Friday, December 31, 2004

#130 - Dog Trainer Year in Review

Patterico releases his second annual review of the LA Times' performance as a masthead of the mainstream media.

To sum up what Patterico takes all year to point out: they stink.

They stink so bad that Patterico needs to issue a two-parter (part two coming soon) to handle every misstatement, falsehood, and biased invective issued by this major metropolitan fish-wrapper just this year alone.

I subscribed once upon a time. Maybe even twice, but my memory for such things is suspect. They usually get me when I'm trying to be budget conscious and hit me with the "hundreds of dollars in coupons alone in the Sunday edition!" line. So I cave, and ultimately get so angry reading their bald-faced slants that I angrily call and cancel. This, of course, gives them latitude to harangue me for the rest of my natural life because I used to be a customer, so, by golly, I must want to be one again.

They don't understand that I have been through my twelve-step program for LATimes addicts, and as a recovering subscriber I am likelier to take up snake charming than to ever subscribe to their rag again.

Their telemarketing scripts haven't changed much over the years. They invariably hit me with the old coupons line, as well as pointing out that they have "increased their local coverage" again this year. That usually means that my community now receives two columns of print, instead of one and a half. Also, they only tend to report on my community when that community somehow affects Los Angeles. This they call "expanded" coverage.

Funnier still is dealing with their telemarketers. All I have to do is point out to them that the paper may just as well be in the direct employ of the Democratic National Committee and they immediately begin harping on that coupons line. Yep... those coupons certainly appeal to my greedy Republican nature, but not enough, I'm afraid, to make me want to subscribe.

Still, the next time I want to help the kids make a few paper hats, I might visit the newsstand. For old Times' sake.

UPDATE: Silly me. Part Two was here all along.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

#129 - Please Wait

My father had a wonderful way with the phone. Dad was a tightly wound coil - a mainspring with nowhere to go - and certain elements of the population suffered as a result. Highest on the list of suffering humanity was anyone who dared get Dad on the phone.

Dad was a card-carrying curmudgeon. I'm pretty sure the Webster definition had been modified at one point to include Dad as an example of modern usage. Mom, sainted at an early age, had long since learned how to let the curmudgeonry roll off her back. She was, and still is the master of the soft answer and the subtle deflection. If any of her children were guilty of some life-shortening offense, she alone could keep the guillotine at bay and spare our miserable lives. I'm reasonably certain the only reason I didn't end up in military school was because Mom knew how to call his bluffs.

Still, Dad could be intimidating. And his worst enemy was the phone. For most of my youth, the phone company was responsible for providing phone equipment to the home. You were charged for each unit in your home, and there weren't too many styles to choose from. Consequently there was generally only one phone in our house at any given time. Since Mom was a traditional stay-at-home Mom, she got to answer her phone at least 95% of the time, until my sisters got old enough to learn how to string seven numbers together.

Once in a great while, Dad was closest to the phone when it rang. His manner of answering was about as welcome as hearing from the friendly IRS auditor that he'd like a visit with you, say, tomorrow morning. "Hello!" was his clipped response. If the caller was known to him, Dad might follow with, "Whaddaya want?" If an unknown quantity, which usually meant a sales slug, the usual response was "Not interested," followed by an equally curt slam.

Even if he wasn't the one to answer the phone, his hatred of the instrument enveloped the immediate area of the person talking on it, to the point of literally increasing the ambient temperature of the phone itself by several tens of degrees, rendering it impossible to hold for any length of time. Mom, for example, might be chatting with one of her Church friends. After a moment or two, Dad would begin growling; a low, throaty sound that resembled a cheetah protecting its latest kill. If the call extended beyond, say, five minutes, he began making comments regarding the imminent departure of the dratted phone to-blankety-blank-morrow. Or he might threaten to merely rip it out of the wall.

Most of what I know about the phone I learned from my Dad.

Today, of course, the phone has become downright lethal. Not only can it come in an ever-widening variety of annoying styles and colors, it's become completely portable! Some models can be carried all over the house (and, consequently, hidden in a wondrous array of locations). Others are now portable enough that they need never leave our sides. Indeed, many people seem to have had them surgically grafted into their skin, judging from the increasing numbers of people apparently talking to themselves in embarrassingly public places.

My own experiences with cell phones lead me to believe that ol' Scratch himself is responsible for their widespread use in vehicles that weren't any too safe on the roads to begin with. You know the ones I mean: those larger-than-anyone-could-possibly-need SUVs where the driver can barely see over the dashboard, let alone the drivers around them, all the while being completely absorbed by their conversation with some invisible person. Since my vehicles are both much nearer to ground level, I spend inordinate amounts of time dodging CRUAVs (Cellphone-Riddled Urban Assault Vehicles) in order to save my own life.

I, of course, am a much safer cell-phone user in my own vehicles.

Anyway, all of this by way of pointing out that I am not a big fan of Mr. Bell's contraption. And in my book, the worst offenders of all are companies who have decided that it is somehow more efficient for them to use computers to dial their stupid phones for them.

Open statement to anyone who wishes to inform me that my payment is a day or two late: Don't sic your stinking computer on me. I will hang up. This has been a pet peeve of Mrs. Woody and myself for many years now. It is insulting to us for you to assume that your time is somehow more valuable than ours is. That's certainly the implication. "Your time is important to us. Please wait for the next available associate." The message here is that my business is so important that they use a machine to dial our number so that some outsourced customer service rep with questionable English skills can ask me when I plan to put my check in the mail, or would I rather pay over the phone.

This service is so automated, in fact, that even when I've made the stupid payment, I will continue to receive calls from their computer until such time as the payment makes it through the company's labyrinthine accounting department and is actually posted by the computer, at which point it's time to bug me about the next payment. Did I mention that their accounting department is probably located on Grand Cayman? Just thought I'd remind you.

I'm not as bad as my Dad, I must admit. I do enjoy chatting with my children who live in various parts of the country (although I'm far likelier to hear from them than vice versa), and I do occasionally communicate with folks from Church. Even my Mom hears from me during certain phases of lunar activity. Otherwise...

I'll be ripping that blasted phone out of the wall tomorrow. Assuming I can ever find the cord.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

#128 - Blogs as Family History

A couple of words of explanation. First, the numbering of my posts (beginning with this one). Blogspot has, for weeks, insisted that I have only written 96 posts. I sorta felt like that may be something of an understatement, since that 96th post was written somewhere around Halloween. I was pretty sure I'd written a few posts since then. To prove me right, Mrs. Woody gave me my best Christmas present this year: A compilation of my posts, printed and bound into "Volume I." (Woody's Woundup, Wonderwood Academy Press, Christmas 2004) A quick count of the index showed that my post titled "Counter-Education" was number 126, which also means that Mrs. Woody only missed one post in her juggling act to get my last entries printed and bound. Seemed I wouldn't shut up, and she had to draw the line somewhere.

So, to defend my honor, I've decided to start numbering my posts. Note to Mrs. Woody: Volume II begins with post number 127, 'k?

The second thing to explain comes from recent analyses of blogs and their increasingly important position in the world of communication. Many, many bloggers are of the opinion that blogs will or already have replaced or otherwise supplanted the MSM in the dissemination of information to the world at large. Certainly, as I read through my past posts, that's what I started out to do. It made sense, back in June, to blog about political hot buttons, since that's what was foremost on my mind during the summer and fall of this past year.

The funny thing is, once we held the actual election I had no trouble whatsoever switching gears. While some politically-centered ranters struggled to find their post-election voice, Ol' Woody just shut off the political spigot, and opened the one labelled "Dad Stuff." That's what this blog has become: a virtual monument to the world as seen through the eyes of one very average Dad.

In this Dad's world, politics still come into play, but they no longer occupy most of my waking moments. World affairs are still important, but I am fully aware that there are many, many more competent minds out there who can dissect and disseminate this stuff far more effectively than I. Will I still offer my opinions on these subjects? Of course. I am, after all, a male, and like all males I suffer from Male Answer Syndrome. You bet I have an opinion. I'm just trying to limit myself to areas where I feel I'm on somewhat solid ground.

Which brings me to my subject for post number 128: Blogs as a form of Family History. For several years now I have been an amateur genealogist. I've gotten good at it, but my amateur status remains secure. The wonderful thing about family history (as opposed to "pure" genealogical research) is that you can record your family's history in any number of ways today.

Twenty.... um,... lessee, eight from four is... ok, twenty six years ago (nearly twenty seven now!) I left home to serve a mission for the Church. Part of the ritual in those days was something called the "Missionary Farewell," which basically served as an excuse for family and close friends of the departee to roast him in front of three hundred people. The missionary would then get, oh, about two minutes to stammer a brief testimony and sneak out the side door and into oblivion. At least, that's how we wanted to leave once our loved ones got through telling every embarrassing moment of our young lives. You have no idea how hard we struggled deciding whether some members of the family should even be allowed to approach the pulpit.

Anyway, Grandma got the family together one day, not long after I'd left, to make a tape recording of everyone wishing me a good mission and telling me they missed me (except for the previously mentioned family member who, if memory serves, said something about having taken over my room and good luck getting it back, bwahahahahaha!). The second side of the tape carries portions of my Farewell. About every five years now I come across this tape and just have to pop it in the tape player.

