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Wide White: August 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

What if it were with a woman?

Idaho Senator Larry Craig's recent actions were despicable, and I have absolutely no problem seeing him resign from office. However, I wonder how America would have reacted if he had been caught in the same Minneapolis airport soliciting an illicit relationship with a woman rather than a man?

Somehow, I don't think America would have erupted the way we have. It's sad that we treat these similar sins so differently, but...well, we do.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hurricane Katrina was sad

This is sad too.
...[A]n international people's tribunal has been convened to take testimony from victims. The tribunal is being spearheaded by legal activists trying to build a case under international law accusing the United States of human rights abuses during and after Katrina.
First, "international law" is an undefined, arbitrary term with no jurisdiction over anyone or anything in the United States. Second, "human rights abuses" resulting from a natural disaster being blamed on a country's government? You've got to be kidding...

It's been two years today since the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Retaliation towards someone we can blame is not the appropriate response!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not that I needed an explanation for the downed trees

But I got one.
At 4 a.m., winds were clocked at 71 miles per hour at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Considering that the airport is a half mile from our place, my 3:30 AM wake-up call makes sense. I counted 4 trees down at our place as I left for work, not to mention a fence that once held in a small yard at a townhome next to us. I love the power of the wind and how helpless humans are in the face of it!

World peace!

I'm sure most of you have seen this already, but if you haven't and you think pageants are as bad as I do, you'll like this clip from the Miss Teen USA pageant.
Seriously, doesn't she know that the correct answer to everything is "world peace"???

She was on the Today show this morning and attempted to redeem herself. Hmmm...I'm not sure you can really redeem yourself from that answer!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fatten up, America!

Yes, we're fatter. And it's a news story.

Mississippi is the biggest, with over 30% of their adult population being obese. A few other southern states are right behind it. Colorado is the thinnest state. Minnesota comes in 28th and Wisconsin 22nd (in this case, the higher - closer to 1st - you are, the more obese, so 28th is better than 22nd).

One of the first purchases my wife and I made after we got married was a scale. Over the last two months we've been making a concentrated effort on eating healthier and have been attempting (though too often in vain) to be more active. I just really didn't want to let myself spin out of control, because I've seen how unbelievably difficult it is to turn yourself around when you're older.

So far, it's paid off, with each of us actually shedding about 10 pounds. It's minimal and probably not really noticeable to people around us, but that's not the point. The point is to understand that our bodies are a gift to us and we need to treat them as such. Hopefully if we start understanding that while we're young, we'll be able to more easily continue it as we get older and our metabolism slows down.

I know, it's not all about weight. Plenty of people are thin and are still very unhealthy. But, it's still half the battle, and if I can win just half of the battle, the other half comes a lot easier!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Jimmy John's signs

If you haven't been to a Jimmy John's...well, you should go! In addition to great subs and an impeccable line of chips, they have signs all over their restaurants that keep you reading the walls more than eating.

One sign jumped out at me last night. I hadn't seen it before, and it's probably the funniest one I've read there so far. It said:
Bread so French it must be liberated!
Now that's just funny!

NOTE: I've looked and have been unable to find a place where these signs can be purchased. If anyone knows of a place that sells them let me know and I'll add a link.


Friday, August 24, 2007

From my wife today

Yes, we're still celebrating months. And we may be a little cheesy about it. So what? You wish you could be that cheesy too...
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!! 6 whole months of being married - I LOVE IT! and I LOVE YOU!

Even Hillary's supporters are nuts too!

I've seen this picture linked to a few Yahoo! stories about Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. I'm sorry, but I just can't help but laugh.

The sticker on the forehead is what really just puts it over the top. I don't know about you, but I sure wouldn't mess with her!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trivial media pandemonium

With Michael Vick's dog-fighting problems, the country has been fixed on the issue of dog-fighting. At the top of CNN's "Latest News" is a story about the number of pit bulls that are "euthanized" each year.

