Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays"

It's become a holiday tradition. Every year it surfaces - the outrage when either greeting is chosen.

The "separation of church and state" crowd reacts indignantly when "Merry Christmas" is used. How offensive! How insensitive to the non-Christians in our society!

And the "Christmas celebration purists" are outraged when people, fearing the indignant reaction of the separation faction, choose to use "Happy Holidays" instead.

I s'pose everybody needs something to get all worked up over. In the immortal words of 20th-century statesman and philosopher Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

Let's study for a moment, these sources of such offense, and the people who get so offended.

First we've got the Church/State Gatekeepers. They, of course are the ones who make sure we're all protected from offensive manger scenes on public property, singing of Christmas carols in our public schools, etc. I even heard that Santa Claus was banned from one school district this year. After all, argued a patron of the district, Santa is "Saint Nick," and therefore might conjure up offensive religious sentiments.

Can Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph be far behind?

But - how about the other side in this divisive issue?

You put up your decorations - and they by-golly have to be superior to the Joneses, up the street. You don't want people to think they are more religious than you are!

You gather the wish-lists from your people - at least, the cooperative ones.

My bride is not cooperative. She said she just wants "peace in all the earth." Yeah, right! Who would want something like that for Christmas?!!

Then you endure the nonstop barrage of "Christmas" oriented TV commercials, newspaper advertising, etc., etc.

Disgusting! Christmas, indeed! Surely "Happy Holidays" is much more appropriate, since associating any of the merchandising with the birth of Christ is a huge stretch... no?

(My least favorite are the jewelry ads with the little "Christmas morning dramas" depicting clever ways of giving jewelry, and how speechlessly delighted the Missus will be when she is presented with the spendy little box.)

Then you go to the Wal-Mart (or to the Mall at 1am on "Black Friday" morning), and spend a couple hours getting jostled by frenzied shoppers, discovering the stuff you wanted is already sold out, and standing in long checkout lines.

At this point, you're really filled with that "peace on earth, good will toward men" spirit, right? And then a bedreggled clerk bursts the bubble by saying, "Happy holidays," instead of the requisite "Merry Christmas." And that is what ruins it for you? Oh, the humanity!

From an historical standpoint, "Happy Holidays" is probably more accurate. After all, there were various pagan holidays long before calendars, coinciding with the Winter Solstice. Even the most skeptical scientific mind recognizes that the days start getting longer following the Winter Solstice, promising a season of warming and renewal. The Christians decided to celebrate their most significant holiday in conjunction with everybody else's big day.

And besides, NOWHERE in scripture does it say that Jesus was born on December 25th. In fact, Jesus was born in April. That's the time of year when you could've found shepherds keeping their flocks in the fields - not mid-winter. And besides... Joseph went to Bethlehem to be taxed, and everybody knows that Tax Day is April 15th!
(-;

So - are you a "Merry Christmas" person, or a "Happy Holidays" person, or both?

There are interesting ways of dealing with the conflicting emotions and sentiments of the season.

Some folks try to ignore the whole thing.

The classic example is Frank Costanza, the genius behind the "Festivus" celebration.

In case you're not a Seinfeld fan, Festivus is the holiday "for the rest of us." Festivus is celebrated as follows:
1) Putting up the Festivus Pole. (It's a plain brushed aluminum tube, maybe 2 inches in diameter. No decorating!)
2) The Airing of Grievances
3) Feats of Strength

No fuss, no muss!

(Much more about Festivus, including greeting cards and an "Airing of Grievances Worksheet," can be found here. And Festivus was actually conceived by Dan O'Keefe, whose son was a writer on "Seinfeld," and incorporated it into that immortal script. More info here.)

Others try to meld "Happy Holidays" with "Merry Christmas."

Several years back, an acquaintance of ours found a little graven image of Santa, kneeling at the manger in which lay the baby Jesus. She was enthralled. She said, "Now, this is what Christmas is really all about!"



Yep - Santa visiting baby Jesus is one of my favorite New Testament stories, too! But I always get confused. I know the shepherds arrived first. But who was next, the Wise Men or Santa? (It's not in the most well-known telling, by Luke. But it must be in there someplace, huh?)

Here's what works for me. I try to detach my "Happy Holidays" from my "Merry Christmas" and enjoy them both separately, and not get offended when somebody else is trying to share theirs with me.

The "Happy Holidays" is the decorations, the tree, the holiday singing, the delicious treats, the party attire, the gift giving and getting. (I decorated by bike for Happy Holidays again this year - click here.) Nothing wrong with ANY of that, as long as you don't get carried away, and have to spend a year or more digging out of debt.

The "Christmas" is that simple but profound story of the Savior of Mankind, who was born into such humble circumstances in Bethlehem of Judea.

(I happened across this Christmas decoration, as I was bicycling a couple days back. It's a snow-covered bench along the Greenbelt, with a message someone had scrawled in the snow. Somehow, I thought it quite fitting for a Christmas celebration, as opposed to Happy Holidays. And nobody will have to put it away and store it for next year.)


(Click on the photo for a larger view.)

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Boise City Elections - Who to Vote For

Vote for the candidates who have your confidence... those who will work to make our city what YOU want it to be.

I'll tell you who I'm voting for, and why.

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MAYOR - Jim Tibbs

I once heard Jim Tibbs describe a philosophy held by the Native Americans - that decisions should be based on how they will affect people seven generations from now.

I wish he'd talk about that more. It's that kind of thoughtfulness that we need in our local leaders, who shape the future of our community.

Dave Bieter, like me, is a "native son." I voted for him four years ago. He gave me confidence that he would have the old-timer's perspective as he operated the mayor's office. That he would be very protective of what little "small town" feel this city still had. (And is quickly dwindling away, in this observer's opinion.)

Frankly, I've been very disappointed.

Does Boise have a "master plan"? You wouldn't think so, based on how a lot of the business is conducted. It seems like there's a revolving door for the developers to get their variances and permits and get to buildin'!

Granted - the mayor's influence is limited. But he should have a lot more influence than I do, and I have seen nothing - or at least very little - to suggest that Bieter's "vision" for Boise is similar to my own.

Is your vision of the perfect community one of sprawling growth? L.A. Junior? Some like to use the word "vibrancy." Unfortunately, every year that passes, Boise is a little less like the community I grew up in, and loved.

Perhaps a more fair and valid question is - is Boise a better place now, than it was four years ago when Bieter got the mayor gig? I can't think of one thing that I like better about Boise now, than four years ago. I can think of lots of things that seem to have gotten worse.

Maybe growth is inevitable. (I've got mixed emotions about development. On the one hand... property owners should be able to maximize the potential of their property. But on the other hand... there's no denying that there is "spill-over" from thousands of new houses, that affects every one of us. More traffic and pollution. More crime. More graffiti and vandalism. More demand for limited natural resources - power, water, etc. Because of that, we all should have a voice in how much growth there is, and what kind of growth. Is the current mayor your best "voice"?)

Jim Tibbs doesn't give me total confidence, unfortunately. He got an endorsement from the Building Contractors of Idaho. I doubt they envision his putting his thumb down on growth. But I've known Jim for 15 years - he's my neighbor. And I've always gotten the impression that he's thoughtful, and approachable, and doesn't think he has all the answers. He's also lived in Boise for 50 years, so he has that "old timer" perspective - I hope he wins, and that he decides things based on how those decisions will affect people seven generations from now. (If he wins, and nothing changes, and Boise has 20,000 more voters come 2011, I'll likely be voting for somebody else in 4 years!)

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COUNCILMAN - Steve Kimball

He's running against Alan Shealy. That's reason enough for me to vote for Kimball.

(Yeah - I know a vote against somebody isn't as good as a vote for somebody. But that's kinda the way it is this time around.)

One could argue that Shealy has some impressive credentials. Accoring to the City website, he graduated from both Harvard and Oxford! He also touts the fact that he's a former Olympic rowing champion.

A glowing endorsement letter in the Statesman says he "... adds a global perspective to the council's consideration of Boise's present and future."

For me, that's the problem! I'd much rather benefit from the perspective of somebody who's lived in Boise for 40 years, and knows what it was like in 1960, than somebody who moved here about the time Hillary moved to New York. Or somebody who's "global perspective" is that Boise is fabulous... since it's not as bad as St. Petersburg, or Milan, or Newark!

Kimball is a largely-unproven entity. He's been a candidate for several positions, but isn't running with a track record. He's lived in Boise for 57 years, and seems to have the old-timer, taxpayer perspective (I hope!)