This is family history.

For one thing, three of the people who appear on this tape are no longer with us. Grandma and Grandpa died in the late eighties, and my Dad passed away in 2000. For another, hearing everyone's voices from that many years back is just neat. A time capsule, if you will, of sounds that my children and grandchildren will enjoy listening to many years from now.

My wife is a scrapbooker, and we have one entire room of the house dedicated to her enterprises. Every scrapbook she creates is, itself, another version of family history, replete with photos that are well-preserved and protected, plus journaled thoughts throughout to serve as a living record of our family's activities.

This blog? Just another way to preserve Daddy's thoughts for future generations. Especially when Mrs. Woody goes to the trouble to print them out, index them, bind them, and have them available for anyone to read through, even if/when Blogspot goes down for the final digital count.

Please believe me when I say that I am not conceited enough to believe that this blog will have a lasting impact on anyone outside my immediate circle of influence. But for those who care, I do this out of love.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Renouncing Christmas

It's not that the mainstream media types have won the battle. Far from it. However, if any day of the year could possibly make me renounce Christmas, it's the night before we travel up to visit family for the holiday.

I have a physics problem, and I'm certain some few of you Dads out there are familiar with it. I have a Saturn. I'm not complaining; it's been a terrific car for our small family, and the miles I've put on it have been hard-won. Still, it's a Saturn, and the trunk is - how shall I put this? - a tad larger than Michael Moore's hat size. Not much larger, but you get the picture. Here's the physics problem: How to stuff approximately 159,000 cubic yards of gifts and luggage into a roughly 5 cubic foot trunk.

Now, for those pinko-athiest weirdos out there who don't believe in miracles, let me assure you: I face this problem every Christmas. Every December 23, I stand in my living room, survey the presents and luggage that my sweet Mrs. Woody absolutely insists must be transported to Ventura County, and pronounce in my most authoritative voice that it cannot be done! Then my sweet, lovely, and (did I mention?) extremely patient Mrs. Woody smiles her lovely smile at me, and I melt and mumble something about making it work somehow, even though I know in my heart of hearts that it simply cannot be done!

Then I begin the task of working this 3-D puzzle that is our Christmas cargo, and, lo! it all fits! Miracle, indeed!

So, let me assure you that even though I am this close to renouncing Christmas for the rest of my natural life, I am also still hopeful that the Miracle will occur right on schedule tomorrow morning when I begin actually putting all this stuff in my tiny Saturn trunk that was actually designed for Little Old Ladies from Pasadena who only drive it to the store every fifth Saturday and buy, maybe, two bags of groceries, because they're afraid they'll have to put the milk and eggs in the passenger seat, for Pete's sake, and their insurance probably doesn't cover anything like smeared egg yolk on a passenger seat, which would also attract insects because this is, after all, Southern California where it never dips below 63 degrees in the dead of winter, and her silly husband wanted to retire to Minnesota, of all the forsaken places to retire, where he'd have to make her shovel snow out of the drive because you can't afford even to pay some snotty-nosed kid five lousy bucks when you're living on a fixed income, even with Social "Security," which is a joke because those danged politicians in Washington keep spending the money on "fact-finding" trips to Bangladesh, which reminds me that...

Oh. Sorry. Got a bit carried away.

Anyway, I have little doubt that come tomorrow morning I will once again defy the laws of physics and turn my Saturn trunk into a sort of black hole. Just as dense but less likely to allow light to escape.

Which also means, by the way, that unless I get some time on my Mom's computer while we're there, I won't be blogging for a few days.

Merry Christmas!

UPDATE: I failed to mention that the Miracle works both ways. We loaded the car up this morning during a lull in our rare winter storm in order to make the trek home. To my astonishment (like this hasn't happened every Christmas...) I discovered that we had even more stuff going home than we did coming here! Still, the Miracle was with us, and I only had to put two things in the back seat with the girls.

Can't wait for next year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


'Twould seem this movement is actually growing legs. Conservative students are fighting more than ever for what they see as "academic freedom." Or, what liberal educators see as a frightening trend toward not being able to indoctrinate impressionable minds any which way they please.

Cam, seems like the waters are clearing just a bit for your impending dive. Word, Bro.

Marijuana - The Board Game

Via Dave Barry's blog comes this corker, just in time for the holidays.

The game, in theory, shows the dangers inherent in running a marijuana farm in the Great North. Apparently the brainchild of a reformed pot farmer, it runs players through all the excitement of raids, having property confiscated and crops destroyed, all from the safety of your living room.

Still, as Cpl. Scott Rintoul of the RCMP Drug Awareness Squad (Note to Mom: It'd be nice if this Rintoul was related, eh? Need to check to see if any of our northern Rintouls came from or migrated farther north!) points out: "It's not a game." He expresses concern that this game does nothing to point out the dangers to the "victims of organized crime."


Well, here's one game I don't feel any particular need to support. Still, at nearly $40 a pop, I'm pretty sure a certain reformed pot farmer won't be missing his former cash crop too badly this Christmas.

Give me a few years and I'll be playing a game of my own devising with my girls. I call it "Marijuana - Killer Weed." I'm sure liberals will find it quite as funny as "Reefer Madness."

I'm equally certain my girls won't.

The Curse of Love at Home

Wrote the poet, "There is beauty all around When there's love at home;" (Hymns, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, No. 294)

This is a favorite hymn of the LDS Church, and I grew up singing it at the top of my not inconsiderable lungs through most of my childhood (and beyond). With my little girls, it's become a favorite song for our evening prayer time. Until just before Christmas, it was easily one of the most requested songs every night. It's a beautiful hymn with a wonderful message, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who wishes to bring a sense of peace into their homes.

Except for the curse.

There is a wonderful legend in the classical music world. This version uses Mendelssohn, but I've also heard versions with Beethoven and Liszt (credit SermonWarehouse):

The great composer, Felix Mendelssohn, had a bad habit of being late for appointments. One reason for this is that he liked to sleep late. Consequently, there were times when his students came to his home for a morning lesson and Mendelssohn would still be in bed. On one occasion, a student grew tired of waiting and figured out a way to get the master downstairs in a hurry. He went to the piano and struck an unresolved chord. He knew that if there was anything that could bring that man to attention it was an unresolved chord. The story ends, of course, with Mendelssohn springing out of his bed and rushing down to the piano to resolve the chord for the student.

I use this story to illustrate how music - any music - badly or incompletely performed can be painful to a discerning ear. My mother understood this principle all too well in my childhood, and used it to great advantage.

As with most families, we siblings squabbled a great deal. From the absolute petty to the major issues, we bickered. With four, and, later, five youngsters possessed of tremendous lung capacity, Mom was constantly looking for creative ways to get our collective attention. It wasn't easy. Then one day - I can remember neither the conflict nor the participants - our young ears were assaulted with a ghastly noise. Mom, singing as off-key and as loudly as she could muster, pelted the house with a sound that can only be compared to a recital given by drunken Shriners.

The song? "Love at Home," of course. "LOOOOOOOOVE AAAAAAAAAAAT HOOOOOOOOOOOME!" repeated as many times as necessary to stun us into submission. It generally worked. No matter what the conflict, the presence of a common enemy helped us to cease arguing, clap our hands over our ears and plead with our sainted mother for our auditory lives.

The curse, of course, is that I now do this to my own children. My lungs happen to be even better than Mom's, and I can get considerably more volume than she did. Furthermore, my sweet girls have a Mommy who has trained their ears to listen to things with the volume down, so that when Daddy is in full voice, he often hears, "Daddy! Could you sing quieter?" (We're still working on "more quietly" versus "quieter," but why split hairs for this story?)

Lately, with the girls at 7 and 5, the bickering has increased a bit. Normally my girls play very sweetly together, as long as the older one is getting her way. Occasionally, however, as 5 year olds are wont to do, the younger one decides she wants to do something else for awhile, and the bickering begins. Daddy then draws a nice, well-supported breath, and bellows, "LOOOOOOOOVE AAAAAAAAAAAT HOOOOOOOOOOOME!" I generally only have to sing that phrase twice, before the girls are giggling helplessly on the floor with hands over ears, pleading:

"Do that again, Daddy! Pleeeeeeze?"

Some day I'll write about curses that backfire.

UPDATE: Cameron relives the curse. As he points out, "at least Mom never had to resort to whuppin' us upside da head."

Not that we didn't deserve it...

Monday, December 20, 2004

Republicrat Arnie

USA Today (via Drudge) carries this little tidbit about the Governator prodding the GOP for leftist votes.

It would be relatively easy at this point to take another cheap shot at Arnie's ever-progressing "Kennedy Syndrome," since his marriage into the Royal Family has apparently addled his Stero-Austrian sensibilities. Heck, I've done it before. Unfortunately, his statements to a German newspaper are even more troubling than his left-center leanings.

The telling quote:

"I would like the Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left and place more weight on the center," he was quoted as saying. "This would immediately give the party 5% more votes without it losing anything elsewhere."

So it comes to this. Politics reduced to mere bookkeeping.

I am not naive enough to believe that it's never been about how many votes you get. This is what keeps power brokers in power, after all. Politicians we happen to support don't get there without votes; of this there is no question.

