Monday, March 26, 2007

What We Need Is a New Law

I was on Spring Break last week; my daughter is on Spring Break this week. It befuddles me why schools and universities do not coordinate Spring Breaks. My wife had to take a week of vacation to stay home with my daughter this week. Had they been coordinated, then I could have been off and my wife could have saved her vacation time for this summer.

I was complaining about this to my sister who said that a few years ago Oklahoma passed a law that all schools were to coordinate Spring Break. She knew that the public schools had to do this, but she didn’t know if the colleges and universities had to do it as well.

You would think that it would be common sense – logical – to do so. What of college students who have families. Not all students are of the single, childless, 18-23 year old variety. There are many graduate students and non-traditional students who have families and lives. Why not coordinate the Spring Breaks for all schools and help uncomplicated the lives of many families?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Troy the Teddy Bear

About a month ago my daughter wanted to get me a gift. Not for any special occasion, mind you, but just because. She had given it a lot of thought and she knew what she wanted to get me: a teddy bear from Build-A-Bear in the mall. She’s been begging my wife for a month now to go and do this. After 30 days my wife gave in and decided that she was serious about it.

So off we went to Build-A-Bear. The ruse was that we were getting a bear for our nephew’s birthday. She walked right in, picked up the bear she wanted, got the accessories, clothes and hair, and put that guy together in nothing flat. At the end she told me that this bear was for me because she loved me and she just knew that I would want a teddy bear with flames and chains.

We played with him that night while we snuggled in bed. His name is Troy. I don’t know why, but that’s the name she picked. Now my goal is to find a special place for him to sit. I treasure young Troy because my daughter thought of me. Someday when I'm in the nursing home, I'll sit in my chair and hold my bear and think of my sweet daughter.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Playtime in the House of Jack

The neighborhood kids have been coming over a lot lately. They like to hang out at our house, which is cool with us. I have to feed them, but at least I know where they are and my daughter has friends. A Tostino's pizza doesn't cost too much.

The tree house is especially getting a lot of playtime. The kids are digging it. The parents are worried that their kids are bothering us, but they aren’t. Kids have to play somewhere, and if they are here then I know what’s going on. Pretty fun.

What The H-E-Double Hockey Sticks?

Academic Freedom allows a professor to do pretty much what he or she wants in the classroom. Except for rape, murder, sexual harassment and discrimination most anything goes. I had more than mid-term tests last week where the professor wrote weird multiple choice tests. I had two, or was it three, tests that had multiple choice questions where any or all of the answers were fair game. We were instructed to pick any, all, or none of the answers. Not a “both A and B are correct” choice. Nope. Pick A, B, C, D, E, or any combination you see fit. Crap!

Now that is a hard test to take. Never done that before and in no case were we alerted to that to begin with. Surprise! I also had a test that was grammatically incorrect. It confused every single person in the room and we had to rewrite it in order for it to make sense. The fact that the professor was not there for the mid-term and we had substitute standing in made that worse.

One teacher showed up late to the mid-term then her phone went off during it. In that particular class, we had two different tests. Not the same test with the same answers in different orders. We had two different tests with different questions on it. The average, by the way, was a 62.6 percent. I did significantly better than that, but I still did not do well enough for my satisfaction.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Kitty Stones

Our big, bad Buddy has been trying to pee all over the house. He squats, strains then moves on. Sometimes leaving a squirt behind and sometimes nothing at all. He’s licking “down there” like nobody’s business. It’s all just out of character for him. A quick call to the doc and he was at the vet lickety split.

He has crystals in his urine, which has plugged him up. Bless his heart, the bet said his poor bladder was all stretched out. We have to put him on a new diet that will be low in magnesium so his body doesn’t produce such things anymore.

The worst part is that he has to stay overnight. He will not like me when he comes home. Buddy is not a good patient, he hates new places and he despises being crated. Staying overnight can’t be good on his little kitty psyche. I think they make Prozac for animals now. Not that I would do that. I draw the line at anti-depressants for cats.

