor

Monte has plans to start a food blog about cooking in a cramped kitchen. Their apartment has forced her to be creative. This former professional baker now is reduced to two burners, one toaster oven, a microwave, and a rice cooker. Oh, and the washing machine/clothes dryer (an all-in-one machine) is also in the kitchen.

Cramped Kitchen
Yes, this is the entire kitchen. I was standing with my back against the door to take this picture.

A good cook is never at the mercy of their equipment, and sure enough she has been able to create wonderful meals here. Dinner on this night was something one might expect from a Hong Kong kitchen; pork dumplings, slaw, tea.

Pork Dumplings
Ummmmm, pork dumplings!

Dessert was brownies steamed using the rice cooker. They were almost like a dense chocolate pudding, only better. We ate our steamed brownies while watching the first episode of season 3 of the Greatest-Show-In-The-History-Of-Television. This is Matt and Monte's first time through The Wire, so I had a hard time avoiding giving them spoilers as we discussed the episode. It was a great way to end the day.

The rest of the pictures from my trip can be found on my flickr site.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hong Kong Trip Part IV

Tuesday started out with some more exploring on my own. I went back to Marble Street, which is lined with stall selling all kinds of things. Of course, I was most interested in the food.

Produce, fish, meat, and all kinds of dried things (mushrooms, seafood, beans, teas, etc.) were everywhere. No American health inspector would eat any of this food. Some of the concerns I would share (meat being butchered right next to produce guarantees cross contamination) and others I would not (the lack of refrigeration of the raw meat is not an issue when the meat is butchered in the morning, sold in the afternoon, and cooked in the evening - bacteria need more time than that to grow to the levels that cause illness) The butchers who were smoking while cutting the meat did gross me out a bit.

Fish Monger

After my wanderings, I met up with Monte and Finn for a trip to the midlevels. We rode a doubledecker bus (why don't we use doubledeckers in the US? It would double the capacity of each bus. Are there too many low overpasses in our urban areas?). Finn had a music class after lunch, so I set off to see the antique shops on Hollywood Road. I have a few things to buy for gifts and for my house, but I decided to wait until our visit to the Stanley market tomorrow. I can easily return to Hollywood Road on Friday.

One of the interesting things about this part of Hong Kong is the outdoor escalators. I must say that if I lived in Hong Kong, I would lose weight despite all of the dumplings I would eat. You walk everywhere, and even with outdoor escalators, there are countless stairs to climb. It has been rare to see anyone here who is overweight, even among the wealthy.

After dinner, Matt had an ultimate frisbee practice near Causeway Bay. I headed over there with him, stopping for some fries, and then checked out the nightlife (no, Janet, not that kind of nightlife). The streets were full on this Tuesday evening with students and young office workers and a few tourists.

Causeway Bay

The main activity was shopping, not drinking. The Times Square Shopping Mall has 8 stories of shopping and a crazy number of stores. For as huge as the mall is (close to a million square feet of shopping plus another million of office space) each individual store was quite small in comparison to US malls.

Times Square Shopping Mall

I did a ton of walking on Tuesday, so I was rather exhausted by 10:30. Jet lag has not been much of a problem. I have been going to bed and waking up earlier than I ever do back the states, but that just puts me more on the schedule of a normal person. I'm afraid that the return home will be more difficult in terms of my sleep schedule.

The rest of the pictures from my trip can be found on my flickr site.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Hong Kong Trip Part III

Today was a bit busier. First, of course, was the Super Bowl. I followed the first half of the game online while eating breakfast with Monte and Finn, and then headed out on my own to watch the second half in a Steelers bar (which meant I did not see this play live). The Steelers bar, however, did not turn out to have any actual Steelers' fans. The other people in this bar were rooting for the Cardinals, but none of them had any long standing allegiance to the team. It was a low key atmosphere until the last 3 or 4 minutes.

I came prepared to help Finn cheer for the right team.

After the good guys won their 6th Super Bowl, I explored the Central District. It turns out I'm not even close to being fashionable enough to shop in the Central District. Shopping is something of the national pastime in Hong Kong, so it is taken very seriously. I was walking around wearing my Steelers t-shirt and shorts (the weather has been fantastic - highs in the low 70's and sunny!) surrounded by folks dressed like models buying extraordinarily expensive clothes and jewelry. I quickly headed to more comfortable ground.

