Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Patrick's First Communion

Stardate 59053.0
Not to sound like a malcontent in the last post. It was a little rant. I just get riled by the constant diatribe on how our children are not getting a good education and failing all over. I don’t see a solution proposed in any of these finger-pointing. Of course, the solutions are as varied as the students.

First Communion for Patrick went very well. April’s brother Ric flew out, and we took him to the Golden Spike Monument on Saturday. The weather turned cold, but we stayed long enough to see one of the locomotives steam back and forth. Sunday we went to brunch as Snowbasin. It was snowing there, so we were the only ones there for most of it. On to the mass at St. Rose of Lima. Patrick managed to hold on to his smart mouth, and did well. We had a small party at our house afterwards. We originally planned to have it outside under our new patio, but as I said, the weather turned cold. You can’t control that, so we moved indoors.

Monday we took Ric to Timpanogas Cave. He found it on the Internet, and wanted to go. We explained that yeah, the hike was only a mile and a half, but it also went up 1000 feet. I don’t think he quite got that until he started up. The ranger that guided us through was a little surly. The cave itself seemed a little smaller than I last remembered.

The patio was a project started in March. The contractor estimated a week to do it, but due to problems with his truck, a lot of rain, and some other things it got finished last week. It’s pretty impressive, and although I will go on record as being not enthusiastic about it, I like it now. April has plans for a baby shower for a coworker.

End Of Entry

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Statistical Rant

Stardate 59052.6
One of those things I was going to post a while back. You’ve seen something like this a few times, I imagine. They interview 510 people for the results. Not to derogate the article, but 510 is not a statistical sample, and I would judge the results otiose.

My commentary on some of the ‘findings’:
“One-third of respondents couldn’t pinpoint Louisiana on a map and 48 percent were unable to locate Mississippi.”
The obvious follow up question is, which group is larger? I hate when the notation changes. What map was shown? A world map, a US map, a street map of L.A.? I’ll admit to having trouble finding either state on the last one. Is Louisiana a more popular state than Mississippi? Which would they find easier to spell? Can those same 510 respondents pick out Taylor Hicks’ home state?

“Fewer than three in 10 think it important to know the locations of countries in the news and just 14 percent believe speaking another language is a necessary skill.”

There’s another notation change again. Has geography ever been a popular subject? What percentage of US citizens speak another language? Si habla Espanol? Sprechen sie Deustch? thlingon Hol da’ja’a? Perhaps the networks should broadcast news in a different language each day. Monday is English, Tuesday is Spanish, Wednesday is Hindi, Thursday is Mandarin Chinese, and Friday is Russian. Or the language of the broadcast is done in the language of the news story, i.e. Farsi for Iraq stories, English with a Texan drawl for President Bush.

“Six in 10 could not find Iraq on a map of the Middle East.”

”While the outsourcing of jobs to India has been a major U.S. business story, 47 percent could not find the Indian subcontinent on a map of Asia.”

”While Israeli-Palestinian strife has been in the news for the entire lives of the respondents, 75 percent were unable to locate Israel on a map of the Middle East.”

Was the response “I don’t know”, or did they miss by some small margin? Is no one listening to news? CNN does show maps.

“Nearly three-quarters incorrectly named English as the most widely spoken native language.”

The fourth quarter didn’t speak English natively. I would expect bias toward the language you speak. I also suspect if you had them rank the most widely spoken native languages, English would be first, followed by Spanish.

“Six in 10 did not know the border between North and South Korea is the most heavily fortified in the world. Thirty percent thought the most heavily fortified border was between the United States and Mexico.”

Ok, before this, my designation would have been one of the six, and I don’t exactly fill out a catsuit like Seven of Nine. My first answer would have been Sino-Russian, or maybe India-Pakistan. Are they sure the thirty percent were not expressing a wish?

So what’s the answer? Is our educational system broken? I’d answer yes, but I don’t have a better one in mind. Mass dumping of information on a group will ALWAYS leave some of the group out. That’s one of the problems with individualism, no two learn the same way or at the same rate. I can see incontrovertible evidence of this in my own children.

End Of Entry

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Favorties Challenge

Stardate 59052.4
Carl issued a challenge on his blog for a list of local Favorites. Here is my list:

Favorite Radio Station: KUER. I listen to NPR on the commute. I occasionally listen to Doug Fabezio (sp?) with podcasts.
Favorite TV station: KSL has Mark Eubank, indisputably the best weatherman.
Favorite Grocery: Albertsons is the one I frequent the most, followed by Smiths.
Favorite Home Improvement Store: Despite the problems, I still go to Home Depot. Especially now that there is one 2 minutes from my house.
Favorite Newspaper: Standard-Examiner. Ok, I read the comics and the editorials, and little else.
Favorite Local Personality: Charles Trentelman, the Wasatch Rambler. I guess I do read more in the newspaper.