I bawled my eyes out all day when my dad got rid of our two English springer spaniels when I was 8. Since then, I've been bitten in the butt by a hybrid wolf-dog (65% wolf) and I still have a scar from the "friendly" lab that jumped up on me and then ran its claws down my leg. So maybe I just haven't been given many reasons to like dogs. I say that to acknowledge that I'm not exactly drawn into dog stories.

Still, does it make sense that Americans care more about the abuse of pit bulls than we do about so many other things? I know, considering that I just posted a video on a live reproduction of Super Mario Brothers, it's obvious that I don't think we need to spend all of our time reading about human death and destruction. But my problem with stories like the dog-fighting story is their endless continuation.

The dog-fighting issue is worth highlighting with an article or two. But I wonder how many stories were run on the Second Sudanese Civil War, which just ended two years ago and claimed the lives of nearly 2 million people, displacing 4 million more. A more recent event just last week, the Peruvian earthquake, claimed the lives of at least 540 people, but I haven't read a story on it yet this week. The dog-fighting story, on the other hand, has been running since April and we're still obsessed.

I'm constantly struck with how trivial are the news stories we become obsessed with for weeks on end. They're not always trivial in and of themselves. Dog-fighting alone isn't a trivial issue. But in light of the other things going on in our world, it's grossly menial.

But don't tell Americans that. The recovery of abused dogs is more important than the recovery effort in Winona, MN. And that's just the way it is. I only hope this blog finds a better balance than the media.

Real-life Super Mario Brothers

I've seen this before, but someone just passed it around at work again. I've never been a "gamer," but anyone who's seen a video game or lived in the 1990s has to get a kick out of this.

Seriously, I'm not sure what I like best. The pause, the last 30 seconds where it speeds up, kicking the turtle backwards and then jumping over it...I did a little music video thing for a talent show in college too, but it was nothing like this!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

History's oldest college football player

I just read a story about 59-year-old Mike Flynt, who's back in college (despite having graduated academically) so he can play the senior year of football that he never was able to play. He was kicked off the team in 1971 for fighting and regretted it ever since. I don't know anyone who's 59 who I think should be playing football, but I guess you've got to give him props. (I've actually driven by the college in Alpine, TX, where he's going. It's small, but hey, it's still college football!)

In other craziness, a bullet apparently ricocheted from a gun range in Oklahoma and hit a guy who was a mile away. The injured victim served in the military for 24 years and was never injured. Go figure!


Okay, I can't just reference this Oak Ridge Boys classic as I did in my last post and not just post the video.

Oh, the 80s...

Am I cold-hearted?

Or am I right in not being emotionally moved by this story of an illegal immigrant?

For those without the time to read the story, Elvira (reminds me of an Oak Ridge Boys song...) Arellano came to the U.S. illegally a number of years ago. She was deported. She came back. She had a kid. Then she was found out and went into hiding in a church. Her son, now 8, became a poster child for why we supposedly need to allow these "undocumented workers" (the nice way of saying "illegal immigrants") to be...well...documented.

No, I'm not brought to tears by the fact that she was deported when she came out of hiding. The fact that her son is still in the U.S. and she can't be with him just doesn't tug at my heart strings. She could bring him to Mexico, but chooses not to. She was often separated from him even in the U.S. as he was being exploited in his poster child status. Feeling sorry for her in this case would be like feeling sorry for a guy who was sent to prison for reckless driving after his 4th excessive speeding ticket.

The law was enforced and he chose not to obey it. Sure, I'd feel bad for his kids, as they're the ones bearing the brunt of the consequences of his actions. But in this hypothetical case and in Arellano's real life case, I don't feel sorry for the individual committing the crime. It's time for the U.S. to buck up and enforce the law or repeal the law altogether.

In relation to the I-35W bridge

I've been asked how close I am to the I-35W bridge. While I live just a few miles from I-35W, I live over 10 miles south of the bridge that collapsed. However, I work much closer.

