Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Classic Film Friday (Special Halloween Edition): The Haunting

Ok boys and girls, this is (to me anyway) the mother of all haunted house movies.

Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) aspires to scientifically prove the existence of paranormal activity. To accomplish this he enlists the aid of people who have had prior experience with the supernatural to explore what is regarded to be the VERY haunted Hill House. Only 2 applicants are brave/dumb enough to meet him there, Eleanor (Julie Harris) a socially repressed loaner that has spent her entire adult life caring for her bed ridden mother and outspoken clairvoyant Theo (Claire Bloom). They are joined by devil may care, silver spoon progeny, Luke (Russ Tamblyn), who is next in line to inherit the Hill House.

And the ghosts show up almost immediately thereafter.

It doesn’t use special effects or gore or much of anything really, except a voracious appetite for the fear of the unknown. And it is incredibly effective. In The Haunting, it’s what you don’t see that’s really scary.

The Haunting is playing on TCM tonight at 6pm.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Beaufort County Newspaper Report Cards

Have you ever read the newspaper and felt cheated? How does one verifiably identify the quality of their local news sources? Does a litmus test exist, with measurable standards, that can help us make sense of it all?

The answer? YES.
is a website authored by journalists concerned about the lack of ethics in journalism. This website was instrumental in helping me put numbers to perceived bad reporting. Here's how it works.

Each news story is graded on the following 3 standards.

1. Core Stories vs. Peripheral Stories

Core stories include – government, natural disasters, education, crime, health, environment, science/technology, major fires/accidents/emergencies, weather, social issues, consumer reporting, and the military

Peripheral stories include – Sports, celebrities, minor fires/accidents, human interest pieces, and others not fitting any of the above categories

Core stories are worth more than peripheral stories. 2 points are awarded for a core story, 1 for peripheral.

2. Knowledge Impact

High Impact vs. Low Impact

High impact translates to how many people does the subject effect? A lost dog story might emotionally impact many readers, but it doesn’t affect their daily lives, while a tax increase or a natural disaster will likely affect many people for an extended period of time.

High knowledge impact stories receive 3 points, low impact stories get nothing. Sometimes the impact is hard to determine, these articles will receive 1.5 points

3. Named Sources

The standard requirement for newsprint is 5 named sources. Named sources help the reader distinguish the importance of information given and also help identify possible biases. More sources help present diverse viewpoints, thus giving a better overall view of the subject at hand.

5 named sources receive 2 points; failure to meet this requirement earns no points.

The highest possible score an article can earn is a 7 (lowest would be a 1). Article scores are added up and then divided by the number articles written to give a average score. Grades are as follows.

A = 5.5 - 7
B = 4.5 - 5.4
C = 3.5 - 4.4
D = 2.5 - 3.4
F = less than 2.5

So far all standards are in accordance with guidelines. I changed a few aspects to better relate to this community. Because I don’t have time or resources to grade every article (and if I did all papers would get F’s) I only graded the first 4 stories (or less if enough stories were not available) and I only graded local stories. All national/world type stories written by AP writers were ignored. If a national subject is involved in local life (i.e. Rudy Guliani’s visit to Bluffton) then it is included.

I wanted to get an accurate feel of local newspaper performance and to do this I took a sample of random days over the period of 3 months. I did this in an effort to account for slow or “off” news days. The process wasn’t perfect, but I’d make the argument that it was fair. The grades are as follows:

Island Packet: Average Score 3.72, Lowest Score: 3.1, Highest Score: 4.75
Grade – C

Bluffton Today: Average Score 2.79, Lowest Score 1.0, Highest Score 4.33
Grade – D

As a side note, both papers produced 1 story each that scored a 7. This proves that staff/resources/gumption exists at both organizations to meet a higher standard.

This entry probably won't make me any friends in the bullpens of the IP or BT, but my hope is that if we demand better, more responsible news reporting, or at least know how to recognize when we don't see it, news agencies will make the extra effort to do the right thing. Feel free to contact either the Island Packet and/or the Bluffton Today and ask them how they feel about responsible journalism, I'm sure they look forward to hearing from you.