Incidentally, there has been a major recall on pet foods lately. Dogs and cats have died from renal failure. I don't have the internet sources, but my vet confirmed that was not our problem. The recall was related to foods in gravies.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Break

I've finished my last mid-term exam and I am officially on Spring Break. I plan on blogging, reading comics for the classroom, gaming on the Wii, and catching some movies. I am especially interested in the flick, 300.

Get Off The Bus!

My father taught me to offer my seat to a lady, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. It was the kind, respectful and honorable thing to do. It was a part of living in polite society and was considered the gentlemanly thing to do. Those days have all but passed and the world is about self-indulgence and egocentricity. Courtesy is for the weak.

A Letter to the Editor in today’s News-Leader was a perfect example of this. David Hayes states that he is inconvenienced when people who use wheelchairs use public transportation. He is further bothered by the fact that he has to give us his seat for them. I am so flabbergasted at his response that it took me some time to think of a response.

I don’t ride the city utilities bus, but the definition of public transportation implies that the bus is for everyone’s use and not just for those who do not have physical disabilities. It’s not just for Hayes or his friends. Seems he could use a good dose of compassion.

Brian Lewis, Associate Editor Page Editor of the News-Leader wrote about the stupidity of this letter on his blog.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Fat Jack and Bariatric Surgery

I am a big fella, but you already knew that. My blog name should have given that away. I’ve been considering bariatric (weight loss) surgery for some time and I’ve been writing about my weight on another blog, FAT JACK – skinny whinny.

Saturday I am attending an informational seminar on bariatric surgery headed by St. Johns. This is the first step in the bariatric surgery application process. Apparently, there is quite a bit to the whole ordeal besides just scheduling a surgery, some of the steps being required by the surgeon and others by the insurance company.

I’ve made up my mind about this, and unless the informational meeting brings down some kind of horrific statistics or stories about the mortality rate of undergoing bariatric surgery, then I am going for it. Which type of surgery, gastric bypass or lap band, is still up for grabs; however, I am leaning toward the lap band. As I continue through the process, I will provide information on skinny whinny. You are welcome to come along for the ride if you want. Should prove interesting if nothing else.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Can I Come and Play?

There is a little girl playing at our house today. I don’t know who she is and I’ve never met her parents. She came walking down the street to play with the neighbor girl. The neighbor girl was at our house so this child just came over here. That’s fine with me. I love having kids around. Considering this child is starts kindergarten this August, it seems odd that she just play any old where. It seems odd that parents would let their pre-school child walk down the street and play with neighbors the parents have never met. True, they don’t know she’s here. They think she is across the street, but I wouldn’t let my pre-school kid walk to someone else’s house by herself. I would have accompanied her to make sure she got arrived safely and that it was okay to play. That’s just me. Crazy world we live in.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Midterm Exams Next Week

We have midterm exams next week; I have four to take and I'm not looking forward to any of them. My graduate classes only have midterm and final exams, so if you mess one of them up, then you have pretty much screwed the pooch.

It's a study weekend for me, mostly. I hope to take a break in the evening and watch "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan". We also have "A Prairie Home Companion" so we may watch that instead. Other than that, my nose is in a book.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Vote YES on the Litle Anti-Fornication Law

About my bigotry v. discrimination article, Larry at Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind responded quickly, which I suspected. He did clarify one mistake of mine, which was that Ron at Chatter used the word “bigot” in his post, and Larry simply responded to that. I offer my apologies for getting that wrong. That doesn’t change the basis for the argument that we too often confuse discrimination with bigotry.

At the heart of Larry’s argument was that if we take marriage out of the government’s hands and make it a religious ceremony then do we allow polygamists to have civil unions and do we set age limits on civil unions?

The polygamy argument is always the failsafe for those against the gay marriage amendment. Personally, I don’t really care who lives with whom or what they do in their bedrooms. That response is exactly what many people fear: if we let the gays marry then we will have to let the polygamists have multiple spouses, men will marry mules and pedophiles will gain the right to legally sodomize children.

