The Rowdy One

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Washington high court elects not to legislate from bench, upholds Marriage Act

In 5-4 decision, the Washington state Supreme Court chose to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.

The liberal court in Washington took more than a year before handing down today's decision. A thin majority of the judges, however, ultimately realized that the people -- through their elected representatives -- make the laws, not the courts.

This victory, along with a recent similar victory in New York's highest court, is a severe setback to the nationwide gay activist movement that has been seeking to rewrite the definition of marriage.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The USPS is a MESS: The Post Office Sucks Pondwater

If the United States Postal Service was a real business, operating under real, non-government-subsidized conditions, it would have had to close its doors eons ago.

Several times a year, we get a disturbing clear bag placed in our mailbox containing only the cover of the one of the magazines we receive. Printed on the outside of the bag is text that says something to the effect of: "We're sorry but our automated processing system ravaged your mail beyond recognition. Now, all that's left of your magazine is its cover. Uh, sorry and stuff."

Yet somehow, the endless stream of credit card offers and pleas to borrow tens of thousands against my mortgage always seem to make it in tact.

May it never happen that you need to actually go into the post office and speak to A LIVE HUMAN BEING. At our post office, while at least 10 postal employees are milling around at all times, there are only 2-3 that are actually capable of helping anyone do anything. The best, and perhaps only, USPS advancement in its history is the automated stamp machine. Oh, and maybe the self-adhesive stamp.

And if you are there near closing time, peace be with you. I once arrived at 5:55 p.m. and at 6:05 p.m., while still in line, I was told I'd have to come back tomorrow. Then the last remaining teller pulled the Metal Screen of Death to the floor, locked up, and left.

Just tonight, I got in line at 5:40 and waited until 6:20 to ship a package. The guy two people behind me was wearing a FedEx employee badge.

"You should know better than to come here," I remarked after about 20 minutes of waiting in a line of discouraging faces that would have made the line at the DMV look like Times Square on New Years' Eve.

"Yeah, unfortunately I have to pick up a package," said the guy, still managing a smile. "These guys could learn a lot of best practices from us."

Indeed. At 5:55 tonight, one of the three open windows closed, despite a line of 12 frustrated customers negatively committed to their USPS package. Then, one of the two other window attendants announced, "I can only take debit cards here." I was waiting for the person at the last remaining open window to announce, "And I can only help people under 4 foot 11."

Our USPS branch can't correctly manage a "hold mail" order ... we are still regularly getting mail for people who lived in our house moons ago ... and to top it all off, we now get our mail delivered in a centralized postal box a block away, instead of at our door.

As a proud American, I don't think that the USPS should be allowed to carry the name Unites States anymore. It doesn't deserve it. Maybe that's why most people now simply call it by its acronym. But that's not enough. Let's change the name to the United Arab Emirates Postal Service ... or something more descriptive like: Delivery Of Packages Entirely Suspect. Then, I'd be cool with it going by its acronym.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Do Colorado dogs really moo?

The pro-gay organization Born Different (BD) recently launched a campaign of billboards and TV spots that assert that 3% of the population is "born gay." The campaign is built around a mooing dog named Norman, who is different because, well, he moos ... and that is supposed to be analogous to those who are "born different" and are gay.

I don't know about anyone else, but the next mooing dog I see will be the first. It seems to me, that if you want to build a campaign around an icon such as a "mooing dog" that you'd actually want it to reinforce your message. But since mooing dogs don't exist, the effort actually counters the very point the BD folks are seeking to make.

Speaking of which, the site No Moo Lies offers a humorous counterpoint the nonsensical mooing dog effort. In this campaign, Sherman the dog reminds us that dogs, in actuality, only bark. The site also humorously counters other Born Different icons, such as two purportedly gay penguins that are put forth as further "born gay" evidence.

"Meet Roy and Silo ... two penguins living in Manhattan's Central Park Zoo. A few years back, they started spending a lot of time together — and became celebrities as Manhattan's 'most famous gay penguin couple.'

"Then something happened that messed it all up: Silo met Scrappy, a female penguin from California. Silo ditched Roy and built a nest with Scrappy. They've even started trying to have kids. It just goes to show: Penguins can change."

Be on the look out for the next phase in the BD campaign: Unicorns That Bark.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

So-called evolution evidence of Darwin's Galapagos Island finches

In a nationally syndicated Associated Press story last week, science writer Randolph Schmid boldly announced that "finches on the Galapagos Islands that inspired Charles Darwin to develop the concept of evolution are now helping confirm it by evolving."

The one-sided story is based on report, and news release, by Peter Grant of Princeton University, which asserts that a species of "Darwin's finch" has evolved a smaller beak to take advantage of different seeds two decades after the arrival of a larger rival for its original food source. The altered beak size is alleged to show that species competing for food can undergo evolutionary change.

There is a special scientific word for this bold, new confirmation of evolutionary theory. Hooey.

The AP article regurgitates this news release as if it were some sort of news flash. In fact, many science journalists and scientists have been writing about this same finding for more than a decade. The article was also devoid of any balance from scientists who believe this finding to simply be an example of what's termed a cyclic variation.

