Monthly Archives: May 2012

It’s hard not to get a chuckle from this:

The cheap signs smashed into lawns and along the corners of busy intersections are hard to miss. “We Buy Junk Cars!” ”Cash for Your House!” ”Computer Repair.” The eyesores have vexed Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober for the past few years as he wastes valuable resources plucking up the signs only to watch them pop up in even greater numbers.

While stopped at a red light a few months ago, Bober studied the unsightly signs and came to a realization that would help him fight their proliferation: The criminals had left their calling cards in the form of business phone numbers.

“These people want us to call them, so let’s call them so much their head spins,” said Bober, who bought a $300 software program in March that makes robocalls to the businesses. The volume of calls has reached as high as 20 calls each to 90 businesses in a day.

Not sure if it’s legal, but I like it if it is. I’ve had that thought before. It’s not like we don’t know who is putting up the signs. The companies in question can say “Hey, that must have been done by some overenthusiastic boy we hired, sorry or whatever” or something, but this gives a particular incentive for them to take it down. There’s little more obnoxious than repeated calls. And unlike tickets, you don’t end up losing money due to court costs (if the businesses are smart, they collect the fines and then go to court and demand a separate hearing on each ticket).

Category: Downtown, Market

There was an article in the Redstone newspaper a while back about the city coming down on people who aren’t taking care of their property. Most notably it was about enforcing a little-known rule that if the registration on your car isn’t current, you can be ticketed whether you are driving it or not. They’re starting to write these tickets now. The goal is not revenue-generation (for once!) but rather as a means of getting people to either fix or dispose of old cars that are considered a blight on the city.

More locally, there is the case of Kevin Erickson. The first time I met Kevin, it was because he called the police on me. We’d just moved in and he wanted the police to look into who these people were hanging out at the house next door to his aging mother’s. I haven’t seen much of him since his mother died.

Erickson has been in the Callie paper recently. He is an entrepreneur of sorts with a couple of businesses, selling off old stuff. Not the old stuff that we approve of like antiques and whatnot, but rather old cars and tractor equipment. There is a push to shut him down because the old tractors and such are considered, at least by some, to be unsightly. It doesn’t help that one of Erickson’s lots are seen by everyone who passes through Callie.

Now, in one sense, I am more sympathetic to Redstone than Callie, and in another sense I am more sympathetic to Callie. I have some sympathy for Redstone because it does have a pretty serious image problem. As a sort of junky place. And things like cars on cinder blocks for years on-end aren’t helping. And, to their credit, they’re also starting to offer people free disposal service. Whatever it takes, just so long as you get rid of your junk! Callie, in my view, has less to complain about. It doesn’t have a huge image problem. In fact, Erickson’s lots are really the only place in the entire town that is any sort of problem. On the other hand, unlike with Redstone, the lots do stick out like a sore thumb.

Ultimately, I sort of give Redstone a pass. But generally speaking, I look at some of these things as the things that make Arapaho what it is. And not entirely in the negative way. The fact that some people around here are only vaguely aware of what an HOA is just makes my heart sing a little. And when I am driving in the middle of nowhere, a broken down car in the middle of a field is actually more interesting than it is unsightly. The mountains out here are beautiful. We have trees and rivers. But I consider some of the broken down sheds to be a part of the landscape. There are some things about Arapaho that I consider unsightly, but these are not among them.

At the same time, I sort of do understand why these things are considered unattractive in suburban Colosse (for example). I’d probably be kind of upset if I just spent $250k on a house (which is a lot, in Colosse) only to have some hucksters next door making the neighborhood look a lot more like that other neighborhood where people spent $150k on their house.

However, the most enduring characteristic of Arapaho, and I would actually say the Mountain West more generally (outside some of the larger cities) is that you simply don’t have to care about such things. It’s the freedom of not caring. I read somewhere that the average car on the road is 11 years old, which once upon a time would have seemed bizarre. But around here, I even see Dodge Colts. Nobody cares. We live in a 2,400 square foot house (not including the basement) that is adjacent to trailers and mobile homes. It’s not ideal, but unlike the hustle and bustle of the suburbs where the “right” neighborhood means everything, it’s actually quite liberating.

