Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina Relief

Glenn Reynolds, the omnipresent InstaPundit, calls for a "blogburst" tomorrow in support of Katrina relief efforts. The idea is to encourage donations to your favorite charity that will pledge support to the relief efforts being spearheaded by the American Red Cross.

True to that call, I strongly urge LDS faithful everywhere to perhaps put a bit extra in your fast offerings this week. The timing would be perfect. The Church has already put out a bulletin to the effect that its numerous resources both at the local level as well as from Salt Lake are being made available to the victims of this storm.

I was in New Orleans last year. It's a beautiful city with an old world flair that has rightly become a cultural icon for our country. Mrs. Woody and I have friends who live in the south. It would indeed be a shame if we didn't find a way to provide just as much support to this disaster as was done for the tsunami last January.

Time enough to evaluate, analyze, and criticize later. For now, let's get these people some assistance.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

#192 - Worthy of Death

I consider myself to be a quiet supporter of the death penalty. I prefer to remain quiet primarily because it's one of those arguments that cannot be won; those who support it will probably never be convinced not to, and vice versa.

I also refuse to be drawn into a discussion of racial inequities in the dispensing of death sentences. I've heard plenty of empirical evidence on both sides. No winners in that discussion, either.

I personally have always felt that the death penalty should be meted out only in the most brutal and extreme of cases, which in California is still a pretty high number. I may joke about politicians having standing appointments with the executioner out of wishful thinking, but I actually think it would be more cruel to revoke their pensions instead.

However, I have finally found a sector of the population that I believe I can hold prejudice against without guilt or remorse: the idiots that are responsible for the timing of traffic lights.

Specifically, the traffic lights found in Orange County. More specifically, the traffic lights found in the city of Anaheim. If you really pinned me down, it would be the idiots who program the traffic lights at the intersection of Imperial Highway and La Palma Avenue in the city of Anaheim.

When I first moved to this town, I found it incredible that anyone - no matter how much special interest money they received to get them elected - could possibly approve the installation of a traffic light within 30 yards of such a major intersection, but that's what they did. Then, just to add insult to injury, they apparently hired traffic analysts who interned at Microsoft (motto: "If There's a Way to Take Your Money, We'll Find It!"). I am convinced these are the same geniuses responsible for error messages like "Error 32002: There is no message for this error." When taken in that context, it makes perfect sense that these same mental midgets are now responsible for timing our traffic lights. In Anaheim. At Imperial and La Palma. (Note: I am not trying to be disrespectful of the vertically challenged. I am merely pointing out that these traffic engineers make up a complete six-pack, but lack the plastic thingy that holds them together.)

I favor the death penalty for this entire sub-human race without any need for trial. In fact, I believe that the minute they sign an employment application for any job dealing with traffic engineering, they should be taken to their physical exam on the 27th floor of a civic building (if we don't have one with 27 floors, we should build one for this express purpose) and pushed out of a specially designed breakaway window. It would save us all a lot of grief.

I used to believe that justice would be served by having them simply be subjected to their own idiocy. Make them sit through three lights before having a chance to get through the intersection every afternoon and see how they like it! Let them have 12 SUVs in a row nearly rearrange their car's entire front end so they (the SUVs) can "edge" their way into the intersection before it turns red and park so that no one can get through for yet another light. Better yet, have them move into a left-turn lane that used to be directly opposite another left turn lane, but now has been off-set so that neither car can see around the guy in the opposing lane, thus paralyzing both left-turn lanes for up to three hours! Now that truly reeks of genius, that does!

But the older I get (I age approximately 1 year for every 1 hour I spend waiting for traffic lights nowadays), the more I realize that I would never be satisfied having them suffer through their own stupidity. No, the only logical solution to this problem is death. Immediate death. I favor reinstating the electric chair specifically for the Imperial and La Palma team.

Alas, the ACLU and assorted liberals would never back me up. Ditto the SUV owners, who have not paid attention to a traffic light since Ford came out with Expeditions capable of carrying their own area codes. I'm guessing they use those cell phones to communicate with their kids in the back seat. Nor will I get any sympathy from the powerful Traffic Light Manufacturers Association lobby in Washington. They apparently have dirt on every single Orange County representative in Congress, or this problem would have been addressed years ago.

