Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dream Theater Day in Utah

On Monday night in West Valley City, Utah at the E-Center, Dream Theater put on a classic -- their Chaos In Motion tour.

In the middle of the two hour DT performance plus the 30 minutes each for Into Eternity (crap); Redemption (decent), James Labrie said that prior to coming on stage, Utah Governor Huntsman met with them. He declared 30 July 2007 as official Dream Theater Day in Utah.

I attended with my two sons, a brother- and sister-in-law, a niece and a nephew. We had tickets on the floor. However we moved to the the lower bowl seats in order to see better. The E-Center used the smaller Ford Theater configuration. So there was not a bad seat in the house (unless some 6' 5" guy was standing in front of you).

The stage was great. The music fine. The set list I have is as follows (open to corrections and proper order):

- Constant Motion
- Take The Time
- Blind Faith
- As I Am
- I Walk Beside You
- Pull Me Under
- The Dark Eternal Night
- The Spirit Carries On
- Endless Sacrifice
- In The Presence of Enemies (Both Parts)

Encore Medley
- Trial of Tears
- Finally Free
- Learning to Live
- In The Name of God
- Octavarium Razor's Edge

I saw the 1 April 2006 20th Anniversary show at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. Whereas that had its uniqueness, this tour was more enjoyable for me to see and hear. Definitely one of my top concert experiences.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sex for the Motherland

The birth rate in the western world is down. It is also down in Russia. Russia has a negative growth rate (0.48%) . There are all types of reasons, three big ones in my opinion are abortion, overall economic conditions, and women who have too many other opportunities and not wanting to be tied down with children.

The Kremlin knows it has a problem. Countries need to grow in order to prosper. The Communists are going to extremes that only the amoral could. Consider the Kremlin-sponsored, Nazi-like youth group and camps, called "Nashi" (or "Ours"). It is a breeding ground for die-hard communistic indoctrination.
Nashi's annual camp, 200 miles outside Moscow, is attended by 10,000 uniformed youngsters and involves two weeks of lectures and physical fitness.

Attendance is monitored via compulsory electronic badges and anyone who misses three events is expelled. So are drinkers; alcohol is banned. But sex is encouraged, and condoms are nowhere on sale.
The xenophobic Russian masses are all behind the growth from within. You really got to wonder about the government's desperation to increase their population. Communism has never had a moral fiber. Open, non-committal sex might be fun for a few hours but long term, it fails.

Many of the children produced by these flings will become the de facto property of the state, molded according to their dictates.

Extreme Russian nationalism is brewing. Unprotected, non-consequential sex is a key ingredient.

UPDATE 8/15/07: The Russian region of Ulyanovsk declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third year running is giving couples time off from work to procreate.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Climate Change and the Hazzard Community

I was reading an article in the July issue of the Natural Hazards Observer entitled What Does Climate Change Mean for the Hazards Community? by Sherbinin, Chen, Levy from the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). I found it interesting to read their predictions associated with climate change.

Warmer and more frequent hot days and nights over most land areas (virtually certain):
- Decreased agricultural yields in warmer environments and increased likelihood of pest outbreaks
- Higher evapotranspiration leading to increased risk of drought
- Declining air quality in cities

Increases in warm spell/heat wave frequency over most land areas (very likely):
- Wildfire danger
- Water quality problems and algal blooms
- Risk of heat-related mortality, especially for elderly, infirm, and very young populations

Increases in heavy precipitation events over most areas (very likely):
- Agricultural soil erosion
- Contamination of water supplies
- Mortality risk from flooding
- Disruption of settlements, commerce, and transport due to flooding and landslides

Increases in areas affected by drought (likely):
- Crop damage and failure, lower yields, livestock deaths, and wildfires
- Water stress
- Food and water shortages, risk of malnutrition, risk of water- and food-borne diseases
- Water shortages for settlements and industry, reduced hydropower generation, increased population migrations

Increasingly intense tropical cyclone activity (likely):
- Damage to crops
- Risk of deaths and injuries from wind and floods
- Power outages that affect water supplies
- Withdrawal of risk coverage by insurers

Rising sea level (likely):
- Salinization of irrigation water
- Saltwater intrusion of aquifers and coastal water sources
- Risk of death from drowning
- Movements of populations and infrastructure; high costs of relocation or armaments

The biggest issue I have with the sky is falling crowd is that they assume that a change from the current situation -- the weather situation over the past fifty years -- is a movement from normal. Who's to say what is normal?