I had hoped, however, that this last election would have made something clear, even to these dull-witted politicos. The campaigns of the two major parties were marked by extreme polarization - more so than we've seen in many years. The issues ranged from personalities ("I'm voting for Kerry because I hate Bush") through terrorism and down to "values." On each point there were, truly, very few middle-roaders. The middle-roaders can, perhaps, be compared to Nader's campaign. Enough to be considered "significant," but not nearly enough to swing the results of the election.

With that knowledge, and considering the fact that the Republicans did better than most analysts had predicted this election year, it seems inconceivable that the Governator would ask the party to set aside its moral backbone in order to gain another 5%.

And yet, it's not really inconceivable.

This is Arnie, the Hollywood power broker, speaking. This is a man who made his fortune because he became a commodity, and then enlarged it by being a shrewd financier. He married into what is arguably one of the most powerful and wealthy families in the United States. He parlayed the woes of a very unpopular governor into a stunning victory for the GOP, and has even been mentioned as impetus for changing that dratted ol' Constitution so his power base can propel him into the White House.

Of course he wants another 5%.

Arnie the Hollywood Power Broker© craves popularity. He will - and you can quote me here - begin playing the "diversity" card any day now. "We must reach out," he will say, "to those who feel that the GOP is an exclusive club." He will preach tolerance of gay rights, and even the worman's "right to choose," because it will attract voters from the left side of the spectrum and give him that extra 5% he craves.

The problem, of course, is that Arnie fails to do the math.

Whether or not you believe, as some party faithful do, that the GOP gained any kind of mandate in this last election, it cannot be disputed that we won by a very narrow margin. Narrow enough for politicos like Arnie to be wistfully gazing at that 5% vote margin.


Open the floodgates by asking us to set aside our moral convictions, Arnie, and you instantly lose a much larger number than the 5% you might otherwise gain. Don't forget that a very large portion of your current "power block" are unabashedly right-winged conservatives, and we will not hesitate for an instant to turn your plea for "diversity" into a political nightmare. Tolerance is fine as far as it goes, but I refuse to turn my back on the principles that have become my own "power base" - the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So here's the deal, Arnie. If you really want that 5%, do the honorable thing. Change parties and declare yourself to be a "conservative Democrat." At the moment, I think the only thing lacking is an actual change in your registration. You'll find the paperwork online, I believe, at the web site for the Secretary of State.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

MSM's PC Christmas

Hugh Hewitt asks for responses to a Newsweek article that discusses the birth of Jesus and attempts to infer historical accuracy from the biblical accounts. The unfortunate truth is that no one in mainstream media is qualified to write such a piece because they lack the critical ingredient - faith - required to write with any authority. Those who have the faith are merely referred to as sources; another data point from which to write their scholarly theses.

The whole frustration we (the Christian base of believers) have with such articles is that any fool can do that kind of research and come up with the same or similar conclusions. It's very similar to those documentaries that promise to tackle a tough historical mystery, only to end with "it all depends on your perspective." I hate those documentaries, and articles of this nature leave a similar taste in my mouth.

The historical truth that these authors seek is, unfortunately, clouded by history itself. Primary source material is thin. There are precious few libraries of documents written in the meridian of time. Archaeological data is inferred from many sources, but relatively few authoritative writings directly from the horses' mouths, as it were. Those that exist are often suspect in their accuracy, and tended to be written from heavily biased perspectives. A Roman historian, for example, would tend to write so that whatever Ceasar they served came out smelling like roses, while other races or nations become either buffoons or fierce warriors (depending on who needed to be impressed).

The good news (so to speak) is that, for Christians, authoritative sources tend to come from within far more than from without. Even within the Church, writers are prolific and there are scholars plenty. But true faith and knowledge come from sources that no media story could ever articulate. Few have tried; all have failed.

Having given the Newsweek article a cursory reading, I can readily see that the author did a lot of research. But all of it is meaningless to the spiritually inclined. Oh, it makes interesting reading. But his arguments are not compelling to those who are comfortable in their faith. He might sway those few who are struggling with their faith to a greater degree, but by and large those fights were lost long before reading such a story. For the rest, we have faith in the writings of the prophets and the feelings we receive from the Holy Spirit.

A powerful combination with which no journalist - with or without a Pulitzer prize - can ever hope to compete.

UPDATE: I guess I've been blogging long enough now that I can actually link to myself. Refer to this post to see just how out of touch with spiritual reality even some major religions can become. Truly frightening stuff.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Non-Rant Day Declared!

I've been on a somewhat short fuse the last few days, and I need a little soul-cleansing action today. I'm not honestly sure where the funk came from, but I'm hoping to dispel it. Could just be a combination of too little sleep coupled with too much holiday busy-ness, augmented by a glut of outrageous news items during what should be a festive time of year. Or, perhaps, I'm feeling hormonal all of a sudden.

Anyway, this time of year always presents a bit of a conundrum for me. I have been a choir boy since long before my high school days. In those days when choir directors could still get away with calling them Christmas concerts, Christmas was my favorite season for singing. There were two primary influences that helped me appreciate the beauty of Christmas music in my younger years. First and foremost were my parents. Both incredibly gifted musicians who instilled in their offspring a love of beautiful music. By merely opening my ears I was introduced to an ever-widening spectrum of inspiring songs, carols and anthems that went way beyond Rudolph, Frosty, or St. Nick. Beyond even Joys to the World, Midnights Clear, Towns of Bethlehem, or interminable iterations of Hallelujah.

My second best influence for music which still can send me into raptures unspoken was, interestingly enough, my agnostic, Jewish, and very gay high school choir director. He it was who first trained my voice enough to begin to express this wonderful music without sounding like a donkey with adenoid trouble.

The conundrum is how a season that inspires such beautiful sounds can send me into near-complete physical and emotional breakdowns because I'm so busy singing that I can't seem to get any rest.

I swore this year would be different.

I conducted what I had hoped would be my last Christmas concerts last year after having done so on and off for decades. Conducting is an even bigger energy consumer than singing and is, for me, more emotionally draining as well. As I looked ahead to this Christmas, I envisioned attending one or more concerts just to listen and appreciate, then go home. Oh, I figured Mom would hit me up for her concert this year. Mom's concerts are always fun and never over-taxing. But that would be it, and I could enjoy the rest of this glorious season.

About a month ago I received an invitation to be the tenor soloist for our community's first ever Messiah Sing-Along, an event held in (of all places!) the Nixon Library. Then another invitation to sing in a special devotional to be held in the Los Angeles Temple. Then Mom's standing invitation, and, of course, our own Ward choir which sings once for the Ward, and again for our entire Stake in a special fireside.

The bottom line here is that I will have sung every weekend this season since Thanksgiving. I lost the battle to stay healthy in between concerts. I came down with a particularly nasty head cold immediately following the Messiah performance. The good news is that it never hit my throat. Thank goodness for Zicam. I recovered just in time to do Mom's concert. The bad new is that I'm still sniffling, and I have two more weekends' worth of singing to go.

Really, this isn't a rant. I could just as easily have said, "No." But I didn't. I have a disease.

In any case, may I recommend something to anyone who would like to break out of the same-old Christmas music blahs this season?

I first became acquainted with the music of the Dale Warland Singers by a happy accident. Back in the early 80's I happened upon two of their Christmas recordings at a local Gemco (any locals still remember Gemco??). They were in the novelty section, and I think I paid, what, $5.00 each. I had looked at the playlists and saw a couple of things that I normally didn't see on Christmas recordings that featured Slim Whitman and Perry Como. When I took them home and played them, I immediately recognized a choral group to rival the best that Robert Shaw or Roger Wagner had ever put together. Near flawless execution, wonderful tonality, and boundless energy are the hallmarks of the Warland Singers.

The only drawback for me is Warland's devotion to modern composers, which means that you get one or two pieces on any given recording that would make cats willingly jump in the nearest lake. Otherwise, I can't recommend them enough.

Merry Christmas, and, assuming I survive the next two weekends, a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Free Enterprise is an Oxymoron

Let me just state for the record that I support the principles of free enterprise. In my book, the less Government interference in commerce, the better. I firmly believe in the right of any business to make money hand-over-fist so long as the market is willing to shovel the money into their coffers. Long live Capitalism!

Now, having said that, let me belly-ache about profiteering, money-grubbing, greed-swilling corporate capitalist pigs. If I may.

Two examples will suffice to support my rant today.

First up (I'm changing the names to protect the innocent - me - from said greed-swilling corporate pig lawsuits) is a company known as OldDeadRelatives-dot-com. Some enterprising person or persons thought there was money to be made in the world of genealogy as more and more information became available publicly via the Internet (a.k.a. Al Gore). The idea is to buy up the digital rights to countless books and other resources, then charge through the nose for researchers to be able to use those resources from the comfort of their living rooms. Terrific idea. I myself have been a willing subscriber.

There are a few problems, however. First of all, they keep changing their pricing policies. Your subscription will change, sometimes twice in a year, to include less information for the same price. They then re-bundle the data and attach a price to it. The end result is that a subscription that gave me pretty much everything I really needed last year for around $170 will now cost me nearly $300 if I buy every package where they've spread those resources.

