Friday, February 27, 2004

I feel so appreciated

Tonight is the Teacher Appreciation Banquet at church. Mrs. A signed us up to go. I guess I have to, huh? These kind of things don't really do anything for me. I know they're a nice gesture, but I'd just as soon have an evening at home.

You want me to feel appreciated? How about hanging the bulletin board and dry marker board in our classroom? How about replacing those 300W fixtures with flourescent lighting like we've talked about and then maybe we can run both coffee pots on Sunday morning without tripping the breaker? How about volunteering to bring the doughnuts and make some phone calls? How about showing up on time and not straggling in 30 minutes late? THOSE things make me feel appreciated.

But I guess dinner will have to do.

(That sounds REALLY cynical, and while I wasn't shooting for that, maybe it's my passive-aggressive tendencies showing themselves again. I WILL smile and be friendly and have a good time tonight, even if it sounds like I'm just a cranky, bitter old man.)

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    Anybody missing a soapbox?

    'Cause Mrs. A found it today. (Yeah, as a matter of fact, I DO plan on linking to her a lot. Go figure.)

    The only thing I would add is that I think the same compartmentalization of the church that separates families in worship also limits the overall idea of 'corporate' worship as it isolates people into their little groups and doesn't allow for a lot of interaction. I mean, really, do 40 year-olds need to be kept separate from the 30, 50 and 60 year-olds? It's hard to build churchwide unity when the strongest bonds are to the sub-group.

    In the past couple of churches we've attended, the most difficult group of people to deal with were the senior adults, most of whom only interacted with other seniors and viewed the rest of us as "outsiders."

    Anyway, it's something to think about.

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    Well, hello there!

    You know, when your internet server goes down and you can't go anywhere, it's such a relief when it finally starts working again. It makes me feel like I've been cut off from the rest of the world and since I couldn't get out, then naturally EVERYBODY missed me.

    Only it's more like Lucy in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, when she comes back and says, "Here I am!" and everybody looks at her like she's crazy, 'cause they never knew she was gone.

    ::sigh::

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    Thursday, February 26, 2004

    I think she likes it

    Mrs. A, that is.

    Blogging.

    She's even getting over some of her cautiousness about visiting other blogs and leaving comments. (What have I unleashed!?!)

    But there are still things that freak her out. Yesterday, she thought she had screwed something up when she loaded her page and THERE WERE NO COMMENTS. No, not the fact that no one had left a comment, THE COMMENTS WERE GONE COMPLETELY!

    Relax, I told her. You didn't do anything wrong. When that happens, all it means is that the Haloscan comments server is down. They'll come back at some point when they get THEIR problem fixed. She was much relieved.

    Next, I'm going to get her started on her own blogroll.

    It has been fun talking about y'all's blogs, though.

    "Did you read so-and-so today?"
    "Which one is that?"
    "(Insert blog name here)"
    "Yeah, did you see my comment?" etc.

    She called me today and told me about her parking garage experience this morning. Sounds like a blog entry to me, I said. Yes, it does, said she.

    Tee hee.

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    How ironic

    The 9 o'clock news had a little editorial type bit on last night about teens and sexuality which took a positive slant on abstinence. They talked to a group of teens involved in True Love Waits as well as the founder of one of the areas abstinence-only education programs (who we know because they are the ones that do the program for the Middle School in our district). The guy who did the piece has two teenagers himself which he admitted is what prompted him to do this report. The segment ended with a discussion of the influences of music, magazines, TV and films on how teens perceive their sexuality. The TV show he used to illustrate the "everybody's doing it" message? The O.C.

    The newscast is on Fox.

    Heh.

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    Do you know where you're goin' to?

    Fort Worth is an interesting town. We have two freeways that meet downtown and split the city into four quadrants. I-30 runs East/West and I-35W runs North/South.

    (I-35E runs through Dallas, merging with I-35W in Denton to the North and in Hillsboro to the South back to just plain ol' I-35. Not that that has anything to do with this post, but hey, maybe you wanted to know, you know?)

    And of course each of these freeways is also known by another name, so you get traffic reports in the mornings that sound something like this.
    The South-bound side of the North freeway is backed up due to on accident on the East-bound ramp to the West freeway.
    Makes sense to me.

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    We now know what we don't know

    When I got to my dad's house on Friday, one of the first things I found out was that he had a follow-up visit scheduled with his doctor on Monday morning.

    "Would you like me to stay and go with you?" I asked. Which my father and sisters (who were there until Sunday morning) all thought was a bang-up idea. They had even prepared a list of questions/topics to discuss with the doctor. I called work and home and had everything arranged in short order.

    My dad doesn't like doctors much.

    Part of this is due to his age/upbringing. If you cut yourself while working, you didn't stop and go have stitches put in, you wrapped it up or put a band aid on it and kept going. You might soak it in Epsom salts before you went to bed at night, but you never gave in to the pain. Growing up on the farm, you had to pull your weight every day. If you could move, you were still expected to complete your chores. As an adult, he had the end of his little finger pinched off in a machine one morning and the plant manager made him go to the doctor. My dad convinced the doctor to put a butterfly bandage on it and release him to go back to work that same day. Burns, cuts, broken ribs...pshaw. Up to this point, my dad's idea of a "pain pill" is taking ONE Advil. And he'd take that only if the pain kept him from sleeping at night.

    Another part of his dislike of doctors is related to the death of his father and the death of my mother. He watched as the doctors tried to save their lives to no avail, coming away with a strong belief that medicine, at best, was mostly a matter of trial and error and at worst, was human experimentation gone awry. He carries some bitterness over the lack of dignity involved in the hospitalization of a loved one. No matter how good the hospital, doctors or nurses, they can only provide care, not Care.

    And lastly, he has had some bad experiences when he has actually seen a doctor. One doctor actually performed a procedure that my father had specifically instructed was NOT to be done (and was smart enough afterwards not to bill for). In relation to his current health problems, he has been complaining for YEARS that there was something wrong with him. One doctor told him he was just angling for surgery when none was needed (hello? my dad? not likely). Another suggested it was all in his head. One surgeon refused to investigate when my dad was already scheduled for an operation in the same area, saying "I don't do exploratory surgery (it keeps the malpractice insurance costs down). So, I think it's fair to say he has trust issues.

    But the good news is he likes THIS doctor. She listens, she cares, and the fact that she's an attractive 30 something doesn't hurt either.

    On Monday morning we made a trip to the pharmacy to drop off prescriptions. My dad stopped driving in December and so the ladies at the pharmacy had been missing him. They even had a get well card already signed and ready for him when he walked through the door. One of the benefits of living in a small town. Even though we were at least twenty-five minutes early at the doctor's office, we only waited about ten minutes before she saw us. Another benefit of living in a small town, I suppose. It was an interesting visit, since this is only about the third or fourth time she's seen my dad. He's not much of a complainer, and that, coupled with a memory that's not as sharp as it once was, has led to his medical history/condition coming out in dribbles and drabs. The doctor learned five or six new things that she didn't know before. Shoot, I learned a couple of things I didn't know before. Like him having swollen lymph nodes under both arms. The doctor had him un-tuck his shirt so she could see 'em and feel 'em. I accused him on the spot of going to ANY length to get a woman to feel him up. The doc's response to that was to comment that she could see the two of us were definitely related.