The freaking out over Erickson’s lot reminds me of one of the things I was happy to leave behind from Colosse.

Category: Downtown

I am not what you might think of as a fashionista. I like to tuck in my Hawaiian shirts. The only matching I really care about involves belt-shoes-watch.

Every now and again I will do something conspicuously right. I bought an old cop’s shirt at a thrift store and would sometimes wear it unbuttoned over a white t-shirt and for whatever reason strangers would compliment me on it back in the early aughts.

And, apparently, I am a very good Walmart dresser.

When I suddenly had to replace my missing warddrobe in Genesis, we went to Walmart in order to restock. I bought a black plaid button shirt and some black jeans. Both of Clancy’s sisters complimented me on it even before they realized where I had bought the outfit and put it together.

It came up again at the wedding when their aunt complimented me on my suspenders (suspenders being another thing that I have done right over the years – people apparently like suspenders) and commented “I’ll bet you didn’t get that at Walmart.”

I hadn’t gotten it at Walmart the day before, but with the exception of the shirt, I had indeed gotten all of it at Walmart. The pants were Wrangler slacks, though, and not the typical Puritan/George that one things of as Walmart pants.

The whole weekend was another one of those God Bless Walmart situations. If you’re stranded without your luggage, there’s one place you can go to get things in order in a jiff even in a comparatively rural place like Genesis.

Category: Downtown


Inmates at the Milner Ridge jail were able to watch clear-as-day commercials on an explicit channel that was otherwise blocked by their satellite TV service, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said Thursday.

“Apparently, on that blocked channel, there were periodic advertisements running from 30 to 90 seconds,” Swan said.

“And immediately on becoming aware of this, the officials at Milner Ridge called the service provider and made immediate arrangements to make sure that didn’t recur.”

The jail officials only became aware of the problem during a Jan. 9 tour of the facility by Tory justice critic Kelvin Goertzen. About 10 inmates were watching hardcore programming in a common area, Goertzen said, and when a jail guard turned off the TV, they managed to turn it back on again briefly with a remote control.

A few things jumped out at me about this: First, were the inmates unaware that there were visitors? I realize that we’re not dealing with the most future-time-oriented people, but you’d think that this sort of thing might cause problems.

More broadly, though, is this really any sort of outrage? I mean, I get it that they are in prison you don’t want to make things too comfortable for them. But the sexual frustration of prison famously manifests itself in very unfortunate ways. It really seems to me that there are worse things than pornography. There are suggestions that pornography reduces rape, but even if we disbelieve that there is not much to suggest that it encourages it. It may not make much of a difference, it may alleviate the tension that causes all sorts of bad things, but humans are sexual beings and I think there have to be larger concerns than this.
One more thing. Here’s the opening paragraph:

It appears a technical glitch is to blame for a display of explicit sex in a Manitoba jail that aroused concerns by the Opposition Progressive Conservatives.

There were probably a lot of grins and groans in the newsroom over that one.

Category: Courthouse

A school in Nova Scotia suspended a student for five days because he wore a shirt that said “Life Is Wasted Without Jesus.”

The South Shore Regional School Board suspended William Swinimer from Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin for five days for wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words, “Life is wasted without Jesus.”

School board Supt. Nancy Pynch-Worthylake said the wording on the shirt is problematic because it is directed at the beliefs of others.

“If I have an expression that says ‘My life is enhanced with Jesus,’ then there’s no issue with that, everybody is able to quickly understand that that’s my opinion about my own belief,” she said.

I do see that as a distinction with a difference, but it’s a rather murky terrain.

