Saturday, February 27, 2010

Restless Earth Strikes Again

The country of Chile occupies the western coast of South America.
At 0334 Saturday morning local time, a 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile. The temblor was centered about 70 miles northeast of Concepcion, Chile's second largest city, and 200 miles southwest of Santiago, Chile's capitol and largest city. The quake was 500 times more powerful then the Haiti quake. Damage in Chile has been extensive, but not as severe as Haiti. Chile has had earthquakes in the past, and many of their buildings are built to withstand quakes. Some older historical buildings did collapse, and freeways, overpasses, and parking garages failed at a higher rate then occupied dwellings. Some buildings were reported to be damaged, but not collapsed. Initially, it appears that there will be lives lost, but generally not in massive numbers.

AP gathered video images from surveillance cameras around the affected area:

The photos are from the gallery put together by the Kansas City Star.

Californians might recognize this type of scene resulting from roads and bridges damaged by the quake.
A complete bridge failure near Camarico 112 miles south Santiago, putting it closer to the epicenter. There were probably fatalities here.
A policeman pauses to look at a leaning quake-damaged building.
The people of Chile are somewhat quake hardened--they send teams of search and rescue experts to other countries--but Chile may need some help in the coming days. The people certainly need our prayers. Thankfully, so far, the tsunami that resulted from this quake has not been reported to be very bad at this time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Funny: Winter Edition

This post is dedicated to our friends in New England, the New York area and the north Atlantic states, who are having another epic snow storm today.

Somewhere in New England...(failblog)
Further research revealed that this was taken in Massachusetts in January.

Lunch time for the shovel brigade at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. (posted today by the New York Times.)

Wayside Waifs Cuts Ribbon on New Doggie Kennels

Wayside Waifs President Patti Glass cuts the ribbon.
Come on in.
Checking out the new digs.
Dogs mingle with staff and each other, under the media's watchful eye.
Passing a treat through the service door--yes those are dog treats!

Please come in and see the dogs and new kennels. The number of dogs to see will increase over the next few weeks, as dogs in foster care and new dogs come into the shelter. It is exciting to see the improvements in the shelter and the new features help people be able to meet and greet the dogs. Wayside Waifs is at 3901 Martha Truman Road in south Kansas City. Phone 816-761-8151. Hours are: closed Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday-Friday 2 pm-8 pm. Sat-Sun 12 noon-6 pm. See them on the web at

Please Stay Home!

Someone may die if I don't make a blog entry RIGHT NOW.

Right now there is a serious asshat here in the library. He is on the computers. He is coughing pleghmingly every minute or so. Then he snorts. He covers his mouth--good. Then he takes that same hand, and puts it on the chair, on the table, on the keyboard, on the mouse.


What, you were brought up in a barn?!?

If you are sick and expectorating all over the place, please, please, please stay home. If you must go out, use tissues, and bring some hand sanitizer to keep your germs from getting all over the environment. Cough into your elbow instead of your hand. Throw your tissues away. Wash your hands.

The current turkey is not the only turkey I've seen using the computers at the library. I personally always wash my hands immediately after using these public computers. If an epidemic of illness were to ever take place, it might just start with these computers.

We will return to more sane blogging shortly.

UPDATE: This same person has moved on to a different computer! Contaminating one wasn't enough for this asshat! (Sorry, this just really bugs me!)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Toyota Recalls

Unfortunately, the response by Toyota to the controversy involving unintended acceleration on some of their cars has been typical of all auto companies--try to minimize the controversy and cost, try not to admit out loud until it is obvious there is a problem that there is a problem, deny, delay and confabulate. Ford did it with the exploding Pintos and the bad tires on the Explorer. Chrysler did it with the latches on the rear door of minivans that would pop open in an accident. Those three examples come to mind quickly. You'd think they'd learn. They don't. So it's Toyota's turn in the regulatory woodshed.

I have a couple problems with the way things are going with this situation though. Number one is that Toyota is now being grilled and sifted by the U.S. Government, owners of Government Motors, aka Chrysler and General Motors. Maybe the left hand can avoid knowing what the right hand is doing, but I doubt it and it gives an appearance of bad doings. Secondly, instead of being in a mode where the safety regulators and the auto company can work together to find out everything about the problem, it sets up a stupid adversarial relationship between the two that discourages the free exchange of ideas. We are really not totally clear on how this problem is happening. Toyota has offered two "mechanical" explanations and fixes, but the fact is that we are not totally clear that the electronics are not contributing to the problem by being subject to interference. A professor at SIU was able to create unintended acceleration, and left no error codes behind (a lot of times if there is an electronic glitch, there be an error code, accessible either by a trick involving the ignition switch and the odometer, or by attaching a reader to the car's electronic brain). These type of electronic glitches are a beast to find and fix. I have a friend who is a Chrysler mechanic and he hates hearing these problems being brought to his garage for this precise reason. Also, is there an electronic glitch interplay between the throttle and the brake (talking about regular Toyotas, not Pruis) that is hindering drivers in stopping cars with unintended acceleration? So there are unanswered questions regarding the defect that need to be explored and answered honestly. Thirdly, I think we as drivers are not prepared for such emergent conditions. Have you ever asked yourself: What if my hood flew open while I was driving? What if my brake light went on and my brakes were failing? What if my car suddenly started accelerating? Our ignorance and inattention (Get off that damn cell phone for five freaking minutes!!!) makes any defect in our car seem even bigger and more dramatic, as we are ill equipped to take care of ourselves properly.

