Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Comic In Four Panels

Macy create a four panel comic and asked if I would share it. In it, a bunny hurts itself on the slide and finds healing through the power of love and the kindness of a dog. So, without further ado, I present... Fluffy and Hoppy's Day:

(Click to enlarge.)

Note the use of thought balloons, quotation marks and linear time to create a mosaic of form and function in the storytelling. Also note the bold choice to break the standard conventions "traditional" comic storytelling in panel three, where the dog's breezy "ok" conveys the triumph of love through its forceful intrusion into panel four.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

After A One Day Layoff, Soccer Begins Again

So Macy finished spring recreational soccer with Sunday's makeup game. She had Monday off, which was more than enough time to rest up for summer soccer. This is a competitive league where they keep score and everything. The season is actually a series of tournaments over the summer, so we'll be doing some travelling. Her first tournament is in June in Sioux Falls, South Dakota the weekend of her birthday.

For the first time ever, I get to just sit and watch and take pictures and shoot video, things I never get to do while coaching. I got some practice in by shooting some pictures during this first practice. Please don't hold her fashion sense against her; I packed her clothes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Scarred But (Hopefully) Smarter

Part I: In Which We Discover Ruby Is Gone

So we had some family drama on Friday afternoon. Normally when either Donna or I get home from work we are attacked by an overzealous but well-meaning pit bull. But on Friday we were met with silence. After a couple of minutes, Donna realized that we had left the window open when we went to work. Said window had a loose screen, the result of years of Ruby pushing on it while tryhing to watch life pass by on the sidewalk.

The theory is that she was trying to look out the window, spotted a rabbit and decided the risk was acceptable as there were no parents around to harsh her groove. Of course, being Ruby means defining "long-term planning" to mean "what would make me happy this nanosecond". This leads (again, so the theory goes) to her being hopelessly outraced by the rabbit, coming back to the door and wondering why no one would let her in. Now what do I do? I hate being outside alone.

Thankfully most people in this area rate a pit bull roaming the streets right alongside Godzilla attack as Most Dangerous Thing I Could Encounter While Taking My Trash Out To The Curb, and so the police were called. Unfortunately, the pound closes at 5:00pm on Friday and remains closed all weekend. We discovered Ruby was missing at 5:15pm.

Part II: In Which The Fargo Police Department Is No Help At All

I assume that animal control arrived on the call sometime Friday afternoon and discovered mass panic in the streets as residents fled in terror at the sight of a grizzled, fifty-five pound pit bull trying to figure out how to work a screen door. I imagine the dogcatcher approaching Ruby gingerly, saying things like, "that's a good girl, don't rip my face off" while a S.W.A.T. team hovered in the background, ready to serve and protect. I envision terrifed neighbors peering around doorways and curtains, puddles of urine pooling at their feet as they wonder if the back door is locked.

I have to imagine these things because the Fargo police department was no help whatsoever. Donna called them to see if anything could be done to get Ruby back before Monday. Nope. She asked if they had picked Ruby up or if she was still roaming the neighborhood. Well, we did get a call and we did send animal control and the police out there. She asked if she could talk to the officer who responded to the call. He's no longer on duty. She asked if animal control took her to the pound. We don't record that sort of information.

Now, it seems to me that when you send police officers (not to mention animal control) out on a call, there would be some record of how that call was disposed of. That doesn't seem to be the case in Fargo. Nope, in Fargo dispatchers send cops out and then never hear from them again. Hey, Flo, how was the shift? Oh, very exciting! We got a call about a bank robbery in progress. Four units arrived on scene about six hours ago. Wow! What happened with that? How should I know?

After getting no help from the police we had to assume Ruby might still be out there roaming the streets, perhaps strumming a guitar for loose change. I headed out on my bike, executing a concentric grid search like the trained soldier/spy/ninja that I am. Donna jumped in her Jeep and searched a bit farther out. After about an hour, we gave up. Privately I was pretty sure that Ruby had been apprehended by animal control and was already becoming acclimated to life in the joint. Smoking, lifting weights, playing the bulldog and german shepherd gangs off each other in a desperate bid to stay alive. I reasoned with Donna that with the way the public views pitbulls (as unrelenting killing machines bent on destruction, like Stalin or Jay-Z) the police department wouldn't rest until they found her.