The natural hazard community, as part of a risk analysis, must consider the probability of one or more of these occurring in their environment -- city, state, nation or business.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tour de France -- Road Racing Shame

It appears these Tour de France riders cannot help themselves. I guess they think they are above the rules and are entitled to try to foil the testing processes. This is a sport where everyone is suspect.

This year...

-- Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) was tossed from the Tour after his stage 13 time trial victory after testing positive for a blood transfusion. His Astana team also withdrew.

-- Italian Cristian Moreni tested positive for testosterone and was tossed. His French team Cofidis then pull out.

-- Tour leader as of stage 16, Michael Rasmussen (Denmark) and the winner of two stages was kicked out of the Tour by his Dutch team Rabobank on Wednesday for failing to report his whereabouts in the months leading up to the tour (part of the random drug test requirements he was required to follow).

Simmon Gerrans, an Australian with AG2R, reported
that the mood among his teammates was "somber." That was, he added pointedly, because so many journalists were asking questions about the scandal. In general, he said, the riders were "disappointed." Not outraged? Not even angry? No, disappointed.
Last year, it was Floyd Landis (USA) who won the Tour but later was found to have failed a drug test. Every rider is suspect. I question Lance Armstrong. I think he used processes and science undetectable to the current testing measures.

This sport is one where everyone does it because everyone does it. How does an elite athlete compete if everyone else cheats? They all have access to the best equipment and science. If one does not leverage it, he is at a competitive disadvantage.

This sport -- the individuals and the teams -- has not been successful at self-regulating.

I question why any sponsor continues piling large sums of money into the sport.

My interest this year has waned. I have watched little. I have lost interest in a sport that had appealed to me. I ride road and mountain bike, and stand in amazement at what these professional riders are able to do; things I can only dream about.

We are experience bide times in professional sports -- NFL and dog fighting, NBA and referee game fixing, MLB and Bond's home run record quest and steroid use.

Cycling is probably the worst and has suffered for years. I see no imminent changes. Few riders make much money. They have little to lose.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Heavy Man

Choice In Education - Part 1

We have four children. The three oldest went or are going through the public school system. The youngest started in the public school system and has switched to a charter school. The public schools our children go to are in the top 10% -- elementary, middle/junior high and high school (according to The Sutherland Institute). However, they still lack what we feel as quality education.

At all levels, there are some really good teachers. And there are teachers that force you to question why they elected to pursue a career in education. This is especially the case in the high schools. Second in importance in selecting a class is the subject matter; the teacher is the main determining factor. A great teacher can make the most boring subject engaging.

Our experience has shown that in high school, if you want the good classes and teachers, the students need to take the honors and AP classes. Those classes fill up the fastest in our high school, many get left out.

Our children have done and do okay in school. Two are doing well in college. We have no reason to believe our third will not do as well at the next level. Our fourth is still in elementary school. She struggles, despite the on-paper quality rating of the elementary school. The faculty just could not give her the attention she needed. They pushed her along when she probably should not have been allowed to go on. We needed another option.

Home schooling was considered. We might have gone that route if we would have started them all under that plan. We elected to go with a charter school. Charter schools operate on three basic principles: choice, accountability, freedom. Just like the traditional public schools, there are good and not so good charter schools. The one we selected -- Mountainville Academy -- turned out to be a great choice. Their principles are solid. Their execution and attention to detail is second to none. They have really helped our daughter.

Despite all the efforts of the school, regardless of the affiliation, it really does come down to the parents. My wife has a good relationship with her teachers -- she knows our daughter's problem areas and what they are doing at school to address them. My wife supplements their efforts. She does a tremendous job with her every day. She does one to two hours of homework five days a week. She complains sometimes but knows it is something that has to be done. It has become a habit for her. This charter school really works for our daughter.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sex Ed for Kindergartners?

