Wednesday, September 28, 2011

South KC Drivers Fail

The above snipped from a Google satellite view, is a traffic circle, or roundabout, in south Kansas City. It is at the junction of the entrance to the shopping area at 133rd and State Line Road and Inverness Drive. Inverness goes between 135th Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard. It is something of a shortcut if you are coing to the Wal-Mart or Lowes from the north and/or east. Traffic circles like this one are used to slow traffic down and permit turns without making everyone stop all the time. Customarily they show yield signs as you approach them, and you do not need to stop unless someone is already in the circle, making their way towards you. Today, I had errands at this Wal-Mart and other businesses in the area. When I came to the traffic circle, I noticed something different.
Stop signs. Stop signs? Yes, stop signs, in each direction. Northbound on Inverness. Southbound on Inverness. Proceeding eastbound from the shopping area. Why? Putting stop signs here sort of negates the building of a traffic circle/roundabout thingy.
Now, the presence of these stop signs could mean that the police determined that there was too much volume to use the traffic circle method of control. In a similar vein, the PD could have decided that there were too many crashes at the location. The cynic might suggest that stop signs increased the revenue potential of the intersection by making it easier to find violations to write tickets for.
As one who learned to drive in a different area, I can tell you that KC metro drivers are not the brightest bulbs in the box. And I have seen drivers struggle with traffic circles as they become more numerous around the metro. The appearance of stop signs at this intersection is a bit of an indication of driver failure to me--that KC drivers could not handle the decision making and attention required by a traffic circle.

Bring back Driver's Ed!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stop Giving Ground

Retreat Not The Answer
I just finished reading a blog post and comments that talk about increasing fights and problems in the Power and Light district. It was discouraging that so many feel it is going to get worse there with bad behavior and most people won't go resulting in the failure and abandonment of the project. Near the end of the comment thread one person called out everyone for being negative. The response: we call it as we see it.
I got to thinking: we just can't keep giving ground to the shitheels of the world. If the decent person's response to crap is completely dedicated to running away from it, nothing will ever get done. It is like not ever taking the trash out of your house, then moving because every room has trash in it. "We call it as we see it" is the same as saying, "Well there's trash in here".
The thing is standing firm and acting proactively has to be done before it gets really bad. There's a point where only the brave, crazy, called or broke will go or end up in a bad neighborhood. Normal people won't put up with it. It is like when the trash gets deep enough, it is too difficult to do the work and everyone just throws up their hands. So the time to stand up is *before* it gets really bad.
So as to the P & L District: press Cordish to reevaluate the reduction in security--the company made the reduction to save money but they lose money by losing business due to increased thuggish and drunken behavior not properly dealt with--stupid. Write them, tell them stories and let them know they are pennywise/pound foolish. Do we really have to give P & L to the thug element? If we do what is next? The Plaza? Zona Rosa? Independence Center? It has to stop somewhere. We can't keep running. The nasty people of the world are trying to take the world from the decent people and seem to be succeeding while the decent people debate the "decent" response. The time for retreat and discussion has to come to an end. It is time for decent people to make a stand and hold the ground with power--power of all kinds from the rule of law strictly enforced to law abiding citizens carrying concealed weapons to the spiritual community asserting itself. It is time to stand up--in fact it is past time--we have lost a lot by retreating and taking flight and it is time for it to stop.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Time For A News Vacation?

I was chatting with a friend who mentioned the contrast between the peaceful state of her home with the windows all open and the noisy, messy outside world. It made me wonder if it was time for a news fast. Much of the news is depressing and it is hard to feel stable and at peace. Sometimes, I do believe you have to take a break. so here are some non-news items for your consideration:

Puppies! A pile of puppies in a corner at Wayside Waifs await new homes. Mastiff crosses--they will be big.

Funny stuff--America's Funniest Videos--some guy in the Netherlands has put together over 100 hours of pratfalls.

George Carlin, on losing stuff.

Music also, is good for getting grounded again...people's tastes are so varied, I don't know exactly what to post. How about the latest from contemporary Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman? Catchy tune, and lyrics that are timely reminders for Christ followers...

The weather is supposed to be really nice this weekend--get out and enjoy the sun! You will improve your mood and make oodles of healthy Vitamin D.

It will all still be there whenever you decide to come back...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Obama Time

Monday, President Barack Obama gave a short speech. He was late. I made this note on Facebook.