Sex Sells... Again & Again

Nothing gets the emotionalism pressure cooker up to full steam like adolescent sex. The national fervor over a Maine middle school passing out birth control pills has everybody’s panties in a collective wad.

First off, I’d like to go on record as saying THIS IS NOT NEWS. Well, it is news, along the same lines as Brittney’s exposed cooter or the latest update in Hollywood rehab/divorce court/adoption service is news. What this issue lacks in celebrity it makes up for in scandalous supposition. 11 year olds having sex?!? Oh my!!!

Nope, still not news.

That said, I think the school board and the school nurse made the right call. Offering birth control isn’t going to make kids go out and have sex. If it does, your parental skills (or the decision making ability you taught your kids) should be called into question more so than the offering of contraceptives. But of course the way the reports play out over the TV make it sound like a school sponsored orgy and that scares people. Never mind the fact that if you’ve guided your children throughout their lives and helped them understand what is considered appropriate behavior according to your values that this hubbub about birth control would be nothing more than a blip on the social radar... free, non-parental solicited birth control equals a school full of horn dogs having gratuitous sex anywhere and everywhere.

I have a middle school aged child and as she gets older I realize my control over her is waning. It is scary and I don’t like it, but sticking my head in the sand and pretending sex doesn’t exist isn’t an effective plan of attack against teen pregnancy. Did the school in Maine take a nanny-government stance in its drive to offer birth control to middle school aged girls? Without a doubt, YES. But if everyone was living the prim and proper life they all like to pretend they are living, the birth control thing would be a moot point now wouldn’t it? I’d go so far as to applaud the girls who seek out birth control from the school or health department, at least they’ve demonstrated better life choice skills than their parents who chose to avoid the issue altogether.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How About a Fake News Conference?

As if media outlets making up the news wasn’t bad enough, who can you trust when the government plays both sides of the field? For those that don’t know, FEMA orchestrated its own fake news conference in relation to the wild fires in California. Since no actual news agencies were available (mainly because it gave such short notice) FEMA staffers played the roll of interviewers.

Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff promised “appropriate disciplinary action”. I hope that includes canning the brazen idiot who thought he was smarter than the rest of the world. Let’s bump our collective bullshit alert system up to fuchsia.

Just don’t depend on the inconsistent news organizations to help you stay informed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

See you next Fall

Ever have one of those moments in time that last mere fractions of a second yet seem like an eternity? It’s funny how the perception of time changes relative to the situation at hand.

I was taking off my pants, in the process of getting ready for bed, when a baby toy (stuffed animal or something, probably “Elmo”) jumped right out in front of me and caused me to lose my balance. Had I simply just let the inevitable happen... that being the eminent busting of ass... well it simply wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining would it? So as I’m flailing around practicing cartwheels with my pants just below the knees, I found all kinds of time to consider my options. Falling down however did not make the short list.

It felt like enough time passed by that I could have prepared my tax return, completed next year’s Christmas list, or even accessed the local newspaper’s website. But in actuality, there was barely enough time for my wife to gasp (and then hysterically laugh once she saw I survived) as I crashed into the floor sans my dignity.

They say that 15 minutes of laugher a day provides a great health benefit (from weight loss to a healthier heart). I got those 15 minutes off to a rip-roaring start tonight, without even trying. Ironic isn’t it that the said 15-minutes of laughter appear to come and go so quickly and yet the half a second of shear terror and mortification plod along for an eternity.

Thankfully a good laugh is worth a 1,000 embarrassing moments (and vice versa) at my house. And we’ll be reliving this one for years (and years) to come. I don’t recall anything on the “Elmo” packaging stating fall/trip danger or heart attack inducing giggle hazard, but I’m not complaining.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Classic Film Friday: 13 Ghosts

I picked this 1960 classic movie in honor of Halloween. The destitute Zorba family finds themselves penniless and without so much as a chair to sit on. Young Buck makes a birthday wish to live in a house with furniture, and suddenly a stranger shows up at the door with a summons from a lawyer. Little did the Zorbas know that Buck’s wish was about to come true, and then some.