I won't even get into the horror stories of trying to cancel your subscription. I figure the cheapest way is to let my credit card lapse and never renew it. Once they figure out they can't get my money, they'll cancel my account. It's no use trying to talk to their so-called customer service reps. These are probably (based on my trained ear) BYU co-eds who have no idea how the company operates and wouldn't even know who to talk to about the fact that the ONE CENSUS IMAGE I'VE NEEDED FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS STILL HASN'T BEEN REPAIRED. I always say that in capital letters when I talk to them, and I keep getting the same perky "have a nice day!" in response.

My second example occurred just this morning. Mrs. Woody and I are dedicated homeschoolers. That is to say, Mrs. Woody is a dedicated homeschooler and I am the dedicated support and all-around rah-rah Daddy. In any case, Mrs. Woody has spent a lot of time and energy in developing a curriculum (being a teacher by training, in her case). She is constantly on the lookout for materials and programs that will help her teach our two little sponges.

For reading, she settled on a nationally recognized phonics program called something like (remembering my fear of lawsuits a few paragraphs back) Addicted to Small Syllables. We bought the full package a couple of years ago, and got Daughter Number One started on it in earnest at the beginning of the last school year. Daughter Number Two got her start this school year, and both girls have become reading whizzes, without having even finished the program yet. Number One has even read (age seven, first grade remember!) the first book of the Harry Potter series.

We have been very satisfied with the program. So what's my beef?

When we got the program, we realized that we would need an additional set of workbooks and posters so that we could use the basic program for both girls, and each could have their own progress charts and so forth. After the materials were delivered, we realized that something was missing. Mrs. Woody called the company, spoke to a very friendly person, and the item was shipped post haste.

Now, a year later, we realized that one of the posters for Number 2 was missing. Mrs. Woody called them this morning to order one, only to learn that now it (a barely more than letter-sized progress chart) would cost us $9.95. Not including shipping! Seems that because we're no longer considered "new" customers they can no longer just ship us whatever we may lack without charging us for the privilege. Mrs. Woody pointed out that they receive quite a lot of free advertising from us in the form of recommendations to friends and family about the program and how successful it's been for us. Well, they say, we appreciate that, but we're really doing you a favor by even letting you order just the one poster. Had you called only a week ago, we would have had to charge you for a complete set of workbooks and posters at $49.95!

No thanks, and have a very Merry Christmas (emphasis by Mrs. Woody). You can bet we will not be advertising for your company any longer. Terrific product, lousy customer service will be our advice from this point forward.

Yet another example (or two) of corporations being so beholden to their stockholders' bottom lines that they cannot justify offering good old-fashioned customer service anymore.

Sad. Very sad.

No Disrespect Intended

Days like this one are hard for me. I know that there are probably millions of people today who are remembering John Lennon. They remember (in no particular order) his music, his writings, his interviews, the "British Invasion," Yoko Ono, the Beatles breaking up, and, of course, his senseless death at the hands of a whacked out fan.

Me? I'm trying just as hard not to have to think about any of that.

It really has nothing to do with my so-called musical eliteism. Yes, I have interests that do not range far afield from my classical roots. However, I grew up during the sixties and seventies, and Lennon's influence was everywhere. One could only ignore it to a point. The man himself I was able to ignore completely, and I've never really regretted it. I just can't see what all the fuss was about.

Visionary. Yeah, well, so was Lincoln, but I don't hear people get all choked up about his getting blown away in Ford's Theatre in 1865. Maybe in another hundred years, they'll stop getting choked up about Lennon, too.

Talented. Depends on taste, really. He wrote stuff that apparently resonated with a large portion of youth during a turbulent period in history. Some of them still have a few surviving brain cells after Lennon and his cronies pointed the way to chemical-induced enlightenment. I much prefer losing my brain cells the natural way.

Trailblazer. Um, really, if you read his interviews (I have, believe it or not. It was the only book available on a cold morning when I needed some mental stimulation. Call it "historical research.") you'll find that everything he did initially was an accident of circumstance, mixed with a healthy dose of rebellion from whatever his limited understanding defined as "the establishment." Once he became an icon, he became a trailblazer because he knew people would follow him. Didn't he once proclaim himself to be more relevant than Christ? No, John Muir was a trailblazer. Lennon was more of a slash-and-burn kind of guy.

I guess I have no soul. That's probably the bottom line here. I've never been able to make golden calves out of pop icons, and that's where I went wrong in life. I enjoy the music in limited doses, but I just don't see what the big deal is when it comes to the artists. Look at Streisand, for pete's sake. No, scratch that. Don't. I don't have enough liability insurance.

Of course, any sympathy I might have had for Lennon died when he did, leaving us Yoko Ono to keep reminding us what a god Lennon was. For that, I will never forgive him.

Let it be? Yeah, right.

UPDATE: I knew I wouldn't be the only one who couldn't care less about this particular anniversary.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

On the First Day of Christmas... true love made a list.

This list will save our sanity, if it doesn't kill us first.

Mrs. Woody loves lists. She makes lists for just about every occasion, including (or especially) our vacations. On those occasions when the list is absent, we invariably forget something. Take, for example, last weekend. I mentioned previously that my daughter had her fifth birthday last week. I also mentioned that our kids get to celebrate birthdays multiple times since we always have our own little private celebration, then head off to visit extended family for at least one more celebration. Two cakes, two sets of presents. You get the idea.

The trip was planned as an overnighter. On Friday we'd celebrate our niece's birthday, then celebrate our daughter's birthday the next day. Then off to the other Grandma's house for a brief visit (with computer doctoring) and singing in her concert Saturday night. No big deal.

Except... we forgot the presents. That's right. A trip to celebrate two birthdays and we forgot the presents. Can you imagine if I pull that stunt on Christmas? (Um, note to Mrs. Woody: Add to list!)

Anyway, Mrs. Woody didn't make her list, and I forgot to grab the presents. There were other things, of course, but how can you forget presents when travelling, what, umpteen kazillion miles to visit family for the express purpose of celebrating not one, but two birthdays?!

So, based on that fiasco, Mrs. Woody made a Christmas Readiness Checklist (CRC). Then she fainted. Or, at least, she would have if doing so wouldn't have caused a concussion from hitting her head on the corner of the computer desk.

As I looked at the list, I realized that, based on her schedule, we were already behind schedule to a list she had just made. No wonder she was stressed! Since a goodly portion of those things listed "Daddy" as the responsible party, I began to feel a tad stressful myself. So, last night, whilst enjoying our perennial favorite "White Christmas" video, I put up the tree. Complete with lights.

The list really isn't as bad as it may sound. Looking ahead, I figure I can make up some ground on Friday. The only things on the list are returning library books, and cooking dinner for the missionaries. Gotta cook anyway, and returning books is a no-brainer. Mrs. Woody has to do a school project with the girls, but she'd probably have to do one of those anyway, too. Saturday's only list item is our Ward Christmas Party that evening, so I see wiggle room and a chance to catch up.

Then we'd better not fall any further behind.

The list wouldn't like that.

Monday, December 06, 2004

BlogSurf, U.S.A.

As one who was once termed "co-dependent," I suppose it can be dangerous to blogsurf on days when my biorhythm is on a triple low (for the record, emotionally I just started an up-swing, but physically and intellectually I bottom out in a couple of days). I sometimes will read things that make me want to open discussions with the authors and see if I can't talk them through the tough times.

Having kids, I should know better.

Most parents know: You can talk all you wanna, but if they don't want to listen, you may as well go work on your Pulitzer Prize entries.

On the other hand, some issues always tug at me no matter how thick I think my veneer is on a particular day. Take, for example, people who don't have children but want them desperately. This is an issue I can still relate to, because it really wasn't all that long ago that I myself was in that boat.

Twenty years ago I found myself wondering when the children would come. Not "if," mind you, but "when." After a few years, I began to wonder "if." There had been many a tearful evening with my spouse (now my ex) wondering what we were doing wrong, or what we had done that warranted being childless. There were fertility specialists and a rash of humiliating tests. Nothing worked.

Then - quite suddenly, it seemed - there were kids everywhere. We adopted our first child. Then we became foster parents. Three more children were added to the house and one of those we adopted. Now, a few years later still and remarried, I've become a "natural" parent.

Let me just state here that, realistically, there is no difference between being an adoptive parent and being a natural parent. My first child was adopted at birth. My second came to us as a thirteen year old hormone storm. Numbers three and four came the "old fashioned" way. As a Dad, I stressed myself through each one, regardless of whether there was even a pregnancy that I was somehow involved with. Even adopting our teenager was no walk in the park. Seems the State of California doesn't really believe that teenagers need parents (as far as the foster system is concerned, at any rate) and we were ultimately forced to do an adult adoption.

This roller coaster never stops to let passengers off.

I have sat in waiting rooms and judges' chambers. I have yet to see an actual delivery because my two natural births decided to make their entrances the hard way. Now I spend my days waiting to see how things will turn out for my kids. I try to anticipate their questions so I can have some sort of coherent answer for them. Even my eldest, who is married with a family of her own, manages still to keep Dad on his toes. She doesn't do it on purpose, of course. It's just a parent thing. I mean, I'm 46 and I know my Mom still loses sleep on my account every once in awhile.

Advice? Plenty. But to keep it brief, there needs to be a spiritual base to your life in order to keep things in perspective. For example, have you ever paused to wonder just where that desire and longing for children comes from? It's a gift from heaven. Knowing that, however, can either be a blessing or a curse if we don't understand how families fit in the eternal scheme of things.