Part III: In Which The Mystery Is Solved

On Saturday, after enjoying a night in which I didn't have to fight for position in bed with a pampered mutt, a man came to the door at let us know that he was present when animal control came to the neighborhood. He explained that he thought he recognized Ruby as belonging to us (or at least, that she lived at this address) and helped the dogcatcher get Ruby into the mobile death wagon van. He said Ruby was more scared than anything else and was very docile. While this may have surprised both him and the dogcatcher, it didn't surprise me. After all, this is a dog that once bolted from the bedroom when the wind knocked over a lamp. This is also a dog which looks distrustfully at pillows, has nothing nice to say about remote controls, and is absolutely terrified of dinner plates, skateboards and keys. She hates it when you talk to her in a Darth Vader voice through a paper towel roll. Coupled with the fact that she had been cut off from her couch for God knows how long and it's more surprising that she didn't offer to drive herself to the pound.

Part IV: In Which We Come To The End And Lessons Are Learned

First thing this morning we headed over the pound to spring Ruby from lockup. We heard no reports that she had been involved in any riots or untoward gang activity. Once we paid the fee and left the building it became obvious why: she had gone on some sort of bodily function strike. Based on volume, it's obvious she didn't relieve herself all weekend (in any form). I borrowed a 30-gallon trash bag from the dogcatcher and that is all I will say about that particular matter.

We got her home and she was beside herself. It's apparent she at some point during her ordeal figured she was a goner. Well, that's it. I jumped through a window, got kidnapped by a lady with a van, and now I'll never poop again. She raced from one end of the house to the other, checking the furniture, the door, the kitchen, us, to make sure this wasn't some sort of Prisoner-type mindscrew.

In time, she will forget all this and it will be as though it never happened. We will forget to close the window and she will be tempted, perhaps by another rabbit, perhaps by a dog being walked by an owner who doesn't forget to close windows. She will be tempted to jump through the screen again and give in to her immediate desires. Hopefully she will, for one brief moment, feel a sense of unease. I shouldn't do this. Then she'll do it anyway, because that's what dogs do. But if she does have that single moment of hesitation, all of this will still not have been worth it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring Soccer Ends With A Bang

I am not a real soccer coach. I know some basic concepts which I try to teach to nine-year-olds as patiently as I can. I want them to learn some basics and improve on them, all the time keeping in mind that the goal of recreational soccer is not to win games or even to score goals. That said, I do want to win the games even though I'm not supposed to care. The reason I harbor such feelings is that the girls want to win. They really want to win.

Still, I try to get every girl equal minutes, and, with a few exceptions, play them at every spot on the field. Competitive soccer is the place where the girls find out which positions they are good at, as opposed to which ones they like to play.

The best moments for me are when it clicks with the girls and they execute the things I've been drumming into their skulls all season. Today we had just such a moment and thankfully it included Macy.

We were playing our final spring game today. It was beautiful, 70 degrees and sunny with just a light wind, none of the usual prairie gales we are accustomed to. We were playing a team that we frankly outclassed. Our girls were better athletes generally and certainly had a rudimentary gameplan beyond "let the best player get the ball and see if she can score". That said, we were losing 3-2 in the second half. A quick aside -- we don't keep score in recreational soccer officially, but you'd better believe the girls know exactly what the score is at all times.

Anyway, back to the game. We had several scoring chances but couldn't put it in the net with any regularity because the girls just weren't following the gameplan. When our forwards have the ball down in scoring territory we tell the girls to rush the net -- put bodies in front of the goal so any passes, misplays by the defense or rebounds from save tries by the goalie can turn into scores. Instead, we inevitably had one girl trying to get a shot off in traffic while the rest of the team hung back.

