Bob Owen

Friday, June 28, 2002

A muslim woman in Florida wants to wear a veil, covering her face, for her driver's license photo. For religious regions, of course. OpinionJournal points out that this isn't an issue in Saudi Arabia:

Our friends the Saudis, of course, have a solution to this problem: They simply forbid women from driving.

Home Alone.

No wife. No kids. No work. My family is at a cabin for four days. I'm not. So here I sit. Alone. And loving every minute of it. My only concern is trying how to fit 72 hours of sleep into the next 60 hours.

My boss is in town this week. He flew in from Colorado. He has a bunch of meetings scheduled with the other managers in Minneapolis. The only day I could see him is today. I took a day of vacation instead. He's a great guy and I like to see him. He too, is married, with children. He knows. If I didn't stay home today, he probably would have ordered me to go home. Bob, you have the house to yourself. What the hell are you doing at work? The planets must be aligned ever so because even my carpooler told me on Monday that he wouldn't need a ride Thursday and Friday. And if that wasn't enough, after days and days of thunderstorms and rain, today is simply beautiful. Sunny and 75 degrees. Even the birds slept in this morning. We'll wake him at dawn some other day. They've been quiet all morning.

I'm going to REI Co-op today. A great place to wander around. Just looking at the backpacks makes me want to go camping. So many zippers and pockets. I wish I had clothing that functional. REI has an enormous selection of flashlights, something dear to my heart. There's always a new style on the shelf. Sir, let me show you some of our 2003 models. This one has five LED lights and fourteen flash patterns. It straps to your head for hands-free operation. The LEDs are good for 100,000 hours and the batteries last for over 20. The military and NASA use this light. Oh boy, I need one of those.

REI also has a nice selection of outdoor clothes. What defines outdoor clothes? Extra zippers and lots of velcro. None of those sissy buttons for me; no thanks. You want the flap of a coat or the pockets on your shirt to stay closed? Velcro. What else is "outdoors?" The mother feature of all that is outdoors and holy: Gore-Tex. Waterproof and breathable. Next, you're going to tell me how to change these rocks into gold. I have only a fair collection of Gore-Tex outerwear: shoes, two jackets and gloves. I'm just an amateur. Like any serious collector of guns, Barbie dolls or Precious Moments figurines, you should never stop acquiring Gore-Tex products. Can you shoot more than two guns at once? Not likely. Does that stop you from owning a dozen of them? Equally not likely.

Just entered "gore-tex" in the REI web-site search box. Your search for "gore-tex" products yielded 68 products. The big REI store is just minutes from my house. With apologies to Jake and Elwood: It's four miles to REI, I've got a full tank of gas, a half cup of coffee, it's beautiful outside and I want Gore-Tex. Hit it.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Yes, suing tobacco companies was going to save the children.

( -- When North Carolina won a $4.6 billion settlement from tobacco companies, officials said they'd use the money to break tobacco's grip on the state.

They would help smokers quit and stop kids from starting. They would wean farmers off the golden leaf.

But since the money began flowing in 1999, not a dime has been spent on new health services, and only a fraction has gone toward moving tobacco farmers into other crops.

Instead, about 73 percent of the $59 million spent so far -- about $43 million -- has gone toward production and marketing of N.C. tobacco, an Observer investigation has found.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Many of us would be happy to live 83 years. Imagine having the same job for 83 years.

  • Poverty 'fuelling terrorism' -- BBC News, March 22, 2002.
    "Poverty in all its forms is the greatest single threat to peace, security, democracy, human rights and the environment," the head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Michael Moore, told delegates.
  • Police: 9/11 Suspect Lived Lavishly -- AP, June 25, 2002.
    The man suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks lived lavishly in the Philippines with his nephew, the 1993 World Trade Center plotter, partying, scuba-diving and renting a helicopter as they planned attacks against Americans, according to a former police official who investigated al-Qaida.

Here's what it's come to. From Overlawyered.

June 26-27 -- "Ex-Teach's Suit: Kids Abused Me". Sued if you do, sued if you don't dept.: trial is set to start today in Brooklyn "in a ground-breaking lawsuit filed by a former special education teacher who charges he was harassed by students. ... Vincent Peries, who is from Sri Lanka, says students at Francis Lewis High School in Queens mimicked his accent, tossed paper balls at him," and made fun of his ethnic background. "School officials don't deny Peries was harassed -- but argue that they can't discipline special ed students for slurring a teacher. 'This is because students with that classification have already been identified as having behavioral problems, and the verbal misconduct might be considered a manifestation of their disability,' city lawyer Lisa Grumet wrote in court papers. Special ed students can be suspended only for incidents involving physical violence, drugs or a dangerous weapon, according to Board of Education regulations." (John Marzulli, New York Daily News, Jun. 25).
With apologies toBarney: I sue you, you sue me, we're a lawyer's fantasy...

Last night's game was great. No, not the Twins who were soundly defeated by the White Sox, 15-7. I'm talking about the Mite league again. This time, my younger son's team. The kids made real plays! Honest to goodness shortstop to first base throws. Honest to goodness catches at first base. No longer does a throw to first, followed by the first baseman running after the missed or overthrown ball, guarantee a free pass to second base. Wow. Each game is more fun to watch than the last.

My boy hit two for three. He connected with the ball each time he was up but got thrown out at first one time. Every player on his team got at least one hit. The kids were pleased with their performance. They were even more pleased with the treats after the game: Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen. Who could blame them for being more excited about ice cream. We could have called this a swimming meet instead of a baseball game. The nearest pool is a few blocks away from the ballpark but with 100 percent humidity we all felt like we were immersed in water. Hot, slimy water that won't wash away your sweat. Luckily, there were extra ice cream bars for the parents. A perfect ending.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

When I hear people say, "The world's not the place it used to be" or something like that I tend to ignore them. Many folks believe everything today is worse, less or inferior to what it was years ago. Why can't we go back to Mayberry? I don't agree with such thinking but that's because my glass is always more than half full.

