Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sicker than crap

Mac feel bad. Mac inhale something working on friend's house. Mac have bad sinus pain. Inside of nose burns. Sore to touch. 8 hours of 5 month old mold.

Mac stupid

Monday, January 30, 2006

Mardi Gras 2006

Well we are excited that the parades are almost here. My friend Tim and his girlfriend Andrea are coming. No one else has requested to come, so if you've been considering it, please note that I cannot take reservations after February 11th. As this is probably our last Mardi Gras in NOLA, it may be your last chance to experience the fun without having to pay a hotel bill.

Here is a schedule of the parades with their planned routes: http://www.nola.com/mardigras/parades/daycal.ssf

Note that Endymion is rolling down St. Charles this year and not Canal St, which means that it will be even better this year.

The Uptown Branch is back

Yesterday marked the first time since Katrina hit that the Uptown Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints met in their chapel on St. Charles Ave. We had far more in attendance than expected as some people that have moved here to work in the reconstruction showed up. The demographics of the church have changed. While before easilt one third of the members in attendance were African-American, now we have precisely one African-American sister who attends. The members who do attend are almost exclusively employed in the higher education industry. It is very odd and I miss seeing a diverse congregation.

We were pleased with a surpise visit by our Stake President, Scott N. Conlin. He spoke to us, answered our questions, and generally let us know that we have his support and understanding as we struggle to re-establish our congregation.

We had taken our sacrament trays to the stake center while we were meeting there, and we forgot to bring them back with us. Yesterday we passed the Sacrament on plates, like they did 100 years ago. I don't think it was too much of a distraction for those who were meditating during the partaking.

We had to release over 20 people from their callings as they no longer live here. It was sad to think of all our friends who suffered and lost so much due to the storm. Even though many lost all their possessions, the outpouring of kindness from other people have blessed them greatly, and in many cases, their lives are better and safer than they ever were or could have been in New Orleans. Whereas we had a score of single mothers without transportation and adequate employment taxing our resources, they are now located in communities where they are the exception and not the norm. Many are thriving now and have strengthened themselves through better education and a break from constantly worrying about their children's safety. Getting those kids out of the New Orleans school system was the first step to bettering their lives.

Katrina has left its mark in more ways than one. Our congregation now reflects a Western heritage instead of a Creole heritage. There are pros and cons to both how it was before and how it is now. Yet, something inside makes me long for the days when it was how it used to be.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Still another reason why I'm a teetotaling prohibitionist


Please note Norman, that in this case I also blame the legs. :P

Challenger Jokes

In honor of the space shuttle Challenger disaster of 20 years ago, let me reflect on the darker side of childhood....

So, it was a snow day in Cherokee County, Georgia that day. It had snowed lightly at my my house but had obviously come down harder in Canton (It's snowin' in Canton being a favorite childhood expression of hope for a day off of school). I don't think I was watching it live as we didn't have cable back then, but I know that I was watching TV that morning when they broke in with the coverage. I was horrified. But, since I was a kid, I got over it very quickly. I remember that my Dad was flying in from California that morning and that he hadn't heard about the disaster until he walked in the door. I got to tell him.

At school, we were all sad and couldn't start talking about it. We planted seven trees in front of Oak Grove in honor of the seven astronauts who died. I knew all of their names for years. Now I can only remember Christa Macaullife (something like that) and Ellison S. Onizuka (sp?). Anyway, I remember there being a big donation box for pennies to build a new space shuttle right by the door to the principal's office. We all put in the dime change we got for buying our $.90 lunch with a dollar bill. As kids do though, we eventually got over it, moved on, and then the start of dark humor began. Kids excel at dark humor and are even better at repeating the dark humor they hear from adults. I remember two years before this all of the Ethiopian jokes (How many Ethiopians can you fit in a phone booth? A: All of them) that happened when the world's attention was fixed on the famine there. Here are the Challenger dark humor jokes that I remember. Please feel free to add any that I've forgotten:

1. Where did Christa Macaullife spend her last vacation? A : All over Florida
2. How did they know Christa M. had dandruff? A: They found her head and shoulders
3. What does NASA stand for? A: Need Another Seven Astronauts
4. How many astronauts can you fit into a Volkswagen Bug? A: 11, two in the front, two in the back, and seven in the ashtray
5. What did the tv announcer say after the Challenger exploded? A: No, no, BUD-light!
6. What did Christa M. say to her husband before she left that morning? A: You feed the dog, I'll feed the fish.

That's all I can remember, though I know there were many more. They seem so cruel and crude now, but they were the heigt of hilarity at 12. I can hardly believe it's been 20 years. I hope they get space flight up and running again. Few things drive scientific innovation more than the challenges of space. I think we should develop far more space programs, more ambitious ones. There's a whole universe out there and limitless resources. No man has stood on the moon since before I was born. As I am fast approaching middle age, I have to ask why we have not gone back. In the history of the world, explorers always preceeded colonists. Let's get going. If we could invest the billions spent on war in space exploration in a way that involved the private sector to prevent squandering of funds, think of where we would be!

I asked my students about the Challenger this morning and none of them were alive when it exploded. Holy shiite!

Voice overs galore

So, last night Mickelle and I went and saw Terrence Malick's The New World with Colin Ferrell, Christian Bale (Karie's true love), and sort-of-Peruvian newcomer Q'Orianka Kilcher.


The last (and only other) Malick movie I watched was The Thin Red Line, which I hated when I saw it, but now after having watched it again, I like. He has only ever made three other movies. The two I have seen are marked by excessive shots of nature and truly egregious amounts of voice-overs. There are no "scenes" in his movies but rather a collection of shots that give of glimpses of events. It's like reading the history of something in an abridged encyclopaedia. You get the general ideas, the milk but none of the meat. This movie drug on far too long; I counted four people who gave up and left before it was over. I leaned over to Mickelle and whispered, "Dunah Dunah Dunah, another one bites the dust." I should've known what I was getting myself into when I read Eric Snider's review of it. I should've known, but I still wanted to see something different than most of the movies that come out. I hate serious movies with happy endings, and this movie did oblige me in that respect.

This movie attempted to portray Native Americans in a realistic light. It didn't try and contrast the evil and sick Europeans with the one-with-nature stereotypes so often in 1980s-1990s movies. Think of the unrealistic portrayal of the Lacota Sioux as peaceful buffalo hunters in **Dances With Wolves with the reality of their wars of aggression against the Kiowa and Cheyenne tribes in the Dakotas. The English were evil and sick, and the natives were at-one-with-nature, but it wasn't forced. It was like watching National Geographic Explorer about the remote past. *Pocahantas' prayers to her "Mother" earth do not seem forced, but sincere. Ferrell's John Smith sees the dichotomy between life with his fair Indian lover and the fear and greed and jealousy of the gaunt Brittish gold seekers. They boil and eat their belts and starve while they search in vain for gold, spending themselves not in preparation for winter, but in the useless pursuits of gold. Pocahantas represents the sensuality and semi-erotic seduction of life in the Americas for someone no longer subject to unjust rents on their labors from rich landlords. Smith cannot have the best of both worlds though, for the king of the Powhatan tribe demands that they leave by Spring, and when they don't he makes war on them. Smith cannot dwell among the Indians for some unknown reason to us. He leaves for England and has someone tell Pocahantas that he drowned; she gets married to Christian Bale, reluctantly at first, goes to England with him to meet King James and dies of smallpox, but not before having a crisis of love when she learns that Smith is still alive and must choose between her husband and the father of her children, or her first love (emotional and biblical). She chooses Christian Bale and then dies shortly after. It was unclear why Smith didn't take Pocahantas with him (she was a thwart to the natives attack the fort, but...that was resolved when the next colonists arrived with cannons) and instead had them lie to her and tell her that he was dead.

