Thursday, February 26, 2009

End of an Era

With newspapers having a hard time surviving the economy and competition from the new media, Colorado is losing the states oldest paper. Tomorrow is the final edition of The Rocky Mountain News. Started just a couple of months shy of 150 years ago, The Rocky has been a fixture in Denver and the Rocky Mountain region. So now Denver joins most cities in America as a one newspaper town. The Denver Post will stand alone.

I have seen other papers shutdown in towns where I have lived. Shortly after I moved away, The Houston Post was closed; and while I lived in Tulsa, The Tulsa Tribune ceased publication, leaving only The Tulsa World.

Scripps, the publisher of the Rocky, had unsuccessfully tried to find a new owner, but in this economy, it was not to be.

Charles Paul Martin 1925-2009

Today is a sad day. My father-in-law, Charles Paul Martin, died shortly before noon, Eastern Daylight Time in the ICU of United Hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia. He fell and broke his hip eight days ago, triggering multiple health issues. He was 83, and will be missed immensely.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

They Still Don't Get It!

The Republican Party still doesn't get it. A group of GOP governors are making a big deal about rejecting the stimulus money for their states; money with which they could fund extended unemployment benefits for their citizens who are out of work. One such blowhard is the 36-year-old governor of Louisiana, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal. He has been highly visible lately, as the GOP handlers get him groomed to run for the Presidency. Jindal appeared on NBC's Meet the Press last weekend, and is slated to give the GOP response to the President's address to a joint session of Congress tonight.

That's fine, however Jindal knows that his rejection of the federal funds will not stand with both houses of the Louisiana legislature in Democratic hands. It is pure and simple, grandstanding for political purposes. Despite Senator John McCain's campaign of "Country First", the GOP still values political power over the welfare of their people. I heard on the radio today that Louisiana loses 480 jobs a day; yet the governor of that state thinks it is fine to reject funds to provide unemployment benefits to those people in his state who have lost their jobs in this god-awful economy.

Eight years of the GOP running a government bent on giving tax breaks to the wealthy and deregulating the corporations, has driven us to the point of total economic collapse. Even after that, the party of Lincoln has become the instrument of corporate control of the government. This is totally sickening.

President Obama is not perfect, and will definitely not get everything right. However, he is the hardest working man I have ever seen take on the office of the Presdent. He didn't miss a beat from election day on. Meanwhile the GOP plays hard ball politics, despite the Presidents strident efforts at bipartisanship. I say "screw 'em". Obama has tried and has seen nothing but obstructionist partisanship. Someone needs to tell the Republicans we voted for change. We tried it your way and you have nearly destroyed the nation. It's time to get on board or shut up!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hauntingly Familiar?

Does this building look familiar? Imagine two of them standing next to each other. Yes, it indeed has more than a passing resemblance to the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. But this building is half a continent away.

This is the BoK Tower, home of the BoK Financial Group in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At one fourth the footprint and half the height of the Twin Towers, this building has many of the same architectural features, including the two-story marble lobby and vertical lines. And it's no wonder. It was designed by the same architectural firm that designed the WTC, Minoru Yamasaki.

I worked in the BoK tower from 1992-1994, when the original WilTel had headquarters in the building. I always noticed it resembled the WTC, but was a lone, smaller version of the iconic buildings that once stood proudly on the south end of New York's Manhattan Island. Now it stands a haunting reminder in the heartland of its big brothers who became ground zero in the worst terrorist attack on the United States.

George Washington's Birthday

George Washington, Revolutionary War General, First President of the United States under the Constitution, and often called "The Father of our Country", was born 278 years ago today. But what a lot of people don't know, is that February 22 was not the original date. Washington was actually born on February 11, 1731. In 1752, Great Britain and its colonies, including those along the Atlantic seaboard of North America, moved from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one. That shifted dates by 11 days, and thus moving Washington's birthday to February 22.

When I was a child in school, we had holidays on February 12 for Lincoln's birthday, and again on February 22 for Washington's birthday. Then the Uniform Holiday Bill of 1968 came along and moved several holidays, including Washington's birthday, to designated Mondays rather than fixed dates. Although there was a proposal to rename the holiday, "Presidents Day", that part didn't happen. Despite common thought, the day is still officially in celebration of Washington's Birthday.

So even though President Washington's birthday has moved around a lot and we celebrate it on the third Monday of February, today's date will always be the one fixed in my mind.