As I drove home from teaching school last night, I was listening to Rusty Humphries (actually his substitute) on the radio (KLO 1430). I heard this discussion about sex education involving Barack Obama and later Mitt Romney.

Sex education entered the 2008 presidential race when Obama was asked his position on sex education at a Planned Parenthood forum and he mimicked an attack that was launched on him in his 2004 Senate campaign by Republican Alan Keyes.

"Barack Obama supports teaching sex education to kindergartners," said Obama mimicking Keyes' distinctive style of speech. "But it's the right thing to do, to provide age-appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in schools."
Later he tried to cover his remarks...
"All I said, was that I support the same laws that exist in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, in which local communities and parents can make decisions to provide children with the information they need to deal with sexual predators."
It is okay to take this position if that is what you said. He said he wants sex ed for kindergartners and then realizing how ridiculous this statement was for normal people and for a political position, he tried to cover.

"How much sex education is age appropriate for a 5-year-old?" asked Romney. "In my view, zero is the right amount. Instead of teaching about sex education in kindergarten to 5-year-olds let's clean up the ocean of filth, the cesspool in which our children are swimming."

"The issue is whether children in kindergarten should be taught science-based sex education which is what Obama said he favors. Gov. Romney does not support that," said [Eric] Fehrnstrom [a Romney senior advisor]. "Let's let our 5-year olds be 5-year olds. When students are old enough for sex education they should be taught abstinence as part of their health curriculum and that marriage should come before babies."
Now I really don't know what Obama was doing. Perhaps it is one of those moments that he said something he did not think through. In 2004, he said:
"If they ask a teacher 'where do babies come from,' that providing information that the fact is that it's not a stork is probably not an unhealthy thing. Although again, that's going to be determined on a case by case basis by local communities and local school boards.'"
This is a more reasonable position. But that's not what he said in 2007.

Romney was opportunistic -- along with his campaign staff -- was given time to ponder and respond.

The key topic for the political debate is does abstinence education belong in the public schools? If sex education is taught, then abstinence should be mandatory. Out of wedlock babies is still a societal scourge and a key basis for poverty, regardless of race.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Car Crash -- Up Close and Personal

Many of us have been involved in a fender bender or car accident as either a driver or passenger. Many of us have also lost a dear friend or family member due to a car crash.

According to NHTSA, car crashes are the number one cause of death for those between 4 and 34 years.

-- In 2006, 43,300 Americans died on our roadways as a result of 39,000 fatal crashes
-- 2.5 million were injured in car crashes
-- 5.9 million non-fatal crashes occured in 2006; 4.2 million of those were property damage-only crashes

This week, I was involved in one of these property damage-only crashes.

I was driving west on Warner Rd in northeast Columbus, OH. I came to a stop sign and proceed to attempt to cross Hamilton Rd. After I stopped, I failed to realize the cross traffic did not stop. I thought they had to stop because a north-bound car was stopped in the intersection (apparently turning left or wanting to go west). Another north-bound car was coming through the intersection at 45-50 mph that I did not notice until I was about to hit it.

I could not stop in time. I hit the right rear (door and quarter panel) of the Volvo with my mother's Pontiac (yes, my mother's). The Volvo's rear quarter panel caught my front bumper and ripped it off, spinning me 90 degrees. The Volvo did a 180 and slide off the road.

Luckily, no one was physically hurt. Luckily, I did not enter the intersection 1-2 seconds sooner. If I did, I most likely would have been t-boned on my driver side. I would not be here today.

I consider myself lucky. I am humbled, yet again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Neighborhoods and Growing Up

I grew up in central Ohio. The neighborhood I spent years 5-18 was working class. We all went to the same elementary, junior high and high school. The people we went to junior high with were not the same ones we attended senior high.

Those homes were built around 1960. Most are single story, three bed room homes with basements.