I was petrified of adoption because of all the horror stories I'd ever heard about things that adoptive parents had gone through. Everything from birth mothers changing their minds at the last minute, to children wanting to find their birth parents before they were emotionally ready. But once the decision to adopt was made, it became a natural thing for me to place my faith in God and let the process run its course. I will always be grateful that I was able to do that.

To those who want but don't yet have I can only say: Keep going. Stay right with God and you will be taken care of. If all other doors have been slammed in your face then maybe, just maybe, your chance for a family will come in a life beyond this one. I know I'm not offering much, but it's all I have.

Best of luck.

P.S. If you're really desperate, I can loan you my teenage son. I'll ship him to you in a box with a feeding slot. If he gets uppity, you have my permission to close the feeding slot. No return postage, I'm afraid.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Our baby turned 5 today.

5, at least from a parent's perspective, is a landmark age. Potty training: done (nearly... gotta tackle those yucky ones yet). Booster seat instead of infant seat: done. Realization that being 5 means certain responsibilities: done.

I call her "Tiny." I really shouldn't, but she does inherit the smaller end of our gene pool, and we are not giants. Unfortunately, the last child of any family will always be the "baby," and our baby is not altogether eager to leave that era behind. She still needs snuggle breaks every afternoon with Mommy. She still wants people to read to her, even though she's reading at about a 1st grade plus level already. Her imagination is limited only by her relative lack of experience, but she's quickly catching up with her older sister.

Mommy, of course, has hit that stage where "my baby is growing up!" accompanied by a wistful look. I have not interpreted this look - nor has my wife ever implied - to mean that she wishes she had another baby in the house. Quite the contrary. We've both reached that age where we will enjoy watching the girls grow into each stage of their lives. Except, probably, for that stage where Daddy begins answering the door while polishing the ol' .45. But I fully expect Mommy to get more of those wistful looks in the ensuing years. Shucks, I'm 46 and my Mommy still gets 'em.

Tonight we celebrated by taking the girls to Ye House of Giant Mouse and Cheese, the venerable temple of cheesy entertainment (literally!), as well as pizza. We'd been threaten promising to take them there for weeks to celebrate their reading accomplishments in school, and the little one's birthday became the catalyst. So, off we went to visit the Rat and spend some of the tokens we've been hoarding since our last visit. The girls had a blast. Mom and Dad enjoyed watching them have a blast.

With both sides of our family living in a relatively near-by county, it often happens that birthdays in our family get celebrated multiple times. This will be no exception. Tomorrow we wend our merry way to Ventura County to celebrate BDay Number 5 once again, as well as to participate in Grandma's annual Christmas Concert at her church. Since most of her kids and in-law kids sing, we generally all get to participate, give or take having to watch grandkids.

In the meantime, we get to enjoy all the benefits of a child turning 5. This is about the age where they begin to understand that they have wills of their own that they can assert. Ah, yes. Now I remember. 5 year olds become more fussy about what they will or will not eat. They don't like being told they have to "be patient" about anything. In fact, didn't I threaten - just the other day - to play the boarding school card?

No, sir. No more babies in this house...

Irresponsible Rumor Department

Anyone who works in aerospace knows the value of a well-placed irresponsible rumor. The better ones become self-fulfilling prophecies if timed correctly. Here's my attempt at a new political one:

Cap'n Ed at Captain's Quarters offers an interesting juxtaposition of posts. First, read his post regarding use of cannabis being linked to increased psychosis.

Then, directly above it, read this post regarding the recent and increasingly bizarre antics of Minnesota's Finest.

Whattaya get? A pot-smoking Senator who has become seriously delusional. I figure he'll have the Jesse Ventura grassroots vote all sewed up in 2006.

Of course, this time of year he could just be experiencing early brain-freeze, but my rumor's more fun.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Life By Committee

By now, only a sheltered few will not have heard about the "Groningen Protocol" created by a hospital in Holland. The protocol calls for an independent board that will examine cases where terminally ill patients with "no free will" may be euthanized. This frightens me.

Let me explain. I have mixed feelings about euthanasia. I have been acquainted with parents who had children born with terminal complications. In one case, the child had been born prematurely due to multiple problems in utero. The baby, a little girl, was born with a cleft palate, severe spina bifida, and nothing more than a brain stem, really. There was no hope for any length of life, and the doctors argued against life-saving procedures - itself a form of euthanasia. The father was a friend and also my counselor in my priesthood quorum at church. A good man who, with his equally good wife, faced a difficult decision with strength and courage. In the end there really was no question. They agreed not to use any form of life support, and the baby died within a week of her birth. They named her, placed her one photo on their wall of family pictures, and eagerly look forward to the day when they will be reunited with her in eternity.

This was a decision not reached lightly. There were consultations with family, including grandparents, their Bishop, the medical staff of two hospitals, and, of course, each other. They sought guidance through prayer and felt strongly prompted to make the ultimate decision. It was an intensely private process.

How disturbing, then, to hear of a nation that has taken on the role of ecclesiastical leaders, family, and medical experts to decide the fate of those who cannot decide for themselves. Is it possible that they might supplant the natural authority of parents on behalf of those deemed "unworthy" to live? Yes, in this case, it is.

Any time a committee takes up a matter, no matter the degree of significance, their deliberations become a matter of public record and carry with them a certain overriding authority. Whether or not it is intended, the effect will be the same. "We're sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, religious considerations aside, we cannot allow this baby to live in this condition. He will be euthanized within the hour."

Here in the Land of the Free (So Far) we still face the problem of such things as assisted suicide. Again, not a decision to be taken lightly. On the one hand, it might seem more merciful to prematurely end the suffering of a soul who suffers from a terminal illness. On the other hand, our moral compass would seem to point out that suffering is a part of this life that carries with it experience for the sufferer, and lessons of courage and faith to all who are connected with that sufferer.

The question of who decides whether someone lives or dies is not altogether different from the question of whether to create a life merely to save another one. I'm speaking here of embryonic stem cell research and all the ethical and moral questions connected with it. How can we possibly justify supplanting the authority of God in these questions?

The Dutch, as a sovereign people, will not appreciate interference from the outside, any more than we appreciate world opinion regarding our activities in Iraq and elsewhere. But my brother makes the case: It's one thing to declare war against an armed enemy, and another to declare invalid the life of any human merely because they can't speak for themselves.

I pray that we in this country will never allow life to be decided by committee. Except where a criminal's life is demanded in justice for the shedding of innocent blood. We call that kind of committee a jury. A jury of peers.

Note the difference.

UPDATE: Way Off Bass posts his discovery of ancient Dutch scripture fragments. Must read.

Also, aside from Hewitt, why are the lawyers in the 'Sphere not commenting on this? Fear of the moral/ethical implications? Tsk, tsk.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

"But, that sounds like..."

I stopped being interested in Princess Diana not very long after her failed marriage to Prince Charles the Dysfunctional and she had made, what, her thirty-fifth cover of People magazine. Or was it Life? Oh, who cares?

I confess that I happen to be one of those souls who can't wait until enough of the Princess Di generation are either dead or senile so we won't have to hear anymore about her tragic life. Really. Enough is enough. The woman is dead. It doesn't really matter why or how or who. The Royals live at such an altitude that their veneer is titanium-tough.

That's why the latest revelations from Diana herself just don't do anything for me. Except...

It all sounded somehow familiar.

Diana said five years into their marriage she suspected Charles had gone back to Camilla. "I remember saying to my husband ... 'Why is this lady around?' And he said, 'Well, I refuse to be the only Prince of Wales who never had a mistress."'

Then it dawned on me.

Years ago, as I recall, there was a similar fascination in our own "royal" family, the Kennedys. Rumors had long been rampant of the famous Kennedy libido, and stories of Marilyn Monroe's trysts with the President had been pretty well documented. One piece I'd read (no idea where... too long ago now) showed that infidelity has long been the hallmark of the Kennedy men. A birthright, if you will. Such peccadillos were not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Hearing Diana's travails with her immoral Prince of Wales strikes me as precisely the same behavior I now associate with our own rulers of Camelot.

Want to know the bottom line for why I will never, ever, align myself with the Democratic party? No? Well, because this is my blog, I'm gonna tell you anyway. Even a cursory examination of the Democratic platform for the last several decades shows a pattern of law for convenience. No one, according to party doctrine, should ever have to accept responsibility for any immoral behavior. Period. Come with us, they say, and we will empower you. We will give you everything you want. Need money? We'll tax someone and give it to you. Want an abortion? We'll get tax money for that, too. Tired of hearing about God or his commandments? No problem. We'll remove him from the country, just as soon as we give enough tax money to the ACLU.

On voting day, commentators seemed astonished that so many people made "values" their hot-button that steered their decisions. I, on the other hand, was not the least bit surprised. The country's moral compass has been getting weaker and weaker for many, many years now.

It's about time we pointed it closer to True North again.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Hollywood Christmas Parade, Mortuos Est?

Well, now. Here's a tragedy that's sure to have you crying in your eggnog. The annual Hollywood Christmas Parade has degenerated to the point where it's primary drawing power rests in - I kid you not - SpongeBob SquarePants.