No, I'm afraid it's up to me to act. I need to go camp out in front of President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas to make statements that the press will publish. I need to get French journalists to accuse our traffic engineers of abusing steroids. I need to get Governor Schwarzzenwhozits to get my proposal in front of the voters in another special election.

But most of all, I need to start saving my pennies to buy a new civic building.

Monday, August 29, 2005

#191 - It Must Be Monday

And the number one rule for a cynicism-free Monday is...

NEVER read Number Two Pencil and Joanne Jacobs first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Kimberly comments about the start-of-school spending spree that many parents indulge in as they prepare to send their kids off to school. Granted, the article on which she bases her comments deals more specifically with college kids, but I have noticed that school shopping has become more of an MTV fashion extravaganza than what it used to be in my day: an opportunity for Mom to buy some clothes that didn't hang three or four inches above my wrists and ankles.

Nowadays, kids seem unable to go to school unless their clothes make a statement. As a youngster, my clothes always made the statement, "I'd rather be anywhere but sitting in this hyperboring sensory deprivation chamber listening to the worst teacher on the planet." At least, that's the statement they made about three weeks into the school year. At the beginning of the school year, my clothes always said, "I just came from Sears!" It always took me a few weeks to give them that stylish "lived in" look. Generally speaking, my Mom probably spent more time worrying that my teachers were thinking I must live in a hobo jungle than in a nice, comfortable suburban home right next door to the school.

The fact is, I never once considered what kind of "fashion statement" I was making. I was a kid. I always played (hard) in the same clothes I wore to school. Consequently, after about two or three months my trousers began to look exactly like a football uniform. Comfortable, but well worn.

I'm not sure who first came up with the idea of wearing attitude statements. Certainly it didn't used to be hard to tell who had money and who didn't. Now, however, it seems clothing needs to be edgier in order to be fashionable. It has to have some sort of "in your face" element before kids will even look at it.

Exhibit A would be this tidbit from Joanne Jacobs the other day. Joanne makes particular mention of the "It's Happy Bunny" phenomenon. "It's Happy Bunny" is the creation of Jim Benton, who appears to want to capitalize on the growing disenfranchisement of today's teens. His web site proudly proclaims that "It's Happy Bunny dislikes everybody." What fun! Of course, just to show that Benton really does have a sense of social and moral responsibility, his web site also states that "It's Happy Bunny" is "for advanced teens and up."

Whew! Glad to hear that! I'd sure hate for anyone to capitalize on some teenager's natural cynicism without taking some responsibility for it! I mean, we very nearly lost control of all those kids sneaking into R-rated movies without their parents. Aren't we glad there are controls in place?

Joanne, of course, hits the nail on the head:
Happy Bunny says: A lot of parents are wimps.

Fortunately, all is not necessarily lost. At least one principal was quoted as saying that such tee shirts would be considered a form of harrassment and not tolerated. At least, not at his school.

Come to think of it, Mrs. Woody and I won't tolerate that sort of thing in our school, either. Nor will we support The Gap™'s retirement fund while we're at it. Mrs. Woody's sister is just too good of a garage saler for that to happen.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

#190 - Huh? (Updated)

In the "How'd That Happen?" category: I jumped overnight from "Marauding Marsupial" to "Large Mammal" in the TTLB Ecosystem. I was impressed until I saw the point spread. These are the folks ranked from somewhere around #100 to #1863. I'm at #1803, so my stay here is tentative at best.

On the other hand, this is my highest ranking ever in the system. This is largely thanks to The Bear Flag League, membership in which instantly guarantees you a certain level of linkage. That's what catapulted me into Marsupialhood in the first place.

All of this is very fun, but it does point out one thing: it's possible to rise in rank without doing much of anything. I'm not really into link-whoring, so I don't go begging for folks to please, please, pleeeeeeeeeze link to my blog. And still I get linked. Membership in the League and the LDS Blog Ring have helped, of course, but I joined those confederations because they espouse things I believe in or support. Otherwise, I don't try to cater to any special interests but my own family and those who may also think and feel as I do.