Jonathan McLoed argues thusly:

That’s some nice hair-splitting Ms. Pynch-Worthylake is attempting, but it demonstrates an ignorance towards Mr. Swiminer’s faith. Christianity is, certainly, an incredibly personal faith, but it is not introverted and it is not weak. The message of the t-shirt is a universal declaration. It is unequivocal, but it is not pointed.

Granted, the shirt did not say “My life would be wasted without Jesus” but rather that life in general is. That can easily be taken as suggesting that your life would be wasted without Jesus. And so there can be a little provocation construed there. Having said that, the ambiguity involved does not lend itself to an ideal situation for administrative discretion. They might be more willing to pull the trigger in some cases and not in others. They might see one instance through the prism of tolerance to the wearer, and the other through the prism of intolerance to people other than the wearer, even when they are essentially the same thing. James Hanley argues in the comments to McLoed’s post:

Yes, that’s what it’s saying to those students. And a student saying “Jesus is not real” is making a clear statement against the Christian kid’s life.

And both T-Shirts ought to be allowed.

Both should, or neither should. You can argue that “Jesus is not real” is a statement of belief not directed at anyone else, but it makes an implicit statement every bit as much as the Wasted shirt does. Murky.

It’s hard to say whether the administration is in error with this ban without knowing how they would respond to similar messages from other groups. What’s not hard to say is that regardless of their decision, they suspended the kid for five days. At my old school, you could punch someone in the face and be suspended for fewer than five days. I want to know what sort of mediation was tried here. This comes across not as conflict alleviation, but punitive action. I am not certain why they couldn’t have simply said “each and every day you wear that shirt, you are suspended for the rest of the day.”

Category: Church, School

For once, I won’t go into the entire story, but the four day adventure of my trip back to Genesis actually got started the night before, when I determined that I was not going to be able to get my wallet in time. No wallet, no ID.

I also could not locate my passport book or passport card, which made matters worse. What I could find, however, were three expired drivers licenses (Cascadia, Estacado, and Deseret) and my expired passport.

In a sane world, that would have been enough. The point of having identification at the airport is not to make sure that you have your papers in order (unless you’re leaving the country). The point of having identification at the airport is to ascertain or validate your identity.

Your driver’s license or passport need not be current in order to do this. It could have expired yesterday. It could have a hole punched through it because you relocated. You did not cease to be who you were when you got a new license or a new passport.

Granted, if you’re talking about identification that is fifteen years old, maybe the license isn’t the best way to ascertain your identity. But two of the three licenses I had would have been valid had it not been for a relocation.

Fortunately, I found my current passport book. Mom pestered me a great deal to get it renewed last year and I owe her some gratitude because I wouldn’t have had it had she not been such a pain about it.

Anyhow, even this only got me so far. The guy at the airport demanded another form of identification after I handed him the passport. Even though the passport is every bit as valid as the driver’s license that was missing. He decided to quiz me on the contents of the passport and let me through. I got the feeling he was expecting a “thank you” for letting me fly.

I wanted to say, “Dude, I had a ticket and valid identification. You are supposed to let me fly.”

I fear that at that point, he would have found a reason not to. But seriously, if the TSA is not going to follow the list of acceptable identification, why bother having a list?. (And beyond that, what logical reason is there to fear someone with a passport compared to a driver’s license? As far as national security goes, it is much more important that we be able to have faith in the legitimacy of a passport than in the legitimacy of a driver’s license.

Category: Road

For those of you who pay close attention to college sports apart from the big conferences, you can skip the next paragraph.

The Western Athletic Conference (WAC, pronounced “whack”) is one of the oldest top (sub)division conference. More than one in five Football Bowl Subdivision (FCS, formerly Division I-A) schools have played in the WAC at one point during its existence. However, it’s historically been a launching bad to another conference. Most of the founding members bolted the conference at once to form the Mountain West Conference, and the MWC has been incorporating WAC schools since. The last round of realignment means the likely end to the venerable conference. They were having trouble getting back up to 8 football-playing teams before, and now they’re losing five of the seven members they have to the MWC, Conference USA, and even the lowly Sun Belt Conference (generally considered the weakest of the lot). The remaining two football schoolsare Idaho and New Mexico State, and the latter is well-positioned to go back to the Sun Belt from whence it came seven or so years ago. Idaho is typically a poor performer – a relatively small school living in Boise State’s shadow. Idaho’s existence as an FBS program hangs in the balance.

