Saturday, December 30, 2006

Year-End Wrap-up Dec 30 2006

This is not just a Weekend Wrap-up, but a Year-End Wrap-up. :-)

Basically, this will be like a Weekend Wrap-up, but for the whole year. I suppose that I'll be making this an annual event. Why the heck not? Onward!

War In Iraq: What to do?
The war in Iraq became a real booger for Bush and the GOP. It basically cost the GOP the election. But I'll get back to the GOP in just a bit. SOMETHING needs to be done, but what? The usual clueless response from the left is that we need to pack up and leave right now. Somehow, they seem to believe that leaving will cause some sort of reset button to be activiated, and things will return to the way things were before. This needs to be told to them as many times as it takes: Things Ain't Going Back the way they were, so shaddap about that already.

But - what ARE we gonna do? Leaving right now would be disastrous. We removed the power structure and substituted it with ourselves, so we are stuck. There is no alternative but to ride this out, because when we became the power structure there, we took the responsibility upon ourselves, and we can't leave until Iraq is ready to take care of itself. It may have indeed become a quagmire there, but it's OUR quagmire.

So what's my solution to this? In a nutshell, our leaders need to stop being so short-sighted here and stop seeking short-term political gains. We need to look at the big picture. We need to put the good of the Iraqi people, the good of the U.S., and the good of the world first. The issue of short-term political gains need to drop out of the picture completely. Iraq needs from us an unwavering message of what we plan to do there. No more of this "We're leaving!" and "We're staying!" We need to stay there and finish the job - even if it means sending in more troops in the short term and possibly long term, but we need to get this done. Yes, it will be costly, but not as costly as leaving now, and having to go back later to clean up a mess that spiraled out of control because we chose to cut-and-run from our responsibilities. We the people need to hold our leaders accountable for this, and we can't let up until they do this right.

The GOP pretty much got what it deserved in the '06 election. They deserved to lose power, because they failed to live up to what they were elected to do time and time again. Will they learn their lesson in time for the '08 elections? Whom they select for their presidential candidate will tell us everything. In other words, we're going to have to wait and see.

I don't know if the Dems necessarily have anything to celebrate, for they got into power not because they said or did anything deep, profound, moving, or inspirational - rather, they got in because they aren't the GOP. However, they could use this chance to do things right. And they can do that by not listening to the extreme left in their party so much. They need to stop being so beholden to the left wing special interest groups, and start being beholden to the people that got them elected. Like the GOP, whom the Dems select will speak volumes on whether the Dems have learned their lesson from the '06 election. But I will say this: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton aren't it. Same for Howard Dean.

Celebs gone wrong: who's to blame?
From Mel Gibson to Michael Richards to Britney Spears to Rosie O'Donnell, it's been a bad year for celebs. It's hard to say what's worse though: The previous practice of the media protecting celebs' reputations by hiding what probably should have been brought to light, or the current practice of printing all the lurid details of a given celeb's life. There really are instances of the media giving "too much information". Perhaps that the media seems to have no more limits or standards on what it will report is the problem here. But what would we prefer: To have the media cover up too much including what we should know, or to have the media report everything - even what we don't need to know? Why does it even have to be either/or? Surely some sort of balance can be struck here. Apparently though, learning how to make such judgment calls has become a lost art.

What a year for the local sports teams! In order:

Dallas Mavericks: So close - OH so close! Knocked down the first two games of the championship series, and then they lost it. Auuggh!! In short, what the Mavs need to do is this: the sooner they go back to the championship, the better - especially right now while we still have basically the same core team and coaching staff that got us there last season. Get it done!

Dallas Cowboys: Getting T.O. was a mistake. Fortunately, Tony Romo has given us hope. Sure, he's had a bad game or two, but even Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman had their bad days, so I say, give the guy a chance. I'd rather hear about Romo than about the latest chapter of the T.O. soap opera anyway.

Texas Rangers: The season went according to script: Did well in the first half, then fell apart in the second half. The only new thing to mention here is the trend that takes place when Buck Showalter leaves a team. Whenever Buck leaves, the following season, that team has won the World Series. In other words, We're going to the World Series!

Bowl Championship Series: It still stinks, and here's why: Teams like TCU are criticized because they never play 'better' teams - which is generally defined as 'teams from a BCS conference'. Well, they can't show what they can do, because the way the BCS is rigged, they never get the chance to play them! Instead, TCU plays in bowls against teams that don't really show what TCU could do. It's time to have a playoff system, because the BCS system is robbing the fans of the traditional American drama of the underdog rising to the top. Where's those darn Democrats when you need them?

TV still stinks - except for one show
I know it can't be just me who thinks this, but I think that a lot of stuff on TV nowadays is crappy. Well, except for one show. I've been watching "Heroes" to the extent that I used to watch Star Trek. My favorite character is Hiro Nakamura, who's taken to his time-affecting powers like a little kid with a new toy. Peter Petrelli, however, is a close second, because of his unique power-mimicking ability. The show ended for the year earlier this month, and it will start up again on January 22nd (I think). I can't wait!

Family traditions for New Year's Day
Way, way back in the day, we would stay up until midnight. On the next day, we would have tamales. In later years, the meal became lasagna from this one place that made it SO good. We also played "the last game of the season" of our annual traditional family football games. Apparently, the beating and bruising from the previous week wasn't enough, and we were gluttons for punishment. In recent years, though, we haven't gotten together at all. The plain and simple fact is that the bigger families get, the more they grow apart, and that's exactly what's happened to us. It's why we must enjoy the times we do have together. Back then, though, I didn't have nephews and a niece, so now there's a new group to make memories with. The cycle starts all over again, in other words, with a new group of people.

Website News
I've been ferociously at work, creating new blogs for my artwork as well as making a MySpace page and a ComicSpace page. I am aiming for the end of January to have it all up and started. I shall be keeping you all updated. The recently deceased (and may he rest in peace) James Brown was once known as the "hardest working man in show business". I want to be known as the "hardest working man on the Internet". :-)

Maybe someone can answer something that I've always wondered: What's "buffalo" about "buffalo wings" and "buffalo snow"? I don't see the connection. Is the usage of "buffalo" referring to the bison or to the city? Just curious.

On a final note...
Now I can wish you good folks something that won't cause someone to get their panties in a knot. I wish you folks a Happy and prosperous New Year. In case you always wondered what the lyrics to "Auld Lang Syne" were, here ya go (be sure to grab someone to dance with):

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?


For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
And surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


In case you're wondering more about that tune, here's the Wikipedia article on it.

Have a great year, folks! It's been fun writing for you in '06! I shall certainly be back in '07!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Gerald Ford edtoon

I have a totally new editorial cartoon on my new blog for edtoons.

It's on Gerald Ford. Check it out. :-)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Reaching for the ceiling

Recently, I helped watch my two nephews and niece. The niece is the youngest at 4 years old, and she is a very bright child. I shall call her Alicia here. During the time when I was playing with the kids, Alicia wanted me to pick her up so that she could touch the ceiling. I picked her up, and I raised her up until her little hand made contact with the ceiling. She said excitedly, "I did it! I touched the ceiling!" Kids are funny that way, being excited over something like that.

Having nephews and nieces are as close to having my own kids as I have gotten so far, but even with them, I've learned quite a bit about life and one of the purposes of it. One lesson is, you don't know how fast time flies until you are around kids. Kids grow FAST. For instance, when my cousin's son was 4 years old, he used to like me to "fly" him around like Superman. Basically, that meant holding him up as he straightened himself horizontally with fists forward, and I would "fly" him around the room.

Well, now he's 14 and almost my size. No more "Superman" for him! In fact, he could do that for my niece now! As an adult, 10 years may not seem like a lot, but when you go through 10 years with a child around, then you get a MUCH better idea about how much time has passed! No doubt my niece will be 14 in no time as well. But getting back to my point...

As I held Alicia up so that she could touch the ceiling, a thought hit me. With this act of raising her up, I was acting out symbolically what we of the current generation (that is, the adults) do for the next generation: We raise them up. Even as tall as I am, I can't touch the ceiling; that's beyond my ability (without a stepladder, that is) even if I stand up on my toes. However, I can help HER reach the ceiling.

And that's what we do for those of the next generation: We help them to reach beyond what we can do. We teach them our lessons, and guide them through their mistakes. And if we do our job right, then they'll go beyond us and our accomplishments. We can help them touch something that is untouchable for us. And one day, they'll do the same for the children in their lives. This is one of the purposes of life.

One day I won't be around anymore - however, it is my hope that Alicia will still remember me fondly after I'm gone. I hope that I will have provided her important lessons on life and living it, and that I will have helped her in other ways to go beyond what I had been able to accomplish in my own life. Besides helping her touch a ceiling, I mean.

That's quite a responsibility even as an uncle. But as I look into Alicia's eyes, and in the eyes of my nephews, they still look up to me. I'm still someone for them to emulate, someone whose example they will try to follow. My job is to be worthy of that emulation, and to provide good examples for them to follow.