There was no comic relief in the whole movie. Not once. Two and half hours of droning voice-overs, shots of nature, surging crescendo music, and that's about it. No major scenes, no true fights. Too much confusing camera work when there was. A disappointing movie. It was a "chick flick" Mickelle decided. I agree. It speaks volumes that to a person, everyone was laughing as we left the theatre. You couldn't help but laugh after having sat there that long waiting for something to happen. Stuff happened, but nothing happened. The best part of the movie was when the final credits were displayed, a young man of 10, most likely forced to attend the movie by his parents exclaimed in a very loud voice, "Finally we get to go home." The entire audience started cracking up. My sentiments exactly, young man, mine exactly.

* Pocahantas' name is never mentioned once in the movie. In fact the one time someone went to say her name, they are hushed by someone else. I don't know why this was done. Once she is baptized, she is known as Rebecca for the rest of the film. Before, she is merely the princess.

** I watched Dances With Wolves in Spanish once. The English version puts normal English subtitles below the actors when they speak Lacota. In Spanish, the subtitles are broken grammar--none of the verbs are conjugated. It would be like them saying "Winter is coming soon, we must begin our preparations" and having the subtitles read "Winter come soon, we begin prepare." Since they are speaking their own language this never made sense. Had they tried to speak English with John Dunbar (not Dunbear), then I could see them doing the poor grammar thing, but not when they speak Sioux. No make sense this.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Where hamburgers come from

Marley never ceases to amaze me with her curiosity and intellect. I know she's my child so I am biased, but I think that she may be the smartest human ever.

Well, maybe that's hyperbole, but she is one smart bugger. Por ejemplo,

Back in May I was cutting up a red bell pepper. I had to clean out the seeds. Marley asked what the seeds were for, and I explained to her that plants grew from seeds and that vegetables and fruits grew from plants. Seeds were the way that we get food.

Fast forward to last Friday. Mickelle offers to go to a seafood restaurant that features a broiled fish platter that fits my diet. I accept and we go to Deanie's for lunch. Mickelle doesn't like any fish that doesn't have the word "stick" after it, so she gets a hamburger off the kid's menu. Marley looks at the hamburger, sees the sesame seeds on the bun and says "Mommy, if you plant those seeds will hamburgers grow?"*

I love the innocence and curiosity of my daughter. I don't like the temper tantrums. I don't like how every time I want to "cuddle" with Mickelle Marley thinks it's time to come in the bedroom and ask a thousand questions and then hop in bed in between us. I'm sure I never did such a thing to my parents.

*This is how I remember it happening. Mickelle surely has the correct version of what really happened stored in her flawless memory; mine is better.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I thought my Bass loafers were so cool

I remember the one and only time that I was caught up in wanting costly apparel. It was 1988. Everyone at my middle school had these Bass loafers that I really really wanted. So, to start 9th grade, my Mom bought me a pair. The first day of school, I can clearly remember walking up the stairs in the L building at Etowah damned-near strutting. I had on an OP shirt with this cool hot pink logo on the front, a pair of OP gray shorts, and my bass loafers. I was tan and about as trim as I ever was because I played football. I remember thinking "you look good". Well I quit playing football after that year and quit caring about what I wore. I realized that no matter how nice of clothes I wore, girls didn't go out with chubby boys. My clothing choices have always been about comfort ever since. My wife showed me how to meld comfort and fashion, but in 10th grade I went to Pace (a precursor to Costco and Sams club) and bought ten pair of sweatpants for $50. I then cut off the legs to an acceptable length (while I was wearing them, resulting in non-matching lengths) and wore about 10 different t-shirts to school every day. I didn't care what I wore. Girls didn't like me because of my weight. Their indifference to my supplications taught me two things:

#1 Fashion doesn't matter for fat guys.
#2 You've got to be smooth to get girls if you're fat.

Honestly, it's a good thing I was fat, because I was such a horn dog that I would've had sex with any girl that had a pulse or could fog a mirror. Whole branches of the government and the courts would have had to have been added to deal with the child support claims that would've been filed against me. My smoothness, wit, and sense of humor coupled with a stellar body would've been disastrous for the teenage pregnancy rates in Cherokee County. But anyway, that's a story that only came to fruition in my mind (repeatedly). I can honestly say that I probably envisioned myself having sex with almost every girl I met from 1986-1992, and even after I got religion in 1991 and decided to wait until marriage to have sex, I found it exceedingly difficult to temper my thoughts about sex. As a missionary from 1993-1995 it was a constant struggle to find the balance between normal thoughts about sex and purient ones that would offend the Spirit.

My point in revealing all this information is that I rarely suffered from trying to respond to trends. Because I had turned my back on fashion and identification with any kind of group (goths, rednecks, preps, etc.) I could examine the mistakes made by others in what they wore. I remember Z cavariccis, Skidz and the like all making me laugh. They are mild though compared to the poor boys I saw in this photo. Honestly, it scared the hell out of me. They are all 14 years old. They look like they've had plastic surgery and wear makeup. I don't know if their tan is real or not, but it can't be healthy. There's a certain androgyny to their overplayed masculinity. As they are all from New Jersey, I must assume that this is a subculture prevalent in the area--which causes me to exclaim, "American by birth, Southern by the Grace of God."


These boys are old enough to know better.

In spite of my turning away from high fashion in high school, I held on to my Bass loafers. My feet grew from a size 8 to a size 12, and yet I still held on to them. Katrina put them out of their misery. We came home find that they had SEVERELY molded in our closet. I tossed them out with only my memories of that August day remaining.

Pamper yourself when you ride a chinese train

In a really disgusting revelation, vacationing Chinese are so crowded onto trains that some are forced into the lavatories. This means that riders are unable to use them and so they've resorted to wearing adult diapers and pooping their pants when on long voyages, according to this article:

I've heard of some reasons for wearing adult diapers: incontinence, Xenacal, and IBS, but not because it was convenient. What does the train smell like when everyone has shat their pants? Depends! I cannot even imagine the mess that must make after you've sat in your own poo for 8 hours. Adult diaper rash and prickly heat must be on the rise. Baby Powder, Desitin, and even Boudreaux's Butt Paste sales must also be on the rise. I can fathom peeing in a bottle or something, but not wearing a diaper, for this reason.

Looks like Procter & Gamble's stock will rise. I'm sure that my revulsion at this news is mostly cultural, though I would think that the fecal taboo would exist across almost all cultures. I feel there's a certain instinctual need to distance oneself from anything which has left the body, like we're preprogrammed to know that feces, urine, spit, mucus, and such are all sources of infection and contamination. Viking bowl sharing negates my theory, thanks Ibn Battuta.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Attention Whoring


"In America, they want you to accomplish these great feats, to pull off these David Copperfield-type stunts," he says. "You want me to be great, but you don't ever want me to say I'm great?"

Hard work + humility = American way. If you're great, people will know it. If you say you're great, you're like so totally not.

Claimed all
This time
That you
Would Die
For me
Why then
Are you
So surprised when
You hear
Your own eulogy?

--Tool, "Eulogy" off of Aenema.

Yet another reason why I'm a teetotaling prohibitionist


Norman and the Mormon in Hell

Wow! I just read Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron's web page and he really takes his Bible literally.
And I quote:
As Christians, we know what is waiting for each and every unsaved person. "For it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that, the Judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). All of humanity is on the conveyor belt of Time. Every moment moves them closer to the edge of eternity. We see men and women struggle in vain to find their footing in this world through self-help, worldly religion, and good works. They are blind, disoriented, and have no idea what awaits them below. The pit of Hell eagerly anticipates their arrival. Demons salivate to break their bodies and devour their souls. The tiny creatures' feeble efforts to save themselves are obviously futile and many professing Christians stand motionless behind the glass wall of indifference and watch."