The list is more multifarious than that, but that’s all I can come up with at the moment. It’s also protean. Things change, and sometimes I am not happy with the new form.

Tuesday Patrick had a First Communion luncheon at school. The priest was strange. He didn’t seem to know what he was doing, was rather torpid, and rambled on quite a bit. I don’t think kids from 5-8 are really interested in a complete history of the Eucharist, and when the explanation wandered from the Last Supper in one sentence to a Papal decision a hundred years ago in the next, the point gets lost.

That evening was the last Youth Religious Education class before his First Communion. Patrick, April, and I are all happy to see it over with. We still have Thomas, but that’s a couple of years yet. He then had to race to Cub Scouts to bridge from a Wolf to a Bear. I guy was there from the BSA council, and he went on and on about fundraising and donations. That would have been fine, and he made it pretty fun, but Patrick also had a softball game. We had to cut out of scouts early to get to it. We still missed the first inning. Patrick wanted to do this game because the other team had a lot of his classmates on it. The teams played by slightly different rules. For example, we played with the standard three strikes and you are out, they kept pitching until the batter hit the ball. It got straightened out, but there was some resentment from some of the parents on our team. I was of the same opinion as the guy who is the husband of Rachel’s soccer coach; it’s a game, and as long as they are having fun, it’s good. Patrick did well, getting hits each time at bat. He was a little disappointed about being tagged out at second the first time he was up, but since the batter behind him hit the ball to the base, there was little he could do.

Rachel wrapped up her bowling league that night. By the accounts I received, she has improved. When she started, she was scoring 20-25 per game, mostly getting gutter balls. She won’t tell me what she scored the last game, but I heard it was in the 60s.

There was a piece on MSN science about research into lawns that do not have to be mowed. This was just after getting my new lawn mower, I thought that was a good idea, and if they can make it so you don’t have to water it, then it would just about be perfect. Then it occurred to me that this would be Astroturf.

End Of Entry

Monday, May 22, 2006


Stardate 59052.2
Ok, I had planned on a few more entries, but as per usual, the plans were messed up. Tuesday night was futility spent trying to get some sleep. My skin had broken out in a rash that itched like crazy. I tried a number of creams, lotions, and such to no effect. Thursday I gave in and went to the doctor. By then my fingers and toes had small blisters, and each one felt like something was just under the skin. In addition, exposure to sunlight felt as though I was over a fire. The doctor gave me some super-Cordisole and a steroid prescription. He also advised me to stay dry and cool for the next couple of days, no baths or showers, and avoid sweating. We are getting record heat, and I start to sweat at 70 degrees. I’m the one who can walk around the house in shorts and no shirt while the rest of the family is huddled under blankets. Friday was a little better, but I stayed in a dark house. By Saturday most of the hives were gone, and the blisters were feeling much better.

April went to Denver Thursday and Friday for a demonstration on a new analyzer for the lab. It was an exhausting trip. No new word on the asst. director who had a stroke.

The boys have started softball and T-ball, with games twice a week on Tuesday (in addition to YRE and Cub Scouts) and Thursday. It’s only for three weeks. Thomas is having a good time with it, although they just hit the ball off the tee and run the bases. No outs, and they trade batting with the other team when the each member has batted. Patrick is doing well with his team, and can hit a ball very well. He also caught a pop fly in his first game.

AYSO soccer is done for the season. Thomas has begun to get aggressive, and did pretty well. We signed all three kids up for next year. One of the mothers at school heard I was coaching this year, and asked April if I would help next year. She wants a St. Joe’s team, although I don’t think AYSO rules will allow that. Rachel has become enthusiastic about soccer again, due in a large part to the coach she had. We hope to get her again, and again, I don’t know if it will happen.

Both Rachel and Patrick were picked by their coaches to go to a tournament in Richmond (north of Logan). April and I were not sure Rachel should go, but she wanted to, so we let her. It proved to be a case were we were expecting on thing, and it turned into something opposite. We thought Patrick’s team would do well. They lost all their games. April said they were playing mostly second graders, and he was the only second grader on his team due to the others having First Communion activities (his is next weekend). We didn’t think Rachel would do well, and by noon her team was still undefeated and waiting on the championship game. That game they lost, due to a couple of players needing to leave which left the team with no substitutes, waiting in the heat for three hours, and the initial defender not understanding what the position was. She let the other team get past her for a couple of goals, and they threaded another one in. The coach switched her and Rachel, and the other team did not get any more goals. Her team scored one. Second place is pretty good considering our expectations.