I know that I'm not perfect, and that I make mistakes; being perfect and mistake-free isn't what I'm trying to be for them anyway. What I must do - the example that I must try to set for them - is to learn from my mistakes, and to do so in a way that will demonstrate to them the importance of learning from our mistakes. Hopefully I will have accomplished this well enough so that they will never lose their love and respect for their uncle.

The bond between parent and child runs very strong and very deep, and the more I feel those emotions, the more I realize how serious the responsibility of raising a child is. It's amazing what having children in your life will do for you - even as an uncle. No doubt if and when I have my own children, these feelings will run even deeper.

One day, Alicia will raise a child up to touch the ceiling. It could be her own niece or nephew, or her child. I hope that when she does that, she will recall when I did that for her - and I also hope that the same moment of revelation that hit me when I raised her up will also hit her. Then she will also feel that same sense of life coming full circle.

And it will warm her heart. This, I know.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald R. Ford passes away

Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the U.S., has passed away. Mainly, he's remembered as the guy who pardoned Richard Nixon after Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal. Those of us who were teens or in their early 20's at the time will also remember him from Saturday Night Live skits in which Chevy Chase imitated Ford's well publicized stumbles out of airplanes and other locations. I think Ford even had a bandage on his head a time or two.

However, in reading articles of Ford's career, I found out other things that I didn't know. For instance, "Gerald R. Ford" isn't his birth name. Instead, it's Leslie Lynch King, Jr. Imagine that. We could have had a President King, which sounds kinda funny, because one of the reasons that the U.S. separated from England was so that it could change its form of leadership from a monarchy to a presidency.

The other thing that I didn't know was that Ford was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy. What a difficult task that must have been. Ford's efforts in that commission, however, got him noticed enough so that when Nixon needed a replacement for Spiro Agnew, he chose Ford.

However, what Ford will be remembered for the most is the pardon of Richard Nixon. At the time, the pardon was greatly resented (to say the least!) . In fact, it was the main reason that Ford lost the election of 1976. But in retrospect, it was probably the right thing to do at the time. A long, drawn out court process of a former president probably would have done more harm than good for the country, and for Ford to consider the good of the country over the cost that the pardon would have on his political aspirations shows what kind of man he was. Certainly, Nixon deserved the grief and punishment that would have otherwise come his way, but Ford was right about the damage that would have been caused to the office of the presidency. The humiliation to Nixon's enormous ego was probably enough punishment anyway.

Another prominent news event that happened during Ford's watch was the fall of Saigon and with it, the end of the costly Vietnam war. Thus, this makes Ford's presidency a transitional one. His presidency ended two painful chapters in American history and allowed the country to move on. Leaders in such transitional times can do little more than make sure that things don't fall apart, because any other more assertive actions would likely be taken the wrong way. At the time, the country needed a "bus driver". Unfortunately for Ford, "bus drivers" don't generally win elections, and the country was primed to try someone new and untested such as Jimmy Carter .

Ford's death and the recollections of his presidency makes me realize how much the country and the world has changed since Ford's time in office. At that time, things such as cellphones, home computers, and the Internet were still in the distant horizon. People such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were virtual unknowns to those outside their home states. And "blogging" sounded like some sort of plumbing problem. My, how the times have changed. In some ways, it is for the better, and in other ways, it is for the worse. But they have changed, and we have, for the most part, moved on since those hectic days.

May Gerald R. Ford rest in peace, and may he find his way into paradise. Even if he takes a little tumble on the way there. ;-)

(By the way, I betcha that many editorial cartoonists are going to make edtoons on that very idea of Ford stumbling into paradise. Keep an eye on Cagle Cartoons to see if I'm proven right.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Weekend Wrap-up: Christmas edition 12-24-2006

I guess you might say that this is the Christmas edition of the Weekend Wrap-up. Hey, that's funny! Christmas "wrap" up - get it? Ah, never mind.

Christmas cards
I send them - mainly to people I know. But I know that I've wondered before of the purpose of this practice. We send cards to people - some of whom we may not have had contact with during the whole year, and yet we send them a card. But if you didn't send them a card and they sent one to you ... well, that makes you look bad in some form or fashion. The question is: why? If neither of us didn't care enough to contact each other during the course of the year, then why would it make any difference if one sent a card, but not the other?

And yet, we're caught in this Christmas card merry-go-round. I use up postage and a tree dies for the card and the envelope, all so that I can send a card to someone that I otherwise didn't try to contact during the year - and vice versa. It makes little sense - especially since we can always send e-cards now (which I also do). But if you sent an e-card and they went through the trouble (and postage) of sending a real card, then...

The only thing that has changed in recent years regarding my Christmas card practices is that I make sure to get a card that actually makes some sort of reference to the Nativity story rather than a card that has a generic "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings". I even go so far as to make sure that I stick a Madonna and Child stamp on the envelope. While much of what Christmas is really about seems to have slipped away in the mad shopping rush, I at least want to do my little part to remind folks as to the "reason for the season".

Christmas gifts
Ah, now here is where I try to at least make the effort to give the right kind of gift for someone. And unlike Christmas cards, if I'm given a gift by someone that I didn't get a gift for, I don't have much less guilt. I have a short list; I simply can't give gifts to everyone that I want to give gifts to, so I stick to the most immediate family. If you're not on the list of most immediate family, then hopefully I at least sent you a Christmas card or e-card. Only my nephews and niece get the kind of attention as to the perfect gift. I have the reputation as the "cool uncle" to protect, after all.

And while I'm still on the topic of gifts, I don't know why people make such a big deal over gift certificates and gift cards. The usual argument is that they're too impersonal, but I'd rather get a gift card than for someone to take a chance on getting me something that I would have to return for one reason or another. If you must get me an actual gift, be darn sure that I'll like it - otherwise just give me a gift certificate (Or cash. I ain't picky). And make sure that it's a gift certificate that I'd actually use. Make it from Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, or a department store. Those are safe picks, because I tend to shop for my stuff there.

Picks that aren't good are gift certificates for me are from "Martha Stewart" type places. I ain't that into decorating my house. Restaurant certificates are iffy. Make sure that I actually go to that restaurant. I hope it goes without saying that I wouldn't use a gift certificate from Victoria's Secret. There. Hopefully, now that I've clarified my preferences somewhat, I've triggered a mad rush of gift certificates to come my way. ;-)

Christmas decorations
I like trees that are trimmed the right way. They don't have to have an abundance of ornaments. I don't like large, gaudy ornaments, for instance. In fact, sometimes the best trees are those that aren't overdone. Lights are a must. I prefer multi-color lights - although lights of one color can look good, too. There's ways to decorate trees that can make it look inviting, and other ways that make them look cold and unapproachable.

It's a bit hard to explain, but those that are cold and unapproachable means that the decorator spent too much time making it look perfect and artsy. Trees should be inviting and pretty to look at. The family tree we put up every year has ornaments that go way back. WAY back. And we've generally added new ornaments each year, so when we put up the tree each year, we have reminders of Christmases past, plus new additions to make new memories with. Now THAT'S an inviting tree!

As for exterior lights, the same rule applies. Go for simplicity. Some people have gone way, WAY overboard with way, WAY too many lights - as well as music and a whole lot of other noise (visual and audial) that is way too distracting. I don't know how this practice of "the more the better" got started, but it needs to stop, because some exterior decorations are now simply absurd and ridiculous.

Christmas carols
Some carols I'm simply tired of - no matter who sings them. Frosty the Snowman is one of them. What's 'Christmasy' about that song anyway? No mention is made of the holiday at all. Another one that I'm tired of is Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. At least that song mentions Christmas. One that I still like listening to - although technically it's not a carol - is the piano instrumental often referred to as the theme from "Peanuts", but it's actually titled "Linus and Lucy". I also like the carol done by the group named (I kid you not!) the Barenaked Ladies, and it's a combo of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and We Three Kings.

Some traditional lyrics are great so long as they are done right. They are "O Holy Night", "Angels We Have Heard on High", and "What Child Is This?" There's some CDs I have that are sung by nuns, and they are great. There is a version of "We Three Kings" that I wish I could find, because it was well done, and all the voices were deep male voices - especially the one for the third king who was bringing myrrh. No offense to the ladies, but that carol is best done by male voices. As for my favorite carol, I don't think that I can pick just one. There's too many that I like to narrow my choices to just one.

Christmas wishes and greetings
I've already mentioned enough times on this blog about "Happy Holidays" (HH) and its usage. Now let's tackle "Seasons Greetings" (SG). HH, despite its simplisticness, at least is understandable about what it's wishing for: A happy holiday. But what's up with "SG"? There's "Seasons", and there's "Greetings". Separately, I understand what they are. But together? I don't get it. Wikipedia offers its explanation, but it's still not a very clear greeting. HH is still a better, more understandable greeting.

Ah, and speaking of Christmas wishes and greetings, I did my own little experiment on this issue. In the past few days, I took to wearing a sticker that said "It's okay to tell me 'Merry Christmas' ", just to see if it would encourage others to tell me Merry Christmas instead of HH. The results were mixed, and next year, I'll start this experiment sooner than 3 days before Christmas.