    In the end, it was determined that a bone scan would be the next logical step. What my dad told me a few weeks back is not necessarily the case, although it is still a LIKELY scenario. Right now, the doctor only has enough information to know what she doesn't know. Kind of like a jigsaw puzzle, where the edge pieces are done but the inside is still uncertain. There is definitely a problem, but it's not clear exactly what we're dealing with yet.

    We filled out the HIPPA release forms so my RN, PNP sister-in-law could call and talk medicine with the doctor. We also picked up the power of attorney and DNR (do not necessitate resuscitate) forms and filled them out, at least to the point where all he needs to do is sign them and get them notarized.

    Made another trip to the pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions (with a small delay to buy my step-mom a box of 1/2-off Valentine's day candy) and then it was back home. I left late Monday afternoon and drove as far as Oklahoma City before stopping for the night. It wasn't nearly as difficult for me to leave as it was when my sisters said goodbye, mostly because I'm planning on going back in three weeks and bringing the rest of the family with me, but it wasn't easy either. My dad asked me to write letters to the two missionaries he sends monthly support to in order to let them know they might need to start looking for other funding. I told him I'd be glad to do it, which is the truth and a lie both, if you know what I mean.

    Thanks to all of you for your prayers and well wishes. I'll keep you informed as things develop.

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    Wednesday, February 25, 2004

    Super ego

    I got to see a lot more TV the past few days than I normally watch. Especially the Sunday morning talking heads. I got to see Aaahnuld's interview and Ralph "I really am crazy" Nader's announcement. Not a bad weekend to watch, at least from the entertainment value perspective.

    Ralph was asked if his candidacy was about feeding his ego. Like that's even an issue? Duh.

    But then again, I think that's what leads ALL the candidates (GWB included) to run in the first place. Why hasn't this question been asked of John "I served in Viet Nam" Kerry or Howard "Yeeaaargghh" Dean or John "Humble beginnings" Edwards? Would anyone think to ask George "Flightdeck" W. Bush if his candidacy was about his ego?

    The fact that THEY actually have a chance of winning doesn't mean they don't have big egos to feed too. And a big ego isn't necessarily a BAD thing, if you've got the results to go with it. Only then we call it by other names like "confidence" and "leadership".

    Like the saying goes, it ain't braggin' if you can back it up.

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    The Passion of the Christ

    Opens today. I will probably see it at some point, but I have no burning desire to rush out and buy a ticket or no sense that I. MUST. SEE. THIS. FILM.

    Some folks are rabidly against this film, accusing Mel of using the violence in the story the way a pornographer would use sex. To hear the naysayers, merely viewing this film will make one rush out to commit all sorts of violent, bigoted and anti-Semitic acts. Hmmm. May I remind them what they told us about Natural Born Killers? It's just a film. Get over it.

    Others are proclaiming that this film is THE. BEST. THING. EVER. Short of the second coming, anyway. And while I can appreciate their enthusiasm, I have to say, this movie is NOT a documentary. There were no cameras on Golgotha that fateful day. Please keep in mind, as is the case with most movies, the book is much better.

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    I'm back

    but the alligators are biting today. I'll post an update on my dad in the near future, but suffice it to say that he's as ornery as ever. (and that's a GOOD thing)

    Later.

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    Thursday, February 19, 2004

    On the road again

    I will be leaving at o'dark thirty in the morning, heading to Missouri to spend a couple of days with my dad, so this is it until Monday. If you get bored between now and then, may I recommend the blog of someone who has just started blogging but I feel like I've known a long time?

    Y'all have a good weekend. (and let's be careful out there)

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    True or False?

    You can't legislate morality.

    I asked this question Sunday morning and had people answer by secret ballot. The class was pretty evenly split with 55% saying False and 45% saying True. Not too surprising (and probably a much different result that if I'd have asked for verbal responses).

    Here's the follow-up question. Define the concept of 'justice' without using moral terms.

    I'm sure someone somewhere has done it, but it's not easy to do without invoking the terms 'right' and 'wrong', two very important moral terms. Webster's defines morality as
    a doctrine or system of moral conduct
    and moral is defined as
    of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior
    What are laws if they are not legal enactments of moral judgments? Theft, rape and murder are all 'wrong' behaviors (a moral judgment) and therefore have been made illegal. However, not ALL of what can be considered immoral is illegal, and that's where people begin to have disagreements.

    When the Supreme Court struck down the Texas sodomy laws, many who were in favor of the SCOTUS ruling used "You can't legislate morality" as the justification for their position. But that's not really what they meant or they would be advocating getting rid of the laws against theft, rape and murder too. Many of them meant, "I disagree with what society has traditionally held as moral behavior" which is a completely different justification from the one they posed. Others meant, "Society SHOULD NOT codify THIS moral judgment and make THIS behavior illegal." Again a much different justification.

    So while I think "You can't legislate morality" is a completely bogus assertion, I do think it's fair to say "Legislation won't make people moral." But nobody wants to argue from that position as the fault then lies with the PEOPLE and not with the LEGISLATION.

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    Memo

    To: Texas Ranger Management

    From: The Paying Public

    Re: A-Rod trade

    Perhaps you were absent the day "Improving Your Team" was taught in Baseball Management School. Or perhaps you are just unclear on the concept. In either case, may we remind you that to improve your team, you must KEEP your good players and TRADE the underperformers, not the other way around. We realize this advice is free and so you may not listen to us. If it would make you feel better, you could hire a consulting firm and pay them several hundred thousand dollars to give you this same advice. Whatever you prefer.

    Before we go, we have heard a rumor and we would appreciate any comments you may have regarding it. We understand the official 2004 Team Slogan will be, "The Texas Rangers: No names? No talent? No problem." Is there any truth to that? If not, may we still use last year's "We suck" slogan?

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    Wednesday, February 18, 2004

    What about the money you owe me?

    It seems that Nate couldn't let Jim have all the fun.

    He took a tumble trying to snowboard and now hurts in places he forgot he ever had. The best part is, with his concussion and all, he CAN'T REMEMBER anything from the time of the accident until sometime early this morning.

    Now I'm not saying we should take advantage of Nate in this time of trouble, but Terry, didn't he promise to buy you a car sometime yesterday afternoon? And what about that $50.00 $100.00 $500.00 he bet me on the TCU-Louisville game last night? Yeah, that's the ticket.

    Y'all go on over and wish him a speedy recovery (and remind him of all the 'promises' he made yesterday that he now conveniently has forgotten all about).

    Hey, with friends like these...

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    On elves

    My two daughters have an elf fetish. The Eldest Aardvark Child has thought that Legolas was the hottest thing to ever grace the screen since the first time she laid eyes on him. The Youngest Aardvark Child, maintaining her long history of "me-too-ism" has also developed an unhealthy (well, no, not really, but it's SO much more dramatic to say so, don't you think?) attachment to this fictional elf.

    Now, it's important to note that it is Legolas that is the object of their adoration, not Orlando Bloom. Hence, there was only mild interest in Orlando Bloom as Will Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean. "He's ok." Shrug. Whatever. But mention Legolas? "Oooohhhh!!!"

    The EAC has garnished quite a collection of Legolas posters and Legolas action figures (along with a Black Rider figure, 'cause he needs somebody to fight, right?) and Legolas key chains, and...well you get the picture. For Christmas, she got the lifesized cardboard cutout of Legolas, which now holds a position of prominence in her room.

