Fred Train Rolls On

The momentum for a potential Fred Thompson presidential bid continues to build. Word is that several close allies of Ronald Reagan are backing him. Fifty or so Congressional Republicans showed up to meet him in Washington recently. And a highly unscientific straw poll of Republican blog readers shows him winning in a rout. It doesn't sound like he can formally enter the race until after the Law & Order season ends in May, and he also has some Paul Harvey fill-in work to do, so that may be a few weeks off. But it looks more and more likely.

Update: Fred Commentaries!

NFL News

The Minnesota Vikings went ahead and drafted our old friend Adrian Peterson, running back from Oklahoma, with the 7th pick in the draft. Now that he is changing shirts, I will cheer for him, rather than against him. He now has my permission to gain a lot of yards and more importantly, not get injured.

Mormons on TV

Utah is abuzz about a two-part documentary about the LDS Church that airs Monday and Tuesday on PBS. One aspect of the coverage is the fact that the church will be getting some national exposure. The other aspect is speculation on how the film will portray the church. The two newspapers in Salt Lake City have apparently seen it, and consider it to be well-balanced. From my experience, Mormons are pretty sensitive about criticism, so when I see these papers say it's "balanced", I tend to think it will be on the favorable side. However, we shall see. I'm sure there will be a lot of commentary after it airs.


Kitchen blues

I give up - our kitchen stinks. We have officially decided to give up on our dishwasher. It never really did a very good job of cleaning but I figured we weren't being as diligent about rinsing as we should be. But even after extreme rinsing, no luck. In fact, the extra rinsing just allowed us to see how bad it really was, the dishes were coming out dirtier than they were going in. So far it has been about a week and it isn't tooooo bad. I mean, we were already washing our pots and pans by hand and there are only two of us so it isn't a whole lot more work. It's more the principle of the thing. We have a dishwasher so I want to be able to use it.

Ironically, as I was pondering our loss of the beloved dishwasher, a semi-relevant country song came on the radio. The singer talks about when his family got their first microwave. Then Craig commented on how he remembers his family getting their first and I FELT REALLY YOUNG. I don't remember our family ever not having a microwave. I do remember using our old microwave stand for my 10 gallon fish tank when I was in 10 or 11. Since my mom let me use it for my fish, I am pretty sure it was at least a couple of years old. Not only did I not remember getting my first microwave, it was actually kinda weird to think about life without a microwave. I guess I knew that they were invented not too recently, but I never thought about it. At the end of my little pensive moment, I reassured myself that life without a dishwasher may be inconvenient but at least I have a microwave. BIG MISTAKE. Tonight, in our attempt to enjoy some lovely leftovers, the microwave decides to fail us too. I never should have thought about how much I like microwaves, I set myself up for this. Maybe it is just a phase and it will get over it? I fear the worst.


Sheep vs. Poodle

At first, I was going to summarize this article for you, but it's short and I think it reads best as it is.

Oh, those silly Japanese. It seems to have taken a couple of the "poodle owners" quite a while before they figured it out. I'm just shocked that the swindlers though up this idea. I guess they knew that some people are really really dumb.


Man in the Lake

I was sitting at my desk today, staring at my map of Utah on the wall (some might call it spacing out) when I noticed something interesting about the Great Salt Lake.

See it?

That's right! The lake looks like a man, down on bended knee, presenting flowers to his girl (or, as it were, Corinne, Utah).

What, you don't see it? Here's some help:

A - the flowers
B - the guy's nose
C - the guy's front leg

Seems obvious, doesn't it? But some cursory Google searches find nobody else remarking on this obvious image. Why am I the first?


More Vacation Pics

At long last, we have received the pictures MacKenzie took in England. Here are some highlights:

My favorite type of street performer; the ones that stand perfectly still until you give them money. The paint job is important, too.

When traveling abroad, it is important to make a stop at McDonald's.

MacKenzie viewing the stones at Avebury.

MacKenzie atop St. Paul's Cathedral. It was windy.

Mac at some Harry Potter cottage.

Us at a quaint village.

Hopefully I'm not the only one.

Have you ever suddenly realized that something you thought was one thing your entire life was, in fact, something completely different? If that doesn't make sense, maybe an example will help. Recently, I was reading the newspaper comics when I stumbled across one that made me re-examine my life. It was just one frame and pictured a guy in sitting up in bed. He was saying something like "I'm up, but I don't think I'm ready to be at'em yet." Don't think about it too hard - it wasn't funny. But suddenly, that expression made so much more sense. Hear I have been, for the last 20 or so years, telling people to get "Up and Adam." Now granted, if you compare Up and Adam with Up and At'em, obviously the latter makes much more sense. But I had though it was Adam for so long and never considered it being something else. On my side, there are a lot of other expressions that don't make any sense either, but if you look them up there is some long, weird story about how they originated. I guess I figured there was some guy named Adam who did something that led to his having his own colloquial idiom. Anyway, if you have had a similar experience, please share. Both so we can laugh at your expense and so that I don't feel like an idiot for being the only one who this happens to.


