Tuesday, July 11, 2006

#286 - Re: Global Warming

Mission accomplished. Ambient indoor temperature: 74° and dropping! Al Gore is outta luck!

#285 - Mumbai Bombings

India is no stranger to terrorism. Kashmiri militants have been on and off our local radar in times past as they push for an agenda the country simply cannot support. But the militants are, truly, terrorists, just as Islamic extremists and the IRA are also terrorists. Whoever targeted these trains, even if they turn out to be mere wannabes, are terrorists. Neighborhood gangs are, by definition, terrorists.

Thus we are not surprised in the least when no fewer than seven blasts take out commuter trains in the city of Mumbai.

The news simultaneously saddens and enrages. We are deeply saddened by the loss of life (last count was over 160) and the injuries (over 400). The survivors will never be the same. They will relive this terror for the rest of their lives.

We are enraged because it is inevitable that some who profess to be knowledgeable of such things will resort to the (Ward) Churchillian arrogance of labelling these victims as somehow being deserving of their misfortune. Acceptable losses, if we somehow "awaken" to a sense that we must appease those who feel a need to kill their chosen targets in this cavalier fashion.

But we must never appease. We must, instead, hold firm to the principles of defense of our freedoms. There can be no freedom without a fight, as our moral opponents have demonstrated time and time and time again. For the more we stand away from our struggles, the more advantage they take of our inaction.

This is, as was stated elsewhere, the next World War. It is global. We are fighting against terrorism. If anyone out there still doesn't get it, go walk a mile in the shoes of a Mumbai victim.

Then be willing to defend them. It's the only way this war will ever end.

Monday, July 10, 2006

#284 - Al Gore Wins One (For Now)

I have finally reached a place in my life where I am ready, even willing to concede that Global Warming is a Serious Issue requiring my Immediate Attention and probably All of My Disposable Income as well.

I say this because it was eighty-eight degrees outside, and only eighty-five degrees inside Hacienda Woody today.

Understand something: I grew up in a town where air conditioning was strictly optional because no one had yet figured out that we couldn't live without it. Our house - large, overpopulated (summer months only), and hot - was cooled by any number of fans that would appear like clockwork in May and be omnipresent right through September. We'd hesitate to put them away after that, because of "Indian Summer" in October.

As an adult, however, since moving away from said town in the 80's, I have come to appreciate the value of air conditioning. In the Mojave Desert we used evaporative coolers (lovingly called "swamp coolers"), which were fine as far as they went. But life with Mrs. Woody has meant never having to be without air conditioning any time we need it.

In fact, thanks to the miracles of middle-age for women, we frequently need it whenever temps rise above forty-five degrees in December. But that's another story that probably will never be written out of respect to Mrs. Woody's privacy and my need to sleep on an honest-to-goodness mattress.

Anyway, imagine our chagrin to find this morning (yes, this morning) that our A/C didn't seem to be blowing any cold air. At first I thought it was just unusually warm, especially for morning. After an hour or two, however, it became clear that our A/C was in trouble. A quick visit from the A/C repair guy confirmed it: our A/C has gone to that great appliance junkyard in the sky. Seems that the $500 part we had them install last summer (after the guy begged and pleaded with us to for heaven's sake please upgrade to a better unit!) literally blew itself into several useless pieces.

This evoked two responses:

1. Can we deal with this and still have a vacation next month? (Yes)

2. Can stress be one of my triggers for heart palpitations? (Yes)

So we're getting a new A/C. But not until tomorrow. No, one can't simply snap his fingers and make a work crew instantly appear. Not without overtime guarantees, one can't. So they come in the morning. Hopefully installation will be smooth and we can crank 'er up in time to feed the missionaries tomorrow night. (Of course the missionaries are coming tomorrow night! We'd had to put them off a couple of months ago, and we're not about to do so again this time!) This means that the House Fairy needs to visit the house tomorrow - in the heat - and make the house look like perfectly normal people live here, as opposed to refugees from Okefenokee Swamp West. I suspect the House Fairy will be taking a VERY cold shower immediately preceding dinner tomorrow evening.

So, Al Gore, I believe everything you say about global warming tonight. Just do me a favor, will ya?

Send a chunk of melting glacier down this way. Thanks!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

#283 - Math: New and Improved?

I've seen this story numerous times, but the punch line gave me a good laugh. I believe it really has gotten this bad. (Note: I took math in 1970, and I don't remember it being quite that forgiving.)
Last week I purchased a burger and fries at McDonalds for $3.58.

The counter girl took my $4.00 and I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies. While looking at the screen on her register, I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.

Why do I tell you this?

Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s.

