Thursday, December 28, 2006

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘em

(Me and Granny Juju smoking our candy grits.)

Can you believe that they still make candy cigarettes? When I was a kid every convenience store had candy cigarettes, but back then I could go in the store as an elementary student and buy my parents’ smokes for them: “A pack of Marlboro and Merit 100’s, please.” We didn’t have car seats or bicycle helmets either. I would go out and play in the woods all day and only come back for lunch and supper. It was a different time.



For Christmas this year my wife found candy cigarettes at a flea market. Don’t be fooled. They were not old ones. They are still manufactured and sold in the United States. A simple Google search for “candy cigarettes” will find you ample places to still purchase them. She gave them to the adults just for fun. Crazy.

The Great Gift Exchange

It appears the stomach flu ran rampant through the Christmas season. It happened to Larry at Simple Thoughts and it happened to us. One of the kids got it right before Christmas and by the end everyone had it except my brother-in-law. It was not fun, but only lasted about 24 hours or so. Made for a very memorable Christmas, but I have to say that the flu wasn’t my favorite gift exchange.

Seems in our family someone is always sick at Christmas. If we stayed home every time someone came down with something our family would never have Christmas, so it’s become a kind of tradition for us. We don’t usually share it so widely, but what do you do?

Other than that, we had a great Christmas – a great Christmas. I spent a lot of time with family and enjoyed the time a lot. Nothing like watching others, especially the children, open the presents they really wanted for Christmas.

Last Harry Potter Book Announced


At long last, and with much chagrin, the title of the last book in the Harry Potter series has been released. As is obvious in the title, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we should anticipate much death in the sorcerer’s world.

I have read all of the books and they are one of my favorite children’s literature series of books. I label them children’s literature as the intended audience is 9-12 year olds. To think that the book is childish or immature would be a mistake. Just so you know, there are plenty of us Christians out there who love the books.

The fifth movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is due out in July 2007.

Pre-order the book from Borders
Official Harry Potter site

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Possible Bag


The side-slung book bag is very popular on the college campus. Also known as a messenger bag or book bag, it is a satchel that actually dates back to the mid 1800’s. In those days, the mountain man carried a possible bag, in which he carried everything that he could possibly need for the day: black powder, powder measurer, flint and steel, lead balls and patch, a patch knife, and a skinning knife, among other things.

I carry my own book bag now. I use it when I have a light day at the university or just to hold my stuff when I am out and about. It is the latter that I am taking the heat. My friends, if you could call them that, love to make fun of my satchel. Yes, I do use it to carry my wallet, keys, cell phone, iPod, current book I am reading, and my writing journal. Any writer worth his or her salt carries something on which to write down ideas. You can see where this is going. These buddies of mine have developed several names for my book bag:
  1. European Male Handbag
  2. Purse
  3. Man Purse
  4. Murse

They are bastards one and all, but I expected it when I bought it. Actually, I saw the satchel at Target and thought it was pretty cool looking. Most people think it is an old Austrian or German military bag. Actually, it’s very manly -- as manly as a thing like that can look. I was admiring it when my wife spouted off that it was a man purse. I promptly put it back and walked away. I was done with it. After some thought, I went back and bought it a few days later. It’s very handy as a school bag. I’ve seen several other guys on campus carrying that very bag, and other bags similar to it. It gets no looks on campus. Off campus is another story. I carry it because it is practical and utilitarian and now I carry it to make a point. Metro? Maybe. Weird? Considering the region, probably so. I prefer to think of it as artsy and eccentric.

Monday, December 18, 2006

For Those About to Game, Wii Salute You!


We had my wife’s family Christmas this weekend and it was the best Christmas we’ve had in years. The kids were so excited they could not sleep and were up for good at 4:30 a.m. When the kids get up, everyone gets up and Christmas begins. So we were unwrapping presents at the crack of God on Saturday morning.

Ms. Claus brought a special together gift for my daughter and I – the gift to give this season and wii happened to be lucky enough to get a Nintendo Wii with three games. Forget about the extra controllers, those are very hard to come by. I suppose everyone keeps throwing theirs through the TV.

Rumor has it that Ms. Claus was home sick one weekend. As soon as the daughter and I left the house to go out and about, Ms. Claus to Best Buy, where one of Jack’s elvish operatives gave Ms. Claus a tip that a shipment was coming in. The line was already long by the time she got there. More than 100 tickets were given out and Ms. Claus just got one with only five left. So she endured the line for an hour and a half to get us the gift of the season and she spent money we didn’t really have. Merry Christmas to us.

Ms. Claus, realizing that this was my only week off by myself, saw fit to give this gift to us at the early Christmas party – kind thing that she is.

So we’ve been playing Wii Sports, Billy and Mandy, The Legend of Zelda, Twilight Princess and Red Steel. Well, I’ve been playing Zelda and Red Steel. Wii Sports is amazingly fun and the innovative wiimote and chuck are amazingly response and intuitive. It is an experience that must be felt and not just demonstrated.

I see why this is such a hot gaming system. It is better than I thought it would be and I am really enjoying it, thanks to that wonderful Ms. Claus.

Woo-Wii, This is Some Kind of Fun


I am not much of a gamer. My first game system was an Atari back in the day, but I haven’t had once since. When I saw the Wii commercials on TV, I really thought that is what I wanted, and as you know Ms. Claus gave one to the family for Christmas. I am having a great time playing with my family. We have had more fun jumping and swing and running around with the included game, Wii Sports.

Even my anti-technology spouse has enjoyed Wii Sports. She is especially good at tennis. My daughter rocks at bowling. I was hoping my bowling skills would improve over my live performances, but no such luck. I manage to throw gutter balls in both real life and in game world. I do pretty well at the boxing game, however.

Some of these games are hard. That is, they are hard for the novice gamer. For the 12-year-old kid, or the 30-year-old technogeek, they may not prove very challenging. I find myself getting stumped as to what to do next. It’s usually a hidden door or something like that, but I’m not savvy enough to get that. So it’s off to the cheat sites to find out what to do. My enjoyment comes not from the exploration or the discovery, but rather I just like to run around and blow crap up and shoot at things. That is a pleasant enough distraction from real life for me and a nice stress-relief. I get a bit frustrated when I can’t figure things out. So much for that, I’ll give you some screen shots of a couple of the games I have:


The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is the game to buy this season. It is highly acclaimed and makes complete use of the intuitive wii controller. I had to buy a guide to go with it and I am also looking at cheats online. I am stuck on this one too. I have worked my way through things, but I am not sure what to do next. I need to get the slingshot and destroy the monkey, but I'm not sure how to do that. Expert gamers are laughing at my stupidity. So far, I have really enjoyed this game.









Red Steel is a first person shooter with a Japanese setting. Being a martial artist and one who studies Iaido (the art of the samurai sword) this is my thing. Some critics have not liked this as much as they thought. They felt it was just another average first person shooter. Seeing how I am not a big gamer, I don't have much to compare it to. I am really enjoying it. I love how I can point the wiimote and the crosshairs follow it. When I move the wiimote toward the TV, I can zoom in on what I'm shooting. Very cool. I haven't yet earned the samurai sword. I am still stuck on the first mission. I can't figure out what to do next. I have to go to the bosses secret office, but I can't figure out where that is.



One of the drawbacks to Nintendo's Wii is the ability to throw the wiimote right through the television. It's been done and Nintendo has issued a recall of the iimote straps. The units distributed in December already have the new cord. As you can see below, the strap on the right is the older strap and it has been known to snap. The cord on the right is the improved strap. Mine was purchased before Thanksgiving so it has the older strap. So far, we have not gotten so over-excited as to let go of the thing to begin with. So our safety cord has not been tested. I'll request a replacement just to be sure.