It is a small thing in the end but it is something that decreases trust and hurts credibility: Obama always being late--if you say that you are speaking at 0930 and you come out at 0956...that is just not cool. Obama needs to stop being on "Obama time" and rejoin the rest of us on regular time.

I want to go a little further; tardiness is not tolerated in the regular work place at all. If you are late on a repeated basis, most jobs will at least counsel you, if not release you all together. It is disrespectful to those you work with, those who are your customers, and yourself. It reflects a lack of care, consideration and planning that does indeed reflect badly on you. When you are late, you are saying a multitude of things most of which are not good; Disorganization, not having your act together, arrogance and self centeredness, for starters. I know that KMBZ has been inconvenienced by the president's lateness several times; just about all of his daytime speeches end up on "Obama time."

So President Obama, be a man of your word. When you say 9:30 a.m., show up at 9:30 a.m. It means that you are ready, willing and able to competently do your work. That is a standard that the majority of us in your audience have to fulfill daily.

A Crapload of Crap

Wow have we been riding the crap train in Kansas City--and nationally--these last few days newswise. Not one but two (2) incidents of multiple homicide in KCMO--three victims each--over the past few days. Also killings in the Golden Ghetto of JoCo KS. KCMSD losing accreditation. Our big college conference is falling apart-- yes the Big 12 whose championships we often host, who provides the scaffolding for our regional college rivalries--is in serious trouble. Oh yes, our professional sport teams continue to stink, even with the small rays of hope surrounding the Royals.

Nationally we have continued news of a poor economy with the most disheartening being the increasing poverty rate, decreasing middle class and concentration of more wealth among fewer people to the detriment of all-- yes it is a detriment if all the rich do is sit on their money or practice the godless philosophy of Ayn Rand. Politicians and economists are only guessing at what might actually help create the jobs we so desperately need, what would free up private enterprises to decide to hire people. I believe we are in a period of creating an entirely new economic order--doesn't this adjustment period stink? We seriously have to readjust our sights from an economy based on consuming and consumerism to one more inclined to being self sufficient and as self contained as possible, to serving one another, and to feeding into (rather then taking advantage of) hot economies in other parts of the world. There are going to be some hard choices to make, and a lot is against us,

So how is your week so far?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Small Anniversary Coming Up

One year ago September 23, 2010, a small slightly fluffy kitten joined The Observer's household. She was found by a friend of mine--more accurately she found him--when she approached him in a rainy McD's parking lot. She was the size of his hand at the time, slightly rumpled and damp from the rain. She let him collect her, and he presented her to me, knowing I liked cats. I really didn't have plans to acquire a new cat, but I took her, well, because it was 11 at night, and the radar was showing more storms coming.

Photo taken September 24, 2010; the day after the SmallFry, stranded in a McDonald's parking lot, was rescued from thunderstorms. Yes, those are GirlCat death rays in the background.

I called around to see if there was someone who could help me get her to a good home. Everyone had wait lists/no resources yada yada and so there was no help. I didn't name her for several weeks because I was hoping not to get attached, plus, well, I was not coming up with much for names at the time. After about 3 weeks, I figured I better give her a better name than SmallFry and so she got a proper name.

She is a cute cat. She's never gotten very big--she is easily the smallest of my cats. She guards her food with fierce sounding growls, leading me to believe that she lived in a household with many cats, or with dogs. In fact, that growl is something of a trademark. She growls when displeased, rather than meowing. It is funny to hear this mean sounding noise coming from this smidgen of a cat.

I didn't plan on having another cat, but I am glad I was able to get this little one off the street. She is one smart observant little cookie, playful and athletic. A lot of fun and a blessing--a happy one year anniversary.

SmallFry today, pictured outside on the stoop during some supervised outside time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Musings on Race and Race Relations

Back on August 24 the Shanin and Parks radio program asked about the state of race relations in America and if they had gotten better since the election of Barack Obama--or if they had gotten worse. I considered the question, and after a bit poked out this note on my iPhone:

Race relations in a nut shell:
Whites don't trust Blacks not to ruin stuff.
Blacks don't trust Whites not to screw them over.
Both races have really long memories.

To put it positively:
Whites assume that Blacks will ruin stuff.
Blacks assume that Whites will screw them over.
Both groups point to history as their guide.

I let this sit there in my notes for these weeks, one to see how well it aged and two, to see if indeed this is the way it seemed things play out. And I see it, I really do. I would only add one more thing: The expectations often become self fulfilling prophecy. A few people react with the assumptions, and next thing you have group think, and yes! What was expected happened.