It seems long lost uncle Zorba, a ghost collector of sorts, off and died and left them a house, furniture and all. And ghosts, 12 of them to be exact, the 13th to be added by the end of the movie. Who could it be? I’ll never tell.

This isn’t anything at all like today’s version of a horror movie. Margaret Hamilton (THE Wicked Witch of the West) makes an ongoing cameo appearance as house caretaker and spirit medium Elaine. The cheese factor is sky high in some parts, and in others the primitive special effects leave something to be desired. But it is fun, especially during Halloween. And you probably won’t even have to sleep with the lights on after you’ve seen it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Adventures in Parenting

Some folks might think I’m just a curmudgeon to anything nice. Well believe it or not I actually have a job, pay bills, love my wife and kids, heck I even cook dinner on occasion. For all intents and purposes I’m basically human, just like you (most of you anyway). Here’s proof:

The other night a downbeat trend began at my house. It seems that before and right up the time my wife puts our toddler to bed everything is great. In fact there’s a bit of a regimen involved. Go upstairs, take a bath, read a few bedtime stories, perhaps a lullaby or two, and finally off to bed. Happy times all the way around. Up until a few days ago this routine has worked flawlessly.

Now at the point our darling youngest child’s head hits the pillow, there’s bellowing and crying and lots and lots of “mommmmmy’s” and “ut-oh’s” (the little one’s method of communicating something’s amiss). I might not be an old pro, but this dang sure aint my first rodeo. What we have here is a classic case of “mommy attention seeking” syndrome. The first couple of nights we attributed said child’s clinginess to illness (common daycare crud, teething, ear infection etc.) but as the problem turned into a nightly pattern we had some hard decisions to make.

At first we just let her cry it out. 10 minutes, 15 minutes, even 30 minutes… this kid has the stamina to go the distance. Finally, just before my wife prepares to make that guilt ridden journey of no return, I opt for a preemptive strike. I walk up to our little one’s room and open the door. There she waits with arms outstretched, tears rolling down her cheek, and a snot river flowing out of her nose... the pity-guilt-sad puppy dog machine is in full effect. It’s hard to NOT pick her up, but I know my sanity and my marriage depends on my ability to curb this behavior. I clean her face up, pet her on the head, and tell her it’s time to go to sleep. She grumpily lies down. I cover her with a blanket, tell her “I love you” and “ni-night” and close the door. And she goes to sleep. Just like that.

We’ve been on this new routine now for 3 days. I’m not particularly fond of it, especially the snotty nosed screaming part, but what’s a parent to do?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nothing Hurts More Than Saying Goodbye

Years and years ago, when I was a naive teenager that was just one day graduated from high school, I was bound and determined to start my life in the military as quickly as possible. I had my entire life planned out. Obtain training and work experience in the military, get married, have kids, get out of the service and find a good job back home, live happily ever after, THE END. Quaint wasn't it?

On the day the recruiter came to my house to drive me down to the MEPS station (where you are processed and sworn in) the veracity of my decision to leave home suddenly rabbit punched me in the stomach. It was like the first day of kindergarten all over again. Except this time there was no “see you after school” as the implications were much more permanent. I spent many sad, lonely nights in my bunk questioning the prudence of that decision. The letters from home telling me how proud they were and remembering “the plan” gave me strength, at least enough to get by.

Reality is prone to not sticking with anyone’s plans, especially those of a silly teenage man child. But who has the ability to see that far ahead at any age? I did join the service and obtain that training and work experience. I even got married (twice!) and had kids, and got out of the service and found a great job (several even) but I never, no matter how hard I tried, found my way home. Oh sure I’d visit, but your hometown and the friends and family you left behind just doesn’t feel the same anymore. Going home now almost instantaneously turns into a circus of dinners, visitations, logistical juggling nightmares... and stress.