    Wanting too much to be like her sister, but not wanting to be too much like her sister, the YAC bought the cutout of Arwen for her room. (Arwen's lime green outfit matches the sheets on the YAC's bed perfectly. Hey, what do think the odds are that Mrs. A will let me get a lifesized Liv Tyler cutout for OUR bedroom? Yeah, that's what I thought too. ) The EAC and YAC have detailed discussions of all the LotR scenes featuring elves and they have taken elvish names for themselves and given elvish names to their friends.

    It's just a phase. It's just a phase. It's just a phase.

    On the way to church Sunday morning, the (suprise!) topic of Legolas came up. I asked them, "Do you know what it's called when you have a compulsive attachment to a certain male elf?"

    "No, dad. What?"

    "Legolust."

    ...

    ...

    ...

    Thank you. Thank you. I'll be here all week. Don't forget it's a three drink minimum.

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    Tuesday, February 17, 2004

    Quit monkeying around

    This story has been all over the radio the last couple of days. The thumbnail version is a guy made a remark that COULD have been construed as racially insensitive (so naturally it was) at a company Christmas party. When he realized it was taken as a racial statement, he immediately apologized. I guess when you've been offended and your brother is a state Senator, that's not enough, so now the guy's been fired.

    I'm trying to remember when it was that we decided as a society that the worst thing you could do was offend somebody. We've been headed in that direction for quite a while, but I think it really started to take off about the time of the Clarence Thomas hearings.

    There are a couple of unintended consequences for trying to avoid offending anyone. One is that we're losing the capacity to even TALK about some subjects (affirmative action, homosexuality, and slavery come to mind) for fear of someone twisting our words around to claim we have offended them. That's double plus un-good.

    Secondly, we have turned over the power in our society to whoever is the most easily offended. In the world of Spiderman, 'with great power comes great responsibility' is the rule. In our world, it's more like 'with great power comes no responsibility'. Don't like the outcome of something? Claim racism, prejudice, bias or insensitivity and watch people jump through hoops to get you to shut up. Take no responsibility for your own actions or your own destiny, it's ALWAYS someone else's fault. We have conditioned people to be offended at the slightest provocation because that's how you gain power. Once you are offended, you can control the outcome of any situation. The offenders are always BAD and the offended always GOOD. Which side do YOU want to be on?

    So, instead of building a society of strong people who can handle a little adversity, we are building a nation of hyper-sensitive wusses. Gone are the days when the retort to something offensive was, "Same to ya, buddy!" Now the response is, "I'm telling." Bunch of wimps.

    Sorry if that hurts your feelings. Deal with it.

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    "I think I'm gonna hurl" - Garth Algar

    Sometimes I'm just a big ol' doofus. (Sometimes?)

    I got home last night and immediately failed to notice the fact that my wife had colored her hair. This in spite of the fact that I left the house that morning KNOWING that she intended to do just that. Steeeee-rike ONE! She wasn't mad, per se, more like hurt that I wasn't paying attention.

    The dinner table conversation veered all over the place (as it normally does). At one point, I teased the EAC by laughing with a snort (as she is sometimes prone to do). "I don't do that any more," she protested (mildly). "No, and you don't do it any less, either," I said. (Hey, all those bad cliches have to come from SOMEWHERE don't they?) A short while later, the YAC, got caught trying to laugh while drinking her Coke (she normally doesn't get Coke for dinner, but ... well, it's a long story), making one of those short cough/snort sounds that people make when they're trying to laugh and drink at the same time. Not thinking there was anything to it, I blurt out, "THAR SHE BLOWS!" I was in the process of taking my dishes to the sink, and so had my back turned. When I turned around, I realized that she really was choking as she began a round of violent coughing. Which triggered the ol' gag reflex, which meant that we all got to see her dinner...again...right there on the kitchen table. She was ok (though for some reason wanted nothing further to eat or drink), but there was the little matter of the mess to clean up. One handy hand towel later and it was safe to open your eyes. But what to do with the towel? I normally would have taken it outside and rinsed it with the hose, but since it's winter the outside faucets are all covered. I'm not rinsing it out in the sink or the tub, so the solution? "I'll buy you a new hand towel. This one's going out." Mrs. A says, "Well, THIS is turning out to be quite a birthday." Oops. Steeeee-rike TWO!

    Fortunately for me, I managed to avoid strike three the rest of the evening (at least I THINK I did...there's always that little bit of doubt). Presents were presented and opened and there was much rejoicing. I acted against my instincts and actually bought her a set of stainless steel mixing bowls (with lids!) for her birthday (along with some other stuff) since that's what she really wanted. I'm not sure, but I think that's the present she liked the best. Plus I got a really good deal on them since they weren't in a box (Who says I can't think outside the box?), and everybody knows that getting good stuff at ridiculously low prices only enhances the enjoyment. Turns out that I got a better deal than I bargained for since there was an EXTRA bowl nestled inside that the sales lady and I had both failed to notice. Mrs. A is taking that one back today, since it really isn't ours. My bet is that it will be harder to return it for free than it would be to return it for a refund. I guess if there is anything difficult about it, Mrs. A will blog it on her own.

    Anyway, later, the EAC, Mrs. A and I were all sitting on the couch watching TV, when I said something witty (It could happen...eventually) that caused the EAC to snort. "Hey, I thought you didn't do that anymore," I said. And with a big grin, the EAC says, "Yeah, but I don't do it any less, either!"

    That's my girl.

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    Monday, February 16, 2004

    MERCY!

    (Why is it that I start channeling Elvis - the fat one, of course - when I see that?)

    The long awaited day has finally arrived.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present for your reading pleasure, the one, the only, Mrs. A and her new blog Mercy Over Mayhem. (MOM - cute, huh?)

    Now stick with me, 'cause this gets confusing. Over here, I'm me, but over there I'm someone else and my wife is here, only not really 'cause she's over there and over there she's herself and I'm the spouse and the kids ... where was I?

    To ease the translation difficulties, I have developed the following cross reference.
    ALANHA . . . . . . . . . . . MOM

    LittleA..........................Mr. Mayhem
    Mrs. A..........................Mercy
    EAC.............................Mayhem #1
    YAC.............................Mayhem #2
    Feel free to cut it out and tape it to the corner of your monitor.

    Everybody go on over and say hi, but make sure you stay on your good behavour, 'cause she doesn't put up with much guff (I should know). And don't get too friendly either, Bub, 'cause I've got my eye on you! (Who knew Aardvarks were territorial?)

    PS. You could wish her happy birthday too, since today's the day.

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    Weekend notes

    Valentine's banquet at church Friday night. Ham, cinnamon apple slices, green beans almondine, au grautin (hog rotten, as we always say) potatoes, and cheesecake (the kind you eat). The food was delicious. I got there to discover that my wife and I were not only attending, we were the designated table hosts, making sure that everyone had tea and coffee and helping distribute full plates of food. (Of course, my wife new about this ahead of time, and of course, she told me, but of course, it went in one ear and out the other so it was a total surprise for me when I got there, but of course, I acted cool like I remembered that she told me because, of course, I don't want to have to have THAT conversation again...you know, the one about me not paying attention? Honey, if you're reading this, I only added these comments for humorous effect, you know...artistic license?)