We will never be "post racism" in this country, any more than we are "post classicism" here. What we can be and what the country can offer is a playing field that will allow a person to change their situation. We are not India, where your situation is completely dictated by where, when and to whom you are born. People of lower classes and minority races can make great things of themselves in this country. However, we will never move past race if it is flung out as an answer to failure or used to blame or used to get something for nothing.

The issue of racism in the United States is an extremely complex topic that has many facets and many things that keep it from being resolved easily. However, that does not relieve the individual from caring and thinking on the issue. In addition I would say this: it is much harder to maintain certain opinions of people of other races once you have drawn people of different racial backgrounds into your own circle of friends. It is then that you see that they are human, with strengths and weaknesses, just like you.

Oh there is more, so much more, but this is a start. Have to start somewhere.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Story Telling Time: Lost and Found

Yesterday, I decided to take a short walk. A spontaneous decision, no plan, just a quick walk around the block, about a fourth of a mile. Off I went...but first talked to the guys painting the house two doors down about spray painters...

Then...walked down my street, turned the corner, walked down that street, turned another corner, started walking down that street. Looking around, checking out the scenery. Something caught my eye lying in the curb area at the foot of a driveway. I went over to look. Keys--someone's keys. Two car keys, branded Pontiac, a carabiner, a purple tag. I considered what to do with them for a few moments. I ended up laying them down again, thinking I would come back. Started down the street again, stopped to read the signs on a vacant house (the dreaded foreclosure triad...) and continued. Greeted an enthusiastic Husky dog, petted and admired him, then continued down the street. As I looked ahead, I could see a young couple walking around a car, occasionally poking at the windows. Could it be? The car was a...Pontiac! Are you kidding me?!

I stopped: "Are you missing some keys for a Pontiac? I found some up the street..." She looks up, startled. "I went for a walk a couple days ago--they've been missing since. I drove around and looked yesterday, didn't see anything. Did they have purple on them?" "Yes, a purple tag. I laid them back down cause I wasn't sure what I was going to do. They are right there in front of the house with the signs on it." We walked back to the house in question. I bent down and scooped up the wayward keys, held them up. "Are they...?" "Oh yes! Wow!" We walked back to the Pontiac and she opened it up. I continued on, amazed at the timing. Not just that I spontaneously decided to take a walk...What painters two doors foreclosed house to get nosy dog to stop and visit with...?

Today, I found someone's cell phone in the bathroom at the library. Unfortunately I had to turn it in at the desk...

Pontiac photo for illustration...not the exact car in question.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just a Little Chiefs Analysis...

One of three TD passes the Chiefs allowed Sunday...

The Chiefs were really bad on Sunday, yes they were, and many many words have been spoken, written and typed over the past couple days about the game. Here is my take:
1. You are never as good as your best game and as bad as your worse game. This team may not be very good, but they are not as bad as they looked on Sunday.
2. The needs that were not addressed in the off season are still there. Offense and defensive lines are bad and did not get better.
3. As much as we would like to lay a lot of blame at the feet of the coach and the players, I am beginning to question the general manager instead. Scott Pioli has some work to do. He has some explaining to do, but he doesn't 'splain so I will just settle for him to fix this mess.
We didn't draft to need, and we didn't spend the money we have. That is not the way to build a winner. When draft time and "silly season" come around the Chiefs need to be smarter. Small market teams cannot afford stupidity.
4. Clark Hunt, quit trying to run the team on a shoe string. A winning team will make money for you. If you are hoping to be just good enough to generate hope, the hope that keeps people going to the stadium in large numbers, and not take the actions that lead to the next level of performance, then I do hope that those inclined to go to the stadium piss on your expensive tickets and ridiculous parking fee and not go.
When I moved to Kansas City, the Chiefs were just getting good under Carl Peterson. The city really came together over the team and it was like a college atmosphere. That good will has been drained away over the past 10 years or so of losing and seeming not to know how to stop losing. Good organizations are willing to do what it takes to stop losing--that includes taking some reasonable chances and not being afraid to spend money.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: That Moment

It was just another call, routine for any fire department in any city, on a day that looked much like the days before...

There are places you expect to hear the roar of jet engines overhead. In this city, certain wind patterns and runway assignments will take planes right over the economy parking area. You will hear the roar of engines and not think anything of it--you are at the airport, you should hear planes up close and personal. You do not expect to hear that sound standing in the streets of lower Manhattan...