I haven’t been home in over a year, so I never really thought much about it because my daily life usually preoccupies my time. But today I drove my mom, who was in town for a brief visit, back to the airport and just as we said our goodbyes that twang in my chest and the feeling of sad resignation washed over me all over again, just like it did that day first day I said goodbye and every other time since. This day was no different. I hate that feeling. And of course after the fact, when it’s too late, I always think of something I’d like to have said or done. Just one more “I love you” or hug goodbye seems so easy, but completely impossible from afar.

To make matters worse, each visit marks that much more time passed by. We all grow older, and it forces me to wonder not only WHEN I’ll see my loved ones again, but IF I’ll ever see my loved ones again. When I was younger I was scared of how I’d make it through life without them, now I worry about how they will make it without me to help them. Worry-free living is a farce.

Nope, life sure didn’t turn out anything at all like I planned it. And all these years later I’d have thought that saying goodbye would be easier. It never did get any easier for me, I’m just better at hiding the pain.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

TGI3rd Friday

Though the weather forecast predicted 90% chance of rain yesterday (of which I only received a droplet, as in one) I decided to take my chances and make my way down to Calhoun for 3rd Friday festivities. I really want to support local businesses and I can’t really think of a better Friday evening than strolling around and taking in some live music and cold adult beverage refreshment but, I can’t see how the current format is sustainable.

Why do I say this?

Because I simply cannot afford to buy anything out of the shops the event is being held for. I like walking around perusing, but clearly I’m not in the segment these places are marketing to (me being middle class family with kids). I hope TGI3rdF or some other kind of regular free music venue remains as I think it does nothing but enhance the cultural aspect of Bluffton, but the organizers might want to consider a new location or bringing in a more diverse group of vendors (and price points) if they want to attract more than just the filthy rich, retired sector.

Still the family and I had a great time moseying around, taking in the music, but other than a few glasses of wine, they’re not making any of me. Sorry `bout that. Hope ya’ll don’t mind...

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Real Life Friday Funny

Most times, truth really is stranger (or funnier) than fiction. I was at the gas station this morning filling up, which in and of itself is an exercise in masochism. There I was, jockeying for a spot between day laborers, construction contractors, and lawn service folks, singing the song from Sesame Street...

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

That would be me, by the way. But that’s ok, I’m used to it.

So as I’m settling up with the station pump and fumbling around with the gas cap I overhear three black men laughing and carrying on as they walk back to their truck. Just before they get in the vehicle one of them says,

“She was too old for R. Kelly, but she was too young for me.”

I’ll admit it... that was pretty damn funny.

Classic Film Friday: The Invisible Man

In this 1933 James Whale adaptation of H.G. Wells classic novel, Claude Rains plays Dr. Jack Griffin, a scientist who takes his experiments too far and turns himself into the Invisible Man. The only problem (other than being invisible) is the chemicals used to make him invisible also drive him mad. He becomes psychotic to the point that he instills a reign of terror over the populace, killing hundreds.

The movie features groundbreaking (for its time) special effects, especially when one considers that this was made almost 75 years ago. The Invisible man is a bit short (only 71 minutes) but it makes for a great warm up for Halloween or a double feature.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Case for Smelling the Roses

I work around life and death. Almost everyday there’s a new tragedy, death, birth, or simple moment in time that changes someone’s life forever. With so many of these kinds of situations unfolding in front of me, it’s easy to take things for granted.

I found myself walking along side two co-workers. One is an older woman in the twilight of her working career, far from her 1st rodeo, defining her as “well seasoned” would be an understatement. The other is a younger woman, closer to her high school graduation than that point we all reach when the bartender or checkout clerk doesn’t bother to ask for ID anymore.

The younger woman was frustrated with the stress of her day and eventually blurted out “I can’t wait for this day to be over” and trudged away. The older woman looked over at me and said, “When you get to be my age, you learn to like the wait”.