I get the impression Shealy thinks he's God's gift to our backward little burg, and he knows best, so if you disagree you better just shut up! If you're as convinced as Shealy is that he's a genius, by all means vote for him! I'll vote for the other guy.

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I don't feel strongly enough about any of the other contests to voice an opinion... vote for who's best.

The Boise Weekly newspaper had the best candidate profile I've seen... since the words are those of the candidates themselves. Click here to link to it.

Whatever else you do on November 6, VOTE! They are predicting there will be historic-low turnout... so every vote will count. If you don't vote, you have no right to join me in whining about how bad things are!!!
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Target Audience

I doubt I'm in any TV-commercial target demographic groups. I can't remember the last time I bought something because I saw it on TV.

But lots of folks obviously do. In fact, if you go into a discount store, you can usually find - in the "cheap crap aisle" - a bunch of stuff with "As Seen on TV!" emblazoned across the packaging. As if that's a reason why you should buy it.

I'm probably too analytical when I'm watching the commercials. Usually I'm trying to figure out who they're aimed at.

There are a lot of disgusting commercials that are aimed at moms. Using "mom-guilt" as a selling tool.

If you don't make sure your kids eat lots of cheese and yogurt, you're not a very good mom.

Or Sunny-D. I'm not sure if Sunny-D is a fruit-flavored drink, or a formerly-fruit-flavored drink, or what. I can remember a few years back when there was a Sunny-D spill at the Sunny-D factory, and it killed a bunch of fish.

There's a cough syrup that calls itself "The Medicine of Motherhood." What kind of neglectful mom would not want to give her kids that stuff, by the spoons-ful?

My wife wants to buy all the new housekeeping gizmos she sees on TV... little mops that have custom-sized (buy refills!) cleaning surfaces, dusters that need refill cartridges, etc. What a racket! (I don't deny that housekeeping is hard work, and it's wonderful to have the best tools... I just question whether the "buy refills regularly!" tools do any better job than a traditional mop or rag.)

I just saw a commercial for cat litter that changes color when it's stinky. "If your cat litter doesn't change color, change cat litter!" is the clever tag-line. If you can't tell it's stinky without seeing what color it is... maybe it's not very stinky!

I have some ongoing befuddlement with the greasy fast-food fried chicken chain place. Several years ago, they adopted "Sweet Home Alabama" as the theme song for their chicken. And yet the chicken has "Kentucky" in the brand name.

Kentucky and Alabama aren't even adjacent states! Tennesee is squeezed in there.

Are there no decent songs about Kentucky? Was Colonel Sanders a huge Lynyrd Skynyrd fan? (I guess "Free Bird" wouldn't be a good theme song for "fried" chicken, huh?)

(Actually, there was an excellent song about Kentucky. I can remember as a child... we'd get box lunches of that same brand of chicken, and the boxes had Stephen Foster's awesome "My Old Kentucky Home" - lyrics AND music - printed on the end of the box. Perhaps too many people were offended; at one time, the lyrics were, "'Tis summer, the darkies are gay.")

The car and truck commercials are the most annoying - at least to me. They are MUCH more about the image of the drivers/passengers, than about the features the car or truck might have, or the real-life driving experience that will almost certainly be yours.

All trucks are super testosterone-macho. And by driving 'em, you, too, can be as macho as those hardhat wearing construction / farmer / cowboy / working-man types. Even if you're Clay Aiken with a handbag.

And all cars are driven by enthusiasts who relish the power, luxury, and performance of that particular model of car. All cars are driven right past gas stations, on roads that are totally devoid of other cars. ("Closed course - don't try this at home.") Of course, in real life, those cars will convene with the hunks-o-junk and broken-down sleds in the same traffic jams.

Okay... I've vented.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The True Story of Heidi, Idaho

About a mile downstream from Banks, Idaho, on the Payette River is a spot with picnic tables and a beautiful little sandy beach. Although the sign doesn't say so, it's called Heidi, Idaho... and has been since the early '60s.

Heidi-Idaho-1

Heidi-Idaho-2

Dad loved to fish. But even more, he loved to be with his family.

As did Mom. I don't know about the fishing part... far as I know, she has never stepped foot in Cabela's, or had a fishing license. But she loved to spend time with her kids. Still does.

(I wasn't much of a fisherman, either. I tried a few times, but didn't have the patience for it. If a fish didn't bite my hook RIGHT NOW, I quickly lost interest. I preferred roaming up and down the shore, looking for discarded fish... so I could flip 'em over and look for creepy crawly maggots. Yeah... I was a sick kid. Still am.)

A favorite family outing involved driving in the forest and fishing in a beautiful lake or river.

Although Dad loved to fish, he didn't get much fishing in on these trips. He spent most of his time baiting hooks, clearing snags, untangling lines, rejoicing in the occasional kid-fish caught.

Mom was his assistant.

As I think back, I don't know if Mom EVER fished.

In the early 60s, Mom had six kids... at one point she had six kids aged seven or under. (And none of 'em twins. Think about that.) I was the oldest of the six; Heidi was the youngest.

At the time Heidi, Idaho got its name, I was eight pushing nine; Heidi was 1 1/2.

The day was a perfect spring day; we'd been on our forest drive in the old Plymouth station wagon (three seats - the rearmost seat faced backwards), and were headed back toward Boise, when that beach and that bend in the river beckoned in the mid-to-late afternoon.

We scrambled down to the beach and took our places. As I recall, we were the only ones there; it may be that it was still relatively early in the spring. But I also recall that it was a nice day.

As it was in the springtime; the water was running high and swift from the snow-melt. But we all knew to respect the river, and keep our distance.

Dad was making his rounds up and down the line, baiting hooks, helping the young'uns with their casting, untangling lines, etc. Mom was helping, and trying to keep inventory on her beloved babies.

As she made a head-count, she came up one short. And quickly determined Heidi - the baby - was missing. About the same time... here comes a tiny baby, a couple feet out in that swift-flowing river, floating face-down, drifting away from shore. HEIDI!!!

Dad started pulling off his shoes, removing his wallet, keys, etc., to effect a rescue.

He never got a chance.

Mom didn't have time for those formalities... she immediately waded out into the stream and plucked her tiny child by the arm, pulling her back to shore.

Heidi obviously hadn't been in the water long... she was gasping for breath, but mostly because of the coldness of that melted-snow water. A little wrapped-in-the-blanket time, and a new set of clothes, and she was good as new. We all felt grateful that she had gone in upstream, rather than downstream. Eight of us had left on the family outing... and eight returned home that evening. Mom was our hero. (Dad and Mom were always our heroes, but Mom shone particularly brightly on that day.)

Before we even got into the car and headed home, that beautiful little spot was named Heidi, Idaho.

It's got a nice ring to it.

(Click on either photo for larger viewing options. They were snapped on 21 Sept., 2007)

UPDATE: In my quest to make this story as "true" as possible, I'm adding some clarifications and corrections that my mother has supplied after reading it. (She was a little older than me at the time, and is qualified to make these corrections.)

- We had stopped for a family picnic, and all family members were gathered at the picnic tables up above the beach (minus Heidi... who was drawn to the beautiful water).

- Mom had to run down to the beach from the picnic area, and then swim out into the river to get to Heidi.

- Dad explained his hesitation later. He was mentally reviewing his Boy Scout rescue training... trying to remember if it's better to take shoes off or leave them on... wondering if he could throw his belt for Heidi to grab onto, etc. (Yeah... I can believe that.)

- Following her heroic and successful rescue, the rest of us wanted to eat our picnic, so we ate while Mom sat and shivered. (There was a change of clothes for Heidi, but none for Mom. Funny that she would remember that little "detail" better than me...)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Does religion create misery?

There was a letter in the Idaho Statesman yesterday (September 11, 2007), that I feel compelled to respond to, even though the author of the letter will likely never see my response.

Here's the letter:

So much misery is the result of religion

Today, Sept. 11, marks the anniversary of one of the most perfidious attacks on American citizens.

This was the infamous 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, which has been described by historians as the worst Indian massacre in American history — except that it wasn't committed by Indians, it was committed by ordinary Euro-Americans in a frenzy of religious madness working under the orders of a deluded, self-styled man of faith.

Fast forward 144 years to 2001 and once again innocent Americans were murdered by religiously inspired zealots working under the orders of a deluded, self-styled man of faith.

How can so much misery be the result of religion?

First, one must realize that all religions require their adherents to turn off their minds. This makes them more easily susceptible to control by their power-hungry clergy. The Abrahamaic religions go one step further by commanding that there be no other gods.

From this commandment, as Thomas Jefferson so poignantly wrote, "Millions of innocent men, women, and children … have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned."

Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg has concluded that all it takes for good people to do bad things is religion. Now you know why these atrocities occurred.

Gary Bennett, Emmett


Now, first of all, Gary Bennett writes letters regularly. Most are critical of religion or religious people, conservatism, patriotism, etc. He obviously has a burr under his saddle, and views "the root of all problems" far differently from me. Which is his prerogative.

How unfortunate to view religion as an impetus for carnage and misery. Bennett is definitely a "glass-half-empty" kind of guy. Maybe he had a bad personal experience with religion.

The Mountain Meadows Massacre of which he writes - perpetrated by Mormon settlers in southern Utah - has been debated for 150 years. Bennett describes it with authority, as though he is aware of facts that have escaped other historians for all that time. (I s'pose his "deluded, self-styled man of faith" is Brigham Young. Or it could be John D. Lee, a local Mormon who was tried and hanged for the incident.)

Incidentally, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued this statement on the anniversary of that tragic occasion: "We express profound regret for the massacre carried out in this valley 150 years ago today, and for the undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and by their relatives to the present time." (Delivered by Apostle Henry Eyring at the site of the massacre, where the Church has also erected a monument honoring the victims.)

Indeed, much evil has been perpetrated over the course of history by people who claim to be motivated by their religion. But in almost every case, upon closer inspection those people could also be accused of personal greed, or ambition, or lust for power and influence, and their "religion" is a smokescreen. The radical Islamofacists come immediately to mind (particularly on September 11th). Richard Butler - former leader of the Aryan Nations in northern Idaho - painted himself as a "Christian." What could be farther from the truth? Is it fair to condemn a billion Muslims because of bin Laden? Or all of Christianity on account of Butler's twisted behavior and philosophy?

One could also get a negative view of religion by looking at "Reverend" Fred Phelps and his band of followers who call themselves the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka. (How is it that he can call himself a Baptist? I'd think they'd disassociate themselves with the likes of Phelps.) In case you're not familiar, his group travels from place to place with brightly-colored signs reading "God hates Fags," and declares that anything bad that happens is God's punishment on society for our tolerance of homosexuals. They are well known for "demonstrating" at funerals for fallen soldiers, etc. (I s'pose he thinks we should round all the homosexuals up and gas 'em, like Hitler did to the Jews. Can you imagine Jesus Christ - the Prince of Peace - endorsing such a message?)

Yeah... people who claim to be religious don't always act religious.

Consider the good that has been done, and is currently being done, by people who are trying to be good Christians.

When disaster strikes, it's almost always religious organizations (and the Red Cross - a private organization), who are the first responders. They don't ask for anything in return. They're just trying to be good neighbors and citizens, and treat folks the way they would like to be treated.

Right here locally, religious people provide shelter for the homeless, clothes for the naked, food for the hungry, care for the needy. They visit people in prison. They create recreational and learning opportunities for children and youth. They seek out those who are hurting, or lonely. I heard about a group of folks - motivated by their religion - who visit the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital once a week to sing to the patients and lift their spirits. I know a group of women who devote every Monday morning to assembling essential supplies for disaster response - "humanitarian kits," they call them - for people they've never met, and will likely never meet.

Yeah... so much misery.

(As for religious adherents "turning off their minds" - that is an entirely different topic. But I can confidently declare that Mr. Bennett's view is distorted. Some of the smartest people I know are deeply religious. A thinking person has no problem reconciling scientific theory with religious belief. Exercising free will by participating in religion does not mean surrendering one's free will. It's difficult for skeptics and cynics to understand that concept.)

I take great satisfaction in being associated with people who are motivated by genuine religious charity, and can't help but feel a bit of pity for Mr. Bennett for his jaded viewpoint. (Although he may be the author of much good in his community; I hope he has such opportunities.)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Royalty returns to Boise

As we grieve the passing of our beloved Princess Diana (can it be 10 years?!!?), Boise's royalty has returned.

I'm talking, of course, about our beloved BSU Bronco football team. They are on a lofty pedestal, and there is some serious Bronco Worship going on about town. (They better not lose, though, or the fickle fans will turn on 'em like a Michael Vick Pit-Bull. I've seen it before, and it's ugly.)

GAME DAY

Actually for a couple days leading up to Game Day, I've been seeing more cars with the tell-tale BSU flags a-fluttering, etc. "WOW! Those people must be BSU fans!" I always think to myself. "And they're serious fans - not just ho-hum fans with maybe a T-shirt, or a bumper sticker."

On Game Day, I decided just for kicks to ride my bicycle around the stadium and absorb some of the tailgate vibe. It was around 3:30pm.

My time wasn't wasted... there was a sea of blue and orange - vehicles, shade awnings, banners and flags. I was picking my way carefully through a sizeable crowd, motor homes, pickups, barbecue grills, souvenir vendors, etc. (Mid-afternoon on a Thursday! Awesome!) Off in the distance, I could hear a man's voice bellowing, "Boiiiiisssseeeeeeeee!" (The first half of the stereophonic Boiiiiseeee.... Staaaaaaateeee! chant that's so popular at the games.) I didn't hear the second half. At 3:30pm, it was probably still an hour or so too early.

THE BIG GAME

Season opener. BSU vs. the Weber State Wildcats.

Let me wax nostalgic for a moment.

Back in the Big Sky days, they played every year, BSU and Weber State. I can remember sitting in the student section. My brother John and I would start a special cheer, just for that game. "Cream o' Weber!!!" (That is a brand-name for a Utah dairy; Cream o' Weber milk could be purchased at the Smith's grocery stores.) At the beginning of the game, people would be lookin' at us funny-like. But by the end of the game, 500 or 1000 rowdy students would be shouting "Cream o' Weber!" in unison. Beautiful thing.

This time around, I watched on the teevee at home. Being there "in person" is way too rich for my blood these days. Bronco Nation will never again be a refuge for po' folk.

It was a lopsided victory for BSU. They looked powerful, and won handily. I believe the score was 56-7. (It was 49-0 going into the locker room at halftime... the fat lady hadn't showed up yet, though, so they came out and went through the motions for another 30 minutes. Everybody on the Bronco team got to play quarterback, for at least a couple downs.)

Ian Johnson is amazing to watch. He seems to be in a different time-dimension from the other 21 players out there. Einstein, and that wheelchair guy, could explain it but I wouldn't understand. When he has the ball, the other 21 go at it for 5 seconds, and then Ian seems to pick his way through the rest of them, as if they're all frozen in stop-motion. (I think his nickname should be "Magic" Johnson. Is that already taken?)

For me, perhaps the most amazing thing about the game was the "sports team" doing coverage for KTVB.

It was the regular guys doing the pressbox-talking - David Augusto and Scott Slant or whatever-his-name is. They do okay, although I think they make WAY too many comparisons with a play they remember from a preseason scrimmage, or a game that BSU played 5 years ago or whatever. Who cares? (They should save that talk for when they're in their rocking chairs on the front porch of the Old Sportscasters' Home, a few years out.)

Some people listen to the radio guy - Paul J. He's been "the voice of the Broncos" since the broncos were roaming among the mastodons and triceratops. But he's an "acquired taste" - a taste I've never acquired. (IMO, he should've taken his place in front of the Old Sportscasters' Home maybe 10 years ago.)

I was truly baffled that KTVB still has oafish-but-lovable second-string weatherman Larry Gebert prowling the sidelines, instead of their new SPORTS-BABE, Kerith. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING??!? She would be perfect for the sidelines - she seems to know her stuff, and I've gotta think the coaches, players, etc. - pretty much EVERYBODY, except possibly for Senator Larry Craig - would enjoy talking to her more than to Gebert.

(CREDITS: Football game photo stolen from the Idaho Statesman website; news-people photos stolen from the KTVB website.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's not easy being conservative

Senator Larry Craig has been a "public servant" for the citizens of Idaho his entire professional career. As a general rule, his views have been what most people call "conservative," mirroring those of his consituency. (Much to the chagrin of the folks in Boise's North End, and in Blaine County, Idaho is a "conservative" state.)

Now Craig's career is on the line.

He has pleaded guilty to "disorderly conduct," following an encounter he had with an undercover cop in a restroom of the Minneapolis Air Terminal.

Everybody knows that. It's the lead story on every news/opinion website, every news broadcast, and every newspaper across the Fruited Plain.

What did Craig do?

According to the complaint, he:
- Tapped his foot in a stall of the restroom - a secret gay mating signal, apparently. (Who knew?)
- Played "footsie" with the undercover cop in the next stall (obviously unaware it was an undercover cop).
- Put his hand underneath the partition.

(The lurid details can be read HERE.)

Frankly, I'd ask... where's the crime?