(NOTE TO MY FRIENDS: I would love to have a game day over at the house sometime if any of you are interested. I'm hoping to be able to find a couple more controllers between now and next week. Let me know if you are interested.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Traditions


Christmas is a crazy time in the House of Jack. We purchase Christmas gifts all year long, put up our Christmas tree sometime between the week of Thanksgiving, and it is an all-out affair once December arrives. We have tons of parties and events to attend. We can get plumb tuckered out around here. This year we skipped one party and the weather stomped on another. We purchased all of our gifts online, so it’s been pretty quiet except for finals week. (I’ll talk more about finals when I am finished on Thursday.)

The gift exchanges with the family start on Friday, the weekend before Christmas. We go to my brother-in-law’s home for Christmas with that side of the family. We just recently moved it from the parents-in-law home to his and it has been working out well for everyone. The adults don’t exchange gifts at that party anymore. We decided a few years ago to just buy for the kids and that is just fine with us. Sometimes I have my wife open a gift early because I just can’t wait for Christmas, but for the most part it centers around the kids. When the gifts are open the adults play with the kids.

After that party we head to the party with our friends from college, which is always a fun time. Two years ago we decided not to buy presents for one another, choosing instead to donate the money we would have spent to the Heifer Project. Last year we purchased several animals to be distributed nationally and internationally. We are doing the same thing this year.

On Christmas Eve, we head to Grandma’s house for Christmas with that side of my family. This is more of a dress up party with lots and lots of food, which I would prefer to do without. We exchange presents with Grandma. Then we head to Branson for Christmas with my family – my parents, my sister and her family, the grandmothers, and the multitude of cousins.

I get pretty excited about Christmas. That has always been the major holiday in my family. Birthdays and anniversaries are fine, but they are not the extravaganza, not even close. My family goes all out on Christmas. Many people buy their children toys throughout the year. Not so with us. My daughter gets presents on Christmas and her birthday. That’s pretty much it. We don’t buy her toys when we go to stores. The heap of presents on Christmas can be a bit overwhelming. It’s not about the money or the number of presents. It’s about the excitement, magic and fellowship of the time. It’s about the giving and the fun of watching someone open something exciting. We enjoy the time and it is something that everyone, children and adults, look forward to. I make no apologies for it.

Some family have traditions where they open gifts on Christmas Eve, and then send the kids to bed. That’s a fine way to do it I suppose, but that’s not our way. We put out cookies and milk, read some Christmas stories, and send the kids to bed. Then sometime thereafter Santa comes – some presents wrapped and some just sitting open under the tree. We have a habit of getting up early, the crack of God actually. As soon as the kids are up, usually between 5:30 and 6 a.m. then everyone gets up. That’s the rule in this family. We wake up any stragglers and then head downstairs for the magic and the rip-and-tear. We have two trees: one for the kids and one for the adults. Early morning is for the young ones. We just help them open their gifts, take pictures and make a big thing out of it.

After they have successfully opened their presents, we leave them to play with their new toys and the grown-ups go into the other room and we open ours. After the damage is done, then we start on breakfast, which is usually a feast in buffet-style. No big buffet this year, thankfully, but there is more about that over on FAT JACK – skinny whinny.

By mid-morning all of the cousins come over and we spend the day with one another – talking, laughing, and enjoying being home. It’s really a beautiful and exciting tradition and it makes Christmas last a long time.

A few years ago, the Ozarks was the victim of a long overdue snowy Christmas, yielding up to 14 inches in Branson. It took me four hours to drive from Springfield to my parents’ house. We got snowed in and my sister couldn’t come down from Oklahoma because of all the snow. While that year fell short because they weren’t there, it did have a silver lining. We actually had another family party on Christmas Eve that we had traveled to since before I was born. The year of this big snow, we were able to put the brakes on that long travel and spend more time at home. That year we added another tradition: a Christmas movie.

Come early evening, we pack into cars and head to the movie theatre. Who knew that movie theatres were open on Christmas? We just always assumed they were closed. Now every year we anticipate which movie we will all go to. This year I think it will be Night At The Museum. Anyone who is tired can stay back at the house and can rest, nap or read.

I am just beside myself with anticipation. I feel like a kid, a very big kid.

No More Teachers' Dirty Looks


My finals are finally finished and I am a happy man. I am ready to enjoy my Christmas break. Make no mistake. I have plenty of things to do over my break and I hope rest can be squeezed in there somewhere. You will notice that my blog posts have increased since my last final yesterday. MSU has finals on Saturdays, something I have to get used to. There are a lot of things I still have to get used to now that I’m back in college. One of which is the hypocrisy of professors and another is the myth of personal responsibility.

One of my professors called me stupid during one of my finals. Didn’t care for that, but I’m sure he thought he was being funny. The class gasped when he said it, so if it were a joke, then I don’t think anyone got it. I’ve also had an instructor stand outside our classroom while we filled out his performance evaluations. They were handed to him unsealed and he delivered them to wherever they go. I suspected something was up when he stood outside the classroom so I lied on my evaluation.

At the college level there is a systemic belief in student responsibility. The student is expected to behave like an adult and take responsibility for his or her actions. This includes acting ethically and morally. I’ve heard many professors complain about the irresponsibility and apathetic attitudes of today’s college youth. I can relate to their chagrin in that it seems that people do not respect their own education. However, the thing that is not talked about, the myth that exists, is that this responsibility is one sided. College professors have academic freedom, which allows them to behave in any manner that suits them, including being unethical, immoral and irresponsible. So long as the behaviors do not engage in discrimination, then they are free to do as they wish.

Those that complain are many times labeled as dissenters and troublemakers. I’ve seen it happen first hand when I was a field supervisor for practicum students. I have seen trouble makers and those mislabeled as troublemakers. Students have the responsibility to turn in work by the deadline; however, instructors have no obligation to turn back work in any timely manner. In fact, they don’t have to turn it back to you at all. I have an instructor who has only turned back two items during the entire semester. We received no feedback on our work or notes on how to improve. There was no way to dispute the grade. Professors have no obligation or responsibility to treat students with respect; however students are mandated to demonstrate respect. Some professors have an “attitude” grade built into the class.

I’ve actually had a professor tell me one thing and then grade me poorly on following his recommendations. In fact, I met with him during his assigned time, showed him my work, took notes during the meeting, followed his recommendations and received a zero on that portion of the project. When I met with this instructor about this, he complained that he gets this all the time and that he’s just going to quit meeting with students to keep this from happening. That is true. There have been students who have complained about this to him throughout the year and he tells them all that he never said such a thing and that it is their fault. Not usually true, because he has announced changes in class just to change his mind again (up to six times on one due date, which is verified in my notes). We’ve witnessed him doing it time and time again, but we say little. If he is tenured, in your department, and friends with the other professors, then you are simply hurting yourself. So we say little. We eat the zero and move along.

Professors wonder why students show no respect. That is due to many factors, one of which is the attitude of those who are supposed to be experts in their fields. Just like parenting, when we sow the seeds of poor instruction and irresponsibility, we will yield the same crop. I have admitted when I am wrong. I can admit that to students. My ego is not so fragile as to think that I am perfect. I have admitted wrongness to my daughter as well. I expect high quality, educated and dedicated instructors to follow those same ideals. A lofty goal, I know and one that will not be seen. But inside, I hold them to that anyway. More importantly, I hold myself to those same lofty goals.

If you are wondering, I did not raise any of these concerns to anyone. I care more about my education than being right. Sometimes, in the face of adversity, one has to ask the question: "Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?" Many times right does not make one happy. I choose my education and happiness over trying to chance a college professor's mind.

Leland's AIDS Quilt


My cousin Leland died of AIDS in 1996. His quilt was one of several AIDS Quilts on display at Missouri State University this week. He lived in Springfield and worked at KSPR 33 for many years. While at MSU to see the quilt, I met someone there who knew him for many years. In fact, she knew many of the Springfield people who had died of AIDS.