My mother still lives in the same house all five of us children grew up in. I think my parents paid $29,000 for the house.

Although the houses are the same, the neighborhood is not.

There were lots of kids in our neighborhood. We knew everyone -- who lived where and if they did not have kids, what their attitudes were towards kids. We lived in a world that was very comfortable to us. Most of those families -- the parents -- have moved. Their children have gone their separate ways. Those paths and shortcuts are no longer obvious, but those memories are alive and well.

Memories tend to fade with the years but those experiences will last forever. I moved west and never returned on a permanent basis. But I love coming back to central Ohio and to my old stomping ground.

During our recent high school reunion, those attending that grew up in that neighborhood had our own mini-reunion. Growing up with those same people for those twelve formative years was precious. Those people are my best and closest friends despite the years and physical separation.

Luckily for my children, they have had a very similar experience in Utah. My wife and I could not have been happier with the neighborhood our children are having the ability to grow up in.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Class Reunions

Obviously, due to their attendance, most people do not like to attend class reunions. I traveled from Utah to Ohio for one of mine this past weekend.

One thing I noticed and really appreciated about mine was that there was less interest in the surface success that people achieved or did not achieve and more interest on the inter-success. Were people really enjoying their lives? Were they happy with their families?

I was impressed to understand how many people seem to have a religious interest. They were focused on raising their children and doing the right things.

I also notice how people age differently. Sure, people put on weight, experience the greying and loss of hair -- these things are part of aging and are expected. But those that lead a life of drinking and partying showed it in their faces. There is a great deal to be said about clean living.

I liked my high school years. I certainly did things my children will never know, and that's a good thing (living 1500 miles away also helps).

My class of over 600 students are pretty normal. We have no famous people -- for good or bad. We have no filthy rich. We have no one that has done anything extraordinary. But we have people who's hearts are in the right place.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Columbia River Gorge

I have been to Portland a few times on business. I have never traveled outside of the metro area, until now. I have spent the week in Stevenson, WA at the Skamania Lodge, in the middle of the Columbia River Gorge.

Believe it or not, it is work related. One entity of the transportation industry -- driving assessment -- is holding their bi-annual conference. In 2005 it was in Rockport, Maine; in 2003 it was in Park City, and in 2001 it was in Aspen.

The weather has been warm -- nearly 100 -- and dry. The days long and the night short. I was however able to play the Skamania Lodge golf course twice. Short, narrow, little sand, little water and no playable rough (woods, thick grass, and thorny vegetation of all sorts). Hit a ball out of bounds -- hit another or take a drop. I got lucky -- no one playing playing ahead or behind me. It gave me the ability to play two balls per hole.

One final thing I like about this area, besides the hiking, is the wind surfing. Between Stevenson and White Salmon (OR) /Hood River (WA) is some of the best wind surfing in the world. I tried it once, liked it. Need to pick that sport up someday.

PS - great ward in White Salmon.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Live Earth and the Church of Global Warmers

The members of the church of global warmers were at their finest this past weekend. I take my hat of to them for the organization they were able to demonstrate. The entertainers were not my favorites -- some were about 30 years ago. I did not watch any of the programming.

Consider what Robert F. Kennedy Jr., environmentalist author, president of Waterkeeper Alliance said: "Get rid of all these rotten politicians that we have in Washington, who are nothing more than corporate toadies. This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors."

This is sanity? This is responsible leadership? With Algore as it supreme, self-appointed demigod, how can anyone take these losers serious? This is the liberal left at its finest.

The earth is getting warmer. Is it man-made? Is it natural? Is the last 200 years worth of weather normal? Are the waning and waxing of global temperatures normals. Are we to assume that the governments of all the nations responsible for lowering the world's temperature? If so, can they actually accomplish this?

Live Earth was just a chance for the church of the environmentalists to drink, smoke, rock-out and party. Or should we just call this as their method of worship?

