Thursday, October 06, 2011

Apple’s Eye

Heros Gone by mdt1960
Heros Gone, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
Thank God, Sarah Palin’s “non-news” that she won’t be running for President wasn’t the most important story in the news today. Sadly however, her “announcement” was upstaged by the passing of Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs.

Given his health in the past couple of years, I know the announcement of his death didn’t come as a surprise. Yet, there is a feeling that the world is somewhat stunned by this news.

Will today go down as one of those days that we’ll always remember where we were when we learned of this, like the Challenger disaster or the attacks on 9-11? I’m unsure, but it’s beginning to feel the same—one great loss.

Like my grandfather who worked some 50 years for Goodyear Tire and Rubber, I have made a living for the greater part of my working years via a Macintosh computer. I wonder now if Gramps felt the same when inventor and founder of Goodyear Frank Seiberling passed away in 1955.

In a world where corporations have taken over the center stage, one has to wonder if we’ll ever see another individual like Steve Jobs. Did it feel this way with the passing of Albert Einstein?

Ironically, hours before the announcement of Jobs’ passing, I created a template for a CD jewel case tray in a little program called Pages—Apple’s watered-down version of page layout giants InDesign and QuarkXPress. It was something that came to me on a whim, something my students could use to raise the bar on an upcoming assignment. Up until that moment, I never gave the program much credence for anything beyond a simple letter-sized flyer, yet there I was for some unexplained reason, creating a custom-sized document that included fold and trim marks.

Perhaps even more ironic was that on the eve of Apple losing their visionary, the newest iPhone release had been characterized as a dud. That’s two big strikes against Apple in the same week. Despite the company’s popularity and success, I’m surprised to find myself wondering if the company will weather the storm. Is it possible that the loss of one man, in this day and age, could bring down a company as successful as Apple?

We shall see. In the meantime, a voice tells me to purchase the new iPhone—as if lighting a candle for Jobs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

High-Powered Low-Lifes in Education

Kent School Boiler by mdt1960
Kent School Boiler, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
With astonishment, I read the stories about an Al Jazeera reporter named Gabriel Elizondo visiting a local high school football game in Brooks, Texas recently. At the heart of this story was the insipid greeting and dismissal directed toward the reporter coming from the school’s principal, Lisa Yauck and superintendent, Michael Lee.

If you have not heard about this story, I would encourage you to stop here and read the reporter’s blog entry from that day and than read the school superintendent Michael Lee’s response to the Elizondo’s blog.

What first struck me about this event was the total ignorance oozing from these two educational (and one would assume, “informed”) administrator’s regarding Al Jazeera as a legitimate news operation that has matched and sometimes surpassed the coverage of other leading news agencies around the world. It is simply beyond belief. In a world that is becoming more and more polarized, these two jingoist serve as shining examples of incompetence and mediocrity in education while perpetuating malicious hatred within the heart of our country’s innocence—small town America.

It’s no secret that I don’t care for Fox News. I probably see them in the same light as Lee and Yauck view Al Jazeera. However, one thing I know for sure is Fox News has a right to report/film/write a story at my local high school or college athletic event, even if I’m sure they will put their “spin” on it.

Like many lackluster school administrators, Lee cites FERPA as his rationale for turning away Elizondo. Yet anyone who truly knows FERPA certainly knows it is not a counter to freedom of the press—especially when it comes down to something as public as a high school football game… held at a public school no less!

If Michael Lee truly believes FERPA is the justification for spurning a reporter who wishes to interview fans (whether it be students or general public) at a high school football game, he is a second-rate superintendent, and totally incompetent. On the other hand, if Lee is using FERPA to mask his disdain and prejudice for other people of culture, race or religion, he is simply a disgrace. Which ever the two, I know one thing for sure, he should be fired along with secondary principal Lisa Yauck.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Trying To Get Past 9-11

Not Again! by mdt1960
Not Again!, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
Thank God September 12 has finally arrived. After more than a week’s worth of rehashed 9-11 tributes, interviews, ceremonies and highlights, I’m ready to move on, even if few share in my sentiment.

Call me unpatriotic, but I find it hard to believe that the victims of September 11, 2001 would want us to wallow in so much of that dark day ten years ago. Yet, after all of this time, rather than putting it behind us, it’s as if we would rather go back in time and wade back into that pool of acute pain and sorrow.