SpongeBob SquarePants??

Before I continue, there are a few things you need to know:

1. I, personally, have not watched the Hollywood Christmas Parade since I was a kid.

2. The Hollywood Christmas Parade, as an institution, could disappear next year for good, and I would not shed tear one.

3. The stars that used to make the Parade watchable are all dead. The last one died earlier this year. There aren't any left.

4. Not one.

Johnny Grant, whom I never got, celebrity-wise, was even hauled out of retirement to try his magic "Save the Hollywood Christmas Parade" act once again. To no avail. In his words:

"I'm not sure we have the caliber stars today that we had back in the era of the golden days of Hollywood. It has changed drastically. Today the young kids are making a lot of money and they hop the charter jet to Miami or the ski slopes or wherever."

This statement pretty much says it all. Caliber is sadly lacking in Hollywood today. In fact, Hollywood itself is nothing but an empty shell of its former self. The stars don't live there anymore, the studios aren't filming there anymore, and the stuff associated with it is pretty much dreck anymore.

Let's take a closer look.

Decades ago, under the old studio system, actors worked under contract to one studio for years at a time. As it happens in sports today, for a star to be "traded" from one studio to another could spell either disaster or victory for that actor's career. Once a star made it to the "A List," celebrity was guaranteed and demanding. Personal appearances were nearly as important to an actor's career as were the movies that catapulted them to stardom in the first place.

Many actors were truly larger than life. A favorite of mine was Jimmy Stewart. An outstanding actor, and a combat veteran, Stewart embodied "every man" better than perhaps anyone else in Hollywood. He was also, as it happened, a genuinely nice person. It was easy for fans to look "up" to Stewart as a celebrity because he exuded the qualities of grace and charm that were expected of him. This is the stuff of legend.

Compare to any number of celebrities today. Those who are famous enough to warrant the attention seem not to want it. Personal appearances are limited to papparazzi slugfests. Many of those who deign to speak in public do so only to further their own political agendas. The money given to them by their fans is used to keep those fans at a distance. Most of them have a hard time deciding which community to support because they live in three or four of them. Not including the one their names are attached to. Hedonism is the hallmark of the modern actor. Accountability is a foreign concept to many of them. They are either nomadic recluses, or in-your-face activists.


Of course, having read biographical works of many legendary Hollywood personalities, it really wasn't all that different back then. Still, the actors were usually able to make their public faces believable enough to sell the image to a starving public. Nowadays, they don't even try.

Rest in peace, Hollywood Christmas Parade. You had your day, and that day has passed. Time to retire the legend and return to the business of making entertainment for those who are still willing to pay for it. We had our fun watching you, but we've long since outgrown you. Or maybe you've outgrown us. In either case, expect no requiem.

We've got better things to do.

UPDATE: This morning's radio news reported that "hundreds of cars" were towed from around the parade route last night. Seems the No Parking signs were posted after the spectators parked. And the whiney spectators are reportedly angry. Now there's a surprise. I'm sure this will generate lots of goodwill for the parade next year. [Must suppress evil chuckle!]

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Going Too Far

Credit Drudge: This article disturbs me on several levels.

Truthfully, there is nothing new about this kind of close-minded bias against even the mention of religion in education. Although not prevalent when I was in high school (mid-70's, if you must know), I first became aware of this bias in the mid-80's when deciding whether to send my son to a public school. Over time it has, of course, gotten worse. While at first trying to at least put on a facade of balance, professional educators have now completely abandoned any such facade and have openly declared war on God in the classroom.

I'm sure, to be completely fair, they are also forbidding mention of Allah, Buddah, Isis, Thor, whatever nature-deity the Pagans are currently worshipping, and Al Franken. Although, in Franken's case, I suspect they use him in discussions regarding "diversity" and "sensitivity."

Now, I strongly defy any educator, with or without initials after his or her name, to justify the teaching of history in any classroom without ever mentioning the religious underpinnings of those who made that history. I'll even give a specific instance. You tell me how you plan to educate our youth about the pilgrims and the Mayflower without ever mentioning the religious ideals that drove them to leave their mother country for an uncharted, largely hostile land. We'll start with just that much.

Anyone who thinks they can do that with any degree of temerity needs to have their PhD revoked. Permanently.

Several years ago, when I was relatively new to the Internet and its multiverse of news lists, chat rooms, and other forms of instant communication, I subscribed to a discussion group that dealt with choral music. Not a few of the subscribers on this list were educators, and music education was a frequent thread. One day, a teacher in the New York City system wrote about some strong-arm tactics that were being employed by a local chapter of (surprise!) the ACLU and, by extension, the school district. She was told to remove certain pieces from a coming concert because their "religious connotations" might "offend certain sensibilities."

As you might expect, the list exploded. "Don't back down!" was the general thread. My contribution was that it is impossible to teach anyone an appreciation of western music (notice I didn't say "country-western" music, which, in my mind, is an oxymoron) without exploring the great corpus of music directly influenced by one church or another. Without the church, much of what we consider "classical" music today would never have been written. Failure to teach serious students of the art form about its religious roots is failing the students. Period. It is also, if I may add, disgraceful conduct on the part of the educators.

The fact is, education administrators live in mortal fear of not being considered "politically correct." Political correctness is a crutch - a device behind which educators and lawyers hide their true ambitions: To make this country completely devoid of religious influences and forward their own humanist agendas. Any educator or lawyer who somehow believes that political correctness is meant only to level the playing field is seriously deluded. Such a thing is not possible. People of faith will never - never - capitulate on this point. God directly assisted in the creation of this nation of, by, and for the people, and we cannot abandon him now to the selfish interests of misguided "experts."

If that makes me a religious extremist, then I plead guilty with pleasure.

To forbid showing students the Declaration of Independence merely because it mentions God is nothing short of treason against the United States of America. May these people never find a home here.

UPDATE: Wizbang wonders in what context the Declaration is being presented. My take: Not the right one. And, by the way guys, it's not just California, either!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

So What?

So Dan Rather resigned today. So what?

Now, I'll grant that I've been just as vocal about ol' Dan needing to be put out to pasture (not, necessarily, like I was per my previous post, but there's always the entertainment value to consider...) as the next guy. Unfortunately, I also happen to agree with those who don't really feel a need to celebrate just now.

Gerard at American Digest points out - correctly - that Dan is just the most visible mask covering a much deeper problem. Dan's resignation is very similar to any ol' CEO of a scandal-plagued corporation. The scandal river runs deep, and many more heads need to roll before anyone will trust them again.

The basic problem remains: Mainstream Media is biased and no one in the industry really wants to admit that this is a problem. One of two things needs to happen before any level of trust can be restored. Either MSM admits their bias and continues doing what they do best, or they admit their bias and take real steps to eliminate bias in their reporting.

My guess? Business as usual. This is the Watergate stonewall-at-any-cost mentality that refuses to admit that the problem even exists. We've already seen ample evidence of this attitude in statements made by MSM executives, anchors (even those who normally despise each other in real life), reporters and correspondents on the ground, and even retired journalists. Those who would dare admit that bias might exist to any degree, however small, are at the fringe of the MSM biosphere, and tend not to warrant any notice. Bloggers live outside the fringe in MSM's estimation, and will continue to be regarded as disease-ridden vermin.

Tactically this is a good thing. This means that while the blogosphere continues to evolve and consolidate their collective talents, the MSM will continue to struggle with protecting their stockholders' interests. They will implement many "fresh" approaches to their reporting, even while failing to address the bias issue in any constructive manner. They will use all manner of corporate-speak blather to fool us into thinking that they've licked this bias thing for good, while continuing to conspire with Democratic operatives in planning the 2008 campaign.

So, Dan can resign, Peter may retire, and Tom could be fired tomorrow. 'Twould make little difference.

'Twould be news, though.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds (The InstaPundit) notes this quote from one of my favorite politicos, Loretta Sanchez (a local Democrat), made to Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

"The media certainly is not in our hands any longer."

Glenn's comment: Indeed.
My comment: Oh, puhleeze. Like this is news.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Frozen Peas

I have come to the conclusion that the invention of frozen peas will forever stand as the last great testament to the genius of man and the generosity of our Creator.

Mrs. Woody was reading today in a magazine - one of those hordes of magazines that deal with Holiday Magic in Your Home in Only Twenty Simple Steps - and found a tip about how to cool a bowl of soup for a child. (Incidentally, do these magazines ever print anything besides tips? Do they ever print honest-to-john articles? I didn't think so, either.) This tip was submitted by a woman who didn't have any ice available to cool the soup. Any parent who has faced this crisis knows what's at stake: Not necessarily the freedom of the western world, but certainly the sanity of the Mommy. What to do? This woman found a bag of frozen peas in her freezer and scooped some into the child's bowl. The soup was cooled sufficiently to be eaten by the child, the peas were thawed to the point of edibility, and the child (presumably) was happy.

Frozen peas: Miracle Vegetable of the 21st Century.

Of course, one cannot base one's thesis entirely on a single datum. I have observed this frigid legume at great length and undertaken several controlled experiments.