Long live the Ecosystem. With or without me.

UPDATE: Heh. What'd I tell ya? Back down to #3062 this morning. Looks like a whole bunch of my "unique links" dropped off. The Ecosystem giveth, and...

Monday, August 22, 2005

#189 - Welcome to the Woundup! (Updated)

Today we bid welcome to Code Red Mama of In the Hot Seat. Code Red is an LDS blogging and homeschooling Mom. She's added the Woundup to her blog roll, and we are nothing if not a reciprocating outfit. Surf on over and check out her homeschooling adventures.

In the meantime, Red, you'll find more family (and homeschooling) essays at my other blog, "The Inner Dad."

Feel free to visit anytime. I'll be sure to do the same!

UPDATE: David B., hubbie of the aforewelcomed Code Red Mama, joins the roll with his blog entitled "The Whole Note." The title resonates with an old musician, and he has a clean writing style that I appreciate.

Welcome one; welcome all!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

#188 - New London - A Great Place (Not) to Live!

(HT: BrianB of Memento Moron)

I have no legal background, and so I leave the dissection and analysis of New London's recent homeowner barbeque to the experts. And while I applaud any community that wants to improve its image, this is just slimy.

If this is true, I sincerely hope that any potential gain the city might have realized through the development is more than offset by people with scruples refusing to buy a home in New London.


For shame.

#187 - Another Reason to Support Judge Roberts

This can only be good. (HT: Drudge)

Key quote:
Roberts wrote: "If one wants the youth of America and the world sashaying around in garish sequined costumes, hair dripping with pomade, body shot full of female hormones to prevent voice change, mono-gloved, well, then, I suppose 'Michael,' as he is affectionately known in the trade, is in fact a good example. Quite apart from the problem of appearing to endorse Jackson's androgynous life style, a Presidential award would be perceived as a shallow effort by the President to share in the constant publicity surrounding Jackson. . . . The whole episode would, in my view, be demeaning to the President."

No argument here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

#186 - A Little More Anguish, Please!

Kimberly Swygert at Number 2 Pencil ably fisks the wild notion that school testing of any kind may cause brain damage. It's a fair bet that the reporter in this case was simply supporting a pre-conceived notion and didn't really bother to fully research the topic. More likely is a need to support the educators unions by giving them more ammunition in their battle against anything that smacks of measuring their own performance by seeing how much the kids aren't learning today, and why.

As Kim puts it:
Translation: We don't like tests with their objective standards for all kids, because it was much easier to teach students when all we had to do was get them to meet their own goals, as opposed to society's. I suppose "literacy" is something Paris would consider one of those evil "comparative standards of excellence."

Rather than dwell on the "tests = victimhood enabling" meme, however, I'd like to flash forward to what happens when we don't test these students enough.

I work in a very large business. Fortune 100 stuff. Aerospace, to be more specific. As you may well imagine, we employ every type of business professional you could possibly imagine. Everything from engineers to scientists to bean counters to keyboard jockeys; we got 'em all. Since I work in a "support organization" I get to deal with multitudes of infants fresh out of college. The funniest part? Having every single one of them state, unequivocally, that they have a "working knowledge of Microsoft Office." I don't work in Human Resources, but I'd wager good money that it's a rare C.V. indeed that doesn't include that statement for anyone interested in a desk job. I'm sure that some career counselor at their school gave a seminar on how to get your foot in the door, and said something like, "ALWAYS say you know how to use Office! They won't even bother shredding your application if you don't say it... they'll just take it home and paper their kid's gerbil cage with it!"

So they say it. Then they come to work in my office and cannot, for the life of them, make a simple trend analysis chart in Excel. "I've been told you know something about computers," they tell me when they introduce themselves in my cubicle. (I long ago had the phrase "COMPUTER DEMI-GOD" tattooed on my forehead for just such emergencies.) "Why won't Excel do what I need it to do?"

Since I am a long-suffering Libra, I always mutter something about "PEBCAK"* under my breath before very graciously helping them create a chart. Of course, I spend the entire session wondering how on earth these people ever managed to graduate from high school. Then I read about "test anxiety" being the cause of no small amount of cerebral trauma, and it all becomes clear to me.