That one sentence hit me like sledgehammer. Life really is entirely too brief to shortchange ourselves. There are many ways the younger woman could have made her situation better. Hopefully she’ll figure it all out before she runs out of days to rush through.

Here’s to making the most of your day...

School Briefs

I’ve been pretty busy (still am) and I haven’t had time to properly update in depth, but I did want to at least briefly mention what’s happening in and around the schoolhouse.

Capacity Argument Continues

The district tried to break their high dollar consultant, Kelley Carey, but came up empty handed (sort of). The school district was looking to justify the $35 million dollar North Area High School project (A.K.A. Whale Branch High) by saying the consultant’s capacity numbers were overestimated. The Carey didn’t back down from his original position, but he still says the district needs to spend $200 million.

New Classrooms Open for business

Okatie Elementary added a new wing and bumps its capacity from 550 to 700. Current enrollment is 805. Redrawing of attendance zones remains off of the table.

On a Lighter Note

Last Saturday teachers attended the 2nd installment of the master naturalist program. I’ve mentioned this before but this pilot program is offered by the LCI and gives area educators firsthand knowledge about ecosystems found in the Lowcountry so that it can be passed down to their students.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bluffton Beer & Brat Fest

I realize there was a big animal rescue event today, but honestly, I'm over it. I'm not against them or what they want to achieve, but I have a life and part of that life is charity, but I don't make charity my entire life. So I didn't save a puppy today... oh well.

That said, the family and I took some time out to travel down to Calhoun St. and check the Beer & Brat Festival this evening. There was all kinds of German beer available (for about $4 a bottle) along with German food and live music to boot. The $10 cover charge was steep and I was a bit miffed by how expensive the event was... until the B-Town Playaz ripped out "Hot Potato"... and then I realized it was worth every penny.

The Good: Live Music and gorgeous weather

The Bad: Expensive everything, $10 for plastic cup seems excessive

The Ugly: In 6 days you can do what cost $10 a head for free at TGI3rdF

Still, the music was great and the beer was cold, which makes for a good time no matter how you slice it.

For those who don't know who/what "Hot Potato" is all about, I give you...

The Wiggles

Friday, October 12, 2007

Want to Hear a Pathetic Story?

There was a party recently at McCraken Middle School. It was a reward to kids who participated in the Summer Readers' initiative. Want to guess how many kids were eligible to attend said party? According to my sources, about 12-13… out of what? Maybe 1000 kids? Of the dozen or so that were eligible NONE were in the 8th grade, 2 were in the 7th grade, and the remainder were in the 6th grade.

That is what most people call a TREND and not a very good one at that. Reading throughout a long summer break exercises kids’ vocabulary and helps them hone everything from reading comprehension and context cues, to grammar and spelling, not to mention expand the horizons of young minds.

The books cost nothing if you simply check them out from the public library, all that’s really needed is the time (and gas) to take your kids to the library and the gumption to make sure they read the book. It’s really not that hard, but when you consider how many kids failed to read over the summer, you’d think it was damn near impossible.

Classic Film Friday: You Can’t Take it With You

Unenthusiastic Vice President of his father’s company, Tony Kirby (Jimmy Stewart) falls in love with his secretary, Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur). Which is nothing earth shattering, but thus begins the dual plotline that sets moral epiphanies throughout. It just so happens that Tony’s father A.P. Kirby (Edward Arnold) is about to create a monopoly (in the munitions business of all things) and to do so he needs to buy off Alice’s grandfather, Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore) to do so. The problem is Grandpa isn’t selling, no matter what the price.

In fact Grandpa is a bit of an eccentric and on top of that he encourages people to quit doing things they hate, and start doing what they love. This leads to a house full of weirdos doing all manner of things from dancing or writing, to constructing their own fireworks. When the snobs from Kirby meet the kooks from Vanderhof the sparks really fly and by the end of the movie, everyone winds up in jail.