I appreciate what he's trying to do: motivate Christians to spread the Word. However, I don't think that we should want to spread the Gospel to people because we fear that (LOL) "demons salivate to break their bodies and devour their souls". I think it should more along the lines of spread the Gospel so that others can have the spiritual blessings of peace in their souls that followers of Christ should have.

Sadly, it appears that according to Kirk's definition of Hell, my agnostic friend Norman Sandridge and I will both have our bodies broken and souls devoured by demons. Most Evangelicals deny that Mormons are Christians, and therefore I will experience the agony of demonoalmaphagia. Good thing that Hell isn't a real place but a metaphor for the agony of conscience that one will experience, after the Judgement, from knowing that had (s)he done his(her) best, (s)he could've been with God and gone on to become a god too via eternal progression, instead of merely in an eternal paradise.

The LDS Bible Dictionary defines* Hell as: "First, it is another name for spirit prison, a place in the postmortal spirit world for those who have “died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets” (D&C 138:32). This is a temporary state in which spirits will be taught the gospel and have the opportunity to repent and accept ordinances of salvation that are performed for them in temples (see D&C 138:30–35). Those who accept the gospel may dwell in paradise until the Resurrection. After they are resurrected and judged, they will receive the degree of glory of which they are worthy. Those who choose not to repent but who are not sons of perdition will remain in spirit prison until the end of the Millennium, when they will be freed from hell and punishment and be resurrected to a telestial glory (see D&C 76:81–85).
Second, the word hell is used to refer to outer darkness, which is the dwelling place of the devil, his angels, and the sons of perdition (see D&C 29:36–38; D&C 76:28–33). Sons of perdition are those who receive “no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come—having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame” (D&C 76:34–35; see also D&C 76:31–33, D&C 76:36–37). Such individuals will not inherit a place in any kingdom of glory; for them the conditions of hell remain (see D&C 76:38; D&C 88:24, D&C 88:32)."

Denying the Holy Spirit isn't something that just anyone can do, basically it means that you have to have seen God the Father in the flesh, known that He was God, and then still denied him. Precious few are capable of such a sin. I don't even think Judas would qualify as a son of perdition. The entire Book of Revelations should be read as metaphorical, in my opinion. Fascination and fear of the tortures of disobeying God are morbid. God refers to Himself as our Heavenly Father. I do not fear the tortures and agony of disobeying my earthly father. I fear the consequences and the feeling of dread when I know that he is disappointed in me. A loving Father, capable of sending Jesus to expiate us all, has no need for torture and fire and brimstone. If Hell were so awful, why did Jesus preach the Gospel at all? Also, if God is going to send someone to Hell even if they never had a chance to hear the Gospel, then he is not my god, and I want no part of Him. Luckily, I do not believe that this is so.

Kirk Cameron's heart wants to help. He just has too much rhetoric in the way to get his message across to any but those who already believe.

Norman, if I'm wrong about all this, I'll hold your hand as the demons devour our souls.

For a more literal interpretation of Hell, visit this website:

*My definition of Hell is being a Dodgers' fan.

A sincere apology

If you were on a college football team (though only a 3rd stringer) and you were arrested for DUI:
an apology letter to the school newspaper would be the contrite and appropriate thing to do. Purdue's Garret Bushong took that concept to a whole other plane with his letter to the school newspaper. Enjoy!

Newspaper stories make athletes look bad
This letter is a shoutout to all of the athletes of Purdue. I am personally sick and tired of all the bad ink we are getting, and it is really time to put an end to it. Yeah, I got an OWI, so what! It's over, and everyone now knows about it. It's not like 300 other students on this campus haven't gotten one, yet the names of those people are not put on the front page of the Exponent followed up three months later by a headline on the back page of the Sports section. I know all those people putting the paper together don't have anything better to write about, and I am not mad at them for that. I am mad because they continously are publishing articles that make us look so bad. If I am not mistaken, you guys go to Purdue too and I thought you would have a little more respect for your fellow classmates and the people who bring millions of dollars into this university year after year. So to all of my basketball players, football players, soccer girls, softball girls, wrestlers, cross country, track and field guys and girls, divers, golfers, tennis girls and guys, volleyball girls and baseball players, forget what ya heard. We're here to stay, we all know what we do for this school and what we give back. We run this place and if anyone begs to differ, I'll say what my good buddy Brandon Kirsch once said. "You know where to find me, locker number three, so come and say what you need to say to my face." Lastly I would like to give another shoutout to the athletes who have gotten bad ink in the Exponent lately. I feel for ya!
Represent in 2006.
Garret Bushong
Junior, College of Consumer and Family Sciences

Nothing like complaining about bad ink for your own bad behavior and then challenging anyone who wants to criticize you for it with the "come say it to my face" beefcake jockhead veiled threat. "We run this place" That makes me laugh. We're here to stay? Is he a cheerleader? The 300 people who also received DUIs don't appear in the paper because they are not celebrities and not held to the same standard as athletes who are in the public eye. As far as "So what?" to a DUI, that to me speaks of the judicial leniency that DUIs receive and the need for harsher penalties for those who flaunt the law and risk other people's lives. So what young man? We should turn Roy D. Mercer loose on him and have him ask his favorite question: How long's it been since you had a good, old-fashioned country ass whoopin'? He sure needs one.

Lambasting Cletus

Britney Spears parents probably forced her into acting as a child. She was on one of those various incarnations of the Mickey Mouse Club along with a slew of other famous people. She used her stunning looks, hair dye, purring voice, and bare midriff to tantalize billions around the world and sell 85 million albums along the way. While I cannot excuse her participation in the commoditization of her sexuality as a titilater to publicity and album sales, I have to imagine that her managers and record company executives surely strong-armed her into shaking her money-maker.

This was the only adult photo of her that I could find that wasn't immodest. Fittingly, it is a head shot.

So after all that booty shaking, gyrating, edge-of-porn photo shoots, and ever-increasingly suggestive lyrics, where do we find her? She gets married for 55 hours in Las Vegas, and then six months later marries high school dropout Kevin "Cletus" Federline. Cletus, as in the slack-jawed yokel of Simpson's fame. Federline has that look of high school hiphop wannabe. He is obviously a talented dancer and I guess he is attractive, but his musical skills are sophomoric and not likely to ever improve.

Britney has publicly stated that she wanted to be a mother. I think that is a noble thing for which she should be commended. She did give birth to a child inside the bonds of marriage, a rarity in hollywood these days. Some cynics have said that her marriage is a farce and that it won't last (That's like saying water is wet as it relates to celebrity marriages). Other say that if she wants to be a Mom that "you sow the seeds and then throw away the envelope they came in." Either way, I do not envy her position. Due to his lack of education, sophistication, philandering ways prior to her marriage to him, and this video, I cannot see this marriage lasting.


Be warned that if you click the above link and watch the entire thing, you will waste two minutes of your life that you will never get back.

I found the song unimpressive and not really entertaining at all. While watching him groove to his song and obviously posture trying to be something he's not, I was reminded of the SNL skit where Ashton Kutcher of all people made fun of Federline. It was a fake underwear commercial with Kutcher playing Federline. He called the underwear "Man panties for wiggers." That's the worst indictment of his persona that Federline could get. If ASHTON KUTCHER makes fun of you and has it hit home with the audience, then you're in trouble. I found the choice of location for the video staged too. Federline is a dancer, yet he's in a studio booth controlling (one button on) the mixing board with some guitars conspicuously placed behind him. Now is when he needs some family help--someone not fake and not using him. He needs someone to tell him, Kevin, you're headed down the wrong path.

Poor guy couldn't even afford to buy his wife's wedding ring. I quote Mr. T when I say, "Stay in school, say no to drugs"

Popozåo = big butt or fine butt in portuguese. Popo=butt, zao= suffix that means big.

And now, since he is a high school dropout, I will not mention Mr. Federline again in my blog until he receives his GED.