So with only Idaho and New Mexico State remaining as football programs, and Boise State, Seattle University and the University of Denver as non-FB schools (Boise plays football obviously, but their membership does not include football), how does the conference survive? It probably doesn’t. But there is one intriguing possibility that could actually leave the conference stronger and more stable than it has been in a long time. Not “stronger” in the sense of performance (all hope is probably lost there), but in the sense of having an identity rather than being a temporary home for schools from Louisiana to Hawaii. East of the Mississippi lies the Mid-American Conference, which provides a good blue-print as a generally unimpressive but nonetheless stable conference with only a few of its many (13, at the moment) members angling for something better.

The first step to the plan is to start approaching a couple of state governors. This might be best left to Butch Otter, the governor of Idaho. Approach the governors of Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Those three states are relevant because they have no representation in the FBS division. Montana, Montana State, and North Dakota are or will soon be in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS, formerly Division I-AA) Big Sky Conference. South Dakota, South Dakota State, and North Dakota State are in the Missouri Valley Football Conference (and the Summit League for other sports).

Montana and Montana State were approached about joining the WAC last year and declined to do so. One of the main reasons behind their decision was the perceived instability of the WAC. The other was uncertainty about rising to the level of the competition and fear of ending up where Idaho (a former Big Sky power) did, as well we the required initial investment for Montana State to meet the WAC’s standards. The arguments in favor of making the jump were financial (the FCS playoffs are expensive and being in the FCS limits income from payout games where they play the Washington Generals to a powerhouse school), logistical (FCS playoffs add weeks to the schedule and scheduling out-of-conference games at home can be tough), and most important prestige: they want to be associated with the likes of Idaho and (likely departing WAC member) Utah State rather than Eastern Washington and Weber State. Almost all of the reasons for making the transition still hold true (scheduling is less of an issue now due to Big Sky expansion), and most of the reasons against are mitigated under my plan.

The Dakota schools were never approached. They only recently made the transition from Division II, though they have succeeded in FCS (North Dakota State is the reigning champion). Their attendance makes them less attractive than they otherwise would be. But as institutions that Montana and Montana State would want to be associated with, they’re a better pick than some of the schools that are leaving. This represents a unique opportunity for the Dakota schools to make the jump to the highest subdivision without having to do the sorts of things a school has to do to make the transition. They’d be on the hook for the extra scholarships (FBS has 22 more scholarships than FCS), the Title IX compliance (adding football scholarships means adding something to women’s sports as well), and sponsoring a couple more sports, but they can probably get by without the customary stadium upgrades and such. It would require some investment, but it is an opportunity that will not come around again.

If you can bring along the two Montana schools and four Dakota schools, with Idaho, Seattle, and Denver, that makes seven football programs and ten total programs in six almost-contiguous states. That’s a very healthy conference core, which the WAC has lacked since 1996. From there you try to get New Mexico State to stick around. Due to the nature of the new conference – one of state flagship and land-grant universities – with which it fits, they might be willing to do it over the Sun Belt (which, in addition to being a weak conference, has a number of colleges of less-than-stellar reputations that are second or third tier in their own states). So you have either 7/10 or 8/11 teams (football/othersports) with seven or eight state flagships/land-grants, two urban privates, and Boise.

The last trip involves going to California. Two schools that were on the conference’s radar before are UC-Davis and Cal Poly. Both ultimately declined, in part because they had an invitation to the Big Sky Conference, which was good enough, and because they didn’t want to leave the Big West for non-football sports. The Big Sky Conference without Montana and Montana State is notably less prestigious (Montana or Montana State has won the conference title or a share of it for eighteen of the last twenty years). And the WAC could easily extend the two schools a football-only invitation (as football-playing counterparts to football-less Denver and Seattle). Once again, this is a unique opportunity for those two schools. And though they are not a good fit geographically, they are a good fit academically.