Thank you, but I’ll have none of it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want to forget that day or pretend it never happened. Even if one wanted to forget it, how could they—something that epic, that tragic? I just don’t want to relive it year in and year out through all the poignant, graphic and sad, sad stories that have been repeated over and over in various outlets of the media.

Like December 7, 1941 (the attack on Pearl Harbor), I think it’s tasteful to stop for a moment of silence and fly the flag each year. But, to have six moments of silence, for example, (when the first plane hit the WTC, when the second plane hit the WTC, when the third plane hit the Pentagon, when the plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and when each of the towers fell) is a bit over the top.

How did 9-11 render our country, our people, our media with this masochistic-like obsession—all the while wearing it on our sleeve for all the world to see? Talk about a chip on the shoulder. Isn’t Halloween enough?

Journalist and author William Langewiesche spent five months at ground zero of the WTC after the attacks and warns, “It’s not to deny the tragedy. It’s to question the utility of public grief.” Langewiesche produced an extensive piece for Atlantic and was later published as a book titled American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center.

Through it all, I can’t help but think of some goody two-shoes cheerleader who was beaten up on the playground by a thug. Despite the fact that she may not have deserved such treatment or it was simply a violent act, she goes on and on all year long about it until many of her friends think that maybe she had it coming.

Even today, September 12, I was hoping my respite would finally arrive. Yet, there were still more stories flooding the media about 9-11.

C’mon America, it’s time to move on and look forward and focus sharply on making America great… again. Besides, football season and the Rugby World Cup are upon us.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Northwest College: Marching Toward Mediocrity

Northwest College Landmark by mdt1960
Northwest College Landmark, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
It was announced in the college email today that Northwest College photographer David Vaughan resigned from his position—effective immediately.

The email came from Payroll Specialist Tracy Gasaway, but it was a forward from the Human Resources Director, Jill Anderson. Why Anderson couldn’t have sent the announcement to everyone herself is beyond me. Yet, another illustration of the convoluted practices of an administration that is far from being above board.

I learned earlier this morning that Vaughan turned his keys in sometime after midnight, when no one was around.

This was a case of someone who wasn’t really wanted—someone not appreciated. This cloud of ingratitude has lingered since Vaughan’s first year on the job when he learned newly-hired college president Miles LaRowe would not have supported the photography position had LaRowe been on the job sooner. An air of non-support and disinterest for his position has prevailed since that first year.

Given such neglect, it seems reasonable that the college’s leadership considered firing Vaughan at any given time, but they couldn’t produce any dirt on him. So, like any spineless, paranoid and heartless operation, they strung him out—making things so discouraging for him, that he simply gave up and quit on the college.

The verbal language that came from those in his department and the administration was typical administrative lip service. But, when it came to putting things in writing there was only a vacuum. No one really supported or fought for Vaughan except those who had no power or real input to his situation. Even the photography department that educated Dave years ago and its four-faculty-members-strong status was relatively mute.

Ironically, other members in his department glided effortlessly through the job-banding process and saw significant pay increases—$10-15K more than his salary. His plea for a proper job banding and compensation was passed around from one incompetent administrator to another like an unwanted stepchild. In the end, Vice President of College Relations, Mark Kitchen and Human Resources Director, Jill Anderson even admitted their own detachment and ignorance of Dave and his position as they planned to hand his case over to an external consultant. Incompetence prevails again at Northwest College. But really, they simply didn’t care.

It’s disturbing to know that Vaughan doesn’t have another job lined up at this time… that’s how bad it was for him. Imagine how miserable you’d have to be in a job, leaving it without having anything else lined up—given the current economical climate.

Ironically, this past spring, an anonymous source reported that Vice President of Administrative Services, Kim Mills received a $10,000 pay increase—something V.P. Kitchen could not verify or deny in his highly, self-touted “rumor clearinghouse” intranet site. One has to wonder how much flack Mills endured for his comfy $10K boost compared to Vaughan’s three-year pursuit for proper job banding. And to no one’s surprise, Mills is considered one of the key administrators who had strongly objected to Vaughan’s job banding reclassification.