Finally, an example, from my own years of driving: It was a cold afternoon when I took my 1994 Plymouth Sundance out on the highway. After accelerating up the entrance ramp, I let up on the gas pedal/throttle, and the car was not acting right. *RPMs were up in 3000s, and the car was ready to go. I slipped the manual transmission into neutral, thus disconnecting the engine from the drive train, and applied the brakes. It sounded like what the car did when it was warming up--start at a real slow idle, and then go into a very fast idle. This fast idle could be killed by jabbing at the accelerator/throttle--it would drop into a proper idle rate. So quickly I took my right foot off the brake pedal, and jabbed the throttle--quick and hard--then returned to the brake pedal. The *RPMs dropped quickly into a more appropriate mode for a car in neutral. I shifted into gear (second would be my guess, but I honestly don't recall), and the car returned to acting normally. I then proceeded on my way. That happened once and never happened again during the seven plus years I had that car.

The basic ideas of dealing with this driving emergency: 1)drop your cell phone 2) step on the brake vigorously 3) shift car into neutral--even automatic transmissions can be shifted into neutral. 4)last resort: turn off the engine. Think about these things now--before the emergency.

*RPMs--revolutions per minute--the rate of the turn of the crankshaft of the engine. The higher the rpms, the faster the engine is turning. Not everyone is a car/transportation geek!

Have a Hot Dog!

When you go to a professional baseball game, on the back of your ticket, in teeny tiny print is this (or something like it, this is off a ticket stub of unknown age I found in my wallet) paragraph of warning:
Warning: The holder assumes all risk and danger incidental to the sport of baseball and all warm ups, practices and competitions associated with baseball, including specifically (but not exclusively) the danger of being injured by thrown bats, fragments thereof, and thrown or batted balls, and agrees that none of the Office of Commissioner of Baseball, Major League Baseball Enterprises, Major League Baseball Properties, Baseball Television Inc., the American and National Leagues of Professional Baseball Clubs, the Major League Clubs and their respective agents, players, officers, employees and owners shall be liable for injuries or losses of personal property resulting from such causes.
Slugger at a game I attended last May--my photo. Looks so warm...
Does this warning include being hit by hot dogs thrown by the team's mascot? A court may get to decide that, and other details of a case brought by a fan against the team alleging that he was struck in the eye by a hot dog thrown by hand by the Royal's mascot, Sluggerr. The plaintiff alleges that the hot dog struck him in the eye and caused a detached retina, and placed his eyesight at risk. Here's a link to the Kansas City Star's article.

Can I tell you that the comments on the Kansas City Star's website and on newsy blogs like Tony's Kansas City have been overwhelmingly negative about this lawsuit? Most people think the plaintiff is full of beans and is just looking for a pay day. Some have commented directly on the merits of the lawsuit itself, and some have discussed the impossible nature of the allegations of the plaintiff. My personal bullshit detector went off too. Hot dogs are not very heavy, how hard can a person (I know for a fact that sometimes the person playing Slugger is occasionally female) throw a hot dog wearing a mascot costume, and apparently, this dog was flipped behind the back (per the lawsuit, which is linked by the Star and here as a PDF)! The worst injury I could imagine might be a corneal abrasion, which can be quite painful, but usually leaves no sequalae. You can have a detached retina and not know it, this happened in my family as a matter of fact. Perhaps on exam, a doctor found the retina problem incidentally and it is not at all related to the hot dog hitting the man's eye. This sort of money chasing bullshit suit is the sort of thing that gives lawyers a bad name. Unless there is more to it then meets the eye (sorry!), the Royals should pay the man any medical expenses related to the injury itself and not one penny more.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Well, That Was Interesting!

Well, the sun came out today, which was awfully nice, because we'd had just had two days of clouds and precipitation. And yes, we had about every kind--snow, sleet, graupel, rain, and freezing rain. The south part of the Kansas City metro got about an inch of snow. We had about a quarter to an eighth of an inch of ice on our tree branches and such. Then, after all the precip was done, it got pretty cold, freezing everything up. North of the river, and on up to St. Joseph, they got mostly snow. Driving has been difficult here and there at different times of the day. The roads are dry now, as the sun is getting pretty strong and it's daylight now for about 10.5 hours, so the sun has time to work on the roads melting ice and evaporating water.