"The changes are temporary," says Jonathan Wells, PhD molecular & cell biology, Univ. of California-Berkeley. Wells says the beak size oscillatess back and forth as the weather and seasons change.

"As evidence of Darwin's theory, Darwin's finches really don't work," says Wells. But since that perspective didn't make the press release that Schmid ripped and wrote from, it didn't get reported in the AP story -- or the numerous other TV and print stories it spawned.

David Berlinski, post-doc in biology at Columbia University, also believes the evidence is exaggerated to appear to support Darwin's theory. "What we are really seeing is one species oscillating back and forth, with no real change," says Berlinski.

"We may be seeing the development of a entire new species. The Galapagos finch starts off as a finch and in 100,000,000 years you have a Galapagos elephant," adds Berlinski with tongue firmly planted in cheek. "But we need a whole lot more evidence ... if this is to be serious science."

The one hint of balance that Schmid's article offers is mistakenly masked as further "proof." Robert C. Fleischer, a geneticist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and National Zoo, is quoted as saying, "this was certainly a documented case of microevolution."

Ah, but even if this were an example of microevolution, that does not mean that this in any way represents evidence of macro evolution. Which means it offers no real proof of Darwin's sweeping evolutionary theory -- or hypothesis -- if you prefer.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sweet Home Colorado: It's Where You Want To Be

According to Money magazine's latest critique of best places to live in the U.S., Colorado is just a crazy great place to live.

Fort Collins, Colorado, topped the Best Places to Live list, while Colorado Springs, topped the list of Best Big Cities (though at a population of 369,000 it barely qualifies as a true, big city). Rounding out the Big City Top 5 were: Austin, TX, Mesa, AZ, Raleigh, NC and San Diego, CA. Interestingly, New York City placed a respectable 10th.

Completing the Best Places to Live Top 5 were: Naperville, IL, Sugar Land, TX, Columbia/Ellicott City, MD, and Cary, NC. Our former hometown, Overland Park, Kansas, placed sixth on the Best Places to Live list.

Money evaluated all cities 50,000 or greater in population (745) based on criteria, which included: purchasing power, housing costs, education options, quality of life/crime, leisure and culture opportunities, and weather.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

The tooth is out ... and so is an old toothy myth

My son lost his first tooth Wednesday night while brushing his teeth. It came within an inch of tumbling down the sink, a near monumental crisis that, thankfully, was averted.

This milestone tooth has been quite the table topic in our house all week. Along the way, our discussion included talk of George Washington and his wooden teeth. My son learned this story this past year in kindergarten, and I also remember learning it in grade school.

At one point, we began speculating what kind of wood our first President's teeth may have been made of. We decided cherry seemed as likely as any, but later I decided to do a little research. To my surprise, it appears that the whole wooden teeth thing is the biggest SHAM this side of "Bill Gates is going to send you $1000 for forwarding this email to 1,000 people ... I am not kidding!"

According to George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, while our first president had false teeth, they were not made of wood. In turns out, the materials used in his false teeth were even less desirable than that. One set of his teeth included a cow's tooth, one of his actual teeth, hippopotamus ivory, metal and springs.

The estate's website says, "They fit poorly and distorted the shape of his mouth." Yeah, I bet. Between this, and the fact that Washington ultimately bled to death by the misguided practice of "blood letting," I think it's safe to say that most of us enjoy better health care than the man on our $1 bill.

So, the tale of our first president's wooden teeth becomes yet another example of the phenomena of a story being repeated so many times that, eventually, it becomes institutionalized as fact. Sort of like, say, the Constitution's supposed declaration of 'separation of church and state' ... how about some other good examples?

NOTE: The penny pictured above next to my son's tooth is for size contrast purposes ... which is to say, I understand that George Washington is not pictured on the penny ... ;-)

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Which U.S. university stands for "Truth for Christ and the Church?"

It must be one of the top seminaries ... Dallas Theological Seminary or perhaps Moody Bible Institute.

Would you believe Harvard University? At least, that's the motto it was founded on when the school began in 1636. That remained as the guiding principle for the now liberal, "free thinking" university until the later half of the 19th century, when then president Charles W. Eliot began the process of stripping away Harvard's moral foundation rooted in Christianity.

Today, the original Latin "Veritas pro Christo et Ecclesia" (Truth for Christ and Church) has been tightened to simply ... Veritas, or Truth. What that truth is based on? Well ... who knows.

In a recent book titled "Excellence Without a Soul," University of Massachusetts instructor Harry Lewis asserts that universities have "lost, indeed willingly surrendered, its moral authority to shape the souls of its students." He goes on to say: "Harvard articulates no ideals of what it means to be a good person."

For Harvard's first 250 years, its biblical basis would have made it clear what its moral foundation was. But now that that's gone, it shouldn't be surprising that the university is floundering when it comes to helping shape the character of its students.

As a part of its foundational mission today, the university states it, "must provide a broad introduction to the knowledge needed in an increasingly global and connected, yet simultaneously diverse and fragmented world." Huh?

