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Wide White: April 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hillary Must Think Bush is a Stud

If you follow her line of reasoning here, Bush is a rock star.
Clinton said the fact that most of the public doesn't like her is actually a form of flattery because it shows she stands up for what she believes in.
I actually agree with the point that generally when you stand up for what you believe in, you aren't popular for it. This still makes me laugh though, in light of Bush's unpopularity and how the Democrats have used it to call for his impeachment, among numerous other things.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

American Idol Gives Back Gets Cash

Last night's episode of American Idol - called "American Idol Gives Back" - promised to be the biggest and best ever. The highly-touted two-hour, star-studded gala was supposed to bring us all together to fight hunger, poverty, and AIDS. The last hour that I saw was emotional enough, with moving testimonies of poverty and despair. Sponsors included Ford, News Corp, Exxon Mobil, and numerous other giants. Your votes for AI contestants brought pledges from these corporations.

But forgive me for being unmoved by the whole thing. Don't get me wrong; Ellen DeGeneres' $100,000 pledge was impressive enough, and I'd love to see more people giving to those in need. But something struck me. At the end of the night, Ryan Seacrest announced that they had raised just under $30 million.

I just ran the numbers, and by my rough estimate, $30 million is roughly equal to (and possibly less than) the yearly salary of the executive committee of News Corp alone, much less that of all of the other companies and stars who contributed to the show.

Now, consider the fact that a 30-second commercial on AI costs $750,000. With roughly 8 commercials for each break and 8 - 12 commercial breaks throughout the night, FOX is making at least $48 - $72 million in commercials alone, not to mention the money they're making from Ford and Coca-Cola for various promotions throughout the show.

I'm thankful for some of the issues that were brought to light during this show. I'm glad nearly $30 million was raised. But let's be serious. FOX wasn't simply using their huge audience to fight for a good cause. That may have happened along the way, but at the end of the day, FOX got very rich and a number of large corporations were able to put on a good face for a fairly small price. American Idol really didn't give that much back.

UPDATE: According to a radio report this morning, the total raised has now been listed as $60 million (or closer to the salaries of the executive committees of News Corp AND Ford). It doesn't change the way I feel about the whole thing, but it's worth mentioning as a matter of fact.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

School board says no diploma for class president

My brother is the Senior Class President at his high school. He carries a GPA that's over 4.0 (his high school has weighted classes) and is a starter on the football, basketball, and baseball team. He's been in show choir and vocal competitions. If you want to see the model of a an involved, well-educated 18-year-old, look at him.

However, the school board recently told him they won't allow him a diploma...because he won't take Sociology.

Sociology is not a class that is required by the state of Wisconsin. It is required by his high school; however, just last year the requirement was waived for our cousin, who is in the same grade as my brother. The precedent established by the school board is that the class could be waived if the student did not agree with the premise of the class.

So, what's wrong with sociology? My brother has no problem with the first 11 chapters of the book. It's scientific in nature, covering how the brain works and how we function in society. It's after Chapter 11 that he begins to have problems. Humanism takes over, and my brother happens to be a Christian. He doesn't agree with the worldview presented in the textbook and in the class. He's read through the textbook and doesn't want to be subjected to that teaching.

He appealed the requirement to the school board, who - as I mentioned earlier - waived the requirement for our cousin. However, this time, they rejected his request. In order to graduate, they're mandating that he has to take Sociology.

My brother is a person of conviction. He won't back down. At this point, he has a few options that he's investigating, and graduation day hasn't come yet. A whole number of things could happen, especially once the local newspaper runs the story next week.

A diploma from the high school isn't his biggest concern. Serving Christ is his biggest concern. He can get an HSED if he needs to. He's already accepted a scholarship offer to play football at a Division II school. His ACT scores alone are probably enough to get him in to any college. He was recruited by the likes of Columbia University for football thanks to his academic performance.

Would it hurt to not be able to graduate with his peers? Of course! He's the class president; he's supposed to give a speech. Of course it's a big deal!

But, he has priorities. It's just too bad the hypocritical school board's priorities take precedent over parents' and students' priorities.

UPDATE: A few corrections from my mother. The requirement is either Sociology OR Psychology. He is opposed to the ENTIRE sociology book--very humanistic, to the point of replacing BC and AD to "non-offensive" terms. It was the first eleven chapter of Psych that were OK.

Update on the situation. A guidance counselor is working with the Psych teacher to establish a way for him to research the main themes of the class and write up on it. This is an option that the superintendent and Board said was not available but if the teacher and principal OK it he's taking it to the super. for final approval.

Monday, April 16, 2007

It's a sad day

Very, very sad.
Gunman kills 21 32 on Virginia Tech campus

BLACKSBURG, Va. - A gunman opened fire in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech on Monday, killing 21 people in the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history. The gunman was killed but it was unclear if he was shot by police or took his own life.

"Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions," said Virginia Tech president Charles Steger. "The university is shocked and indeed horrified."

The university reported shootings at opposite sides of the 2,600-acre campus, beginning at about 7:15 a.m. at West Ambler Johnston, a co-ed residence hall that houses 895 people, and continuing about two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering building.
Up until Monday, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history took place in 1966 at the University of Texas, where Charles Whitman climbed to the 28th-floor observation deck of a clock tower and opened fire. He killed 16 people before he was gunned down by police. In the Columbine High bloodbath near Littleton, Colo., in 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

On Monday, one student was killed in a dorm and the others were killed in the classroom, Virginia Tech Police Chief W.R. Flinchum.

After the shootings, all entrances to the campus were closed and classes canceled through Tuesday.

"There's just a lot of commotion. It's hard to tell exactly what's going on," said Jason Anthony Smith, 19, who lives in the dorm where shooting took place.

Aimee Kanode, a freshman from Martinsville, said the shooting happened on the 4th floor of West Ambler Johnston dormitory, one floor above her room. Kanode's resident assistant knocked on her door about 8 a.m. to notify students to stay put.

"They had us under lockdown," Kanode said. "They temporarily lifted the lockdown, the gunman shot again."

"We're all locked in our dorms surfing the Internet trying to figure out what's going on," Kanode said.

Madison Van Duyne, a student who was interviewed by telephone on CNN, said, "We are all in lockdown. Most of the students are sitting on the floors away from the windows just trying to be as safe as possible."
And this story fails to mention the 28 wounded.

I've often wondered how a psycho gunman can open fire in an open crowd and "only" kill five people. I say "only" because if you calculate the number of people in the line of fire in relation to the number of shots going off and the craziness of the gunmen, you would think that many more people could be killed.

Unfortunately in this case, I'm not wondering.

My prayers are with you, Hokies.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What Tiger Woods Means To Me Personally

My wife was going through some old high school papers she'd saved. She let me read one paper that she had to write for a golf unit in some high school outdoor sports class. Thinking that this topic was utterly ridiculous, she got together with one of her best friends - who also thought the topic was ridiculous - to write the paper.

The topic she was given - with no choice in the matter - was, "What Tiger Woods Means To Me Personally." The paper that follows is what she came up with to express her feelings about Eldrick "Tiger" Woods.
What Tiger Woods Means To Me Personally

It is impossible to describe in any quantitative nuance what the idyllic Herculean figure of Tiger Woods has meant to me or how his unintentional embodiment of all that is good and just has reinforced my very being. Eldrick has been a paternal figure inflicting discipline, inducing spiritual growth and bolstering my self-image in times of existential flux. Indeed, in times when I have felt as insignificant as a zoospore of the genus chlamydomlongosonas, one look from Eldrick through my TV screen has been enough to get me through another day. I sense his encouragement from afar.

So advanced is my allegiance to Eldrick it cannot be described by the conditions of the here and now, but only through circumstantial theorems. Imagine that Eldrick was captured by the Taliban and forced to play basketball against Afghanistan’s #7 player, Habib Sveñsundersønmillnessfüdderfüdderfüdder in sudden death. The U.S. government, in a feeble attempt to better the situation, sends Jesse Jackson over as a hostage crisis mediator. Trusting my love’s safety to no one but myself, I would travel by subterranean thermo-hydraulic tunnels to Afghanistan and infiltrate into the coliseum and hotwire the scoreboard, declaring Eldrick the champion. This is but one scenario in which my loyalty to Eldrick would be manifest.
Yes, she really turned that paper in. Can you tell why I married her?

Four bats, five jellies

My wife just said, "I'm looking forward to going grocery shopping with you again."

When I asked why, she responded, "Because, last time we went, we got four bats and five jellies."

(That would be four whiffle bat and ball sets and five different flavors of jellies and jams.)

Who can pass up a whiffle ball and bat when it's getting warmer? Those things are the best, and they're really hard to find!!

And come on, can you really have too many varieties of jams and jellies? Red plum, peach, strawberry preserves.... (Did I mention I eat PBJ's for lunch literally nearly every day at work?)

Come to think of it, I'm looking forward to going grocery shopping too. You never know, they might have cool kickballs or amazing varieties of peanut butter!!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Photos from Hawaii

A number of people have asked to see pictures from our honeymoon to Hawaii. They're a month late, but at least they're here.

I'll try to be as selective as I can in what I include, but give you enough to get a sense of what we were able to experience.

Day 1 - Kauai

We had a pretty sweet backdrop for our first breakfast on the cruise ship off the island of Kauai.

And we got to rent some pretty sweet wheels in Kauai!

Mark Twain called Waimea Canyon "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." We agreed.

Near Waimea Canyon, this view shows part of the Na Pali Coast. You'll see more pictures from the ocean later.

The volcanic rock that forms the islands dominates much of the coastline.

Wailua Falls was featured in the opening credits of the TV show Fantasy Island.