    We had three SLOLs sitting at our table and were later joined by a young couple (married only six months). For those of you unfamiliar with the SLOL acronym, it stands for Sweet Little Old Lady, and I find it to be a particularly useful description. Of course, the first one to sit down introduces herself as "The meanest old woman in the church" (she was kidding...I think). Excuse me? Was that a gauntlet I just heard being slapped down? I'm usually not a big party person, but as luck would have it, I was having an 'on' night and so was having a lot of fun. Guess which table guest got the over-the-top, extra-special, super-duper, queen-for-day treatment? Of course, the more attention my wife and I paid the her (and the other SLOLs too), the more tickled she got. Everyone had a good evening and in fact, "The meanest old woman in the church" called my wife the next day to thank us again for being such great hosts.

    The musical entertainment for the evening wound up being a friend of the pianists. Coincidentally, he is also a guy I worked with back when the Lockheed-Martin plant was still General Dynamics (I knew him, he didn't know me). I thought he was a puffed-up jerk back then, and while I got no indication whether that assessment was still accurate, I can tell you he sings well. Mostly old songs and old show tunes. Most of the crowd was appreciative of his singing, however there were a few "adults" that were making snide remarks about the geezer music. One couple even got up and left during the music. I thought at the time that they must have had somewhere else they needed to be (maybe to pick up the kids or something), but come to find out, they just hated the music that much. I know their mammas taught them better, what'dya gonna do?

    We got snow Friday night/Saturday morning. Snow in Texas (at least away from the panhandle) is a big deal. Usually it's ice that pays us a visit, but this year we got about four inches of powdery snow. The kids got out Saturday morning and made snow angels and threw snowballs and made a pathetic attempt at building a snowman. They knew you had to roll the snow to make a snowman, but couldn't figure out that you had to change directions when you roll it. As a result, they didn't have snow balls to stack, they had snow tires. By Saturday night, most of the snow was gone except for the decaying corpses of the snowmen.

    My brothers drove up about 10:30 and came inside and stood up for a cup of coffee (didn't want to sit, since that's what they'd been doing). We got to talk a little bit about my dad (where they'd been) and his prognosis (I'll save that for later) and then they were back in the truck headed back for Washington state. They added an extra day to their trip to spend an hour with me. Wouldn't even let me feed 'em. Brothers...

    One of the EAC's friends from church, let's call her Arwen, since she's a big LotR fan, is not what you'd call a frilly girl by any means. Let's just say she doesn't spend a lot of time in front of the mirror, nor is she greatly concerned with her appearance. She'd probably be comfortable in the 'back to nature' crowd, know what I mean? But she's a nice kid, nonetheless (Skeeter is her younger brother, by the way). One of the things about Arwen's appearance that drives Mrs. A nuts is her eyebrows. She has sported a thick almost uni-brow look for some time. "Give me fifteen minutes and a pair of tweezers..." Mrs. A has been known to mutter.

    Image my shock then, on Sunday morning, when Arwen shows up with freshly done eyebrows. Only they were more than that. Whoever did them went too far in the other direction. Instead of a big thick uni-brow, she now has short, ultra thin eyebrows that only go half-way across her eyes. Like whoever did it kept whittling them down and didn't get them evened out until they were mostly gone. Oh well, at least she's trying. The last time I saw her she was wearing makeup. I'm going to have to ask the EAC if Arwen has a boyfriend.

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    Friday, February 13, 2004

    Weekend doings

    Up until yesterday evening, I had planned on getting a hairs cut. (That is right, isn't it? I mean I'd hate to pay $12 to some guy to just cut one hair.) But that's out now. Change of plans

    My brothers are in Missouri visiting my dad, and they are heading back home this afternoon. They are making a detour to come spend a couple of hours with me tomorrow. When you're driving back to Washington state, what's another day, right?

    Mrs. A is having her annual day on Monday, and so I'll be taking the kids out Saturday afternoon to do some last minute shopping (Honey, if you're reading this, don't forget to make your list!). Tonight is the VD banquet. Wait. That doesn't seem right. Let's try again. Tonight is the Valentine's Day banquet at church, and tomorrow we'll go out for my wife's birthday dinner. (Can't do it next weekend as I'll be in Missouri then) Sunday is shaping up to be a pretty normal day, with bells, Sunday School, church, home, more church, and more home.

    Hope you have a good weekend. See you Monday. (Though, technically, I won't really see you on Monday. It's just a figure of speech ... What? ... Oh, you knew that? ... Sorry)

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    PETA offers donation, skeet shooters excited

    PETA has offered to donate $20,000 worth of veggie burgers to the nearest school district if the town of Slaughterville, Oklahoma will change the name to Veggieville.

    There is no indication in the article if officials from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico will be consulted.

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    What!?!

    San Francisco, CA - Mattel executives are denying rumors that Ken and Blaine were married yesterday in a private ceremony performed at City Hall. An unidentified person in the Barbie entourage is quoted as saying, "Well, after 43 years and still no commitment, it's not like she didn't see this coming."

  • |

    Nomenclature

    Shouldn't a defibrillator be a device you can use to get your kids to stop lying?

    "Tell me the truth. Don't make me hook up the defibrillator again."

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    Thursday, February 12, 2004

    Why is this 'news'?

    Barbie and Ken are no longer an item.

    Shouldn't this be a paid advertisement and not a news story?

    How much you want to bet this'll make the evening news?

    Next, did Ken actually serve his time in the National Guard or was he AWOL? Just how much plastic surgery has Barbie undergone anyway? We deserve to know.

    UPDATE: I didn't hear it on the news last night, but it was on the radio this morning. The local paper also has it on their website as a 'top story'

  • |

    Tee hee hee

    You'll never guess what the wife and I did last night after the kids went to bed!

    ...

    ...

    ...

    Perverts!

    We started setting up her BLOG! We got far enough along into the setup so that she was totally confused. I reassured her that most of the stuff we did, she wouldn't have to mess with again, except for remembering her login(s) and password(s). And that we could add other stuff as she goes along. "What other stuff?" she said with a little trepidation.

    "Oh, let's see. You'll need to add comments (another id and password) and you'll want a sitemeter to see who's coming by (another id and password), oh yeah, and we'll get you signed up to the 'ecosystem'. Then you're going to want to be able to add links and stuff..."

    "I THOUGHT THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE EASY!!!!!!!"

    We're having lunch today so I can 'splain (more better) how all this stuff works. After 19 years, I still forget how much she needs to plan ahead, so hopefully talking things through will help.

    I promised her I wouldn't post a link to her site until she actually had a "real" post (as opposed to the 'test' post we put up last night). Could be tomorrow, but I'd bet on next week.

  • |

    $uper. Just $uper

    The little (which is a relative term, since it used to be normal sized until they started making them big enough to have their own zip codes) grocery store by our house has changed ownership. For years it has operated as Burrus, which made sense as it was owned by the Burrus family. Sometime in the recent past, they sold it and this week the sign out front was changed from Burrus to $uper $aver. To which I say, $well.

    Now I don't know about you, but $uper $aver has a much different 'feel' to it than Burrus does. Burrus was a comfy name for a grocery store, in part because it has that local flavor and in part because you knew that was the name of the owner. You don't like the quality of merchandise or the speed of the service? No problem. If the manager can't help, you can always talk to Mr. or Mrs. Burrus. You know they'll care. I mean their name's out there on the sign, right?