Leland was a very soft spirit – giving and gracious. People always say things like that about folks who have passed away. In this case, it was very true. He loved cats (having many of them) and he was very accepting of other people. He had his habits too. You never waited for Leland to arrive before you started a party. You would wait and wait. That guy, God love him, could never get anywhere on time. He was the lolling gaggingist thing ever was. He was lovable just the same. I’ve never seen his quilt before, but I’m glad I finally did.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Rilly Sabbit, Kix are for Trids


Elementary educators, good ones at least, don’t just depend on the school library to encourage reading. That teacher will also have his or her own personal library of children’s literature available in the classroom for the students. The students can access the classroom library during free reading, and the teacher can use it for reading aloud and for other curriculum needs. The standard rule that my professors use is that every elementary teacher should have around 200 personal books for the classroom library.

I have started amassing my own collection for my future classroom. Thank God for Scholastic in that I can purchase books cheaper than I could at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com. I recently purchased a book from then by Shel Silverstein. Most people have heard of Uncle Shelly. He was a famous writer of children’s poetry among other things and his books have been treasured for years. His latest book, Runny Babbit, was published posthumously in 2005.

Runny Babbit, is a book of spoonerism poetry and it is hysterical. My daughter and I have enjoyed sitting down and reading this together. She just cackles at the crazy lines and delights in switching them back and reading them correctly. It truly is a billy sook. Here is one of the poems about Runny Babbit who is sick with chicken pox.

I just can't tell you how much fun my daughter and I have had reading these to each other, laughing and then reconstructing them. This was going to be a Christmas present to her, but when I got it, I just couldn't wait to read them to her. I'm going to take it to my parents' house for Christmas and read it to the kids.

Runny’s Bight Toots
By Shel Silverstein

Runny put on bow snoots
‘Cause it was cold outside,
But then he pouldn’t cull them off
No tratter how he mied.
He halled for celp – his buddies came
To hend a lelping hand.
Now Runny is the very tallest
Lunny in the band.


(click here to hear my daughter read this poem.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Queen Mother of Dirty Words


My young’in came home the other day and asked what the f-word was. She’s in first grade mind you and doesn’t hear that at home. I didn’t tell her what it was, but I wish now that I had because she went out elsewhere to seek out the information, and that my friends, is a bad habit for us to set up. I didn’t get upset with her or anything. I just told her that it was a bad word and we don’t say it. But I didn’t tell her what it was.

So she went to school and asked one of her friends, who is also in the first grade. He was more than willing to tell drop the f-bomb on her. Don’t know where he heard it, but it’s in his vocabulary and now it’s in hers. Too bad really. I was hoping to keep her a bit more innocent for a while longer but the world has thwarted my efforts.

After we had our first talk, she sought out the info from a schoolmate, then promptly came home and announced to me that she knew the word. That is, we were in the kitchen and she just said the word and then clasped her hands to her mouth. So we had our talk about the f-bomb and then we watched A Christmas Story. She noticed that we couldn’t wash her mouth out with soap because we don’t have bars of soap. We use liquid. Clever little bugger she is.

Before bed she asked me what the b-word was. I got this one right. I told her what it was and then we discussed how those words are swear words. I figured she might as well learn it from me than from her friends at school. At least that way we have open communication. Some would call that hedonistic liberalism at it's worst, but they are misguided puritans. I want to be able to talk to my child.

Ralphie: Oooh fuuudge!

Ralphie as an adult: Only I didn't say "Fudge." I said the word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!

Dad: What did you say?

Ralphie: Uh, um...

Dad: That's... what I thought you said. Get in the car. Go on!

Ralphie as an adult: It was all over - I was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child's play compared to what surely awaited me.

[after getting home]

Mother: All right. Now, are you ready to tell me where you heard that word?

Ralphie as an adult: Now, I had heard that word at least ten times a day from my old man. He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium – a master. But, I chickened out and said the first name that came to mind.

Ralphie: Schwartz! [his friend from school]

(from A Christmas Story)

Gender Bias in the Classroom?

I completed my student practicum in an upper elementary grade classroom in a school here in the Ozarks. I enjoyed the experience, the students and my cooperating teacher. I am troubled though. Not with the teacher or with the students, but I am troubled about some things that I observe in the classroom and wonder if those issues are systemic, or just circumstantial to this group of students.

I passed out many papers and I observed the student’s grades on those papers. I noticed that in general terms, the girls seemed to be very successful making A’s and B’s. In general, the boys seemed to be doing far worse, making D’s and F’s. Now I want to be clear that I am not making stereotyped statement about all girls or all boys. I am, however, speaking in generalities and noticing some trends that affect students.

That leads me to my question: Is this a systemic problem found in many schools across the district, county, state and nation? Or is this, perhaps, a circumstantial event in which many of the boys who happened to be placed in this classroom also have poor academic performance? I have heard tell that the national trend has crossed over and that girls across the nation are now outperforming boys academically. The old gender bias has fallen by the way side and it is now boys who are struggling to keep up.

Maybe that word “struggle” is a key factor? Maybe it has to do with the girls in fifth grade are maturing and thus able to achieve a higher academic level than the boys most of which have not started to mature? I wonder if there is a socio-economic reason or perhaps it’s as simple as boys are engaging in many sports-related extracurricular activities and are having a hard time balancing it all? There could be other factors contributing that I have not yet considered. I have not done any research yet, as I am too stretched with school and my practicum and teaching karate.

Should we consider moving toward schools or classroom segregated by gender? Would that hinder or help the students? I’ve also heard there are studies on that issue as well, but I haven’t had time to research that either. If you have a perspective on this, let me know. I’d like to hear it. If you have a link to some research, then that will be even better.

I smell a Master’s Thesis in the works.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas Newsletter 2006



I have been putting out an annual Christmas Newsletter for 11 years now. It's something that my family enjoys and looks forward to. This year, I am distributing it in electronic format to all of those who can access it in such a way. Embrace technology, say I. I will send hard copies to some of the older generation who do not access the internet, but otherwise, this is it.

Merry Christmas
Happy Holiday
Seasons Greetings
Merry Kwanza
Happy Hanukkah

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

9/11 Commission Report -- Graphic Novel


The 9/11 Commission released its report in December 2005 and it was so large and complex that no one was reading it. So they turned to comic book veterans Sid Jacobson (artist) and Ernie Colón (editor). Knowing that we have lessons to learn, these two have rewritten the Commissions report in graphic novel form to make it more accessible to the general public.

It has received good reviews from reputable sources such as the Library Journal. The users of Amazon.com rated it 4.5 stars out of 5 (38 reviews). My wife bought it and she is currently reading it. Not that any government report is entirely interesting, but as an American who is concerned about our welfare as a Nation, I am going to read it over Christmas break and keep this copy for my classroom when I am a teacher.

Never before has the government worked to make something so accessible to the public. If they go to the trouble and expense, then I will go to the trouble to read it and learn. I encourage you to buy your own copy and read it. It’s not that long. The book is available in both hardback and paperback versions.

(Actual pages from the graphic novel.)





From the Library Journal:
“Beginning with a time line of the morning of the attacks, they move on to a history of al Qaeda and its previous attacks against the United States. They also detail U.S. counterterrorism activities in the years before the attacks; missed opportunities to prevent the attacks; and the many recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, ending with the commission's December 2005 report card on the government's implementation of those recommendations. Jacobson and Colon avoid sensationalism and editorializing; the captions are adapted or directly quoted from the report itself (though much dialog is seemingly invented to illustrate certain points). A larger format would have made the sometimes small text more readable. The artwork is well done, and its depiction (with some blood) of the destruction and the doomed victims can be chilling. Simultaneously released in hardcover and paperback, this important and worthy effort belongs in all libraries.”

