National Work Zone Awareness Week

As much as I despise him, I’ve decided to go a little Andy Rooney with my post today.

As I was driving into work today, I looked up to see a message flashing on one of the permanent traffic information boards that are spaced about every five miles apart on my drive through Fort Worth on my way to work. 

Sometime these signs contain useful or even important information.  They will let me know a few days ahead when there will be scheduled road repair or if a NASCAR race will be affecting traffic that week.  Often there are Amber Alert messages regarding missing children or elderly.  When I see these messages, I make a mental note of their content in case I actually see the car that is wanted or matches the description.  This seems like a great use of technology to me.  Sometimes there is an accident ahead that is significant enough to warrant a warning on the signs.  Those days I take an alternate route.

However, there are also the days when someone is put in charge of the sign who feels like things need to be tricked-up a little.  I have grown used to the “Buckle Up” admonition, and the polite desire that I “Have a Nice Day,” but every now and then some joker feels the need to say something different.  These messages sometimes encourage me to pay attention to road workers even if there is no road work to pay attention to.  In other cases, I have been encouraged to vote.

The only real affect that I have noticed from innocuous messages such as these, is that they affect the flow of traffic as people feel like they have to slow down to read them.  It seems to me that when signs are used in this manner that they defeat the purpose of having the sign in the first place.  I have even seen accidents shortly before getting to the signs that were probably caused by people breaking to read the signs while other people trying to read the signs hit them in the rear.

This morning as I drove to work, I was greeted with a message informing me that it is Work Zone Awareness Week.  I looked this up in the internet, and not only is it Work Zone Awareness Week, it is National Work Zone Awareness Week.  This struck me as a little odd.  Of course, there were no work zones on my twenty mile trip to work for me to be aware of, but that was not all.  I suddenly thought, “Pretty soon we are going to have a week for everything.”  But, there are only 52 weeks in a year.  So, is ‘Work Zone Awareness’ in the top 52 things that I need to be worried about.  I find that hard to believe.

So, I assume there must be some serious overlap here.  Every week must have multiple causes that are competing to make sure that I am aware of them.  In the cacophony of causes something is lost.  I am just not able to care that much about all of this stuff, and  regardless of that, I always try to be safe when I am driving down the road anyway. 

So what is the real purposed of National Work Zone Awareness Week?  I can only assume it is three fold.  1) To give the folks that sit at a desk in a boring job at the highway department something to do.  2) To provide revenues to advertising agencies that have won lucrative government contracts to promote these types of things. 3) To assure that my drive home from work takes a little longer as people slow down to read the ‘very important’ message that has been provided for our edification.

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Jim Rice Polutes the Baseball Hall of Fame

Anyone from outside of the Northeast who likes baseball will eventually get beaten down by the Eastern media bias.  I had some feeling of this growing up, but really had it drilled home with Ken Burns’ Baseball.  You would have thought that there were only three teams in baseball as Burns waited until the last hour of the program to acknowledge the existence of any great player outside of Boston or New York.  I actually think I saw the great Nolan Ryan’s face flash past the screen in a montage, but I was not sure.

The problem is two fold.  Great players from teams outside of the Northeast have to be that much greater to even be considered for the Hall of Fame.  While it seems like Players for that Yankees and Red Sox simply have to be good for a long period, and be likable to make it into the Hall of Fame (see Wade Boggs). 

Today, we are told that Jim Rice will be in the Hall of Fame.  I don’t have any problem with a person saying that Jim Rice was a very good baseball player, but he does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.  Put him in your team’s Ring of Honor if you wan to, but not in the Hall of Fame.

He did not reach any of the ‘benchmarks’.  He did not have 3000 hit.   He did not even have 2500 hits (2452).  He did not have 500 home runs (382).  There is no justification for his inclusion, and it cheapens the Hall of Fame.