I have not been to the library in quite a while. My wife brings the kids there fairly often during the summer and also picks up books for me. Yesterday I was reading Steven den Beste's post about antiwar rhetoric. I am fascinated by den Beste's writing. In that post he mentioned John Stuart Mill. I decided that later I'd stop by my local library and get something by Mill.

The Edina branch of the Hennepin County Library system is new. I have been to the old branch many times but never the new one. Yesterday there wasn't anything by Mill on the shelf. I could have ordered it from a different branch but instead I chose Cannery Row by Steinbeck. It's not what I came in there for but I didn't want to leave empty handed.

Back to Mayberry. At Goober's gas station one could pay on the honor system. There was a can in which to drop gas money when Goober wasn't at the station. The library has the same type of thing: Self Checkout. Place your card under the scanner's red line then scan your books to check them out. This isn't terribly new; I know it's at other library branches. But I've never used it before.

No one watched me do it. No one verified that I scanned each book. I don't think there's any security tag that gets turned off when I place my book against the scanner. I'm always afraid when I leave a department store that I'm unwittingly going to set off a security alarm and guards will rush out and the door will lock. I saw no security devices at the library. Uniformed security personnel were nowhere to be seen. There wasn't even a library employee between the scanner and the front door. The only thing between me and the outside was a coffee maker with, you guessed it, a jar for donations.

The honor system in use, June 24, 2002.

Monday, June 24, 2002

The ballgame tonight: my son's team took an early, but small lead. They held it until the top of the fifth and everything came apart. It was another of those innings where I thought the other team would never get three outs. But they finally did. Only eleven runs later. My son's team had last ups and had a minor rally but still fell two short of tying the score.

There was a distant rumble of thunder throughout the game. The sky was dark but serious rain held off until the game ended. Rather than sweating in the sun, we sat in the nice shade of the forming storm clouds.

This morning I read where Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone has introduced a bill that would require auto manufactures to share computer codes so independent repair shops could use them to diagnose and repair cars. Now, only dealerships have access to those codes. The Minneapolis Star Tribune had this Wellstone quote:

Wellstone said the livelihoods of thousands of small repair shops are in danger, adding that "the last thing that America needs is another industry where all the little guys . . . are driven out."
When I saw that I thought of the family farmers, another group of "little guys." Then I wondered if someday we might see some mechanics get paid to not work on cars, just like some farmers are paid to not farm. Maybe, to boost the incomes of the independent repair technicians, the federal government could pay them so they only work six hours a day instead of eight or more.
"Who owns the information that's stored in the vehicle?" [an independent repair shop manager] asked. "Do you own it when you buy the vehicle? Or does the dealership own it? . . . If you are denied the availability to take it to the shop of your choice because they cannot service the vehicle, I guess it would be a cartel."
Don't ask Microsoft this question.

Friday, June 21, 2002

WCCO-TV (bringing you "Breaking News!" all the time, even if it's hours old) got slapped down again by the Minnesota News Council. Brian Lambert of the Pioneer Press reports on it today.

A grand jury yesterday cleared the six Minneapolis cops who shot a machete-wielding man this spring. The man's family and members of his "community" originally said he didn't speak English and couldn't possibly have understood that he had painted himself into a corner.

How should he have known that he should put down the weapons (he was also brandishing a crowbar). Would six shots from a Taser have given you an idea? Heck, if I was holding a fingernail clipper (you can hijack a plane with one of those) and a cop shot at me with a Taser I'd be saying, "Oh, you must want me to get rid of this right now. Should I drop it, throw it behind me or do you just want me to swallow it so I can't hurt anyone with it?" I don't think I'd be waiting for the cops to switch from Tasers to Berettas.

Well, it turns out the man did speak English. But the "community" can't let facts get in the way of a good story. Friends and relatives still question whether the man understood commands from officers. Don't you think, when the man said, "Come and get me" to the responding cops, that they still should have thought that he just didn't understand English? Hey, this guy speaks English but maybe, just maybe, he doesn't understand it when spoken back to him.

Here's a little beauty from Minneapolis City Council member Dean Zimmermann (AKA Zimmerperson): "It's not for me to second-guess a grand jury," (but he'll do it anyway) "but I do wonder what the racial makeup of the jury was." Zimmerman added, "I can tell you that the Somali community is not going to be pleased with this decision." So Dean thinks a grand jury is guided only by the race of the jury and the race of the subjects.

Zimmerman didn't say whether members of any other, larger communities (like the general public), especially the ones who aren't waving machetes around, were displeased that the police were there to protect them.

What a roller coaster. James Lileks has a screed today that starts out funny, gets more clever and then at the end just completely takes your breath away and sends a chill down your spine.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Excerpts from and OpinionJournal piece on Jesse Ventura's retirement:

... American politics will be duller for Mr. Ventura's retirement. Only someone with his brazen self-confidence could spend Saturday morning at a governors meeting, conferring privately with the president, then pop up on TV screens that night as a guest at a World Wrestling Federation match. Gov. Ventura stepped into the ring wearing the same suit in which he had met the president and proceeded to call a wrestling executive a "scumbag" as he promoted a high-fee appearance he would make at another WWF event a few weeks later.

He had two personas while he was governor. He usually adopted the patriotic, dependable personality of James Janos, the name he grew up with. But always lurking nearby was the acerbic, outrageous and ego-driven Jesse Ventura, his WWF stage name. In the end, voters got tired of trying to keep up with both of their governors. Like all good showmen, Jesse Ventura then decided it was time to close out his act.

But don't count him out. He knows America is the land in which people reinvent themselves and recover from adversity. Emulating his close friend Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also hopes to someday enter politics, Jesse Ventura may well be lighting a cigar somewhere tonight, laughing and saying "I'll be back."

The crippled need help.