But Craig told the judge he's guilty... a fact that's difficult for even his most ardent supporters to ignore.

(There have been rumors about Craig's sexual orientation for years. If Craig is not gay - and he vehemently denies being gay - I feel sorry for him, because it would be miserable to be deflecting the accusations. If he is gay, I feel equally sorry for him, because it would be miserable to live a double life, being the "conservative" in the public eye, and a whole different person in private.)

When the story broke, a firestorm of indignation followed.

For me, it's most interesting to observe who's indignant.

It's a no-brainer that Craig's liberal detractors would join in the beat-down. His fall from grace is a godsend for them.

They point out the apparent hypocrisy, since Craig has consistently voted against "equal rights" for gays, gay marriage, etc.

But - they are joined by a sustained chorus of conservative voices, who condemn Craig and call for his resignation.

Yep - it's not easy being conservative. Mess up, and both teams pile on!

Let's compare, for a moment, the sad story of Larry Craig with a champion of the liberals, Mr. Al Gore.

(I hope this is a valid comparison. If I'm being unfair, I invite dissenting viewpoints.)

Al "Inconvenient Truth" Gore says all the right things. He preaches the gospel of Global Warming and conservation, and living a "small carbon-footprint" lifestyle.

But then - shockingly! - it comes to light that Gore's Tennesee mansion consumes $36,000 worth of energy per year!

(Not to mention the fossil fuel he burns as he private-jets from lecture to lecture, takes limousines from the airport, etc. Gore explains that he purchases "carbon credits," and that he's trying to cut down on his consumption. I have yet to hear an explanation that I could understand, of how that carbon-credits stuff works. But that's a different topic.)

Who criticizes Algore?

His "conservative" detractors lay it on thick. Like Craig's critics, they point out the hypocrisy of a guy who says one thing in public, while living a private lifestyle that's apparently contradictory to his Good Word.

But strangely, most of his supporters rush to his defense! They are more than happy to give him a pass. After all, he's saying all the right things. And he should be cut some slack because of all the good that he's doing, preaching the Good Word of Global Warming.

(Perhaps the Gore Faithful actually feel relieved that Gore doesn't practice what he preaches. After all, it assuages their guilt for doing the same thing... criticizing SUV drivers, corporations, etc., - the high-visibility offenders - while doing precious little themselves to reduce their Carbon Footprints.)

So, what's the difference?

Well, let's compare the alleged offenses.

Craig is accused of being secretly gay. Algore is accused of being a secret global warmer.

Which is worse? The liberals would say that being a Global Warmer is far worse than being gay! There's nothing wrong with being gay!

They say they're not outraged by Craig's gayness, but rather by his hypocrisy.

So what about Algore?

The difference, it seems, is that liberals don't like what Craig says, and they like what Gore says. It doesn't matter what they do, as long as they're saying the right thing (and Craig isn't). And darn it... conservatives expect you to do what you say!

It's not easy being conservative.

P.S. - I think Craig should step down, or at least declare he won't run for reelection in 2008. I've generally supported him over the years, but these ongoing allegations have become enough of a distraction that he's ineffective representing Idaho's interests in Congress. And if he's gay, he's a hypocrite. (By the way, we're all hypocrites to one degree or another. But when you choose to be in the Public Light, you have a higher duty, in my opinion.)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Public School Insanity

In Mesa, Arizona, a 13-year-old was suspended for sketching a "gun" at school.

Dad went to Payne Junior High to talk about his son's delinquent ways... the public servants at the school cited the Columbine massacre. School district spokesman Terry Locke said the drawing was "absolutely considered a threat."

Click HERE to link to the FoxNews article.

The offending sketch:

(To me, it looks like something out of Napoleon Dynamite's notebook.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

There's a law against that?

Certain members of Congress are threatening to hold certain members of the White House staff in "Contempt of Congress" for not cooperating with Congressional investigations into various sordid affairs of state.

The congressmen are all Democrats... because it's a "partisan" thing, like 99% of what goes on in Congress.

Is there really something wrong with "contempt of congress"? Because I'll admit right up front - I've been guilty of that pretty much since I was old enough to pay attention. They better prepare my prison cell.

But... they'll need a lot of cells. The vast majority of Americans disapprove of Congress. (Compared with Congress, President Bush has a huge approval rating!)

Don't get me wrong - I've been very disappointed by much of what President Bush has done. (I'm a "small government is good government" adherent - and Bush has definitely taken us in the opposite direction. But the blowhards in Congress are so incompetent, and partisan, it's a pathetic joke. About the only meaningful legislation they've accomplished recently was giving themselves a nice raise.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Our Shrinking Forest

Only yesterday it was a magnificent stand of mixed trees, for almost as far as the eye could see. Today it's a few stumps and slash piles.

THE GREAT CLEAR-CUT OF 2007









Surely this an even worse disaster than hit our urban forest in 2003 or thereabouts, when a careless smoker tossed a smouldering butt into the juniper ground cover.

Where was Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne when this was going on? Talk about being asleep at your post!

If only I'd known! I would've demanded a spotted owl inventory; I'm no owl expert, but I'm sure I've seen 'em nesting in the branches. I would've renamed myself Butterfly Boy, put on an Indian headdress, and lived in a treetop hammock high above the ground, to prevent this from happening.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Blah-Blah Nation

Are you ready? To stand in the midnight line (on June 28) to get your iPhone?

The hype started a few months back. It promises to revolutionize wireless mobile communication, with its beautiful touch-screen and marvelous functionality. $500 for the phone and $100/month for the service? Small price to pay, to be on the leading edge for a couple months, huh?

What has happened to us?

Ten years ago, everybody - well, most everybody - got along just fine without being connected 24/7.

(And I've got to confess - my motivation to write these words stems partly from the fact that I love to be away from the phone whenever the opportunity presents itself. I carry a cell phone, but that's my boss's choice, not mine. And I love to pocket it and hope that it never rings. It really wouldn't need any buttons except the "answer" button, because I place an outgoing call on it maybe once a month.)

Nowadays, you see people yammering when they're driving, walking, shopping, eating in a restaurant, watching a movie. I imagine they use the little hands-free Star Trek earpiece thingie when they're making love... because they sure can't stop yappin'! How about when they're taking a shower? Is the iPhone water resistant?

Do you think it's important business they're discussing? Sealing that multi-million-dollar deal? Talking to Police Dispatch? Helping a lost child find his way home?

Guess again!

If you happen to overhear one of those conversations, there's a good chance it will be meaningless inane twaddle. What happened on "Desperate Housewives" last night. Or which dry cat food they like the best. Or how unfair Matilda is being to Hubert.

I assume that physical therapists are seeing patients with "cell-phone elbow." You know... the people who have injuries resulting from their elbows being cocked at a very tight angle, holding cell-phone to ear 18 hours a day. (And if Darwin is right about that evolution thing, maybe in a couple generations our descendents will have a normal size right arm, and a tiny little 8-inch left arm... just long enough to hold a cell-phone to ear. That would be pretty handy, huh?)

According to a survey of 1256 cell phone users in the UK, 1/3 of them wouldn't give up their cell phone for $2 million. 76% said it's a "social requirement" to own a cell phone. 85% said having a cell phone is "vital to maintaining their quality of life." (Click HERE to link to an article about the survey.)

Of course, only losers and dorks use regular cell phones. If you're anybody, you need one of those units that has the tiny keyboard, so you can send instant messages and email, and "surf the net" and look at pretty pictures.

(Which begs the question... why is it preferable to spend 2 minutes tap-tap-tapping out a sentence on a smaller-than-tiny keyboard - or numeric/alpha keypad - when you could call the person and speak the sentence in 10 seconds? Am I just too much the geezer to understand?) (I know... I know... I'm sounding more and more like Andy Rooney all the time!)

Well, starting Friday, only losers and dorks will use a Blackberry, or a "Q" (is that the one James Bond uses?), or a Treo. All the happ'nin' people will use an iPhone.

There have already been horrible auto accidents where one of the parties was trying to punch a message into his cell-phone keyboard while driving. I imagine the iPhone will just make matters worse. Generally, if I see a motorist make a really, totally stupid move, it's almost a sure bet they're operating that vehicle one-handed, because the other hand is taking care of cell-phone duties.

Here's a theorem... speak up if you disagree. Never in history has the quantity of "information" been better, than in 2007. Never has the quality of information been worse.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fond Summer Memories

May I wax nostalgic for a moment.

It was great to grow up in Boise, back in the 60s. And summers brought particularly enjoyable pastimes.