In trying to find a photo of Spears to link to for this post, I searched "Britney Spears Tasteful Photo" on google. Evidently, tasteful is another way of saying "NUDE".

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ever dance with the devil by the pale moon light?

Cindy Sheehan has:

I guess the next stop on her world tour is that Holocaust convention they're holding soon in Tehran.

Lifts on the Fritz

So, Katrina disabled almost all the elevators on campus as a result of flooding. Most of the ones in the buildings that I frequent and again up and running. My friend Karie Wright has to climb twelve flights to reach one of her classes. Her professor's office is on the 20th floor. I would hold my office hours in the basement if I had to climb 20 flights of stairs. Holy crap!

They must have a special elevator that the reserve for emergencies....or celebrities.

Anyway, in solidarity with Karie, and because I'm on a diet, I've decided to not use the elevator anymore. My office is on the third floor of my building, but the bathrooms are in the basement, so I am climbing them 4-5 times a day. I need the exercise, and even though the elevator now works, I'm going to keep walking up the stairs. I reserve the right to take it down because it kinda hurts the knees on the way down sometimes.

Maybe this will help with the weight loss. We'll see.

Proverbs 19:20

"Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end".

Well, I'm not over the hill yet, so I'm not in my latter end. I am still learning how to be a man, even though the back of my hand ...which I once knew so well, has become a stranger to me--crossed with more fine lines than I care to enumerate. I feel like a man. I look back on decisions I made when I was younger, and I regret some of them. Others I feel joy in remembering. I considered myself a man when I reached 18. I was but a boy. When I left for my mission in Costa Rica, I was a man I thought. I was a big strong servant of the Lord with broad shoulders, a sharp wit, amazingly gorgeous eyes, and all the self-confidence necessary to convert the entire world to Gospel of the Lord Jesus.

Two years later, I realized that I had matured greatly during those two years. I was still immature in many ways, but I could look back and see the change in myself. With the benefit of many more years since, I can now look back and see my progress. I may be a tad impetuous, a tad capricious and quick to anger, but I think I am mature. I am a 32 year old man and I can look at my 18-19 year old students and see myself at that age. I can hear the innocence and optimism in their voices and ideas. I will do nothing to squelch them--time will do that for them. Not saying that I'm not an optimist, but I'm not the same as I was in my younger days.

I mention all of this because I experienced the surreal over the Christmas break. My entire life I have been younger than my father. His voice has always been one of authority, strength, intelligence, and maturity to me. My Mom was cleaning out a box that had been in her parents' house from when she lived there when she was first married to my dad and he was stationed overseas in Scotland. She eventually went to live with him in Scotland for a few months, but at the beginning, she lived with her parents, and she had boxed up some things that she had forgotten about. It was a time capsule from 1970. In the box was a cassette tape that my father had recorded in May of 1970.

My parents were wed on December 19, 1969 with my father aged 19 and my mother 18. In May of 1970, my father was in the Navy, stationed in Scotland and was a minesman and EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) person. He worked on nuclear weapons. My mom played the tape for us, well maybe not all of the tape; as they were newlyweds and were apart I imagine that my father probably graphically told my mom all of the things that he wanted to do with and to her when he saw her again. Anyway, my father's voice was instantly recognizable (though he has a much stronger Southern accent than he does now). But, instead of the mature voice of my youth, I heard the voice of a boy, a kid. He told stories about getting drunk and dancing with a great grandma, and how much he missed my mom. His voice was full of that same earnestness, naivete, and innocence that I hear in the voices of my students right now. Absent was the wisdom, maturity and authority that his voice has always held for me. It was truly a relevatory moment for me as I realized that my father too was a kid once. Seeing the black and white photos of him never carried the same emotion for me as hearing the voice of my father when he was 12 years younger than I currently am. Sure, we all laughed at the tape, and my dad blushed as the wisdom he now possesses was confronted with his former self. That same wisdom immediately let him know how different he once was. He hates the tape. I love it. I will cherish that moment until the day I die.

I possess no wisdom yet. I am too impulsive and quick to anger. Wisdom comes from not always speaking your mind (like say in a blog) but in waiting until something needs to be said. Time's gift to us for stealing our youth is wisdom.

I know my sister hates the saying "Youth is wasted on the young", but the older I get, the more I agree with that phrase.

Juventud divino tesoro, ya te vas para no volver.
Cuando quiero llorar, no lloro
Y a veces lloro sin querer.
--Ruben Dario

The 1927 Mississippi, American Resolve, and why half-assing things kills people

Read this article to get a good understanding of the problem. Especially the last half.:

The 1927 flood changed the shape of our nation forever. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mississippi_Flood

Following the 1927 flood, the Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with taming the Mississippi. Under the Flood Control Act of 1928, the world's longest system of levees was built all along the river. Floodways that diverted excessive flow from the Mississippi were built along the length of the river. They built reservoirs on major tributaries like the Missouri, and by 1936, the Mississippi had locks and dams, 100's of runoff channels, and over1,000 miles of levees.

Those levees held during the storm because they were built to sustain a 400 year flood--the kind of flood that covers 13% of the state of Arkansas. The hurricane levees were half-assed. When it comes to protection, why build something that will only stop a minor storm? We are bitching and moaning about the costs right now, but imagine how much cheaper it would be, and would've been had they been built correctly the first time. I cannot put a price on the 1,000+ lives lost. Either build the mother of all levees or don't rebuild New Orleans!

Internet troubles

My Internet service at home has been down since Wednesday and I can't someone out to inspect until tomorrow to fix it. The splitter on my cable line was submerged during Katrina, so I imagine that the splitter is going bad. It is odd though that it worked for three weeks before going out.

Friday, January 20, 2006

As true now as it was then

It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government.

--Ronald Reagan, January 21, 1981

Reagan's comments were about economics and the stagflation caused by high taxes. I think the same words apply today to the sense of entitlement that so many people have from the Federal cash cow. I also think that the present troubles can be applied to the government intrusion in our private lives. I think that wiretaps and such are necessary law enforcement techniques for preventing crime and terrorism. I do not think it wise that Special Agent Tom, Dick, or Harry can listen in on anyone he wants to. I think judicial oversight of warrants for eavesdropping in all its forms is a good thing. I do not like that we are leaving these decisions to enforcement officials and investigators. If we let them do everything they wanted to fight crime, we'd have an absolutely powerul and thus, absolutely corrupt system. It's not like judges like being woken at 2AM to sign a warrant, but they respect the system enough to do it. I want educated and rational people, who are not emotionally involved in the case to make decisions about what rights people do or do not have. Cops are not known for their restraint. The intrusion of government into our lives isn't solely about economics. The argument that if you have nothing to hide, then fear nothing doesn't work with me. You still have if not a right, then an expectation of privacy. I still however see no problem with providing a thumb print on your drivers license. I think a DNA sample is a bit much though.

Concerning taxes, I think that taxes are a necessary thing when done is a fair share structure. I do also realize that the rich are able to use their money to create jobs and stimulate the economy, which helps us all. And thus, but cutting taxes on the rich, we help them invest in other ways to make money, which in turn provides jobs. I guess we just need to decide if we want the government to be the primary source of job growth or private capital to do it. I prefer private capital. When there is a profit motive, things are done more efficiently.

Since Reagan cut taxes near 25 years ago, out of the last 276 months, the economy has only been in recession during 15 of them. Cutting taxes benefits the economy. I don't think many people of my generation can remember how hard things were in the 1970s. Watch TV to see. Good Times, One Day At a Time, Alice, Laverne and Shirley, all talk about the struggles that people went through to get by. In the 80s and 90s I can only think of one show that showed the working class struggles--Roseanne. My grandfather used to be in a 70% income tax bracket in the 1970s. I think he said that if he paid himself $60,000 or $125,000 he made the same amount take home. That seems like enough to revolt over now. Remember this though....most Brittish rock stars settled in the USA back then because they were tax havens compared to England. We had it good compared to them. Now it seems like most US pop stars are settling in England. Odd.