Republican Fun

Last night we again proved that while we have young, hot bodies we really are old people. We spent the evening at the Cache County Republican Convention. I went to appease Craig at first but I did end up having a good time. It started as you would expect, a prayer, the pledge, a couple little speeches. Utah Congressman Rob Bishop gave the keynote speech, complete with pork rind props, and I found him surprisingly funny. The real fun part came with the debate over school vouchers. I don't think the pro-voucher speaker was very good but since his side of the debate is infinitely superior that was okay. He mostly talked about how it won't take away money from public schools. The anti-voucher speaker was a mom from the PTA.
Her stance: (with my rebuttal in italics)
  • She loves public schools, a lot. Her kids are going great in it.
    • I'm sure she does. If we get the program, her kids can stay right where they are. But that doesn't mean that other kids aren't getting what they need from public schools?
  • We shouldn't take money away from public schools .
    • The voucher program funds don't come from the public education fund, they come from the general fund.
  • The program would only help 4% of the people since 96% of the children in Utah are enrolled in public schools.
    • This is a silly argument. Once we have the voucher program in place, those numbers will change. That's the point - to help parents whose can't afford private schools take the kids out of public schools if they aren't working for them. That means that those kids are in public schools right now.
  • The public school system was created so that we wouldn't have a caste system in America where only rich kids go to private school.
    • Whose side is she one again? That's what we have now. The vouchers will help kids of all income levels go to private schools.
  • Public schools are better since they allow children to experience diversity and culture.
    • Public schools don't allow children to experience diversity and culture. They are divided by neighborhoods creating incredibly segregated institutions. That is why there are certain neighborhoods I would rather sub in. But the State Office of Education says that Utah private schools have more non-whites as a percentage of enrollment than Utah Public schools. And with the voucher program, that would probably only increase.
  • I was really surprised that she didn't talk about the argument I hear most often - that since private schools are sooooo expensive the voucher program won't help parents with real financial need, they will only help rich people whose kids already go to these schools get a break. Middle class and low-income families still will have no new options. Due to it's popularity I will still address it.
    • People need to stop assuming things about the cost of a private education. A USU survey puts the average cost for a K-8 students to be about $3800 so a $3000 scholarship will help quite a bit. Private schools also have scholarships to help families make up the difference. And a few low-income families receiving the CFU scholarships of much less have been able to pay (on average) the $2100 difference. They are willing to sacrifice to make sure their kids get a good education. The only reason it is a only "a few" families is that only 15% of the families that apply for these scholarships get them due to high demand. Obviously families of all income levels want these options.
The funniest thing about her arguments was that she did a really bad job of tailoring them to her audience (the delegates at the county's REPUBLICAN convention). Her rebuttal was pretty much: I'm not hear to debate conservative vs. liberal, or democrat vs. republican, but I just want to say that we NEED kids in public education.
    • So since she thinks we need kids in public education, she is going to force parents to send their kids there if they don't have the money for other options. If she really thinks they are so great, she shouldn't be worrying so much that nobody is gonna be left in public schools if they have the option to send their kids where they want.
After a little debating and a painful voting (how many republicans does it take to count the votes), the resolution passed, WHOOP! I left the convention proud to be a Republican and happy with both my bright red tote bag and my Choice in Education button. I will be putting this button on the bag I wear to schools each day to show my support! Hopefully I am still invited to eat lunch in the faculty rooms :-)

Oh and for those of you who are spoiled by all the fun and games from Rachel's blog. I have a link for a game too.

The Results of Enviro-hype.

I was pleased today to see this article about Rachel Carson. She was the author of "Silent Spring" and an early environmental hero for her 'expose' on DDT, which led to its near-worldwide ban. However, what most people don't realize is that DDT was and is very effective at fighting malaria. Today, one million people per year die from this disease.
In the years before it lost the public's support in the mid-1960s, the Global Malaria Eradication Programme wiped out malaria in the American South, several Latin American countries, Taiwan, the Balkans, much of the Caribbean, sections of northern Africa and much of Australia and the South Pacific. Exposés like Carson's made the global campaign's methods increasingly unpopular and eventually brought to a halt the effort to end malaria on a global scale. The disease has since bounced back in many developing countries. In the mid-'90s, the only South American country that continued to use DDT, Ecuador, was also the only country to experience a significant decline in malaria. Many countries, like Uganda, remain hesitant to use DDT because European nations have threatened to refuse their agricultural exports if they do.
DDT use is beginning again in Africa, and this will undoubtedly save lives. This tale should serve as a caution to those who want to enact questionable environmental policies today (*cough* Algore *cough*).