Another individual who is also critical of the college made a poignant observation about how trouble seems to find those at Northwest College who don’t fit a “Stepford” profile. Such individuals typically work in their own circles due to a unique component in their jobs. Sadly, these are the people that make any learning institution dynamic—which is what education should be. How can a school be dynamic if everyone is on the same page? Like racial profiling, if you’re not seeing the world through the same lens as everyone else at Northwest College, you’ll likely be dismissed.

College professor Harriet Bloom Wilson was one of the first to chime in regarding Vaughan’s departure, “What a pity. David’s photographs have captured all that is special and beautiful about Northwest for years. They represent us around the world.”

My guarded response to Bloom-Wilson’s comment (because I’ve been reprimanded for “improper use” of college email) was simply, “Yeah, starting with myself, he made us look more special and beautiful than we really are.”

What I really wanted to say was something like the following:

“Way to go NWC administration… another step closer to mediocrity.”

“NWC… you will be absorbed.” (From a popular Star Trek episode)

“NWC… where mediocrity prevails.”

There’s so many descriptors of NWC’s administrative leadership that have come up again and again in conversation over the years regarding the dismissals of talented staffers like Dave who have left on their own or were removed outright. So, I’ll put these descriptors here so there can be no doubt as to the words that are spoken in such conversations about the college’s leadership:


Along the lines of nefarious, several NWC staff members have benefited in their elevated salaries and retirements by listing the supervision of Dave’s efforts in their job description. This is the greatest deception of all because from Day One, Vaughan has been a one-man photo operation who has scheduled shoots, made first-level photo-editorial decisions, developed and executed unique and creative compositions for shoots, made purchase decisions regarding equipment and supplies, communicated with all college staff regarding photography work and managed an extensive data base of images. No one “above” him directed Vaughan in any of these areas. I hope the light of shame finds and exposes these individuals in their incompetent, self-serving, resume-building, life-wrecking ways.

In parting, Vaughan was responsible for many things that never credited his contribution. Most outstanding was coming up with the college’s slogan/jingle, “Northwest College: Your future, our focus.”

In the past years as Vaughan’s enthusiasm waned thanks to the insipid support coming from those around him, he developed a few more slogans that were more accurate of what he felt—reflective of his experience as a Northwest College employee. One of my favorites was, “Northwest College: Don’t not do.”

Thanks Dave for all you did. No thanks to Northwest College and its toxic administrative culture—strangling anything extraordinary or with an inkling of creativity.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The dirty hands of Allstate

Lost Glove by mdt1960
Lost Glove, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
Allstate Insurance Company steals cars... really they do.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine living and teaching in Yuma, Arizona was involved in a head-on car collision that resulted in the demolition of his 1995 Honda Civic—his only reliable transportation. The incident unfolded as an elderly gentleman turned left in front of him as my friend’s Honda entered an intersection under normal circumstances. My friend was on his way to play a celebratory round of golf following the end of the academic year. Although he attempted to avoid the collision, there simply wasn’t enough time and his day at the links was lost along with his car. Thankfully no one was seriously injured.

The other driver was cited and admitted on the scene to police and others that he was completely at fault.

Done deal, right?

Not so fast.

A couple days after the accident, the other driver’s insurance company, Allstate, balked about the incident and indicated that they were not satisfied with the initial reports and questioned whether or not their client was truly at fault.

Today, my friend received an official email from Allstate that they will dispute his claim and therefore, not compensate him for his losses. I’m hard pressed to find a greater example of maliciousness and ill will in the news these days.

My friend’s insurance company, Geico, hasn’t been much help either up to this point, but I’m not quite ready to lump them in there with the ilk of Allstate.

And so, here we have the essence of what is so very wrong with this country. It begins with operations like Allstate who are clearly more interested in turning a dollar rather than righting a wrong—especially when it comes to someone like this friend who is making his way through this world without any kind of safety net or nest egg to fall back on.

In good faith, I made the 1,200 mile journey to Yuma to bring him back to this part of the country where a summer job awaited him. Nevermind that he lost two weeks of full-time pay while he waited (also in good faith) for this matter to settle quickly and fairly. I too was not worried about the expenses out of my pocket knowing he would be reimbursed for the loss of his car, transportation expenses back to Montana and whatever lost wages he suffered.

Instead, the diabolical “good hands” of Allstate Insurance don’t see it that way. Not even remotely. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear one day not too far down the road that insurance companies like Allstate are in the business of stealing cars because that’s what happened to my friend. Simply put, Allstate Insurance stole his car.