Taxes. Government Intrusion into our lives. I don't mind paying taxes. Sometimes I get anooyed when they add $1400 to the price of my new car, but I realize that those taxes go into the kitty to make this whole country work. What gets me is waste of tax money. Fraud, lying, entitlement, corruption, chronic welfare for able bodied men, a system that encourages young women to get pregnant out of wedlock so they can qualify for welfare, food stamps, and WIC. A system where young girls tell my wife that they can't go to college so they are just going to get pregnant and get "set up in here" at age 13. A system where we waste millions of dollars on ineffective programs and studies. A system that constantly increases the financial demand on families to educate their children through excessive property taxes, endless fundraisers, and then ever increasing college tuition caused by llegislative reliance on lottery education initiatives and legislative reluctance to allocate sufficient funds to compensate for rising costs; a system that encourages people to take on heavy debts to pay for an education that the states originally promised as affordable. Student loans shouldn't even be necessary to cover tuition. More money for education, real education not fly-by-night schools, but real programs. Compulsory education through high school, even if it's from a state-run military school for those expelled from regular school. If you don't want to go to college, then learn a trade, but damnit you will not stand on the street corner all day and hollar at women until someone guns you down at 23. Government intrusion for education and pro-active betterment of its citizens through education is fine by me. Fight crime by making it unattractive to the lazy and ignorant. If everyone knows a trade, then all can make a living. Can you imagine if 200 years ago people tried to live off the government the way they do. They would have all gotten to work quickly as soon as hunger took over.

If you get convicted of a felony besides rape or murder, two options:
#1 Accept your sentence.
#2 Volunteer for the military
I bet we could help tens of thousands of young people get a second chance in life by teaching them some discipline and self respect. They would have the option of going to jail, but the military might give them a new lease on life. If after four years they receive an honorable discharge, their records would be expunged, and then they would qualify for the GI Bill and be able to get an education.

Prison should not be confinement. It should be labor. Paid labor, but still labor nonetheless. Make them work, six days a week. Teach them what life is like for normal people. Don't institutionalize them. A felon techincally loses his rights as a citizen. His only right concerns cruel and unusual punishment--a definition that I think we should look at historically as to what was acceptable in 1787. Hard labor was unconstitutional then. When did we change it. (Of course I realize that slavery was legal in 1787). I'm not saying that all things are unchangeable, but punishment isn't akin to slavery. They are two entirely different practices.

The wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes. Fair share meaning that a flat tax isn't fair to the poor. The rich have a right to low taxes, but they should still shoulder the burden of maintaining the system that allows them to risk their capital in enterprise, all the while protecting their created capital for them. The rich also need to understand that their capital only exists because of the excess labor and wealth created by their employees work. Because they do not produce anything themselves, they shoulder a greater responsibility and tax burden than their workers. That burden should be enough to keep the government healthy fiscally and yet still allow them enough profit to further create more capital, wealth, jobs, and industry. If that sounds a bit Marxist, well maybe it is, that doesn't mean that it's wrong. We all should produce something--whether it's computers, bolts, soap operas, software, financial advice, roofing a house, a painting, designing boxes of kleenex, fixing a car, raising children, teaching, hitting homeruns, or treating the sick. Even morticians produce something. We should all be anxiously engaged in a concern, a good cause. Even if you're not religious, God's admonition to Adam that he would eat by the sweat of his brow is good advice.

We need a major overhaul of how the government works, and neither party has the will, the political capital, or the balls the do it. Liberals and conservatives both have good ideas, they should get together and forget partisanship.

We need a third party: Called it the Moderates or the Rationals, or something. I am so sick of politics. I wish we could clone Reagan and elect him again. I might vote for John McCain, but something about him makes me uneasy. I would vote for Zell Miller, but he's a hothead. I might consider Colin Powell, but he won't run. I might consider Paul Coverdell but he's dead. Are there any worthwhile candidates for president? Is there one that isn't a rich child of privilege? Is there one who won't appease the poor by giving them everything they want (the worst thing you can do for someone is to give them everything they want). Is there one who won't kiss industry ass? Is there anyone worth a damn? Where is our Mr. Smith, our Cinncinnatus? I can't think of a single moderate right now. Mitt Romney? No, he's getting all conservative as he prepares to run for office. He's flipflopped on abortion (I am opposed to abortion, but I think we should move on to something else for a decade or two) and other things that got him elected by all the Massholes. Jeb Bush--No way in hell we elect another Bush to office. Hillary---you're kidding, right, massa? Al Sharpton as predsident would hasten the Apocalypse. Orrin Hatch would make god angry and send more hurricanes. Dick Cheney would give Satan dominion over us all in exchange for an air conditioner in hell. Condi Rice.......sure she's smart and good, but does she have what it takes to be president? Is she just another cog in the Bush machine?

The only person I would like to see run for president is HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. He would be a good president, but I don't know how he would do with international relations. He could make Bill Clinton his secretary of state. I know that just caused some of you to crap your pants, but Clinton wasn't all bad. He's a good diplomat. Leavitt could never get elected though. He's too nice, and America will never elect a Mormon president.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Continuing today's political correctness theme

Okay seven fishermen in India snagged a big rocket in their nets, sold it to a "petty scrap merchant" who then got two men to cut it up with arc welders. They ignited it, it flew away smashing everything in its path, including a "differently-abled" girl's leg.


Judas Priest! Differently abled? why not say disABLED or something like that, but differently-abled is a stretch. If she is disabled, that means she isn't able, meaning she can't do what most people can. Differently abled to me implies that she has some special ability that most people don't have. Disabled people rarely have these, save sixth senses and the ability to write with their feet and other adaptive abilities that people who are coping develop. This reminds me of the Washington newspaper that had trouble writing an article recently because they refuse to call the team Washington Redskins by their mascot name. The call them the Team from Washington. When the play the Seahawks, I guess this can lead to some confusion. I think we're getting carried away. Hopefully not by a rogue rocket.

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

Don't laugh! This isn't as absurdist as you might think.

Harrison Bergeron

by Kurt Vonnegut (1961)

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.
It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.
George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.
On the television screen were ballerinas.
A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.
“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.
“Huh?” said George.
“That dance – it was nice,” said Hazel.
“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good – no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.
George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.
Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.
“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.
“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel, a little envious. “All the things they think up.”
“Um,” said George.
“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. “If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday – just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”
“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.
“Well – maybe make ‘em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”
“Good as anybody else,” said George.
“Who knows better’n I do what normal is?” said Hazel.
“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.
“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”
It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.
“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck. “Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”
George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.
“You been so tired lately – kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”
“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”
“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean – you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”
“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”
“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.
“There you are,” said George. “The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”
If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.
“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.
“What would?” said George blankly.
“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?”
“Who knows?” said George.
The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and gentlemen – ”
He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.
“That’s all right –” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”
“Ladies and gentlemen” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred-pound men.
And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. “Excuse me – ” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.
“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under–handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”
A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen – upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.
The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever worn heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H–G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.
Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.
And to offset his good looks, the H–G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle–tooth random.
“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”
There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.
Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake.
George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune. “My God –” said George, “that must be Harrison!”
The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head.
When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.
Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.
“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.
“Even as I stand here –” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”
Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.
Harrison’s scrap–iron handicaps crashed to the floor.
Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.
He flung away his rubber–ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.
“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people. “Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”
A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.
Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all, he removed her mask.
She was blindingly beautiful.
“Now” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.
The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too. “Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”
The music began. It was normal at first – cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.
The music began again and was much improved.
Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while – listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.
They shifted their weights to their toes.
Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.
And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!
Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.
They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.
They leaped like deer on the moon.
The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it. It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling.
They kissed it.
And then, neutralizing gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.
It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.
Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.
It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.
Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George.
But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.
George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again. “You been crying?” he said to Hazel.
“Yup,” she said,
“What about?” he said.
“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”
“What was it?” he said.
“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.
“Forget sad things,” said George.
“I always do,” said Hazel.
“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a riveting gun in his head.
“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.
“You can say that again,” said George.
“Gee –” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”

A tiny jeremiad

Remember back in high school how there were certain people who were naturally intelligent and had to study very little and others that were bright, but had to study like mad to get "good grades"? I knew both types. I coasted through high school, made the honor roll, but I was never a candidate for valedictorian or salutatorian because I rarely did my homework in depth and did what's known as "the minimum to get A's and B's". My dad would say I half-assed it. I also knew that neither I or anyone else in my class had a snowball's chance in hell of besting Jon Bob Wesselmann for top honors. He was one of those rare individuals who is so intelligent that they remember everything they hear or read and excel and whatever they do. Jon partied in high school and still had like a 103 weighted GPA. Everyone else was playing for second place, and they all knew it. I never even considered trying to go for the top. I was too lazy. I was 29 out of 292, so I was in the top 10 percent. That's all I cared about.