I long ago learned that a person's ability in an office environment like mine has little to do with the education they forced themselves through. In reality, it's those who not only want to learn, but make it their objective to master their field that will ultimately succeed both in business and in life. The degree is, of course, important, but more because it's harder to get promoted without it. The knowledge one accumulates in college may in fact have little bearing on the duties you ultimately will assimilate, or indeed the career path that you decide to pursue once you've established yourself.

By the way, don't even get me started on business communications. Since 1984 I have had two managers who had any concept about the proper construction of a business letter. They both retired before 1990. With the advent of email, most managers have absolutely no concept of how to construct a presentation without relying on increasingly ridiculous lingo and catch phrases. I recently called up a presentation that was created in just such a fashion over ten years ago. I could not, without consulting a glossary compiled about the same time, make heads or tails of the intent of the presentation.

No, I'm all for a little mental anguish before foisting these half-wits on me. It could save them the embarrassment of having me demonstrate for them where to find the "Power" button, and how to use it.

* PEBCAK: "Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard." - my favorite techie phrase!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

#185 - Hmmm...

Every parent instinctively knows this.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

#184 - PETA Pettiness

Via Michelle Malkin: A PETA exhibit sparks outrage from local NAACP members who were insulted to have black slavery compared to the sale and slaughter of animals.


What does one expect from an organization that sees more harm in the abuse of animals than they do in the wanton slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives via abortion?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

#183 - The NY Times Declares War

I've never been able to respect the New York Times. Not that I ever tried, of course. Being on the extreme opposite end of the country, I always wondered why they ever tried to peddle themselves here in California. Now I get it: there's a huge liberal market over here, and they sure don't want the LA Times getting all the attention.

The Times (NY variety, that is) has had its fair share of indiscretions over the years. Everything from leaking secret documents, to reporters who can't seem to write without copying someone else or simply making it up as they go. Their scale of moral sensitivity runs from "Sell the paper, dammit!" to "Screw the truth! This is for their own good!" Far from protecting the people's right to know, they instead protect our right to have their opinion.

None of which makes them too far different from any other fish wrapper today.

Now, however, they have truly crossed an ethical line from which there can be no graceful retreat. They have attempted to violate the sanctity of someone's family by gaining unlawful access to the sealed adoption records of the children of Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts.

Hat tip: Matt Drudge

I can only presume that extreme political prejudice against this conservative has driven the Times to undertake a "background check" that seeks to uncover sealed and privileged information of this nature. I cannot imagine, for example, any check of this kind against a liberal nominee. But let's set politics aside for a moment. Let's instead examine the implications of this clear invasion of the Roberts' privacy.

I am an adoptive parent. My two older children were both adopted, and I have very clear memories of the judges in both cases. Each declared, unequivocally, that signing adoption decrees were among the most wonderful of their many duties -- even in family court. They both commented that the joining together of a family was an increasingly rare opportunity these days. Beyond those comments, of course, were the explanations of the legal aspects of adoption. It was, for me, the realization that I was now truly their father in every respect that made the occasion so important to me. These children are every bit as much mine as if I had been their biological father.

The principle of adoption also happens to be an eternal one: If, as I have mentioned elsewhere, the family unit is basic to the Lord's kingdom, then adoption is both a saving as well as a legal principle. These children will now also be mine throughout eternity. No one can take that away from me.

Now, the Times raises the chilling possibility that anyone, in the name of public interest, could try to get my adoption records unsealed to see whether there were any "irregularities" in the process. In my mind, based on my prior statements, this would be tantamount to placing my rights as a biological father in jeopardy -- as if it were somehow possible that my two biological children came to my family through "irregular" means.

Without having direct knowledge of this situation, beyond what has been reported by Drudge, it's difficult to explain why, exactly, the Times felt compelled to pursue this line of investigation. But I can try. I'm certain it begins with a desire to find something -- anything at all will do -- that will give the Times leverage to kill Roberts' nomination to the high court. The Times has enough toadies in the Senate who are waiting for just that much ammunition to be able to drag out this process until Roberts, like others before him, is forced to withdraw rather than subject his family to continued hostile scrutiny.