I found the interview last week with Patrick Stewart interesting. I did get the impression after Nemesis TPTB were not interested in doing anything more with Star Trek. The new group at Paramount looks to be seeing the light, and trying some fresh brains.

End of Entry

Monday, May 15, 2006

San Diego

Stardate 59051.5
The trip to San Diego went well. We stayed at a brand new hotel in Carlsbad. This was a little freaky, because we were the only guests, and the staff was overly solicitous. The kept asking how everything was, where we were planning to go that day. The lady doing the breakfast was worried we went someplace else Saturday morning after we slept in. Anyway, Thursday I took Thomas to Legoland, and April, Rachel, and Patrick went to the Wild Animal Park. It’s a little sad, but this is probably the last trip to Legoland. The kids have pretty much outgrown it. Thomas had fun, but he’s a different child from his brother. Patrick could have stayed all day building and testing racers, but Thomas was bored in about 15 minutes. Thomas was fascinated with Lego miniland, were I thing Patrick would have been very bored.

Friday we went to the Maritime Museum and the USS Midway. I thought the Midway was fun, but the kids were mainly thrilled with the simulators of fighter jets. Patrick got upset at his sister’s teasing when he didn’t make any landings (I made two landing at an airbase, two on a carrier at day and at night). April liked the sickbay, complete with surgery, ICU, and lab. We then went about the Star of India, a sailing ship, and the HMS Surprise, which was the ship used in the filming of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The boys loved that. Then there was an old Soviet submarine. We spent the rest of the day at the beach. All of us except April played in the cold Pacific.

Saturday was spent at Seaworld. The weather to that point had been overcast and cool, but it warmed up around noon. This was a good thing, because the boys and I got thoroughly soaked by a pilot whale at the dolphin show. April went out to get dinner, and I had the kids make the Mother’s day gifts.

Sunday morning we stopped in Balboa Park and then headed home.

End of Entry

Monday, May 08, 2006


Stardate 59050.8
JJ Abrams is taking the helm of the next Star Trek film. There were news reports all over the place in the last week or so, stating not only that he was directing it but what the movie would be about (Kirk and Spock at Starfleet Academy). He quickly replied that yes, he had agreed to produce the picture, but not direct and he did not have a script or plan for the movie yet. The other news that came out is that Rick Berman is being shut out of the project. I hold the opinion that this is a good thing. Mr. Berman has not had a good track record of late, and worse, he blames the fan base for the failures and has made a number of aspersions about them. He will not change policies, and seems tired of the whole thing.

The assistant lab director at April’s work had a bad stroke on Friday. He is better today, although he cannot move anything on his left side. There are doubts about when, if ever, he will be able to return to work. April’s mother has been in the hospital for the last week with back problems and possibly a broken vertebra. April can’t get down there to help. We are trying to convince my brother-in-law to help out, and he might yet. She is still in the hospital, so there is not much to do.

This weekend was something of a muddle. Patrick needed to be at Friendship Park at 10 Saturday morning. I looked up the park on Google, and got a map and directions from it. They turned out to be wrong. We wandered around, and I even broke down and asked, but I was unable to find it. I left a message for the coach, who called back that evening. The next practice is on Tuesday. Of course, this is the day we already have YRE, scouts, and bowling, all within the same two hours.

Thomas did very well at his soccer game. He went after the ball aggressively, and took four or five shots at the goal. Patrick had a bye. Rachel had Derby Day with the Girl Scouts. April and I were bad about getting her a car, and bought one that morning. There were more cars there than at the Cub Scout derby. She did win one race, and was happy with that. By the tie the racing was done, she has to go to soccer. She was tired and hungry during the game, so she did not play as well as she could. She was goalie the last quarter, and the other team did a penalty kick. The first kick was blocked, but the ref called it a hand foul, and redid it. The second kick went over her head and in the goal. She was upset about it, but I didn’t think there was anything she could have done to block it. Her team won anyway.