When I was in high school I secretly thought of myself as the smartest person in my class after Jon. Now that I'm older and wiser, I realize that I'm not as smart as I thought I was. I am astounded by the intelligence and problem-solving abilities of people I know at work. I know lots of trivia, but trivia isn't the same thing as pure intelligence. I knew other people in school that were honors students because all they did was study. The forced the information into their minds. In my mind only, I looked down on them then as inferior to me and people like Jon, Wes Wilson, Norm Sandridge, Steven Reese, Tyson Farmer, Warren Grubb, Carl Pyrdum, Eric Pogrelis, Brian Rusch, and Paul Dunn (I know those are all guys, I was a tad chauvinistic when I was a young man). I knew brilliant people that wasted their intelligence on drugs and alcohol, too much D&D, or sexual trysts and the resulting teenage pregnancies. Sam Wagner was a brilliant guy. Last I saw him, he could barely form sentences because pot had eroded his communicative abilities. Steve Blackwell, a fellow Georgia Tech alumnus, had that spooked recovering-addict look when last I saw him a decade ago. He is probably doing well now, but he could have been great from a young age.

I think that Renae Rosenfeld (Weinick) was the valedictorian of the class after me. That class had some stiff competition for the top five in class rank. I think that competiton is healthy and it inspired people to do their best always. Sure it's stressful, but what competition isn't? Why should we compete if there isn't a prize at the end? I think the person that does the best academically in high school deserves a corresponding accolade. If you earn it, even if it's by .0001 percentage point higher than someone else, then you bested them. That's awesome for you! You should get the title. So when I read this article:
this morning about school systems in Florida (where all shitty educational ideas seem to spring from lately), they are eliminating accolades because it "isn't fair" I throw my hands up in disgust and envision personally firing these pantywaists that want to strip children of their rights to compete and succeed or fail. Do I care that I didn't get valedictorian? Hell no! I got into Georgia Tech and I'm almost Dr. Williams. If I got second place back then, I might've minded, but then again I could take pride in the fact that I did my best and still got second. Doing your best is the most important thing. If your best is THE best, then you deserve recognition. Why is this so hard to understand? Maybe it's because valedictorians rarely go on to be high school guidance counselors. Being in high school as an adult might make you want to try and right the "wrongs" that sucked for you in high school.

Also from the what the hell? page: http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/view.php?StoryID=20060118-061216-1348r It seems that Derek Leon Kelley has been expelled for doodling his initials in his notebook at school. Too bad his initials are also the initials of a local gang and that his school board is comprised of "zero tolerance" asshats that can't reason out a problem as simple as this one. Poor kid was EXPELLED for writing his initials. I hope the national media just runs with this one, because it is RIDICULOUS.

Speaking of ridiculous, how about two high schools having to make their basketball games invite only because their student bodies can't stop brawling with each other at their games? Read all about it, check out all the clues, come on and read all about it: http://www.yoursewickley.com/newspaper/article/57139/QV-opens-game-to-invitees-only-following-brawl/

The South Beach Diet --- Year Two

So, I'm 12 days into phase 1 of the South Beach Diet, limiting myself to under 20 grams of carbohydrates* each day and trying to break the "carb addiction" of my body by putting myself into ketosis (a metabolic condition where the body fuels most of itself with ketones instead of sugars). Vast quantities of broccolli and asparagus mask the odorific proof of ketosis during urine excretion so I can't tell yet, though I am not craving bread and such like I was last week. I do know that I have been expelling far more liquid than I have been taking in, yet I'm not dehydrated, which means that the glucose stored in my liver has been exhausted. Having done this before I think I am ready to reintroduce carbs into my diet. I am waiting until Monday because that's the official two week day of the beginning of my Phase 1.

My daily meals consist of eggs for breakfast, string cheese for morning snack, a late lunch of some kind of meat, an afternoon snack of nuts, and then dinner of some light meat and at LEAST three different vegetables plus a huge salad. I have a sugarfree hotchocolate made with water and two tablespoons of half and half before bed to satisfy my sweetooth. I also sometimes breakdown and eat these "1 carb" little Hershey bars. This diet was much easier to live when Mickelle was on it too. Now that she is pregnant, she needs some carbs, so she's not eating the same things I am. Cooking two meals kinda sucks.

I am unsatisfied with my broccoli cooking. I have tried boiling, steaming, etc. and I can never get my broccoli to have that buttery savory taste that restaurants' broccoli has. I have tried boiling it with the butter in the water, melting the butter and pouring it over--to no effect. Last night I just ate it without butter because the taste is about the same as with the butter. If I could figure out how restaurants make their broccoli taste so good, I would probably just eat broccoli for a meal sometimes. I love it that much. I can make delicious asparagus, but broccoli seems beyond my skills right now. Maybe my friend Darlamay over at http://messycucina.blogspot.com can give me some tips.

Weight on January 17, 2005 = 440 lbs
Weight on July 31, 2005 = 372 lbs.
Weight on January 9, 2005 = 389 lbs.
Weight yesterday morning = 386 lbs.

So I lost 50 lbs and kept it off for over a year. If I can do that again this year, I'll be doing really well. South Beach, without the stress of hurricanes, makes all the difference in my life. I think it will help my job search too if I am 50 lbs slimmer. 300 lbs is still big, but not scary like 400 is to skinny folk.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Das unheimlich

Ever walk into your house and though everything looks normal, you have this uncanny feeling that something isn't right? That someone has been there, is there, something has shifted? Das unheimlich. Something about seeing the American Icon McDonald's signs destroyed gives me an uncanny feeling--it's indescribable, but you may experience it too when you see these photos. This was done at my wife's suggestion.

Jefferson Hwy, Jefferson, Louisiana.

St. Chalres, Ave. New Orleans

Canal Street--already gutted and repaired

Elysian Fields

Gentilly Blvd.

Chef Highway

Satire at its best

Ahhhh, The Onion has made a gem again:

Androgyny Problems

Lets say that you just met someone, and by their physical appearance, name, mullet, voice, and demeanor you were unable to tell if they were male or female--a real life Pat situation. And lets further say that you had the need to speak to this person in a language where every adjective was male or female specific, but you were terrified of using the incorrect gender when speaking to the person, so you sort of dropped-off slurred your adjective endings. What choices do you have other than to continue on and hopefully glean some clues, or just asking the person.........?

Not Hypothetically, of course.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ray C. Nagin: Prophet?, Racist?, Mayor!