    $uper $aver. $uper $aver. Nope. Just doesn't have the same comfy feel to it.

    The other thing about Burrus is that you knew going in that it wasn't going to be the cheapest place in town to buy groceries. But they weren't going to gouge you like "Bubba's Get 'N' Split" convenience store would either. The quality of merchandise was good enough that even when you bought the store brand vegetables, you didn't feel like you were going to wind up eating stems and pieces swept up off the floor. (Mama, why is the corn green?) The checkers and baggers had either been there forever or were kids that your kids go to school with. Burrus was the place where you went when you didn't need to buy enough stuff to make it worth the longer trek to the Albertsons.
    "We need milk and bread."
    "Ok, I'll just go down to Burrus. I'll be right back."
    That sort of thing.

    $uper $aver gives off a whole different vibe, doesn't it? $uper $aver resonates with me as a store that will be neither $uper nor $aver. It says,
    Come $hop with us. We keep our costs down by only $weeping the $tore once a week. Name brands? You can't be a $aver $pending all your money on name brands, now can you? Here, we're running a $pecial this week on $lightly $our milk (limit 2). $ervice? Look pal, the name is $uper $aver, not $uper $ervice, bag it yourself. What are you, $ome $ort of troublemaker?
    I realize that the new owners probably couldn't keep the Burrus name, but change it to something like "Bob's Market" or "Luis Grocery" or something like that. Even if there's no Bob or Luis, it's still a warmer name than $uper $aver. $avvy?

    (Why yes, I AM an old fart and don't like change. Why do you ask?)

  • |

    Wednesday, February 11, 2004

    Politicians are a lot like accountants

    or is that backwards?

    There's an old joke about folks of the accounting persuasion.

    A man is looking to hire a new employee. Since jobs are scarce, he receives resumes from people with varied backgrounds. Out of these resumes, he selects three people to interview, one mathematician, one attorney and one accountant. He interviews each, using standard interview questions, and at the end, to see how they will respond to a silly question, asks "How much is two plus two?"

    The mathematician, taken aback, thinks to himself, "This is a trick. He expects me to say four, but I'll show him!" and proceeds to give a long drawn-out explanation of arcane mathematical theorems before concluding, "And so, as I've just shown you, we can state with certainty that two plus two equals precisely four."

    The attorney, using a similar line of thought gives the man a thorough rendering of all the precedent setting cases, concluding with, "And so, the law has consistently been interpreted as affirming that the sum of two and two equals, without equivocation, the number hereafter to be referred to as 'four'."

    The accountant, upon hearing the question, stops dead and begins to slowly look around the room. Holding one finger to his lips, he gets up from the chair and goes to the door, looking both ways down the hall, making sure it's empty. He silently closes the door, comes back to the man's desk, leans over and whispers, "What do you want it to be?"



    Remind you of anyone? Dean? Kerry? Edwards? Anyone believe that Clark's sudden conversion to the Democratic party was about anything besides seeking power? How about Bloomberg all of a sudden discovering he was a Republican just in time to run for mayor?

    I think that's why most of the political insiders have been consistently surprised by GWB. He's got principles. When he says he's going to do something, he does it, and the talking heads have a conniption fit because following through on his word is THE LAST THING they expected. It's pretty sad when Mohammar Qhadaffi (one of a dozen spellings) gets it and John Kerry doesn't.

    What John Kerry says
    "I am absolutely convinced I voted for the security of the United States of America with the assurance of the president that he was going to go to the United Nations and build an international coalition, that he was going to make a plan to win the peace, that he would do the preparations, he would respect the U.N. process and that he would go to war as a last resort."
    What John Kerry voted for
    SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
    (a) AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to

    (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

    (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

    (b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION- In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that

    (1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

    (2) acting pursuant to this resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorists attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
    Emphasis added.

    Either John Kerry is lying to us about his war vote, demonstrating his lack of principles, or he really didn't understand what he was voting for, demonstrating his lack of intelligence. Wow, where do I line up to vote? And this is the Democrat's BEST candidate?

    Kerry won't get a pass on the lying like WJC did because he lacks the empathy that Clinton had. Everyone knew Clinton was lying (even Clinton knew that you knew), but he got by with it because he had that 'aw, shucks' kind of charm. Anybody get that from Kerry?

    Ok then, this post veered of into the bleachers, eh? How'd I wind up here? (And where are my pants?) Oh, well.

  • |

    Update Number 2

    The plans for my wife's new site proceed apace. (That's what you always say when nothing has really occurred, but you want people to think you haven't forgotten about it.)

    You have to understand something, though. I'm not a planner. In fact, for being as anal retentive as I am, I'm shockingly unorganized. One glimpse of my cubicle would confirm that. I'm the kind of guy who packs for a trip the night before (if not the morning of), and looks at the suitcase (paper sack, garbage bag, whatever) and says, "Well, if I've forgotten anything, I guess I'll just buy it when I get there." I'm a "Hey ... (shrug) ... whatever" kind of guy. You need spontaneity? Impulsiveness? Chaos? Hey, I'm your man.

    Mrs. A is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Neat and orderly suit her best. "If you put things away as you use them, you won't have to pick them up later," is something that the kids (me, too) hear on a regular basis. And she's right, of course, but it takes real effort for us to comply. When she packs for a trip, she begins at least a week (if not more, depending on how many of us are going and how long we'll be gone) ahead of time, calculating how many pieces of each article of clothing everyone will need. Laundry is done on a schedule that best allows for everything to be clean precisely before it goes into the suitcase. Every weather contingency is prepared for: "If it's hot, we'll wear our shorts and T-shirts. If it turns cold, we have jeans, sweaters and jackets. If it rains, we have the galoshes and slickers. Sandstorm? We have goggles and bandanas to cover our mouths."

    She CAN be spontaneous, she just has to plan for it ahead of time. So, whereas, I got a wild hair (hare? heir? Herr?) one day and just started blogging, she has had to think about it, plan it, prepare for it. I doubt she will post as often as I do, but (unlike mine) I expect her thoughts will be a lot more structured and better thought out.

    In the real world, we make a pretty good team: I provide her with unexpected twists and she gives me structure. It keeps both of us from going off the deep end.

  • |

    Update Number 1

    The red spot on the end of my nose turned out to be ... BOTH!

    But more the result of banging it against the coffee cup than the appearance of The North Star. By tomorrow, no one will be the wiser. (I know you were dying to hear that. I didn't want you to lose sleep over it, or anything.)

  • |

    Tuesday, February 10, 2004

    Sunday School

    went off without a hitch this week, other than the fact that I felt like something scooped up after the parade had passed by. As you may recall, I had blogged about this week's lesson here. I had intended to break the class up into two groups (three if we had good attendance) and had prepared a series of questions for each group to answer. After giving them five or ten minutes we then reconvene into a larger group and each group shares with the other what they discussed. This usually works well for a couple of reasons. Folks will talk in smaller groups when they won't participate in a larger group. Smaller groups are more warm and less intimidating. Plus, when the teacher isn't involved in the group, people take more responsibility to (gasp) learn for themselves. They also have more discussion when the teacher isn't involved. Probably because they're less afraid of 'giving a wrong answer' or something. In case you're wondering, I've noticed this in other classes where I wasn't the teacher, so I don't think folks are intimidated by ME so much as the position I hold.