Lewis' book, which was recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal, notes that the school never actually says what kind of knowledge is needed.

One can't help but wonder if hearkening back to the core principles the university was founded on might be a good start. By the way, the photo at the top is of a statue of John Harvard, who has his hand upon ... the bible.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

RoboFlop: Coloradans rudely awakened with a Hazy Shade of Winter

If a candidate for political office in your area called you at, say, 4 in the morning asking for your vote, would you give it to him come election time?

Democratic congressional candidate Bill Winter will find out later this year after 6,000 Coloradans received a rude awaking from robo-calling gone wrong from his office. In fact, Winter himself received his own robo-call at 1:17 a.m.

But the fun doesn't stop there.

Democratic candidate Bill Ritter, which sounds more than a little like Winter -- especially at 4 a.m. -- caught heat as well, as dozens of people called his office to complain. Making matters worse, his misguided staffers referring angry callers to Trailhead Group, a Republican political committee. Ritter's drones assumed that the calls were designed to discredit their gubernatorial candidate.

I'm not sure who the bigger goof is ... the candidate whose right-hand folks can't figure out how to make calls to potential constituents while they are awake, or the similarly named governor-wannabe's staff of frat boy pranksters who immediately rerouted complaint calls to their opponent.

For what it's worth, the Denver Post reports that Winter has vowed that he would not use automated calling again in his campaign.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Growing up

My son just turned 7. For many parents, the life-changing milestones of their children can bring about a period of brief melancholy: "My daughter is starting kindergarten ... she's growing up right before my eyes." Or ... "my son just learned to ride a bike without training wheels ... he'll be driving a car before we know it."

But milestones like these I have welcomed with brazen enthusiasm. Another rite of childhood passage down for my boy. Check.

That is until this morning when he burst into my wife and I's bedroom and boldly announced: "I have a loose tooth!" Most children by 7 have already lost several teeth, but my son's precious baby teeth had all remained in tact. 22 pearly whites joining together to create a perfect little toothy smile. Until now.

My little boy is growing up.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The greenhouse effect is a big hoax?

OK, so I am a little slow on the uptake, but I just recently completed reading Michael Crichton's book from about a year-and-a-half ago titled State of Fear. Like previous Crichton books such as Jurassic Park or The Andromeda Strain, the book is a clever blend of a compelling fictional story (in this case, an eco-terrorist group wrecks stunning havoc all in the name of protecting the environment) with actual scientific data and analysis.

Now, perhaps you are starting to sound mental alarms that are blaring, "blending fact and faction ... sounds like the DaVinci Code." However, the element this book has that Dan Brown's novel was totally devoid of is an extensive bibliography at the end of scientific papers, books, websites, magazines and journals reinforcing the novel's assertions that the modern theory of global warming is terribly flawed. These include:

  • most of the warming in the past century occurred before 1940, before CO2 emissions could have been a major factor (p. 84);
  • temperatures fell between 1940 and 1970 even as CO2 levels increased (p. 86);
  • temperature readings from reporting stations outside the U.S. are poorly maintained and staffed and probably inaccurate; those in the U.S., which are probably more accurate, show little or no warming trend (pp. 88-89);
  • full professors from MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Duke, Virginia, and other prestigious schools ... the former president of the National Academy of Sciences ... argue that global warming is at best unproven, and at worst pure fantasy (p. 90);
  • temperature sensors on satellites report much less warming in the upper atmosphere (which the theory of global warming predicts should warm first) than is reported by temperature sensors on the ground (p. 99);
  • dire predictions of global warming during a 1988 Congressional committee hearing, which launched the global warming scare, were wrong by 300 percent (.35 degrees Celsius over the next decade vs. an actual .11 degree increase);
  • there has been no increase in extreme weather events (e.g., floods, tornadoes, drought) over the past century or in the past 15 years (p. 362);
  • temperature data are suspect because they have been adjusted and manipulated by scientists who expect to find a warming trend (p. 385-386);
  • sufficient data exist to measure changes in mass for only 79 of the 160,000 glaciers in the world (p. 423);
  • sea levels have been rising at the rate of 10 to 20 centimeters (four to eight inches) per hundred years for the past 6,000 years (p. 424);
  • the Kyoto Protocol, still unsigned by the U.S., would reduce temperatures by only 0.04 degrees Celsius in the year 2100 (p. 478);
  • computer simulations are not real-world data and cannot be relied on to produce reliable forecasts (p. 566).

Again, all of the above are backed up by independent research, or competing theories based on data, noted in Crichton's bibliography. Crichton asserts that the reasons that the above are given so little attention in the media is a combination of this scientific minority getting shouted down by those unwilling to consider other theoretical alternatives ... desire by the environmental establishment to preserve its status quo ... and the potential damage alternatives pose as scientists seek grants.

The book also asserts, both within the novel and in the epilogue, that the scientific community ignores all of the above because it conflicts with a "Theory" that most have bought into as a "Truth."

Hmmm ... sounds a little like evolutionary theory.

Predictably, NPR bashed the book and its author, while the nonprofit Heartland Institute reinforces the assertions made by Crichton.

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