I looked at a few other players in comparison.  Reuben Sierra and Al Oliver are two Texas Rangers who have never sniffed the Hall of Fame, and rightly so.  Oliver had a 303 batting average, 2743 hits, 219 home runs, and 1326 RBIs in 18 seasons.  Sierra had a 268 average, 1322 RBIs, 2152 hits and 306 home runs in 20 seasons (he played less than 50 games in 11 of these).  These players are not as good as Jim Rice, but they compare with him, and the point is that they obviously do not belong in the Hall of Fame.

Ricky Henderson obviously does belong in the Hall of Fame.  He hit a benchmark with his 3055 hits while compiling the most stolen bases in history.  That’s it.  He’s in the Hall because he did what it took to get there.  Unfortunately, players like the great Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski will now have to have their names spoken in the same breath with Jim Rice.  Am I the only one that sees the wrongness of this?

Top 20 United States Presidents

A few years ago I ranked the top 20 presidents in the history of the U.S.  I went back recently, and looked at the list again.  I decided that it just did not look right, so I opened a spreadsheet, and began to rank the presidents on several criteria.  These included: Popularity, Character, Number of Terms, the Issues that they had to deal with, their Legacy, the Legislation that they pushed through, their Effectiveness, and their Leadership, and their Negatives.  I gave more weight to: Issues, Legacy, Legislation and Effectiveness.

In the end, my list looked mostly as it had before, but some things looked much better.  Enjoy.

  1. Abraham Lincoln– He had it all: the biggest issue (the Civil War), the best rhetoric, an impeccable character, and was unafraid to take the wheel if it was needed.   He died in office before making any large mistakes.  He tried to choose Lee.  He fired incompetent generals at will, and chose Grant in the end.  He delivered the Gettysburg Address.  He signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  He preferred an easy peace with the South at the end of the war.  On the downside, he did suspend habeas corpus during the war.
  2. George Washington– The first.  He was extremely popular.  He was very careful to set proper precedents for the office.  He had been General of the armies during revolution.  He showed his character by refusing to be king.
  3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt– He had the big events: WWII, the Great Depression.  He is and will be the only four “termer.”  He overcame Polio, and he was an excellent orator.
  4. Thomas Jefferson– He was the author of Declaration of Independence.  He was a Founding Father, and he made the Louisiana Purchase.  However, he did disband the National Bank, and was a somewhat divisive figure.
  5. Theodore Roosevelt II– TR, a true man’s man.  He was a sportsman, and one of the first true American naturalists.  He established many of the National Parks that we have today.  He led the charge up San Juan Hill.  He is a symbol of American Imperialism (“Speak softly and carry a big stick).
  6. Ronald Wilson Reagan– He brought America out of a recession.  He proved the greatness of conservative fiscal and social ideals.  He proved the greatness of capitalism using its principals to economically bring down the greatest threat to America in its history.  He is still known as the Great Communicator.  He won 49 0f 50 states.
  7. James Monroe– Probably the most popular President ever while in office.  His presidency is still known as “the Era of Good Feelings.”  He instituted the Monroe Doctrine which established the attitude that the U.S. did not support European involvement in the Americas.
  8. James Madison– He was president during the war of 1812.  He was a Founding Father, and he was the designer and author of the Constitution.
  9. Harry S. Truman– Two termer.  He had the big event (WWII).  He made what may have been the hardest decision ever made by a president, and it was the right one (the atomic bomb).
  10. Andrew Jackson– He is a two termer.  He was a war hero.  He stood up to the Supreme Court.  He was very popular.
  11. Thomas Woodrow Wilson– He was a two termer who led the U.S. during WWI and started the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.
  12. William Jefferson Clinton– He was very popular.  He was a two termer.  He served during a time of economic growth.  He was fiscally conservative, and was able to get his economic policies passed even though he did not have a sympathetic Congress.  His positives will probably outweigh the negatives caused by his personal problems and impeachment.
  13. George Walker Bush   He has the big events: 911 and the war.  His 911 speech will go down as one of the greatest of any president.  He had a sympathetic congress, and pretty much passes any legislation that he liked during his first two years.  He effectively prosecuted a war against an enemy that could not be easily seen.  He did hot do enough to get his message out there, and as a result, his second term was a failure highlighted by the loss of the Congress, and eventually the Presidency for his party.
  14. Dwight David Eisenhower– He was general of the allied armies during WWII.  He was a two termer who served during a very happy time for America, the 50s.
  15. James Knox Polk  He expanded America more than any president except Jefferson.  Took in the Oregon Territory, and the California Territory.  He annexed Texas (this should get him a couple of more points).  He signed The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  He ran on the slogan of 54-40 or Fight.  His policies stalled the Civil War for a few years.  He did not want to be President, and only served because he was asked to.
  16. John Adams– One of the most important of the Founding Fathers, he stood on his principles and kept America out of an unnecessary war even though it hurt him politically and probably cost him reelection.  He was disliked politically and arrogant.  Also, he signed the Alien and Sedition Acts which were alter declared unconstitutional.  These things pushed him down the list.
  17. John Fitzgerald Kennedy– He was extremely popular.  He faced down the Soviets.  He pushed the Space Program.  He was a good orator.  He was a war hero.  On the downside, there was the Bay of Pigs, the War in Vietnam, and his social life.  Also, his Presidency was cut short. 
  18. William McKinley– He was President during the Spanish American War.  He acquired, Guam, The Philippines and Puerto Rico from Spain.  He also advocated annexation of Hawaii.
  19. George Herbert Walker Bush– He presided over the fall of Communism and Desert Storm.  He was a war hero.  He was the former head of the CIA and former Ambassador to the UN.  On the downside, “No new Taxes” and only one term.
  20. Lyndon B. Johnson– His social policies were largely responsible for the success of the American Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  However, his welfare state was a big issue.  He got America further involved in Vietnam, and he bowed-out after only one term.