I went down to the bridge with my wife and a few friends after a Twins game just a few days after it happened. We walked about a 3-mile radius around it (that was the closest we could get from one river crossing to the other).

In the picture below (click on the picture for a full-size view), you can see the semi that was in flames next to the school bus on the right side of the picture. (They're on the other side of and below the arch in the 10th Ave. bridge that runs adjacent to the I-35W bridge.) On the far left you can see a building with a black triangular top. That's the Accenture Tower. It's just to the left of the Foshay Tower and a bit shorter than a squared building just behind it. That's where I work.

Hopefully that helps give some perspective for how close it is to me. While my wife and I had crossed the bridge the Sunday before it collapsed, we don't normally use it, so it really has not thrown our own daily routine out of whack. It's caused a few minor headaches for us, but nothing like the inconvenience (not to mention the tragedy) it has been for countless others.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Women are animals

That's sort of how my wife described them in an email to me today.
Women go crazy over babies... they gather around, and oooh and awww like a fireworks show. They ask 100 questions, share their own experiences, tell the new mom how great she looks, and how cute the baby is - even when it just crapped or spit up all over. They will do this for hours if allowed. I'm not above any of th[is], nor do I even have a problem with it, I'm simply noting what I've observed (newborn was just brought in [to the office]) on more than one occasion.
Well, I found it humorous anyway. And true. It sounds sort of like Marty Stouffer describing the behavioral patterns of some little known creature.

Craigslist delivers just in time

My wife and I have been looking for a queen bed for our extra bedroom in our apt. so we have something more comfortable than the sofa bed - which is actually a good sofa bed, if such a thing exists - for guests. I have a large family and we're close to the airport, so it's nice to feel like we can invite people to stay over if needed.

We finally found a bed yesterday, thanks to the monster that is craigslist.

Not three hours after we'd brought the bed inside, my sister called me. She was stranded overnight at the airport. So were my grandpa, grandma, aunt, and two cousins (one an infant).

We hadn't even unwrapped the shrink wrap from the bed by the time I got back from the airport with them, but we did manage to scramble up some sheets and my grandparents reported a good night's sleep. Of course, I'm not sure if that was thanks to the bed or their exhaustion, but I know where I'm giving the credit.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Last bridge victim found

Considering that construction worker Greg Jolstad wasn't in a car when the I-35W bridge went down, but was on a skid loader, I wondered if his body would ever be recovered. How horrible for a family to know that your loved one was dead, but never have complete resolution?

Well, resolution came today for the Jolstads. It's sad, but it's a sense of relief.

Now, time to rebuild.

Newsflash: families are a good thing

I'm often baffled at the obvious facts that make the news.

On the other hand, in a culture in which many are attempting to redefine what "family" really means, it is refreshing to see confirmation of what many of us already knew.
NEW YORK - So you're between the ages of 13 and 24. What makes you happy?
Turns out the real answer is quite different [from a previous list of depravation]. Spending time with family was the top answer to that open-ended question, according to an extensive survey — more than 100 questions asked of 1,280 people ages 13-24 — conducted by The Associated Press and MTV [stalwarts of strong family values...] on the nature of happiness among America's young people.

Next was spending time with friends, followed by time with a significant other. And even better for parents: Nearly three-quarters of young people say their relationship with their parents makes them happy.
Now, if more parents would quit trying to be their kids' best friend and start being parents (aka, rules are okay!), we'd really be on the right track.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Yes, I am cool

I just added a new little feature to this blog called Snap Shots. Basically, when you hover over a link, you get a mini view of that web page. Or, if you prefer, you can see any RSS feeds related to that web page.

So, hover away. (And help me think I'm cooler than I really am.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Two-faced Cheney

I got to see Dick Cheney a few years ago and listen to him speak. He's a much better orator than I was expecting and is actually really personable.