A new sign appeared in the lobby of my office building today. There are three ID card readers restricting entrance. In addition to swiping the card through the reader I have to also show it to one of the guards so he can verify it's mine by checking the picture. The guards are so tired of this mind-numbing task that I'm sure I could show them any baseball or Pokemon card and they would just smile and say thanks.

The guards prefer that we don't use the aisle with the automatic door. That would be the door next to the big round button displaying wheelchair symbol. I think the reason is because that aisle is farthest from the guard station and they don't get a really good chance to pretend to look at the ID cards.

This morning there is a professionally made sign blocking the third aisle that reads, "Guards Will Assist With ADA Access." Not handicap access, not wheelchair access. Nope. The term now is ADA access. Access for the Americans with Disability Act.

This begs some questions. Will guards insist on opening the door for blind employees? What about someone with a hearing aid? If they have emotional disabilities? How about actual people because the ADA is a concept, a law, a rule, but it's not a person. If an employee has insulin-dependent diabetes, should she have a guard come over and assist her with entrance into the building? And what if a person in a wheelchair doesn't want the assistance of a guard to enter the building? The door, with an automatic opener, is already designed to be accessible to handicapped people. If there's only one guard on duty and that he's already assisting someone else at the front desk, the person in a wheelchair must wait to gain access. Remember, the sign is blocking the entrance.

The baseball game last night started out on the right foot. My son's team was up first and scored six runs in the first inning. They maintained a lead going into the fifth inning. And then everything fell apart. There is no seven run rule in the fifth and sixth innings. It could have been invoked twice. With two outs, the other team had a rally that seemed to never end. They went through the lineup almost two full times. My kid's team just couldn't make that third out. The other team had a player who supposedly was only eight years old. He was six feet tall, had children of his own and was late for the game because he had to work late at the office. He got up for the second time that inning and struck out with the bases loaded. Whew! At the top of the last (sixth) inning my son's team went three up, three down and didn't have to play the bottom half of that inning.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

The U.S. Senate is taking a look at allowing 20th century technology on the Senate floor.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - You can still find brass spittoons on the floor of the United States Senate, but don't look for personal computers -- they're not allowed in the historic chamber.

Sen. Mike Enzi found that out when he first showed up for work in 1997. The Wyoming Republican asked permission to bring his laptop computer onto the Senate floor, where votes and debate take place, but was told to check it at the door by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Citing advances in technology and the need to stay informed, Enzi has asked the committee to reconsider.

An Enzi spokesman said the chairman of the Rules and Administration Committee has agreed to reconsider the request, but has not yet scheduled a meeting.

Rules Committee staffers were not immediately available for comment.
Of course not. The messenger is still trying to hand-deliver a message to them.

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass writes about the latest show of patriotism from Crate & Barrel. It's red, white and blue, has some stars and you wipe your feet on it. Just remember, it's "not a flag."

My younger son's mite league baseball team played last night. He was one for three this time. After the game he told my wife, "Mom, I got a home run!" I didn't see that part of the hit. My attention must have lapsed when he stopped at first base. He eventually scored a run, after three more batters hit.

All it takes is just one hit per game to send his spirits soaring. He wasn't too active in the field until after he got that hit. In the final inning he really was tuned in to the game. When a throw to second was overthrown, my son quickly grabbed the ball and tossed it back to the infield. That may not sound like much but in a different game he wouldn't have seen the ball coming, much less have run after it and thrown it back.

After 30 years, someone may get to take another crack at uncovering the famous eighteen-minute gap in one of Nixon's White House tapes, Wired reports today:

Tape 342, as it's known by archivists, was last tested in 1974 by a panel of audio experts, who concluded that the erasures were done in separate segments. Whoever erased the tape pressed Record, stopped the tape, and hit Record again, between five and nine times - hardly an accidental erasure.

Last summer, the National Archives and Records Administration decided it was time to take another look, in the hope that advances in digital technology would be able to restore the conversation. NARA invited audio experts to demonstrate how they might retrieve intelligible speech. The competition - a battle of the bands among a dozen or fewer audio experts - is expected to last more than a year. Before any of them get their hands on the original tape, they must show they can retrieve sound from test erasures without doing damage. Those who succeed will get a crack at the real thing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Billionaire Idiot

(Reuters) [Ted] Turner, now vice chairman of AOL Time Warner Inc, which owns CNN, also acknowledged in the Guardian interview he had used an "unfortunate choice of words" when he said in a speech earlier this year that the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11 were "brave."

Turner said he tended to overuse the word as owner of the Atlanta Braves baseball team.

"I chose accidentally to say that they (the hijackers) were brave ... I use that word so often, it just pops out," he said.
Chose accidentally? Uh huh.

The lead letter to the editor in the Mpls. Star Tribune today:

The safe solution

The U.S. Forest Service should in the future have all employees accept only electronic correspondence from ex-spouses. Unless they hit the print button, there is no way to set fire to an e-mail.

-- Ed Viehman, New Hope.
That was interesting. Can you tell us about your belly-button lint and string collection?

Just got back from the post office. I walked over to the large, downtown Minneapolis loop station. There are mailboxes inside and outside. Envelopes, boxes and other assorted packaging devices are displayed on the walls. Rates and fees displayed behind the counters. I saw a poster about stamp collecting. I heard people at the counter uttering things like, "I want to mail this box to Denver." You get the idea.

The guy in line next to me, an adult who did not appear to be "special" or foreign, walked up to the counter and said with a straight face, "Do you sell stamps?"

On the thirtieth anniversary of the Watergate scandal, we here in Minnesota are facing an equally scandalous event perpetrated by the family of Governor Jesse Ventura. We can call this one "Animal House."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (along with our breathless local TV newscasters) reports that Ventura's son, 22-year-old Tyrel, has been living at the governor's mansion and having parties there. The mansion staff, recently let go for budget reasons and not rehired when money became available, has now decided that now is the time to come forward with this information.

Governor's mansion or party pad?