A Little More Yankee Hatin’

I don’t know if it is absolutely fair to hate the Yankees for signing CC Sabathia for a record $161,000,000 over the next six years, but just can’t help it.

As a fan of the Texas Rangers, I will always remember how offended the media was when the Rangers offered A-Rod, the best player in baseball at the time, a record $150,000,000 contract.  The media beat the Rangers up and down about how ridiculous the contract was.  Because many people allow their opinions to be determined by the things that knuckleheads in the media say, the outcry was pretty loud.  Eventually, even though he was still the best player in baseball during his tenure with the Rangers, public opinion soured him on the team, and he left (to the Yankees, no less, sticking the Rangers with a good portion of his contract).

Obviously, the best position player in baseball is worth more than the best pitcher in baseball.  Why then is it OK for the Yankees to spend these sums of money, but not the Rangers?

The problem I have is with a sports media which is largely driven and controlled by Eastern press agencies who do little to mask their biases for teams like the Yankees, but never acknowledge these biases.  What I see in all of this is that it is alright for a team such as the Yankees to spend whatever they want on any player, but heaven forbid an upstart, second-tier team like the Rangers even attempt to play ball in the same marketplace that the Yankees play in.  If that were to happen, then perhaps some team other than the Red Sox and Yankees would go to the playoffs every year, and the Eastern media obviously could not deal with that.

So, because the media will not police itself in this manner, I am left with no other option but to wish failure on the Yankees.  And, I do.

The Skreech!

One of my favorite stories from my childhood involved the most surreal event that ever took place on one of our deer leases.  There deer lease seemed to be a place where lots of strange things happened.  I remember seeing my eight year old cousin try to shoot a sawed-off ten gauge single-shot shotgun (so, so very violent).  I remember seeing the same cousin a couple of years later gut-shoot a jack rabbit with a 308.  I felt bad about that.  It was unfortunate and unnecessary, but I assure you, the rabbit felt no pain.

I also was there to see that another youngster (age eleven) had killed a ten-point doe- no kidding.  The game warden was called out to see what to do about it.  Since, in Texas, deer tags say antlered and antlerless, the warden decided that it had to carry a buck tag because it had antlers.  This made some sort of sense, but it did not make the boy and his father happy that they had to use one of their buck tags.  The game warden did thank them for killing the deer.  He said that management officials were aggressive about weeding-out freaks from the population before they had a chance to reproduce.