Family gatherings
This actually deserves a better, more thorough discussion, and I shall try to do so tomorrow or the next day, but I wanted to make mention of family gatherings, because they are so much a part of our family's history. They've been scaled back considerably since the peak years of our get-togethers, but they still hold a special place in our hearts and memories - particularly when my grandmother was still alive. A part of those gatherings was the Annual Traditional Christmas Day Football games, in which all the males of the family (and one of the ladies) in their 20s through 40s still talk about, even though our last official one was over 5 years ago. This also deserves its own separate entry, and I'll likewise discuss it later.

The Reason for the Season
And now for the often overlooked part of the Christmas season: Jesus' entry into the world. I'm still amazed about the whole story, that God chose to come to earth, and not only that, he chose to come as one of us; namely, as a human. Not only THAT, he chose to come to earth the way the rest of us came to earth: Born of woman. Picture that: God as a baby. It just boggles the mind.

Along with this boggling concept is the idea of God having a mother. The woman, Mary, had to be a most remarkable woman in order to be the mother of God. Or rather, she had to be THE most remarkable woman in history, seeing as just who it was that she was asked to be the mother of. With that, it's rather disappointing that Mary isn't more appreciated by Protestants, and even some Catholics.

Can any of you imagine the concept of God as a baby? Can any of you who are mothers imagine being the mother of God? Can any of you who are fathers imagine being the foster father of God? The weight of the responsibility must be staggering! And yet, Mary and Joseph did it. God was a mere babe, and Mary bore him and raised him. Her son grew up to be the most remarkable man in human history.

It's no wonder that we still celebrate his entry into the world to this very day.

Merry Christmas, folks. May it be wonder-filled, merry, and bright.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

"Dart Night" from comic strip "In the Bleachers"

This cartoon from the comic strip, "In the Bleachers" (the link is to the left, the image is below) cracks me up for some reason. Maybe because it sounds like something that would be really tried, and the error of such a promotion wouldn't be recognized until seconds after game time starts. By that time, those darts will already be flying all over the arena or stadium.

I'd hate to be the ref after a bad call!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Turn that frown upside down

Okay, I just had to say that, sorry. It's for this story in which it suggests flipping your camera upside down in order to get better pics. Why does this work? According to the article, the flash hits you in a different angle upside down than when you shoot rightside up, and as a result, the pics will show fewer wrinkles and blemishes.

Well, at least that's what the article SAYS. I plan to try this myself - probably ON myself - just to see if it works. When I have, at the very least, somewhat convincing proof, I'll post it here. And don't worry, I'll flip the upside down pics around so that they're rightside up.

The Santa conspiracy

Fresh from the "doll on the Island of Misfit Toys" conspiracy comes a whole 'nother batch of questions, this time in regards to Santa's traditional midnight ride on Christmas Eve. Consider the following:

A "jolly old elf" named "Santa Claus" lives at the North Pole, where he and his workers – usually called "elves" – work all year to make "toys" for "good little girls and boys". This whole toy-making process takes a year to set up, and the delivery date is Christmas Eve. Somehow, Santa knows who's been bad and good, and even has a list that he checks at least twice. He also sees kids when they're sleeping and when they're awake. As if all this wasn't suspicious enough, consider the midnight ride itself. Somehow, a sleigh weighted with a large man and tons of toys is somehow pulled by ...

…eight "tiny" reindeer (nine if you include the mutant designated as "Rudolph").

For one, that's a lot of weight to pull for "tiny" creatures. And reindeer aren't that tiny. They're not elephant-sized, but they're not squirrel-sized, either. But most importantly, reindeer don't fly. They have no means of flying. They don't have wings, and they don't possess some sort of gravity cancelling ability nor are they telekinetic. So one must ask, how is this accomplished? More on this in just a bit.

On top of all this improbability is that Santa allegedly delivers all his toys in one night. Somehow, he knows whose house is whose, and what child gets what toy. The means of retaining all of this rather specific knowledge (that is, who is sleeping and awake, who is bad and good, what toy(s) does each child want, where do they live, etc.) would require a database the size of which would stagger anything that is currently known and made. AND it would have to be maintained CONSTANTLY in order to be kept up to date. Perhaps the “elves” do all that maintenance work when they’re not making “toys”. And last – somehow, this large man can make his way down a chimney.

So how does Santa make all those toys, and fly around the world in one night? How do reindeer fly with no obvious means of flight? How does Santa go down chimneys, and how can he have such specific knowledge of children whose numbers easily go into the millions? The usual answer is: “magic”.

Yes, “magic” somehow makes all this impossibility possible. But those of us of a conspiratorial nature can’t be simply shucked off so easily – especially with so sloppy an answer as “magic”. No, all of what I just described above begs questions, and those questions beg other questions. So my friends, I lay all that out to you, and ask your views on just what is going on here with “Santa”.

You can start with the choice of location for “Santa’s workshop”: The North Pole. If that isn’t a sign of keeping suspicious activities away from prying eyes, then I need to turn in my conspirator’s license.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Make an elf of yourself

Time for a little holiday cheer.

On this website titled (appropriately enough) "Elf Yourself", you can make yourself an elf.

I made one cranky looking elf. Probably because I'm still disappointed that I have to share my Person of the Year trophy with everyone else. ;-)

Time's "Person" and "Happy Holidays" share a commonality

Yes, that's right. The current "Person of the Year (POTY)" - which is 'You' - (see yesterday's blog entry) and the use of the phrase "Happy Holidays" share a commonality. It occurred to me earlier today when I was going around the office telling people that I was the POTY, but I'll get to that link in just a bit. A little background story first.

When I went around the office, I expected accolades to come my way. After all, it's not just anyone who is named "POTY." Well, the others said that they were also POTYs. At first, I suspected that they were just trying to steal my thunder, because I know that when I looked at the cover of Time, it was my reflection looking back at me. They said that they didn't see my reflection, but rather, they saw their own. I checked it again just to make sure, and sure enough, it was still me. I handed it back to them and told them that it was me on the cover, but they insisted that it was still their reflection.

By that time, I had had enough of their shenanigans, so I looked over their shoulder so that they could clearly see my reflection in the cover. Well, I saw my reflection - but I also saw theirs! I thought, "What the heck...?" I know that in the past, Time has had more than one POTY in a given year, but I don't recall a time when it was one person, then another, then the first one again, then both of them together. And I don't certainly don't recall the POTY changing according to whomever happened to be looking at the cover at the time. Needless to say, this revelation that I wasn't the only POTY was rather disappointing.

Okay, I've had my fun, but I hope I made my point about silly it was for Time to name the POTY as 'everybody'. There's others that they could have named. Easily. Heads of churches or of states. Prominent politicians. Certain celebrities and their crass remarks or bad behavior. They just had to pick one. The way Time is justifying it in their article, it sounds all cutesy and PC and such (especially the rotating parade of photos in the article's website page), but it's really a pointless pick. It's like those kids' games in which the score isn't kept so that "there are no winners or losers". Blech. Why even bother in that instance.

The commonality between this year's POTY and the usage of the phrase "Happy Holidays" is that they are both meant to be inoffensive, but they both fail in that regard by being offensive anyway. It makes one wonder why these folks keep believing that they aren't being offensive. The way I see it, ya might as well run with the dragon instead of pretending that you can somehow make everyone happy.

Now my little POTY trophy ain't so shiny no more...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Soldier's "Silent Night"

You've no doubt have heard this song on the radio. I was trying to see if I could buy it, but it turns out that it's available on this site.

It's a poem based on "T'was the Night before Christmas", but the lyrics instead describe Santa visiting the home of a soldier. However you may feel about the war on terror, you can't help but be moved by the sacrifices that our military personnel makes fighting for us on distant shores overseas. This is very well done, and the narrator's voice is the right kind of balance of military graveliness and yet emotional sensitivity. And according to the "liner notes" on that site, it was recorded in one take!

Time's "Person of the Year" is ... ME!

This year's "Person of the Year" for Time magazine is ... ME! Well, not me specifically, but "You". Basically, the mag is saying that those of us who surf the 'Net and post blogs and otherwise reach millions of people through the Internet have had such an impact on how ideas are communicated that "You" deserve to be recognized for it.

Uh, yeah.

Sounds to me more like they're copping out on bestowing this on the person they REALLY want to bestow it on. The article even mentions the guy: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I also was going with Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez. In fact, why not give it to both of them? And since ol' Uncle Fidel is not doing well, why not add him in there as well? Eh, Time chickened out, because they didn't want grief from the right. That's what I think.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Weekend Wrap-up Dec. 16, 2006

I haven't done one of these in at least 3 weeks - so let's get crackin', shall we?