This is what it looked like in my neck of the woods: A little snow and a little ice.

In Kearney, MO, a town about 25 miles northeast of Kansas City, it was straight snow. A KSHB viewer sent this picture in to the station. It was taken Sunday at 1700; they had about 5 inches of snow.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'll Take One From Column A and One From Column B...

Earlier today, we featured large fluffy snowflakes.
Well, the weather is a bit interesting today. As indicated in the previous post, the forecast for Kansas City proper is a mishmash of precipitation--snow, sleet, freezing rain, rain--you name it and we'll get it. The temperatures have been hovering around 32 degrees all day, with a north breeze stiff enough to slant the snow fall. Presently, it is around 30 degrees and the slush outside has a little crunch to it. The weather gurus think that the temperature will stabilize or even rise a little at higher levels, making it possible for a little freezing rain, before the temperature starts back down, and the precip turns to all snow sometime Sunday. Ugh, I much rather have snow then ice, and folks commenting on the KSHB weather blog are saying they are seeing some icing. I hope there isn't very much ice!

Our Charming Weather

I did this for the weather blog on KSHB, but I'll repeat it here:

Kansas City forecast:
Cloudy. Chance of snow...rain and a slight chance of sleet in the afternoon. Highs in the upper 30s. Northeast winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation 30 percent.
Wintry mix of precipitation with isolated thunderstorms after midnight. Snow and sleet accumulation up to 1 inch. Lows in the lower 30s. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.
Wintry mix of precipitation in the morning...then snow and sleet in the afternoon. Snow and sleet accumulation up to 1 inch. Highs in the mid 30s. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent

St. Joseph Missouri, a smaller city about 60 miles north of downtown Kansas City--their forecast:
Cloudy. A 20 percent chance of snow and sleet in the afternoon. Highs in the mid 30s. North winds 5 to 10 mph.
Snow. Snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches. Lows in the upper 20s. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.
Snow. Snow accumulation of 4 to 5 inches. Highs in the lower 30s. North winds 15 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.

Forecasting snow and snow totals and types of precip in the Midwest is much harder then in the East. You can have a storm move 50 miles and completely change the results in a given locale. If this storm were to move just a little south of where it is at now, or the temperatures be just a little cooler, we would have 6 inches of snow in the KC metro.

What do I do? I give the weather gurus some slack, and prepare for the worst cast situation. And with that, I will sign off for now, as I need to fill my gas tank!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Crown Vics Are Very Tasty

This is in Chicago. Be careful out there, it's prime pothole season!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bad, Bad Blogger...

I had options, I did.

I could have gone to the Kansas City Missouri School District forum on closing 30 schools.

I could have gone to the Hickman Mills School District forum on closing one of the district's high schools.

Or I could have gone down to Grandview, and watch the Hickman Mills Cougars take on the Grandview Bulldogs in boy's basketball...

Hickman Mills came back from being 9 points down most of the game to beat the Bulldogs in overtime 67-66.

More on the game at the sports blog and photo blog.

In This Corner...

John Covington, the School Superintendent of the Kansas City, Missouri School District, has proposed the closure of approximately 30 of the school buildings in the KCMOSD, to try to save money. Last night was the first of five public forums on the topic. I am sure that the School Board and the several organizations that have influence over the KCMO schools are also in Covington's ears about this idea. I have always strongly felt that the KCMO schools are a hotbed of patronage jobs, ass kissing and dead administrative weight. The KCMO school board has always been a bunch of weenie yes-people, and organizations such as ACORN and Freedom Inc have had undue influence on the decisions made on behalf of KCMO schools. I think many a superintendent has run head long into this entrenched system and been unable to move it. The system then follows up by working to run the erstwhile reformer out of town. Anyone who is willing to take aim at the bloated system is considered a threat of the highest order. This vision of what is happening came to mind yesterday...

The stage is set, the fighters are in their corners, jumping up and down, chewing on their mouth pieces. The corner men are yelling last minute instructions. The buzz from the crowd is full of anticipation; they've seen this champion before and know that it will be a very difficult fight for the challenger...

Out comes the tuxedo-clad ring announcer--

Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to tonight's championship fight! Tonight we have a classic encounter between a traditional power house--the patronage system of the Kansas City, Missouri school system and John Covington, School Superintendent. Let's meet the fighters!

In this corner, weighing in with a strong reputation and "no patience for foolishness" with victories in Colorado and Alabama in improving school performance and efficiency we have the Kansas City Missouri's new school superintendent John Covvington!

The superintendent emerges from his corner, pounds his gloves, shadow boxes a bit, bounces on his toes...

And in this corner, with a record of victory against 19 superintendents over a 30 year period, awash in desegregation money, rich in jobs for family and friends, well entrenched in a school board that will say "yes" to anything that will increase power and funds, we have the KCMOSD Patronage System!!