    Well, breaking into groups was a good idea in theory, but wouldn't you know that when it was time to start, we only had about six or seven people. So one group it was and even though I tried to not participate, they kept waiting on me to give them the answers to the questions (I do use silence as a teaching technique, but you have to balance that with the amount of material and how much time you have left). By the time we were through with the first set of questions, there were enough people that had straggled in that we could have split into two groups had they been there on time. Oh well.

    We discussed the attraction of drinking and the effects of drinking. We also noted that some of the same verses talked about overeating as well and how we liked to gloss over that part. And how the people who overindulged in food or drink had a problem with self-control and self-indulgence. We also noted that no where in these verses did Solomon say "Don't drink," and that the excess of food or drink was what was indicated to be the problem. At which point I invited everyone over that afternoon for a glass of wine. Hah. Just kidding. Everyone seemed to agree that the SURE FIRE way to not have a problem with overindulgence was to just not drink in the first place. Of course a sure fire way to avoid overeating sweets is to never have dessert, but nobody wants to go there.

    I then asked them what other denominations thought about drinking. Catholics, Episcopalians and Presbyterians were all mentioned. Although, someone's grandfather had been a Presbyterian minister that was a strict teetotaler. Next question, "Who's right?" followed by "Is the Southern Baptist view of drinking dictated by doctrine or tradition?" Surprisingly, most folks knew that it was a traditional viewpoint. We followed that with some discussion of the benefits of taking the traditional viewpoint on drinking, such as not having to worry about drinking too much and not having to worry about what others might think. We ended with some discussion on what the downside could be of taking the traditional no-drinking view. How it is easy to be judgmental about drinking when we shouldn't be. How it is easy to fall into legalism the same way the Pharisees did. How we can develop a "holier than thou" attitude.

    I ended with a reminder of Jesus' first miracle. One of the class members said, "Funny, I don't recall hearing many sermons on that passage." And that's where we left it. Surprisingly, no one asked me where I stood on the traditional issue. I was prepared to share, but only if asked. No reason to whack the hornets nest, if you know what I mean.

    So how do you follow up a lesson on alcohol? Why with a lesson on sexual purity, of course! Stay tuned for further updates. I know you're riveted.

  • |

    How old do you have to be

    before you stop going through puberty? I had an opportunity to look in a mirror a few minutes ago (and you KNOW I never miss an opportunity to look at myself, don't you?) and noticed the end of my nose was a nice bright red. Let's see, I haven't been drinking, I'm not wearing makeup (this week), and I don't think I've been sticking it in places where it doesn't belong. Must be a zit. Great. And right before prom too...

    Then again, after taking another slug of coffee out of my insulated Coffee Haus beverage container (with a twist-on lid), I realized that the red spot on the end of my nose COULD be because my nose hits the lid once the cup is at least half empty (which it frequently is, oddly enough). Hmmm. Stay tuned for further updates. I know you're riveted.

  • |

    Mrs. Aardvark

    told me this morning that she WOULD give blogging a try after all. She's been keeping up with this pathetic attempt of a site for some time now, and I think she figures if I can do it ...

    So, sometime in the near future, we'll be setting her up with a brand-spanking-new (heh, heh...he said spanking) Blogger account (it's never been out of the box, even!) and turning her loose on the unsuspecting masses. The trick is to find a time when the kids aren't around 'cause we'd prefer they remain in their pristine clueless state.

    My wife already has a blog name picked out (I'm not sure about the nom-de-cyber, though, but I have some ideas. And no, "Mrs. A" isn't one of them. She's got her own shtick) and she can blog during the day when the kids are at school. Stay tuned for further updates. I know you're riveted.

  • |

    Monday, February 09, 2004

    Anybody lose their crud?

    'Cause if you did, I've got it.

    Feeling a wee bit under the weather this morning. Stuffy head, stuffed up ear, drainage and working up to some chest congestion and a cough. Yuck.

    Except for not feeling well, the weekend was pretty good. All three nights of Hello Dolly went off without a hitch. There were none of those deer-in-the-headlight moments where everything comes to a screeching halt and the audience starts murmuring. Not everything was perfect, mind you, but most of the flubs were only caught by the people in the performance.

    There was ONE "wardrobe malfunction" worth mentioning. The lead actress (the one who plays Dolly) is a big girl, leaning more to the Nell Carter side versus the Kate Moss side, and has bosoms that are proportional to her size. Let's just say she has to look in the mirror to button her blouse. Late in the play, there is very little time between scenes for a wardrobe change, and in her rush, she failed to notice that one of her buttons was not fastened. Unfortunately it was one of those buttons that was "under the horizon", if you know what I mean. So she sang her last solo giving the audience a little more view of her cleavage than she'd bargained for. She must have felt the breeze about halfway through the song as she certainly was aware of it as she came off stage. A safety pin was found and she was good to go for the final number.

    So, the NEXT night, early in the play, I'm watching from backstage. Dolly and another girl are awaiting their cues to go on and are easily within my line of sight, standing about eight feet away. Dolly asks the other girl, "Am I still ok? You know what happened last night." And the other girl does a visual check to confirm that "Yes, you're ok." At this point, Dolly, in her concern to prevent another wardrobe malfunction has completely forgotten that she's standing backstage with lots of other folks around. She says, "Well, I probably would have noticed sooner last night, if THESE weren't so big." And at the word "THESE", she proceeds to grab two handfuls and lift. Then freezes as she realizes what she is doing and where. Her head slowly moves to the right to see me looking right at her.

    I can tell you that it IS possible to do the equivalent of, "BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!" silently. All three of us were laughing and I decided that I'd better leave so they could regain their composure before going back on stage.

    After the show, I complimented Dolly for her performance and she said, "Even after 'The Incident'?"

    "No problem. I left so we wouldn't keep laughing. Although, I have to say, I wish I could have a picture of the expression on your face at the time."

    And of course, we're having this conversation as she is standing with a group of friends/relatives, so they start asking her, "What incident?" She began to tell them what happened as I walked away. From the sound of it, they were almost as amused as I was.

  • |

    Friday, February 06, 2004

    Wild horses

    couldn't drag me away from blogging, but the flying monkeys evidently can.

    You know I'm busy when I turn down a FREE lunch (at a sit-down restaurant, no less) so I can stay at my desk and work.

    Everything was ok until about 45 minutes ago, when I found out that I had a new project (to be completed today) as well as having to rework an old one by Monday. Oh well.

    I'll have to wait to tell you all about my acting prowess until Monday.

    Until then.

  • |

    Thursday, February 05, 2004

    A ham is born

    I've been keeping a secret from you...

    LittleA makes his first stage performance since Junior High tonight. Say, maybe I need to start working on my autographing skills...

    This is how it all came about. The Aardvark's used to attend the same church that the High School drama teacher (and spouse - who does Middle School drama) attended. That was ten years ago, before he became a drama teacher. But, since he knows me (and since Mrs. A is always up at the school volunteering for one thing or another, hence reminding him of my existence), he asked me to help out with this year's musical by being part of the Chorus. Something was said about me having a 'big mouth', but from the way he said it, it sounded like a GOOD thing (at least at the time). The Eldest Aardvark Child is in the orchestra again (piano) and so it's not like I don't have ANY connection to the musical. (too many negatives in there I think. 'Ain't got no nothing, no how,' or something...anyway, you get the picture) Plus, I'm not the only adult participating as several of the teachers and administrators are helping out too. (My coworkers tease me that I'm just doing this so I can hang around High School girls...like that's a BAD thing...what?)