Merry Christmas
I have noticed more of an insistence in people saying "Merry Christmas" as opposed to "Happy Holidays". It could be that people have always said MC more than HH, and I'm only being more aware of it, but I do think that others are saying it more. I do think that individual store clerks are being more mindful of saying MC even if their stores do not. I still find it odd that stores and other public and private organizations have not caught on that their belief that "Happy Holidays" is actually considered more offensive by most folks than saying "Merry Christmas, because HH was supposed to NOT be offensive. Old PC habits die hard, I suppose. More on this below.

Seattle airports puts trees back in
A week or so ago, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had taken down its holiday - er, Christmas - trees in response to a local rabbi's threat to sue to also have a menorah put in the airport. The rabbi was mortified that the airport instead chose to take the trees down, because he knew that he would get blamed for it - and he was right. The rabbi insisted that all along (and the airport verified), it wasn't at all about taking down the trees; it was always about putting up a menorah. Well, the trees have now gone back up.

Given that the holiday - er, Christmas - issue was news last year, you'd think that the airport would have learned a lesson about how to deal with it. And most of the time, people I talk to or e-mail would have no objection in also having a menorah up. Hannukah IS a holiday being celebrated in December as well. And in truth, I don't know why the airport didn't see this as well. The rabbi has withdrawn his intent to sue, and the airport agreed to discuss this issue with him next year. Well, that's fine and dandy, but why not do this now? Why NOT go ahead and put up a menorah?

Again, it's so odd that these public and private institutions' knee-jerk reactions tends toward the bland and secular in their belief that this act would be viewed as "non-offensive", this despite the fact that it actually is very offensive. The whole PC thing has gotten insane and absurd. I still wish you folks a Merry Christmas, okay?

The Great Doll Conspiracy
Remember when I had mentioned the doll from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV show? Well, I posted that same blog entry on an online forum that I frequent, and the folks took it from there to make it a full-blown conspiracy. One poster even said that the "Island of Misfit Toys" is actually a code for "Place where failed surveillance devices are kept." In other words, the 'toys' are actually spy equipment that malfunctioned, so they're kept sequestered so as to not be used by the wrong people. If I can somehow translate the discussion that took place into a more readable format, I'll post it here, because it's hilarious!

The NBA's basketball controversy
Well, it's actually not a controversy anymore, because the NBA has decided to switch back to the old leather basketballs. The switch to the new balls was not asked for, nor appreciated, and the players actually complained that the new balls tended to cut their hands more. You'd'a thunk that the NBA would have thought to ask the players first anyway, since they were going to be using them. My suspicion? Some clown at Spaulding got the idea to push for a new ball so as to create a market for it so that they could profit by being the "sole supplier" of this new ball. However, this idea fell flat on its face due to poor planning, a lack of foresight, and possibly greed. The changeback was not without controversy, because PETA had initially rejoiced when the NBA had changed to the synthetic ball, but now they're very unhappy with the changeback.

Christmas cartoon
For some reason, this particular strip from the comic strip Non Sequitur cracks me up. I don't know why. I bet the reindeer community doesn't find it funny at all.

Executions stopped in Florida, California
It appears that the grim business of the death penalty has once again reared its ugly head. As an opponent of the death penalty, I wish the State would just drop the whole medieval practice altogether. I believe that so long as we as a society hold on to barbaric holdovers such as the death penalty (as well as legalized abortion, which I regard as slavery's conceptual descendent), we are only going to hold ourselves back from true progress and development. By holding on to these brutal acts, we are only making it possible to go back to the days of chaos and anarchy from which we strove so strongly to get ourselves out of.

Rather than examing the continued use of an outdated and counterproductive method of "justice", we instead invent new rationalizations as to why we still need it. This need for more and more drastic rationalizations also occurs in arguments supporting legalized abortion and euthanasia, and it really worries me that such people are still given serious consideration rather than their kind of thinking being used as an example of the kind of barbaric "justice" that existed in the Dark Ages.

You would also think it rather bizzare to have to keep finding "kinder and gentler" ways of executing someone. We ARE still talking about killing someone, whether it is done by a street thug or the State. If making an execution painless is so important, then they should bring back beheadings. Yeah, it's bloody, but if the State is going to insist on getting blood on its hands anyway, they should at least stop pretending that their efforts to make it painless and less "showy" hides the fact that we are still talking about a state-sponsored act of killing. No one's fooled by what happens in an execution, and these attempts to "prettify" it amounts to trying to prettify a swine.

And now for a less grim topic...
It's December 16th, and the winter solstice is only days away. The tree is up, and ... I'm sitting here typing this entry in a short sleeve t-shirt and shorts. I told you folks that the weather in Texas is crazy. It was freakin' warm today! But fear not, the weather is due to change in a couple of days.

Have a great week, folks!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Socratic Soyburgers

Attached below is an old column that I recently came across, and thought that I'd post it here. It originally published in the Fort Worth Weekly in February of 2004. This very column helped me to get hired as a guest columnist for my local newspaper (The Fort Worth Star Telegram) in 2005. After 2005, I got the idea to start a blog in order to keep in the practice of writing.

It just goes to show that sometimes, ya just gotta take that chance, because you never know where it will take you after that. The lesson here is: Follow your dreams, folks! Below is the text of my column.


Socratic Soyburgers

Living up to your ideals? Bummer.


American society is built around “feelgood.” We want to feel good — about ourselves, about how we live our lives, about the direction we’re taking toward our goals. There is the annoying problem, however, when the ideal meets the reality. Our usual response is not to adjust the ideal or the reality, but just to change the definitions to suit our politics, religion, or lifestyle.

Let’s say that Joe Rocko is a man with an ideal: He wants to be a vegetarian. However, being a vegetarian means giving up something that he enjoys doing — eating meat. Joe really wants to be a vegetarian, but he also really likes to have a steak — just a small one — on Saturday nights. The logical response would be for Joe to say, “Well, if I can’t make the sacrifice, then I don’t deserve the label” and just move on.

It’s a logical response, but it isn’t the American response. Joe wants to be a vegetarian, so he says he is a vegetarian —meat denial be damned! Thus, according to today’s postmod “you are who you say you are” dogma, Joe is a vegetarian. Of the meat-eating variety. A meat-eating vegetarian, of course, is a conflict in concepts. It is illogical. But it is also American.

Head Vegetarian Bob, or HVB for short, hears of Joe’s claim, and he is not pleased. HVB en-forces the prime directive of vegetarianism. To allow a meat-eating vegetarian would be a slap in the face to the vegetarians who make the effort to abstain from meat. So with the authority vested in him as the Head Veg, HVB formally excommunicates Joe Rocko from the community of vegetarians.

Joe is outraged at this. “How dare HVB shove his views down my throat! Who is he to tell me what I can and can’t call myself?” Joe is so outraged that he takes to the media and the talk show circuit. “Shameless power-mongering!” “Heavy-handed HVB hammers dissident vegetarian!” scream the headlines. Despite the heavy flak, HVB holds his ground. Being a vegetarian means abstaining from meat, and HVB will not budge from this.

Now a group of vegetarians comes out for Joe, because they believe that “It’s time to open our doors to Saturday-night-steak-eaters.” So they decide to accept him into their vegetarian community. HVB declares them heretics and excommunicates them. Meanwhile, Joe’s state representative has succeeded in getting victim status for meat-eating vegetarians, so Joe now qualifies for public funds to help educate the public at large about his plight. A web petition circulates, demanding that HVB accept Joe as a vegetarian and reverse the excommunication of the vegetarians who supported Joe. Even after all this, HVB still will not budge. He still insists that vegetarians do not eat meat. And so it goes.

It would have been easier on everyone if Joe would just admit that he isn’t a vegetarian, no matter how much he wants to believe otherwise. Obvious, you say — but is it so easy in real life to spot the meat-eating vegetarians?

Who would I give that title to? How about “pro-choice Catholics.” Abortion, of course, is against Catholic teachings, but politicians who use this label are trying to have it both ways by appealing to their pro-choice constituency without alienating their Catholic constituency. It would be easier if such politicians would just own up to the fact that they aren’t Catholic anymore —but when did honesty and politics ever mix anyway?

Of course not all lies are so obvious as meat-eating vegetarianism, but no doubt you wouldn’t have far to dig to discover some contradictions of your own. To admit to these comforting delusions, however, would require a level of mental self-examination beyond the patience or desire of most Americans. It’s easier and faster to just believe in the lie. Socrates once said that an unexamined life is not worth living — but then Socrates wasn’t an American. Vegetarianism is an ideal, but meat-eating vegetarianism is an American moral shortcut. Shortcuts to enlightenment are the American way! So pass me the carrot stick, please. Yes, I know it looks like a hamburger, but trust me, it’s a carrot stick.

John Araujo is a Fort Worth freelance writer and cartoonist.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bush and Condi "Hu's on first?"

I got an e-mail that had the Bush and Condi "Hu's on first?" dialogue in text many moons ago, but I recently got the very same exchange as a video clip on YouTube. The fictional exchange is from 2002, when Yassar Arafat was still alive, but it's still funny. This whole skit is based, of course, on Abbott and Costello's famous "Who's on First?" baseball skit, which was made in the 1940's, but is based on a skit that's even older. Even after all this time, that skit and variations of it are still funny.