Since we lived on the edge of town, with the "military reserve" a block down the street, it was like having the biggest, most awesome backyard... filled with trails and rocks and sagebrush and lizards and the occasional snake. I'd take advantage of that at least once a week, walking up to nearby "Eagle Rock," or maybe even over the top to Cottonwood Canyon. All that space and a pocketful of Matchbox cars... what else did you need to stay entertained?

We lived on a gently-sloping gravel road. It was always pleasurable to set the hose so water would run down the gutter, and then we'd build miniature earth-filled dams with roads, spillways, etc., in that gutter. (Mom indulged us, probably thinking I'd grow up to be the next Harry Morrison.)

The "Nat" (Natatorium city swimming pool, off Warm Springs) was a frequent haunt. We'd go there probably 4 afternoons a week, and spend a couple hours. (After the first week or so, we'd gotten all that sunburn stuff out of the way. I don't believe there was any such thing as sunscreen back in those days.) We'd go with the neighbors. Sometimes Mom would drive. Sometimes their mom would drive - I dreaded that because she always had a cigarette going. GACK! (We were suspicious of her anyway... because she'd holler at us when we'd play on her dirt "Stay off that bank!", and shoot our dog with her pellet gun when he was barking too much for her sensibilities. But I digress.)

Now and then, I'd splash a kid after getting the cease-and-desist order from the lifeguard. And get kicked out. Which wasn't so bad - there was a canal that ran right behind the pool. Usually my brothers and sisters would leave with me, and we'd head for the canal, which seemed a rather exciting, dangerous adventure, compared with that sparkling, clean swimming pool water.

Frequently after swimming, we'd stop at the Avenue Inn (now the Trolley House) and get a softie. 5 cents for small (pointy cone), 10 cents for large (flat-bottom cone). The proprieter - a rather gruff old fellow named Chris - didn't hear very well... you soon learned to ask for a "softie," and not a "cone." Because if you asked for a "cone," he'd often prepare you a "coke" instead.

Another favorite treat-stop was the Fanci Freez, on State Street (where it remains to this day). Strangely, it, too, was run by a rather sullen and somber old fellow and his equally-somber wife. They didn't have much to smile about, apparently. I usually got a large root beer float (30 cents). The most expensive thing on the list was a Boston Shake - 45 cents. It was a milkshake with a sundae on top. Fan-TAS-tic!! Dip cones were also a favorite.

Another cherished summer memory - weekday movies at the Ada Theater. (Now the Egyptian. In this age of VCRs and DVDs and satellite dishes, it just wouldn't be the same.) Mom would get us a season ticket for adventure movies on a weekday morning, at the Ada Theater. Sometimes we'd even get popcorn, or a soda. We'd always sit in the same place - first row of the balcony. And we'd watch a John Wayne movie, or Roy Rogers. Or maybe Sinbad, or Jason and the Argonauts, or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or Mysterious Island. The crowd was raucous - we'd cheer for the good guys, and boo the bad guys.

It's too bad you only get to be a kid once... because I sure loved it! (But as my mother reminds me, "You're only young once, but you can be immature forever.")

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A job for the BATF(E)

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (explosives recently added - probably a 9/11 thing) has a job to do, and also a reputation. Their job is to regulate the lawful sale of A, T, F and E, and to keep 'em out of the wrong hands. Their reputation, unfortunately, seems to be that they frequently go after law-abiding citizens who forgot to cross their 't's and dot their 'i's on the forms... those being easier to deal with (and locate) than real criminal-types.

I've got an idea for a service the BATF could perform that would be helpful to law-abiding citizens. It springs from a personal experience.

Ten years or so ago, I was in the market for a Glock 26 handgun. I didn't want to pay the high retail price at the local gun store. So, I started watching the classifieds.

I saw an ad in the Idaho Statesman - the gun I was looking for, at a price I was willing to pay.

I called the guy and made arrangements to go see the gun.

He lived in a trailer house in Garden City. It's unfair to judge people based on their appearance, but his appearance aroused suspicion. He was kind of a long-hair, tattooed, muscle-gone-to-seed biker-type looking guy, with kind of a semi-desperate gleam in his eyes.

The gun was in a gun safe. Cool. He took it out; I looked at it and liked it... looked like a showroom gun.

Because of the circumstances, I had some hesitation. I asked him to give me 24 hours to think it over, and made a mental note of the serial number (thankfully quite short on Glocks). My plan was to do some checking - make sure the gun was "legitimate." (Not stolen, or formerly used for a crime, or otherwise being sought by "the authorities.")

I called the local BATF office.

"I'm thinking about buying a gun from a private party. If I give you the make, model and serial number, can you tell me whether it's a fugitive gun?"

BATF: "No. We don't offer that service. You might check with the Sheriff's office."

So, I called the sheriff's office and asked the same question. I told them I had been referred to them by the BATF.

The officer I spoke to was sympathetic, but said they don't offer that service, either. He couldn't offer any suggestions; he said it's strictly "buyer beware."

I AM aware! That's why I'm trying to check it out!

I called Senator Craig's office. They too were sympathetic but not helpful.

I called the sheriff's deputy back. He finally and somewhat reluctantly did a serial-number check, even though it is NOT a service that they offer. The gun was okay... at least not on the Hot List. I bought it, and still have it.

SEEMS TO ME... it would be a good thing if civilians were able to identify guns that are fugitive in nature.

What would be the harm of having a web-based tool, where a person could enter a make/model/sn of a gun, to find out if it's on the fugitive list? Nothing more than that.

If a gun of mine were stolen, I'd LOVE anything that would make it more difficult for the thief to unload it. If I were shopping for a gun from a private party, I would LOVE to be able to easily check and see if it's fugitive. If I crossed paths with a fugitive gun, I'd gladly cooperate with the authorities in trying to get it off the street.

Frankly, if there's a down-side, I can't see what it might be.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rock Stars Answer Life's Questions

"Rock stars - is there anything they don't know?"
- Homer Simpson

The smartest people rise to the top, and become celebrities.

Fortunately for us, many are quite willing to share their expertise with us common folk.

Currently, they are sharing their notions about Global Warming, and what we (we being us "common people") can and should be doing about it.

Sheryl Crow (known mostly to me personally because she was Lance Armstrong's girlfriend for awhile) has been on a "Stop Global Warming College Tour." (Evidently one of the best things you can do to stop Global Warming is to get on a biodiesel bus and tour the country.)

There's a story about their adventures in the Washington Post - click HERE to read about "The Biodiesel Bus Blog."

Some of Sheryl's ideas:

- "I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required. "

- Dining Sleeve: "I also like the idea of not using paper napkins, which happen to be made from virgin wood and represent the height of wastefulness. I have designed a clothing line that has what's called a "dining sleeve." The sleeve is detachable and can be replaced with another "dining sleeve," after usage. The design will offer the "diner" the convenience of wiping his mouth on his sleeve rather than throwing out yet another barely used paper product. I think this idea could also translate quite well to those suffering with an annoying head cold.
(She's joking - right? Somebody tell me it's just a joke!)

- Reality show - the contestant who lives the "greenest life" would get a recording contract.

Earth to Sheryl! Earth to Sheryl!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

School Uniforms

Uniforms in public schools? It's a topic of discussion at my house.

My youngest daughter is just finishing up at South Junior High, which implemented Boise Schools' first-ever mandatory-uniform policy this year. And she's headed for Borah High, which is seriously considering doing the same, beginning next year.

Based on my daughter's comments, she's against it, but not "rabidly" against it.

Frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about it.

There are some letters to the editor in today's daily newspaper, arguing both sides of the issue. (Strangely, they're both from men... the affected girls seem way more animated about the issue, than the boys.)

David Everhart of Nampa says: "If somebody is wearing a revealing or offensive clothing, then the current code says send them home. Much like gun laws or immigration, enforce the current laws and new ones will be unnecessary.

"Spare me the notions of class equality. There will always be the 'haves and have nots.' You could force rich kid to wear the same uniform as poor kid, but are you going to ban him/her from driving his BMW to school? Are you going to tell them that the rich/poor barrier magically disappears after high school? There's lots of grownups in uniform right now who are fighting and dying for these kids' right not to wear one, so let it go."


I don't know about the kids' right to not wear a uniform, or people fighting for that particular freedom, but I agree with the rest. (I don't know if the First Amendment extends to attire as "freedom of speech.")

But then, Dan Fisher of Boise makes this point: "Some Borah High students equate uniforms with suppressed creativity. That's a shallow perspective. Remove the superficial exterior from the equation and perhaps students will begin to identify themselves with their thoughts, not their threads. For the truly original students I've known, it wasn't about what they wore; it was about what they thought."