Thank God for Stoner. He’s been posting on the crazy fundamentalist prude police lately. Not that Larry is crazy or part of any prude police. I just like being able to ruffle his feathers a bit now and again. Anyway, according to Stoner (who is a known liar) Baptist Bible College has a whole set of rules and regulations barring fornication or any feeling or action that might lead to such. Let’s follow Larry’s logic for a minute. Seeing how having the same legal rights is less desirable than proper prudishness we, the people of the United States of a Christian America, should make some serious laws to prevent people from committing sin in the eyes of God:

  • No unmarried male and unmarried female can walk together in any setting unless accompanied by a chaperone.
  • No one shall be allowed to have a roommate of the opposite sex, ever.
  • Any unmarried person committing fornication will be found guilty and punished.
  • All adultery will be illegal and the perpetrators will be punished.
  • All dancing is forbidden because of the sexual gyrations of the women’s bosom. We all know that woman is the forbearer of all of human kinds evil sinfulness.
  • Unmarried persons of the opposite sex may not eat together at the same table, lest they have sinful thoughts.
  • No one may spend the night at a friends house without prior written approval. Any person wishing to spend the night at a friend’s home must first file a petition with the Commission of Fornication 60 days in advance to the night for permission. A formal response will be issued and must be kept on the person at all times.

It’s stupid. People participate in sin all the time. Polygamists still marry illegally sometimes. Those who don’t illegally marry more than one wife will still live a polygamist lifestyle, but they only marry one spouse. The others are just girlfriends with illegitimate children. Young people go to clubs, engage in a mating ritual, then go home and commit fornication. Today, all across America, unmarried couples are living together and sleeping in the same bed.

Does Larry condone that? I think not. Does he accept it? I should suspect he does not. Do churches support such behavior? I know that they do not. People choose their own paths. Following Larry’s logic we should create some laws that prevent these unholy sexual unions (or the potential thereof) because the actions are morally repugnant. Come on. If we allow unmarried people to live together then that will lead to donkey-on-turtle sex and polygamy. Or wait! Despite the fact that people have lived together for years has not led to the legitimacy of polygamy and I have yet to hear of donkey-on-turtle sex. Amazing. So if living in sin has not led to polygamy and child molestation, then how exactly will civil unions of homosexuals lead to either of those? It won’t. It’s a red herring.

As for the age restriction, we set age restrictions all the time: drinking, voting, and driving. Now what Larry is getting at is that there is a movement where pedophiles want to be able to have sex with children without repercussions. First of all, the gay marriage issue is not related at all to this. Gay marriage is about two consenting adults who wish to share their lives together. We have science to prove that children lack the development to make proper decisions. Larry, being a counselor with a Master’s Degree has studied that in depth. An 11-year-old boy who is looking for male acceptance is not able to developmentally ascertain whether or not having sex with an adult is proper, nor is he able to understand the ramifications. That is why they are called children and why they are protected by laws. It is justifiable discrimination set in place for protection of the young. Adult homosexuals do not need protection from their adult consenting mate. That is the difference.

If Larry is right then we must, in good Christian conscience, legally ban all dancing, co-habitation with the opposite sex, fornication, hanging out with members of the opposite sex without a chaperone, homosexuality, and oral or anal sex between married couples. Come on, oral and anal sex between married couples is just icky and will lead couples to experiment with sexual devices, other partners, and even homosexual experiences. I’m writing my state and local official and asking them all to vote YES on the Lytle Anti-Fornication Law.

(Just so no one gets his or her panties in a wad, Larry is my good friend. We’ve known one another for many years. Digs are just a part of the friendship.)

JESUS: There Is No Such Thing As Global Warming

What is with the evangelical right that they appeared to have had some kind of special meeting and determined that Jesus Christ: The Eternal Light has deemed global warming some kind of affront to Biblical faith? It makes no sense to me, but church after church somehow manages to lump global warming into some kind of religious belief system. I just don’t get it.

Before I get emails stating the obvious, I know that not all conservative Christians believe that global warming is some kind of satanic hogwash, but there appears to be a prevalent belief running rampant in the evangelical movement that makes connections between the Bible and global warming. I just don’t see the connection.

The only thing I can think of is that scientists believe in evolution, therefore any scientific theory or discovery that is somehow tied to any liberal belief such as environmentalism, is a product of the devil’s influence over humankind. Some such nonsense like that anyway.