Sunday we were going to a friend’s daughter’s First Communion in Eden. I let April sleep in, and we missed the service. We went up to the party after, but could not find it. It was at a park, and there is only on in Eden. Both of us left our cell phones behind. We wandered around for an hour, then gave up and went home. We got in touch with them later, and found out the party was at a park in Huntsville, not Eden. Lesson one is to get the details, and lesson two is to bring cell phones, whether you think you need them or not.

Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man accused in the 9/11 attacks, was sentenced to life in prison. He had the temerity to claim a victory, and gave a pablum about how he would be set free. Martyrdom and the 72 virgins will have to wait 50 or so years.

The new lawn mower works well. The battery lasts for a little more than half the yard, and this is enough. It’s a bit more work to push it.

End of Entry

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

New Lawn Mower

Stardate 59050.2
Figure this one out: The lawn mower is dying, so I am looking for a new one. I am kind of tired of keeping gas containers around that seem to run out when I need to fill the tank and can’t get to a station. I also seem to spill some in the car when I do fill the can (another good reason for not smoking). I find a good battery powered one on the net. It has a lead-acid battery like the one that powers my trimmer. I am a little skeptical that it will handle the job, but willing to give it a try. Lowes sells them, at least on their website. I go down to the local store, but nope, they don’t carry them in stock. I try the one in Riverdale, same story. Because it’s on the way, I try Home Depot. The guy launches into a big spiel on getting a Home Depot card, even though I keep telling him I don’t want one. They have one gas mower with an electric start (another complaint is that no one but me as been able to start the old mower). The guy says without even looking that they don’t have any in stock, but if I wanted to get a Home Depot card, he’d sell me a tractor. No, I don’t want a card and I don’t have anyplace to put a tractor. He tried to sell me a shed with the tractor and a card. Shut up about the card. I said thanks and walked out, pretty mad. About 9 last night I went to Lowes website and ordered the mower I wanted, to be delivered to the local store. At 10:05 (I had just sat down to watch the DS9 episode “Dramatis Personae” ), the local store called to say my order was ready to be picked up first thing in the morning. This is really great service, I admit, but it’s the same store I was in 5 hours earlier that didn’t stock them. To top it off, I picked it up this morning with the idea I would charge the battery today. I get it home, but no charger. I call the store, and they will pull a charger out of another one. So they had them, but I can’t walk in and buy one. Best I can figure it’s like Walmart’s ‘Online Only’ items; just not marked that way.

Soccer goes well, except both April and I got sunburned last Saturday. Rachel went with a friend after her game to the SLC Reale game. We dropped Patrick and Thomas off at one of April’s coworkers. We were going to cancel because both of us were so tired, but Patrick begged us not to. So we went to dinner, and I picked the boys up a few hours later. Patrick had caught a small frog, about the size of my thumbnail. He put in his bug container, and named it Joey the third (the first was a grasshopper he caught last fall, and the second was a lizard he ‘almost’ caught at Mesa Verde). That was cracked, though, and would not hold water. I thought I told him to put the frog in water, and him saying that the frog would drown, but I was so tired I can be sure. Anyway, Sunday morning the frog was a dead, dried out husk. To calm Patrick down (he’s very sensitive to animals) we said he could go to Petsmart to get another frog. So now we have two fire-bellied toads (they were free, but the aquarium and various paraphernalia cost). They go by a variety of names, Joey the fourth and fifth, Spongebob, and Todd and Tina, which were the original owners names.

Without the news coverage, ‘A day without immigrants’ would have passed unnoticed by me. I don’t understand what rights they can claim if they are not here legally. I know it’s in reaction to proposed laws to make them criminals and to show how they affect the US economy. I disagree with the proposals, since I don’t see them making much of an impact. They come here because they can make a better living, and stiffing the penalties won’t halt that. I’m not a luminary on this, I don’t know what a solution would be.

This ‘urban legend’ gave me a chuckle. It reminds me of a math story problem. It’s just convoluted enough to make you forget that the pattern of buying has little effect on the supply. The author is daedal. I thought of a better analogy, though. I am given $50 to spend for Monday through Friday (five days keeps the math a little more simple). I can spend the $50 on Tuesday, or $25 on Monday and Wednesday, or $10 on each day. Regardless of the pattern, I don’t have any money leftover at the end of the day on Friday. Unless I don’t spend all the $50, I don’t have anything left. So unless we all find some way of buying less gas, putting less in the tank but doing it more often does nothing, or worse, makes us spend more because we stop more often to buy.

Times are changing. Revenue of digital music players outpaced traditional stereo sales. CDs will be going the way of audio cassettes and eight-tracks. A microcosm of life.

End of Entry