The New York Times has declared war on John Roberts. But they have also declared war on the institution of family. I really don't think they are equipped to fight that kind of war.

They just don't have a moral leg on which to stand.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

#182 - What To Get...

...for the parents who simply can't be bothered to spend quality time with their youngsters?

Kiddie cell phones.

I have only one question:


Thank you.

HT: Dave Barry

Thursday, August 04, 2005

#181 - The Professional Educators Reach Lower and Lower...

I have already posted at least once about attempts by parents to fast-track their kids through school by starting them even two years (or more) before they would normally enter kindergarten. I stand fast by my earlier thoughts on the subject. The so-called pre-school years are a time for kids to learn the basic lessons of life - at home - from Mommy and Daddy. It's far too soon to begin adding the pressures of formal tutoring and greatly increases the risk of either a negative educational experience later, or even a complete burn-out before reaching junior high.

This is different, mind you, from kids who show a desire to grasp and learn different skills and concepts, and are gently tutored along those lines by their parents. Heck, my Mom tutored me in my reading and writing skills for at least a year before I entered first grade (they didn't teach more than alphabet recognition skills in my day in Kindergarten), and it was driven by my constant harangue of "Mooooom! How do you spell my name?" She quickly realized it was just easier to coach me along and nurture my native ability. By the time I walked into class in first grade, I was already reading a little ahead of most of my class. By third grade, I was reading better than most sixth graders. All because I wanted to, not because Mom and Dad felt that I needed a "leg up" on my education so I could nail that Ivy League appointment.

You may then imagine why I don't like the sound of this article in the Washington Times.

Key quote:
The national tutoring chain has expanded since January to include students as young as 4 as pre-kindergarten students -- part of an increase in tutoring nationwide that analysts attribute to parents eager to push their children to the front of the class.

Apart from my initial "here we go again" thoughts, something else jumped out at me while I was reading the article. Flashing back for a moment on that story I just related about my Mom's tutoring, I recognized the more disturbing trend here: Parents have become all too eager to abdicate their parental right and responsibility to teach their own children.

Professional educators have been most effective in creating an atmosphere of implied incompetence among parents. They have successfully foisted on us the idea that we are somehow incapable, or, worse, unworthy to teach our own children. This evolution has been most visible just in the forty-plus years since I first walked into a classroom myself. In those days, I was being handed over to a teacher who had been reasonably well educated, and was prepared to teach me in the simplest terms possible the knowledge I needed to succeed in life. My own parents were able to reinforce what I was learning in school by providing me opportunities to use what I was learning. (Note: Dad could never believe what I wasn't learning in school. In his day, by golly, you knew calculus before you graduated from kindergarten! Yet another reason, I guess, why we lag behind the rest of the world in productivity.)

Today's parents, by contrast, are overwhelmingly bewildered by the teaching methods being employed by modern educators. The methods for teaching basic mathematical principles have changed no fewer than three times since I first learned them in grade school. Heaven help me if I ever had to go back to sixth grade and try to learn that stuff today; I'd be completely lost! No wonder parents have to hand off tutoring responsibilities (at $45 an hour!) to companies like Sylvan!

I firmly believe that this has become one of the primary motivators for parents to begin homeschooling their kids. Everything is happening sooner, faster, and more expensively. It has now become all about forcing kids to excel before they're even ready to tie their own shoes. It's also about following the money.


We homeschool for two reasons: our two Woodyettes. I have no desire to have them taught by an increasingly cynical profession that more and more believes they are the only saving grace our children have. It's as if (dare I say it?) they want to be my children's only religion.

Well, not as long as Mrs. Woody and I have anything to say about it, they won't.

UDPATE: The Woodyettes found a cauldron this morning full of new school supplies direct from Diagon Alley (they've been doing some Hogwarts schooling this year). The kids (and their Mommy-Teacher!) have been on summer hiatus this past month. Thus, on finding the new treasure trove, Jelly Woodyette exclaimed, "Mommy! Does this mean we can do school today?"

Makes a Daddy feel good, that does.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

#180 - What the...?!

Um, Matt? Is there any reason why we should care about this??