I have long defended our mayor here in New Orleans. He seems a good man because he doesn't seem to be corrupt the way almost every other elected official is--the former governor is in jail. His behavior after Katrina hit showed an emotional man suffering. He lost his home. He lost friends. His entire city, including the neighborhood he grew up in were devastated. Anyone would have lost their temper and reasoning skills for a little while under those circumstances. While most people grieved in the privacy of their hotel rooms, he was in the public eye. Giuliani has been much praised for his coolness during 9-11, but he was dealing with a localized center, not destruction across his entire city. I have defended Nagin to people who don't understand what politics are like here in New Orleans. (I put most of the blame for mistakes made first on Governor Blanco and then equally on Michael Brown, the FEMA flunkee).

Mayor Nagin's comments yesterday, made during an MLKJ Day rally were not what this city needed right now, especially from its elected leader.
Here's a local version of the story, though the Times Picayune has changed the order of his comments:
Here are two equal articles that have a better transcript of what he said:

I find the mayor's comments divisive. He later claimed that "chocolate" was a delicious drink of white milk and dark chocolate, but his comments that New Orleans will be a chocolate, majority African-American city, seem to contradict his defense of his comments. Most disturbing are his comments about how God wants the city to be that way. New Orleans isn't Zion. Mayor Nagin must surely realize that without a majority African-American population, he stands ZERO chance of re-election (though I may still vote for him). He has done a lot of good during his administration, and I am unwilling to abandon him over some stupid, possibly racist remarks, made one day. If he keeps up this line of rhetoric, my opinion may change. But for now, I think he is a good man, and I don't want some fat cat taking over and TRYING to change the demographics of the city. Let the freemarket decide who will live here. Sadly though, I think that the city will not be majority African-American. I see it becoming an enclave for the rich who can afford to build their houses on stilts. How boring!

More concerning to me is that I think Nagin may have been intoxicated when he gave his speech. I have only my perception of his behavior when he was speaking. Since I do not drink, I'm probably wrong, but he appeared to be impaired, even if only a little.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Fantasy Baseball vs. Major League Baseball

Well MLB has done something that I disagree with, they have claimed that the statistics of game play are intellectual property and have refused to grant licenses to business that want to use the stats unless they pay for them. Now these businesses were already paying to use the players' names, team logos, etc. but not for the stats, which they argue are historical fact and a matter of public record.

From the article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060115/ap_on_sp_ba_ne/baseball_statistics_lawsuit

CBC, which has run the CDM Fantasy Sports leagues since 1992, sued baseball last year after it took over the rights to the statistics and profiles from the Major League Baseball Players Association and declined to grant the company a new license. "

Before the shift, CBC had been paying the players' association 9 percent of gross royalties. But in January 2005, Major League Baseball announced a $50 million agreement with the players' association giving baseball exclusive rights to license statistics."

I have to agree with the companies. I think that stats themselves are a matter of public record. I think MLB should have the right to sell the "Official MLB fantasy baseball league" rights to a company that wants the cross tie-ins and what not, but I don't think they should be able to prohibit companies from using stats, stats which are in the newspaper, just because they want to make more money. 9% of gross revenue sounds like a helluva deal to me.

Is Iran trying to provoke Israel?

One could argue that Iran might be trying to provoke Israel into armed conflict. First, they have resumed nuclear research and thumbed their nose at the UN. Second, their very president has both called for Israel to be wiped off the map and seemingly denied the Holocaust. Now, they are organizing a conference about the Holocaust in Iran. If that conference "determines" that the Holocaust never happened, all that will happen is a further souring of relations between the two enemies. It's almost like Iran is trying some brinkmanship with Israel....but over what? How does war with Israel benefit Iran?

Identity revealed

Sadly, I will reveal the identity of the formerly attractive girl I featured on Friday. Tara Avena and my Mom both answered correctly.

And now I shall never mention her in my blog again until she earns her GED.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Can you identify this person?

Everyone take a guess at the identity of the person in this photo. It is pre-plastic surgery. Honestly, I can't see why someone who looked like this would want plastic surgery. When you see the end result, it will make you sad.

No internet searches
If you know the answer, just say "I know"

What a storm surge really looks like

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What $50,000 a night will get you

If you have more money than sense or good accountants, then the new "Hardwood Suite" at Palms Las Vegas is the hotel room for you. For the price of most people's yearly income you can rent this room for one night. It comes with a complete basketball court, two lane bowling alley, and even has a shower with strobe lights and a stripper pole. Though I would think the stripper's services are probably a seperate negotiation.

Evidently Dennis Rodman, Hulk Hogan, and several other celebrities have already rented this room. This begs the question then: What is the world's most expensive hotel room? Well it looks like this is it. The Hotel President Wilson in Geneva has a $33,000 a night room. You'd have to be a total sucker to pay that much though. I imagine that celebrities most likely get to stay in these places for cheap, or even free because of the publicity that they bring to the establishment.

To the average person this smacks of conspicuous consumption and a sort of perverse potlatch destruction of money. To the very wealthy, I don't think that $33,000 is anything more than $33.00 is to us. The difficulty in reading about things like this is to avoid envy and coveting. Calling such prices immoral is one-sided. There must be an opposition in all things. I imagine that the $100,000 a night room isn't too many years off.

FYI: The most I've ever spent on a hotel stay = $99 at the Doubletree Inn in Durango, Colorado in August 2002. The most I could conceive of paying for one night's stay, around $200 if it were in a prime location and I was only staying one night. But, we're talking prime, like in the Louvre or something along those lines.

I highly recommend Priceline.com for booking hotels in big cities. Sometimes you can get amazing deals on great rooms. Hiltons, Hyatts, Ritz Carltons, for next to nothing. A lesson I've learned though is that if you drive to your hotel, be prepared to pay $20 a night to park (at least) if it's downtown somewhere.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

When the Deluge Came

These photos were taken by my friend Harold who works at the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen. He sent his family away from the city before Katrina, but he stayed behind to defend against looters. When the waters came, the rose up to the levels shown in these photos in under 5 minutes. He lived in the Gentilly section of town. He is lucky to be alive.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What a glorious day!

We're heading to Houston in a little bit. It's partly cloudy, 72F and it's in the middle of January. We got a room off of Priceline at the Hyatt Regency for $59 a night. Ahhhhhh. Now if only I were thin, done with my PhD, independently wealthy and assured of a place in heaven all would be perfe......Amazing how we seemingly always want what we haven't got. I will not take today for granted. It is perfect!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Houston Bound

We are going to Houston, Texas tomorrow to buy stuff for our eBay business, but really we are going to see our friends Mike and Kristen Lindsey. Kristin is due to give birth ANY day now, so we are excited. Houston always has cheap quality hotel rooms, so staying somewhere will be nice....plus we get to take the new car for a road trip.

We bought a 2005 Dodge Magnum SXT, 3.5L V6. It is the sexiest station wagon ever made. It comes with a 3 year/36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty and a 7 year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty. We paid $4,500 below what the Kelley Blue Book said "What people are paying for this car nationwide" price was. With tax our monthly payment is $398 for six years with simple interest at 7.4%. That means that as soon as I get those checks that credit card companies are always sending me with 2.9% until it's paid off with no transfer fees, I will be paying off the loan and making payments at a much lower rate. We will pay extra every month too, so the loan will last more like 4 instead of 6 years. Mickelle and I were actually shocked that we had such great credit. My Beacon score was 772 and hers was 776. In spite of "A" credit, we still got a crappy interest rate. I will fix that posthaste.

It is white. I fit very well in it. The steering wheel telescopes and I don't have to have the seat all the way back. Marley can sit behind me in her car seat and she still has plenty of room. I admit that I could've bought a more fuel efficient car, but I would not have been as comfortable in any of them, save the Camry. If the Toyota salesman hadn't been so condescending to my wife (I actually got up and walked out of the dealership he was being so smarmy) I might've bought a Camry. I was this <> close to buying a Subaru Outback LL Bean Model but I couldn't figure out how to afford a $28,000 car at this point in my life. Very surprisingly, the insurance was $10 cheaper a month on the Magnum than on any other car I considered...even the Accord!