By day, the staff at the governor's residence on Summit Avenue oversaw sedate public events and tour groups, polished the antique furniture and tended to the spacious 20-room house that is high on the list of the state's treasures.

But first, say former staff members, they had to pick up the beer bottles. And the wine bottles. And kick the overnight guests off the couches. And occasionally arrange for repairs to damaged furnishings.

Former Residence Manager Dan Creed and others broke a long silence on Monday, talking about the after-hours activities of Gov. Jesse Ventura's 22-year-old son, Tyrel Ventura, and the strain that they put on the housekeeping staff.
This is page one news, above the fold. It also lead the local nightly news last night. Oh, the horror.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Not a good baseball night. My older son's team was thoroughly beaten, 20-6. The game started on the wrong foot and just got worse. Happily, I can report that my boy had a good night. He hit three for three and made one out.

The first two batters struck out and that set the tone for the night. Another runner was thrown out at second and went back to the bench in tears. He threw his helmet at the ground, stormed off into the grass, flung himself down and wailed loudly. Other boys started to lose interest. The coaches had to keep telling them to stop climbing on the backstop. It was difficult to get them ready to bat. Several walked up to the plate, bat in hand, only to be told by the umpire to go back to the bench and get a helmet on. No one seemed prepared for anything. Unbelievably, two different players ran off the field in the middle of a play to use the bathroom. What made it even worse is that they did it at the same time. You guessed it - one of them had to wait in line.

Adding to the distractions, the coach on the other team was, well, sort of a jerk. His own co-coach had set out the bases yet two pitches into the game he demanded that third base be moved several feet. He looked at our coaches as if it was a plot to make his runners (yet somehow not ours) run three extra feet between second and third. The coach also argued about the number of pitches one of his boys received. The kids get seven pitches or three strikes, whichever comes first. After the seventh, he piped up that his player should get one more. No one in the park agreed with him. But you know how it is dealing with people like that. The batter got his eighth pitch and made a hit. It made no difference in the final score but it was just one more thing that kept the night from being fun.

This is odd: Home Depot doesn't want the U.S. Government's business.

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Home Depot Inc., the nation's biggest hardware and home-improvement chain, has told its 1,400 stores not to do business with the U.S. government or its representatives, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday.

"Engaging in business practices with the federal government is not a strategic focus of the Home Depot," company spokesman Tom Gray said. "The Home Depot is not and does not plan to become a federal contractor or subcontractor." He said it was an old policy.
The reason?
[C]ommercial credit-card customers will receive a notice with their June bill that purchases could not be made "that would cause the company to be covered by or responsible in any way for compliance with" three federal laws or executive orders:
  • Executive Order 11246 of 1965, which bans discrimination against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

  • Section 503 and Section 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by federal government contractors and subcontractors.

  • The Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, which requires that anyone doing business worth $25,000 or more with the federal government must take affirmative action to hire and to promote qualified targeted veterans.
The (almost) final word:
The company said in a statement released Sunday night that it will monitor the situation and could change its policy in the future.
Read: If public outcry costs more than what it would take to comply with federal laws and orders.

Saying the policy is not part of the company's "strategic focus" only makes it worse. It's one thing to get around the rules but it's very different when you say you're doing it for a different reason. Americans thrive on loopholes. Hey, think back to April 15th. No, I find that more irritating than if Home Depot had just said "We don't want to adhere to those laws and we have a legal way around doing that."

I like Home Depot. It sure beats Menards, its main competitor where I live. Menards employees facing customers are like roaches facing a light: they quickly scurry away. The first time I was at Home Depot, wandering aimlessly just to check out the place, two employees asked me if I needed help. For a second I thought their next words might be, "and can I interest you in a credit card?" But no, they were just trying to help. I would have hugged them but that wouldn't have seemed very manly, surrounded by chainsaws, plumbing fixtures and all.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Busy, busy weekend. Thanks to my wife for the nice post.

Some cool things I have to mention:

Yamaha makes a really nice personal watercraft with a four-stroke engine. Fast and quiet. It's a pleasure to drive.

800 MHz trunked radio systems. Wow. Many more channels, lots of privacy. At one of my jobs we use portable radios. Now we're using a VHF system that stinks. I never go anywhere without a cell phone because the radio system isn't very good. Radios in the cars are okay but the portable units are poor. We switch to the new system (the latest generation of trunked systems) in ten days. We've been training on the new system already. Old system: Chevy Chevette. New system: Chevy Corvette. The cost of each new portable radio is similarly comparable to a Corvette. Technology has its price. Digital encryption - ooh la la.

It's Fathers Day. I am Bob's wife, and I am writing without his knowledge. He would never "toot his own horn," but this man is an amazing Dad. He writes a lot about the kids, however those stories are just the tip of the iceberg. The man is the king of reverse psychology, "don't you eat those peas." Milk is not milk, it's unicorn blood. He is so creative that our children actually have imaginations, which many children lack. Bob is firm but loving, and he is always finding adventures for the three of them to do while I'm working. Family and friends tell me how lucky I am to have Bob because he is such a wonderful dad, only they didn't need to tell me, I already knew. Happy Fathers Day Bob!

Friday, June 14, 2002

My younger son played last night. In his age bracket, score isn't kept because each player bats once each inning. There might be one out or there might be none in an inning (three is off the scale), but everyone bats once. Last night my boy was one for three. The great thing about his hit is that he was at the bottom of the lineup that inning. the bases usually are loaded by about the fifth batter. By definition, the last batter usually gets a grand slam because everyone on base runs home when the last batter hits. The other team tries to get the ball to home plate quickly in this situation.

In the last play of an inning, once the ball is in the able hands of the catcher, a rather interesting thing happens. You probably won't see this in the big leagues. The base line starts to look like the path of a merchant ship zig-zagging around U-boats. The runners see what the catcher is holding and veer wide. The catcher, not realizing he just has to stay planted on home plate, starts out after them. You may know that big chain link fence behind the diamond as a backstop. You might think it's purpose is to stop foul balls from going into the stands. But with six-year-olds the backstop's name actually comes from parents and coaches shouting, "Stop, get back on the field." See, those barricades help to contain the little runners to the ball field and keep them from using the soccer nets in the adjoining fields as protective cover from the catcher.