From Stan Lee:
"Never before have I seen a non-fiction book as beautifully and compellingly written and illustrated as The 9/11 Report, A Graphic Adaptation. I cannot recommend it too highly. It will surely set the standard for all future works of contemporary history, graphic or otherwise, and should be required reading in every home, school and library."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

For the Love of God, It's Sleeting Outside!


The price of coolness has finally paid it’s due and it was a comic scene, I tell you what. I am one big polar bear, with lots of blubber to keep me warm, but even I have enough common sense to bundle up when the forecast calls for sleet and 12 inches of snow. Not so with some college students. While I was bundled in a flannel shirt, Navy pea coat, boots, gloves and stocking hat trucking my big butt across the ice covered sidewalks of Missouri State University today, I saw it. So help me, I actually saw someone in a T-shirt and flip-freaking-flops. No coat, no hat, no gloves. He was cool, to say the least and I’m sure he was impressing the ladies.

I’m sure his parents are paying for his college, fraternity experience. I’m equally sure that his rich Daddy buys him books just to have them half eaten during some ravenous, drunken, fraternity dare. Dumb ass. If he was really cool he wouldn’t have been hunkered and turning blue while he walked. If he were really cool he would have walked tall, proudly displaying his family’s waste of a college fund on his stupid self. He was just a dumb ass who didn’t have enough sense to put on a pair of shoes and socks. I love being around the scholarly and erudite.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Elvis and Stars Make Christmas


Our Christmas tree is up and we are listening to Christmas music. Yes, yes, it’s too early for many of you out there. That old argument is as annoying as all that War on Christmas business. People go to boo-hooing about the stores putting up Christmas décor in November. Not me. I like it and I am going on record. I love Christmas. I love what it stands for and I think peace is something we should remember as often as possible. Our presents are already purchased and being shipped, except for two people. Their gifts are a bit harder. Thanksgiving Day we put up my wife’s family’s tree and then the next day we put up both of our Christmas trees, with stars on top, of course.

If you know me, then you know that there are two things that signify Christmas to me, beyond the reason for the season of course:

  1. The only Christmas tree is one with a star on the top. I don’t really know why that is, but it’s just a weird thing of mine. Anything else is a holiday tree, including some cardboard angel. Nothing against angels, I am down with them, but they don’t belong on the top of a Christmas tree. I have two trees up this year: a Christmas tree with a star on top and a smaller holiday movie-themed tree.
  2. It ain’t Christmas unless Elvis is singing. Growing up my parents always put on their vinyl Elvin Christmas album while we decorated the tree (complete with star on top). That is locked in my mind, for good or bad, and there it stays. To this day, I play my Elvis Christmas CD while decorating. It just makes it Christmas for me. Now I play other Christmas music throughout the season and even during decoration, but it always starts with Elvis. Always.

One year my Mother decided to replace the burned out star on our tree with an angel. She had no idea that would cause any kind of raucous, but it did. I would not have it and pitched a fit, a fine Fat Jack fit, until we went out and bought a star to put on the tree. Silly, true, but it’s just one of those quirks. I have no intention of changing my opinion. In fact I plan on handing down that tradition to my daughter who so far is quite agreeable to the idea. It’s her job to put on the star and she is relentless in the occupation, reminding me from dawn till dusk that it’s her job. I can’t even pick the star up, move it, touch it or even look at it without her running over to make sure that she is the one to place it in its rightful place atop the Christmas tree. I love it. We have so much fun putting all that up.

Saturday was so nice that I decided to put the outdoor lights up too. I got lazy and didn’t do it last year, but this year my little bit helped me out. That is, until she got bored and ran off to play in the tree house. Nothing too elaborate or extensive. Just a few net lights on the bushes and nine strings on the big oak out front – red and white candy cane stripped.

That’s our tradition and I’m sticking to it. November or December, we are excited about Christmas and the season, the celebration and the happiness, the peace and the giving that it represents. The crazy Black Friday shoppers can punch their way into the season to save a few dollars if they want to. I will be home with my family putting our star on the Christmas tree and listening to Elvis. Most of my shopping is done by Thanksgiving anyway. What isn’t I try to buy online anyway. That leaves very little that must be purchased from stores. I just sit back and enjoy the season.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Strep Throat

No blogger's meeting for me tonight. Daughter has strep throat and just in case I have it and don't know, I will stay away. Don't want to infect anyone over the holiday. Have fun.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Light Blogging

The semester end is drawing near and projects galore are coming due. Blog posts tend to suffer toward the end of the semester. More posts to come after the semester.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Precious Commodity


I should have paid attention to him, but I was busy getting ready for bed. I know better than to ignore him. He has needs too and he has no playmate, no one with whom to romp and play and wrestle. I learned my lesson quick enough and finally carved some time out for our kitty.

We have a good cat. He doesn’t cause problems or tear things up, with the exception of the one time that he got out of the house and was gone for a week. He sleeps most of the time, but he is a cat and he does have times of high energy. Since he is the only pet and his is by himself all day I’m sure he gets lonely. We try to pay a lot of attention to him. He loves to lie on our laps in the evening. He especially misses me as I am doing homework all the time. Before I started back to school he really enjoyed our nighttime routine where I would sit in my chair and he would curl up on my chest.

Now I sit in my chair at the computer and complete my homework. He lets me know he needs attention by scratching the back of my office chair. He is de-clawed in the front so he doesn’t hurt any of the furniture. If that doesn’t work, then he will typically bit my legs. He doesn’t bit hard, but just tries to get my attention. He loves doing that to my wife in the mornings to remind her to feed him or clean out his box.

I was getting ready for bed last night and Buddy was trying to get my attention. I was trying to ignore him. That’s never a good idea because he won’t let me sleep if I don’t pay attention, but I was stubborn. He threw me a curve ball and changed his game plan. I was standing in the living room brushing my teeth, standing only in my underwear. He was walking through my legs and desperately trying to get me to pay him some mind.

Then the sharp pain hit me. No blood of course, just a light nip and the tip. He stood up on his back legs and bit me in my flanderdoodle. He wanted to play and fight and I was not being cooperative. He knew I was going to bed and that this was his last chance. He took it. I inspected the affected area and no damage was done so I capitulated, and got his sock. We have a sock that we use for him. It covers the length of the arm, up to the bicep, and allows him to play-fight – bite and scratch with his back claws. He really gets after it, panting and huffing. We fought until he was satisfied and then I went to bed. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Decider Has Some Things to Decide

Kitty Kat, wife of Jack, asks something pertinent this morning: “What’s going through President Bush’s mind this morning?” A good question. Horn tooting aside, it’s obvious by last night’s election that the President has lost the support of the majority of people. I think the community at large voted against this president’s war policy last night. That’s nothing prophetic, as the pundits have been talking about this for several days, but it makes sense.

I suspect, with a grin, that he will do what McCarthy did in the days of yore. McCarthy was after the communists and blamed everyone, including Army generals of being pinkos. Got him in a lot of hot water, especially when the discovered that his documentation was fraudulent, thanks to the Tydings Committee’s investigation. McCarthy’s response: The Tydings Committee were communists. The same thing will happen here. By the end of today we will find out that this wasn’t a referendum of the President or his war policy. It was nothing more than the evil liberal media (a.k.a pinko commies) attempt to distort the truth about the war in Iraq. Wait and see.

For the Decider to change his mind and change course would mean that he was wrong all along, and he isn’t about to do that. So we will stay the course and just push harder for those “benchmarks”, but you can bet the farm that those won’t be “timetables”. It’s a hard job being the Decider.

Election Results as of 6 a.m.