That would bring the conference to 9/10 or 10/11, full of like-minded schools that aren’t going anywhere. The village has been pillaged. The slate has been almost blanked. The conference can redefine itself as something other than the hodge-podge. The level of competition would probably be the weakest in the FBS. But that actually allows the schools to grow together without having to suffer the immediate poundings that caused Idaho such problems. But more than that, six of the schools come from states that have no college football allegiances. In Montana, they pre-empt SEC games to show Montana and Montana State play Northern This State and Eastern That. New Mexico State has all of their games televised. The Dakota schools probably could, too, in the Dakotas. This isn’t the same as having big markets, but the depth of the devotion will definitely outstrip that of most of the departing schools (Utah State has to compete with BYU for affections, Texas State with a plethora of power schools, and so on).

They would have to get waiver upon waiver from the NCAA to go forward with this, but I think under the circumstances they would have a pretty good chance of doing so. Nobody save the MWC has any reason to want the WAC dead. But more to the point, you have six senators and three governors to contend with representing three states with no representation in the FBS. They had already worked to accommodate the WAC’s troubles. This adds much more incentive to do so.

Category: Theater

-{Sorry for the relative silence. I plan on picking things back up more solidly next week. We’re trying to get everything together for a brief trip back to Delosa for a wedding. Below is a NaPP post that touches on some themes I have mentioned here before.}-

I’ve always been torn as to whether or not to write about my adventures in substitute teaching on NaPP since it’s not really political and most non-political stuff goes on Hit Coffee but it is sociological. I had a two-fer assignment today, with the first period a 3rd grade class and the second period a 5th grade. The former was probably the best performance I have turned in to date. The latter was one of the most challenging classes I have filled in for. I’d actually filled in for the class before. It was a bad experience, but I thought I had screwed up. Nope.

Anyhow, the observation of the day is that there are really three kinds of male troublemakers in school (maybe in life).

The Bad Egg Group

The first are Bad Eggs. There’s usually one or two of these in every class. Sometimes it seems to be a manifestation of other problems they’re having. The overlap between Bad Eggs and special instruction is not insignificant. Sometimes, though, they’re just Bad Eggs. You know that the future holds nothing good in store for them (and, likely, people around them).

The Impulse Group

The second group is perhaps the most perplexing. It’s also the smallest group. It’s the kid who is basically a Really Good Kid, save for some serious impulse control problems. They want to be quiet. They want to be good. They try harder than any other student in the classroom to help you. But they’re also among the biggest troublemakers. They just can’t help themselves. I had to report to the teacher that the single-most helpful kid in the room was one of a handful on the Worst List. He was also the first kid I have yelled at since beginning my substitute teaching tenure. Bad Eggs may be less pleasant to deal with insofar as the Impulse Kids, who are at least good or great half or a majority of the time, but they’re easier to deal with.

The Osmosis Group.

The third group are those that absorb the mood of the class. You get the sense that in a good environment or on a good day, they’re fine. But they become a part of any problem that exists. These are actually the most problematic only because they are the most numerous. You try to get them to behave and they simply point the finger at someone who is behaving worse (typically an Egg or an Impulse). These are also the Give Them An Inch kids. You give them an inch, which they may or not be able to handle, but then Bad Egg and Impulse will take a mile and these kids will be right behind them.

It’s only the Bad Eggs that you feel good about writing up. One of the interesting aspects is that when I make my list at the end of the day, even in a really bad class like this one (this class apparently drove two different substitute teachers into retirement over the course of the year), there are only two or three Bad Eggs at most. Then you throw in a couple Impulse Kids and the Osmosis Brigade comes out of the woodwork and at that point, there is so much cover for noise that you can’t single anybody out because almost everyone else is talking and goofing around.

Category: School