I like this Tim Blair post:

What is it with the Pilgers and the Noams and the Fisks? They spend half their lives complaining about free trade and the other half complaining about trade barricades. If trade is such an evil, why aren't Cuba and Iraq – safely quarantined from the taint of global capital – the finest places on earth in which to live, instead of cockroach-states ruled by murderous, semi-evolved slumlords?

Thursday, June 13, 2002

It would be funny if it wasn't true. From WSJ Opinion Journal today:

Zero-Tolerance Watch
Santa Monica, Calif.'s Franklin Elementary School has banned the game of tag during recess, the Los Angeles Times reports. An article in the school newsletter explains: "The running part of this activity is healthy and encouraged; however, in this game, there is a 'victim' or 'It,' which creates a self-esteem issue. The oldest or biggest child usually dominates."

The upcoming Power Puff Girls movie is rated PG (some material may not be suitable for children). The movie is based on a children's cartoon.

It was a high scoring and close ball game last night. My older son's team won, 18-17. Each game this season has brought about a drop in the number of errors and a rise in the ratio of outs made at bases to strikeouts. There was a cold rain during the last half of the game. Fielding performance could best be described as two steps forward, one step backward. The rain was distracting and there were a few more "oops" than usual.

When the rain started the umbrellas popped out. A mom was at the ballpark with her two daughters. The little girls didn't have an umbrella so one of the dads at the park loaned them an extra one. In less than five minutes the girls had bent the umbrella beyond any hope of repair. The mom felt awful about it and told the dad she'd replace it. The dad, being a nice guy and realizing it was a five-dollar umbrella, told her not to worry about it. He politely said it was just some old thing that had been in the car. But the dad's daughter quickly pipes up: No, that's the one we gave mom for mothers' day. In full earshot of the other mom. Who now feels even worse. I laughed out loud.

Under the category of "...and I walked to school with snow up to my chest," I have this observation: When I played sports as a kid we got a can of soda after summer games and nothing after winter games. Nowadays my kids get a juice bag or box and some sort of snack after each game. Did I say each game? I meant to say each team event, including practices. (Although whoever was supposed to bring the treats for the team picture must have forgot it was his turn.) My grandkids will probably receive full meals and a mileage reimbursement after each game.

By the way, I really did walk to elementary school, in rain or deep snow. This being Minnesota, I probably fought back wood ticks and timber wolves, too. But my children burn fossil fuels to get to school. Yes, our kids are getting soft, pink and fat. Good thing they don't face ticks and wolves each day.

James Lileks has an intersting post today about the majority owner of Caribou Coffee:

1. There’s a charity set up to help Palestinians - supply food, medical assistance, school books, etc. Its website naturally makes no mention of Israel, but refers to occupied Palestine, 1948 Palestine, etc.

2. One of the members of the board of directors is Sheikh Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a professor of Islamic law in Qatar.

3. This same professor is on the board of directors of an Islamic investment group, where he is in charge of making sure the company’s actions are done in accordance with Shari'a, Islamic law. Oddly enough, the Shari'a page for this company is "Under Construction."

Hmmm. It looked okay when Google cached it.

4. This investment group is called First Islamic, and has sunk money into many US companies.

5. The professor is a member of the group that assassinated Sadat.

6. Punchline: First Islamic owns 87.8% of Caribou Coffee.
There's a lot more to it. Here's the ending:
I certainly don't meant to suggest that any of this influences the operation of Caribou Coffee, or reflects the opinions of its management or staff. Duh. It's merely an instructive comparison. If these ideas were put forth by an advisor to any major American corporation, and word got out that McDonald's had a religious advisor on staff who thought women took jobs away from men, you can imagine the hellacious commotion that would result.
Ain't Google neat!

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Employees at another federal agency let us down.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - An immigration supervisor and four others have been charged with smuggling illegal immigrants from the Philippines into the United States through Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said Tuesday.

The five are charged with allegedly conspiring to meet immigrants at arriving flights, diverting them from connecting flights and escorting them past airport security, according to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney's office.

"It's not every day that a senior INS inspector is arrested smuggling aliens through the airport," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Cowan.
Good thing they were finally caught. This next part could best be described as the punchline to this joke:
Authorities said the smuggling ring exploited a loophole in the little-known federal Transit Without Visa program, which permits foreigners to stop briefly in the United States without visas.

Federal authorities have expressed concerns for years about weaknesses in the program, which has come under investigation since the Sept. 11 attacks.
For years. Beautiful.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Channel 4000/AP -- MCKEES ROCKS, Pa. -- A police dog is accused of racial profiling.

The 5-year-old German shepherd named Dolpho is the lone police dog in McKees Rocks.

Dolpho can tell the difference between marijuana, heroin and cocaine. But a borough councilwoman said the dog targets blacks and should be put to death.

Dolpho made a mistake last week. While a K-9 officer wrestled with a drug suspect, a button on his belt inadvertently opened a door to the K-9 wagon. The dog bolted out and bit a 9-year-old boy on the leg, and not the suspect. The boy is black.

Police said the dog became confused because there was a lot of noise and yelling.

The incident was brought up during a council meeting Monday. No decision was made about Dolpho's fate.
No word if Dolpho also singles out cats, poodles or beagles.

A win last night for my older son’s baseball team. At his level of play, the scores tend to be somewhat lopsided. I think the final tally yesterday was 22 -7. He's won a few games with scores like that and he's lost a few like that. There hasn't had a close game yet this season.