Threats and Hoaxes

One of the multiple threats/hoaxes that have taken place in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting occurred at my old stomping grounds in Minnesota today. Someone found a note in a bathroom, and eight buildings were evacuated and searched. Nothing was found.

You figure that the people who do this kind of thing aren't sick enough to actually hurt people, but they are sick enough to cause this kind of disturbance. But how thin is the line between the two? Are these people just losers who want to get out of class, or what? I would imagine that whoever did this won't be able to help but brag about it. Maybe then the police can bust him.

My Big Time Brother

I neglected to link to this interview my brother did with a local ND sports blog. He's definitely mastered the sports cliche at a young age; he's also had some good athletic success.


Songs and my Stomach - an interesting connection

You all know, or at least you should know, that I am a bit weird. I like to refer to myself as quirky but call it what you will. This little story is a perfect example of one of my quirks. I subbed this morning in a middle school typing class. Since typing is kinda boring and doesn't take much brain space, the teacher lets them listen to music (only the teacher approved/burned cd of course). One of these oh-so-clean songs was Hanging by a Moment by Lifehouse. Now I like Lifehouse, I have even owned a cd of theirs myself. But this particular song makes me nauseous. I don't mean figuratively because the lyrics are lame or anything. It is quite a nice little song except for the fact that every time I hear it, my head hurts and I feel dizzy and sick to my stomach. I have absolutely no idea why! It was very hard for me to not show these intense feeling to the school children today and I think I did a good job but I really hope I don't have to hear that song again for a while.


I'm in love with a ... woman?

I was just going to respond to Craig's post below but as my response was getting ridiculously long I decided to make a new post. I'm not going to say that Imus' comment was not racist - that would just be silly. I want to address the sexist part. I not so sure his comment is offensive to all women like Oprah seems to want everyone to believe. Imus was efficient but I'm pretty sure he could have gotten in the same amount of trouble with 33% less words. Besides the fact that it was his producer that first called them hos and Imus only added the nappy-headed part, there are tons of things out there in the media way more demeaning to women - like 99% of rap videos.

Not to long ago, I was sitting with a 1st grader helping him on a worksheet when he started singing "I'm in love with a woman." For those of you who, like Craig, might be unaware of the actual song, the real title is "I'm in love with a stripper" and the lyrics can be found here. I don't know how he learned this cleaner version of the song, I can only image some weird scenario in which he was singing the real song and his mom told him to say woman instead, or maybe he asked someone what a stripper was and they told him "a type of woman." - I really have no idea. But thank goodness he only knew the first line and the other kids had already finished their papers and headed off to P.E. It is scary. The same kid who sings "Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar" with me in the morning should not be singing that song in the afternoon. I'm pretty sure he has never heard "Imus in the Morning" but he is being exposed to lots of stuff that is impacting how he views women and no one is calling for T-pain to lose his contract.


Democrats and Imus

Here's some bitter irony in the whole Don Imus saga. It was, for the most part, liberals who got him fired for his remarks. But along with locker room humor, Imus' show was a major stopping point for Democratic politicians. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, Christopher Dodd, and Harold Ford Jr. were all regular guests. And according to this article, they got "sympathetic treatment" from him and were able to reach crucial independent white male voters. Now some Democratic strategists are worried about how to fill the void.

I'm not sure how important his show really was. He only got about 3.5 million listeners per week, and wasn't heard in much of the country. I think his show was one of those things that New York and Washington people think is important, but nobody else really cares about. So although it would be nice, I don't think his absence will hurt Democrats too much.

Impulse Buy

I am tempted to purchase this:


Pictures, Violinist and Silly Newspapers.

My pictures are still not back from the PX. I dropped them off last Wednesday so they should have been available for pick up last Friday but my mom checked yesterday and they still aren't here. And once she gets them, I still have to wait for them to come in the mail. I'm annoyed! I should have just taken them to Wal-mart here in town once I got back but the PX is cheaper and, even more importantly, the last couple of times I've gone to Wal-mart they have come back poorly developed while I always get excellent results from the PX. So maybe in the end it will be worth it, maybe.