However, if Cheney were a liberal, I'd likely be all over this story and be hounding him for being two-faced (remember Kerry's flip-flopping?). So, I think it's important to be fair here.

I think Cheney puts together a string of thoughts about as well as anyone. It just becomes a problem when your string of thoughts changes 10 years down the road.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

So, you want public health care?

Take it from this Canadian couple, who just gave birth to identical quintuplets. (No, they didn't use fertility drugs.)

I immediately thought it strange that this couple from Calgary, Alberta, had their baby in Great Falls, Montana. Reading on, I found out why.
The Jepps drove 325 miles to Great Falls for the births because hospitals in Calgary were at capacity, Key said.

"The difficulty is that Calgary continues to grow at such a rapid rate. ... The population has increased a lot faster than the number of hospital beds," he said.
That's another way of saying, "Socialized medicine doesn't work!!"

If Canadian health care were private, the number of hospitals would naturally expand with the population. Even if space in hospitals were tight, there's no way Canada's third largest city (about the size of San Antonio, Texas) would be completely out of room in their hospitals under a private health care system.

We can dispute how to properly care for the population that can't afford health insurance and whether or not that's the government's responsibility all day, but one fact remains clear: public health care absolutely does not work to adequately meet the people's needs. With a lack of entrepreneurship, these state-run hospitals are sluggish to change with updated technology and adjust to market demands (such as elementary changes like an increase in a metropolitan population that results in more children being born than than before...go figure...).

I could go on and on with this subject, but I think I've made my point. Public health care would devastate the American current health care system.

"Mentally ill" America

My dad sent me an article today by David Kupelian on mental illness that absolutely nails it. His point is dead on with my view on mental illness and the drugs that treat mental illness. I highly recommend reading it.

Some of my favorite quotes from the article:
In November 2005, more than four years after Yates drowned her children, Effexor manufacturer Wyeth Pharmaceuticals quietly added "homicidal ideation" to the drug's list of "rare adverse events."
The truth is, if we think we can solve problems like these with pills, we might be just as delusional as the people we're trying to help.
In fact, we're popping so many SSRIs that their breakdown products in urine, gushing into waterways, have accumulated in fish tissues, raising concerns that aquatic animals may be getting toxic doses, according to recent research at Baylor University.

When we've gotten to the point of poisoning fish, you know we're talking about a lot of drugs. And that's counting only antidepressants. What about all the other types of psychiatric meds we consume, including the tens of millions of prescriptions for Ritalin and other controversial stimulants taken by children and adults diagnosed with ADD (or ADHD) – a condition that didn't even exist until the 1980s?

...instead of being helped to understand where they've gone wrong, or where their negative programming, unhealthy relationships and destructive attitudes came from so they can correct them and find genuine healing, they're given clever drugs designed to chemically trick the body and mind into "feeling better."

And then, when they discontinue taking the drugs, they risk serious deterioration of their condition. But isn't that exactly what happens when we just mask symptoms and ignore root causes?

Moreover, why do even the smartest and most educated of our experts today tend reflexively to ignore root causes?

Because root causes have to do with God and our relationship, or lack thereof, with Him.
While understanding is in short supply today, the mental-health establishment is great at naming syndromes and conditions – probably to give the rest of us the impression they know more than they really do.

Are you a normal boy who doesn't really like shutting up and sitting at a desk for six hours a day listening to some boring teacher? You may have "attention deficit disorder." Are you an angry volcano inside? Then you suffer from "intermittent explosive disorder."
Today, everything is physiological and genetic and treated with drugs. Nothing is your fault. You're an innocent victim.

Furthermore, many of us like it that way. We like the idea that whatever is wrong with us is an organic disorder, that there's no sin, no weakness, no deficit of character on our part. Our egos love that, it comforts us.
There is also an excellent story from a woman about her experience on antidepressants - which she took at the advice of her pastor - and the damage they did to her spiritually. There are also good points made about the spiritual warfare that causes so many of these mental illnesses.