You may be wondering where this is coming from. I watched the Academy Award documentary nominee, Jesus Camp, this weekend. It was an interesting movie. It focused on the religious-political evangelical movement at work in the United States today. This movie focused on a Pentecostal ministry, and it addressed Bush directly and supported his war through words, song and an interpretative production. That’s all fine and good. People can believe what they wish and put their faith in God anywhere they like even if it is misplaced. In the documentary one home-schooled boy was being taught by his mother that global warming and evolution were ridiculous science. Again, I don’t get the global warming-and-evolution connection. I get that many Christians have issues with evolution. It just got me to thinking that the majority of resistance I encounter regarding global warming is in connection with conservative Christian beliefs.

One evangelical radio host in the documentary talked about the silliness of environmentalism. He stated something to the effect that since we aren’t going to be here much longer, because Christ is coming very soon, then there is no need to take care of the Earth. We will be gone soon anyway. There is just so much wrong with this thinking. First, the radio hack suggests indirectly that he knows the mind of God and therefore knows that the second coming draws nigh. Anyone who presumes to know the mind of God is cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Secondly, what makes the person think that just because the end time is near that God would support and encourage the raping and pillaging of this rocky creation? In fact, one could make a strong argument that the Bible encourages us to not only take care of our bodily temples, but every Godly creation as well. I could do better in both departments, but that is beside the point. Christians should be environmentalists.

The movie really helped me see inside some of the more radical evangelicals out there. I say radical but I’m not sure I should use that term. Radical implies that they are on the fringe and I think the evangelical movement has a strong hold in mainstream society. Maybe the folks in this film are on the fringes of the movement, but I don’t think so. I think that is just what folks say to feel better about their own connection to the evangelical movement. From my Christian perspective, the evangelical movement has a strong agenda that is proving to be detrimental to Christian faith. They are a strong group that is getting more powerful everyday. I am proud that I am a Christian who does not align himself with this movement. I hope that Christ can save us from some of his own, misguided followers.

Let me give you a direct quote from the leader of the camp featured in this film and let’s see if it sends chills down anyone else’s spines, be you Christians or not:

BECKY FISCHER: “It's no wonder, with that kind of intense training and discipline, that those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam. I wan to see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the Gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places, you know, because we have... excuse me, but we have the truth!”

From my perspective, the only difference between the radical evangelical Christian followers and the radical Islamic jihadists is the person from whom the belief system comes from: Isaac or Ishmael. Otherwise, they are the same warmongering group fighting for religious dominance. Jesus Camp has nothing to do with Jesus, despite what the participants say.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Confusion Between Discrimination and Bigotry

We’ve had this nice little brouhaha going on in the Springfield blogosphere about discrimination and bigotry, specifically as it applies to homosexuals. Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind and Chatter were discussing the gay marriage issue, which turned into more when the words discrimination and bigot were introduced.

Now it all worked out in the end, that is the flames died down, but there is a bigger issue at work here. At its core, the problem was that when one belief was being called out as being discriminatory, the jump was made that if one is labeled as being discriminatory, then he or she is also a bigot. I bring this up – I fan the flames – because I think that our society frequently confuses the two terms, lumps them together. I think that is a serious mistake that ends discourse and further polarizes people of differing viewpoints.

To discriminate against a person is to treat that individual in way based on that person’s membership in a particular group, class, or category. The treatment can be either positive or negative. The focus is on the action, and the prejudice that results is some type of unfair treatment of a group of people.

Bigotry is very similar to discrimination; however, there is one major difference. With bigotry there is an inherent hatred, or strong dislike, toward a group, class or category, to the point that the person is intolerant of anyone who may side with the group being discriminated against.

The Issue
One can discriminate against a person or entire group and still not be a bigot. This is what happened in our local blogosphere lately. In this instance we had one Blogger, Larry of Simple Thoughts of a Complex was defending his view that homosexuals, as a group, should not be able to marry. Ron at Chatter, had a different point of view and he stated that barring homosexuals from being able to marry like other adults, is in fact discriminatory. The issue exploded over a misinterpretation of the word discrimination to also mean bigotry.