As big business executives and board members grow richer while the little folk like us become poorer and trampled by this prolific and rampant self-centered corporate greed, I’m sadly beginning to understand more each day why a person grabs a gun and decides to fly off the deep end and take several others with him/her.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vision-Mission Hyperbole

“Never mistake activity for achievement.” —John Wooden

Vision and mission statements... are they a rudder for an organization’s direction or are they just some arbitrary name written on its hull? How do we feel about the crop of vision/mission statements springing up all over our world? Do you find yourself saying, “Gee, it sure is nice to know that my educational pursuits or my efforts in the work place dwell in a house with these pronounced values.” Do we require such reassurance? Are we that insecure?

As you probably have already guessed, I have some reservations about what this public illustration/display of purpose, mission, or vision is all about. However, before dropping a cynicism bomb here, I thought it worthy to investigate these polished proclamations.

I was amused to find the subtle difference between a mission statement and a vision statement. Yet, I wonder how many “average-joes” (like myself) have made an honest effort to interpret these statements—often posted in tandem—and drawing anything from them other than a bunch of high-brow, grandstanding, over-embellished fluff.

One of the first things we need to know is that such statements are a primary element in strategic planning. According to the rich sources of Wikipedia, “strategic planning is the formal consideration of an organization’s future course.” I’d consider this the rudder of the ship that everyone needs to see in feeling safer.

When it comes to strategic planning, three primary questions are tackled: 1) What the institution does? 2) For whom benefits? 3) How does the institution excel at what it does?

Couldn’t anyone answer these questions about a school? 1) educate. 2) those seeking an education—often called students. 3) hire educators who do their job well and hope the administrators stay out of the way.

* * *
Vision statement, mission statement—what’s the difference?
Again, Wikipedia speaks of the vision statement with those things of the future, “…describing how the organization would like the world to be in which it operates.” The on-line source goes on to say that the mission statement “…defines the fundamental purpose of an organization or an enterprise, succinctly describing why it exists and what it does to achieve its Vision.” Or simply, “what do we do?”

One has to wonder how we’ve gone on for so long without these public declarations popping out of every corner of a college campus or corporation. I’m unsure in making the connection, but much of it feels like it is the result of fear. Fear of not covering all the legal bases required in this age of sue-happy, disgruntled individuals who have given up on winning the lottery. I can almost see it in a courtroom...

Prosecuting attorney: Dr. College President, does the school have a mission statement and is that mission statement clearly displayed for the campus population’s view?

Dr. College President: No sir, but we are working on it at this very moment. We just formed the Strategic Planning committee last month.

Prosecuting attorney: Well, there you have it your honor and members of the jury. The school has failed to provide its clients any idea of where the institution is going or how it plans on getting there. I rest my case.

If such glorified statements are simply covering our backside, I would lump them in the same category as those innocuous, minimum-requirement disclaimers such as “batteries not included,” “Acme is an EOI,” and “Any views or opinions presented in this email are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company.”

And if they are not affiliated with anything of legalese, perhaps they are only words for the sake of writing and hearing—our own hooptedoodle (see Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday). As if to say, “We’d like to demonstrate our mastery of... of, language (I suppose). We hope it doesn’t get in the way of your efforts here. Skip it if you wish.”

* * *

What annoys me the most about these statements is they all basically say the same thing, and rarely reflect anything unique about the organization or institution that it serves. And yet we place so much stock in coming up with a unique way of saying something that’s incredibly universal and considered a given.

Here’s an example. Consider the mission statements of three educational institutions: Binghamton University (New York), Northwest College (Wyoming) and Ball State University (Indiana). Can you determine which vision statement belongs to the above? (I’ve left the names out and replaced words such as “university,” or “college” with “school.”)

1) Our school will be a national model of excellence for challenging, learner-centered academic communities that advance knowledge and improve economic vitality and quality of life.
2) Our school is a premier public school dedicated to enriching the lives of people in the region, nation and world through discovery and education and to being enriched by its engagement in those communities.
3) Through a superior teaching, learning, and living environment, our school will be a dynamic and distinguished educational leader that shapes a positive future for students and the many communities it serves.

The answers are listed at the bottom of this post.

I suspect few of us are bright enough (or lucky enough) to differentiate between these three proclamations, and as one friend of mine said not long ago, “Gobblydegook from any institution sounds the same.”

