September 2008

About the Bailout

I’ve been pretty much befuddled about the whole bailout mess this week, but finally, someone put it into perspective a little better.

From Blue Collar Muse:

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Well, crud.  If the video isn’t showing up properly, just follow the link and read the rest of his post while you’re there.

It could be worse…

The whole gasoline supply/pricing issue remains tumultuous, but I finally filled up this morning for the first time since before the run on the pumps just before Ike hit Houston.

My west-end Weigels apparently is able to keep half a week’s supply on hand.  Trucks arrive on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, and the price is $3.39, just like it was last Wednesday.

All in all, I’d rather have affordable fuel available half the time, than price-gouging every day.  Either way, I’ll drive less, but this way hurts less.

*  *  *  *  *
It could be worse, for sure.  My sister in Houston reports this morning that she still doesn’t have power at her house, and that her kids won’t be back in school until at least Monday.  Apparently, the eye of the hurricane passed right over her house; there are still downed power lines across the playground at my nephews’ school.

Hard to fill a gas tank if the station has now power, I guess.  And it’s a lot hotter in Houston than it is here — they still need air conditioning.

Maybe now,  they will think about moving to Oak Ridge.  I’d like that.

Transportation puzzles

Why is it that the fastest airline route from Knoxville to Seattle goes through Dallas?  I mean, I can see going through Denver or some other large city that’s sort of on the way, but Dallas?  Some of the other choices were Chicago, Pittsburgh, and even Los Angeles.  None made any sense to me.

*  *  *  *  *
The gas station nearest my house ran out of fuel last Friday, priced at $4.99/gal.  This morning, they had fuel — at $3.99/gal.  It’s still no great bargain, but you can’t convince me that all the refineries closed for Saturday’s hurricane are magically back online, having piped their product some 800 miles already.  No, there was something else at play this weekend.

That said, my Weigels was still 50-60 cents per gallon cheaper than other stations along the turnpike this morning.  Gamma had stopped in Weigels last night to buy milk on her way home, and she said it was the saddest, lonliest place (on their fourth day with no fuel to sell).

I think that frustration over gas prices has had at least one positive effect on people: cars seem more courteous, giving a thumbs-up (and plenty of room) as they pass.

Finally, Skyward

Today, I received via snail-mail our account information for Skyward — the new student information system for Oak Ridge Schools.  Skyward replaces K-12 Planet, which parents have used for a couple of years to access students’ current grades and attendance online.

K-12 Planet  was okay — better than nothing — but teachers didn’t universally participate (at least at my kids’ schools), and it didn’t have as much information.  Skyward is an integrated system that doesn’t require teachers to input grades separately for the web.  Therefore, since it’s the same system as is used for state attendance reporting, midterms, report cards, and everything else, they should all use it.

At this point, almost all of them are.  If you click the "attendance" tab, a calendar shows any day where your student was absent or tardy for even part of the day.  If you click that date, it shows an explanation, e.g., "doctor’s excuse."  If you click a letter grade on the grade report, it shows a detail of all assignments, tests, etc.  One notable improvement for me is that one login — mine — shows information for both of my children, even though they are at different schools.  With K-12 Planet, I had a different login for each school.

Each child has their own login as well, so they can see their own grades, but not their siblings’. 

It’s important for parents not to go overboard on this kind of thing; don’t freak out if you see one quiz with a low grade.  But it’s really helpful to log in regularly, so that if you see a pattern, you can address it before it becomes an irreversible problem.  Most teachers are anxious to help if only the student asks.

There’s also a "notifications" tab where you can request reports to be e-mailed to you periodically, or if a student’s grade or assignments fall below a specified percentage.

For the parents who choose to utilize it, this will be an excellent tool for improving communication between school and home.

Gas boycott, day 4

Most stations around Oak Ridge are still out of gas; the few who do have any seem to only have premium, at something approaching $5.30/gal.

No thanks.

After shuttling Beta around on Saturday, to work, and then back to school in Knoxville, I’d used up about half of the gas I had in my car.  The one I DID NOT fill up when everybody hit the panic button last Friday.  So, I figure I have two or three gallons left.  I’m saving it… because I don’t plan to fill up again until this little self-inflicted crisis is over.

Today, my best and favorite client needed me on the East end of town.  After ascertaining that business attire was not required, I made the decision to take my bike.  That’s bicycle, not motorcycle.  I scavenged up a little nylon backpack-thingy that I brought home from some conference, and stuck a notebook and my purse inside.  Also a bottle of water, which was a very good thing.

It was a lovely day for a ride; the upside of the Turnpike construction is that there’s a nice row of barrels between me and the cars.  It was 7 miles each way, so I got a little exercise, saved half a gallon of gas, and feel pretty good about it.

Very good, actually. 

Monday’s Laugh

I don’t know whom to credit for this one, but it’s a good way to start a Monday when there’s so much bad news going around.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

SARAH PALIN: The chicken didn’t make it across the road. I shot it, cleaned it, cooked it, and had it for Sunday dinner. [credit: Rich Hailey at Shots Across the Bow]

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure – right from Day One! – that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn’t about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don’t really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where’s my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken’s intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.  [NM’s note: there are black chickens.  And red ones, and speckled ones.  Black chickens lay beige eggs, and red chickens lay brown eggs.]