It's hard to argue with either one of those persuasive arguments.

I suggested to my daughter a compromise - uniforms required, but the uniforms would be a costume as worn by your favorite "Village People." That would preserve "creative expression," while maintaining decorum, no? As she does ever-so-frequently, my daughter just groaned and rolled her eyes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Name That Housing Development!

In a previous post, I pointed out that there is no oversight when it comes to subdivision naming, and some of the flagrant abuse of that situation.

Here's a strange one. The Clock Tower Apartments, behind where Bob Rice Ford used to be, just off Main Street.
Actually it's quite a nice-looking apartment complex, except for the clock tower! What's with that?!! The clock tower looks to be made out of 4x4 posts and plywood! (If it were a lovely, ornate clock tower... like say Big Ben, or the Depot tower, or even the celebrated $76,000 Timberline High School clock tower, it would be a different story!)

Also - take a close look at that clock tower. Two different times on two clocks - must be that the innards are just as shoddy! (Or maybe one of the clocks displays California Time, for the recently-displaced Californians who live there.)

If that is the Clock Tower Apartments, then this must be the Cell Tower subdivision.
(This is not a doctored photo... it's out near the intersection of South Maple Grove and Amity.)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mid-April Income Tax Rant

Every year, I swear I'm going to get my taxes "out of the way" early on, so I don't have to fret over them.

Also every year, I end up waiting 'til a couple days before the deadline, because the job is so distasteful and repulsive. (I'd rather clean out the rain gutters and change swamp-cooler pads, than work on my income taxes!)

Also every year, some of our politicians roll out the idea of a much-simplified income tax system.

Who's standing in the way? The powerful CPA lobby? Turbo Tax Inc?

What would ol' Tom Jefferson say, if he were working on his income taxes, and got to the line, "Do you have qualified dividends from Form 1040, Line 9B, or Form 1040NR, Line 10? If so, complete the Qualified Dividends and Capital Gain Worksheet on Page 38..." And the worksheet on Page 38, of course, has you go find numbers at a half-dozen random places, and then subtract Line 26 from Line 22B, and multiply the result by 2.74, and compare your answer with Line 41 on Form 3562...

One thing's for absolutely certain: When I sign my name saying "to the best of my knowledge, this is true, correct, and complete," that is the absolute truth! Because I don't have a clue! (And to the best of my knowledge, neither does anybody in the IRS, or in Congress!)

The only reason I'm looking forward to dying, is because I won't have to fill out any more 1040s or Schedule Ds or 39Rs... Ah, death, where is thy sting?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don Imus said something offensive? I'm shocked!

Don Imus is the latest casualty of Foot-in-Mouth Disease. He said some racist and mean-spirited things about the Rutgers University womens basketball players. (Following the proud tradition that has been fostered along by Jimmy the Greek, John Rocker, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Tim Hardaway, Ann Coulter, and a host of other sports and screen luminaries.)

Some readers may not even know who Don Imus is, or may have never heard of him before this publicity. (Who knows? Perhaps this crisis will end up helping his career in the long run. Stranger things have happened.)

Don Imus is a radio talker who I'd describe as a "low-power shock jock." On the scale, he's jalapeƱo to Howard Stern's habanero. He's been at it for 20-odd years; what distinguishes him is that he wears a cowboy hat when he talks on the radio. (Huh?)

[DISCLAIMER: I've never listened to Howard Stern on the radio. And I've only listened to Don Imus maybe a half-dozen times. So I may not know what I'm talking about, at least from personal experience.]

I think it's safe to say people who tune in to Howard Stern, or Don Imus, do so expecting and even hoping to hear something outrageous. Why do we gasp and faint when they oblige?

Problem is - it's a political-correctness tightrope these people walk. You have to be very careful when you're picking your targets to say outrageous things about.

RULE 1 - don't say bad stuff 'bout black people or gays. How hard is it to understand? Both of those groups will come down hard on you!

(Actually, RULE 1 is probably "don't say bad stuff 'bout Muslims!" They'll carve your head off with a machete!)

Other groups - like white folks, or Christians or Jews - are fair game. Jesse Jackson - one of the spokesmen for the Black Indignation League - once referred to the "Jewish" part of New York City as "Hymie-town." So apparently it's only racism when it's directed at a group in which he claims membership.

I've got a question. For those who have risen up in Imus-indignation. Have you ever listened to that hip-hop / gangsta "music"? I try to avoid it, but I know one of the main topics is "hos" and such. And I bet in 2 minutes, in the music store of your choice, I could find CDs with utterances much more racially charged and offensive than what Imus said. Black kids and white kids are scoopin' that stuff up - and "singing" along!

"Reverend" Al Sharpton - a windbag if ever there was one - let Imus grovel on his radio show.

Which raises another question.

SHARPTON HAS A RADIO SHOW???

What if Imus hadn't said those things? Would Sharpton still have had a radio show? Who listens? What would the topic have been?

Sharpton should be thanking Imus for saying those things. If it weren't for guys like Imus, guys like Sharpton would be totally irrelevant, instead of mostly irrelevant. Sharpton is a Professional Racist - he makes a living by being a racist. Imus and the others are pale amateurs by comparison!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Jesus is a golf fan?

If you've seen the movie "Caddyshack" (or more likely if you're a big "Caddyshack" fan like I am), you may remember the classic scene where the priest is out playing golf in a torrential thunderstorm. Even though his golf buddies (Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield) have long since headed for the clubhouse, he just can't bring himself to stop, because he's having his best game ever! (With Bill Murray caddying, giving advice, and looking on.) Every hole - several strokes under par! In one case, his putt goes right past the hole; a sudden wind-gust blows it back in. As he completes the 18th Hole, he thrusts his arms heavenward, in a victorious gesture, and lightning hits the upstretched golf club. He drops dead, on the green, in the driving rain. God has obviously called him home.

Cinderella story.

Divinity was once again invoked, or suggested, at this year's "Cinderella story." The Masters.

Zach Johnson won. (I know... "Who?" Except for "Caddyshack" and Tiger Woods, I pretty much agree with Mark Twain on golf: "A good walk spoiled.")

Anyway, Mr. Johnson, commenting on his Easter Sunday win, declared, "I certainly felt another power that was walking with me and guiding me."

This is obviously nothing new. The outcome of a majority of sporting events is determined by help from Above (and "my momma"), based on acknowledgments of MVPs, winners, etc.

I suppose this is a demonstration of faith, in a rather simple and temporal way. (As is the guy in the rainbow wig who holds up the sign saying "John 3:16" - "The Official Scripture of the NFL.")

In reality, I'd guess that:
1) Jesus is not that interested in sporting events (although I know He's deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of the participants... even the ones with tattoos), and
2) He would prefer that they be held on some day other than the Sabbath.

IF they watched sports in Heaven, 24/7, and IF they were interested... BYU, Notre Dame and Oral Roberts would never lose! (Except when they play each other, of course!)

One final note... if the TVs in Heaven are tuned to golf (or men's figure-skating, etc.) I think I'd rather go to "the other place," because that ain't Heaven for me! (-;

Friday, March 23, 2007

Republican = Conservative?

Not necessarily so. They like to boast of that distinction, but look no further than the Idaho Legislature (likely the most one-sided Republican in the nation) for evidence to the contrary.

If they were so conservative, you'd think Idaho's taxpayers would hardly have a burden at all! And Idaho's Book of Laws could be contained in a brochure.

Most recently, they voted a ban on smoking in Idaho bowling alleys by a wide margin.

How is that "conservative"?

(To his credit, Governor Otter, who is much more conservative than the Legislature, vetoed the bill.)

The well-meaning legislators just wanted to protect Idaho's citizens. One of the bill's sponsors, Senator Brent Hill, worries about the ill-effects of second-hand smoke. He said, "It's not a matter of 'it's possible,' it's a fact that they will [get sick]."

Now, if he were talking about visitors to a smoke-filled government office building, I'd agree with him 100%.

But last I heard, people can choose whether to visit a privately-owned bowling alley. (Personally, the only time I visit is when our church youth group is helping out with a Special Olympics event. Because I don't like the stench of tobacco, and will avoid it when I have the choice.) The owner of the bowling alley should be able to determine - based on whatever criteria he wants to use - whether to allow smoking or prohibit smoking.

Same thing with bars and restaurants. I can't imagine eating in a restaurant filled with tobacco smoke... and would take my business elsewhere. The restauranteur should be able to decide how badly he wants the business of non-smokers.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Will Work For Food

Now that the days are getting longer again, I'm starting to see the cardboard signs at drive-time. Most of 'em are the traditional "Will work for food." How many of those folks are really hoping to land some gainful employment? I've heard that Boise currently has several THOUSAND unfilled jobs, and many of them are in the service industry, where you don't need skills and experience, just willingness to work.