But while I can't share any cool pictures of England with you, I can share a story. Technically it might be too short to be called a story, but I can't think of another good word. As we were going down an escalator to get on the tube one day, we almost ran right smack into a big, ugly, sweaty man without a shirt, playing a violin. He was really close the bottom of the escalator so it was kinda hard to avoid touching him but we did, thank goodness, for he was very gross. Anyway, it started us talking and we wondered what would happen if someone famous was playing? ( In our imaginary example, the famous guy part was played by Seal.) How would we respond to him? Would we even notice who it was or stop to listen?

Fast forward to today when I was reading a blog that mentioned an article by the Washington Post about violinist Joshua Bell playing in a Metro station in D.C. Read the article, it's interesting, albeit a tad bit wordy but remember this is the Washington Post. At first I thought, maybe this is a sign that I had what it takes to be a famous writer (or at least the guy who thinks up the ideas to write about) but then I rethought. I bet tons of people have thought the same thing but it wasn't until the idea hit someone who could do something with it that it stuck around for more than 30 seconds. Maybe I am not destined for journalistic greatness. Oh well, at least I have this blog.

Another journalistic thought:
Why do journalists/editors feel the need to write about themselves? I remember the Batt always doing a special about all the people who worked there and it was annoying but I didn't care too much because, well, it was the Batt and it would have been bad no matter what they wrote. But yesterday the local paper here felt the need to do the same thing. Why do they think we care??? People read the newspaper to gain information about current events, not because they are fascinated by the people who write for it. I kinda thought that would be obvious.

PS - Looking back over this post, I realize it is kinda whiny. If you still reading this, thanks for letting me vent. I feel much better now.


Sad Churchill

This is pretty funny. It would be funnier if the underlying events weren't so pathetic.

Inquiring minds want to know

Children ask a lot of interesting questions. Here is a sampling of what I have been asked in the last month or so:
  • Do you ever fart? (1st grade girl)
  • Do you dye your hair? (7th grade boy)
When I replied no, his response was "oh, cause it's kinda cool." Then he turned to the boy next to him and said "She doesn't dye it, I guess it is just naturally cool like that."

  • How much money do you make? (7th grade boy, different kid but same class as the last)
  • Why won't teachers ever tell you how much money they make? (the boy sitting next to the previous one - that was a very curious class)
  • Are you pregnant? (1st grade girl)
For the record, I'm pretty sure she didn't think I was pregnant but was just using the question as a way to bring up the fact that her mom is pregnant and soon she will be a big sister. And, considering where we live and my age, my ability to say no is pretty rare so it isn't really that weird of a question. The high number of pregnant teachers here has apparently reached newsworthy levels.


How the Story is Twisted

Power Line breaks down the media bias within an AP article on global warming today with the skill and precision of John Madden at a football game. Their analysis provides an illustrative look at the subtle wording and paragraph layout that is employed to shape the opinion of the reader. Check it out.


Voting for Idol

I've never participated in American Idol in any way, shape, or form, and I've watched approximately 10 minutes of it in its entire run. However, I am intrigued by this orchestrated campaign to keep Sanjaya on the show even though he sucks. I also like the idea of sticking it to the Idol people. So I think I might go ahead and vote next week.

More English Observations

  • Our trip started out delightfully, as our airplane seats had little screens on them, on which you could watch TV or buy movies or games. But the trivia game was free! And you play against other passengers! And passengers are identified by seat number, so you can scope out your competition! The guy across the aisle from me won the first game (I started late, so I was not in contention). As the screen flashed his name as the victor, I gave him a thumbs up. I then won the next round:

There were a lot of lame entertainment questions, which I hate. The number of players rapidly dwindled during the flight, from 26 or so to 14 or so to 7 or so. Unfortunately, these screens were not present on any of our other flights.

  • The most aggravating part of our trip was the complete dearth of garbage cans in London. Twice we carried garbage large distances, looking for a place to put it. Both of these instances began in train stations, where you think there would be many garbage cans. I was almost tempted to litter to spite them.

  • This picture is for Rachel:

As you can see, House is now on in Britain.

  • My favorite type of street performers are the statue people that are painted up in green or gold or white. They stand there, perfectly still, until you give them money. Then they move, usually acknowledging your contribution with a blown kiss or other grand gesture. I saw one of these performers on our first day. Alas, she never returned after that.
  • At Westminster Abbey, someone comes over the PA on the hour and prays aloud. He asks that tourists either join him or respect those who do. So what happens during his prayer while we were there? Some idiot's cell phone went off. It seemed for a moment that he/she was going to pull the old "pretend it's not my phone" trick. People whose phones go off at times like this should be punched in the throat, but when they let it ring, pretending it's not theirs, they should be cattle-prodded, then throat-punched. This person eventually shut it off. Moron.