Exhibit A is my wife. Mrs. Woody, bless her heart, suffers from arthritis. Her knees are a source of nearly constant discomfort, worse some days than others. On those days when she feels that throbbing, we apply a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a dish towel to the affected area. We always have two bags of "therapeutic" peas available so we can trade off. Or, if both knees hurt, one for each leg. We find that frozen peas tend to stay cold longer than just about every cold pack we've ever tried, so we've been thrilled to employ them. At $1.79 a bag, we're not too worried about busting our budget, either.

Exhibit B is just about any casserole cookbook. Doesn't matter whether it's baked in an oven, or cooked in a crock pot, frozen peas figure heavily in quite a lot of our favorite recipes.

Of course, given both exhibits, you might well ask how we keep "therapeutic" peas from getting confused with "edible" peas. Quite simply, we buy the cheapest peas we can find for therapy. If we're gonna eat 'em, I don't mind paying for 'em.

Through all this, however, I must make a confession: I didn't arrive at Exhibit A all by myself. I had help.

Several years ago, one of my in-laws (you know who you are!) went through a medical procedure that instantly makes guys wince at its very name. In short, this procedure makes guys somewhat less lethal during critical times of a gal's, um, monthly inconvenience, if you catch my drift. At any rate, he raved about the healing power of frozen peas and how much they facilitated his recovery.

When the time came for us to make that most difficult of decisions (Mrs. Woody being somewhat loathe to ask the sacrifice of me) we remembered our in-law's experience and decided to put Woody out to pasture, so to speak.

I won't describe the procedure itself in case any of you gentlemen out there may be considering it yourselves. I will only use a code word to help you understand the experience in as sensitive a manner possible:


Needless to say, the living room couch and I became quite well acquainted immediately following my experience. Mrs. Woody kept a steady supply of frozen peas at the ready, and my nether-regions were kept at a steady 30 degrees Farenheit (or so it felt) for about three days. To say my first day back to work was an adventure in endurance would be an understatement, but the peas had worked their magic. I was at least able to sit upright for my entire shift, although the couch and I got reacquainted immediately upon my return home. Still, about a week after the procedure, you would never have known I'd been through it. I sure as heck would, but I've never regretted doing it.

Frozen peas. Unsung heros of the vegetable kingdom. We need some sort of National Frozen Peas Day declared by the President, and I urge all three of my readers to immediately contact their congressperson and waste their time for the cause.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Interview

The man was nervous. He'd been through many interviews in his life, but this one made him uncomfortable. First of all, he was unaccustomed to waiting for the interviewer. Rather than be met, he'd been shown instead into a stark white room with two well-worn but comfortable looking chairs. No desk. Just the chairs. He shifted in his seat as though itching for this interview to be over.

After some time, the interviewer strode into the room. He commands a presence, the man thought. I'll give him that.

The interviewer strode over to the man and shook his hand warmly, waving him back into his seat. In one hand the interviewer carried an obviously well-worn folder; probably, thought the man, all the salient facts about my life. Talking points for the interview. For some inexplicable reason, this made the man more nervous. What was in that file?

The interviewer gave the man a smile that was reminiscent of the handshake he had offered. The interviewer fixed the man with a searching gaze, making the man shift uncomfortably once again. The interviewer placed the file carefully in his lap and, without opening it, asked a simple question.

"Tell me about yourself," he began.

"Well, there's really not much to tell that you probably haven't already read," the man replied glibly, pointing to the file on the interviewer's lap. "I suspect you already know quite a lot about me."

"True enough," said the interviewer with a slight smile. "Still, I'd really like to hear you talk about yourself for a moment. If you don't mind, that is."

"Of course, of course," returned the man. "I've had this kind of interview before. Where shall I start?" he prompted.

Without even a glance down at the file on his lap, the interviewer gazed intently at the man and said, "Tell me about your family."

This caught the man off guard. "My family? Well, I love my wife, obviously. She's been a great support to me over the years. And I couldn't be more proud of my daughter. She's done well in her life. I value her love and support. Couldn't be what I am without these wonderful women in my life!"

"Yes, yes, they are wonderful," agreed the interviewer. "Very strong willed. Both very capable, as you've said before. What I should have asked was, what have you done for them?"

This interview was taking a turn the man instinctively disliked. Sitting up a little straighter - a trick he'd learned through many interviews - he returned the interviewer's gaze. "I've given them everything they've needed to become their own person. I've always supported their right to become whatever they wanted to become. To make their own decisions and not have to hide from those decisions. I've always respected their right to choose for themselves what they felt was best for them."

The man liked that answer. He'd used it before and was pleased that it came so naturally.

The interviewer nodded and smiled. "Freedom to choose. An admirable law, don't you think? And have they become everything you hoped they would?"

"I believe they have, yes," the man responded. "I'm very proud of them both."

The interviewer seemed to consider this for a moment. The man wondered why it was that the interviewer took no notes. Perhaps everything he'd just said was already in the file and the interviewer was merely confirming old material. Yes, that would be it. Nothing original here. Same old questions.

The interviewer smiled once again and continued. "You certainly have had your own ambitions in life, haven't you? Can you tell me whether you're satisfied with what you've accomplished?"

The man wondered briefly about the source of that smile, but shrugged it off and put on his sincerely modest face that had served him so well in the past. "I feel good to have served my fellow men in so many ways. I've been blessed, really, to have been given the opportunities I've had. I served my country honorably in a conflict I didn't support, then tried to make a difference by serving my state as a U. S. Senator. I believe my record speaks for itself."

Good answer, the man thought to himself. Not too pretentious, but let him know that I was worth something.

The interviewer leaned forward a little in his seat. "Oh I have no doubt you were a skilled politician," he said. "And believe me, your record speaks volumes about your service. And so, if you don't mind, I really have only one other question for you today."

The man was dumbfounded but nodded his head. Only one more question?

The interviewer leaned back in his chair, fixed the man with his piercing gaze and asked, "What did you do for me?"

Completely nonplussed, the man's jaw slackened a bit. "I'm not sure I understand the question," he muttered.

"It's quite simple, really. I placed you on earth to test you, you see. The bargain was that you would be given opportunities to help and serve your fellow man throughout your life. You would be taught eternal truths, and then be expected to live them. In return I would give you your inheritance in my Father's kingdom. So, the question then becomes, what did you do to uphold your end of the bargain?"

So that's it, thought the man. No credit given for service rendered; just accountability as to whether I played by his narrow rules.

"As a senator I always had the best interests of my constituents at heart. I must have done something right, since they saw fit to elect me time after time."

"I'm sure you did what you thought was best," rejoined the interviewer, but his face had taken on a more serious mien. "Still, you were raised with the gospel. What did you do to defend those truths?"

"I felt it best to keep my faith separate from my duty to the country," came the rote response. "I could not allow myself to violate the separation of church and state. That was my duty."

The man was visibly nervous now. This wasn't what he had expected. Then again, he never really had known what to expect in this interview, had he?

The interviewer pressed on. "You were taught everything you needed to know about the sanctity of human life, yet did nothing to preserve the lives of unborn children. Temples of the Spirit that I sent to earth to fulfill their promise. What did you do for them?"

The man sputtered, "I had no right to impose my beliefs on any other person living in my country!" he stammered. "How could I possibly have taken away the right for a woman to choose her own path in life? Or how could I have supported their continued subjugation to men? How could I tell loving partners that they could never experience the joy of marriage simply because of their orientation?"

A sad look appeared on the face of the interviewer. He placed one hand slowly on the file laying on his lap, and raised the other one in supplication to the man sitting across from him. "How? By teaching them the truth, John. By helping those women understand the eternal importance of their positions as wives and mothers. By helping those loving partners understand the true nature of man and his affections. By preaching abstinence and adoption, rather than vice and abortion."

The interviewer took the file in his hand and stood. The interview was clearly over. It had not gone at all well. Before leaving the stunned man, the interviewer turned and gave him one last look.

"I have always taught my people to love, obey and respect their Father in Heaven," he said. "I gave my life to seal that testimony. I had high hopes that you might understand that, John. I'm sorry that you didn't."

The interviewer left the room with a tear in his eye. The man sat for what seemed like an eternity, stunned and disbelieving. Then, after he had pondered everything he had heard in his interview, and everything he had ever learned about the man who had just interviewed him, he bowed his head and uttered one simple word.


© 2004, Gregory S. Wood

Woo Hoo! Stats Climb!

Being a life-long hater of metrics in general, and in business specifically, I must confess to enjoying watching my own stats climb. I'm at an all-time high in the eco-system tonight. I must have looked at the "Flippery Fish" designation ten times before I realized that I'd never been there before. Shucks, I wasn't a Slimey Mollusc for very long.

Thanks to all for links in, and for giving me such wonderful opinions to link out!


UPDATE: Wowzers! I went to bed a few hours ago, and when I awoke, I'd jumped right up to "Crawly Amphibian" without even trying! Boy, if Darwin ever got hold of this...

Matthews' Malapropism

Chris Matthews is at it again. I've seen this numerous places, but I'll tip the hat to Cap'n Ed of Captain's Quarters.

Matthews once again shows his iron grasp of nuance by calling our terrorist enemies "not bad guys, really." Uh, huh. Funny, if unintentionally so.

More interesting to me are the reactions of the right side of the 'sphere. Most comments seem to deride Matthews as having become (if such a thing were possible) more and more unhinged, especially since the election. Possibly true, but I believe the situation to be more prosaic than that.