I thought us Bloggers might make the election night fun with an Academy Awards game during the election. No such luck. No one would make any predictions or have any fun at all – a fool’s game they cried, the big weenies.

So I bought my wife a coffee and a shot instead. That’s money better spent anyway. She went to her first bloggers meeting last night. I’ll let her tell you what she thought, if she chooses. I think she had a good time.

I went to bed around 11:45 a.m. (much past my usual bed time) and most races were still too late to tell. She, however, stayed up until 2 a.m. watching the results trickle in.

Please realize that of the total 3,734 total precincts 3,570 of them have reported, according to the Secretary of State’s web site. So here are the results as they stand at 6 a.m.

ISSUES
Amendment 2 (stem cell research)
Yes: 50.7% (1,024,2136)
No: 49.3% (996,584)

Amendment 3 (smoking tax)
Yes: 48.3% (976,076)
No: 51.7% (1,043,685)

Amendment 6 (vets non-profit exemption)
Yes: 61.4%
No: 38.6%

Amendment 7 (convicted politicians forfeit state pensions)
Yes: 84.4%
No: 15.6%

Minimum wage increase
Yes: 75.6%
No: 24.4%

Springfield Bar Ban
Yes: 62% (33,088)
No: 38% (20,625)

CANDIDATES
U.S. Senate: Talent-McCaskill
Talent: 47.4% (986,007)
McCaskill: 49.5% (1,028,375)

State Rep: Champion-Harpool
Champion: 57.5% (36,366)
Harpool: 42.5% (26,929)

State Rep: Dennison-Hagan
Dennison: 55.6% (9,864)
Hagan: 44.4% (7,888)

State Rep: Marsh-Owens
Marsh: 56% (7,677)
Owens: 44% (6,040)

State Rep: Viebrock-Brown-Rodgers
Viebrock: 63.4% (10,492)
Brown: 33.5% (5,536)
Rodgers: 3.1% (515)

Presiding Commission: Coonrod-Roark-Jones
Coonrod: 50% (48,946)
Roark: 46% (44,901)
Jones: 5% (4,423)

County Clerk: Struckhoff-Johnson
Struckhoff: 79% (73,127)
Johnson: 21% (19.202)

Prosecuting Attorney: Brown-Moore
Brown: 38% (36,739)
Moore: 62% (61,162)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Back Of The Line

There were long lines at the polls. No real surprise there. What surprised me was one poll worker. They had two lines at my polling place, one for A-K and one for L-Z. There were two little handwritten signs hidden behind the lines of people and a young college student at the door mousily alerting people about the lines. I couldn’t hear her, but I knew what to do anyway.

My line was pretty short. At the front of the line was an elderly lady, with a walker. She was in the wrong line. The poll worker was telling her that she would have to walk her way to the end of the long A-K line. The line curved to the door. He explained that her name just was not listed in his book. It was in the book sitting next to him, but that was someone else’s line.

He was bound and determined to see her shuffle and stand for another 30 minutes, which she clearly was unable to do. The man in the other line sweetly offered her to cut in line, which she did.

The signs were poor and people were confused. The elderly surely were confused about the lines and I’m wondering how important it is to force a senior citizen with a walker to the end of the line. Thank God for good Samaritans who don’t mind line cuts.

Great Election Results Here

If you are looking for great election results check out the Secretary of State's office web site.

Election Night Blogging

Tonight is the night that the Springfield bloggers do our first live blogging election event. Odds are you already knew that, but you may want to know which of the bloggers are actually participating in this first time event?

Check it, peeps. I’ll list the members here. You can click and visit each site throughout the night to see what’s happening. I will update this post with new members if they come in late, so remember to check this article out if you want to know who is pontificating. As of 7:27 p.m. this is who is here:

Branson Missouri
Curbstone Critic
Dad’s On A Rant
Kerner.net
Rhetorica (it's all his idea)
Simple Thoughts of a Complext Mind
Tony Messenger – News-Leader
Zach is Here

Predictions Anyone?

Damn that infernal Blogger website for being cantankerous today. It appears to be working for the moment so I will post before it fails again. I really don’t know what good making predictions on electoral races does for us, but to show us now and again that the pundits are wrong. Other than for fun, it seems a bit contrived.

That is, unless you are making a game of it. Now that sounds like fun to me. To the member of the Springfield Bloggers who gets the most predictions correct: A drink of my choice. If you participate, then you will drink what I give you (from Patton Alley Pub) unless of course you qualify for an accommodation, but you best bring documentation. The good news is I’ll have what you’re having, so it won’t be all bad. All predictions must be posted on your own site by 7 p.m. tonight (when polls close). If you post early and want to make changes, then that’s fine as long as your last post is by 7 p.m. If you don’t have your own blog, then you are just out of luck.

Here is the lowdown on how I think the election will roll:

ISSUES
Amendment 2 (stem cell research) – PASSES
Amendment 3 (smoking tax) – FAILS
Amendment 6 (vets non-profit exemption) – PASSES
Amendment 7 (convicted politicians forfeit state pensions) – PASSES
Minimum wage increase – PASSES
Springfield Bar Ban – PASSES


CANDIDATES
U.S. Senate: Talent-McCaskill – McCASKILL WINS
State Rep: Champion-Harpool – HARPOOL WINS
State Rep: Dennison-Hagan – HAGAN WINS
State Rep: Marsh-Owens – MARSH WINS
State Rep: Viebrock-Brown-Rodgers – BROWN WINS
Presiding Commission: Coonrod-Roard-Jones – COONROD WINS
County Clerk: Struckhoff-Johnson – STRUCKHOFF WINS
Prosecuting Attorney: Brown-Moore – MOORE WINS

Election Thoughts at 6 a.m.

The news is reporting that there are already huge lines at the polls today. Not surprised as this should have a large voter turnout. Everyone election should have a large voter turnout but we know how that goes. More to say throughout the day and especially tonight starting sometime around 7 p.m. when the mass blogging event begins here in Springfield.

I have no idea what I will be reporting on tonight. Maybe the results, maybe the discussion, maybe my thoughts. There will be others reporting as well and you will want to check out their blogs as well. I've be sure to give you a list later on this eve, once I know who all is live and blogging for your election pleasure.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Harpool Has Something To Say


I've been remiss in my political coverage this election cycle. Early on I wrote about my the Representative race in my district, but that was before school got in the way. College has a tendency to do that. I've been so engrossed in what I have been doing, that I haven't written about the Champion/Harpool race. For that matter, I haven't written about the Talen/McCaskil race either.

Harpool has a lot to say about education, medicaid, taxes, public service, and of course campaign finance reform. Champion doesn't seem to have much to say anymore, relying on her name recognition only.

I am making time for Doug Harpool today. He deserves it. He understands the Medicaid crisis and how people have been damaged by those cuts. Champion does not, as is seen in the video above, but her's is the typical Republican mantra: No one who really needed it, lost any services. Rep. Viebrock from Republic says the same thing.

I am putting my money on the person who supports persons with disabilities who were drastically affected by the medicaid cuts. I support the person who wants to help education – elementary, secondary and higher edcucation. I suppor the person who wants to push for campaign finance reform. Harpool stands for all of those and Champion … well she stands for none of them. It's an easy vote for me. I only wish I had endorsed him earlier, then he could have used it on his campaign materials:

Endorsed by Fat Jack, or maybe
Fat Jack Seal of Approval or possibly
A Rating from Fat Jack

Either way, I owe him an appology. Someone that impresses me as much as he has deserves an blog post early on in the election.

I'm Fat Jack and I approve of this candidate.

Live and Blogging on Election Day

I shall be sporting my polticial boxing bow tie
from
Beau Ties Ltd on election day.


Tuesday night will be brimming with babbling – blogging – as many of Springfield’s finest citizen journalists will be meeting for a live blog event at our usual hangout at the Patton Alley Pub. With laptops in hand we will be reporting on the election results throughout the night. This mid-term election should prove to be one of the most exciting in a long time.