I also remember my dad and me climbing a 20 foot wooden ladder to a box-blind on a gun lease only to find out that a family of ring-tailed cats had moved into it during the summer.  I still don’t know how we kept from getting hurt on that day, as we held our rifles while a couple of angry and frightened ring-tailed cats tried to exit the blind on the same ladder that we were climbing up with rifles in our hands.

Note: Ring-tailed cat odor is not pleasant.  Think of cat pee mixed with sweaty feet and feces.

However, the strangest thing that ever happened occurred on the Possum Kingdom bow lease that we hunted until gun season started every year.  We stayed in a popup tent trailer that my dad owned.  It had a bed on both ends, a booth style table that converted into a bed, and a little kitchenette area that never got used because all of the cooking was done in a community fashion outside around a large campfire and with a couple of Coleman stoves (including a Coleman oven).

I was probably about eight at the time, because I fit in the cramped bed that converted into a table just fine.  It must have been early in the season because it was hot enough that we had the canvas flaps on the sides of the tent-portion of the popup trailer down (unzipping these would reveal a mesh screen underneath that would allow a breeze to flow through the entire trailer), and the top half of the door was open.

My dad was on one end of the trailer, there was the kitchenette and door, and I was sleeping on the table-bed.  My uncle and his dog (a small terrier of some sort that looked like a wiener dog with longer legs) were above me on the other end-bed.

We kept no light on, and it must have been overcast, because I remember it being the darkest dark I had ever seen.

For some reason, even though I had a little fear of the dark at home, I never had trouble going to sleep on the deer lease.  I guess all of the activity combined with the fresh air put me to sleep quickly. 

On this particular night we were all sound asleep.  At some point in the night my father felt the dog curl up next to his legs for a while.  He did not mind because the dog was an extra source of warmth, and even though it was still warm in the daytime, October nights would eventually get cold.

Later, I felt the dog lay by me.  I have always liked dogs.  Finally, ‘the dog’ moved up to the bed with my uncle and attempted to lay next to…The Dog!  That is when all hell broke loose.

Have you ever been awakened after you had already gotten into the delta wave portion of your sleep?  It is hard to get your mind to focus, but I find that extreme terror has the ability to bring you back into focus as well as anything.

The animal that crawled up next to my uncle let out an unearthly cry that woke up everyone in the camp, not just our trailer, immediately.  It was a high-pitched wail that seemed to go on for a minute (believe me it seemed like forever at the time).  At once, the real dog began chasing what we thought was ‘the dog’ around the inside of the trailer.  They made two complete circuits of the inside of the trailer rounding both end beds twice and crossing my bed four times.  All the while the creature wailed and the dog barked, and as they went by on their second round, it found the door, and sounded something like a siren as it retreated into the night with the dog close on its tail.

Many theories were developed regarding the creature that visited the trailer that evening.  Some creatures were dismissed.  It was too big for squirrel.  An armadillo or a rabbit could not have made it over the half-door, and it was probably not a skunk, or it would have left more evidence.  We were pretty sure it was not a bobcat or a coyote because there would probably have been more damage.  This still left a host of possible candidates including:  an opossum, a raccoon, a ring-tailed cat, a weasel, a marten, or a fox.  I have since added a few other possibilities including a Jaguarundi, an Ocelot, a Swift (also know as a Kit Fox), or a black-footed ferret.  We will never know for sure what creature visited us and frightened the hell out of us that night.  It has since become part of the hunting lore of my family, and forever will be known as the Skreech.

For some reason, the door was shut completely when we went to bed after that.

Things that I am Thankful for

As I edge toward Thanksgiving Holiday, I ask myself what it is that I am actually thankful for.  Daily, it seems that we are being bombarded with news of the bad economy, and being a Republican is nothing like it was a decade ago, but here goes.