This Frank Capra directed movie was made in 1938 and many of the premises it tackles are applicable to today’s world. I will say there seems to be a bit of a communism bent to the film, but the movie goes out of its way to dissuade anyone from practicing anything with an “ism” attached to it. You Can’t Take it With You is a parable in its own way, but it will also make you laugh... hard. If you’re not smiling by the time the credits roll at the end you might need to check yourself for a pulse.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wednesday Ramblings

Gosh it’s hot. It certainly doesn’t feel very “Octobery” outside. Still, I find solace in Summer’s reprieve. While I do look forward to cooler weather, there’s something about swimming other outdoor activities in a time when others areas are supposed to be bundling up. It’s one of those “love it or loathe it” deals. 4 seasons would be nice, but I’ll take 80 degrees and a sunny day at the beach... if I must.

I’ve come to the conclusion that big media isn’t satisfied until they’ve completely removed your every reason to live. Scary must sell great. Between the housing market (that scares the bejesus out of me personally) or terrorism, or global warming, or hurricanes, or god forbid, the presidential race... we’re all scared of something. There’s a lot to be said for being blissfully ignorant.

With the coming holidays (even though the weather isn't exactly cooperating) I start to think about get-togethers with family and friends and that of course requires food. I admit to being a bit of a Food Network Junkie, mostly because my "crap tolerance" pegs out within 2-3 minutes on most other shows. Somehow watching other people cook is more tolerable to me. Anyway of all the shows on the Food Network, Good Eats is the one I like the most. Alton Brown mixes entertainment with pertinent information like no other and his knowledge and presentation make me more apt to try his recipes (which have all been great so far). At least they aren't trying to scare me on the cooking shows... yet.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Norah Jones

I know she’s been overplayed in every grocery store and elevator the world over, but Norah Jones has more talent in her little finger than most bands have in the their collective bodies. I had the chance to watch her performance on Austin City Limits last night and her show only solidifies my opinion. Folk, Jazz, Blues, Country, hell she could probably front a Heavy Metal band if she really wanted to. She sings, plays the piano and guitar, writes her own music and she’s fairly easy to look at too.

No fake dubbed over lip syncing, no pyro or anything else really. Just real, honest, soul touching music. If you missed the performance last night, look for it to repeat some time in the future. Simply amazing. The following clip isn't from ACL, but it does give a great representation of her abilities in a live setting.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

For Sale?

If this story doesn’t scare the living shit out of you, then nothing will. One could easily fill in the name of several Bluffton area developments/neighborhoods with the one in the article. I’m trying not to lose any sleep over this as I feel I’m relatively safe (key word being relatively), but honestly the real estate/new home construction market is just about the only game in town. How this area will survive is beyond me, but then again everybody has got to live somewhere. I wonder if banks are considering getting into the home rental business.

And yet they keep building new homes here…

Friday, October 5, 2007

Classic Film Friday: Calendar Girls

This is yet another fairly new movie (technically not a classic), but it’s one that merits a review here. I guess I’m just a sucker for the inspirational movie based on a true story genre.

When Annie (Julie Walters) Clarke’s husband John (John Alderton) dies with cancer, her oldest and dearest friend Chris (Helen Mirren) comes up with an idea to raise money to buy a new sofa for the waiting room of the local hospital in his name by producing a calendar complete with nude pictures of them and their Women’s Institute friends. Scandalous as that sounds it also happens that these women are no younger than 50 and most of them are otherwise modest, socially conservative “church ladies”.

These innocent women seek to bring attention to a greater cause by publicly sacrificing their modesty, privacy, and morals by baring it all in the name of charity. The journey they take from small town Knapely, Yorkshire doldrums to million dollar Hollywood celebrity is inspiring and humorous all at the same time. The story hits close to home for any that have witnessed the torturous embrace of cancer, but it also shows how real beauty comes from within. John Clarke himself says "The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth has its own beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious.”

