Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday 2-29

It's leap day. The "free" day those of us on salary give to our employers every four years. Think about it, is your boss giving you an extra day of pay for the extra day of work you are about to put in? Yeah, me neither.

And why do we have to add the extra day to February? Why not add it to a month we actually enjoy around here--like June? The last thing we need this year is another day of winter. It's kind of fitting that leap day brought more snow.

Being serious for a minute, today is a good time to reflect on how we each spend our time. Here are some suggestions for how to spend this "extra" day:

--Help someone less fortunate than you. It doesn't have to be today--since you haven't had time to prepare. But why not contact one of the local charities and schedule a day later this year to help them out? If you are one of those people who are paid hourly, why not donate your "extra" day of pay to one of the local charities that do so much good in our area?

--Spend more time with the kids. Study after study shows kids appreciate time with their parents more than any toy, video game or music player that you're busting your hump at work to pay for. Don't have kids? Why not make this the day you call Big Brothers and Big Sisters or another youth mentoring program in the area and make a big difference in a little kid's life.

--Pamper yourself. Make appointments at spas or salons or your favorite restaurant and make this "extra" day count. Maybe see that movie you think is interesting. If leap day was in June as I suggested we could spend the whole day golfing.

--Don't go to work. Don't even call your boss. When he or she wants to know on Monday where you were last Friday, tell them you didn't have a "leap year" calendar--so you thought it was Saturday, March 1st.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday 2-25

For the tenth consecutive year, I managed to watch only the opening monologue of the Oscars. Why this remains such a major event--and treated like important news by so many outlets--baffles me.

One reason I can't stand to watch is that I'm fed up with the self-glorification of the entertainment industry. They make such a big deal about how this star has never won or how this director has never been honored. I'm sure they feel very hollow inside as they lounge near their estate's pool--which probably cost more than my entire house.

Another reason not to watch: I'm tired of the politicization of the show. An actor honored for his role in ultra-violent, crime-riddled, profanity-laden motion picture stands up there and criticizes the country for being involved in a war overseas. Or an actress who makes ten-million dollars per picture tells us the government should take better care of its residents. How many people could get all of their medical bills covered by the salary that actress made? But if they were taxed at say ninety-five percent like the ultra rich are in England (where they have universal health care), these stars would immediately move to Monaco or Switzerland.

And let's not forget the moronic attention paid to what these people are wearing. Tens of thousands of dollars wasted on articles of clothing that will be worn once (heaven forbid a star be seen wearing the same thing twice) from designers nobody else can afford to wear. How did we as a society become so shallow?

But the main reason I don't watch the Oscars--I never see any of the movies. My wife is partly to blame for that--she prefers romantic comedies where no real thought is needed to follow the plot and you can predict each "plot twist" because they are the same as the last romantic comedy that hit the screen. The other problem, I just don't enjoy the movie experience. Ticket prices are okay--eight bucks for about two hours of entertainment is acceptable--12-bucks for two dollars worth of popcorn and a dollar's worth of soda?

I'm also not a big fan of theater seating. The stadium-style arrangements now common are an improvement over the old-time theaters--but I'm 6'3" with size 13 feet--so there still isn't enough room for me. Forget the love seats at the end of the rows--give me a rocker-recliner so I can stretch out a bit.

The fifteen minutes of ads (glad I'm paying to watch those) and endless trailers for more movies written for idiots should be shown in the 15-minutes before the posted movie time--rather than starting five minutes after the posted time.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday 2-22

I'm a little disappointed in myself this morning. I was heading north on highway 41 on the northside of Appleton last night on my way to the Freedom-Seymour boys basketball game and doing my usual 72-miles an hour when a gray car raced up behind me and wanted to pass. I moved over and the car zoomed by me. That's when I noticed in the back seat a little kid jumping around and running back and forth. He could not have been more than three-years old as he was clearly standing up and his head barely came above the rear deck lid--meaning he should have been buckled into a child safety seat or booster seat.

It says something about the effectiveness of the state's child restraint law when seeing something like this catches your attention. At that point, I had a passing thought that I should call the cops and have that driver pulled over--but I didn't.

A few minutes later, the gray car got caught behind slower traffic and I pulled up alongside of it. That's when I saw the woman behind the wheel was on the cellphone--and had a cigarette in the other hand. So not only has this mother put her child at risk by not buckling him into a safety seat, she is also speeding, tailgaiting and barely paying attention to the road by yakking on the cell phone. And then to top it off, she is threatening his health by puffing away on the cancer stick in that closed environment.

That's when I decided "you know what, I am calling the cops to teach that woman a lesson. "Maybe the couple hundred dollars in fines she would get would teach her a lesson on responsibility and how to value the life of her little one."

That's when I realized my cell phone was in my attache the rear storage area of the station s-u-v. So now I'm wrestling with myself--should I pull over and get out the phone to call the cops on this "mother" or do I just sit by and do nothing--like so many others do nowadays. Unfortunately, the latter won out--as I just couldn't justify stopping on a packed interstate just to report a driver that officers may not have been able to track down anyway.