Agree with me or not. For what its worth, I have a B.S. degree in biology. I consider myself an environmentalist. I do my best to Leave No Trace (I am a LNT trainer). However, I do not consider these liberals to be using good science. Their arguments are emotional and political. For many, this is their religion and their diety. I do not feel their efforts are practical, reasonable or prudent, however, they can worship how, where and what they may.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

OSHA Hoping to Treat Ammo As Explosives

From the NRA-ILA Alerts:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed new rules that would have a dramatic effect on the storage and transportation of ammunition and handloading components. The proposed rule indiscriminately treats ammunition, powder and primers as "explosives."

The public comment period ends July 12. To file your own comment, or to learn more about the OSHA proposal, go to http://www.regulations.gov/ and search for Docket Number OSHA-2007-0032"; you can read OSHA's proposal and learn how to submit comments electronically, or by fax or mail.
I am surprised the anti-gun lobby and their Congressional cronies have not tried this angle before: why worry about the guns, just eliminate the ammunition. Better yet, have some government agency do it for you.

Read the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action's press release.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Al-Qaeda in the Sahara

The GWOT is as real as traditional world wars. We know they are all over the Middle East -- in Iraq, Iran, Al-Qaeda is literally every where from Britain and Europe to the North and South America, from Asia to Africa. Their war on all things non-Islamic is here for the long-run.

In the Maghred and Sahel, the Americans are leading special forces operations under the name of the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership.
Under this initiative small teams of American special forces train the local soldiers of Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, and work with the armies of Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, to control what they call the “undergoverned” spaces of the Sahara: vast swathes of desert where people have been in various states of rebellion for years and which more recently have been visited by radical Islamist clerics and new terrorist groups.

The Americans particularly fear that if terrorists manage to consolidate bases in the Sahel, the southern fringe of the Sahara desert that extends from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east, they may be able to penetrate into the soft underbelly of Europe via Morocco and Algeria. That was the route taken in 2004 by the perpetrators of the train-bombings in Madrid, most of them Moroccan, when nearly 200 people were killed.
A new American command for Africa, known as AFRICOM, formed in February 2007, will coordinate the various military deployments in Africa under a unified command. The aim is to bring stability to the poor, fragile Muslim countries along the Saharan belt that might otherwise collapse and create havens for terrorists of the sort Afghanistan became under the Taliban.

These policing activities in these ungoverned spaces are only bound to increase. As Nigeria and other African nations (like Angola) play a growing role in the global oil supply and as al-Qaeda establishes bases throughout the region, a preventive institution-building strategy will be critical to the U.S.

One genuine threat is posed by a group now calling itself al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It was formed last year after Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) joined up with local units of al-Qaeda. The GSPC itself emerged out of Algeria's civil war in the 1990s, in which some 200,000 died. Its most recent attack, a car bombing in Algiers in April, killed at least 30 people. The CIA thinks that AQIM may have about 100-150 operatives, who could be “force multipliers”, meaning that they could train many more jihadists in the mobile training camps the Americans claim to have identified in northern Mali's deserts near the Algerian border.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

July 4 -- Title Returns to America

July 4th is for friends, family and hot dogs. I had an enjoyable day with my family, culminating with a dinner at The Training Table restaurant, a Major League Soccer game at Rice-Eccles Stadium between Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake (American team beat by Canadian), and some great fireworks.

Earlier in the day, America's own Joey Chestnut emerged as the world's hot dog eating champion, knocking off reining champ Takeru Kobayashi, setting a world record in the process. Kobayashi has won every Nathan's 12-minute hot dog eating competition from 2001 to 2006. But this time, Chestnut consumed 66 dogs to Kobayashi's 63.

What a July 4th tradition.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Scotter Libby -- Politics At Its Worst

Five hours after a federal appeals panel ruled that Scotter Libby could not delay his 2.5 year prison term, President Bush commuted his sentence. He left intact the $250,000 fine and two years probation for his conviction of lying and obstructing justice in a probe into the leak of a CIA operative's identity -- Valerie Plame.

Bush received limited consultation on the matter prior to the decision. However, conservatives have been discussing the matter for months. A full pardon is not out of the question.

From the Whitehouse, the Grant of Executive Clemency statements here and here.