With about eight minutes to go in the game, our left wing got the ball past the defender and, for the first time all day, didn't try to go down the middle of the field with the center right next to her. Instead, she went left, got the ball into the corner and sent the ball right in front of the net. Also for the first time all day, the center was there, having sprinted full out to get herself into position in front of the net. The center took the pass and one-timed it into the net.

It was exactly what I had been trying to get them to do all season, and it finally clicked. That Macy was the center made it even sweeter. We went on to score two more goals in the last six-or-so minutes. The light went on and they got the idea.

I'm not much of a coach, but every once in a while the girls let me pretend.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Brett Favre Just Screwing With Us Now

Brett Favre has spent the last few offseasons toying with prospective suitors -- first the Packers, then several teams that hoped to gain his services after he finally pissed off Green Bay's front office for the last time, and now the Vikings -- by playing coy about his intentions. Would he play? Would he retire? Both? That last sounds facetious, but he oscillated so much during these most recent offseasons, it seemed like he was trying to perform that seemingly impossible feat.

Apparently, the Man With The Golden Ego has tired of the will-he-or-won't-he game. Now he has moved on to seeing if he can make random, unaffiliated parties do his bidding. He told the Southern Mississippi baseball team he would play another season in the NFL if the Golden Eagles made the College World Series.

I don't know for sure if this is a ploy to make the Vikings look as inept as possible, or just a game Favre made up to pass the time, like a G-rated Saw. Either way, I look forward to statements from Favre in the future that ties his employment decision to random tasks.
  • If Brad Childress can drink twelve cups of coffee in less than fifteen minutes, I'll come to training camp.
  • If I can glue deer antlers to my helmet, I'll play this season for the league minimum salary.
  • If the NFL institutes a no-using-your-hands rule for defenses, I'll cut my interceptions nearly in half.
  • If Green Bay will erect a statue in my honor, I'll retire.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Get The Bug

Donna's bed hog dog Ruby likes to eat bugs. She likes to play with them first though, as this video shows. Sometimes she likes to involve people in the game, as this video also shows. Sometimes those people aren't interested so much as freaked out, as this video definitely shows.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Butterfly Ball Followup

I finally got the "official" Butterfly Ball photo back from the photographer and I must say I am a little disappointed. The picture looks a bit overexposed. I employed my limited photo enhancement skills to (I think) improve things a bit.



Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jupiter Takes It Off For Playboy

It is a well known fact that Jupiter is the second-sexiest planet in the solar system(right after Neptune). Now, for the first time, the planet, star of 2010: Odessey 2 is going to bare it all. Hot on the heels of the announcement that the new and totally-not-recycled 3-D fad is coming to Playboy, the magazine has announced it has reached an agreement with the stormy planet to appear in a photo spread.

In the spirit of breaking news stories too big for traditional media, a responsibility I take seriously, I'd like to announce that we have a sneak preview of the spread. (Warning, image is NSFW):

(Picture courtesy of the London Daily Mail)

Oh mama, you know what I like!

Macy Is No Longer A Brownie

She's a Junior Girl Scout! Last night she completed her bridging ceremony to make the transition. She is (rightfully) very proud. She gets a new vest with the change which is good, as the one she was wearing for Brownies appeared to be roughly 25 sizes too small.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Must Be International Rules

See if you can spot the error:

(Click to enlarge)

For a hint, highlight below:

The Mets get all the breaks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lessons From The Failed Times Square Bombing?

Fred Kaplan usually works from a very simple premise: everything Bush ever did is wrong. That explains this piece in Slate in which he looks at the failed Times Square bombing and and sees another chance to poke Bush (via the equally despised Dick Cheney). The problem is, his three points sacrifice logic on the altar of politics.

First, Kaplan claims, the terror attack proves that Cheney was wrong to champion the idea of dealing with terrorism as an act of war rather than a criminal act.
Today’s Wall Street Journal recounts nine foiled terrorist attempts in New York since 2002. In almost every case, they were thwarted as a result of arrests and informants.