The clip below shows the women seeking a photographer with the right qualifications, artistic talent, and will to help them accomplish their project. Easier said than done…

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

School District to Tackle Obesity

I just so happened to catch some of the school board meeting tonight. There’s not a whole lot going on, but one thing that stood out to me was the new health initiative the district is looking at implementing. I don’t have specifics or links as this is a real-time deal, but the gist of the presentation (that played like a broken record 3 times…I love it when that multi-million dollar technology they use makes them look like a 3rd world country) was that many kids are obese and the school district is going to tackle the problem through education, limiting bad food choices, and increased exercise. Sounds good right? Not so fast. Some of it made sense, most of it was downright laughable (like placing the responsibility on vendors like Sodexho to teach nutrition).

Here’s the problem, a lot of kids are fat, but honestly it’s not JUST the school that’s making them this way. Forcing teachers to implement and document some 15-20 minutes of extra exercise a day (rubric and all) isn’t going to erase that bag of Doritos and zombification sessions in front of the TV for hours on end once these kids get home. What this will do is put an even higher workload on teachers, who already have more than enough ineffective paperwork to chase and it will take away from academic instruction time.

This is nothing more than a “feel good” program that will not effectively curb adolescent obesity, but it’ll give those folks up top something to pat their own backs about.

Here We Go Again

New boss, new plans, same problem. It seems the construction of the new Red Cedar Elementary School is over budget by a paltry $3 million and behind schedule (look for it around 2010). So what happened?

Well you’d think with the passage of an “Emergency Referendum” complete with special election that the folks in charge would have moved diligently but in fact they screwed up the design by not accommodating for enough kids and they pussyfooted around finding adequate land to build on (land they already had elsewhere, but anyway). So an emergency building up since 2005, culminates into a possible solution by 2010. Remember the 2000 referendum for a high school in the northern part of the county has yet to break ground (and really isn’t even wanted by the majority of the county now).

Exactly how does someone screw up the design of a school in an area literally bursting at the seams? Easy… there was always a second school in the plan. The district rigged the game so people will feel they have no other choice but to vote for yet another school, and better yet, they can add a smorgasbord of related items to the “urgently needed” school referendum to bilk the tax payers out of millions of dollars, and thus take care of family and friends for years to come with sweetheart contracts, not to mention crony admin jobs at the new schools once built.

Meanwhile schools in surrounding areas have plenty of empty seats. Adjusting the attendance zones county wide would be the most psychologically painful, yet most financially responsible decision we could make. Yes it would mean “tearing” kids away from their friends and exposing them to a different environment, but we are already a transient community. Look around, how many of your neighbors are still around that were there when you 1st moved to town? Better yet, how many of us have “moved up” because of a real estate windfall in the area? One more move isn’t going to kill our kids, but it could very well save us a considerable tax burden, not to mention cut the travel time to and from school. There is no better charity than the altruism in taking care of your own.

Adjusting attendance zones means alleviation from overcrowded schools, shorter bus rides, and lower taxes by minimizing the need for new construction... all for the children.

Monday, October 1, 2007


The government oppression in Burma is disheartening. I don’t like the fact that our president has used this as a political distraction from the problems his policies have created elsewhere in the world, but I can’t think of a regime more despotic than that of Burma/Myanmar.

Seeing the images of protesting monks and the accounts of ruthless beatings (and murders) by the police on those who are simply voicing their opinion is worlds away from anything we’ll ever have to go through. It forces me to wonder if we could ever overcome the brutality of a crushing military state. Our liberty fosters our own apathy. I doubt very seriously that many of us would have the gumption to rise up if we found ourselves under a totalitarian ruler’s thumb.

My heart pours out to these people, who are willing to die for their freedom. Which is more than I can say about the intentions of the public we interact with through our nation building activities in other countries. Then again countries like neighboring China or India could do more, but seem satisfied to just to rub salt in the wound. Big business is more than willing to exploit the situation there. Just another reminder that human rights are a luxury most other places don't enjoy.

Click here if you're interested in learning more about the United States Campaign for Burma.