Monday, November 19, 2007

can't put a price on peace and quiet

You know, all of this insanity with children does serve to enlighten me to a truth, a big plus in my life, that I otherwise might not notice. Hold on there, I'm not saying kids are all bad or must be avoided at all costs or whatever. Sure, they can be tons of fun at times, for folks who enjoy such interactions. But I'm convinced they're not for everyone.

It sure is nice to be able to basically call my own shots at all times and do pretty much what I want, at least a lot more so that those directly responsible for themselves plus one or more smaller folk. And it's super nice to be able to come home to a quiet, peaceful house, with no to-do list, no screaming kids, no never-ending errands -- simply put, no pressing duties or responsibilities toward anyone beyond myself. Selfish and spoiled? Perhaps, I won't argue that it isn't. But I'd have a heck of a hard time giving it up.

Praise God for the simple things in life, right?

speaking of...

...out-of-control kids, what's the deal with kids flipping out and screaming their heads off whenever they get on planes? I won't go into the details of my late-night return trip from Vegas this past Tuesday (and Wednesday morning), as you've heard it all before in some fashion. But why haven't airlines come out with a simple way of controlling this? Sure, first class would do the trick, but not all of us have cash flowing out of our pockets. How about reserving, say, the last 10-15 rows of coach for adults only? Or doing the opposite and putting kids in the first several rows so they can get on and off faster? Does anyone not think this would be well-received by enough travelers to justify a slight price increase and offset any negative PR from various blowhards? I'm sure the airlines would then seize the opportunity to jack up those prices, but it couldn't be as high as first class. I'd probably shell out for them. Geez...come on, fellas. End the suffering already!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

unruly church kids

Something just keeps getting my attention these days and is actually starting to get a bit annoying. (You know what that means: time for another rant!) Is it me, or is there a dearth of discipline among young church kids these days? Given my total lack of interaction with that age group, I don't really know what normal and acceptable (or at least expected) behavior for a preschooler or early elementary age child looks like. And given that I usually try to keep said interaction to a minimum, I don't intend to figure it out too soon -- at least not through experience. But at the same time, I do think there should be some standards for public behavior, regardless of age.

Let's consider exhibit #1. A few weeks ago, or several weeks ago now I guess, I was helping straighten up the church foyer one evening during the latter half of an ESL session. Before I get too far, some background is necessary here. We use the foyer as our ESL break area of sorts, where students and teachers come for a 15-minute break in the middle of the two-hour class sessions to interact with one another and get some light snacks and drinks (or, in my case, dinner). Since I'm sort of a behind-the-scenes helper this semester, one of my roles is to take care of setup and cleanup of the break area.

Anyway, enough background. So here I am, kinda packing stuff up, kinda moving stuff around, getting ready as much as I can so when the teachers drop off their materials after class I can put it all away and be done in short order. Well, two preschool kids decide it'd be fun to start at the exterior doors and run through the foyer into the sanctuary while screaming at the top of their lungs. This occurs a few times, enough that I realize the process is going to keep repeating itself, so I start wondering what's up. I mean, in my book, this is completely unacceptable behavior on several counts: we're indoors and in a church no less, there are classes being taught in adjacent rooms, there are adults trying to talk in the same room, and on and on. Such would be cool outside, or in an empty building, or in one's own home sometimes, a church on a busy Sunday night? Are you kidding me?

So back to the events at hand. I look up, and, much to my surprise, one of the parents is standing right there in the foyer, a few feet away from me, talking to a couple of other adults, apparently oblivious to the commotion at hand! This puts me in a bit of a quandary, because while I'm not comfortable and probably have no place trying to control someone else's child in the parent's presence, as "keeper of the foyer" I do have a responsibility to maintain some semblance of order so the classes can proceed without undue interruption. And it's not like the parent isn't aware there were ESL classes in session; it was being discussed only moments earlier. So I stand there pondering my options and trying to figure out if there's any way to fix this problem without being rude or stepping on toes. Thankfully, the parent finally tells one of the kids to quiet down a little, and both kids wander into the sanctuary. I figure they'll probably end up burning the place down or something, but at least they aren't making noise so they're out of my realm of responsibility for the time being.

Next, exhibit #2...maybe a couple of weeks later, I'm setting up for a break during ESL. Suddenly I hear a bunch of noise coming from the nursery/childcare room around the corner, and very much to my chagrin, it gets louder as whatever madness is taking place spills out into the hall. Having my own tasks to do and not wanting to get carried away on something else since I also have to keep an eye on the clock (I ring the bell at the halfway point to start breaks so that all classes come out at once), I don't bother to check it out and instead continue with what I'm doing -- no need to get violent unless they start going for the food or interfering with my preparations. Plus, since there's always at least one adult in that room, I don't think much of it and figure order will be restored shortly.

Well, it isn't. This carries on for probably 10-15 seconds and gives no signal of abating. Finally I get fed up and walk around the corner to find three kids doing something or other in the hall. I must have a mad look on my face, because upon seeing me they immediately shut up and begin to make their way back toward the nursery. Or maybe they thought they were being quiet and I "discovered" them...who knows. Anyway, right about then one of the nursery workers comes out and we exchange quick glances. Again, I must not be hiding my frustration well, as she averts her eyes quickly and, making zero further eye contact with me, ushers the kids back into the room. Somewhat perturbed by then, I don't make any great attempt at interaction myself and go back to my business. Later I realize that this was a perfect opportunity for a "Well, somebody has to instill some discipline around here" remark, but my mind rarely works fast enough to produce such commentary at the opportune times. Oh well...I figure the hint was taken.