Teaching Math In 1950

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1960

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1970

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

Teaching Math In 1980

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20 Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math In 1990

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math In 2006

Un ranchero vende una carretera de madera para $100. El cuesto de la producción era $80. ¿Cuantos tortillas se puede comprar?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

#282 - Angelides vs. Trust

I've never trusted Phil Angelides. I have a natural dislike for most developers simply because they represent irresponsible growth in any community. Developers live by the "growth at any cost, but mostly in my pocketbook" credo that makes them such natural politicians. Angelides has always seemed to fit that mold.

Fetching Jen, who lives in the same neighborhood with the Angelides', gives me all the reason I need never to trust the man with my vote.

Not that I ever would have, anyway.

#281 - Gray Cells Still Dying Off...

I guess as anniversaries go this one deserves a decidedly low priority. Still, one might think that I would try to remember my own blogiversary. It was 2 years back on June 21.

And I'm still enjoying the ride.

You may have guessed by now that, beyond the usual bloggy reasons, I keep these blogs more as a form of personal history than anything else. I'm not the caliber of writer that might expect to sway public opinion through my clever use of word and phrase. Neither do I tend to wade into those areas of discussion that are so controversial as to guarantee much of an audience.

Hence the Woundup remains, as it always has been, my. own. space.

#280 - Touché

Baby Sis plays John Adams to my John Dickinson.

Guess I'd better stick with "bland" or "manilla" instead, hm?

Monday, July 03, 2006

#279 - Because We Can't Get Links Any Other Way

A very nice review from my brother, which naturally leads to one for my brother:

Cam has the benefit of a) the memory of a younger sibling, especially where sins of the elder sibling are concerned, and b) not being quite as close to 50 as I am. So it shouldn't really surprise me that he remembers my taking him for driving practice to Moorpark College. For those unfamiliar with the Simi Valley/Moorpark area, it's hilly country. In fact, one of Moorpark's more endearing nicknames is "Harvard on the Hill." Along the eastern border of the campus is an overflow parking area that was (note: past tense) perfect for kids with learner's permits. Especially kids with Volkswagens who were trying desperately to learn how to operate a clutch without rolling the car over in a turn.

It was only natural that I would take Cam out there for a couple of reasons. First, it was traditional. That's where Dad had taken me when I was learning how to drive. But Dad had maxed out on such fun the moment I got my actual license, so the job of training my siblings fell to me and Mom. And I usually wheedled Mom to let me do it because I was still enjoying being able to drive anywhere I wanted to go, so long as Mom or Dad would let me borrow a vehicle. So, I took my sister up there when it was her turn, and Cam was next in line. Then Moorpark College hired their own rent-a-cop agency and the tradition died on the vine.

Of course, I also remember letting Cam drive Box Canyon one day, and I do believe that was the first time my life actually flashed before me. Story for another day, perhaps.

It's also important to note (getting back to Cam's post) that, although I lived in that area for more than twenty years of my life, I never once hiked some of these trails that Cam has been trying out. It's a sad statement, I suppose, and the truth is that I now regret not having taken advantage of the opportunity when I had it. Simi Valley used to be a beautiful town. Back in the day it wasn't hard to find groves and orchards mingled in with the neat suburban tracts, and just to the west of our house were miles of trackless expanse, filled with enough tumble weeds to keep any young boy busy for days on end. And I don't mean clearing them. I mean making forts and clubhouses out of them. There was a wash running behind our tract that yielded more than a few attempts to turn pollywogs into frogs. (Far more failures than successes, I'm afraid.)

Those days are, of course, gone forever. Now Simi Valley is just another over-developed bedroom community. It has a "mall" now, along with its usual collection of strip malls and shopping centers. It has two or three primary industrial centers. What used to be a tiny, grass-covered air field has long since given way to several vanilla box-like warehouses.

Thus Cam has to head south to find trails that are still worth the effort. I would guess - in part from the photos he links - that once you're clear of the more civilized climes it's easier to imagine what Simi was like in its heyday, before the tracts that stretch literally from one end of the valley to the other, and before the freeway introduced us to the noisier, less refined elements of neighboring society.

So I applaud my little brother, and hope he continues to find peace in his travels. I certainly can't argue with his method. The time I spent in Guatemala, hiking up and down mountains that would swallow Simi Valley several times over actually gave me that kind of peace in my own life. I needed it, since I had companions that ranged from (literally) professional Boy Scouts, to KISS fans, to anti-Gringo Salvadorans. Peace did not always come easy, but a good hike was always sure to clear both head and heart.

Go, Bro!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

#278 - Patriotism Is as Patriotism Does

I didn't think anything of the plastic flags that lined the walk leading to the church. They were just those cheesy little plastic flags that have become ubiquitous in cemeteries during holidays, and this was billed, after all, as a patriotic concert. Barely gave them a second glance as I hurried inside. My call was 5:30 for the concert, and I was already a half hour late.