The video is a chunk of the documentary 9/11 by two French filmmakers and an FDNY firefighter. The point where life changes starts at the 7:15 mark--0846 eastern time September 11, 2001.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lower Manhattan, 1972/73

Taken from the Statue of Liberty ferry, on a cloudy, windy late fall or early spring day. If you enlarge by clicking on the picture, you will see a building skeleton to the right of the Trade Center--it is either 7 World Trade or the Deutsche Bank building.

I always thought that lower Manhattan would look, more or less like this, for my lifetime...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Belton August Cruise Pics

I always take in the great Belton cruise at least once during the cruise season...and take plenty of photos. Today, we celebrate fins!
Oh, Christine. Christine?

Here is a nice looking Ford...

...with some bad interior decorating. I would have to cover this up on a long drive!

Everyone have a great weekend. And don't feel guilty if you remember where you were on September 11, 2001 and post it on your Facebook page, Everyone remembers differently, if you know what I mean. Cynics need not apply today.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Debbie Wasserman Schulz More Evasive Than Jamaal Charles

This right here is why politicians are not well regarded and also why I would make a terrible politician.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz absolutely refuses to answer any question about the speech that James Hoffa gave in Detroit on Labor Day where Mr. Hoffa used some inflammatory language. She slides instead into some boilerplate answer about working on jobs (I am wondering if she might even be reading the answer off cue cards, especially in the first 45 seconds or so as she is seemingly unable to leave her eyes in one place.), and totally evades the question. When further pressed, she starts talking about the Tea Party's language.

Look, if you don't want to answer a given question, just say so. To evade, evade, evade, and ad hominium attack, just makes you look either stupid or duplicitous or both. There is a point where she says she would like to answer the question (1:53). One wonders how she might have answered the question about Hoffa if she could have talked straight. Maybe she would have said something like, "Jeez, that Hoffa is such a frigging buffoon. I told the President not to be near this union thug, that he would embarrass us. I hate being right." or the opposite, "We love it, I thought Hoffa rocks, he said what we are all thinking. " It doesn't matter which way it would fall, since we would never hear such straightforward honesty from a sitting politician.

Why I could never be a pol--I'd either answer the question straight or tell you straight that I had absolutely no intention of answering that question no matter how many times it was asked!

Monday, September 5, 2011

First Family Church: Caught in Sin

The First Family Church, at one time one of the fastest growing churches in the Kansas City area, has had its building foreclosed on and is having to leave. The church was staggered by the revelation of some questionable stewardship in 2007 and between the reduction of income that was the result of decreased attendance and the economic factors, the church became unable to meet its obligations on its large building and campus in southern Overland Park, KS. FFC was/is a non-denominational church. Its ministry revolved around one Jerry Johnston, its dynamic pastor. Pastor Johnston was a dynamic preacher and he attracted people to the church to hear him.

Accountability for churches and their leaders has to be first rate. Mishandling money is stealing from both God and people. Transparency is the best policy. To me, FFC always was a church that could be at risk for problems. It was a church that centered on one person, it was an independent church, so it was not accountable to a denominational structure, and it practiced both nepotism and opaque accounting, so it was hard for people to see what was going on. I have always gone to churches that are part of a denominational structure, (The Methodist Church calls it a connection--a good name I think.) and I believe it is a good thing for the most part.

A church leadership that plays games with money, whose leaders live a life of luxury, is a leadership and a church that will fall. Such things will be exposed. Sound financial stewardship and integrity are essential to a church's witness. People, being people, will put leaders up onpedestals and instead of worshiping God will worship a leader--essentially making an idol. A charismatic leader without accountability runs the substantial risk of his group drifting from church to cult as the leader begins to feel himself as powerful and important as God Himself.

When churches and leaders fail and fall like FFC has, it hurts the ministry of all Christian churches. A trust is broken. Yet another barrier is erected between non-believers and the story of Jesus Christ and the restoration of Humanity to fellowship with God. Every precaution must be taken to keep the church from straying into risky and possibly sinful practices, and when sin is found, it must be ruthlessly confronted and stopped. This is the only way.

Seriously, it must break God's heart when His church commits sins.

Visit this site, for history of FFC's troubles.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day

Tomorrow Labor Day will be celebrated. Some places celebrate it with vigor--New York Labor Day parades are among the biggest of the year--and some quietly. It is a good time to take stock of where are we in the world of labor these days?