    So tonight is opening night of Hello Dolly. And that'll be me there in the back, hamming it up.

    I've learned a few things in the process of learning the music and attending rehearsals. One thing that became rapidly apparent is that whatever memorization skills I once had (in the elementary school production about Sutter's Mill and the California gold rush, I not only learned my part, but everyone else's too) have left me entirely. Being an instrumental guy, I've always been able to remember melodies better than words, but these old brain cells just can't seem to retain song lyrics more than 30 seconds after seeing them. So learning the lyrics has been challenging (except for the song, Hello Dolly, which, being an old geezer, I already pretty much knew).

    Challenge number two has been the fact that in a musical, you don't just get to stand around and sing, they actually expect you to move your arms and feet, sometimes even together. My brain cells don't remember choreography either. (FYI, there are two ways Southern Baptist's get around the "no dancing" clause. One is "it ain't dancing, it's choreography" and the other is "it ain't dancing as long as your feet don't move.") So now I'm expected to sing and dance too! I wanted one or the other, but the director (my drama teacher friend) said 'nothing doin'. At least I'm tall, so they can stick me in the back row. Let's just say that Tommy Tune has nothing to fear from me, ok?

    Then it wasn't enough that I had to participate in the group choreography. No, challenge number three was when I was told that I needed to learn the polka for the scene with the polka contest. Hello? What ARE you thinking? Now, it wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that I'm generally (or in the case of dancing, specifically) inept. Oh yeah, and HE TOLD ME LESS THAN A WEEK AGO! Right, and why don't I become a nuclear (nucular?) physicist next week too, while I'm at it? We worked out a compromise where the teacher I'm dancing with and I can be INTENTIONALLY bad (like we weren't?) for comedic effect. Much better. I don't mind having people laugh at me because I can't dance when that's what I'm shooting for.

    One other thing I've learned in this process is that it is IMPOSSIBLE for two teenagers to stand next to each other for more than ten seconds without talking. You know all those people who AREN'T out on stage with speaking parts? They're not supposed to talk, but not talking must violate some law of nature or another because THEY. MUST. TALK. Even if it is to tell their neighbor,
    "Heyyouweren'ttalkingwereyou
    causeifyouwereMr.P.isgonnagetmadatus
    andyellandstuffandIdon'tknowwhyhegetsso
    upsetit'snotlikewe'renotpayingattentionoranything"
    ...as they miss their cue.

    Last night's dress rehearsal had a little bit of extra drama in it. First, you should know that the leading man's mother is a member of the school board. Second, you should know that this family take their religious beliefs very seriously. Third, you should know that one of their beliefs is that "Thou shalt not miss Wednesday night service." (ok, I'm paraphrasing, but I'm NOT exaggerating) The leading man told the director at about five 'til seven that he had to leave to go to church, it being Wednesday and all, but he could be back by eight, no problem. To which the director's response was surprisingly printable. But forceful, nonetheless. He and the leading man's mom went back and forth for a little bit, which I thought was quite gutsy, but then again the District Superintendent and High School Principal are both cast members too, so he did have some backup. He basically said that it was not acceptable to inconvenience the rest of the cast, when this has been on the rehearsal schedule since day one, and the first time it's been mentioned is here at the last minute and that if he'd have known about this, he would have cast someone else as the lead, and if he went right then anyway, he still might.

    A compromise was reached.

    The leading man left towards the end of the first act (missing only a small portion of dialogue) and was back in time to start the second act. But it was almost eight by the time he was able to leave (along with his brother and several other unrelated cast members who attend the same church), so I guess the preacher stayed late and had a special service just for them. Crisis averted, but I'm with the director on this one, if a Wednesday night rehearsal was a problem, the time to bring it up was immediately after the rehearsal schedule was released, not five minutes before you planned on leaving. That would have given everyone time to alter the schedule or make other arrangements (like bringing the preacher to the kids instead of the other way around). Anyway, all's well that ends well, I guess.

    Now excuse me, while I try to cram the words to the songs back into my brain.

  • |

    Wednesday, February 04, 2004

    I'm always amazed

    at the way life interconnects. Sort of a systematic randomness thing, you know?

    So the big news last night is that most police departments in Texas are two to three times more likely to stop blacks and Hispanics than other folks and when stopped, they are much more likely to do vehicle searches on cars driven by blacks and Hispanics. On the face of it, it looks like, gasp, RACIAL PROFILING. And unfortunately, that's as far as most people will get. What they don't tell you is WHERE and WHEN the stops occur, and what the crime rate is, and what the racial mix is, and what percentage of crimes are committed by each racial group. If the Hispanics/Anglo mix of the local populace is 50/50, but 75% of the crimes are committed by Hispanics, shouldn't the police be looking at a ratio of 3:1 in stops (75/25) instead of 1:1 (50/50)? I can tell you the three highest crime areas in Fort Worth: Stop Six - predominantly black, Northside - predominantly Hispanic, Como - predominantly black. Guess where the police spend a lot of time? So if they are patrolling Como, and see a car full of teenagers at 3:00 in the morning, they should just ignore them? If the racial profilers have their way, the answer is 'yes'.

    The old expression goes, "Figures never lie, but liars figure."

    Anyway, thinking about this got me thinking about the 'studies' that purport to show a linkage between violent video games and/or violent movies and actual violence in children. Don't get me wrong, I think there IS a relationship there, but I don't think that one CAUSES the other. Rather they are both symptoms of a larger problem. Kind of like the way that a cough doesn't cause you to run a fever, but they are both symptoms of pneumonia. The problem with violent video games and violent movies with kids lies not in those things, but in the problem of the lack of PARENTAL SUPERVISION/INVOLVEMENT in these kids lives. Last I checked, most 10 year olds didn't have the kind of scratch laying around to BUY the game systems and video games. Nor do they have loads of their own disposable income to spend on movies. No, these things are financed by the adults in their lives. How many times have you gone to the movies and seen five and six year olds coming out of an R rated movie? And many times, it's their stinkin' PARENTS that are taking them. Don't talk to your kids, don't spend time with them, and for heaven's sake don't ever tell them "no", and then moan and wail about why they are always doing so poorly in school and how they're always out causing trouble. That's one of the reasons, I'm not a big fan of grandparents raising their grandkids (as a general rule only, there ARE exceptions). They did such a bang-up job with their own kids, we're now going to turn over another generation for them to handicap? Sheesh.

    So then, thinking about THAT, reminded me of last Sunday, when we talked about Proverbs 11:27, which basically says that if you want good results, you have to PLAN to be good. In other words, you have to CHOOSE your consequences.

    Which reminds me of any number of conversations I've had with the Youngest Aardvark Child (YAC). She inherited a full measure of stubbornness from me, and got plenty from her mother as well. Combine that with not liking to receive instruction (like her father, I'm afraid) and you've got a kid who would just as soon walk across broken glass than put her shoes on, especially if you told her to put them on. I can't tell you how many times I've told her, "We can do this the EASY way or the HARD way. That's not my choice. It's entirely up to you. If you do what I've asked, then life will be good. If not, then life won't be as good. But know in the end, that you WILL do what I've asked. It's your choice."