Musically, the concert was unremarkable, really. Stuff I'd either done before, or was of the type that I could sight-read and perform after about two run-throughs. The choir was one of those pick-up choirs where folks volunteer (or, in my case, are guilted into volunteering), attend three or four rehearsals, and perform for a bunch of flag-wavers in your community. In other words, you weren't looking to hear the Dale Warland Singers here; you were more likely to think of Spike Jones.

The dividers at the back of the chapel open directly into the cultural hall, which had been decorated with a few dozen depictions of the American flag at various stages of design and purpose. Several of the "Don't Tread on Me" flags festooned one wall, while many versions of Old Glory up to and including our current 50 state flag surrounded the rest of the hall. At the back sat several tables where an honest-to-gosh ice cream social would await the audience.

The concert was hosted by our local LDS stake, but it was truly a community event. The chairperson of the event reminded me strongly of Eulalie McKecknie Shinn from "The Music Man." She had the kind of bearing that spoke to long hours of heading various committees - some probably by default - and getting the job done, or else. She gave all the appropriate recognitions, changed the program as required by circumstance ("The DVD honoring our Mr. and Ms. Senior Anaheim Hills has finally arrived, so we'll go ahead and show it now!"), and got the audience to clap as she announced every single committee chair and deputy chair ("And our fifth vice-chairman for the Arrangements Committee...!") that has had anything to do with this community's July 4th preparations.

Then came something that I knew was coming, but the intensity of which surprised me, I'm ashamed to admit. A sergeant wearing the beret of the 82nd, and who'd recently returned from Iraq, was introduced to the audience. The standing ovation he received was not entirely unexpected; this is, after all, a highly conservative part of a conservative county. But the ovation lasted for several minutes. Longer, indeed, than I would have predicted beforehand, and something that resonated with me for the remainder of the evening.

Suddenly, our little "Patriotic Community Concert" didn't seem so insignificant. Next up for the choir was a medley of all the anthems from the five major branches of the armed forces, wherein veterans of those who have served in those branches are invited to stand and be appreciated by the audience. And they were. There were vets from all five branches in attendance last night. Every one of them received hearty applause and even cheers from the audience. Personally, I have rarely been unable to articulate a piece of music because of a lump in my throat, but this certainly was the case during this part of the program. I was close to tears as we began each familiar anthem (excepting "Semper Paratus" for the Coasties... don't hear that one too frequently), and heard the clapping while watching several members of the audience stand to receive the praise and thanks of their neighbors. This sort of thing doesn't happen to me, darnit. I'm too professional to allow silly emotions to overwhelm a performance.

Or, perhaps, not.

The audience stood to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful." Many of them were still able to sing all the verses from memory. The rest of the concert blurred its way past, and we suddenly found ourselves in the cultural hall, knocking back a cup or two of chocolate ice cream and mingling with friends. The first question on everyone's lips: "Where is everybody?"

It was a valid question. We've been advertising this concert for the last several weeks in our ward meetings, and several of us committed to join the choir after being informed that this was a chance to "mingle with the community" and demonstrate our commitment both to our town and our country. Four of us participated from our ward. About twice that many more showed up to listen. It's not that no one came; certainly there were plenty of people in attendance. But I had fully expected more from our own ward to come and support the concert. "Where is everybody," indeed.

Up to that point, I had been feeling somewhat redeemed. As a blogger who occasionally strays into socio-political discourse, it becomes so easy to take a cynical view of the world around me. I get bone-weary of the constant fights between conservative and liberal idealogues who couldn't have a reasoning discussion on any topic if their lives depended on it (which, fortunately for them, is not the case). I even wondered idly to myself in the minutes before the concert began whether we would be visited by protestors who would try to disrupt our goodwill for the sake of making themselves look silly while they got hauled off to jail.

People should have been there to hear the (short!) talk given by one of our city councilmen. He appreciated having this concert in a church, he said, because it serves to remind us that this country was founded on principles given to man by God (gasp!). He said the word "Creator" in the Declaration of Independence was not capitalized by accident. And these rights, endowed on us by Him, are being protected by the troops we were saluting that very evening.

A better speech I have rarely heard. He mentioned God no fewer than 10 different times in a talk that lasted barely 10 minutes. And he sounded like he meant it, too. It made me realize that I can't take responsibility for how other people view their citizenship in this country. I need to focus on my own efforts. I either support this nation, or I don't. But I can only improve my own efforts, and pray for others to see their own way clear to help.

As we left the building last night, we proudly sported our new blinking flag pins. They cost us $5 each, but the money was needed to offset the slight budget shortfall for all of the events planned for the 4th. They were only $1500 short as of last night. I hope we got them much closer to zero with our donations.

Walking out into the still-warm evening air, I noticed the flags lining the walkway. Simple, plastic, cheesy flags.

They've never looked better.