Hong Kong Park was wonderful. I took a lot of pictures in the Aviary and around the man-made pond, and then joined Monte for lunch at the Lock Cha Tea House inside the park. We had two amazing teas (one was a silver needle white tea, and the other was a red tea that was smokey) and a table full of vegetarian dim sum.

The Spread
Turnip cakes, wasabi pea cakes, mushroom dumpling, and fried noodles. Yum!

The waiter explained the process and ceremony of preparing the two teas. It was fascinating to watch. Rather than my usual approach to food or drink of trying to savor every last drop, his approach was more extravagant. The tea pots were often filled to overflowing, tea was poured over the outside of the pot, and cups were filled and then dumped out. If I routinely drank tea that good, I could get used to the extravagant approach! Even the 10th or 11th cup was just as good as the first.

Monte and I returned to the apartment around the same time that Matt got home from school. The rest of the day was spent playing with Finn, eating curry, editing pictures, and watching The Hustle.

The rest of the pictures from my trip can be found on my flickr site.

Hong Kong Trip Part II

So much for my hope to blog daily. I was just too tired on Sunday night, so I'll double up tonight.

Sunday was a rather lazy day. We woke up early but stuck around the apartment in the morning. Finn's mornings tend to be a series of eating, playing for about half an hour, and napping. That's a nice life, huh? Around lunchtime we ventured out for some local exploring.

When the stroller is completely covered so that he cannot see anything interesting, Finn sleeps while he's out on a walk. After stopping for one of Matt's favorite waffles, we headed down Marble Street, which is lined on both sides with all sorts of vendors.

Monte buying some fruit.

Next we walked over to Victoria Park. This large urban park is the one of the places where Hong Kong's many helpers (live-in nannies and housemaids) spend their one day off per week. These women are often from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Thailand and Sri Lanka. One of the biggest adjustments for Monte has been figuring out what to think about the role of these helpers.

After dim sum, we returned home. Monte napped while the boys went to the apartment building's playroom. The rest of the day was spent eating and conversing.

The rest of the pictures from my trip can be found on my flickr site.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hong Kong Trip Part I

I made it. The 24 hour trip was rather uneventful, which is exactly what you want. I saw two sunrises (and would have seen two sunsets if I had the shade on my window pulled up at the right time). We actually took an eastbound flight path, over Greenland, the Artic, Russia, and China. The long leg of the flight was slightly delayed due to a software problem with the in-flight entertainment system. Heaven forbid we fly across the globe without being able to watch plenty of movies. Nobody else was sitting in my row of three seats, so I was able stretch out and lie down.


Matt and Monte met me at the airport. The trip on the train to the island and their apartment reminded me that as much as I like Kansas City, and I do, it is not even close to being a world-class city. The public transportation, the crowds, the immense size, the energy on the sidewalks. It reminded me of being in New York City. I love it. And I could smell the sea.

I think I will be able to sleep tonight on something like a Hong Kong schedule. We don't have much planned for tomorrow; lunch, exploring their North Point neighborhood, visiting a park. I think I will be doing a lot of walking (and climbing of stairs) this week, which is good because I plan to do a lot of eating.

The rest of the pictures from my trip can be found on my flickr site.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson's Prayer

Many have heard about the various "prayer controversies" surrounding the inauguration. In the midst of arguing about who signals what to whom, it might be easy to overlook the content of the various prayers. Bishop Robinson gave the invocation at Sunday's pre-inaugural concert "We Are One." (Transcript below.)

Here is what he said as reported at KC Star TV critic Aaron Barnhart's blog. (The stricken lines were in the original text but were not uttered by Robinson at the event.)

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears - tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger - anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort - at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience - and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility - open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years. Inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words. We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Sunday Dinners

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, since last October I have been making Sunday dinner each week at my church. We have a Taize-style service in the evening at 5:00, dinner at 6:00, and usually some kind of class at 7:00. Between now and Lent, the class is a book discussion.