Now THAT'S comedy! :-D

Hey, baby - what's your sign?

According to this news article, your astrological sign seems to be a better indicator of your driving inclinations than other factors such as gender, age, and so forth. It seems to me that, if a young lady doesn't want the attention of a jerk who comes up to her asking "Hey, Baby! What's your sign?", she can respond with "Libra! Wanna go for a drive?" Then he may try to find discreet ways to slip out the door. ;-)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Democrats: Pork busters?

In this article, the Democrats say that they're going to look over the budget and work on banning special interest "pork" spending for 2007. That's fine and dandy, but why stop at 2007? If the Dems are sincere about cutting the pork and dealing with the "culture of corruption", then there's other things that they can do.

For one, they could insist on absolute transparency on spending, gifts, special trips, and all of the other types of perks that the legislatures take for granted. Another thing they could do is allow for line-item vetoes so that such pork spending that is attached to regular bills can be trimmed from them. Line-item vetoes have been brought up before, but the party that wasn't in power has always voted against them. BUT... if the Dems truly want to get things right, then this might be something that they'll have to seriously consider.

I'm a long way from believing that the Dems are sincere about their intents - and even if they are sincere, they have their work cut out for them because some of that pork and corruption comes from their own party as well as the GOP.

There is a blog named Pork Busters that specializes in this sort of thing. Look them up once in a while and see how your congressional representatives are doing. It's because of blogs like Pork Busters that I love living in the Internet Age. In the pre-Internet years, getting this kind of action going would have taken a lot longer to apply this much pressure, so it was easy for the legislatures to ignore their constituents. Yes, there's a negative to the Internet Age, but I think the pluses make up for them.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Artistic Savant draws Rome after one fly-over

This comes from an e-mail that was sent to me yesterday.

In this link is a videoclip of an artistic savant who drew the city of Rome from memory after one fly-over!

It's 5 minutes long, but amazing!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Unsolved mystery from "Rudolph"

Airing earlier tonight was that old Christmas TV special, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. I then recalled an old mystery of that show that hadn't been fully resolved. That mystery is this: When Rudolph and the gang were on the Island of Misfit Toys, we could pretty much tell what was 'misfit' about the other toys, but the doll didn't seem to have anything that was 'misfit' about her - at least not outwardly. In an attempt worthy of conspiracy theorists everywhere, I will posit my own theories on this blog entry.

According to the Wikipedia entry linked above, the doll's problem was psychological. In fact, that particular entry linked to a website titled Dolly for Sue. On that website, it mentions that possibly the little girl that had played with her grew up, and she had sat on a shelf abandoned and unloved. Basically then, she was waiting for some other girl to take her and play with her again. At this point, you're no doubt going: "Awwwwwwwwwww......" and leaving it at that.

However, as a dedicated conspiracy theorist, it goes against the grain to simply settle for a solution that is largely emotionally based. No, there has to be something else - something deeper. Think of this: If we accept the theory that the doll had been abandoned by the little girl that had once played with her, then what results from that?

With very little doubt, there are likely feelings of abandonment and isolation. As social creatures, we all need our contacts with others. When we go a considerable length of time without having someone to talk to, some of us will suffer psychological problems - perhaps permanently so. Thus, it is very likely that this doll suffered such problems in her time of isolation.

However, she didn't seem to be suffering any effects when she was shown on the show. Perhaps she benefited from contact with the other toys on the island, and perhaps King Moonracer had an excellent team of toy psychologists on hand to help the toys with their 'misfit' conditions. That would only make sense, when you think about it.

My belief, however, is that the doll had a pre-existing psychological condition that was actually the cause of the abandonment, rather than the abandonment being the cause of her psychological condition. What kind of psychological problems would the doll have? That's where it gets really interesting. Now, what kinds of problems would motivate a little girl enough to abandon a favorite toy?

Perhaps the doll had a split personality much like the character Niki Sanders from the TV show, "Heroes". That is, while the doll's normal personality may be kind and sweet, her alter ego is violent and superhumanly strong. It could also be that the doll had cut out at night and frequented bars and night clubs, and then snuck back in just before the little girl woke up. Yet another possibility is that the doll might have screamed in her sleep, or had other nervous habits. Any one of these theories is a more likely cause for abandonment than the simple explanation that the little girl grew up.

We may never know why that doll was on that island. It's entirely possible that the doll has powerful connections to prevent the truth from ever coming out, which would explain why we don't know for sure even to this day. But even the mightiest among us is not powerful enough to stop the random speculations of conspiracy theorists everywhere.

The truth is out there, folks...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

An example of not thinking ahead

I want to feel sorry for the poor woman in this article, but then I don't.

In this post-9/11 age, it should occur to just about anyone with a lick of sense to not go striking matches in an airplane. This, folks, is an example of not thinking ahead before doing something. She's fortunate to have gotten only a ban from American Airlines. I'd imagine that she could have been brought up on some serious charges. Perhaps the security felt that the embarrassment is enough punishment.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Column on Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

This is one of my favorite columns. I wrote this back when I was in college, with today's media environment in mind. Enjoy! 0~<[];-)>


Reindeer find success
Santa’s team has made leaps to get to its position

You know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donder and Blitzen. And you may, of course, recall the most famous reindeer of all: Rudolph.

What you may not know about is the internal politics and power mongering that goes on in the selection of the reindeer that pull Santa’s sleigh. Each of the above reindeer has their story of heartbreak and tragedy on their way to the big time.

Dasher came from a poor, tough reindeer neighborhood guided only by a dream and the support of his mother to make it to Santa’s team. Comet overcame disastrous Internet investments and Donder overcame bouts with depression and alcohol to earn the right to pull Santa’s sleigh.

Cupid is still fighting old girlfriends who claim he is the father of their respective children.

Blitzen sports body piercings and branding marks (reindeer versions of tattoos) and has the reputation of arrogance and showmanship, but few know of his charitable deeds and donations in the off-season. He seems to prefer it this way. He wants to keep his reputation because of the potential financial windfall that being the “bad boy of the reindeer gang” can bring.

Dancer and Prancer had long endured the homophobia of others in Santa’s polar community before banding together with “alternate lifestyle” elves to form the Association of Northern Gay and Lesbian Elves and Reindeer (ANGLER), which has provided them a sense of belonging in the cold environment that they live in.

Vixen, the only female of the team, is a single mother of two bucks and a doe. Hers is the story of the struggles of single motherhood and her efforts to provide for her children despite the lack of help, financial and otherwise, from the children’s father.

Rudolph’s story is well known. Born with the birth defect of a luminous snout, he was long the brunt of jokes and cruelty because of it. Shunned by his peers, he was made a pariah of the reindeer community. Such were the ways of those unenlightened times.

Rudolph persevered only because of his dream of one day pulling Santa’s sleigh. Every Christmas Eve, Rudolph would watch as the reindeer took flight and went off into the distance in the cool night. Then one night, fate looked Rudolph’s way.

One Christmas Eve, a vicious snowstorm blew across the North Pole. Santa was about to cancel his traditional run until he noticed in the distance Rudolph’s nose. How it gleamed, even through all the winds, snow and turmoil. Santa took this as a sign, and he had Rudolph brought to him and latched not just to the team, but in front of it.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The selection of Rudolph, one might assume, helped the other reindeer see the errors of their ways. This assumption is based upon the closing lyric of the famous carol based on Rudolph’s story: “And all of the other reindeer /shouted out with glee / Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer / You’ll go down in history!” What the carol doesn’t tell is of the shameless brown-nosing behavior of the other reindeer.

The very reindeer that, at first, had called him names and discriminated against him because of his physical uniqueness, now praised him and tried to bask in his glory. This, though, may actually be indicative of Santa’s power over the reindeer community.

Is Santa a jolly old elf or is he a reindeer power broker? Reindeer lives and careers have been made and broken based on his decisions, but the question of whether this is done intentionally by Santa or if it is an unavoidable consequence of being limited to just nine reindeer is not easy to answer.

In any case, let us be happy for Rudolph and his newfound success. Perhaps hiring a reindeer with a physical uniqueness can be seen as a positive sign of our changing times. And let us hope that Santa’s tradition of delivering toys to good little girls and boys never dies.

Here’s to the children of the world. May their futures always be promising and bright.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Editorial statement for Dec. 2006: "Merry Christmas"

December 2005 was a very interesting time, because what can only be called a popular uprising helped force many retailers to stop saying the generic "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" and to say again, "Merry Christmas". Halfway through the month, some retailers went through the trouble of changing their signs. At this time last year, I even wrote a column on this topic that appeared in my local newspaper. Once I find it (the link no longer works, I just found out), I'll post it here.

This time around, many retailers - still smarting from last year's experiences - now are saying "Merry Christmas" from the get-go. While retailers may be money-grubbing, they ain't stupid. No doubt they've been contacted by groups pressuring them to put Christmas back in their holiday - er, sorry... Christmas - season. Retailers who are still not on board better watch themselves, because these guys are organized!