Similarly, from 2001 to 2008, according to data compiled by George W. Bush’s (emphasis his) Justice Department, federal prosecutors convicted 319 terrorists—195 of whom were associated with al-Qaida or other jihadist groups—in civilian criminal courts. Only three were convicted by military tribunal, and two of those three were sent back to their native countries and subsequently freed.
In other words, his own article undermines the idea that the Bush administration was hellbent on fighting terrorism with only the tools of war. Certainly the administration favored military options where they were deemed warranted (whether the “deeming” was correct is a differnt argument). But the idea that the Bush years were ones of failed military policy at the expense of arresting terrorists and trying them in civilian courts is disproved by the article’s own statistics.

Ah, but I’m conflating Cheney’s views with the actions of the Bush administration, one might say. Perhaps Cheney was quietly fuming at each and every one of those 319 convictions, agitating for troops on the ground instead of subpoenas in the courtroom. The problem with that argument is that Kaplan over the years has made no effort to hide his belief that Cheney pulled the strings in the Bush administration, with Bush himself merely a dumb puppet. Note here, where Kaplan puts forth the idea that Bush watered down the powers of the central director of intelligence at the behest of Cheney. Or here, in an article about the appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, where Kaplan writes, “Cheney put him up for this job, and what Cheney wants usually goes.” Or here, in an article describing how “Cheney and his entourage” were able to scuttle plans to close down the prison at Guantanmo Bay back in 2005 over the support of virtually everyone else in the administration.

Are we to believe that Cheney (who did indeed wield power and influence in the job of Vice President, certainly moreso than his predecessor), who (according to Kaplan) singlehandedly stripped power from one of Bush’s appointments, got John Bolton named UN ambassador, kept Guantanamo open, and lived in a world where “what [he] wants usually goes” was unable to direct policy on terrorism? I mean, 319 convictions is a lot (though not enough to warrant praise from Kaplan — he instead quotes it incredulously, like it was some sort of oversight on the part of the Bush administration). Was Cheney a puppet master except for this one time?

Next up in the list of things we now “know” to be true is the idea that “self-taught urban scholar and activist” Jane Jacobs was right when she posited that we have nothing to fear in urban areas because “a busy sidewalk is a safe sidewalk”. Obvious examples to the contrary, even the unsuccessful bombing attempt doesn’t support this idea. The bomb didn’t fail because a street vendor discovered it. It failed because the detonator didn’t ignite with enough power to trigger the hoped-for explosion. This is not to belittle the efforts of the vendor, the NYPD or any of the other actors who responded to the incident. They did their jobs and did them well (including the vendor, who performed a civic duty others may or may not have rendered in the same situation). It is to say however that “all’s well that ends well” doesn’t apply to terrorism. It smacks of the same air of obliviousness that Janet Napolitano exhibted when she said of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing attempt, “the system worked”, despite that plot’s failure also hinging on a malfunctioning detonator.

Finally, we come to the final lesson learned: that security cameras on every street corner are something we should think about embracing (think London’s extensive network of closed-circuit television cameras). Kaplan notes that a camera near the scene may have captured the bomber. The video, which showed a man setting a bag down next to a parking meter and removing an outer garment before picking up the bag and continuing on, may or may not show the bomber. Regardless, how would this have prevented the attack? It wouldn’t, of course. The camera is great for recording events, not so great at preventing them.

Even if we followed London’s model exactly, there’s no reason to believe it would deter terrorism. It hasn’t helped reduce more mundane crimes in London, after all. If it won’t stop car thieves and purse snatchers, why would it stop a terrorist?

I don’t know why this particular article aroused my ire enough to address it. Kaplan writes this sort of tunnel-vision inspired stuff every day. I normally avoid reading his articles at Slate for this very reason. Goodness knows there are enough hyperpartisan authors out there (cue the ‘how ironic’ comments) on both sides of the aisle. Maybe I’m just having a bad day. Maybe the irony of someone who spoke out against Bush administration violations of civil rights (both real and imagined) so blithely writing “[a]nd city dwellers (as well as tourists) may have come to accept that privacy cannot be presumed when they’re out on public streets” was too much.