There's a guy I see regularly just under the I-184 Connector. He looks able-bodied, maybe early 40s, somewhat unkempt but presentable. His sign is a variation... I believe it says "Just need a little help."

I can identify! I "work for food" every day! (When I bicycle past the guy who "just needs a little help," I'm tempted to stop and give him some help in the form of advice - GET A JOB!)

Years ago, we taught our kids a valuable object lesson.

We were headed for the bakery thrift store. (I have to watch my budget carefully, or I'll be standing on the side of the road with a cardboard sign!) We saw a guy sitting on a corner a couple blocks away, with his sign. It said "will work for food." So, we bought an extra loaf of bread - FINE bread! - and took it back to him. He acted as though he was extremely grateful - he eagerly took the bread and said, "Thank you, God bless!" or something to that effect. We drove away, feeling good about having provided some food. (We all know that money will buy food, but if you donate cash, it can be exchanged for pretty much anything.)

Later that afternoon, we were on a different errand. We drove past the same corner. The panhandler guy was gone. The loaf of bread was sitting on the corner, unopened. We took it to the park and fed the ducks with it. Evidently the guy wasn't that hungry.

Like I said before - we taught our kids a valuable object lesson.

Here's an interesting story out of Denver. They've set up some "homeless parking meters," where charitable folks can feed a few quarters into the meter instead of handing it directly to a homeless person. Money collected is used to fund the various programs for the local homeless population.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bad News!

The tire tracks in the snow told the tragic story. The car had gone off the highway, and headed straight for the pond. Inexperienced 15-year-old driver, bad road conditions. She, and her younger brother, and three friends all perished in the cold water that quickly enveloped them.

Surely death was relatively quick and painless. They were good kids, and I sincerely believe they're in a better place now.

But it's difficult to even imagine the grief and horror being experienced by their families, friends, and other loved ones left behind.

The "drive-by media" quickly circled overhead like buzzards. Or was it more like a shark feeding-frenzy… roaming around the victims' school, hoping to catch somebody crying on camera? Or to put a microphone in the face of a friend for a sobbing interview?

Is this the "news coverage" that we, the viewers, want? Do we bask in bad news? Do we gain something by observing the tragedy of others? Does it make us feel better about the relative peace and serenity of our own lives?

And how about the news reporters and producers? If they get video of tears rolling down the principal's face, do they "high-five" back at the station house?

It's always somewhat bizarre to watch it on the 6 o'clock news… they put on their long faces as they solemnly discuss the story. And then, as often as not, they brighten right up with those local-celebrity Pepsodent smiles, as they go into the next (happy) story, most likely about the Broncos winning the Fiesta Bowl.

They'll milk it for all it's worth. Video of the pallbearers and the funeral coach (reporterette dressed in black). Maybe some follow-up interviews with the deputy sheriff or a family spokesman. Maybe ask the lawmakers why there aren't guardrails along every foot of every state highway.

(It's no different in the national, or even world, media. Witness Anna Nicole Smith. Or Princess Diana - I see where her late boyfriend's daddy gets to tell his story to the jury... his story being that it was no accident; they were killed by British Security so the beloved princess wouldn't end up marrying a Muslim.)

Eventually we'll all get distracted by some other tragic or sordid story.

Again I ask… is this what the viewers want to see? Apparently.

(May God bless and comfort the families and friends of these kids, taken from them way too soon.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Don't Fence Me In!

Mother Nature always wins.
I noticed these unusual trees on the Boise Greenbelt, that have sprung up along the path of the chain-link fence.

That fence has obviously been there for some time; the trees have grown around the links, and melded with the fence. Rather amazing.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Book suggestion: Armed America

Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie
By Clayton E. Cramer
ISBN 1595550690

I'm not a hunter, but I'm a gun owner and an NRA Life Member, and I believe as much in the Second Amendment as I do the others.

The first reason this book caught my eye is because Clayton Cramer is a neighbor of sorts. He lives in the Boise area. I read his blog every so often; it's always well-crafted, and his viewpoints usually line up quite nicely with my own.

The second reason is because it was on the list of "Second Amendment Must-Read" books, in my NRA magazine that just arrived. In fact, it was the first book on the list.

A bit of background:

Back in 2000, a fella named Michael Bellesiles wrote a book called Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. The general premise of that book was that the historical significance of guns in the Story of America has been vastly overstated, and that they were not part of our nation's development, at least to the degree as usually portrayed.

Naturally, Bellesiles' book was lauded by the mainstream media, Academia, Sarah Brady and Charles Schumer, and all the other anti-gun voices. He won Columbia University's "Bancroft Prize." (That's probably a good thing, I'm guessing.)

But it also got the attention of gun-lovers across the Fruited Plain, including Mr. Cramer, the author of this new book. They quickly did some fact checking on Bellesiles' book, and discovered that much of it was made up, and largely inaccurate.

Columbia University took away their prize. Bellesiles lost his tenure at Emory University, and resigned his position there. (Of course, the anti-gun crowd, never inclined to be persuaded or dissuaded by facts, continues to gush over the book!)

Okay... enough background.

Regarding Cramer's new book...

His description, from the beginning: "Here's a history of guns in America … Minutemen. Fur trappers. Davy Crockett. The shot heard 'round the world. Pioneers circling the wagon trains. Cowboys and Indians. Jesse James. Wyatt Earp. Buffalo Bill and the OK Corral. Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., downed one and all, by gunmen. Rambo. Dirty Harry. Lethal Weapon. Columbine." All of these historical, or not-so-historical, incidents have been ingrained into Americans from the day we are born – on TV, in books, on the big screen, in our daily play as a child and as news items.

I have not read the book yet, but intend to. In fact, I just put a "hold" on it at the public library. Check back.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Subdivision False Advertising??

Close your eyes. Listen to the breeze, whistling gently through the pines as it blows in off the vast expanse of the Pacific. Off in the distance and far below, you can hear the waves crashing majestically off the crags and cliffs.

Ah - who am I kidding? That's not ocean noise - it's freeway noise! I'm standing at the entrance to the "Sea Pines" subdivision, right behind the GMC Truck Center. (And I-84 is about a block in the other direction. At least the Truck Center closes down in the evening; I-84 is going 24/7.)

(I'm not an expert on trees - is that one in the photo a "sea pine"? I always thought "sea pines" looked more like what you see at Big Sur, California... or perhaps Heceta Head, Oregon.)

I first took note of the problem about the time the "Sea Pines" sign went up, 20 years or so ago.

Developers are apparently free to name their subdivisions anything they want to! And do they ever take liberties!

Where is "truth in advertising"? Why isn't the Attorney General all over this?!?

There are glaring examples all over the Boise area - I hope to expose some of them.

Let's take another journey.

Thoreau abandoned the hustle and bustle of urban life, settling at his beloved Walden Pond. There, he could commune with nature. Enjoy a more relaxed pace. Get in touch with his more sensitive side.

Ah, Walden. Birds a-twitter in the trees. The occasional bass, disturbing the serene surface of the lake. The soothing buzz of cicadas and crickets. Summertime... and the livin' is easy.

Back to reality. Boise's "Walden Pond," just off Cloverdale Road, offers a slightly different ambiance. Do you suppose the "victims," who bought lots in "Walden Pond," did so sight-unseen?

Look at the exquisitely-placed 3-car garages! Notice how the streets aren't straight, but gently winding... after all, you don't find straight lines in Nature, and we're getting back to nature! I bet the residents of "Walden Pond" put on their Birkenstocks over the weekend, and have a Thoreau experience as they fire up the charcoal in the back yard, huh?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

New Revelation!!

A new papyrus scroll has been found in the Middle East! Biblical experts believe that it contains additional revelations of John the Apostle, and if not lost for these thousands of years, would likely have been contained in the Book of Revelation. (Like most of the Book of Revelation, it's quite difficult to interpret.) This is the translated text:

Revelation 15
9 And I beheld children with rings of gold in their noses and their ears, and shafts of silver in their tongues. And I beheld that they were painted with a color that would not wash off in the rain. And they did wear their raiment in a manner in which it hung low upon their loins. And they did also have jewels and rings and objects of great worth in the buttons of their bellies.
11 And I beheld that their dwelling places did each have a great dish pointing heavenward. And behold I was mystified, because the dish gathered not the word of Heaven, but rather the word of him who was cast forth from Heaven.
12 And I beheld those from the Land of the Moving Picture Box, going forth to the Dark Continent in great silver birds, and fetching back babies of various sizes and colors.
13 And behold, I did see multitudes in their horseless chariots. Yet they did not move, but rather did sit in their chariots in long lines from sunrise to sunset. And they did speak into little black boxes, as if to themselves.
14 And behold, I did see yet another horseless chariot, just before the End of Times. And this final chariot did contend mightily with other horseless chariots in the Great and Final Race, in the Land of Daytona. And its name was… TOYOTA.