The big beast lumbers out of the corner, looks around, looks at John Covington with beady little eyes. The corner men, ACORN and Freedom Inc, also stare at Covington...

It's going to be an interesting fight, folks. As painful as it is, it is the right thing to do. In the 1960s, the KCMO School District enrolled 75,000 students. Today, the enrollment is 17,000. Already 40 schools have closed over the years. For this year, the budget is $40 million in the red. Closing schools will result in the loss of jobs, including 250+ teacher jobs. It will be important to make sure the right schools are closed, but decreasing the size of this school district must be done.

While the KCMO school district serves areas north of 85th street, its progress or not is important to all of Kansas City, since an attractive school district is part of the package that makes people want to live in a given place...

Monday, February 15, 2010

This Grieves My Heart

I thought this post by one of our law enforcement bloggers deserved a full treatment, because it speaks to a weakness of both our American church and our American culture. We don't know how to give help. We don't know how to ask for help.

Link is here, from "Officer Smith: Thoughts From Behind the Badge" but I am going to put it right here in this entry so you can read it and weep--especially if you are a Christian.

I'm a bit torqued off lately.
I have an uncle who has been in the hospital for some time, and tends to slip back and forth from doing well to doing poorly.

My aunt regularly posts updates of his condition on Facebook. Reading her posts, I can tell she is having a really rough time of it, and I wish I lived closer so I could actually do something. I would like to be able to go over once or twice a week and just give her a day off of caring for him. A break. A minute or two of freedom.

Unfortunately, I live too far away to be of regular use to her.

What bothers me is the comments left on her posts by the members of their church congregation. These supposed "friends" who actually DO live in the area. Do these "religious" people offer to help? Do they offer to pitch in for even one day? An hour? Do they offer any sort of physical, tangible help?


They say "We're praying for you."

They say "You're in our hearts and minds."

They say "May God give you the strength you need during these trying times."

Goddamnit, my aunt has plenty of strength. What she needs is not prayer. What she needs is a hand now and then. There area a hundred-something members of their church. If one a day stepped up to help, they would only have to do so once every three months.

But no. These people are so fucking full of themselves that they can't be bothered to provide any sort of physical assistance to their "brother".

Remind me again why I haven't gone to church since I was a kid...

I cannot tell you how much this blog post grieves my heart. Not to excuse anybody from Officer Smith's aunt's church for their failure, but it is more complicated than this, which in many ways makes it even sadder. It means that important aspects of the Gospel message have not been completely transformative.

Giving help requires two participants: A willing helper and a receiving helpee. Christians often fail on both counts. We are often good at the "mouth help"--the "We'll pray for you." and the "If you need anything, just call." We are not good at doing concrete things to give help and the "mouth help" feeds the false independence that some American Christians exhibit. We are afraid to show that we are not perfect, not perfectly strong--we put on the "Yes, yes, everything's fine." face for the gang at church. We don't feel safe enough emotionally at our churches to show that well, we could use a real hand with things right about now. Our American culture, with its stress on independence and self reliance, also makes it hard for us to accept help.

However, this does not excuse the lack of help. Sometimes, you have to come on strong, and step in and give help even when it seems it is not totally welcome. People are very afraid of offending. "What if I help and the person gets mad?" Not terribly likely, really. Think about it, you give competent help, and someone gets mad. Does that even sound sane? No, actually, it sounds like an excuse.

We fail the gospel and God then in two ways: one, we have not created a community that feels safe enough for its members to admit hurts and needs. Two, we have not created a community that actively helps the hurting and needy without reservation. The Church Universal is said to be Jesus Christ on earth, to represent Him, until His return. We fail in that mission when we do not help each other and carry each others' burdens. We need to repent of this failure--admit we've failed and ask God's forgiveness; then in the strength of the Holy Spirit move on, and do what we know is right, what is biblical, and what is Christlike.

Finally, that last sentence. This grieves my heart especially. How can a person see the true nature of Christ, and the wonderful life changing salvation through Him when the Church is in the way? Even for the mature Christian, the Church can get in the way of understanding God's love, with unchristlike conflicts and divisions. Imagine you are seeking, and trying to understand. Imagine you are a young person--with the young's idealism and unerring radar for hypocrisy--looking at the Church. The Church will never be perfect--it is run by finite humans. We, the church, must repent of our lovelessness, judgment, condemnation and laziness. We must ask for the Holy Spirit for help in doing what we know is right. We must make our churches safe places for hurting and needy human beings. We must be Jesus' hands and feet, giving the cup of water in His name. We must continually look to the Lord Jesus Christ as our example. That way, the Church will never obscure the view of the Savior.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stopping to Admire...

There's a spot on a road that I drive on fairly frequently, that I admire from my driver's seat pretty regularly. It features an interesting natural rock formation that creates a little nook. It is always neat to look at, but this winter, because of the snow, it is especially neat, due to the frozen waterfall that is on the rock face. Today, I saw a couple posing for pictures in front of it, and thought to myself, it's about time I photographed this natural beauty that is somewhat taken for granted.