(Crossposted from Say Anything)

Monday, May 3, 2010

How Much Of A Child’s Growth Should Be Left To Teachers?

As a parent, I am confronted with a question that is difficult to answer and hard to define, but easy to ask: how much responsibility for shaping my child's beliefs to I entrust to her school? The easy answer is, "none". Easy but not realistic. My child's outlook on everything from what clothes to wear to which music she listens to her personal morals and politics are being (and will continue to be) shaped by influences other than dear old dad. Teachers play a vital role in shaping how kids view learning, social interactions, and authority figures. And while I may be a fiscal conservative who leans left socially and tries to teach my daughter the vast superiority of The Clash to Demi Lovato, it isn't only my vision of the world she's going to see. I don't subscribe to the book of parenting that stresses controlling every facet of a child's life.

That said, where to draw the line? When has a teacher gone too far, necessitating my stepping in and reasserting my worldview on my daughter? Well in some cases it's easy. Take for example this bit of teacher-as-indoctrinator from Texas. Barbara Geerdes used the following descriptions to impart her definitions of "Liberal" and "Conservative" to her AP government class:
Liberals generally approach human nature with a great deal of optimism. They think people are basically good, and though individuals are born ignorant they are not evil. Most liberals do not believe in original sin and as a consequence they feel people can be improved by education and knowledge. If you give people opportunities to better themselves they will usually take advantage of them and improve. Liberals also favor rapid movement toward constitutional or democratic forms of government because of their great confidence in the ability of the enlightened citizen to make wise and prudent choices at the ballot box.

Conservatives, on the other hand, have a more pessimistic view of human nature. Because they believe people have been tainted by original sin or are otherwise flawed, they expect less of people. They are more reluctant to provide welfare programs such as aid to dependent children or unemployment compensation, because they do not think it will be used properly, and in fact think it will cause additional problems as the weaker tendencies of human nature will be reinforced. Liberals welcome reforms becuase they feel that human history is one of continual progress a people inform and improve themselves. Conservatives are distrustful of average citizen's ability to direct a government, even only indirectly as i na representative democracy such as the United States.
(read the whole handout here and here) Setting aside the poor grammar and lack of understanding in how to use commas, this is an easily identifiable case where I would be the first to contact the teacher and the school to register my belief that a line had been crossed. I'm not sure if the teacher wrote this herself or copied it from Daily Kos, Democratic Underground or some other such place. It clearly goes over the line as far as indoctrination.

More murky however is the subtle indoctrination into the cult of Mother Earth. I've noticed that many activities my daughter's current school hold involve some tie to "Saving the Earth". Recycling drives, plays with an environmental theme. Activities centered around Earth Day. Hey, don't get me wrong. Recycling is great. I do it myself, from the obvious aluminum and paper to the less-clearly-beneficial glass and plastics. I don't mind a teacher telling her students about the benefits of it, or even championing it. But when my daughter is told in school that the Earth is "our Mother" I start to get leery. I haven't said anything to her school or her teacher; I don't think it's at that point yet. My daughter hasn't started telling me to get rid of my pickup or to boycott BP yet.

All of it plays into the general insecurity I think all parents feel; am I teaching my child everything she needs to know? Am I protecting her from bad teachers? Is she going to have my values when she grows up, and, if not, is it because I didn't do enough to instill them in her? It's enough to drive you crazy until you realize that all you can do is all you can do. I have to have faith that she is going to grow up smart and adopt the values that she knows are right while discarding the rest. She's bound to make mistakes along the way; believe propaganda rather than embrace facts on a topic near to her heart. All I can do is hope that she develops the wisdom to recognize those situations and the fortitude to correct them.

(Crossposted from Say Anything)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Scenes From Spring Soccer

Donna took some video of Macy's soccer game. The match was played in a misting rain and a stiff wind. Macy scored a goal in this game, but we didn't get it on video. What we do have is Macy (20, in stocking cap) taking a penalty kick following a player on the other team reaching down and knocking the ball out of the box with her hand for some reason, and a video of Macy putting the moves on the defense.