THE END IS NIGH!

What's the Ugliest Car?

Beauty is subjective. But as usual, you're at the right place to get the CORRECT opinion!
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Although cars look much more "alike" in 2007 than they did in, say, 1967, there is still a wide variety of car-looks to tempt discriminating car shoppers. (Unlike in China and Russia, where all the cars look alike, and are all painted primer gray. And except for the ballerinas and figure skaters, all their women look alike and are painted primer gray. Hahahahahaha!) (God Bless America!)

The ugly-car champion for years and years was the AMC Pacer. Surely the undeniable ugliness of the vehicle landed it a part in the movie "Wayne's World." Remember the classic scene where Wayne and Garth are laying on the hood of the Pacer, staring up at the starlit sky and spouting deep thoughts? Actually, talking about a babe… and Garth gives her the ultimate compliment by saying, "If she were a president, she would be Baberaham Lincoln." But I digress.

In my (correct) opinion, the Ugly-Car Crown was finally snatched away from the Pacer, by the Pontiac Aztek, in the late '90s or thereabouts. Criminy – whoever(s) designed the Aztek should be flippin' burgers with Kevin Federline! What were they THINKING? It looks like an ugly car on top of some kind of weird ugly-car box-spring foundation. (A comparison might be made with the boxy little Scion… but its ugliness has a certain ugly-duckling appeal. GM went WAY beyond "cute-ugly" with the Aztek.)

But – they sold some. They also DIDN'T sell a lot of 'em… my brother-in-law Steve, who travels extensively, says they were a staple of the rental car fleets for a long time… you had to pay extra for a non-Aztek. (The more self-conscious renters were willing to pay the difference… particularly those who were worried that they might see somebody they knew while driving.) Thankfully, I believe General Motors dropped the model, although they continue to lose billion$ every year – obviously Aztek Collateral Damage.

HONORABLE MENTION goes to another vehicle… the noisiest, stinkiest, and likely widest. The Dodge Mega-Cab Diesel Dually pickup. You can hear it comin' a half-mile before it arrives. (Sounds a little like a Massey-Ferguson tractor.) You can smell it a half-mile after it's gone. (Belches black smoke like, and smells like, an Allis-Chalmers.) And the thing is almost 21 feet long, and 8 feet wide! (An 8-foot wide vehicle in a 10-foot-wide traffic lane… do the math!)

NOTE – I'm only addressing factory-stock vehicles here. There are people – kids, mostly – who take a decent-looking vehicle and deliberately make it ugly by putting a big ol' aluminum carrying handle / "wing" on the back, cover it with cheap plastic J.C. Whitney ornamentation, replace a couple quarter-panels with a different color, etc. There are also people who spend thousands to make their vehicles even noisier than the Dodge Mega-Diesel. Maybe somebody's out there trying to make his vehicle even stinkier, too!

If you drive a Pontiac Aztek… I'm sorry! My advice to you would be to drive it off a cliff, then call the cops and tell 'em somebody stole it!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Idaho Greats - Bernie Fisher

I had a Brush with Greatness earlier today (Feb 14 - Valentine's Day).

Every year, there is a Salute to Veterans at the local VA Hospital, in conjunction with Valentine's Day. And, just as we've done the last couple years, the little office choral group I'm in has gone and sung patriotic songs in the hallways.

This year, we were sharing the halls with NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer, who was also there to greet and honor the vets. (I saw the Super Bowl ring that once was lost, but miraculously is now returned to his finger. That's a different story.)

We also crossed paths with another hero - the Real Deal. Bernard F. Fisher. You'd never guess it by looking at his aging frame and listening to his quiet but cheerful demeanor... but on March 10, 1966, his successful rescue of a fellow pilot, downed in the jungles of Vietnam, resulted in his being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson. (The first living Air Force recipient.)

The citation:

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On that date (10 March 1966), the Special Forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army Regulars. Hostile troops had positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp. Other hostile troops had surrounded the camp and were continuously raking it with automatic weapons fire from the surrounding hills. The tops of the 1,500-foot hills were obscured by an 800-foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability and forcing pilots to operate within the range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft. During the baffle, Major Fisher observed a fellow airman crash land on the battletorn airstrip. In the belief that the downed pilot was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Major Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to effect a rescue. Although aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, he elected to continue. Directing his own air cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of an exploded aircraft. While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot heavy ground fire was observed, with nineteen bullets striking his aircraft. In the face of the withering ground fire, he applied power and gained enough speed to liftoff at the overrun of the airstrip. Major Fisher's conspicuous gallantry, his profound concern for his fellow airman and his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the United States Air Forces and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country."

That's just part of the story, however (which I've heard him tell on at least a couple different occasions over the years). Once he was airborne again, in his shot-up plane with his fellow pilot, it seemed extremely unlikely he had enough fuel to return to the friendly base. But somehow - on fumes and a prayer - he made it back.

After he retired, he finished raising his family, along with sweet corn, lima beans, and a couple cows, out Kuna way.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Is Mitt Romney a legitimate candidate?


In the crowded world of Pre-Primary Presidential Contenders, Mitt Romney's name has surfaced early and often as a possible GOP candidate. (The GOP front runners are Rudy Giuliani and John McCain; the "conservative" voice of the GOP has problems with both of them.)

Since I'm an active "Mormon," as is Mr. Romney, I'm following this story rather closely.

Romney certainly looks presidential - in fact, his movie-star looks could win over some of the soccer moms who might otherwise vote for Hillary Clinton just because she's a woman. (It's unfair to make light of voters, and the reasons they vote... but people lay down their votes for some pretty odd reasons, and many are "too busy" to study the issues, and the positions of the candidates on those issues. And it's easy to get cynical and dismiss the whole thing, since many of the candidates seem to state their viewpoints based on the audience they are speaking to. But it's probably always been that way.)

Some of the pundits are saying Romney could never be elected because he's a Mormon. Here is a link to an article that appeared in the New York Times, reprinted in the Deseret News, about that very issue.

I'm giving the voters more credit than that. (But I could be wrong.)

First of all - Romney was governor of Massachusetts, for crying out loud! Massachusetts - the state that brought you Edward Kennedy, Barney Frank, and Jon Carry! (Maybe that discredits the voters of Massachusetts - hahaha! And others will argue that the liberals of MA voted for the Mormon so they can feel good about how tolerant they are... and he wouldn't get that same favor from the evangelical Christians in Iowa, or North Carolina.) Also, if Ms. Clinton ended up being the Democrat candidate, the Reverend Jerry Falwell said, "... Nothing will energize my [constituency] like Hillary Clinton," and added that conservative Christians would vote for Lucifer himself over Hillary Clinton.

What concerns me more about Mr. Romney is his apparent "political posturing," and his apparent lack of strong views on issues that are of critical importance to me.

As mentioned earlier, he was elected governor of Massachusetts. When he was running, he was VERY clear about supporting the "right" of a woman to abort her unborn baby. He said it over and over again, because he was asked about it, over and over again. Same thing with gay rights. He once sided with the gay coalition, and against the Boy Scouts. Same thing with guns. He was on the record as favoring more restrictive gun laws. He's also been both for and against the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire in 2010.

Some people might not vote for a Mormon. I won't automatically vote for a Mormon. I'm waiting for Mr. Romney to explain his apparent flip-flopping (now that he's painting himself as the most "conservative" choice of the GOP candidates).

Of course... if I walk into the voting booth on that November Tuesday, and the names on the ballot are Hillary Clinton and Lucifer Beelzebub... I'll have to hold my nose and vote for that Beelzebub guy, even if I don't know his position on babies and gun control!
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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Super Bowl XLI - Coaches' Profiles



Much is being made of the fact that for the first time ever, an African-American will be coaching a Super Bowl team. But even more unlikely - African-Americans will be coaching both teams competing in the Super Bowl! That is awesome! Tony Dungy of the Colts, and Lovie Smith of the Bears both deserve to be where they are.




Let me be the first to observe that Lovie and Tony are both "mainstream African-Americans who are articulate and bright and clean and nice-looking guys!"

(I may be plagiarizing Joe Biden, but since he's a well-known plagiarizer himself, he oughtta not mind too much, huh?)
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