In the early days of the industrial revolution, workers were frequently abused with long hours and poor working conditions. Workers in mines, steel plants, and textile mills fought for their right to organize and negotiate as a group with management. It was often a violent confrontation, with workers striking and making production a challenge and management fighting back, sometimes violently, sometimes with the threat of retaliation and job loss. At the same time, the press of the day began to expose industrial conditions. Between the pressure from organized workers and exposes from journos, the government began to step in with work rules. The landscape of work changed. The change washed into new industries such as the automobile plant, not always peacefully, as workers tried to deal with the new world of the assembly line. Somewhere along the road public employees became unionized. Frankly, my history is a little fuzzy on the whens and whys, but they did. You would think the government would treat workers well enough to avoid unions, but evidently not. Either that or they wanted the same goodies as the private sector workers.

Now here we are about 100 years later. Many of the industries that had bloody worker/management battles are greatly shrunken from their early and mid 20th century glory. Unions are on the wane, the need for them questioned. Yet the American worker is not experiencing great prosperity. Instead of a stable middle class living, workers are having to bounce from job to job as industries contract due to technology or shifting work to foreign lands with fewer regulations and a non-union workforce. Private corporations seem to have become dedicated only to creating wealth for large stock holders and the bosses. The sense of the greater good seems to have been lost somewhere along the road to profit and doing it cheaper.

Now we have employers writing their help wanteds to include "no unemployed need apply" and everyone is expected to be perfect in their "soft skills". Unemployed workers are discouraged, their self esteem lowered, their hope savaged. We lament that we don't make anything anymore. Many lay the fault for that at the feet of the union, saying union greed and rules made American labor too expensive and bound up in red tape. We ourselves also may have hurt ourselves in seeking bargains--turning our backs on American goods as they became more expensive and of poorer quality than comparable goods from overseas. Once companies realized that they could save money and still compete, it was all but over for large parts of the American industrial base.

I see this paradox today: unions did good, but then seemed to hurt the very industries and companies that caused them to flourish. However, it seems the American worker is hurting too, with hiring so slow, and done on an employer's tightly constrained playing field; employed workers doing much more work now, often saddled with mandatory overtime and constricted vacations--things that we took for granted. Real pay for the majority of workers has not kept up with inflation over the past couple of decades. Corporations get bigger and more multinational, less responsive to local concerns. It seems as if workers need to gain more power somehow, so that they are not just seen as cogs in the machine, their "soft skills" insuring that they will not make trouble, their fear of losing everything keeping them quiet in their places.

I can hear people saying that companies were not created to provide jobs, they were created to show profits for their owners. I hear people when they talk about how our free enterprise capitalist system has created so much innovation. Yet what I see now is a system out of balance, tilted towards the benefit of management and stock holders, not workers and customers. It is not any more morally right than 18 hour days and child labor.

I have to wonder, with such conditions, if people looking for a soft place to land have begun looking towards the government more and more. Whether it is that unionized government job, unemployment payments or disability status, people are looking for a soft place to land. More and more, that is not seen as something that comes out as a product of the free market system. I do not believe that is a good thing.

I don't have an answer, and there is a lot of noise and screaming coming from both the left and right, demonizing someone or another--corporations, the government, yada yada. Meantime, I think on the parable of the Good Samaritan and the instruction to love the neighbor as oneself and to be neighborly is to do acts of mercy.

And a happy Labor Day to you too.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Something Else Not Allowed on Planes

It is time for a funny story or a ridiculous one, depending on your point of view.

I have friends who went off for a conference in California a few weeks ago. Like all conferences, it was fun and inspiring and chock full of good ideas to take home. As part of the conference, the attendees were given little souvenir gigaws, some of which illustrated concepts that were discussed. One of the souvenirs was a little wood baseball bat, similar to the ones you can get at the ball park. Similar to these I found at the Bargain Factory in Grandview the other day. Now, some folks had to leave early before all the events were concluded. They packed up all their personals, including their souvenir bats and headed off to the airport.

I bet you know where this is going.

Word began filtering back to the conference site: pack your little bats
in your checked bag, or send them home by post or carrier. Because they seemed to be not allowed on the plane. When I heard this tale, I just burst out laughing. There is no end to the TSA and the stories it generates. Now, I suppose that the little bats could be used as weapons or to conceal a weapon, but it seemed a bit foolish to ban them. The x-ray machine would penetrate the wood, and the explosives detector would sense flammables assuming the TSA was using them correctly. Unless you are a ninja, they are really too small to do much harm in and of themselves.

In the ten years since 9/11, what is one of the things that has changed the most? Traveling by air.