The thing is, the whole concept of a busy Christmas season of rushing to buy gifts, food, and all else that goes with this time of the year has come about mostly because of the retailers. In other words, they took Christmas's tradition of gift-giving and basically ran with it. And ran. And ran. And ran, until it's now the mega shopping season that it is now. However, somewhere along the line, they got the idea that saying "Christmas" offends us, so slowly but surely they've been replacing "Merry Christmas" with the generic "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings". The change-over had been so complete that up until 2005, very few retailers were still saying the dreaded "C" word so as to not offend. Well, they couldn't have been more wrong about not being offensive.

I joined the bandwagon last year not only because I'm Christian (Catholic, speficially), but because this type of grassroots uprising is the sort of thing that I wish would happen more often. We've become a largely apathetic society, and we've let these changes in our society happen to us with barely a peep. Now we have all kinds of things that have made it into our lawbooks because we haven't voiced our opposition to such changes loudly enough - if at all.

But as this push for Christmas has shown, when we band together, we can get things done, and we can make the "powers that be" stand up and take notice. "The people" have made enough noise that some retailers have heard them, and are now they are obeying the people's will. Retailers, however, can be pushovers so long as their bottom line is threatened. The real test of the power of the public will is going to be in the halls of legislatures, which currently are beholden to special interest groups. However, if the public will can be obeyed in this one instance, it can work in other areas. It's stories like this that keeps my hope in mankind alive that not all of us are morally dead.

And one last thing regarding retailers: In a recent visit to Sears, they had signs that said, "Merry Christmas". They also had signs that said, "Happy Holidays". They even had signs that said, "Feliz Navidad". In other words, they were covering their bases and saying all three. That's probably what retailers should have done all along, and had they thought about it, they could have avoided this whole situation before it got started.

Of course, there's still retailers who still won't say the dreaded "C" word. And there's public institutions such as city halls, state capitols, and federal offices that still won't utter the "C" word as well - giving us instead names such as "sparkle season" or "winter festival". Well, I've come up with a way for you folks who want to say "Merry Christmas" and get away with it. :-)

If anyone takes offense that you want to say "Merry Christmas" then say "Feliz Navidad" instead. That's still "Merry Christmas" but in Spanish. No doubt, the Scrooges that try to suppress you will know this as well, but it would be politically incorrect for them to keep you from saying "Feliz Navidad", because that's the language of the immigrants that have been in the news so much for most of this year. If they still try to stop you, then tell them that they are anti-immigrant and xenophobic, because that's how the immigrants say "Merry Christmas".

Just make sure you say it right. It's pronounced, "feh-leez nah-vee-dahd", and be sure to say 'dahd' almost like the word "dot" but softer. Once you've mastered this, then you'll be free to say "Merry Christmas" all you want in a way that the grinches can't stop you. ;-)

Coming up this month are other Christmas related topics.

Merry Christmas, folks!
*~<[]:-)> <---That's supposed to be Santa, by the way.


UPDATE: For some reason, I couldn't get the comment below to publish like it's supposed to, so I'm posting it here instead. It's from JB, the author of Opinion Dump.

Great minds must think alike, because I was just about to make this topic my next blog article.

In fact, groups ARE pressuring companies to respect Christmas for what it is. Last year, I was part of the American Family Association's drive to pressure Wal-Mart and other companies to go back to wishing people a merry Christmas (among other things). AFA got a LOT of people to sign petitions, and the companies do, in fact, listen. AFA goes a little overboard at times, but getting a "Merry Christmas" from a company while they're busy pushing Christmas stuff on us during Christmastime? I don't know about you, but it seems rather appropriate to me.

Personally, I think that if you're a Christian, other people should be able to tell in some way. If you're a Jew, show it. If you're a Muslim, have some sign on you. As a Christian, I plan on obtaining a small crucifix pin that I can have on my coat lapel so that when I go through a checkout line, folks can be sure that it's safe to wish me a merry Christmas.

Why exactly are we doing this stealth thing about possessing a given faith? We're encouraged to value differences in our society, yet politics and religion are taboo topics in public.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Snow? In TEXAS?

Here I just got through saying that we don't usually get snow in Texas, and now it's snowing! What I'm about to say is the honest truth: Yesterday, the temp hit 80 degrees (Farenheit, of course), and I was in shorts and a t-shirt. Now it's snowing. That's Texas weather for ya! If enough snow accumulates, then I'll snap some pics and post them here.

Let's see if something else I say is proven wrong: I never win the lottery.


UPDATE: Well, it snowed, but because the ground is so warm (remember, it was 80 degrees yesterday!), it didn't stick other than sparingly in the shaded areas on the ground. So I didn't get any decent pics to post here. Sorry, folks. But you should know what snow looks like anyway. ;-)

Also, I'm reminded of something that I once told a Yankee who was surprised that we rarely had snow in Texas. I said that it was true, and until the Yankees came along, we didn't even have a word for "snow". Before the Yanks gave us the word snow, we just called it "white stuff on the ground that ain't dried-up cow (bleep)." :-D

Christmas questions

I received an e-mail with some questions related to Christmas, and they are attached below along with my responses. For your convenience, I've posted just the questions at the bottom so that you have them to cut-and-paste into your own e-mail. Answer them, then forward your responses to your hoodlum friends or families. It's a good way to learn about what others do for Christmas.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
I used to have HC, but now I have EN because my cousin can whip up a mean batch of it.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
They're wrapped. Those elves can't always just make toys!

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Colored lights. And flashing.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope. If I wanna kiss someone, I'll just swoop her into my arms and plant one. :-)

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Traditionally, we did it on the last week of November, but now it's at the beginning of December.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
At our house, we have tamales. It's a Hispanic thing. :-)

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
Most of my favorite memories are of playing football with my brother and cousins in all kinds of weather. Rain, snow, etc. We were young - and we were dumb, apparently - but we always had a great time.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I honestly don't remember. I know that at one time I did believe, and then later I didn't. I must have been about 9 or 10 when I stopped. I never had the traumatic experience of finding out the truth, which is why I don't remember when I stopped believing.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
It used to be a tradition that we opened at 12:01 am on Christmas Day. Yeah, we'd stay up that late. Now we open on Christmas Eve.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Lights first, then garland, then ornaments, and finally tinsel - or icicles as we called them when I was a kid.

11. Snow? Love it or Dread it?
Snow? What's that? It doesn't snow in Texas! Seriously, I don't ever recall having a white Christmas. During the few times we've had snow, it's never very much - just enough to blanket everything for a day or two. It's very beautiful when we get it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Nope. We don't have ice, either.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
No. As a kid, I just liked getting toys. I don't recall a particular favorite, though.

14. What's the most exciting thing about the Holidays for you?
I like driving around at night and seeing the houses lit up with Christmas lights. I also like driving through downtown for the same reason. It's a very nice break from the usual routine.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Pumpkin pie.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Getting together with my family, which is getting harder to do since we're getting so big now.

17. What tops your tree?
A lighted star.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
I prefer giving, mainly because I love hunting for the perfect gift.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
O Holy Night

20. Candy Canes?
Only on the Christmas tree. And they're not real, but decorative.

Cut-and-paste and save!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
4. Do you hang mistletoe?
5. When do you put your decorations up?
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
11. Snow? Love it or Dread it?
12. Can you ice skate?
13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
14. What's the most exciting thing about the Holidays for you?
15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
17. What tops your tree?
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
20. Candy Canes?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My definition of liberalism, Part 1

This is the first part of future discussions regarding my definition of liberalism. Today: tuition vouchers.

A discussion over the Thanksgiving weekend got me thinking about what it means to me to be a liberal. But first, here's my comments on this in my Weekend Wrap-up of 11-12-2006. I also want to note the response by JB. His whole reply is worth noting (and I encourage you to read it), but I am posting this passage in particular, because it's related to my response afterwards:

"Now that we are in such an affluent nation, the vast majority of people are content with the status quo, leaving the democratic party with only the most extreme forms of social change to glom onto.Think of it. The last major social issue for the democratic party was the environment. The republicans saw the environmentalists as radicals. Now that we have so much social change in that area, it has become the status quo, stripping the democratic party of that issue. What are they left with? What social change can they pursue?"

Thing is, I think that there's plenty for the Democrats to pursue in our current day and age that would still be in line with their tradition of "helping the little guy".

There's the injustices in the educational systems - specifically the public ones. Families that can't afford private schools or religiously based schools are pretty much stuck with what the public schools offer, and since all things religious have been driven away from public schools, the students are left with a questionable secular curriculum that more encourages "feelings" rather than education. In other words, the "little guys" in this scenario are the students, and the "oppressive establishment" are the school systems and the teachers unions that won't allow changes or challenges that threaten their hold on their power.

One way to help these "little guys" is to allow for tuition vouchers so that students can have "the right to choose" what schools they might attend. However, teachers' unions are vehemently opposed to them, this despite that it could actually help public schools in the long run. So basically, the "right to choose" applies only to legalized abortion.