Anyone want to compare mission statements?
As I’ve contemplated these two crowning edicts that so poorly define what an organization or institution is, I’m reminded of a lackluster business class I attended as an undergrad at Arizona State. Often I walked out of any given session thinking to myself that the day’s lesson was simply an organized and overblown presentation on common sense.

In light of all this, I think Nike may have outdone everyone in their “vision/mission” statement—“Just Do It.”

Clearly I’m a skeptic, but I do find comfort in knowing there are instances where such endeavors of purpose are successful and clearly vital and important to those on board, like the comment from one of my Facebook friends who stated, “I am so lucky to work where I do…we’ve grown from 123 employees in 2000 to 250 employees as of this year and we not only hold our vision/mission statement dear to our hearts but we have 250 people protecting the culture. It truly does come from the top. I’m happy to say ours is a rudder!”

Vision Statement Answers: 1) Ball State, 2) Binghamton, 3) Northwest.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Parents Exposed...

Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Children in Wyoming should not be forced to live with narrow-minded, irresponsible, codependent, and coddling parents. Our kids deserve parents who provide and nurture a solid educational foundation.

This is my response to the bogus “Teachers Union Exposed” directed at the state of Wyoming.

Let’s face it, if we really care about our kids and their future, we must acknowledge that much of a child's education along with their academic foundation and values comes from the home. Children spend much more time at home than the school, so in giving this movement some teeth... let’s include the home and the lessons/demonstrations provided by parents.

Cameras in the classroom and the home along with regular evaluations of teachers and parents! C’mon, who’s with me?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cameras in Classrooms... Why Stop There?

Reading & Discussion
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
This is an open letter to Wyoming State Legislative Representative Steve Harshman from Casper regarding his proposal to bring cameras into the Wyoming classrooms.
I just read the story in the Christian Science Monitor regarding your proposal to bring cameras into the classroom for the purpose of teacher evaluations as well as monthly written reviews.

I find it a bit ironic—maybe even hypocritical—that such a proposal is being handed down in a state that is notorious for its resentment of anything that has to do with “big government.” Pardon me for saying, but what you’re proposing smells like big government even if it is a long way off.

As an instructor in the graphics/printing field, I’m OK with cameras in my classroom. Perhaps a few administrators and politicians like yourself will truly learn something useful, and perhaps even develop a real skill that will result in earning an honest living.

That said, my question to you is, why stop there? Let’s introduce the same monitoring equipment into the offices of educational administrators. Along with that, subject them to anonymous evaluations from the body of faculty every semester much like the instructors experience from their students. If you’re looking for dead wood, this will surely produce results—high-paying dead wood at that!

Come to think of it, bringing cameras into the homes would surely curb domestic violence, abuse and neglect as well. And, as a taxpayer and voter, I wouldn’t mind listening in on recordings from the monitored phones of our elected officials too. You’re OK with that aren’t you? As the article stated, you’ll get used to the equipment in no time, and after awhile, it will be like it was never there.

‎“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” —Orwell’s 1984.

And this...

Harshman responds:
Dear Mr. Morgan,

I have not read the article. In regards to cameras in the classroom; as you know there is a semi-mob mentality regarding education in the Wyoming Legislature this session. Some of it can be contributed to a national trend or mood that is sweeping the country. My proposal is an attempt to fight “fire with fire” so to speak. The proposed tenure bills (where teachers lose their tenure and have at-will employment status where we can be fired for any reason that is “not illegal”) have me moving in order to counter the proposals. I have promoted cameras as a “teacher protection” measure. In addition, increased evaluations would get the principals back in the schools.

In response to the Orwellian comments that your letter drifts of to…? I am not going there. I would focus my efforts on the Senate Education committee where the real threat is. I can assure you, I am working behind the scenes for a favorable outcome.

Thank you for writing,

Warm Regards,

Steve Harshman
House District 37
(R) Natrona County

Monday, January 17, 2011

What’s a Holiday to Education?

Buffalo, Montana School
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Here in the Equality State (Wyoming), you’d think we’ve got the MLK holiday all figured out when it comes to celebrating the birthday of the highly esteemed civil rights leader. I’m talking about the same state where women were the first in the nation to vote, serve on juries and hold public office—all which arguably paved the way for statehood way back in 1890.