The idea came from Rhetorica and a dandy idea it was. We will discuss local, state and national politics, but I’m sure other topics will come up. Bloggers and non-bloggers alike are invited to attend and no laptop is necessary. We are a nice bunch and are most willing to share. The members are made up of conservatives, liberals and even a libertarian. If you stop by you can participate, learn how to blog, or just watch the fun.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

JACK’S Annual Halloween Freak Fest

My wife and I have, for several years, entertained the youth in our family with a Halloween Freak Fest. We have taken our young ones out for a spooky night on the town complete with scary movies, haunted houses and the haunted corn maize in Verona, MO.

This year’s party expanded quite a bit with the introduction of some new teens and adults. My teen cousins, Austin and Jessica came, along with Austin’s mom, Dede, and a friend of hers. Kitty Kat, wife of JACK, stayed behind and took our little girly to the annual fall carnival at her school. Proceeds of the corn maize benefit the Verona Boys’ Home.

It’s always a good time. Austin and I have done this for a long time, and as fun as the corn maize is, we’ve decided that the haunted houses are better. Our goal is to someday take a trip to the haunted houses in Kansas City. I’ve been to them once and it was a fantastic time.

After the spookfest, the kids stayed the night and we watched the Stephen King classic, Children of the Corn. By the way, I remember Children of the Corn being much spookier than it really is. The special effects, in light of today, just do not hold up well. I found the movie a bit lacking especially at the end.

The next morning, the younger cousin, Evan, came up and spent the day with us all. He’s still a bit young for the haunted houses. Saturday afternoon we watched the PG children’s horror movie, Something Wicked This Way Comes. It holds up to the test of time better than Children of the Corn. It’s a bit spooky for the very young ones, I think, but it’s still appropriate.

After they left we took a nap and headed to a Halloween party. This too is an annual party with some of our friends from college. Most of us have children now, and so they play together and we hang out and talk about what ails us. This year we had some old friends fly in from Seattle to join the party. It was nice to see them. The kids and the adults dress up at this party. We didn’t this year, which is unusual for us. I just didn’t feel up to it what with just having surgery. Everyone else dressed up and that makes it lots of fun when the grown ups dress up too.

Click here for the kids’ party
Click here for the college friends

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Very Sckary Pumpkin

This picture and story is by my 6-year-old daughter. I was so proud of her that I told her I would put in on my blog. Spelling and grammar are exactly as she wrote it. Enjoy.


THE VERY SCKARY PUMPKIN!
by Sophia

This pumpkin is a Vary sckary pumpkin! Ooooooooooooooooooooo! Went a ghost! and everee boddy Ran and Ran and Ran!

The End!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Same Old Stereotypes

Persons with disabilities are still fighting for their basic civil rights in this country. While people with disabilities are the largest minority population in the United States – 19.3 percent as compared to African Americans who make up only 12.9 percent* – they are given little respect from the world and their lives are considered nothing more than a bother by the majority and other minorities for that matter.

Disability is an all-encompassing minority population, consisting of persons from different socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, gender, location, and sexual orientation. Disability is no respecter of persons. Chances are that every person in the United States is more likely to know one or more individuals with disabilities, than they are someone with HIV/AIDS. Who doesn’t know someone with HIV/AIDS?

Still yet, the old perceptions of people with disabilities are still present today, even from the educated. These misconceptions, which lead to discrimination, are prevalent and rampant in the American psyche. There are several stereotypes that are still prevalent in today’s society. One of which is the idea that people with disabilities are scammers, liars and cheaters out to get ahead at the expense of everyone around them and scam their ways into a cushy, lazy lifestyle. So said Rush Limbaugh about Michael J. Fox and his battle with Parkinson’s disease.

“He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act…. This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting.”

And so it goes for many people with disabilities. For some reason this stereotype is still running rampant throughout our society and people with disabilities, and disability advocates, sit idly by and say little about the real issue. Oh they complain about Limbaugh’s remarks and insist he apologizes, but they don’t do a good job addressing the underlying stereotype. People with disabilities are not lazy or out to steal the state’s money any more than African Americans have that extra rib and are genetically inferior to whites. It’s a ridiculous argument. Sure, there are people in the world who look for an easy ride, but I can tell you that disability is no easy ride.

Living with diabetes, post-polio disease, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, Down syndrome, autism, spinal cord injury, HIV/AIDS, head injury, multiple sclerosis, or any other host of disabilities is a rough ride. Yet the sheep believe that if you have a disease or condition, then that disability affects you the same every single day. That too, is simply a case of ignorance on the part of the Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the world. Someone with multiple sclerosis never knows how their disease is going to affect them day-by-day. One Monday, someone can walk on their own, and then on Tuesday they may have to use a wheelchair. From the outside, that has the appearance of scam, but it isn’t. That’s the nature of multiple sclerosis.

The same is said for many disabilities, including Parkinson’s. People with Tourette’s Syndrome speak out inappropriately. They may curse profusely and be unable to stop. However, someone with Tourette’s may be able to control it for short amounts of time, giving the perception that they can really control it if they just try harder. What people do not realize is that when the person goes home the dam breaks and they will be worse than typical, spouting curses for longer periods of time. Control of certain diseases can be achieved for short periods of time, but it doesn’t last and can be very taxing for the individual. It’s a case of understanding, real understanding, of a disability.

Why do we care what Michael J. Fox has to say, anyway? Lots of people think that actors have no business talking about issues.

I care about what Magic Johnson has to say about living with HIV/AIDS, not because he is famous, but because he lives with the disease every day. He knows about it. That’s why I care.

I care what Oprah says when it comes to managing weight because she knows what it’s like. I care what Carnie Wilson says when it comes to living with gastric by-pass surgery. They both get it, albeit from different perspectives, and they understand the struggle. So when they speak on the subject, I pay attention to their thoughts.

Right now, a lot of people would try to get us to believe that because someone is famous, then we should not care about what they think. Working in Hollywood or the entertainment business does not automatically discount someone’s perspective. It has nothing to with Hollywood at all. When someone speaks out on a subject they live and breathe every day, then their perspective is valid and deserves it due. I may disagree with them, but people in similar circumstances often disagree.

Pundits, television and radio show hosts, and newspaper editors and reporters all think they have something important to say about stem cell research or other various issues, but the fact is, it may be those radio show hosts and reporters that are the least qualified to offer opinions. In the case of Parkinson’s disease and stem cell research, Fox has a valid perspective. Why do we care what some radio show host says? What qualifies Rush Limbaugh as an expert on stem cell research? Are these media personalities somehow more educated; are their thoughts more valid than someone living with Parkinson’s disease or diabetes? Could be they are living with a disease, or know someone that is. We don’t know that unless they tell us, which in the case of full disclosure, they should do.

Michael J. Fox is not being exploited. That is something idiotically stated by those who disagree with him in an attempt to discredit him, but it’s bunk. Fox has been a supporter of stem cell research and has dedicated his life to finding cures and has his own foundation. That doesn’t mean that someone has to agree with him, but his thoughts shouldn’t be invalidated either just because he is an actor. He’s an American living with a disease and he knows something about that.

I care what Michael J Fox has to say about stem cell research and I care what veterans say about politicians who vote against veteran’s benefits. Just because I listen to their thoughts doesn’t mean I vote their conscience. I vote my own, thank you very much.


(* According to the 2000 Census Bureau.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Trick-or-Treat for Unicef



You already know that Halloween is a big deal in our home. This year my wife decided to start a new Halloween tradition: Trick-or-Treat for Unicef. We will be collecting donations for Unicef while we trick-or-treat.