I grew up in a poor, single-parent family. My mother scrimped, saved, and sacrificed so that my brother and I can go to a Catholic school. And as far as Catholic schools go, this was a pretty poor (as in: low funding) school, but it was all that my mother could afford. However, my brother and I benefited enormously. He went on to get a scholarship to a Catholic high school, and then another scholarship to go to college. I also went on to college, and even went on to get a Master's degree. So our experiences demonstrates that even if you start out poor, you can rise above it. I also know that my mother would have gladly taken a tuition voucher had they been available back then.

But none of us could have done it without a lot of help. All three of us had a support group that we relied on time and time again, and for which came through time and time again. My mother and her two sons were one family, but we also had the support of an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This same group still meets three times a year for family gatherings. Beyond the extended family were other, more distant relatives as well as neighbors and the surrounding local community.

We each knew each other, and we helped each other out in times of need. It was because of that support group that, during our whole youth, my brother and I never felt "poor", even though technically that's what we were. It was also during this time that I grew up around the "village" concept of everyone helping each other - which, back then, was basically the Democratic ideal in a nutshell.

Somewhere along the way, however, the Democrats' "village" ideal got lost and was replaced with the current "village idiots" concept of the extremism that JB mentioned in his reply. Instead of helping "the little guy", Democrats now serve the more extreme left wing special interest groups. Instead of supporting the tuition voucher concept to help students in poor families to get a decent education, they instead back teachers' unions because these unions donate to their party. In other words, it ain't just in the GOP that money buys politicians.

Instead of seeing that the voucher system can help public schools to keep to their church/state separatism, the Dems instead are insistent in making it much harder for the poor families to go to other schools if the local public schools are failing to educate their children. It appears that keeping on the good side of teachers' unions takes a much greater precedence than seeing that our nation's children get the best education possible. This is an injustice that the old Democratic party wouldn't have tolerated, much less facilitated. It would have sickened the old Democratic party to be an enabler to an oppressive power structure.

To me, being truly liberal would mean finding the best means possible to educate all children, regardless of the income of the families that they come from. Instead, being liberal today means that you support an intolerant and closed-minded establishment such as teachers' unions because they donate to party coffers. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but that's not what being liberal was supposed to mean.

Friday, November 24, 2006

New blog for my edtoons

I have now put up a separate blog for my editorial cartoons (edtoons for short). It is called Edtoon Alley. Right now, only old edtoons are on it, and for some reason, when you click on the thumbnail, you get an error message instead of a larger image. I'll try to find out why that is.

Now that I have it up, I'll try to post to it at least once a week. I hope to get back to my usual posting rate of two a week that I had back when I worked for my college newspaper.

I'll also post a link to the new blog from this blog. Coming soon is yet another blog that I'm making for my comic strip. You good folks will certainly be notified once that's up. :-)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Creative packaging

Attached below are some rather creative packaging. I think the one for the drunk driver is especially powerful in its message.

Monday, November 20, 2006

OJ's "If I did it" won't be done

Of all the awful books that I can think of, OJ Simpson's "If I did it" has to be among the top. If you haven't already heard of this book, in it OJ discusses how he would have killed his wife some years ago - that is, "if he did it". I don't know which is worse - OJ for writing that book, or ReganBooks for publishing it. There's only one reason that I can think of for providing enough of a motivation to publish that book, and it's not a good one: pure and unadulterated greed. Fortunately, the book is being cancelled – not because the publisher had a change of heart, but largely because most people found the book and its topic ghoulish and revolting. As for me, it restores a little faith in mankind again, that we still have a sense of being revolted by something like this. Power to the people!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Weekend Wrap-up 11-19-2006

"TomKat" wedding
I wish I could find the poll regarding how long the viewers or readers thought that "TomKat's" (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, in case you didn't already know) marriage would last but I found it very insteresting. I forgot what the other two options were (I think it was "Less than a year" and "More than a year"), but the one option that caught my eye was "Who cares?", which got 73%. I wholly agree with the majority: Who cares? I've lost all respect for the man, and I wouldn't have even brought up Tom here, but the poll's results were just too good to not have at least a brief mention, and now that mention has passed.

Democrats again
I've had at least a couple of people ask me just what it is that I expect the Democratic Party to do, seeing as how I complain so much about them on my blog. I gave that some thought, and perhaps the mistake here is having expectations at all. The Dems are a political party, and "the nature of the beast" for political parties is to get elected - and usually by whatever means works at the time. So is it wrong to expect the Dems to do only what political parties generally do? I don't know - maybe so.

The GOP certainly operates by the same principle as well. For instance, the GOP claims to the the "prolife party", and yet, more often than not, their efforts in the prolife cause fall short of expectations (there's that word again). What this means is that the GOP is the "prolife party" largely because the Dems are the "prochoice party", and not much else. Basically, each party strives to be what the other party is not - one is "pro-" this and the other is "anti-" that. This makes the Dems and the GOP essentially two sides of the same coin. This is not the stuff that inspires people to believe in their leaders.

However, this topic deserves a more thorough discuss of what I expect from the Dems and why I feel that they have fallen short. I'll give this more thought and post here probably later this week. If you have other thoughts on this, let me know.

I haven't discussed sports on my blog in a long time, so let's take care of that today, shall we? :-)

College football is starting to get down to its final weeks, and once again, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) does everything to rob the postseason of its potential drama, especially when compared to the postseason structure of the college basketball postseason. In college basketball, a selection of 65 teams is picked into brackets, and they all play each other until there is a final two to compete for the championship. This format allows a team to see how far they can go riding soley on their heart and their guts.

In other words, the little team from Slackjaw, Mississippi has just as much of a chance of being the national champion as the big team from Georgetown (usually a basketball powerhouse) provided that they make it to the "Big Dance". Keeping up with little Slackjaw U. to see how high up the bracket it goes is part of the familiar American underdog story. We love the underdog story. When Slackjaw U. beats Georgetown, we just love it to death. We'll put the Slackjaw team on the Today Show, the Tonight Show, and perhaps even make a movie of the week of their story. They might even make a visit to the White House, and we'll follow their victory tour the whole way.

The football postseason set-up, however, favors the big schools with the power and money, and politics totally slants in favor of those schools. In other words, the football team from Slackjaw U. will never get the chance to be the national champion, because it doesn't belong to a "BCS conference", which is an arrangement guaranteed to favor the big schools against the little schools.

In fact, since some of you asked me about what I consider the difference between the Democrats and the GOP, then these two types of postseason formats does it pretty well: The March Madness format is a Democrat style, in which anyone can go the distance provided that they keep winning, and the BCS format is a GOP style, in which only those that are in the "in" (that is, the BCS) conferences have the chance to go the distance - everyone else has virtually no chance unless an extraordinary and highly unlikely set of circumstances somehow puts them there. And to date, no team other than a BCS conference team has been in the national championship in the entire time that the BCS format has been in place.

That's it for now, folks. Have a great week!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thanksgiving's coming early this year

I work at a university library, and this gives me a front row seat of the habits of today's college student. It used to be that the university had classes right up to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (I had even been told that some universitys will count Wednesday absences as double). However, this year, the university is bowing to the reality regarding usual college student behavior, and there won't be any classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Of course, as I've said, knowing the usual behavior of the typical college student, this only means that most students will be skipping Tuesday instead of Wednesday. ;-)

In other words, next week is going to be basically a one-day week!

(and no doubt, a few students will probably be skipping Monday as well...)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Immigration column

Below is my column on immigration as it appeared on this website:

Column on immigration

Below is the text of my column. I just remembered that one of my New Year's resolutions was to get published again somewhere, somehow. It looks like I actually kept a New Year's resolution! Also, the editor of that website happened to see my blog entry on immigration, and he asked me to make a column out of it. It goes to show that you never know who might be reading your blog.

The Right Way To Control The Border

Illegal immigration has been a hot topic for most of this year, however, most debate and discussion on this issue are going about it in the wrong way. They are dealing largely with the illegal immigrants themselves – which is important, but it's not the best way to take care of the problem (and yes, illegal immigration is a problem – specifically, the "illegal" part). The way to look at this issue is to see why they are coming here in the first place.

Illegal immigrants know that there are companies here that will hire them, despite the fact that they know that they are here illegally. So why would a company hire illegal immigrants? It's because illegal immigrants work for much less than American workers. And illegal immigrants have no other expenses attached to them, like health insurance, overtime pay, and other benefits that the rest of us take for granted in this country. Illegal immigrants work much cheaper, and with no union to back them up, they can't complain about the working conditions, because their illegal status hangs over their head like the proverbial sword of Damocles.

So essentially, dealing with the illegal immigration problem by dealing only with the illegal immigrants themselves is seeing this issue from too small a perspective. All that these critics accomplish is to plug the holes in a leaky dam while ignoring the one making the holes in the dam in the first place. And that hole-maker is the companies that hire illegals. During most of this year, the Democratic Party and even unions have tried to court illegal immigrants, but this is a mistake in so many ways.