So now Mickelle and I have this huge luxury that isn't an asset, but a liability, and I want to figure out a way to make enough money to pay for it so that the monthly payment becomes a non-issue. Houses and cars are not assets---something my rich brother-in-law taught me--unless you can make money off of them. That's where risk becomes profit and liabilities become assets.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sad yet disturbing

I just read this article:http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/01/06/turkey.birdflu/index.html
that contains the following quote:

"Dr. Sahin said the children's family reported that some of their chickens began dying late last year, and that the family cooked the remaining chickens for dinner.

"He told The Associated Press that the fact that the family had been late in seeking treatment had contributed to the deaths.

"The doctor said the youngsters most likely contracted the virus while playing with the heads of dead chickens infected with the disease. The children had reportedly tossed the chicken heads like balls inside their house in Dogubayazit, near the Iranian border.

"They played with the heads for days," Sahin said. "They were in very, very close contact with the dead chickens."

Who lets their children play with a dead chicken head for days? I could see farm folk accustomed to slaughtering animals playing with it for awhile, but wouldn't it start to smell? I don't understand this. These poor people have to deal with the death of their children---something I don't want to ever comprehend. Let's hope the media don't turn this story into the scare of the week. Local Fox News will, but I mean mainstream media.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Missing Bob Marley

So, we bought a brand new car, a 2005 Dodge Magnum. I bought Bob Marley, a Ford Escort LX Sedan 1.9 Liter car, on December 26, 1995. It cost me $11,900 at 1.9% financing. I put $0 down and I got an then unheard of 1.9% APR. My monthly payment was $280.24 for 48 months. My parents agreed to pay $100 each month so that I could have reliable transportation in college (I was commuting daily between Acworth and Georgia Tech). They did this because they are good people and because they had let my car, a 1980 Ford Escort L 2 door Diesel, rot in the yard while I was in Costa Rica for two years. It ran fine, but when I came home it was a moldy mess.

Bob needed a new speedometer cable, a new power-steering pump, new shocks, a new clutch, the flywheel resurfaced, lamps put in the dash, major carpet and upholestery cleaning, repainting, the leak in the trunk fixed, numerous dents and scratches repaired, a stereo installed (my old one was stolen), a new timing belt, and the wiring for the brake lights fixed. To repair all of that would have cost over $4000. Kelley Blue Book generously said that Bob was worth $875. The dealership gave me $500. I took it without hesitation.

But in my heart I was sad. That is the car that I made out with Mickelle in. I asked her to marry me in that car. We brought Marley home from the hospital in it. I delivered over 12,000 pizzas in it. I loved that car! It was affordable, got great gas mileage, and was VERY reliable. It only ever broke down twice, both times the timing belt went out. I had to make other repairs, but it never left me stranded otherwise. 10 years and 146,000 miles for $11,900. That's less than a dime a mile before gas.

One night in 1996 I left my windows down. The next morning I found my cat Paisley (who died at 17 in 2004) asleep in the back window all curled up in a ball. She had kneaded the carpet in the window while she slept. You can still see where she did it--gently pulling the carpet with her claws. That was always a reminder of my cat when I was far from home. I'm not a pet lover per se, but I did feel genuine affection for Paisley and seeing her little claw pulls made me happy when thinking about home.

I will always miss Bob Marley. For those who wonder why my car was called Bob Marley....when I went to the H.O.R.D.E. festival at Lakewood in 1996 with Paul Dunn and my sister Susanna, I bought this cool very big Bob Marley sticker and put it on my car. It's still on it, all sun faded and cracking. It only seemed right to call my car Bob. Everyone did.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Chalmette / St. Benard Parish Devastation

Well by now everyone should know that the western eye of the storm passed directly over St. Bernard Parish and the town of Chalmette, Louisiana. The fiercest winds in any hurricane are on the eastern side of the storm, which is why Mississippi suffered such catastrophic wind and surge damage. Chalmette got a double whammy of the eye and the levee breaking. A barge broke loose on the Industrial Canal and pured water from the Mississippi via the canal into the parish. There was nothing to stem the tide of water as it savaged first the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, and then crossed the parish line and continued into Chalmette. Other levees failed as well in Chalmette (though notably the NASA built levees at the Michoud NASA Center held perfectly). We took a drive into Chalmette and Mereaux (also devastated) on Sunday and took some photos. We had friends from church that lived in Mereaux.

You can see here how the water from the breach slammed into this house with such force that it lifted it off its foundation and parked it somewhere else. In some cases witnesses reported entire houses floating around like toys in a bathtub.

This photo shows how vicious both the winds and the water were when combined. There is hay everywhere in Chalmette. It's like some giant just tossed it all over everything. Some of these houses are so devasted that they are too unsafe for people to go in and risk retrieving any valuables or sentimental items. I cannot imagine what this must be like. I saw two-story brick homes with broken upstairs windows bulging with dirty hay and tree limbs sticking out of them. It's just inconceivable what this must have looked like in the moment.

I can only hope that no one was inside this home at the moment it collapsed. I don't see any wreaths or flowers or signs that rescuers cut into the house which makes me think they were spared, but this looks like it pancaked.

The LDS Church in Mereaux, Louisiana was flooded way high up its roof. Some people sought shelter in the church, even though they were told to evacuate by both ecclesiastical and civil authorities. They had to be rescued by cutting a hole in the roof of the church, which remains unpatched. This gives me to understand that the LDS church is not attempting to salvage this building, otherwise it would've been patched long ago.

The ground in Chalmette is caked with this hard tack black mud. It coats everything and has to be plowed up with a blade or shovel to get it off the pavement.

You can see how the parking lot near the car has been scraped.

The now ubiquitous FEMA trailer up and running in someone's front yard. No, Dorothy didn't drop a house on a Wicked Witch here. That house, that solid brick house, broke free from its foundation and floated into the middle of the street.

To quote Indiana Jones, "Snakes! Why'd it have to be snakes?"

The view from most streets in St. Bernard Parish these days.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Car shopping

Bob Marley is on his last leg. His clutch is going out and it will cost more to fix him than he is worth......I am forced to concede that our 10 year relationship may shortly come to an end. We are considering a 2005 Dodge Magnum, a 2006 Honda Accord, or a 2006 Suburu Outback or Forester. One thing I have noticed is that if you're not buying an SUV or a truck, car dealers want nothing to do with you. They start looking at their watches when you mention affordable cars. Something needs to change!

Ever notice how when you do anything with your car that people who have little or no higher education get to control your money? Mechanics charge $75 an hour....That's $150,000 a year if they work full time. That's outrageous! If you are charismatic, like sports, and use participles instead of verbs, then you can work for most of the car dealerships in Southeastern Louisiana. I went to Don Bohn Ford on the West Bank to look at a Ford Focus. I got no service, so I walked down the lot to Don Bohn GMC. The sign was blown out by the hurricane, and as I walked I saw Pontiacs, Buicks, GMCs. I approached the front of the building and two sloppily dressed young men sitting backwards in chairs asked me if I wanted to look at cars. I asked to see a Chevy HHR. They began doing that hand slap over exaggerated make-fun-of thing that young black men do in New Orleans. They asked me, "You kiddin' right?" I, annoyed, answered them, "no why?" They said, "They like our competitor or sumpthin". I pointed out to them that I didn't live on the West Bank, that their sign was blown out, that every other GM brand was on the lot and Chevy was owned by GM. They then told me that GM didn't own Chevy, but that GM made some Chevys for Chevy. These men are salesmen for GM and don't know that GM owns Chevy! At this point I merely turned around and walked away as I listened to them mock me--repeatedly. I will never ever go back to that dealership.

The dealerships here are awash with money. Over 200,000 cars were destroyed by flooding, and people are using insurance money to replace them. It is a seller's market right now.

Oh, and as anyone knows, www.GM.com owns Chevy for sure.