This is what it looks like from the road. When you get up to it, you find that there is a tremendous sound of rushing water. You don't see a tremendous amount of water--it sounds like a lot more, like a burst pipe. I don't know where that water is. However, it's obvious that there is water coming down the hill via this rock formation. It flows through a culvert under the road (which is behind me in this view) and into the nearby small river. I did not expect the sound, which was beautiful, that came with this visual. There will be more on the photo blog after a bit.

Kansas City residents can probably figure out where this is, but I am not saying where here. There is enough trouble with the trolls of the world placing trash in places where trash does not belong...

Earthquake in Haiti: Just One Link for You

U.S. Navy chopper transfers patients from field hospital in the Dominican Republic to more advanced care. (WCAX photo/still)
Television station WCAX out of Burlington VT is one of New England's oldest TV stations; it is family owned. When you watch WCAX's news broadcast, you are struck by how competent, but "unslick" it is. WCAX sent a reporter and camera man along with the team from Fletcher Allen Healthcare when they went to Haiti. They have been airing the reports this week. Check out all the videos at this link here, for a special look at Haiti and the work going on there. Hat tip to Vermont Tiger blog for bringing this to attention.

Less Certainty, Deeper Conviction and Relationship

When the pastor of the church I am currently attending said things like this...

Deep conviction, not deep certainty.
Closer to God, more aware of short comings and faults.
The more you know about God, the more you realize you do not know.
Less certainty, deeper conviction
Not all figured out...God so much bigger...willing to listen to others.
The more you grow, more you know, more you realize that you don't know
Hold fast to convictions...deeper experience with God...recognize that you don't have all the truths.

Well, they've been stuck in my head ever since.

The statements were said in the context of talking about Jesus' enemies, particularly the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the "Religious Right" of Jesus' time; God loving, worshipful, but rule oriented and legalistic. When Jesus first started out, the Pharisees were moderately supportive, but suspicious. As Jesus continued his ministry, and broke more and more of the Pharisees' rules, they began to hate him, and in the end, were part of the group that arranged His death. The pastor was trying to give people some handles on what it was to be a Pharisee, and that pharisee type philosophy was not just a first century phenomenon. He gave two examples: The first was noting that those Christians who actually believe that they have "made it" to complete sanctification are truly not there. Truly holy Christians know that they will never "arrive" on this side of Heaven. The other was the way that the "Christian Right" and the "Christian Left" (yes, there is a Christian Left) have their positions and their certainties, and that they are correct and no one else could possibly be more correct then they are.

I have felt this leavening effect both in my faith and in my political positions. It does not help me much with political thought, since my thoughts are so, not "mushy", but so "in process". I'm a terrible debater anyway, having not been trained in forensics (debate, not CSI), but this has made me even worse. Sometimes, I think to myself, "That ain't right. I can't tell you why, but that ain't right." At least, with theology, I have some training and vocabulary, backed with a little bit of philosophical training. I know my convictions that provide the basis for and of my Christian faith. Who Jesus Christ is. The Bible's inspiration. The importance of repentance, the reality of grace through the work of Christ on the cross, His sacrifice. The way the Holy Spirit works in the believer's life, etc. However, I don't know all the details of how the Trinity works. I can tell you the different theories of soteriology (the study of salvation) but as far as which one is right, not so much. I agree with CS Lewis: If you hear one, and it makes sense, it makes it live for you, then that is the theory for you. I also have come to believe that while it is much better to make salvation certain by a repentance and commitment to follow Christ, the love of God for Man and the strong effect of the Cross may cause some people that will be unexpected to end up in Heaven. It is not my business to say if someone is saved; it is my business to witness about Christ, and what He has done for me and others, so that more may hear and have a clear opportunity to understand. That other stuff is "above my pay grade." and so I leave it to God. The whole predestination and how much we participate in our salvation thing--one of the major differences between the Wesleyan/Arminian/Methodist et. al. traditions and the Calvinist/Reformed/Baptist traditions--none of us know for sure, and no one should be ruled out of the Kingdom of God for holding one position over the other. Same with issues surrounding Holy Communion and the method of water baptism (total immersion verses pouring verses dripping, to put it simply, and the other controversy, adult baptism verses infant baptism). The more I learn about the Christian faith, the more I realize there is much that is not known for certain. The Bible, for us fallible, finite humans, is not always clear. We see unclearly. Only when we get to Heaven, will we know for sure. Then it won't matter as much, since we will be worshiping and loving God face to face. I must admit, I am looking forward to that.

Wayside Waifs: New Dog Kennels Coming Along

As you can see from these pictures, Wayside Waifs has progressed past the big empty room stage, and some of the new kennels are installed. Notice the lack of wire, and bright colors. They are definitely different! Although this animal lover will miss being able to rub dog noses, and feed treats through the wire, less public contact is actually healthier for the dogs as they will not come in contact with germs via people's hands. Ribbon cutting is scheduled for a week from Tuesday, February 23rd.