I’ve never really known anything about this, but it sounds wonderful. By emptying the change in her purse ($3.76), my wife provided a child with the following:

  1. A pencil
  2. Paper Pad Ink pen
  3. Saved the lives of 11 children (by providing 11 packets of Oral Rehydration Salts which is used to treat dehydration due to drinking contaminated water.)

If we only raise $4 we can purchase a large wool blanket. If we raise $35 we can provide pencils and books for 50 children so they can participate in school. If we raise $150 we can buy a hand pump for a village well to provide safe, clean water.

A one-time donation of $17 (yes, seventeen) we can purchase life-time vaccines for one child, immunizing that child against the six leading child-killing diseases (measles, mumps, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, and tuberculosis.)

So while we are out having fun and celebrating, we will also be thinking about other children who are starving and dying. It doesn’t take much; just some loose change. Unlike other fundraisers, where they guilt trip people into donating, we will simply be saying: “Trick-or-Treat for Unicef.” Those in the know, who will also see us carrying our little orange Unicef boxes, can give if they like. For those who ask, we will explain what we are doing and offer them the chance. For those who don’t ask, we will move on and wish them a Happy Halloween. You can also give online if you prefer. If you'd like to join in, you can pick up Unicef boxes at Pier 1.

It’s a new family Halloween tradition. My wife’s good idea.

New to the Blogosphere

Some announcements:

My friend, bicycle budding, and one time guest Blogger, Heavy P, started his own blog (Heavy P’s Think Tank) to which he has two posts. He lives in the Ozarks and we’ve known each other for many a long day.

Another compadre, Lenny, has also plugged into the rapidly growing Internet revolution as LENISIMO1WORLD. I’ve known him for a few years and now he works over there with Larry and Bryan.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

How To Raise A Hooker

I’m not crazy about some of the dolls being created for our girls these days. I don’t generally participate in bans and I don’t think the Tele Tubbies are gay. But the idea of creating dolls that dress like hookers doesn’t really appeal to me either. I think there are better choices.

Barbie has been a staple in girl toys for generations. I have my issues with Barbie and the images she projects, but I allowed my daughter to have them, once she asked for them. I didn’t introduce them to her before that. The antes been upped with the introduction of the Bratz line of dolls, by MGM Entertainment.

This line of doll has pouty, Angelina Jolie, come-hither lips, big eyes, lots of make-up and skimpy clothes. I’ve objected to them since I saw them and have encouraged my daughter toward other dolls. The other school children are serving to circumvent my work. Everyone has Bratz dolls, backpacks, shirts and other products. It’s everywhere.

We have told our 6-year-old that we don’t’ have Bratz. Then last year she got one for Christmas from someone else. I allowed her to keep the doll, as this particular one was dressed appropriately. Still don’t like those lips, or rather I don’t like what those lips convey to my daughter, but she kept her.

A Bratz doll is on the top of her Christmas list. She’s been asking for one for quite a while. My wife was borderline on the idea and was encouraging me to find another doll with better fashion sense. My Mother agreed, making a fine point: Wonder Woman doesn’t have many clothes on either and I have no problems with her.

So I conceded, saying that I will not buy her one, but if Santa gives my daughter an appropriately dressed Bratz doll, then I will be okay with it. Actually we ordered it yesterday from Amazon. Gotta love free shipping. We shop for Christmas all year long. It helps us with expenses and decreases our seasonal stress.

This morning my wife came into the office while I was blogging and apologized. Bratz is introducing another toy. This had baby Bratz in a dance club, dressed in club wear (tit bibs and ho shorts) shaking their stuff. The toy has platforms for the dancing babies (babies referring to the age of the dolls and not as a sexual inference). My wife said she agreed with me, that these toys are getting out of control.

These Bratz are flying off the shelves and it is hurting Barbie enough that she has introduced her own line of whorific dolls called Bling Bling Barbie. Again with the eyes, lips and club wear.

As I stated earlier, I don’t do the whole ban thing to well. I am certainly not a Victorian, puritanical nut job. I believe in teaching all pre-teens about their bodies and safe sex. I don’t see teaching as some kind of permission slip to have sex. I do not wish for the good old days of discrimination and social oppression of women. But I’m not sure that these toys are appropriate for children, that’s all. I am going to provide you reader with some pictures of the dolls. You may up your own mind about them. As for me, I’m going to allow Santa to bring my daughter on, so long as he brings one that doesn’t look like a hooker.


This is back-to-school cloe from the Bratz line of dolls. I find her dressed appropriately and have told Santa that if he brings her one, then this is the one to bring. She's cute. I don't have a problem with her. The next little one, on the other hand, I have some concerns about.



This little darling is wearing a thong. A baby in a thong. There are so many things wrong with this. For the love of God, what is MGM Entertainment thinking with this?




These are some Bratz Babies, dressed for a night on the town. These girls aren't any better than thong-along above.





These little hookers are ready to grind and groove at the local discotech.



One of the teenaged Bratz dolls.






This is new Barbie line known as Bling Bling Barbie. It was developed to compete with the Bratz. Notice the change in Barbie's lips and eyes. How about that tit bib?



Does it bother anyone else that the Bratz Babies are dressed more scantily than the teenagers? We have enough sexualization and exploitation of children as it is. I am fearful of encouraging young children to act and dress in a sexual manner. Predators already claim that the child actually wanted it in the first place. I would think that this would only exasperate the situation. Babies in thongs are an easy line for me to draw. Obviously not so with others.


Yap, Yap, Yap

Education majors are the talkingist groups of people I have ever seen. They yip and yap and carry on in the middle of lecture like no other group of people I have seen before. It’s not only rude but also very distracting and for some reason may of the professors say nothing about it.

Now I have noticed that people carry in during class like nobody’s business, but I hadn’t put together who many of those people were until my friend, Heavy P who is also going back to get his Master’s degree in education, pointed it out to me. The worst offenders are education majors. That just befuddles me, but so far his observation is proving true. I have several education classes this semester and I am amazed how much talking goes on.

One instructor has called on one particular offender and mentioned that he is going to answer her question if she’s ready. You know what, that didn’t detour her in the least bit. He answered her question and she went right back to yapping her damn head off.

Now it deserves mentioning that I may refer to these offenders as “she”. However you shouldn’t infer anything by that. The vast majority of people in education classes are female and so that is going to naturally occur. That is not to say that the only yappers in college are ladies. Actually I think it has more to do with the independent and personality of those who choose education. Education majors may tend to be more outgoing, talkative, independent and instructional (in that they will help or tutor their neighbors).

Now I don’t talk out of turn in class, but I think that has more to do with my age. I am a talker by nature. I have to say that it would seem that the future teachers might want to show more respect for their teacher. I don’t want my students to have conversations when I am talking or giving instructions. I do expect interaction and I promote collaboration, just not when I’m speaking. I wonder how these honkers will react when their students yip and yap?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gone Daddy Gone, The Gizzard is Gone



(Pictured Above: The purple organ in the middle is my gallbladder. The red organ above that is my liver. That yellow stuff cradling the gallbladder is a soft protective pillow of fat. How about that? You can see more pictures if you click here.

This is the most descriptive picture I have. It's the only one taken inside my body. The rest are either of me before the surgery, the doc holding my gallbladder in his hand, and one of my incisions. So don't fret about checking them out.)


I had to have my gallbladder removed. It was only functioning at 12 percent. That is, when it fills up it is supposed to empty at 30 percent or so. Mine was only emptying at 12 percent. So it had to go. No stones to speak of, so that is good. I’ve been having a large amount of pain over the last year and the thinking is that it is due to the gallbladder. It’s too early to tell because I hurt all over right now.

Laparoscopic surgery is the way to go. The recovery time is much less and the pain is quite tolerable. I was up and slowly puttering about the house all day on Tuesday after the surgery. I was sore and groggy but I could move a bit.