I am thankful that I am a Christian.  I may not hold to many of the more fundamentalist (or liberal) views of modern Christian denominations, but I believe that Christ died for my sins, and am thankful that my God is a god of grace who loves me in spite of my many failings.

I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for my lovely wife and my wonderful little daughter.  Every day is a new adventure when you have a two year old.  My wife and I may be a good pair, but it is the little girl that completes both of us.

I am thankful for the grandparents.  My mom is wonderful with my daughter, and she does everything thing she can to help us through the everyday life situations that sometimes come up.  My in-laws are also great.  This year, there were a couple of times when I had to work some extended hours (once I put in an extra 155 hours in a month).  My mom and my in-laws really came through by coming to stay with us for weeks at a time so that the baby would not have to be in day care for eight hours a day or more.  To top that all off, this summer while I was having to work so many hours, my father-in-law practically put in a bar that I had been planning to do by himself, and it looks as good as a master carpenter could do.

My sister, her husband and my niece who is slightly older than my daughter are also a blessing.  We will not be spending Thanksgiving together this year because we will be at the in-law’s house, and my sister, who would normally be at her in-law’s house, will be staying at home because she is pregnant with what will be my new nephew.  Yeah!

I am thankful that I was born an American in Texas and in the Dallas area.  There is no place I’d rather be.

I am thankful for my education, the fact that I have a good job, and a good boss who appreciates the work that I do, and I am thankful that I have a customer base that, for the most part is easy to work with.

I am thankful that my wife likes some of the programming that I like to watch on television, and that she is willing to sit beside me and act like she likes some of the other programming that I watch.  I am also thankful that I live in the age of the DVR.

I am thankful that I live in an area that has a lot of sports related outlets.  Between, the Cowboys, Rangers, Stars and Mavericks, Dallas covers the sports world well, but it would be nice to see a World Series come through here.  We even have a professional soccer team, FC Dallas.  There are also three professional minor league baseball teams, several universities, and Texas high school football to satiate the sports fan.  And, of course we have the best local sports radio in the country, Sports Radio 1310, the Ticket.

I am thankful that I live in a safe, affordable neighborhood with good schools that my daughter will one day attend.

I am thankful that Texas still does not have a state income tax.

I am thankful that I have a few friends that go back as far a high school, and that I know I can trust at least one of them with pretty much anything.

I am thankful that I will not have to do anything to assist with the cooking of Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I am thankful that my father-in-law finally paid for the local channels to be put on his Dish Network plan so it will not be snowing during all of the football games that I plan to watch this week.

I am thankful that I live in a time, and in a country where I can publish any opinion that I wish to anyone in the world who wishes to read it, for free (thanks, WordPress).  Being a student of history, I know that freedom of speech has been a rarity throughout the history of mankind, and I respect a person’s right to have an opinion even if I do not agree with what the person is saying.

I could go on forever, but suffice it to say, I am thankful.

Come On, Fox News!

I have to throw an offsides flag on Foxnews for using the very unfortunate and unnecessary headline, “Good Spirit, Poor Execution” for their story about a group of Texas cheerleaders who recently performed a skit portraying the execution style killing of rival cheerleaders. 

If Foxnews wants their reporting to be taken seriously, then they must treat their stories in a more serious manner.  Placing this headline on this story is, on the one hand, tabloid, and on the other hand, just as irresponsible and insensitive as the skit that was done by the cheerleaders themselves. 

I used to listen to Limbaugh, but eventually I stopped for two reasons.  First, I felt that he was simply preaching to the choir, but later, I realized that I couldnot talk to anyone about things I heard on his show because sometimes he ran with an unsubstantiated rumor, and if I did reference his show in a conversation, it could affect another person’s opinion of me.  I’m beginning to have similar feelings of Foxnews.

Unfortunately, Fox does not work hard enough at appearing to be a legitimate media outlet.  This places their readers and viewers in the position of having to filter the information that they get through Foxnews.  What bothers me the most, is that there is no conservatively leaningmedia alternative to force Foxnews to take itself more seriously.  For people like myself, they hold an ideological monopoly.