DR.. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won’t realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he’s acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I’m going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he’s guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer’s Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I’ve not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can’t you people see the plain truth? That’s why they call it the ‘other side. ‘ Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay, too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like ‘the other side.’ That chicken should not be crossing the road. It’s as plain and as simple as that.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn’t that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never craÅ #@&&^(C%………..reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Invention idea

Beta, the freshman physics major, was home over the weekend.  I gave her an idea that I’d certainly be willing to pay for… but she  says that’s "not her kind of physics."  So, if there are any other inventor-types out there…

I like the sound of cicadas on a summer night; I enjoy listening to rain on the leaves, or a soft breeze.   Nothing is more relaxing than the sound of a river in the mountains.  I abide the sounds of traffic when I’m in town, simply because I have to.  However, I should not have to abide the sounds emitting from some freak’s car with bass speakers the size of my chest freezer, creating a "thumpa-thumpa-thumpa" that I can feel through the soles of my feet in the parking lot, in my car on the road, or even inside my own home.

It’s illegal (we do have a noise ordinance), but evidently it’s not very well enforced.

I need a keychain-sized device that works as a kind of ray gun, emitting an electromagnetic pulse that will blow the  speakers of any vehicle within earshot.  As easy as clicking the door-lock button on my car’s remote, I would shut down these menacing thumpers permanently.

The idea came to me on Friday in the Kroger parking lot, but another such vehicle that rattled the windows just now got under my skin enough to throw the  idea to the blogosphere.

Afer all, this is Oak Ridge.  If anyone knows how to build such a thing, they’ll be here.

Hurricane Update

The only communication I’ve had with my sister in Houston has been via text messages, but she left the airport this afternoon (where she spent the night at work, keeping their IT systems alive) to check on her husband and two sons.

In Kingwood, where they live (north-northeast Houston, just above Humble), there is no power, no phone service, and cell phones are out.  But her family is fine, and the house — the house that they just moved into in June — is okay.

After checking on everyone, she headed back to work.  

At least the temperatures have moderated to about 80 degrees — cool and comfortable by Houston standards — with the lack of air conditioning.

Gas Pains

As hurricane Ike bears down on the east Texas coastline, pain is being felt across a much wider region.

My kid sister is riding out the storm at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, where she works as the IT/Telecom manager.  it’s one of those positions where she has to be on-site during emergencies.  Unfortunately, that means her husband and two children have to survive at home without her.

They’ll be okay; they’re Texas tough.

Here at home, the worst we’ve seen is gas prices going crazy.  This morning, gas was still $3.69, but by afternoon, the price had jumped to $3.99.  There have been rumors circulating that stations may run out of gas, which of course prompts everyone (or everyone else) to go fill up all their cars, thereby increasing the likelihood of a shortage.

There’s a better answer to this temporary gas crisis: just stay home. 

Other than going to the football game tonight, I’m thinking the "just stay home" strategy could work really well for me.  I have plenty of groceries; I can buy more beer on the way home from the game.  

I will not participate in the frenzy; it’s like people buying up all the milk, bread, and toilet paper when snow is forecast, as though they’ll never see a grocery store again.  This is crazy, and just rewards the gas merchants for spiking prices in advance of a potential problem.

A little sanity, please, if there’s any left in the pipeline.

Justice for all?

I’ve been following the murder trial of Eric McLean (the "love triangle murder" where Eric shot his wife’s teenage lover), and have thought to myself how hard it would be to be on that jury.

There are volumes of news articles here (scroll down to the "McLean Files" blue box on the left, under the picture), but basically, the facts boil down to this:  West High School student teacher Erin McLean, age 29, was engaged in an affair with one of her students.  The pair flaunted the affair, tormented husband Eric McLean with degrading remarks and threats to take his children.

Eric McLean took a rifle from his father’s house, planning to commit suicide, two weeks before the shooting.  At one point, Eric McLean walked in on the pair having sex in his own house… but he didn’t kill anyone, even as the purloined rifle sat in the laundry room. 

Days later, as Erin McLean was retrieving her belongings to leave with Sean Powell, her teenage lover, Eric McLean went to Powell’s car with the rifle to scare him away.  Powell told McLean, "in two weeks, your kids will be calling me ‘Daddy’."  McLean says that Powell grabbed for the rifle, then he jerked it back and the rifle went off — shooting Powell in the face.

There’s a lot more, but it’s all covered by the media already.  WBIR has extensive coverage in addition to the News Sentinel.

To me, it seems like justifiable homicide (although I’m not sure there is such a thing in real life).  At worst, I could vote for voluntary manslaughter, but would recommend a suspended sentence and probation, along with mandatory counseling.

The one who really needs to be on trial here is Erin McLean — for statutory rape, abuse by an authority figure, spousal abuse, and generally being the worst kind of human being. 

WBIR is carrying video of the trial live online; watching Eric McLean testify yesterday, I can only conclude that he shot the wrong culprit.  Though Powell was no innocent victim, he’s not the one who intentionally pushed Scott McLean beyond the boundaries of grief and humiliation.  It was Erin.

Eric McLean’s only flaw was that he faithfully, desperately loved a woman who didn’t deserve the time of day.

I can only hope that the jury sees it thus.

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