I was relieved to find there were no accidents involving unbuckled children in the Fox Vally last night. That means the little guy made it home okay, despite his mom's best--or in this case worst efforts. She probably nuked him some chicken nuggets or something just as nuitritionally empty and let him drink soda and stay up too late watching TV programs that are totally inappropriate for his age--all the while she talked on the phone engaged in engrossing conversations about who should be eliminated on American Idol and what J-Lo should name her new twins.

I'm just disappointed in myself for not taking the steps to make a difference in that little boy's life.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Monday 2-18

Today is Presidents' Day. The holiday that started out honoring Washington and Lincoln and somehow morphed into paying tribute to all of the men who have been elected to the position--whether they deserve accolades or not. Here is my Top Five list of Presidents who are worthy of honor today.

Number One--Abraham Lincoln. Preserved the Union, freed the slaves and gave his life for the cause of freedom. Not bad for a home-schooled kid from the frontiers of Illinois and Indiana who lost more elections than he ever won. Fighting the Civil War was not an easy decision for him. As a member of Congress from Illinois he had spoken out against the Mexican-American war as a grasp for military glory by President Polk (who is one of those deserving little accolade today). But Lincoln knew his was the time to fight the war for freedom and preservation of the union. Maybe a few partisan politicians in Washington should heed his warning "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Numer Two--George Washington. Won the War for Independence then turned over control of the military to Congress--just as he had promised to do. Established most everything it means to be Presidential. Refused to be called His Excellency (can you imagine using that term for Presidents now?) Focused his entire first term on domestic affairs. Quit after two terms knowing eight years in power was enough. My favorite part, in his farewll speech he warned of the dangers of political parties and tying the country's interests to foreign powers.

Number Three--Thomas Jefferson. Wrote the Declaration of Independence--spelling out in brilliant detail why America should not have been bound by Colonial rule. Got the Louisana Purchase from the French at a huge bargain--opening the West to exploration and settlement. Staunch supporter of the separation of church and state and the right to bear arms. Felt power should not be centralized in the Federal Government. I know Democrats like to claim him as their "first President" but he would be more of a Libertarian today. Founded a University in his spare time after being President.

Number Four--Teddy Roosevelt. He's on Mount Rushmore, but TR never seems to get the respect and honor he deserves. Made the US a global superpower in the early part of the 20th century. Built the Panama Canal, founded the National Parks System, broke up the trusts--guaranteeing fair competition in the US free economy. His best advice on foreign policy: "Speak softly--but carry a big stick".

Number Five: Ronald Reagan. Let the historians and the liberals howl--but can you point to a politician that has had a bigger effect on your life today? Founded the economic policy that led to the longest sustained period of economic growth in the country's history. Three of his successors have basically coasted on his success by not changing the game plan. Laid the ground work for winning the Cold War. More people owe their freedom to the actions of Ronald Reagan than anyone else in history. His greatest achievement: restoring America's pride in itself. Reagan would tell you it was Americans themselves who turned things around on their own. Everyone was just sick of feeling bad about Vietnam, Watergate and disco.

Worst President of all time: Jimmy Carter. You know how the Clinton camp likes to say Barack Obama isn't "ready" to be President? Well Carter was totally unprepared for the job. His economic polilcies were so bad they had to create a new measurement tool called the "Misery Index"--a combination of the unemployment rate and the rate of inflation. For most of Carter's term it was above 25. You think this "recession" now is bad? The misery index would be about 7 today. And don't forget about the 18% interest rates on mortgages in the late seventies if you think the "mortgage crisis" is so bad right now. And then there was the energy crunch (wear another sweater folks) and the Iran Hostage Situation that made the US look weak. A dismal time.

So where would I put our most recent Presidents? George W Bush would go in the bottom one-third. Expansion of Federal powers and programs is disturbing for a so-called conservative. Good response to attacks by militant Islam but poor execution in fighting the real enemy.

Bill Clinton I would put somewhere in the middle of the pack--along with the other "just riding along" Presidents like James Buchanon and Calvin Coolidge. On the job during boom times and no major crises. Gave him plenty of time for less-Presidential activities. Also docked points for failing to respond to the growing threat of militant Islam as it gained international power.

Oh, and as far as the three serious candidates still in the running for this election--I wouldn't be reserving any space on the side of Mount Rushmore for this trio.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday 2-15

Oshkosh becomes the center of the political universe today--for at least a couple of hours. Senators John McCain and Barack Obama will make seperate campaign appearances in the city today--both of which you will hear live here on WOSH.

With apologies to David Letterman, here's the list of Top Ten Things You Won't Hear at Either of Today's Campaign Rallies:

10--That Barack Obama just isn't liberal enough for me.

9--Today's weather proves we need to do something about global warming.

8--Let me give you a detailed plan for securing peace in Iraq and getting our troops out of there.

7--My boss was more than happy to give me the afternoon off so I could be a more informed voter.

6--If I can't win, I want you to vote for Hillary Clinton.