That got me to thinking about the whole issue of discrimination and bigotry. In this case, Larry is discriminating against homosexuals by barring them from marrying. By definition, treating one group of people differently based on their belonging to a particular class or group is discrimination. Bigotry is harder to define as it, in my opinion, involves the subjective determination of hatred or mean spiritedness. I am certain that Larry is not a bigot because I don’t think he hates homosexuals. He just discriminates against them.

We all discriminate to some degree. Our society discriminates against polygamists. We do not allow them to marry more than one person. On a smaller and much less harmful scale, we discriminate against young people and adults everyday by allowing special price discounts to people based on their ages – senior citizens. Bars frequently discriminate against males when they host “ladies nights”. Some of these types of discrimination have less social impacts. I don’t mind that senior citizens get preferential treatment at restaurants, nor do most college males mind “ladies nights” as that just means more females are present for the bar scene. However, by not allowing homosexuals to marry, there are many repercussion and people do indeed get hurt. Those issues have been widely addressed and don’t need to be flushed out here.

To weigh in on the gay marriage issue, I have a real simple solution, which has been stated by many others. Marriage is a religious institution and the government has no business being involved. Marriage certificates should be left up to the churches. The only thing that governments should be sanctioning should be civil unions, thereby giving homosexuals the same legal rights as everyone else. Cry like some may, gay marriage is not part of some liberal agenda to create acceptance of homosexuals. It is, and has always been, an issue of the same legal rights as everyone else, just like the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage and the disability civil rights movement. The same arguments against homosexual marriage are the same arguments that were used against all of these other movements. Keeping marriage as a religious ceremony allows the churches to govern the issue themselves with no long-term legalities. Creating civil unions for all persons allows homosexuals to have the same rights as everyone else and not affect the sanctity of marriage. Any church can choose to honor or not honor a marriage that does not meet their qualifications. I say get rid of government-sanctioned marriage and let people, straight or gay, have civil unions.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

On Being A Girl Scout

Some of my wife’s fondest childhood memories involve Girl Scouts. Her mother was the troop leader and those girls did all kinds of things: pottery, camping, summer camp, horseback riding, tours, and they earned badges.

The best part about the badges is that the girls got to try new things that they would not have done before. My wife says it was all about building leadership, a skill which has benefited her well during her career.

And so we continue this wonderful experience with a new generation, hoping to build her self-esteem and drive the way it built my wife’s. My daughter had a choice about Girl Scouts and she decided that she wanted to try it. Our troop doesn’t use uniforms, but they do still wear the vests. They can opt for the sash, but who would want a sash. There’s nowhere near enough room to put all those badges on a sash.

She joined and they handed her a Girl Scout Cookie form. It’s that time of year and so I am getting a first hand look at selling cookies. A girl has to sell 50 boxes in order to earn a badge. I don’t know what other families do, but our daughter is the one who sells the cookies. We help her, of course, but she talks to the customers (be they family or friends) and she sells them. We could do it for her I guess, and she could get a badge, but that would defeat the purpose of the badge and steal from my daughter, the ability to earn something on her own. We are about 15 boxes away from the 50 required to earn the badge.

Why do the children sell the cookies? There are several reasons. It raises money for them to take field trips, tours and participate in other events. Besides the obvious, they are also learn a great deal:
  • Social Skills
  • Planning
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Finance
  • Goal Setting
The best part is they have fun and are contributing to something bigger than themselves. I’m really proud of her and can’t wait for her first Girl Scout camping trip. That should be a hoot.

Comics in My Classroom Reviews Moving to New Blog

I don’t have enough to do, so I’ve started a new blog. Rather than continuing to post my Comics in my Classroom reviews here on Erratic Rants, I’ve decided they need their own home. So I’ve given Blogger some more business and started The Graphic Classroom, a blog dedicated to the use of comics in the classroom, especially the elementary classroom. From time to time, I may also look at some other cool comics that may more appropriate for middle school or high school. I may even entertain the idea of comics that are not appropriate for any classroom, but that will be rare.