The Wailua River, just downstream from the falls.

Probably the best sunset of the trip, off the north shore of Kauai.

Day 2 - Kauai

The Na Pali Coast. Pictures don't do it justice. We also got to see migrating humpback whales all along the coast surfacing and jumping out of the water.

Day 3 - Big Island (Hawaii), Volcanoes National Park

This is the scenery for much of Volcanoes National Park, though a rainforest does provide a nice lush change from the black lava fields and craters.

The lava along the coast is 20-30 years old. It's a 60-80 foot drop into the ocean.

Red hot lava. If you want to hear the story of the effort it took to get to this point, ask my wife or me.

More red hot lava. You can see red lava in three places: the top, bottom, and right portions of the picture. Notice also the silver lava that hasn't yet hardened.

We would have loved to have kept driving, but the road...well...

The rainforest. Volcanoes National Park isn't all black lava.

The Thurston Lava Tube, which was right in the middle of the rainforest portion of the park.

Day 4 - Big Island (Hawaii), Kona - OUR FAVORITE DAY!!

Our ship, the Pride of Aloha.

We rented some snorkel gear and took a $10 shuttle to a beach.

We got to swim with endangered green sea turtles (just like the ones in Finding Nemo).

We decided to have some fun and bought an underwater camera, knowing that the rate of success is pretty low with them. All in all, despite the fact that the clarity wasn't that great, the pictures could definitely have been worse.

We really felt like we were swimming with the entire cast of Finding Nemo.

The striped fish were more yellow than this picture indicates and the bigger fish were much more red.

You could stand in most of the area in which we snorkeled (though with the sharp and fragile coral, it wasn't recommended in many areas).

(That's my wife!!)

The green sea turtles were sunning themselves all over the place.

Day 5 - Maui

We found this fun little park just south of Hana.

This state park just north of Hana features one of Hawaii's few black sand beaches.

Behind us you can see the infamous Road to Hana, which features nothing but sharp turns, mostly 15 MPH speed limits, and numerous one-lane portions of road where you're simply expected to yield if you see an oncoming car.

The Iao Needle in Iao Valley is behind us.

Day 6 - Maui, Haleakala National Park

We purchased just one excursion through the cruiseline on our trip. It was a sunrise bike ride down from the top of Haleakala Crater, which is over 10,000 feet tall. We were supposed to meet our group at 3:15 AM to depart the ship. Neither of us slept well since we were afraid we'd miss the alarm.

We missed the alarm. At 3:54 I woke up and we threw clothes on and rushed out of our cabin and off the ship. The only option left was a shuttle ride that simply went to the top fo the crater and back. It was pretty much the same thing we were going to do, except without the bike ride. We decided to take it (and in the end were glad we missed the bike ride).

Neither of us was dressed for the adventure. The blanket in this picture was loaned to Jamie by some guy up at the top. We arrived an hour before sunrise and froze while we waited for the sun to rise.

While the sunrise was definitely pretty, we both decided that the crater would have looked just as pretty at noon as it did at 6:00 AM.

Off in the distance behind Jamie you can see the two 15,000-foot mountains of Big Island.

From the top, you could see a total of four other islands.

This shot across Haleakala Crater might be my favorite mountain shot of the trip.

One of the numerous cinder cones in Haleakala Crater.

Don't we look happy? Don't let the sunlight and the fact that we were in Hawaii fool you. They occasionally get snow on top of this mountain, and at this hour, it was in the forties.

We had the pleasure of being the joke of the bus. We were the youngest people by at least 20 years, showed up frazzled without the correct tickets for this shuttle, and were totally unprepared. It was pretty funny and gave us some great memories.

Day 7 - Oahu

The USS Arizona Memorial from on board the USS Missouri. Considering that one of us was a history major and the other is a WWII history buff, this trip was a major highlight for us!

This is the actual Instrument of Surrender signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay that ended WWII in the Pacific.

General Douglas MacArthur's signature on the Instrument of Surrender.

The spot on the USS Missouri where it all went down.

Jamie just couldn't resist the urge to pretend fly along the deck of the USS Bowfin, a submarine we toured.

Part of what remains of the USS Arizona.

The packed Arizona Memorial.

Leaving the USS Arizona Memorial.

Our current wallpaper background on our computer. (Along the north shore of Oahu.)

Waikiki Beach!

One last shot along Waikiki Beach. I was glad we got to go to Bugs Bunny's favorite beach, but have no real desire to go back. It's littered with stores like Rolex and Gucci and just all-around cramps our style, if you catch my drift.

That's our trip in a nutshell. We've already booked our next trip to Yosemite National Park in California, where I worked for a summer. We'll be gone June 5 - June 12 hiking in the Sierra Nevada.

As spectacular as Hawaii was, I'm not sure anything could beat Yosemite for me. But then, we haven't gone back to Hawaii yet....