Democrats get political mileage by portraying illegal immigrants as “immigrants just trying to seek a better life”. Most Americans know of our country’s tradition of growth through immigration, and they don’t object to people moving here from other parts of the world – so long as they do it through the proper channels. However, trying to blur the line between legal and illegal immigrants ultimately does not serve either group, and the Democrats will succeed only in making Americans resent all immigrants – whether they are here legally or not.

In addition, when the Democrats resort to this kind of tactic, it gives regular working Americans the impression that the Democrats are more concerned about people who are here illegally than for the constituency that they allege to be serving: the American people – especially the American blue-collar worker. So any short term benefit that the Democrats may gain by trying to blur the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants will come back to haunt them in the long run.

For the unions, there's no better way for them to shoot themselves in the foot than to support illegal immigrant workers, because they are taking jobs that union workers could have. Also, if an illegal immigrant works in the place of a union worker, then this deprives the union of the dues that could be paid by a union worker as well as the clout that being in a union brings to the negotiating table.

For the GOP, they get political mileage by portraying illegal immigrants as invaders. But the majority of the illegal immigrants do not come here as an advance invading force, they are only coming to find jobs. This is not to imply that seeking jobs is a justification for coming here illegally, but it is wrong to portray illegal immigrants under a false light only for the sake of political gain.

Plus, it would be to the GOP’s benefit to be more outspoken about the companies that hire illegal immigrants and to seek punishment policies with “teeth” against such companies. In the long run, the GOP will succeed in reducing the number of illegal immigrants through such policies rather than through their favorite practice of portraying illegal immigrants as an evil invading force.

And last, for the illegal immigrants themselves, the hiring of illegals does very little to motivate them to eventually becoming U.S. citizens. Actually, the U.S. companies that hire illegal immigrants wouldn't want them to become legal citizens, because then they'd have to pay them more, for then they'd qualify for the rights that U.S. workers get -- which defeats their whole purpose of hiring illegals in the first place!

The best way to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants is to truly punish companies that hire illegal immigrants to the point that it will make it much less palatable for these companies to hire them. As a result, it will make the risk that an illegal immigrant goes through to get here not worth the trip.

The thing is, everything stated above is just plain common sense. Anyone with a lick of sense could have figured this out – including most of our politicians. However, it is also the nature of politics and politicians to go after issues that are “sexy” so that they will get voted into office. Right now, it is “sexy” for political campaigns to concentrate on the illegal immigrants themselves rather than the companies that hire them.

As voters, we must insist that the candidates stop using “sex appeal” to get into office, and to instead pursue solutions that will have real results instead of actions that have only short-term gains. Not an easy task, mind you, but living in a democratic society places such a responsibility on its citizens, and the power of the ballot box is our best means of keeping our public servants on their toes.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Memories of pecans

On my desk right now is a small package of pecan pieces. I saw them yesterday at my local supermarket, and I bought them not necessarily because I like pecans (which I do), but because they also remind me of someone I knew a long time ago: my grandfather.

Many years ago, my grandfather used to take me and my brother hunting for pecans. We'd go to some nearby woods where pecan trees grew, and we'd gather them and open them so that we can eat the pecan inside the shell. He died very young, when he was 58. I was 10 years old at the time of his death, so I don't have a whole lot of memories of him. But gathering pecans was one of those memories, so each time I see pecans, I think of him.

To this day, I don't like pecans any other way than by themselves; I don't like them in pies or brownies. For me, it's just not the same to have them any other way than by themselves. There's an important lesson in all this for those of you who are parents, and those of you who are grandparents.

The lesson is this: Make memories with your kids and grandkids. Do little things that they'll remember - like gathering pecans. While it may seem like nothing to you, for the kids, it may be something else entirely. Pecans may be just something to eat for you, but for me, pecans are a connection to my grandfather; and by eating them, I recall the few times that we had together.

So go out there and have fun with your kids and grandkids, folks. Years from now, those memories just may be how they remember you. Make those memories happy ones.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Weekend Wrap-up 11-12-2006

For this weekend wrap-up, I'm going to wrap up a couple of topics that I brought up earlier in the week - or at least attempt to. Onward!

Women's magazines
I had asked the ladies earlier in the week about the effectiveness of the advice in women's magazines in regards to love, dating, and romance. Their responses were pretty much as I expected: The advice was helpful only for women who had little to no self-esteem, and who lived largely a hedonistic lifestlye. In other words, to your average woman, their advice was worthy only as a measuring stick of where our society is nowadays - seeing as how such mags are still being published because enough women out there are still buying them. And judging by the nature of much of that advice, we're a pretty sick society.

For balance, I also decided to ask the men and whether the mags they read presented any advice on love, dating, and relationships. Pretty much to a man, practically all of them said that they knew of no such men's mags that gave tips and advice on love, dating, and romance - and even if such mags existed, they probably wouldn't read them. Their mags of choice tended to be of sports, news, or their hobbies - and those don't generally have dating advice in them. What the women said in response to this is that women's mags tend to prey on women's insecurities, which is a tactic that works well enough, apparently, to support several such women's mags. However, a men's mag that preyed on men's insecurities would just be ignored, probably because men generally don't admit to having any faults, much less stress themselves out over them.

After all this, it seems to me that there is a readership market here that is largely untapped - specifically, a women's magazine that is tailored to women who are not of the hedonistic lifestyle, but who still seek helpful information about love and relationships. Perhaps they have to seek mags of a religious nature for something like that, because a mag put out for the general public at large probably couldn't survive, because they'd be trying to be all things to all people. I don't know exactly what to suggest, because I'm not a magazine publisher, but after all this, I can see that clearly SOMETHING is needed that isn't being provided right now.

And last, here's a cartoon that pretty much sums up the difference between men and women. I literally laughed out loud when I first saw it. :-)

My advice for Democrats
Someone asked me about my advice for Democrats that I posted on my blog earlier in the week, and why I tended to be so harsh on them. Another asked me why I even care for the Dems OR the GOP, for that matter, for they only deal with politics anyway. I feel that it is only fair that I respond to these questions here.

First, I am harsh on the Dems because I feel that they have fallen far from what they have and should be: a party of the little people. In the past:

If you were a blue collar worker, you were a Democrat.
If you were Catholic, you were a Democrat.
If you were politically liberal, you were a Democrat.
If you were African American, you were a Democrat.
If you were Hispanic, you were a Democrat.
If you were of the lower or middle class, you were a Democrat.

And so on. Today, while the above groups may still be largely Democrat, the only interests being served by today's Democratic Party is the people of a liberal point of view - and even the definition of "liberal" has changed. In the past, being liberal meant being open-minded enough to realize that many people among the poor have the potential to be great people, and that we should aid such people so that they can contribute to society as a whole. That was accomplished by providing the opportunity for such people to show what they can do. That is the kind of liberal that I am, by the way.

Nowadays being liberal means having a secular and hedonistic outlook on life, and that "religion is the opium of the masses" (a quote attributed to Karl Marx). In fact, opposition to religion must be to the point that today's liberal is anti-religious; that is, they actively seek to remove all public displays of religion wherever it appears because they take the term "separation of church and state" to its broadest and most widespread extreme. Today's liberals also support government programs that actually lock the poor in their lower class status rather than giving them hope for the future.

And last, today's liberals support legalized abortion, which is the ultimate act of age discrimination as well as being an even worse throwback to the days of slavery, in which the life of a class of people is made wholly dependent upon the rule of law. Slavery was wrong in the past, and its conceptual descendent of legalized abortion is wrong today.

I am harsh on the Democrats, because many people still believe the Dems to be the party of the little people, when clearly, they are not. So many people pin their hopes and dreams on the Dems because they still think that the class distinctions between the parties still exist; that is, that the GOP is the party of the rich and that the Dems are the party for the rest of us.

But the leaders of the Dems are often just as rich as the leaders of the GOP, so this class distinction today between the parties is largely non-existent. And yet, Democratic leaders often exploit this old and no longer applicable belief about their party to get elected. What I am saying is that they are lying to the voters and to their supporters about who and what they are, and this is wrong in so many ways. That is what angers me about today's Democrats. If the Dems want to continue to be their current hedonistic, secular, and anti-religous selves, then they should have the decency be honest and up-front about it so that some other party can be the party that the Dems used to be.

As for why I even care about the Dems or the GOP, it's because both parties have such a large impact and influence on today's society. As such major influences on society, they have a responbility to live up to the faith and trust of the people that elected them. However, many politicians act as if they are our country's version of an aristocracy rather than the public servants that they really are. They often act as if we owe them the living that they have gotten themselves accustomed to. In short, they have largely forgotten who really is the boss here and why they are in their offices - which is to serve the public trust and interests rather than special interest groups that they largely serve today. I care about what both parties do, because we deserve better from both of them than what we've been getting from them in recent decades. I simply want them to do the job that we elected them to do.

Other stuff
There's other things that I could post here, but today's entry is long enough, so I'll save that other stuff for later.

Have a great week, folks!