Nevertheless, Wyoming is not as united as one would think when it comes to recognizing this federal holiday. Oh sure, you won’t find a Wyoming bank or post office open anywhere on MLK day, but when it comes to education, it’s a mixed bag.

As an employee of Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming, our doors will be locked up tight on MLK day. The first day of the new semester begins the following day. Even in past years, when the first day of the semester came before King’s holiday, the college still observed MLK day by closing the campus on that Monday.

Yet, in the same town, the local public schools have and will continue to conduct classes like any other day.

Since I’m not a public holiday expert and wondering if MLK Day was some kind of “minor” holiday, I looked up all of the official Federal holidays and discovered that MLK Day is right up there with all the other holidays that result in the closure of our banks, post offices and schools.

Here are the country’s official Federal holidays in chronological order: New Year’s Day, MLK Day, Inauguration Day (every four years), Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

I called someone tonight who works for the schools to see if they could explain to me this obvious oversight on my part. Sadly, they couldn’t explain it or understand it themselves, going as far as saying they found it to be disrespectful of King’s memory.

At first I thought it might be some kind of mandate from the Wyoming Board of Education, but I see several other public schools (i.e., Laramie County and Natrona County Schools) around the “Equality State” will be closed in observance of MLK day including the schools in Cody which are in the same county as Powell.

Ironically, there were no classes last Monday for the Powell Schools although teachers were present for an in-service meeting.

And Martin Luther King, Jr Day is not alone. It appears that Veterans Day and Columbus Day have fallen into this same “second-class” holiday status with our nation’s schools as well.

So, what shall we make of the Park County School District in northwestern Wyoming and other school districts around the country that remain open on MLK day or other Federal holidays such as Veterans Day and Columbus Day? Why are these holidays marginalized? Might there come a day when all Federal holidays will be considered a potential school day? How would the public respond if classes were planned and held on Labor Day or Memorial Day?

I would propose that if Federal Holidays like MLK, Veterans and Columbus Day are potential school days, then all Federal holidays should be held to the same rationale. Perhaps rotating them each year if necessary where schools are open on Labor Day, but not Veterans Day. Better yet, simply expand the calendar a bit more and close the schools for all of the Federal holidays—like the banks and post offices.

Coincidentally next month, the country will observe Washington’s Birthday which will find things turned around here in Powell—the college will still hold classes, but the public schools will be off for the day.

The Powell Tribune ran a small story last year on this same topic. Here is the full story as it appeared.

King’s contributions recognized in classrooms
On Monday, local banks, the post office and Northwest College were closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day/Wyoming Equality Day — yet in Park County School District No. 1, school was in session.

The Powell school district isn’t alone — for many school districts across Wyoming, it was business as usual.

The federal holiday was first observed in 1986, though it wasn’t until 2000 that all 50 states of the union recognized the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. Our state was one of the last. Even now, Wyoming law leaves it up to individual school district boards of trustees to decide whether the holiday will be observed.

As superintendent Kevin Mitchell said via e-mail, “Some school districts do. Some don’t.”

Mitchell went on to say that, in a conversation Monday with five other Wyoming school superintendents, he learned that none of their districts were closed for the holiday.

“In fact,” he said, “they believe the day can be better observed if students are in school rather than going skiing or to the mall...”

It’s a point well taken. While it may appear at first blush that some Wyoming school districts — including ours — have chosen to not recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it may instead be the perfect opportunity for educators to make their students aware of Dr. King’s contributions. His belief in non-violent and service-oriented approaches to overcoming problems, such as homelessness, hunger, prejudice and discrimination, is a belief from which we still reap benefits. Mitchell added that, while there were no activities planned on a district-wide level, the significance of the day was not forgotten by local teachers, who did indeed take time to recognize King and the ideals he stood for.

Some have said that Martin Luther King Jr. Day should be “a day on, not a day off.” We hope our schools utilized the “day on” to its fullest advantage.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

America’s Etheric Gun Laws

"N" If For "No Gun Laws"
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Too bad 22-year-old Jarod-what’s-his-name in Tucson, Arizona hadn’t been limited to a cumbersome, bolt-action hunting rifle. He likely wouldn’t have taken so many lives. Better yet, even in his “unhinged” mind, he might have reconsidered his actions knowing how inefficient a hunting rifle would play out or how hard it would be to conceal in the implementation of his diabolical plan.