But, I've pasted enough of this article into this post. Do yourself a favor and go read the rest yourself!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Paying taxes in change

This guy knows how to make his point!
MUNCIE, Ind. - A landlord said he wanted people to see the pain of his property tax bill when he hauled $12,656.07 in coins and $1 bills to the county treasurer's office.

Cary Malchow said the heavy load left him "out of breath" but it was worth watching three cashiers working overtime and guarded by sheriff's deputies on Monday to count every last cent of the semi-annual payment for his home, business and rental properties.

"I did it so people can physically see what $12,000 is," said Malchow, who has staged other recent protests to draw attention to property tax increases.

It took 75 minutes to count out the cash, said Delaware County Treasurer Warren Beebe.

"They were fast, they were hustling. They're used to counting money, but of course that left other people standing in line. It was an awkward situation," Beebe said Tuesday.

Malchow's protest prevented the office from making its daily bank deposit, costing the county an estimated $1,135.90 in interest that would have otherwise accrued overnight, Beebe said.
I don't know about the tactics, but his point is right on: property taxes have to come down. Taxing people because they own something is ridiculous. I understand a tax to cover a police force that takes oversight of any crime that may happen on that property, as well as other services the government provides for property owners, but property taxes are used to pay for so much more.

But hey, socialism hasn't killed the Swedes yet, so what am I complaining about?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Funniest court filing you'll ever read

I know this sounds stupid, but you have to read this Federal court filing. I couldn't believe Fox News didn't make the news story sound as ludicrous as it is. I still can't believe how objective the story is. (The guy who filed this thing actually put a (c) next to his name and said that his name was copyrighted.)

It's a handwritten filing against Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick by a South Carolina prison inmate. It demands, among other things, $63 billion (that's "b" as in "billion") and alleges that Michael Vick stole this guy's pit bulls and sold them on eBay to buy missiles from Iran because he had pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda.

Seriously, I read all four pages of this court filing and wasn't sure if I should laugh more at the allegations or at the fact that it's stamped by the clerk of the U.S. District Court.

(Oh, and in case Vick wants to know what to do with the $63 billion...the plaintiff instructs that it should be "backed by gold and silver delivered via "UPS" United States Parcel Service to the front gates of FCI Williamsburg, S.C." I guess he got confused...doesn't everyone else assume there's a "States" in UPS too?? I will give the guy mad props for spelling most of the words correctly and for not having to scribble over anything he'd written...that's a pretty impressive feat for a guy with just a paper and pen in prison.)

Bridge collapse, volume II

A bridge in China has collapsed, an eery reminder of what happened just two weeks ago in Minneapolis. The difference? Over twice as many people were killed.

Oddly, Minnesota's transportation secretary was actually in China when the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis.

The death toll from this morning's Chinese incident stands at 29, but could rise. This bridge was still in the construction phase, though it was scheduled to open soon and workers were taking down scaffolding when the 1,000+-foot bridge collapsed.

Interestingly, CNN failed to even post the story on their main page. Apparently Benjamin Netanyahu's political victory in Israel was more important. I was able to find it on MSNBC's main page, buried down in the World News. Fox news mentioned it in their World section as well.

Still, it strikes me as a classic example of how focused Americans are on ourselves. I was trying to teach my wife to play Spades the other evening and went to Yahoo! Games. I was playing with a person from Switzerland and one from Georgia. When the Swiss found out I was from Minneapolis, he immediately asked about the bridge collapse. However, my guess is that more than half of those reading this never heard about the Chinese bridge collapse, which took more lives.

America probably does deserve the reputation for self-centeredness that we have. Part of it does have to do with the fact that we're all more interested in what hits close to home. But I think there's another part of it that revolves around the fact that we just don't care about anyone else.

Regardless, I think we need to mourn for 29+ Chinese workmen.