If you are interested in following my reviews of comics for the classroom, then click on over and have a look at The Graphic Classroom. So far there are not any other reviews, articles or essays that I haven’t already posted here. But give me some time and I will.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Comics In My Classroom: Neotopia

FORMAT: Paperback digest, collecting issues 1-5
PUBLISHER: Anarctic Press
GENRE: Fantasy

Nature versus Industry
Love versus Hate
Standing Up For What Is Right

Professor Felder
Sgt. Tinbolt
Lord Emperor X’Xorgon
Emperor Sinslith
Taskmaster Ghul

At one time, the land of Neotopia became dominated by industry. That industry, however, polluted the land and corrupted the society. Greed and deception ruled the land and the mystical and magical creatures left the world. One thousand years later, the world moved back to a way of life that was in harmony with nature and the magic that was once lost found its way back into society.

During her childhood the main character, Nalyn, played with her friend, who also happened to be Nydia, the Grand Duchess of Methenia. As they grew older the Grand Duchess became bored with the everyday affairs of the kingdom. So her servant friend, Nalyn, stood in her place, entertaining guests, meeting diplomats, attending school, learning self-defense, and attending parties.

Her brother, the Grand Duke was tyrannical and cold. He was concerned with acquiring wealth and territory. One day their land was attacked by the Kingdom of Krossia, from the other side of the world. Other countries came to their aid, but treachery was loose and the Methenians were scattered across the lands. Together with her friends, Nalyn, still posing as the Grand Duchess embarks on an adventure to save Neotopia.

Written by Rod Espinosa, creator of the Eisner-nominated comic book, The Courageous Princess, this is an action packed story, with good character development in the main character, Nalyn. The secondary characters, her friends, are still pretty undeveloped in this first volume as are the evil insect-like invaders from Krossia.

Espinosa did a good job integrating the ideas of nature into the story. Well past the days of industry, work is achieved through old-fashioned hand-work. Jet packs and laser guns are a thing of the past. Weapons include bows, staffs, swords, cannons and the like. Transportation is very representatives of old sailing vessels of old, complete with masts, ropes and modified sails. That is, the ships are able to sail on water and air, using some type of hot air balloon technology.

Espinosa is a manga artist who utilizes thin ink ines and he makes use of color for shading. The color is light and beautiful. Unlike many manga comics, this is in full color, which makes for beautiful pages. It is considered a pocket manga, which means it is a digest sized book. The pages are fine quality matte paper with a 158-page story. Included in the back is a map of the lands and a chart showing the route of each army, which was very helpful.

My Rating: All Ages, 8 and older preferred
Publisher’s Rating: All Ages
Comics in the No Rating Available

While this tale is suitable for all ages, it will be difficult for lower elementary students to grasp on their own. It would be a fine read for those early grades if co-read with an adult to explain the dialogue, story and the art work.

There are a lot of big issues in Neotopia: racism, classism, ecology, and imperialism, all of which could be discussed in a social sciences setting. Nalyn is a servent posing as royalty, and her friend, Monti, is a Chiropterian, a race who is not liked by many humans. These dynamics caqn be played out on the classroom and even school wide unit, discussion how there are different groups of kids in the school and how that plays a role in how others are treated.

The Krossian army is trying to take over the rest of the world and they would not be the first to try to create an empire. This could be used in a discussion of 20th or 21st Century politics as well as a history lesson of the rise and fall of other empires.

The driving force behind everything, is the push and pull between nature and industry which is a perfect backdrop to discuss recycling and pollution and how it affected their world, allowing the students to draw conclusions about our world.

You could use the Neotopian technology of flying to discuss how a hot air balloon works and how ships use wind as a power. For that matter, you could discover how different types of renewable energy souces.

Rod Espinosa also created The Courageous Princess, which was nominated for an Eisner Award. He has other works under his belt as well.

I enjoyed this first volume of stories and I want to see what happens next. I appreciated the introduction of nature and how it plays a vital role in our world as well as the different class of people involved. The society seems very real and well thought out. While the story may be difficult even for upper elementary students, I would recommend it for the classroom and school library.

For more information on using comic books or graphic novels in the classroom, email me at You can also read more at:

Comics in the
News-a-rama Op/Ed Forums (Look for "All Ages Reads" headings)