Read more about George Washington's birthday from the National Archives by CLICKING HERE.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Glenn Beck's Nine Principles

Talk show host, Glenn Beck, has laid out nine principles on his web site that he is using to rally his conservative base of listeners. He is saying if you believe in at least seven of the nine, "you are not alone". For the sake of discussion, I will list these principles, and then give my take on each. They are as follows:
The Nine Principles

1. America is good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
So let's break these down, one by one.

1. America is good.

This statement is meaningless. America, as in The United States of America, is not a unified thing, but rather a collective of people of many types. Some are primarily "good", some are quite evil. Within any one individual, there are qualities that are both good, and not-so-good. The nature of America as a whole is a reflection of its constituent citizenry. While I believe that we probably have high ideals as a nation, I am not sure that you could use the adjective "good" in relation to any group of disparate people.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

While this statement is true of many people, it is not true of all. If a person's religion gives them a reason to treat their fellow human beings with respect and kindness, that is fine. However, history has shown us that religious fervor tends to drive men to acts of great evil, warfare, and killing in the name of their god. People create gods that love what they love, and hate what they hate. In other words, our gods are created in our image. I would imagine Osama bin Laden would agree with principle #2.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

I can agree with this one, given the qualifier of understanding the benefits of tact and diplomacy; and that an honest character allows for tact and sparing of the feelings of others.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

I am not sure what Beck means by "sacred" as an adjective for family. I would agree that family is extremely important to most of us. I believe most of us would sacrifice greatly, perhaps even our own existence, for the benefit of our loved ones. Still, what is meant by "ultimate authority"? In personal matters, the individual should be their own authority in personal affairs. However, as part of a society, we also are not completely autonomous. None of us can individually overrule the laws of the society in which we live. I can see it now..."Honest officer, I say the speed limit is 90 miles per hour here, and I am the ultimate authority". Surely this is not what Beck means here, particularly given the next principle.

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

So although this seemingly is in contradiction to principle #4, Beck lists it here. I largely agree with this one, although we have seen political leaders of both parties act as if they are not subject to the laws they are empowered with creating and enforcing. Blind justice is an ideal, but in many cases not a reality, as there is a separate justice for those of wealth and power who can afford the best legal representation and tactics unavailable to the poor in our society.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

I agree, but it doesn't mean that we don't have responsibilities to the less fortunate.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

This is related to #6. I strongly disagree with the direction Beck is taking here. The government levying taxes and then using some of those funds to provide for the less fortunate in our society is not forcing anyone to be "charitable"; rather it is a legitimate role of government. Even the most successful and wealthy people didn't make it without being part of a society that provided their opportunities. Given that, those with greater means have some responsibility back to the society that afforded them the chance to achieve their success. This should not be a nation of every man for himself, where the successful can say, "I've got mine. Too bad for you."

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

I agree strongly with this one, despite the fact that the Bush Administration and its supporters were singing a different tune for the last eight years. Dissent is patriotic, and free speech a protected right.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

The government works for all of us collectively. It doesn't mean any one individual is in a position of authority over the government. In our democratic republic, we can elect our leaders, so in that sense I agree. However, I disagree with Beck, in that we all answer to government. They can levy taxes, pass laws to regulate our behavior, and even seize our assets by following due process.

So those are my thoughts on Beck's principles. I'd like to hear from you on this. Feel free to send me your comments.

Lincoln and Darwin

I have written in the past how 2 great men of history were born on the same day. Today is the 2ooth anniversary of the birth of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Lincoln, who preserved the United States as an indivisible nation; and Darwin who expanded our understanding of how life evolved on earth via the process of natural selection. Our nation owes much to President Lincoln, and modern science and medicine, to Charles Darwin. A momentous anniversary indeed!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Verizon's Parallel Universe

Photo from TV screen showing Verizon's map. Click to enlarge.

Google's correct map of central Colorado.

Verizon must live in a parallel world from the rest of us. A commercial they are running in their "Dead Zone" ads for Verizon Wireless shows what is easily recognized as a map of central Colorado. But wait...something's very wrong here!

First of all some towns are right where they should be. Others are totally in the wrong place. For example, we see Central City, Castle Rock, Golden, and Brighton in their correct locations. But Colorado Springs has become Walden. Boulder is now Pueblo. Durango and Craig are relocated as well.

Also, the highways are horribly misnumbered. Some of the US highways are fine...US 50, US 24 and US 285 for example. But there is now a US 666 in place of US 36. (By the way, the real US 666 was decommissioned and renumbered US 491, and ran through the far southwestern part of Colorado). Then the Interstate highways are all messed up. US 70 is numbered on Verizon's map as I-40 east of Denver (which is not named on the map at all), and as I-50 to the left of the man and outside this photo of the TV screen. I-25 is now I-36. I-36 doesn't even exist, and if it did, it would be an east-west route, not a north-south one.