More good news also, in that the two dogs I featured in my last Wayside Waifs post have both been adopted. I am not sure about the kitty.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Miss Me Yet?

I think it was a caller to Rush Limbaugh who confirmed the presence of this billboard on I-35 between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Duluth MN. (In fact, she sounded like a relative of mine, except said relative would be a little upset--on the political spectrum she's quite left.) Through the wonders of the interwebs, we find this photo and this article about it. You should read the comments with the article. I am not surprised that there are many liberal comments condemning the billboard--Minnesota is basically a liberal state. However, conservatives come to play too, and make several comments.

In fact, if the billboard and article comments show anything, they show how polarized this country is politically and how hard it is to talk to each other about issues.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Notes on the Super Bowl Commercials

1. Focus on the Family's spot with Tim Tebow and his mom remarkably light hearted. I was expecting something more didactic.

2. Volkswagen commercial with folks punching each other in the arm when they see a VW and pronouncing its color gets a big laugh from the people I am with.

3. What is with that? Two ads featuring people running around in their underwear running one right after the other?

4. Google ad sweet natured; people give positive response.

5. Hate the GoDaddy ads, all of them.

6. Audi ad with "Green Police" frightening. I hoard incandescent light bulbs!

7. Bud Light ads uneven. Some are fun, like the crashed plane one; others make people look stupid or thick headed.

8. For third year in a row, the game is much better then the ads.

9. Men look like beaten doofuses in many of the ads, women like fun killing shrews.

10. Good to see Chrysler doing ads again. They will, however, hear it about the Dodge ad. The car, by the way, is off the hook. I love the big black Charger. It makes an awesome police car too.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lawyers Are Running (and Ruining) the World

I was meditating on my reply to Ann T.'s thoughtful post on women's magazines just now. Tonight I am using the WiFi at Barnes and Noble, and while thinking, I thought, hey, get a couple photos of the mags on display, that would be cool. Well, I ran over and snapped a couple pics. After I snapped the last one, a store employee came over and said I couldn't take pictures "copyright laws". Excuse me? You can't see any one cover clearly and the photos were taken with a $90 camera at a distance of six feet! "Well, you can't take any pictures in the store. You have to get permission from corporate." I said, well, OK, I'll delete them right here. And I might have.

Lawyers are scary. They can really hurt you. But this is bullshit. Simple photos for private use. A reference to use to pick out especially egregious examples of the claptrap that is in women's magazines. Maybe, I might put one in the blog entry as an illustration. There is no charge to read the blog. I would have accomplished the same thing if I had taken notes, or seen the rags in the library. I do understand protecting creative product. However, there is also a concept called "fair use." The whole thing was a pretty much a customer service fail as far as I am concerned, a heavy handed application of "principle." That B&N worker should remember that Borders has books, mags and WiFi too.

Not too long ago, a women in the Chicago area was arrested for copyright issues when four minutes of the movie "Twilight" she, her sister and her BFFs were watching showed in the background of a video she shot of the group singing happy birthday. Thankfully, the movie theater came to their senses and dropped the charges about a week later, but still, to even think for a minute she was trying to commit a crime is just absurd.

Old joke: What's the difference between the scene where a skunk got hit by a car and where a lawyer got hit by a car? There are skid marks before the skunk was hit.

More Snow?

Maybe some more of this coming Sunday night-Monday morning...
Well, the weather gurus are predicting more snow for the Kansas City area. This storm could miss us to the south, but the National Weather Service has issued Winter Storm Watches effective Sunday night through Monday night for the metro five county area as well as areas to the south, clear down to the Arkansas border, and two counties deep into Arkansas. We could get six inches or more, again. Then the storm will move on to the Mid Atlantic area, where I am sure it will be welcomed...

With regard to the Washington/Baltimore area...
record event report
National Weather Service Baltimore MD/Washington DC
630 PM Sat Feb 06 2010

... Preliminary indications of two-day storm snowfall record exceeded
at Baltimore/Washington international thurgood Marshall Airport...

At 4:54 PM EST this afternoon... a 24.8 inch two-day storm total
snowfall was estimated at Baltimore/Washington international
thurgood Marshall Airport.

What will happen once she gets it out? (Credit: wunderground's blog)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snow Came Today

Well, after futzing around for about 24 hours, the snows finally came to Kansas City. Starting this morning, and lasting til about 1530, it snowed hard, with big flakes. It was a pretty snow, sticking to everything. In addition, as it was around freezing, it was not hard for the street and highway crews to keep things passable. We'll have to be very careful later tonight, when the temperature drops below freezing, especially on bridges and overpasses. Here are some photos of today's snow, all taken this afternoon between 1400 and 1430. (Then I had to shovel!)