Monday (the day before the surgery) 4:30 p.m.
I had received no information on my surgery time as of yet. I called the doctor’s office to find out my surgery time for the next morning. I was told that this is typical procedure and not to worry. I got my time to show up the next day: 5:30 a.m. That is early, but I’m used to getting up before the crows.


Tuesday – Surgery Day 5:30 a.m.
I showed up at admitting and there was a wait. A wait at the crack of God? Come to find out they have 22 surgery rooms on the third floor of the hospital. Seems like a lot to me. No wonder they have a hard time scheduling everyone’s surgeries.


5:45 a.m.
I was led into a room to dress into the new fall line of hospital gowns. I found that the new ecru colored gowns complimented my mood well and was appropriate for the morning’s event. The fashion guru’s of What Not To Wear would have been proud of color choice but would have found fault with the fit. The first one was a Large and wouldn’t even go over my shoulders. The next gown was a mammoth moo moo, but at least it covered my backside with no gaps for the gals.


6 a.m.
The nurse came in to the room to check my blood sugar and ask me a host of questions that every other person in the hospital would also ask me. I discovered that she wasn’t in the mood for any shenanigans, but she got some anyway. When she stuck me in the finger to test my blood sugar I yelped like a dog whose tail just got run over by a 3-year-old on a tricycle. She jumped and just apologized all over herself; explaining that they have to use the larger, square pen needles because some people have tough skin. I just smiled.

Of course my peanut gallery was giggling and hiding their eyes out of embarrassment. She slugged me and kept on smiling. If you’re going to be cut on, you might as well have fun with it. You know, I don’t think she ever came back to check on me after that.


6:30 a.m.
The orderly came to wheel me away to the anesthesia barn. With 22 surgery rooms the anesthesia holding tank is some kind of huge barn-like room – rows and columns of cows lined up ready to have their teats connected and milked.

Sure enough Farmer Millie, Farmer Susan and Farmer Brown all asked me the same questions in succession. The funny part was they were all three standing next to my bed at the same time. Millie asked then left. Susan asked the same questions as she prepped my prepped and ran a line into my arm. She was a heck of a farmer. Typically the stickers have to jab me several times, pulling and pushing the needle in and out to get the vein. Farmer Susie knew what she was doing. She numbed the hand first before sticking me and she nailed it the first time. I like Farmer Susie. She walked off and the head drug doc took her place and asked the same questions she did. Redundancy is safety. After that I just waited, watching them hook up the other heifers until my doctor came for me.

They took my glasses away so I wasn’t able to see the clock or follow the time, but I can estimate it pretty well.


7:15 a.m.
They wheeled me down to the surgery room – a tile room with lots of machines just haphazardly scattered about. We chatted for a bit. I asked the doc if he could let me have the gallbladder in the Mason jar I brought along. He agreed to take pictures for me and that appeased me. I reminded them sawbones which side the gallbladder was on, at which point they had their fill of me and put me down.


Sometime thereafter
The surgery only took about 20 minutes, as I was told later. I woke up hard from the surgery. I don’t care for the feeling right after you wake up from anesthesia. Fortunately it goes away in seconds as I gain my faculties. I don’t really remember it, so maybe my faculties were not really about me, but they wheeled me back into my original room where my family was waiting for me.

By that time I was ready to get up and empty my utter out and walk around. They let me use the little cow’s room, but didn’t indulge my desire to explore the hallways. If I was going to fall it had to be on my own property. Somewhere in there I must have gotten dressed back in my own clothes but I don’t remember it. I do know they wheeled me out in a wheelchair sized to fit a king of my stature. It was very kind of them to not cram me into a skinny chair. To the homestead I went.

Since then I’ve been home recovering and working on homework. You see, Thursday and Friday of this week is fall break, but don’t assume that means anything to our instructors. They have no respect for the concept of break. I have two novels to read, two papers to write, two midterms to study for, and other various assignments due. Surgery or no surgery, everything is due Monday and Tuesday so I am doing my best. Good thing that I am recovering so quickly or I would be screwed come next week.

I’ve had lots of help at home as both my wife and Mom are home. Good thing to because we’ve had lots of visitors and phone calls. I’m not complaining about that. It was nice. I have been going a bit stir crazy between resting and homework.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Surgery Update

Gallbladder surgery went well yesterday. I’m home recovering and doing pretty well. I’ll have an in-depth report later this week. I have photos of the surgery (thanks to the doc) which I will have to have scanned before I can post them. Now that's something you can look forward to.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Developing Grey Idealism

By Heavy P
Guest Blogger

One of the beautiful things about the society we live in is that we can buy almost anything anytime. If I want the latest issue of Playboy and a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby to soothe the pain of loneliness while Linda is out of town, I can. Of course this also means that I can buy anything I need anytime also, which is probably of more importance.

I am 38 years old and I find that often I still think like a 20-year-old. Besides sex, I am talking about black-and-white idealism. This is my term for looking at a complex issue in an overly simplistic way. An easy example is the Iraq war. I tend to run around screaming that Bush is an idiot and what the Hell is he doing over there except pissing on a hornets’ nest. But the truth is I don't know what is going on over there. For all I know his plan is brilliant and I am just too ignorant to understand all the factors that go into a decision like that.

The idea of Black-and-White Idealism is how I (and I believe most of us) look at most social issues, which brings me to my "local issue" consumerism. Since we have the privilege to buy anything we want or need at anytime we also have the power, and Spiderman would say the responsibility, to use that dollar to promote our values. But sometimes the local health food store isn't open at 3 o’clock in the morning so I can get some organic maple syrup to put on my Waffle House waffles. What is a hungry man to do, go to Wal-mart? Wait, I hate Wal-mart. They under pay employees, run local shops out of business, sell inferior merchandise, harm the environment, strong-arm government and other meeker corporations, and are way too smug.

But I really want my syrup!

So in the spirit of Grey Idealism (the idea that complex issues demand complex solutions) I have developed a methodology of consumerism:

1. When possible I make it myself. This might mean anything from my breakfast oatmeal to my china cabinet. But often I am tired or the kitchen is filthy or I am out of oatmeal so step two.

2. I buy from a local, independent, retailer that sells local independent products. Since there are not many local producers of Scottish oatmeal we go to step 3.

3. I buy from a local, independent retailer that sells products that are national but are not mass-produced to an extent that the craft is taken out. Sometimes I can't afford a crafted product or can't find a non-mass produced product, so step 4.

4. I buy national brands at local shops like an i-Pod from Database Systems instead of Best Buy, but sometimes I can't afford that national product from a local dealer or I am going to have to wait much too long before I get said product, so step 5.

5. I buy national brands at chain stores that share my values, like Newman's Own Organics (they give all their profits to charity), but sometimes I need something that this store doesn't carry, so step 6.

6. I buy national brands at chain stores that I view as having corporate values that are neither positive nor negative. Like Starbucks (they give employees the benefits but they move in next to established coffee houses and try to steal their clientele.) But sometimes it is 3 o’clock in the morning and Linda is sick and she needs Comtrex so she can sleep. So Step 7.

7. I buy national brands at chain stores that have horrible ethics (gasp). I know, I know but here is the deal. Do I let Linda suffer all night, or do I give my dollars (and therefore support) to the devil in a mega-building? I probably say, "Hello Lucifer".

I know this plan isn't perfect. I know that emergencies are subjective, but I think by adopting a Grey Idealism maybe I'm starting to balance pragmatism and idealism.


(JACK’S NOTE: This piece was written by my long-time friend and bicycle buddy, Heavy P. He’s been discussing his Grey Idealism with me for a long time, so I invited him to write about it and publish it on my blog. Unlike some of my alter egos who publish on this blog, Heavy P is a real person. He’s just doesn’t want his own blog.)