The fallout from some of the Bush haters:
-- Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald
-- Senator Barack Obama
-- Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
-- Various statements from Joseph Wilson, Fred Thompson, Patrick Leahy, Roy Blunt, Rudy Giuliani, John Edwards, Harry Reid, Mrs. Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Tom Lantos and Bill Richardson.

All I can say about these statements is that those delivering them are banking on the ignorance of masses on the topic of presidential prerogative. Whether we agree with it or not, it is 100% legal.

This crowd assumes that we forget to mention what other presidents have done, except Gerald Ford's pardoning of Richard Nixon. I guess we forget the criminals their savior Bill Clinton pardoned. Consider the words of Bill Clinton in 2001:
On Jan. 20, 2001, I granted 140 pardons and issued 36 commutations. During my presidency, I issued a total of approximately 450 pardons and commutations, compared to 406 issued by President Reagan during his two terms. During his four years, President Carter issued 566 pardons and commutations, while in the same length of time President Bush granted 77. President Ford issued 409 during the slightly more than two years he was president.
This is one of those cases where the American people do not know the facts. They only know the spin. How else do you explain that sixty percent of Americans believe that President Bush should have forced Libby to serve his full prison sentence? Most Americans believe the sentence had something to do with Plame's outing. Few actually know Robert Novak or Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who did the actual Plame outing; nor that Armitage has never been charged for it.

We can all be appalled by the commuting of the sentence but that is the sitting president's prerogative.

I am not a fan of Bush nor Libby but the crime was nothing more than a Fitzgerald sting operation. The sentence did not fit the so-called crime.

I find it amazing the hatred politicians have for one another. They'll try anything to cause grief in their enemies even if it means depending on some petty, trumped-up obstruction charge. Libby was as close they could get to Rove, Cheney and Bush, their sworn enemies.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

British Attack Reports Missing the Obvious

When a bank gets robbed, rarely does the media report the religious affiliation of the robber, among his other characteristics. Why? Because it has nothing to do with the crime. In the case of the string of terrorist attacks in Britain, the bulk of the reports I have read and listened to do not mention the attackers' religion; only a few do. However, their religion has everything to do with their crime.

The fact they were tied to National Health Service provided their cover, not their ideology. It is telling that these particular terrorists are not the downtrodden, unemployed, social misfits. On the surface, they are traditional immigrants looking to create better lives for themselves and their families. On the surface, they looked as if they were reaching those goals as healthcare professionals.

The other MSM reporting methodology I finding interesting is their attempt to tie these attacks or any terrorist attack to al-Qa'ida. They very well may be linked. They may have attended an al-Qa'ida training camp. This does not say much for the training they received. This group, despite their education, seem inept at executing their plans.

The scary thought is what the results would have been if their rehearsal and attention to detail would have been thorough.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Communication Technology Anthropology

I am teaching a class right now on telephony. Unfortunately the text I am required to use is somewhat dated. Half of the time I have to preface the comments with "this is more from a historical perspective."

In the 9 June 07 issue of The Economist, there is an interesting article addressing technology anthropology. Consider the findings:

--60% of men carry their cell phones in their pocket; 61% of women carry theirs in their purses.
--Belt pouches are common in China (20-38% -- depending on the city); only 4% in Milan. I pity any male that carries his phone on his waist.
-- Typical users spend 80% of their calls to four others (the T-Mobile five)
-- Each communication channel is unique and purpose-motivated: mobile calls for last-minute planning and coordinating; texting for intimacy and efficiency; email for admin and photos and documents; IM and VoIP for continuous communication.
-- Typing is preferred over voice communication, despite VoIP, preferring semi-synchronous communications like email, texting and IMing.
-- Little appetite exists for work on the move (not working remote, but while in transit); info is gathered for analysis at a later time.
-- Migrants are the most advanced users of communications technology using VoIP, IM and Webcams to keep in touch; go online to gather info including music from home.

Finally, the point I find most interesting is that as we have seen work invading our private lives (Blackberries), private lives are now invading the workplace (IM, texting, VoIP, and Webcams).