I usually plan and shop for the meals, but I have a great team of other volunteers who help me cook each week. Janet calls herself my sous chef, even though she has more experience in a professional kitchen than I do. She makes the desserts each week, always has great suggestions, and when things do not go as expected she is the one with whom I brainstorm. As you will read below, I was very glad she was helping last night! Rick and Sally are one of those couples who kind of stay in the background at a church, but they make things happen. It's great to have them helping weekly. One of the things that Sally does is coordinate a rotating group of other volunteers so that we usually have about 6 people in the kitchen each week.

We make sure that these dinners are not standard church potluck meals. No tuna hotdish or jello with unidentified pieces of fruit when I'm cooking! Last night, our Spanish menu was suppose to be tapas, a mixed green and citrus salad, paella, a flourless orange/almond cake, and sangria.

On weeks when there is a class following the dinner, we have average a crowd of about 25. That's a great size to cook for. It is enough to get some savings from buying ingredients wholesale, it is not hard to adapt either catering or home recipes for that size, it is not too big to serve everything buffet style in one shot, and 2-3 hours is enough time for the prep work and cooking.

So last night we were expecting between 25-30 and 45 showed up. Some people come to the service and stay for dinner. Some come for dinner and stay for the class. A few just come for the dinner. We never know just how many we need to feed until about 5 minutes before it is time to serve. One of the ways that I know I am suppose to be feeding people at this point in my life is that I enjoy the adrenalin rush that comes when we realized the crowd was at least 50% larger than expected and we don't have enough food. Time to improvise!

The first thing we did was to serve the food in courses. When people slow down, they don't eat as much. That also gave us some extra time.

Course #1 was the tapas (Janet made almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon and she marinated some olives), the salad, and the sangria. There was not anything we could about the tapas. I buy mesclun greens by the case, so we had enough greens to double up on the salad. We had also prepared a non-alcoholic version of sangria (a.k.a. fruit punch) but being an Episcopal church, nobody wanted that! The priests had several bottles of wine stashed somewhere in the building (I don't think we raided the communion wine) so we were able to turn the non-alcoholic sangria into the real thing. That's kind of like turning water into wine, right?

Course #2 was the paella. I made a large paella with shellfish and a second one with just chicken and chorizo for anyone with shellfish allergies. (OK, here's a confession. Part of the reason we served the meal in courses is that the shellfish paella was took too long to cook and was not quite ready at 6:00. It had to do with the size of the pan and the layout of the stove)

January 11

Everyone was able to get at least a small serving of paella (and they left much of the soccarat - the crusty brown rice that sticks to the bottom of the pan - so Janet and I was able to eat the best part of the paella while cleaning up!)

Course #3 was pasta. Janet had made a bolognese sauce last week to keep in reserve, so we defrosted it and served it with pasta. We don't always keep a backup in the freezer, but I think we will from now on!

The dessert course involved a series of improvisations from Janet. She took her two orange/almond cakes and stretched them by serving it in ice cream sundae glasses. She topped it with an orange sauce and some cream she whipped with cinnamon. As soon as we realized how large the crowd was, she hurried over to the grocery store to buy some ice cream. It was also served in sundae glasses topped with a chocolate espresso sauce she threw together like it was nothing. Between those two desserts, everyone who wanted to break their New Year's diet resolution was able to do so.

Taize Dinner

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday, January 04, 2009

10 Most Recently Played in my iTunes

It's been a long time since I've done one of these posts. It used to be a staple of my Sunday night blogging. Here's what I've been listening to recently:

1. Through My Father's Eyes - Dusty Brown - Dusty Brown
2. She Towers Above - Alejandro Escovedo - More Miles Than Money - Live, 1994-1996
3. How My Heart Behaves - Feist - The Reminder
4. All My Love Is Gone - Lyle Lovett - Joshua Judges Ruth
5. Jersey Girl - Tom Waits - Heartattack and Vine
6. Always Now - Willie Nelson - Moment Of Forever
7. West - Lucinda Williams - West
8. Over You Again - Willie Nelson - Moment Of Forever
9. Drunken Angel - Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
10. Arizona - Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror

The first song is by one of my college roommates. I've mentioned Dusty before, when I wrote about how I was first introduced to Tom Waits. We spent many evenings during our sophomore year hanging out with our other roommate Joe, our friend Vin, a couple of guitars and Dusty's harmonica. All three of those guys have more musical talent than I, so it was always great to listen and occasionally sing along.