Errors still determine the outcome. Some of the boys realize this and try to stretch each single into a double knowing that the likelihood of a successful throw to second is low. However, the fielding of all the teams gets noticeably better with each game. The number of triples and doubles, correspondingly, goes down. So does the level of cockiness exhibited by some players. Getting tagged out at second base when you should’ve stopped at first will do that.

The games get more exciting to watch as the season goes on. The seven run per inning rule is rarely invoked because most teams can usually make three outs before that many players make the trip from third to home. The boys play six innings in this league. As the number of errors each game goes down, batting averages also drop but the games get shorter. My evenings seem hectic at times but it’s still fun to go to the games.

What am I? What are you? Steven den Beste writes of "engineerists." I especially like these parts of the description:

Engineerists are socially liberal, economically conservative and politically libertarian. Note the use of lower case letters on all of those words; I'm "socially liberal" but damned well not "Socially Liberal".

We Engineerists are intensely pragmatic. We don't try to come up with overriding philosophies ("wealth is evil", "Government regulation is evil", "America is evil") and then judge everything based on it. Individual cases are taken as they come, and the only criterion for any given proposal is practical: will it work better than the alternatives?

Monday, June 10, 2002

A writer at the Daily Cardinal, a student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, laments the decline of political activism at the campus.

Despite Madison's rich history of political activism among the university and residential community on behalf of a host of liberal issues, the activist trend in the city and on the UW-Madison campus has begun to decline.

While not always apparent, the wear on the liberal community is beginning to show. The liberal wear and tear is apparent in the little things. Offices of campus activist groups are more often closed than open. Protests for peace, which had began in earnest after Sept. 11, are few and far between only nine months later, in a community whose aging activist body prided themselves on beginning the rallies for peace in the '60s.
Perhaps even activists are beginning to realize that Islamic terrorists aren't going to stop their war against the United States and that the U.S. won't turn the other cheek. Maybe the activists are thinking, "It's really not okay to kill 3,000 people just for showing up for work." Conceivably, some might wonder if it's necessary to automatically oppose their national government just as a matter of principle. Others might realize that the chances of every U.S. citizen converting to Islam in order to appease people who hate anyone who doesn't share their beliefs isn't going to happen. Sure, pass out the burkas.

Madison has historically been a hotbed for activism, particularly for its easy access to a variety of governments. With the convenient arrangement of state, county and city government offices within blocks of each other and at the opposite end of a half-mile street from a historically liberal national university, students have probably marched issues up to the capitol for the duration of State Street's existence.
The UW was founded in 1848. I'm sure there probably were a few students opposed to the civil war and freeing the slaves. I guess the ends never justify the means.

While it might be convenient to blame President Bush's "war on terrorism" for creating a political atmosphere which stifles dissent, Madison's activist degeneration began far before Sept. 11. And besides, the political ultimatums ending in "...or the terrorists will win," have been fodder for late-show punchlines since late November, despite a presidential approval rating hovering in the 70th percentile.
But no one is calling Letterman or Leno unpatriotic.

Less than five years ago, organizations like Alliance for Democracy and the International Socialist Organization flooded local media outlets with letters to the editor and press releases about their issues; furthermore, they created highly visible campaigns to make their point and took initiative in highlighting the issues the community would come to discuss.

While perhaps atypical of standard protest fare, others like former UW-Madison student Ben Granby and his Ten Fat Tigers "political party" created the Shaft of the Year award to highlight issues with which they were concerned. The award, a large, phallic object was transported noticeably to its lucky winner. Tasteful? No. But visible? Extremely. And groups like Granby's put their opponents on the defensive, which provided a small advantage in the world of "us vs. them," "students vs. administration," David vs. Goliath.
Like a kid who dyes his spiked Mohawk pink and has a dozen piercings, the Shaft got some brief attention. But eventually everyone gets tired of such petulance and the effect is lost.

Where is Alliance today? It is not a coincidence that the decline of the coalition and its activist peers corresponded to the graduation of their strongest leaders.
In other words the leaders grew up, began to realize that activism isn't synonymous with opposition and started to participate in the real world.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Local alleged domestic terrorist Luke Helder pleaded innocent to planting a series of mailbox bombs. I picture a rather short trial, at least the jury deliberations. Yeah, yeah, yeah, innocent until proven guilty but with statements like this I wonder what he hopes to gain with a trial.

WCCO/AP - The Minnesota man who admitted this week that he planted 18 pipe bombs in Midwestern mailboxes told an officer that he wanted to make a "smiley face" pattern with his targets.

When he was arrested Tuesday night, Luke John Helder, 21, of Pine Island, Minn., told an undercover officer that he intended to form the 1970s happiness symbol on a map of the country.

Investigating an airplane crash must be frustrating. Investigators have the black boxes (flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder) but those don't always offer an explanation. Some crashes will have eyewitnesses. The National Transportation Safety Board has 349 witness accounts of the crash of American Airlines 587 which crashed in Belle Harbor, NY last November. Here's a summary:

  • 52% specifically reported seeing a fire while the plane was in the air, with the fuselage being the most often cited location (22%). Other areas cited as a fire location were the left engine, the right engine or an unspecified engine, and the left wing, the right wing or an unspecified wing.

  • 8% specifically reported seeing an explosion

  • 20% specifically reported seeing no fire at all

  • 22% reported observing smoke; 20% reported no smoke

  • 18% reported observing the airplane in a right turn; another 18% reported observing the airplane in a left turn

  • 13% observed the airplane "wobbling," dipping" or in "side to side" motion

  • 74% observed the airplane descend

  • 57% reported seeing "something" separate from the airplane; 13% reported observing the right wing, left wing or an undefined wing separate; 9% specifically reported observing no parts separate
Some of these observations directly contradict others. It would be interesting to know what investigators thought of the witnesses. Was one a retired air traffic controller? A fired airline employee? An insurance expert? What would cause people who supposedly saw the same event to have such different recollections of it?

Saturday, June 08, 2002

KARE11/AP -- Florida's child welfare agency still can't account for 1000 children under state care.