Instead, maybe he simply would have settled for posting another rambling tirade on YouTube.

But, thank God— and The Constitution—Jarod has/had the right to defend himself and our country with a semi-automatic weapon.

The saddest thing about this tragic debacle in Tucson is it will undoubtedly be repeated again and again.

My father asked, “How can a 22-year-old have anything to be that mad about given how much of life is in front of him?”

Even more poignant, another friend noted, “Funny, a guy can be unfit to join the army, but okay to own a gun.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a touch of mental illness, combined with true vitriolic rhetoric in our media and easy access to lethal weapons is a concoction that can lead to nothing good.

Beyond pledging ourselves to curbing violent-implied speech and the ongoing plight to understand mental illness, I still find it odd that owning a gun is easier than obtaining a driver’s license.

I just don’t get it... how did something as lethal as a gun (and designed for the sole purpose of killing) end up so loosely regulated—compared to operating an automobile?

Jarod and I are required to pass a test, allowing us to operate a car which requires renewal on a regular basis. Why is that? Answer: For the safety of everyone—as in “general welfare.” Yet, in the purchase a a Glock, we simply have to wait an hour or two for a background check and if we’re clean, we’ll never be bothered about it again. No testing on how to use it (never mind psychological testing), no type of insurance is required, no renewal, nothing. We can even sell the gun to someone else without any kind of background check on them... talk about a Pandora’s ammo box.

Of course, nothing is fool proof... people will continue to be killed via cars and guns whether obtained legally or illegally. Yet, imagine the extra fatalities on the road each year if anyone could legally operate a car simply because they were of age—or worse—a loaded semi truck. Sure, maybe you and I wouldn’t let our inexperienced 16-year-old drive without going through a period of careful supervision, but consider the numerous dimwits that would.

Given we have different type of operator’s license for cars, busses and trucks, why can’t we do the same for guns?

If I want to own a bolt-action hunting rifle or single-shot shot gun for hunting purposes, a simple license (something like a normal driver’s license) is all I need apply for. However, if I want to possess a semi-automatic weapon or a large-caliber weapon suited for non-hunting purposes, then my background and character will require some serious scrutinization and on a regular basis—much like driving an oversized rig.

It is certainly true that thugs will continue to obtain guns illegally, but I do believe scenarios like the one that played out in Tucson this past week would be significantly reduced if there was something in place akin to what is required in possessing a driver’s license. And, as I see it, punishment would be severe for anyone in possession of a firearm without the proper license.

Oh fuck, my 2nd Amendment rights are going to be trampled!

The NRA would like us to believe that restricting access to firearms results in elevated crime rates (i.e., “only criminals will have guns”). However, this is not supported by a substantial body of data at the national level. In countries like Japan and Great Britain—where guns are greatly restricted—deaths from guns are low, especially compared to the United States. Sadly, but not surprising, the USA is a leader in gun-related homicides.

Of course, if my proposal here is so far-fetched, perhaps we should consider the other end of the spectrum such as the gun policies of Switzerland.

Until interpreted otherwise, it is our Constitutional right to own a gun, but it is also the Constitution’s role to “promote the general welfare” of all its citizens. I’d like to believe the latter of these two carries a little more importance.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Where's My Magic Elixir?

Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The other day, a friend "re-gifted" me his iRenew bracelet. This is one of the many new scams, trends, lifestyles, etc. (take your pick) that today's new wave of conniving entrepreneurs are offering up to the American TV-viewing public.

Did you know, Kobe Bryant wears one? See links below to determine which one is best for you.

Sure, I never would have shelled out twenty bucks for one of these even if coming off a big power lotto score, but I thought, "What the heck, I'll give it a try."

I'm sad to say (as reported on my Facebook status page) that after 48 hours of test driving, the iRenew bracelet has not increased my strength, endurance or improved my balance. However, it has managed to irritate me with its cheap stainless steel metal digging in my skin. Thanks to the iRenew bracelet, I'm probably more likely to go off on someone instead of gracefully navigating a patch of ice on the sidewalks of town.

Even Ron Popeil would be disenchanted.

Like so many Americans, I continue to search for that special pill or some other magical shortcut somewhere that will allow me to forgo the track, gym, or weights so I can watch more infomercials while working on a big plate of french fries compliments of my original Veg-O-Matic.