I've recently joined Facebook, which is how I found out that Dusty released an album this past summer. (Go here to listen, and then to Dusty Brown to buy!) I knew that he was a part of a comedy group, but this is a serious album. The song in my list above, Through My Father's Eyes, is great. Without falling into bitterness, it is about the loss of growing up without a father. I hear a sense of forgiveness that does not downplay the cost of the decisions that father made. There is a maturity to those lyrics that is surprising for a debut album. I'd definitely be a fan even if I didn't spend a year stepping over his dirty underwear every time I got out of bed.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Porterhouse Steaks

Partly because of my high cholesterol and partly for environmental reasons, I don't eat a lot of beef these days. Since it is a rare part of my diet, I only want to eat excellent beef. A porterhouse steak from Peter Luger's Steak House in Brooklyn, for example. The NY Times has a short article today about Peter Luger's, accompanied by this multimedia feature. Be sure to click on the full screen link.

Buy Lance Snacks

It can be hard to believe, but every once in a while a corporation does the right thing.

According to CNN, in the middle of December, the Archway bakery in Ashland, Ohio was suddenly closed by the private equity firm that owned it. 300 workers lost their jobs just a few weeks before Christmas. That's the unsurprising bad news.

The good news is that Lance Snacks, which makes vending machine snacks like peanut butter crackers and Cream Cheese and Chives on Captain's Wafers (all too often my lunch in college consisted of various Lance crackers, especially the CC&CoCW) bought the bakery at an auction and have already reopened it. They hired back 60 of the workers, and hope to hire the rest by the end of 2009.

Not only did they reopen the bakery and rehire some of the workers, they also gave all 300 of the former employees a $1,500 gift card.

David Singer, CEO of Lance, says the gift cards were a way of letting Ashland know the new owners are different. "We wouldn't do it willy-nilly," Singer says. "We do want to make money. But this is the pool of folks that we intend to hire. We just wanted to let them know who we were."

The 60 workers rehired so far are earning their previous salary and retained their seniority. They also were provided health insurance from day one.

It seems it is possible to treat workers with respect.

Hat tip to Don Lindich

Monday, December 15, 2008


2 friends.
3 microplane graters.
20 pounds of limes.

The day after Thanksgiving, I followed up my limoncello experiment (the limoncello was good, a bit too sweet, but still good) by starting a batch of lime-cello.

The only recipe I could find online was at LimoncelloQuest, a blog describing itself as "a personal pilgrimage to create the perfect Limoncello." Ben made a half batch with only 10 limes and vodka, and although he reported that he was pleased with the distinctly lime flavor, the color of the finished liquor was almost indistinguishable from the limoncello.

I took Ben's basic technique for limoncello of filtering the Everclear multiple times but greatly increased the amount of lime zest. In fact, the zest produced by 20 pounds of limes could not be covered by 750 ml of Everclear, so I had to add a bottle of vodka to the initial infusion. With that much zest (and using grain alcohol) I don't think there will be any issue with the color of the limecello being pale. As you can see, right now it is an extremely dark green, almost black.

Big thanks to Suzanne and Kristy for helping with the major task of zesting all of those limes! Oh yeah, if anyone needs some frozen lime juice, I'm your man.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My poor, neglected blog

It's been over a month without any activity on my blog. Sigh.

In the past month...

  1. I felt proud to be an American. I think part of the reason I have not been writing much (or even reading other blogs) is that after the election I felt a huge sense of relief. Before the election, I felt like I had to know everything I could about the world of politics on a daily basis because some new horrible thing might be happening. Beginning on January 20, adults will be back in the White House.

    Four years ago, when we re-elected a president who we knew authorized torture, I think I was depressed for weeks. I could not believe what we had done. It only took a couple of years for the American public to really understand what kind of president Bush has been, but the reasons his approval ratings have been at record lows were all evident four years ago. Obama has a lot of crap to undo.

  2. The National Bureau of Economic Research officially announced that we have been in a recession.

  3. I have tried to buy a house. At the moment, it looks like I need to start over.

  4. I bought a new camera. My old one ended up getting something stuck inside the lens, so there was a mark on the right side of every picture. You can see an example below.