Governor Jeb Bush ordered the Department of Children and Families to check on almost 50,000 children under its care by a May 31st deadline. As of Friday, 1000 of them were still missing.
A number of the children are reported to be named Chad.

Nothing changes.

JERUSALEM (AP) - In a series of deadly episodes Saturday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian gunmen killed a pregnant woman, her husband and an Israeli soldier at a mobile home settlement, while at least six armed Palestinians died.
This will lead to more outrage, more talk and...more talk. Oh, and some Palestinian buildings will be demolished and Europe will wince at that. What patience the Israelis have.

I spent part of the day boating. What a change from the last time I was out. It's usually a good day on the lake if you don't have to use words like Gore-Tex, Thinsulate, wool and waterproof. Better strike that last one; something had darn well better be waterproof when you're in a boat.

Today is my younger son's birthday. He's six now. His older brother turns eight at the end of the month but for the next three weeks they're just "a year apart." The younger one used to think he was going to catch up to the older one.

Friday, June 07, 2002

Some events fall under the category of Life Imitates the Onion. And sometimes Life takes The Onion at face value.

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing's most popular newspaper has unwittingly republished a bogus story about U.S. Congress threats to skip town for Memphis or Charlotte unless Washington builds them a new Capitol building with a retractable dome.

The source? America's celebrated spoof tabloid, the Onion.

The Beijing Evening News, which claims a circulation of 1.25 million, translated portions of the Onion's tall tale word-for-word in the international news page of its June 3 edition.

The reprinted version of the May 29 article, which parodies Congress as a Major League Baseball squad, also copied the Onion's would-be blueprint for a new legislative home that resembles a ballpark. "Don't get us wrong: We love the drafty old building," the Onion quoted House Speaker Dennis Hastert as saying.

"But the hard reality is, it's no longer suitable for a world-class legislative branch. The sight lines are bad, there aren't enough concession stands or bathrooms, and the parking is miserable."

The spoof from the brazen entertainment tabloid, which dubs itself "America's finest news source," apparently took in the Evening News.

I thought we weren’t going to have a baseball game for my younger son tonight. Dark clouds and distant lightning surrounded us. But none of it came close enough to the park to call the game. A number of parents decided to skip the game anyway so we were a few players short on both teams.

Holy cow! My son hit five for five tonight. That’s 5. Cinco. Cinq. Fünf. I’ve never been so happy at a sporting event.

You many not share my excitement but let me put this in perspective: These are the only hits he’s had all year. That’s right, no hits until tonight. He was on fire. Smokin’. He finally got to run the bases.

In addition to getting a hit each time he batted, he made an out. No some accidental out like the one he made when he picked up the ball and the runner bumped in to him. No, this was a real play. The shortstop threw (okay, rolled) the ball to my boy who was playing second base. He picked it up, touched the bag and watched me nearly faint in disbelief.

What a wonderful night.

Some cool photos of UFOs sighted over Minnesota yesterday. The media is trying to cover this up. They claim it was just "storm clouds." You know better.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Tragically, three young children were killed in a vehicle fire in the Twin Cities recently. There was no crash, just an unexplained fire. Investigators are still working to determine the cause. All very sad.

But our breathless local TV news stations are looking for that extra bit of tragedy and someone to blame. Facts can come later. The first night, they didn't even know what year the vehicle, a Chevy Astro van, was made. But that didn't stop them from telling us that some 1995 Astros had been recalled for fuel line problems.

Fuel line? That has gasoline in it, right? Gasoline burns. That's gotta be it! (Until we know more.)

Turns out the van is a 1994 model.

Here's what one station got its undies in a knot over:

This mini-van only had a sliding door on the right side. Newer models of many mini-vans have sliding doors on both sides. Gasp!

Call Joan Claybrook, we got us a scandal here. A major auto manufacturer only put a sliding door on one side. Next: all two-door cars should be recalled because they don't have a back door on either side.

Ralph Nader, who could have prevented the events of 9/11 if he had only been elected president, has his eyes on the NBA.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Ralph Nader wants the NBA to review Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, saying the nation's confidence has been shaken enough lately by business headlines.

The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings 106-102 in the game. But Nader, a consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential candidate, and the League of Fans, a sports-industry watchdog group, sent a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern on Tuesday asking for a review, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Cranky John Dvorak has a column about the Handspring Treo PDA/phone. He says it still needs some work. (Interestingly, a link in his column points to a review of the same device by two other PC Magazine writers who proclaim "Handspring Gets the Phone/PDA Combo Right.")

One shortfall of the device Dvorak mentions is the phone service:

[T]he service itself needs improvement. This phone is a GSM phone, though the company should have other types soon. That means you can use it in a limited number of U.S. areas and all over Europe, making the phone more popular over there than here. And although the voice quality is fabulous and I could make calls easily, people had trouble calling me. The message "All circuits are busy—try again later" was too common. So I sat at home trying to call the Treo from my home phone and got through in maybe one out of ten attempts. The difficulty cleared up a few days later, however.

I'm not sure how much these problems had to do with the VoiceStream folks, who apparently own the network. I was incredibly unimpressed with those folks. I couldn't get the VoiceStream voice mail to work at all; it sent me into an infinite loop over the password. Then when I called 411, I got into an argument with an information operator. After she failed to get me the number I was looking for, I asked her to try an alternative spelling of the name. She said, "I'm not going to play any guessing games, buddy!" When I pleaded, "Just try this once!", she said no and hung up. This is supposed to be service? And people are expected to pay money for this? Talk about arrogance!
If he thinks VoiceStream is the problem I can't argue. VoiceStream customer service stinks. The folks who answer customer service calls are, without fail, deeply annoyed that you've disturbed them. If you call them from your cell phone with a simple question that's not specific to your account you still need to go through all sorts of validation of who you are.