One of my neighbors is shoveling too.
Snow covered tree branches started shedding their burden when a slight breeze came up.
Looking towards my neighbor's house, you can see the flakes aflyin'
It snowed about this much...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

To Snow or Not To Snow, That Is the Question.

Being a meteorologist in the public venue, either by working for media, or being one who issues forecasts for the National Weather Service, has to be one of the most thankless tasks ever. The forecasting has certainly gotten better over the years, and detection of tornadoes and other severe weather using Doppler radar has saved countless lives. Still, predicting the weather remains, at best, a tricky business. You can look like a genius one day, and a total idiot the next. Our weather here in Kansas City today and for the next four or five days is a perfect example. Take today...the weather service and most of the weatherpeople thought that it would start with some precipitation this afternoon, and continuing through the night, with possibly an inch or two on the ground Friday morning. I just stepped outside, at 1554 CST, and it is cloudy, and cool and not precipitating whatsoever. In fact, I have seen no precip today, except for 5 minutes of something over in Overland Park, when I had to run an errand. A look at the radar reveals that the precip is coming up from the south, and is all around us, but Kansas City itself is the hole in the precipitation doughnut.

The radar at 1600. There we are in the middle, the place with nothing going on. Radar image from MSN.

And then there's this, from the scientific weather briefing from the weather service, included on

Typical February winter storm playing out across the region this afternoon and through the upcoming 30 hours...with forcing issues...thermal issues...and track issues all present.

So, maybe it will snow around here today and tomorrow, or maybe it won't. We'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Social Rejection

I noticed this health news item on Fox News, but it can be found elsewhere. The Rush NeuroBehavioral Center has done research that indicates that kids that struggle with making friends and other aspects of social relationships at the school age are at higher risk for problems later in life. A quote: “Children’s ability to develop positive peer relationships is critical to their well-being,” said Dr. Clark McKown, study principal investigator and associate executive director and research director at the Rush NeuroBehavioral Center. “Compared to children who are accepted by their peers, socially rejected children are at substantially elevated risk for later adjustment troubles.” Here's more: The studies indicate that some children have difficulty picking up on non-verbal or social cues.

According to McKown, “They simply don’t notice the way someone’s shoulders slump with disappointment, or hear the change in someone’s voice when they are excited, or take in whether a person’s face shows anger or sadness.” A second major factor is that some children may pick up on non-verbal or social cues, but lack the ability to attach meaning to them. The third factor is the ability to reason about social problems. “Some children may notice social cues and understand what is happening, but are unable to do the social problem solving to behave appropriately,” said McKown. And finally: “The number of children who cannot negotiate all these steps, and who are at risk of social rejection, is startling,” said McKown. Nearly 13 percent of the school age population, or roughly four million children nationwide, have social-emotional learning difficulties.

Well, count me among the 13%. I spent my elementary school years either being ignored, or being picked on. I could never figure out what was going on; I was wildly reactive to everything, and got nailed for that too. I am still something of a social misfit. I struggle with first time meetings, making deeper friendships, how to take things and group dynamics even now. I have learned a lot through sorry experience, but I would still count myself among those with "adjustment troubles." One wonders why the troubles continue; is it needing some different training and thinking, and something along the line of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would work? Or does the early trauma and struggle leave actual physical pathways in the neurons of the brain, making it always a little harder to make the observations and judgements required to be competent in social situations?

I like the part in the news articles about what parents should do: not be embarrassed, panic, be angry or offer stupid ass suggestions like "Just let it roll off your back." (It still irks me, this response from my folks.)--parents can actually do some teaching to help their kids. And if you are a parent, and your kid is struggling--no friends, being picked on and bullied--don't just sit there, help your kid out. Seek professional help if you have to. You'll save your child a lot of work and angst later on. Trust me.

Wayside Waifs Wednesday

Wayside Waifs, one of our local animal shelters here in Kansas City has been undergoing some renovation since the new year. They are going to have new dog kennels. As you can see below, all the old wire kennels have been removed from the dog area at the shelter. Also, the small rooms in the middle, used for meeting and greeting dogs are going to get windows in them. It's a work in progress!

I never realized this room was this big!

Despite the construction, the shelter is open, although with fewer animals in the shelter then usual--many animals are spending time in foster homes to keep space open in the shelter for construction needs. However, there are still plenty of animals available for a look see at the shelter. Dogs are over in holding temporarily and cats in the usual spot.

Scorpio, a senior cat at 8 years, but she loves to play!
Meet Carmi, an almost 2 year old female lab mix. She has really l-o-n-g legs, maybe some Great Dane in there? Very nice dog.

This is Kelvin, a 2 year old pointer mix. Don't worry, he's not muzzled; that's a Gentle Leader, used to help dogs who pull a lot on the lead.

Carmi and Kelvin have a YouTube video!