    I looked into getting the camera repaired, but it would have cost about $200 just for the shop to open it up and clean it. Not only would there be no guarantee that the $200 would actually fix the problem, but it could take up to 8 weeks for me to get the camera back. That would be cutting it too close to my trip to Hong Kong, so I bit the bullet and got a SLR. I hope to have lots of practice with it before my trip. Here's an action shot of the puppy from my first practice session.

    Leo & His New Toy

  5. I've been making dinner every Sunday night at my church this fall. It's been a great experience. I'll be writing more about these dinners in the future.

  6. It's Advent! My favorite time of year music-wise has arrived. I rarely listen to classical music, but that changes in December. Today we did Lessons & Carols at church, which included some pretty tough pieces. I have not participated in Christmas Eve services at my church before, but based on the music we are preparing, it should be amazing.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I'm a sap

While my ex would never imagine using a word to describe me that implies being overly sentimental, there are times when it fits. Tears sometimes come to my eyes during TV shows (The Wire, or Smash's last episode on Friday Night Lights for example) She would call me a political junkie, so it might not be as surprising to know that there have been events during the Presidential campaign that have put me in a sentimental mood.

There was this story from a medical student in Evansville, Indiana about her experience with early voting.

For me the most moving moment came when the family in front of me, comprising probably 4 generations of voters (including an 18 year old girl voting for her first time and a 90-something hunched-over grandmother), got their turn to vote. When the old woman left the voting booth she made it about halfway to the door before collapsing in a nearby chair, where she began weeping uncontrollably. When we rushed over to help we realized that she wasn't in trouble at all but she had not truly believed, until she left the booth, that she would ever live long enough to cast a vote for an African-American for president.

Or this story, about a 109 year old Amanda Jones in Texas who cast her absentee ballot for Obama last week. What's amazing about her story, besides the fact that she 109 years old, is that her father was a slave. This woman, who just voted for an African American for President, is the daughter of a slave. That's unbelievable.

Jones' father herded sheep as a slave until he was 12, according to the family, and once he was freed, he was a farmer who raised cows, hogs and turkeys on land he owned. Her mother was born right after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Joyce Jones said. The family owned more than 100 acres of land in Cedar Creek at one point, she said.

Amanda Jones' father urged her to exercise her right to vote, despite discriminatory practices at the polls and poll taxes meant to keep black and poor people from voting. Those practices were outlawed for federal elections with the 24th Amendment in 1964, but not for state and local races in Texas until 1966.

Amanda Jones says she cast her first presidential vote for Franklin Roosevelt, but she doesn't recall which of his four terms that was. When she did vote, she paid a poll tax, her daughters said. That she is able, for the first time, to vote for a black presidential nominee for free fills her with joy, Jones said.

It's almost a cliche to say that America's original sin was slavery. For all of our history we have struggled with either the fact of slavery or the aftermath of slavery. We still have a few people with us who only have to look one branch up their family tree to find either a slave or a slave owner. My parents were born into an America without a Voting Rights Act, and one in which Obama's parents' marriage would have been illegal in some states.

While that might seem like ancient history, and we have made a lot of progress during my parents' lifetime, we are far from moving past our original sin. An Obama presidency will not mean that we have put our racial troubles behind us, but it will be a step in the direction. I hope that it will mean race becomes a topic of conversation for white America.

Obama's race is not the reason I became a supporter (I originally was most intriuged by his approach to foreign policy) but it a significant part of his appeal. Unfortunately, the historic nature of his campaign is not the only thing during this election that brought a tear to my eye.

I heard this afternoon that Obama's grandmother had died late Sunday night. It seems unfair that this woman who spent much of Obama's teen years raising him would not quite live to see tomorrow night, when I'm sure that Obama will wish to hear her voice. I'll quote Andrew Sullivan's reaction to this news.
Obama was so right to make sure he spent time with her before she passed on. But what an emotional blow on election eve for the candidate from Illinois. He has survived this campaign with remarkable emotional maturity and self-control. I just wish this didn't have to add to it. None of his parents will witness tomorrow. But somewhere my faith teaches me: they know already. Maybe Toot couldn't wait for the actual results. Maybe she's now a few steps ahead even of Chuck Todd. May she rest in peace. She did good.

Take a look at this picture of Obama taken as he spoke with a North Carolina crowd about his grandmother this afternoon.