    That's a very scary concept when I have to apply it to my own life. You mean a lot of what happens to me is because of the CHOICES I MAKE? What a concept. I'd much rather all that stuff was somebody else's fault. While some of the events in our lives are completely random, much of what we experience is due to our own actions. That good job? A result of staying in school and paying attention. Good health? A result of our lifestyle choices. Good relationships? A result of not acting like we're the center of the universe and that the world exists to please us. Like I said, scary stuff.

    Which leads me full circle back to the racial profiling thing. Yes, I believe racism still exists. I also believe that MOST of what passes for racism these days stems from the desire to escape the consequences of our own actions. Blacks do worse than whites on the SATs? Why it has to be racism! It can't be that large numbers of black kids haven't chosen to apply themselves to learning or anything like that. A disproportionate number of black men in jail? Must be racism! Pay no attention to the disproportionate number of black men committing crimes. Any old excuse will do as long as it's not my fault. Of course that's an old story, isn't it? It goes all the way back to Adam, "It's that WOMAN! She tricked me!"

    At some point, for things to get better, folks are going to have to start admitting they are responsible for the outcomes of their own lives. Don't hold your breath.

  • |

    Tuesday, February 03, 2004

    Have you ever

    found yourself in a corner, paintbrush in hand, wondering whatever possessed you to start painting in the first place?

    Me neither.

    I am in somewhat of a quandary though. And it relates to Little Known Aardvark Fact #257, "LittleA not only goes to Sunday School, he TEACHES Sunday School. To adults even." Now, normally this is not quandary material, but you add to the mix the fact that I'm a member of a Southern Baptist church (which, I guess technically MAKES me a Southern Baptist - though I don't think of myself that way) and things start to complicate up just a bit. Add to that the Southern Baptist tendency to designate certain Sunday's as Topic 'A' Sunday or Topic 'B' Sunday and your a little bit closer. Complete the picture with the fact that this upcoming Sunday is "Alcohol Awareness" Sunday, and the related study materials take a decidedly Southern Baptist point of view (who'd a thunk it?), and you can see why I'm all quandrified.

    For those of you who may not be familiar with the Southern Baptist take on alcohol, it's DON'T. EVER. (Which is the more traditional take on dancing as well, but that's off topic - like that's ever stopped me before) What's really interesting about this, is that the Southern Baptist views on alcohol and dancing are more traditional than doctrinal. I'm amazed at how many Southern Baptists don't know this. The official Southern Baptist doctrinal statement (The Baptist Faith and Message) can be found here. Nowhere in this document do the concepts of abstention from alcohol and dancing appear. And yet, those positions are two of the denomination's most quoted. Go figure.

    Anyway, this weeks lesson, drawn from selected verses from the book of Proverbs, drives the abstention point home with the subtlety of a chainsaw. My problem is, I don't believe that's what the selected verses say. I think it's what the lesson writer WANTED them to say, but wanting something to be true does not make it so. (I mean, Michael Moore is still with us, right?)

    I think the verses clearly say that alcohol can be abused and that being drunk is not something we should do. And that people who do over-indulge in intoxicating beverages will bring themselves no end of trouble. So far so good. But it never says, "Don't. Ever." Now call me simple, but I think Solomon was wise enough that if he intended to get across the point of "Don't. Ever." he probably could have figured out a way to communicate that without beating around the bush. You know, maybe like saying, "Don't. Ever." But he didn't.

    Then you get to looking and discover that not only was alcohol not a no-no for the Jewish people, it was a REQUIRED part of the ritual sacrifices they were to offer (drink offerings - specified here for example). That, plus the law specified that they could spend their tithe money on the liquor of their choice to be imbibed at the Tabernacle (later the Temple), of all places (those shocking verses can be found here and don't get me started on tithing either...), kind of muddies up the water a bit, don't you think?

    Now I know that we are no longer bound by the Old Testament Law, but then you get the whole story of Jesus first miracle (turning water into wine, remember that one?) and you don't really get much help on the abstinence front from the New Testament either. There is the command that we are not to be DRUNK with wine, but Solomon made THAT pretty clear a thousand or so years earlier.

    I think it's also pretty clear, though, that we are not to do things that will intentionally make a fellow Christian stumble. That is to say, if Jim Bob Billy is a recovering alcoholic, it's not right to invite him to the keg party in my back yard or even have a belt from my hip flask in front of him (I'm exaggerating folks...really). I even think that if Jim Bob Billy is a staunchly traditional Southern Baptist, it would be wrong of me to drink in his presence, because I know HE BELIEVES it's wrong.

    So, I'm kind of in a quandary between teaching what the lesson writer wanted the Bible to say and what the Bible actually says. Guess which one I'm planning on doing?

    It's amazing I haven't been kicked out. Yet. There's still time I suppose.

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    Monday, February 02, 2004

    From here to eternity

    My mother died on January 15th, 1990. I still remember getting the call at work. It was not unexpected, she had been in the hospital since the previous Thanksgiving with a fast spreading type of ovarian cancer. Her last few months were not the most pleasant, but her death was long enough coming that all of the kids had a chance to come spend some time with her before she died.

    Her passing left my father a drained husk of a man with little reason to draw his next breath. He couldn't sleep, he took no pleasure in the lives of his children or grandchildren, he shuffled from one day into the next, putting food in his mouth out of habit, not hunger. He got rid of most of my mom's things, passing them on to my siblings and me for he couldn't bear the knowledge that they were close and she was not. I fully expected him to not live out the year. But the Lord truly does work in mysterious ways.

    About the time the Youngest Aardvark Child was born, we got a phone call from my dad saying he had met a woman and had gotten remarried. It was quite a surprise. He pulled no punches, explaining that his new wife was not a replacement for mom, but someone who would fill his need (and he hers) for companionship. He loved her, but not in the same way the he love my mother. Some of the other kids took some convincing before they accepted dad's new wife, but she won them over in the end. I was glad to see that dad had a little spark of life back He was 72 when he remarried.

    My dad had a heart attack about six years ago, and my step-mom had a stroke about five years back. Since that point, I have made a special effort to spend as much time with them as possible, taking the family at least once a year (they live in Missouri) and making a solo trip every two to three months (if possible). It's not a question of IF they'll die, just a question of when.

    The phone rang at 6:58 Saturday morning. There's only one person I expect to call me before 7:00 on a Saturday, and that's my dad. It wasn't THE call, but it was the next thing to it. He called to tell me he's been diagnosed with cancer and it's well past the point of doing anything about it other than trying to manage the pain. We don't have a time table, but his indication was sooner, not later. My wife seems to be taking the news pretty well, all things considered. Intellectually we've known this was coming, but there is still the emotional side that has yet to be dealt with. The kids, on the other hand, are completely shaken. Even though we've told them that the reason we visit grandpa and grandma so often is because they won't be around forever, the concept of life without them is too alien for them to grasp.

    I had already scheduled a solo trip for the middle of the month and then a trip with the family over spring break in March. Hopefully, we can stick with those plans. Both of my brothers are going to visit my dad either this week or next, so I should be able to get a little more information from them once they get there.

    My dad is ready to go. He's wondered for years why the good Lord bothered to keep him around. Death holds no fear for him and if I know him, he's excited about the opportunity to see mom once again. When I see my dad in a couple of weeks, I'm going to tell him, "Dad, when you get there, tell mom I said, 'Hey.'"

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