It's good to be back.

It's good to be back in the U.S., where I can eat fruits and vegetables every day, I don't have to consciously think about which way to look before I cross the street and I can take a shower without bruising my elbows. I can't say it's good to be back in Utah yet though as I am staying with my parents for a few days. Since I was returning from the land of Jane Austen it would be only fitting to spend a little time with my own Emma and Mr. Knightley. A lady on of our tours commented on how she had named her dog Mr. Darcy and I wanted to say "Well lady, I named my dog Emma, my cat Mr. Knightley, and my fish (may he rest in peace in that big toilet bowl in the sky) was named Frank Churchill, so beat that!" But I thought that might be obnoxious so I refrained. I must say it is nice to adjust to jet lag resting on a couch watching HGTV with my golden retriever's head in my lap and sleeping at night with my cat snuggled at my feet.

I will talk more about London next week when I get my pictures back. I took 4.5 rolls of film while Craig only took about 15 or so pictures on his digital. Plus, I look absolutely awful in all the pictures Craig took except the one of me posing with a gorilla scarecrow but I don't think that represents the essence of the trip very well so you will just have to wait.

I did want to add to Craig's post below though. He forgot to give our rating for the war cabinets and Winston Churchill museum. I don't know what it's score was but I liked it. It was only opened in 2002 so it had lots of interactive stuff to keep me busy while Craig read all the boring bits. My favorite parts:
  • Churchill's christening gown - while I know that christening gowns are typically quite loose, I am pretty sure Churchill was one really fat baby. Just thinking about Winston Churchill as a baby makes me laugh.
  • Section on Churchill's love of animals. Apparently he had many pets, including two kangaroos and a lion (he received them as gifts and kept them at the London Zoo). It also included a letter to his wife when she was on a trip telling her that when she got back they were going to need a new rug because of their dog.
  • The map in the conference room that Churchill and his advisers used to think up strategies complete with little doodle of Hitler in the corner.


London Calling

Well, we have returned from our British sojourn, and it is time for me to debrief you. You can start by heading over to the KVNU site, where I highlight some British news stories.

I would like to take this chance to share the BRC's take on several of the attractions we visited, just in case you happen to be headed that way anytime soon. Also, maybe someone who Googles "England Recommendations" might end up here (especially since I just typed it in).

Ratings are on a 1-4 scale, 4 being best. Ratings are the average of the votes of MacKenzie and I.

Tower of London - 2.5

One of those must-see attractions, but all you really see is a bunch of rooms. The crown jewels are there too. Take the Beefeater tour, it is quite entertaining, although a little heavy on beheading jokes.

Double Decker Bus Tour - 4

Good way to see the major sites, and to get around, since you can hop on and off all day. The guide is important, so if you don't like the one you get, disembark and wait 10 minutes for the next bus. A highlight of this is when the guide points out homes of people such as Margaret Thatcher, Sean Connery, and Elton John (who is apparently known as "England's second queen").

Globe Theater - 4

I was reluctant to pay $18 to see this, but it was worth it. I left really wanting to see a play there, but the season only runs May-Oct.

Imperial War Museum - 3

I could have spent hours here, looking at war memorabilia. The mockup of a WWI trench was neat, but the London Blitz experience wasn't as good. Also has a well-done Holocaust exhibit. Apparently they're not worried about offending Muslims.

St. Paul's Cathedral - 4

Awe-inspring church, with a neat America chapel created after WWII. The crypt in the basement has some famous people and a cafe (but most of it was closed for a wedding when we were there - yes, a wedding) . The climb to the Whispering Dome is worthwhile, but I could have skipped the trip to the very top of the Dome, as I am not into heights.

British Museum - 3

I thought I'd like this more, but I wasn't too intrigued by old pottery, jewelry, and statues. The Rosetta Stone and the mummified bodies boost this site's score, though (as does the fact that it's free - London is expensive). I wouldn't schedule too much time here.

Harrods - 1.5

It's a mall. Skip it.

Westminster Abbey - 4

It's neat to see where the coronation takes place, and to see tombs of kings and queens. The fact that the building is almost 1000 years old is also quite amazing. We did the audio tour, so I can't comment on the guided tour.

We also went to Bath, a town in western England in which the Romans used the hot springs to build a bath (hence the name of the town). I recommend this trip. It gave us a gradual acclimation to England before we hit the big-city bustle. Two must-do features here are the Bizarre Bath tour, a humorous walk about town in the evening, and the Mad Max full-day tour, which took us to Stonehenge and a couple small villages.

I will have more to report at a later time. I'd be interested to hear how you London veterans feel about our recommendations.