5--While I love to talk about change, I know the current atmosphere in Washington will crush all hope of that in about six months.

4--John McCain's good looks and intoxicating vocal style are all I need to vote for him.

3--I don't want you to contribute to my campaign fund. I think money corrupts the system.

2--You bought too expensive a house, didn't save any money and ran up your credit cards? Sorry, there's nothing the government can do for you.

1--I promise to shrink the size of the Government and to make more efficient use of your tax dollars.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wednesday 2-13

I get the feeling we won't see much of Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin before the February 19th primary. The buzzword for the Clinton campaign right now is "firewall states"--referring to Texas and Ohio--where campaign strategist think Hillary can still win, and get the delegates needed to win the nomination.

Apparently, the Clintonistas didn't learn any lessons from the failed Rudy Giuliani campaign and their strategy of putting all your eggs in one basket. Rudy was the big national frontrunner in the GOP--then decided to sit out the first three contests and lost all of his momentum. You would think that Hillary would want to fight it out here in Wisconsin and perhaps pickup a surprising win.

Wisconsin is exactly the kind of state that could turn the tide back in Clinton's favor. With an open primary, there could be a lot of crossover voting. Republicans who really have nothing to vote for are free to use the Democratic side of the ballot to mess with the other party. From a strategic standpoint, a "GOP for Hillary" campaign would make sense. Make the two Dems continue to use up campaign money that would otherwise go to the general election. The longer that contest goes, the more acrimonious things get between the factions within the party. And if Clinton comes back to win the nomination, she instantly will re-energize the Republican base that may not be so enthused about John McCain.

So come on Hillary, give Wisconsin a chance--because a winner never quits and a quitter never wins.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tuesday 2-12

I've alerted the website guys to expect a huge amount of traffic to today--as I will once again be commenting on education. Such Two Cents features are usually met by many kudos from taxpayers and much scorn from educators--who seem to enjoy posting lengthy blog responses with study results and test numbers supporting their arguments. But the internet is a big universe and can handle a few more keystrokes.

Two local districts are now applying for waivers from the state to stay in the SAGE program--but to have more kids in the classroom than required by the program rules. The Appleton School District held a public hearing on waiver last night--and a waiver appears on tomorrow's Oshkosh School Board agenda. My question is: if the benefits of having just 15-kids per teacher is so important--why are these districts asking to go above the limit?

One of my suggestions for school savings last week was to dump the SAGE program altogether. I pointed out that the money given to districts by the state doesn't cover the expense of the program. That was met by the aforementioned long blog responses from teachers who basically told me I was an idiot and that it's nearly impossible now to teach more than that many kids at one time--and maybe I should keep my thoughts on education to myself from now on. Well, apparently some of the administrators in Appleton and Oshkosh think 15 isn't such a magic number after all. I fully expect all of the teachers who posted responses to my original blog to be at the Board meetings demanding more teachers and less waivers.

My biggest beef is with the "false advertising" perpetrated by SAGE districts. Those requesting waivers are taking taxpayer dollars to limit class sizes--but then aren't playing by the rules. If fifteen is the rule, then fifteen should be the limit. Or if 18 is okay--a number currently being used in the Appleton District--then let's make the SAGE limit 18. I'm guessing there are a few other districts around the state that could benefit from raising the numbers--and I doubt the impact on the kids will be that great.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Friday 2-01

All of the Super Hype comes to an end on Sunday--as Super Bowl 42 finally plays out in Arizona. Since everybody likes to make predictions for the big game here are bold guarantees:

Ryan Seacrest will prove that he knows nothing about football while hosting the four and a half hour "Countdown to Kickoff Show"--which will be chock full of other people who have nothing to do with football--and are there only because their agent thought it would be great exposure.

There will be at least two features on Eli Manning growing up with a famous father and far more talented older brother.

Frank Caliendo will imitate John Madden. And Terry Bradshaw...and Charles Barkley...and Jack Nicholson...and Al Pacino......

Fox will spend an entire ten minutes with a "medical expert" explaining the difference between a "high" ankle sprain--suffered by Tom Brady--and a "low" ankle sprain.

There will be countless shots of Giselle Bundjen (Tom Brady's girlfriend) watching the game--and that would not be a bad thing.

There will not be a single commercial we remember beyond Thursday.

Not a single guy watching the game will be able to identify the woman singing the National Anthem.

There will be a commercial break right before the opening kickoff and then another commercial break right after the opening kickoff. I HATE THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Giants will get a couple of sacks on Tom Brady in the first quarter--then they won't get a sniff of him the rest of the game.

Randy Moss will make a gesture after a touchdown that will offend everybody.

Tom Petty will keep all of his clothes on during the Halftime Show.

My world-famous Buffalo Wings will kick butt again this year.

We will hear endlessly about how Mike Carey is the first African-American referee in Super Bowl history.

If New England trails at any point in the game, the announcers will break out "The Undefeated Patriots are in serious trouble".

Bill Belichek will wear a ratty old sweatshirt.

Wes Welker will be the MVP.

The Patriots will win. 31-19.

Enjoy the game.