Could you have TP'ed your high school?

This CNN video shows a high school whose senior class was allowed to toilet paper the trees on the road leading into the school. While it looks neat, I wonder how much money was spent on the toilet paper. I also wonder how they're really going to clean it up, especially if it rains. I think I need to stop wondering...

My favorite quote was from the senior class president:
"It really shows what the class of 2008 is really about."
Please...if that's what you're "really about"...ah, I'm just going to shut up and let the quote speak for itself.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New Blog

Okay, so this isn't a new blog. On the contrary, this blog is 642 posts old.

However, I did break down and decide to overhaul it. I've had fun playing around with HTML, but I don't have the time to really put into it and my old blog template was starting to show that. So, I decided to go with Blogger's new, simplified template system.

The only problem: I lost my links. So, I'll have to slowly begin reassembling them. But it's okay because my wife is already a fan of the new look, and if she's happy...well, you know the deal.

Tommy Drops Out

He was great for Wisconsin, but America just wasn't ready for a beer-chugging good ol' boy from Elroy, Wisconsin. Tommy Thompson has dropped his bid for President after placing 6th in the Iowa straw poll.

He's a good guy, but running for U.S. Senate against Herb Kohl two years ago would have been a much better choice.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

One more reason I love my wife!

I just read a story in the Pioneer Press titled, "What A Working Girl Wants Is A Wife". This story from a NY Times journalist details how women want someone to keep up around the house and take care of the kids - a wife, really, or at least someone to fulfill the roles traditionally undertaken by the wife.

It reminded me of how much I love the fact that my wife has a heart to put her kids before her career. It's something that attracted me to her from the beginning. She's enjoying working now, but really doesn't want a career. The career she wants is to be a mom.

My mom's career was (and is) to be a mom. It's a career that will last over 40 years for her, as my youngest brother is just 17 months old. But I think of how many things I would have missed out on as a kid if my mom hadn't been there all day.

I'm not trying to bring down those who work full time and do struggle with the balance of kids and a job. Some people have necessities that don't allow them to stay at home. But I do know which option I prefer if given the choice. Even if I had to choose between buying a home and both of us working versus renting a house or townhouse with just me working so she could stay home with the kids, there's no question which option I'd take.

Okay, this wasn't intended to be a thesis. All I was really trying to say is, I love the decision my wife has made for what she wants to do with her life. I love my wife!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Minnesota baseball is feeling it

I got this email through the league I umpire in with the City of St. Paul. I didn't know the guy, but I know a lot of people who do.
It is with extreme sorrow and sadness that we announce Sport/Spine's longtime pitcher/3rd Basemen Pat Holmes was involved in the 35W bridge collapse and has been confirmed as one of the fatalities. The St. Paul Baseball community extends our thoughts and prayers to the Holmes's family. Pat was an accomplished ballplayer that represented Sport/Spine and St. Paul with class and dignity. More importantly, Pat will be remembered as a great family man, and friend.
Here's another post from this morning in an online baseball forum.
Pat Holmes, known by most as Homer, died in yesterdays bridge accident. Pat retired from Sport and Spine (SSC) following the 2006 season after many years of service. Pat was always the heart of our team and will be missed by all who played with him over the years.

Please put his wife and 2 young children, along with the rest of his family and friends in your thought and prayers.
Many of you may have seen the school bus with 60 kids that was on the bridge when it collapsed and went down with it. A coworker of mine has a daughter who was on that bus. She's okay, as are most of the kids who were on the bus (last I heard two were critical).

Thoughts from my pastor

The crux of this blog post from my pastor last night is parallel with thoughts I communicated to my dad at exactly the same time as Pastor John posted this blog post. Why have we been given more time to live than those whose lives were cut short by this tragedy? It's only by God's grace.

Our response can be one of anger at MnDOT, politicians, the contractors working on this bridge, etc. Or our response can be one of awe at God's mercy on us. What's yours?