Matthews really does fancy himself as a shaper of public policy. While this is true of most commentators, Matthews carries such an inflated sense of self that Goodyear airships regularly file flight plan deviations to avoid hitting him after one of his shows. Lest you think I exaggerate, he gets quite a bit of his hot air from none other than kissin' cousin Keith "Never Prouder of You, Chris!" Olbermann.

Personally, I think Matthews only presents a danger for as long as we pay him any attention. Think about it: Higher rated shows can fail to have any compelling message. 60 Minutes tanked their vaunted brand by letting Rather and his brigands loose on the Wednesday Night Pretender. The result is credibility measured in negative integers. Matthews' so-called "Hardball" only becomes such when he's got a guest who sits in opposition to his vaunted opinions. Can't sell the show without the spittle, it seems. Olbermann only appeals to testosterone-based life forms who've found a new religion and followed Keith from the locker-room to the caucus room. Recovering sportscasters make lousy political analysts, just like former defensive tackles do not automatically make great sportscasters.

Ignore the deluded fool, and he'll slip quietly away. Well, not really "quietly," I guess. Probably kicking and screaming about the right-wing zealots who conspired to make him lose market share. But away he'll eventually go. I really suspect most of Matthews' viewers come from those with a morbid curiosity and too much time on their hands. If they're forming opinion based on this dreck, they deserve everything they get (like therapy when Kerry loses, for instance).

No, Matthews reaches one demographic and one only: Hardcore leftists who think animals are more valuable than children and want to make nice with the terrorists.

They are welcome to him.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

California Drivers Punished Incentivized

Well, Arnie's finally done it. He's finally shown his true Kennedy family allegiance by appointing a tax and spend Democrat to the head of this state's worst bureaucratic nightmare. Joan Borucki, a longtime official with CalTrans ("Keeping Our Highways Unusable For Your Own Good") sees a way to pour more money into CalTrans' coffers and, at the same time, punish those idiots who clog her highways every day with their cars.

Borucki first makes the ludicrous claim that she wants to transform the Department of Motor Vehicles into a "customer-friendly, service-oriented unit of our government." Well, more power to her. It's already less popular than the Franchise Tax Board, so it can only get better from here, theoretically.

Making bad news worse is Borucki's innovative new idea: Instead of making Californians pay $.18 per gallon at the pump (which is supposed to encourage us to buy fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles), Borucki wants to put devices in our cars that tell Big Brother Ms. Borucki just how many miles we're driving on her precious highways. Better yet, those same devices will tell Big Brother Ms. Borucki which roads we're driving on at which times so she can levy higher taxes on those hard working individuals who just want to get home as quickly as possible to spend some (so far) non-taxable time with their families.

Hey, I think that's a terrific idea. All in favor?

[Unanimous support from state transportation experts and budget analysts]


[Every driver in the state of California]

Hmm. Perhaps we didn't explain the benefits of this tax-and-spend proposal. Did we mention that those of you idiots who insist on purchasing hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles are taking money away from critical highway repairs? Well, here's how you can atone for your greed and avarice. You'll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that Big Brother Ms. Borucki is watching your every move, and will tax you for it. Brother, you just can't buy that kind of security today.

Still not convinced? Neither am I.

Three years ago my company transferred me to another location. I moved from moderately expensive Ventura County to ultra-expensive Orange County. I insisted on moving to a home within a reasonable driving radius from my new work location. When we found one that was only five miles from the office, we were thrilled. I could drive to and from work in ten minutes or less, give or take traffic. One year later, the company transferred me to another location some twenty two miles away from home. So, under Borucki's plan, I would be punished twice: Once when the company increased my commute time, plus wear and tear on my vehicles. A second time because I would have to pay that much more in taxes because my commute miles effectively quadrupled. Plus I have to use freeways now unless I want to take forty-five minutes to travel the twenty-two miles from home to office, so that means a higher tax rate under this proposal.

And if that isn't incentive enough, don't forget the penalty you'll get to pay when you dare to take a vacation and have to use Big Brother Ms. Borucki's highways! Welcome to California! Pay up and leave!

What a benefit! I can't wait for this woman's confirmation hearings.

I plan to wear black.

Monday, November 15, 2004

A Cage-y Problem

The problem with understanding (or, at least, being acquainted with) someone like John Cage is that when someone tries something similar in another medium, we immediately suspect plagiarism.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

A Problem With Glenn's Argument

Instapundit is always a must-read. He's not on my daily roll, but I look him up a few times a week to get a balanced, usually fair assessment of pressing topics. In this post, Glenn provides a legal opinion related to this post by Jonah Goldberg at the Review.

Jonah asserts that TV shows, especially those espousing traditionally liberal values, never allow their female characters to have an abortion, even while supporting a woman's right to by-golly to so whenever she darn well pleases. Glenn threatens (probably an empty threat, he readily admits) to submit a legal review on this topic, and points out that it is possible for someone (like Glenn, dern him) to both support a woman's right to abort, as well as hold her criminally liable for subjecting the unborn fetus to medical dangers like alcohol abuse and tobacco. An interesting conundrum, but one which, I think, misses the actual point.

Glenn points out that under common law, there is no "duty to rescue." This means, to use his example, that if a baby insists on drowning itself in an inch of water, you are under no legal obligation to rescue that child. Of course, he continues, there's always the moral obligation, but legally you're clear. It's only when you actually attempt to assist the baby that you'd better be ready to see it through to its logical conclusion, else be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Here's the problem I see with Glenn's argument. While factually correct, it asserts that a man's duty is legal first, and moral second. Or, in other words, anyone with a spiritual conscience may feel compelled to act, but in the "real world" that moral compass is really just a tool. A means to an end.

So what happens when we reverse that assumption?

Let's take Glenn's example of the man passing by a drowning baby. For a person who has that moral compass - especially in the form of a religious upbringing or training - the first instinct would be the protection of that baby. This person, legally, then becomes subject to the legal "duty to rescue." Naturally, anyone who first undertakes to rescue this child would want to see it through to its conclusion. That's what the moral compass provides.

By making that moral compass subordinate to legal requirements, the instinct is stifled. Fear of legal reprisal makes us wary of wanting to offer assistance to anyone, infant or adult. It dampens our resolve to help others who require help, in any form. If there's no legal payoff, we don't play.

And that's a shame.

The Founders knew that their constitutional government was not, by any means, perfect. Because they could only address so many things from a moral perspective, they wrote copiously about the need for men to keep their moral compasses fully charged. Stay true to your Creator, they insisted, and He will guide you through all difficulties. Ignore Him at your peril.

When God gave Israel its laws, he made the legal requirements subordinate in all things to his own eternal law. The moral compass was to rule in all legal matters, and the law was both temporally and eternally binding. Men feared the consequences because they feared (in theory, anyway) the wrath of their Deity.

Will we ever learn that lesson?

Friday, November 12, 2004

Bush's Political Capital Already Strapped For Cash?

The phone rang just a few minutes ago. I'm working at home this morning (recovering from a "team building" experience yesterday... I've never been so sore!), and Mrs. Woody noticed that the call was labelled as "Political Call." Bless Caller ID. The purpose of this call can only be one thing: Someone wants my money. Well, it's either Bush or Streisand.

Mrs. Woody answered the phone, but handed it over to me. "They asked for Mr. or Mrs. Woody," she said. I took the phone.

"Good morning, Mr. Woody. Would you consider yourself to be pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between?" Ah. It's Bush. Streisand would've said "anti-choice," not "pro-life."

I could've written this script myself. Done a better job, too.

"Oh, I'm very much pro-life," was my reply.

"That's wonderful to hear, Mr. Woody. [KA-CHING!] As you know, abortion and, especially, partial-birth abortion is a serious issue that requires everyone's help. President Bush [KA-CHING!] needs your assistance to fight this problem. If we send you an envelope [KA-CHING, KA-CHING!] in the next few days, would you be able to help with a 75 or 100 dollar donation?" [Sound of cash register crashing to floor in excitement]

"Not a chance. Don't have the money for that."

"Oh, I understand, sir. [Sound of cash register being placed back on table] Perhaps in another week or two we could send you that envelope..." [a few rather dis-spirited, half-hearted ka-chings in minor key]

"Nope. You guys need to take care of that with legislation, not more of my money."

[Sound of cash drawer closing until next call]

"Thank you, sir, for your time. Have a wonderful evening."

Huh? It's 10:00 in the silly morning! Need to change scripts. Oh, wait. Telemarketers live in India, don't they?

Look. I understand that abortion is a pressing issue. I'm all for eliminating Roe v. Wade permanently from our lexicon. I think anyone who aborts a baby to erase a "mistake" needs to be removed from the reproductive flow.


Money won't solve this issue. A return to moral high ground and ethical fortitude will solve this issue. If President Bush wants to cash in his political capital, he needs to keep his hands in his own pockets.

Just sayin'.

By the way, for those aristodemocrats who cling to their moonbat stereotypes, I consider myself to be a reasonably loyal republican. In over twenty-five years of adult life, however, I've never been able to capitalize on that membership. I'm still poorer than a church mouse and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future. I'm not complaining. I just don't think money will ever solve any problem faced by this country today. Not abortion. Not poverty. Not civil injustices.

Wanna change America? Use someone else's capital.