So the question becomes, why didn't Verizon just use a correct map, or even a totally fictional one, rather than jumbling up a map of a real place? Weird, ain't it?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Klingon Robs Two Stores

The phrase, "You can't make this stuff up" holds true once again. A man brandishing a bat'leth, a weapon used by Klingons in the fictional Star Trek universe, used it to rob two 7-11 stores in Colorado Springs. Could this be a real Klingon, or just some dork who needed bus fare to the next Star Wars convention? Why didn't the police call for reinforcements from Starfleet? If the bad guy gets caught, maybe we'll find the answers to these and other perplexing questions. In the meantime, read the full story HERE.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Newspapers Online - 1981 Style

Today, both newspapers and television stations are struggling, largely due to competition from news delivered on the Internet. But 28 years ago, it was 1981, and KRON-TV in San Francisco had this report about how a few newspapers were starting to be available to download the text onto a computer. A harbinger of things to come:

The Day The Music Died

Fifty years ago, February 3, 1959, a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa took the lives of three popular music stars. Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Richie Valens, and pilot Roger Peterson. Waylon Jennings gave up his seat to Richardson, who was not feeling well and was running a fever. Valens had reached overnight success with the hits La Bamba and Donna. Richardson's mega-hit, Chantilly Lace, had been all over the radio in 1958. Holly, best known for songs such as Peggy Sue and That'll Be The Day were on a tour to promote their music when tragedy struck.

In his song American Pie that became a huge hit in 1972, singer-songwriter Don McLean referred to the day of the crash as "The day the music died". It was so long that the single version had to be in two halves on the "A" and "B" sides of the 45 RPM record. That song also was one of three that I always kept handy back when I was a radio disc-jockey, as the 8:33 length made it the perfect song if you had to make a lengthy trip to the bathroom before the song ran out. What were the others, you ask? In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly, which ran an amazing 17:05 on the album version; and the rock classic of the 70s, Stairway to Heaven, at 8:02. Stairway is still one of my all time favorite songs.

Change We CAN Believe In

Until his final hours in office, George W. Bush couldn't think of a single mistake he made in office. That shouldn't have been a hard task. But today, after a rough day with his nominees' tax issues, President Barack Obama said, "I screwed up". Wow! A man willing to admit his mistakes and take responsibility for them. This is the kind of ethical change we needed in Washington!

From an MSNBC story HERE:
“Today was an embarrassment for us,” Obama said. He said he was “angry,” “disappointed” and “frustrated with myself” over the Daschle episode.
But the president claimed credit for appointing hundreds of “top notch” executive branch officials who have no tax problems.
The president continued:
Obama added, “I’ve got to own up to my mistake. Ultimately, it’s important for this administration to send a message that there aren’t two sets of rules, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”
Some of President Obama's detractors have accused his supporters of idealizing him into some kind of "messiah". Yet here we see an honest, ethical man with the ability to admit to his mistakes. That is something we haven't seen in the White House since perhaps Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Separated at Birth?

This afternoon while watching the Superbowl on television, something about Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was strikingly familiar. It seemed like I had seen him before. I mentioned it to the lovely spouse, who said she thought the same thing. Then it came to her. Tomlin is almost a dead ringer for Omar Epps, co-star of the television series House. Epps portrays Doctor Eric Foreman on the Fox Network's hit series about a team of physicians who are half detective, half healer.

Indeed, that was it. Tomlin could be Epps' long lost twin. The resemblance is so strong that it seemed I was more familiar with Tomlin than I really was. But once we figured it out, it was obvious to us what caused the impression.

I am sure we are not the first to recognize the resemblance, but it is indeed there.

Polydactyl Baby

Most people think that their babies are pretty special, but a Daly City, California couple have one really special infant. Their newborn boy was born with a condition known as polydactyly, a condition where a person has extra digits. This little boy came factory equipped with twelve fingers and twelve toes. While polydactyly is not an extremely rare condition, the usual incidence is not fully-formed, fully-functional superfluous digits.

The baby's parents are wrestling with whether or not to have "corrective" surgery on the baby's hands and feet. It is a difficult decision, because the child is not having any malfunctions from it, but it would be to have the child conform to the expected norm. It reminds me of the episode of The Twilight Zone titled The Eye of the Beholder, where a young woman (played by Donna "Elly Mae Clampett" Douglas) was undergoing surgery to repair her "ugly" face. As it turns out, the surgery didn't take, and she was sent of to a colony to live with others who shared her condition. The twist was that she was beautiful when our standards are used, but the norm was that everyone else had misshapen, pig-snouted visages. What is normal can differ depending on expectations.

In this case, the decision needs to be made soon. The removal of extra fingers and toes yields the best results if done early, plus it would spare the child the trauma of being different in school. Still, I would be hard pressed to have such a thing done on perfectly fine digits.

Now there would be pluses and minuses to having at least an extra couple of fingers. Imagine how one could play the piano or perform typing with two extra fingers. However, buying gloves would be a bitch. I guess it would be mittens for sure.

The most interesting ponderable about this however, at least to me, is this...what if 12 fingers had been the standard, rather than ten? Would humans have established a duodecimal number system as the everyday base of mathematics rather than our current base-10 decimal system? When we use written notation for duodecimal numbers, it is customary to use the letter "A" for the nuber we call ten, and the letter "B" for our eleven. OF course, the notation "10" in duodecimal represents our "12?. But if we had naturally used a base-12 system, we would have established digits that uniquely represent those quantities. What would the extra two numeric representations have looked like?