Wayside Waifs is at 3901 Martha Truman Road in Kansas City. The phone is 816-761-8151. Hours are Weds-Fri 2 pm-8 pm and Sat-Sun 12noon-6 pm. On the web at

Monday, February 1, 2010

On the Press Coverage of Crime

We had a horrible weekend when it came to gun related violence here in Kansas City. It was one of those weekends where you start to believe all that stuff about full moons. (Researchers swear it makes no differences in crime rates, ER visits, etc. but I dunno...) Three different locations in KCMO, 6 shot, one fatally, all on Saturday night--really Sunday morning as all were after midnight.

I knew about one of the shootings, the fatal one on Jackson Avenue, due to having my scanner on at just that time. I turned it off before I found out what the outcome was, and when I was up in the morning I went to check news to find out what had happened. There was a short story on NBC Action News (KSHB) on all three shootings. There was nothing anywhere else, including the Kansas City Star. In fact, there was nothing on the Star's webpage until the afternoon hours. This fatal shooting had happened at 0140! So it took over 8 hours for it to appear on the paper's website. Meantime, all the media was just full of news of the Waldo rapist. In addition, there were stories on KCTV5 about car break-ins in the Crossroads neighborhood.

I understand that murder on the East Side of Kansas City Missouri is not as appealing or compelling as rape or even the rash of car break-ins. The East Side is where most violence in our town takes place. It is not uncommon for people to be killed there. I do think also, that race does play a role in the news coverage. I don't know the demographics for sure but I wouldn't be surprised that most consumers of news media are White. This would be especially true of the daily paper. People are much more stirred by news that affects people who look like them, and live in or near their neighborhoods. Most killings on the East Side involve Black people. This means that White viewers/readers may not find the news of killings on the East Side very compelling. News broadcasts today are about ratings and eyeballs at least as much--if not more--then keeping people informed. While murder is a horrible crime, for the White reader/viewer it is not happening to me and mine: the rapes and break-ins, now those are nearer to me and my people. Murder of Black people does not compel and thus, has lower ratings.

To me, these shootings, particularly the fatal shooting, and the shooting on Southwest Boulevard that was a drive-by that injured two people at a food service truck, were and are really quite newsworthy and noteworthy. Lost of life should never be glossed over; it should always lead the crime report, if not the news cast. The second completely random shooting should be news because it points to a danger that should not be: that a completely innocent activity, like getting a snack, can result in life threatening injury.

Editors make choices and those choices reflect values and priorities. The problem comes when something big, like the amount of gun violence and the number of murders happening in Kansas City appears to be downplayed, and less severe crime situations are publicized as they seem more compelling due to the nature of the victims and the man-bites-dog phenomenon. The temptation then becomes for the majority community--White folks--to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to the problem of violence and murder in this whole community. This simply cannot happen. When someone is murdered, they are gone. All the potential they had is snuffed out. It is a loss no matter what part of the community it happens in, and murder deserves the attention of this whole city, no matter of location and race. It is as a whole community that actions will be taken to reduce the murder rate--through improving education and opportunity, better police work and increased police resources, or whatever it may take to reduce the number of people who lose their lives needlessly to violence.

L-1011 Flies Into Downtown/Wheeler Airport

I don't know, color me weird, but I like machines. I especially like seeing old machines, saved from the scrap heap, put out where people can see them. If they run, so much the better. It's like seeing history live in front of you. And of course, it brings back memories. This past weekend, a L-1011 jet flew into the downtown/Wheeler Airport so it could go to the Airline History Museum. This was one of the last of these jumbo jets, built by the Lockheed Corporation, still in one piece, and able to fly. It set the museum back a chunk of change, but it is regarded as an excellent find, and much of the initial cost was donated to the museum.

The L-1011 was the jumbo jet that TWA used and was an important part of their fleet. I flew on an L-1011 once, from the U.S. to Venezuela, in 1988 under Pan American livery. It is an enormous plane, in the category of DC-10s and 747s. I was in the middle of the middle, but it wasn't a bad ride, other then I had to annoy 3 people if I needed to use the rest room. Many people, including lots of retired TWA folks, turned out to see the plane come into the airport. Not only is the downtown airport no longer the main airport for KC--it now serves mainly corporate and private aviation--but rarely, even up at KCI, do jumbos come to town. In fact, if a jumbo jet makes an appearance in KC, it is likely under the livery of UPS or FedEx. All in all, this was not your average plane arrival at the downtown airport. I hope to get down (up, actually; it's north of me) to the museum. By all accounts it is one of the best of its kind, with the L-1011 joining the DC-3, a Martin and the Constellation as airplanes on permanent display, along with TWA memorabilia, gear and other things aviation related.

On approach: The L-1011 gets ready to land.
Taxiing to the museum. In the background is the tower of North Kansas City Hospital, on the other side of the Missouri River. (Photos from the Kansas City Star)

KSHB: Massive Airliner Lands in Kansas City--this includes a video which you must see.