My wife and I each have a phone under the same account. It's in her name. That automatically makes me persona non grata in VoiceStream's eyes. So not only are the people at the help desk annoyed by my call, they also think I'm some sort of hacker trying to steal secrets. It's funny how they choke when I try to pay the bill over the phone. Yes, I'm trying to give them money and they get a big "does not compute" attitude because the first name on the credit card isn't the same as the first name on the account. Sure, the last names are the same, but I guess you never know who could fraudulently be trying to pay a bill.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Irritating: Right now Larry King (TV personality, looking very serious) is interviewing Dan Rather (TV personality, looking very serious). Oh well, maybe this is the equivalent of blogrolling. They're talking about Dan's "heir apparent." Mmmm. Royalty.

Saw this article referenced at The Daily Babble.

LA Times -- Nearly a decade after small, square beanbags fired from shotguns emerged as the "nonlethal" ammunition of choice, police departments nationwide are abandoning them after finding that they can be dangerously inaccurate and deadlier than manufacturers claimed.

The devices, the size of tea bags and made of tough fabric filled with lead shot, are supposed to bounce off their targets, allowing police officers to stop a potentially dangerous person without causing major injuries. But officials cite examples of beanbags penetrating deep into the body, causing serious internal injuries.
This is why these munitions should properly be termed less-lethal, not non-lethal. There's a big difference. I think this ammunition is a victim of poor marketing. Hey, the cops aren't using Super Soakers to fire these "beanbags," they're using 12 gauge shotguns. Shoot feathers out of a Remington 870 and at the right distance, it's still going to hurt someone.

Beanbag rounds (and wooden and rubber rounds) are supposed to reduce the likelihood of death. They certainly are not going to be injury-free. If police stop using "non-lethal" ammunition because they might get sued when someone gets injured or killed, they will go back to using double-ought buckshot which is about ten-thousand times more likely to kill the subject (but won't fail to live up to unreasonable performance expectations).

UPDATE: The St. Paul Pioneer Press gets the terminology right: Standoff ends with St. Paul police using 'less-lethal' weapon on man

A rather lopsided ball game yesterday for my older son. I think the final score was about 20 to 1. With seven-year-olds, sometimes the gravel in the infield holds their interest more than what the pitcher and the batter are doing. Once or twice per game various players are caught by surprise when a line drive whizzes closely by. Sometimes they are facing a direction where they can't see the ball coming but they sure have a great view of it going away. I keep reminding my boy to always pay attention. I don't care if he drops a fly ball but I tell him it's really going to hurt if he gets smacked on the back of the head with a baseball.

Well, there's no learning experience like a painful learning experience. Bottom of the fourth inning, runners on first and second. My son is playing third base. Here's the windup, the pitch and CRACK - a solid grounder towards third. The parents cheer, the teams yell and my boy looks up from his shoelaces just in time to feel the ball strike his knee.

It really stung him. I walked out and helped him off the field. As kindly as I possibly could (I didn't want more tears) I explained that that is exactly the reason why it's important to pay attention. Surprisingly, he agreed. The next inning he had a whole new perspective, one that didn't include gravel, shoelaces and airplanes. He focused closely on a small, white and hard ball.

At least they are letting the kid live.

LAGOS (Reuters) - A Nigerian woman, sentenced by a Muslim court to death by stoning for adultery, was given a two-year reprieve to wean her baby, her lawyers said on Tuesday.

An appeals court in the northwestern town of Funtua stayed the execution on Monday after hearing an appeal from Amina Lawal Kurami who was sentenced to death in March after bearing a child out of wedlock.

"The ruling means that nothing will happen to Amina regarding the execution of the death sentence on her until she has weaned her baby by 2004," Kurami's lawyer Hawa Ibrahim told Reuters.

Egypt Says It Warned U.S. of an Attack.

CIA says it told FBI about hijacker.

CIA disputes FBI hijacker story.

Omaha American Legion Post 374 warned government about hijackers. (link not available, yet)

Boy Scout Troop 928 says it knew of terror plans and tried to warn authorities. (link not available, yet)

Monday, June 03, 2002

One-Adam-Twelve, requesting backup... and close air support.

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- Two Edwards F-15 Eagle pilots unknowingly helped the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department break up a gang-related incident May 18 while performing a flyby at the 43rd Annual Torrance Armed Forces Day parade.

According to the sergeant, the park erupted, and people started attacking the deputies and the suspects. The deputies called for assistance, and more than 40 law enforcement people armed with rubber bullets, bean bag shotguns and pepper spray arrived from several local stations to help clear the park and restore order.

About that time, Lt. Col. Bill Thornton, commander of the 416th Flight Test Squadron here, and Maj. Carl Schaefer, also of the 416th, approached the area in preparation for their flyover.

"The first pass over the park made everyone stop and look at the F-15s," said Stover. "When they turned and made a second pass, it caused everyone to scatter and empty out of the park, much like when you turn on a light and roaches scatter."

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Tonight we went to my nephew's baptism. Before the event, the priest chatted with the families. He asked my boys what grades they were in and how they liked school. My younger son proudly exclaimed that he could count to 199.

Afterwards, seven of us went out to dinner. I was the first in the restaurant and had the hostess put our party on the list.

How many, sir?

Five for non-smoking.

When we were seated my mom tells the hostess that we are missing two chairs.

Yep, my son can count to 199.

I'm just 194 behind him.

Campus Nonsense has tips for Washington interns.

Doh! Music bosses have unveiled a revolutionary new recording format that they hope will help win the war on illegal file sharing which is thought to be costing the industry millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Nicknamed the 'Record', the new format takes the form of a black, vinyl disc measuring 12 inches in diameter, which must be played on a specially designed 'turntable'.

"We can state with absolute certainty that no computer in the world can access the data on this disc," said spokesman Brett Campbell. "We are also confident that no-one is going to be able to produce pirate copies in this format without going to a heck of a lot of trouble. This is without doubt the best anti-piracy invention the music industry has ever seen."