Wait! That's not all. Just tonight (you knew this was on my mind for some reason, right?) we had a great ESL Thanksgiving dinner. Beforehand, while we're still doing final setup and folks are kinda mingling around their chairs and such, a few youngsters start jumping down from the stage onto the floor of the old sanctuary room we're hosting the dinner in. Now this isn't a huge drop, but the kids were very small and the had to get a running start to miss all the stairs. Furthermore, the drink stand was very close by, so I was holding my breath for the inevitable event of some showoff attempting a circus act, tumbling into the drinks, and bringing the contraption down on himself and creating a dreadful mess at the same time. Once again, there were plenty of bystanding adults (yes, parents, of course) around.

I realize the situation can go nowhere but down from here, so I pull a Pilate and proceed to get away from there so as to distance myself from whatever chaos will shortly ensue. I pass by an older gentleman, the husband of one of the ESL teachers and someone I've chatted with a few times, and he shoots me a "this isn't good" look. I rattle off something about a disaster waiting to happen, and he nods and looks disapprovingly back over toward the developing scene. Finally, someone -- don't remember who -- halts the game. Admittedly, this display of raucousness was slightly more understandable in that we were in a large room that was already a little noisy. But still, I can't imagine why someone would think kids doing jumping feats at a church dinner (with guests no less) and next to a table full of ready-to-spill drinks would somehow slip into the category of acceptable behavior.

There are other instances that I'm unfortunately not thinking of right now, but those are the ones burned into my memory as I write this. This is certainly a recurring theme though, so much so that I'm wondering whether the issue is as (relatively) new to me as it seems or if I somehow just never noticed it earlier in life. Now again, I'm not a parent and I don't have much of a baseline by which to judge such behavior. But I don't remember children at other churches I've been to being allowed to cavort like this. And when this occurs elsewhere in public -- stores, restaurants, etc. -- it stands out as bad behavior and the kids are usually disciplined on the spot. So, in what twisted way would this be considered acceptable? I mean, isn't there some threshold of courtesy and decency that can be expected for public places and events, even for children?

To me, that level of craziness in public buildings and at "official" functions is simply out of line. Okay, so maybe the children are rowdy and incapable of keeping quiet for more than a few seconds at a time, or maybe it's past their bedtime and they're getting antsy, or whatever. But if their behavior, especially in the presence of and even toward others, can't be held in check at least a little, then the children shouldn't be present. And a parent standing idly by and letting such activity carry on is beyond rude. That shows an inability to keep track of one's own children at best, and a failure to instill discipline and expectations at worst. If I ever have kids, they will learn at an early age to behave themselves and show respect toward the world around them while out and about. Some mistakes would be made once -- at most.

another overpaid coach

News flash: Houston Nutt's salary is higher than that of Lovie Smith. One coaches the Arkansas Razorbacks, the other coaches the Chicago Bears. One works for a public institution of higher education, the other works for one of the most storied franchises in one of the biggest markets in one of the most profitable sports leagues on the planet. Oh, and last year one ended his season by skidding out of BCS contention into the Capitol One Bowl while the other was en route to the Stupid Bowl. Does that make a lot of sense to you? It doesn't to me either.

The commenter who offered that factoid had a great point, too: ditch Houston, offer Lovie a raise and bring him to Fayetteville, and watch recruiting soar when youngsters are given an opportunity to be mentored by a coach with loads of NFL success who knows what it takes to prepare guys for the next level. If Hog fans want to create a big-time program with big-time name recognition and recruiting power, and do it fast, then that's one option to chew on.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

the diamond hoax

Going through junk emails brings to mind something that amazes me. Somehow over however many years, the diamond industry has pulled off one of the greatest marketing feats in world history. Its pitchers have managed to get huge numbers of people to assign ridiculous worth to simple rocks that are easily duplicated almost to a tee. Moreover, they have managed to convince people that spending tons of money on said rocks is necessary and shows superior devotion to another person. I mean...I'm looking for words to keep this diatribe going but I simply can't grasp this level of stupidity. It is beyond reason or rational thought.

This reminds me of the whole fashion game. One t-shirt can sell for 10x the price of another because it's emblazoned with a certain company logo. A watch can sell for 235x that of an equivalent model because 1% of the population might realize on sight that the owner must have overspent absurdly for it. That is a world of thought that I simply do not understand and cannot comprehend. Some levels of idiocy don't even register enough substance to begin to lend themselves to thoughtful critique.

Friday, November 16, 2007

more traction for paul

Was just cleaning out my email spam box and happened across another "Us vs. Them" mass email update from some conservative internet site -- I've mysteriously ended up on several such mailing lists over the years, but it all gets routed directly to the spam box and I almost never look at any of it. But this one was different. Its headline was this Ron Paul article, which discusses how Paul has slowly but surely become a quasi-significant presence in the Republican fray. Not that this has caused him to get any more attention from the puppet masters in the so-called "mainstream" media, but his army of supporters is at least growing by leaps and bounds.

Although I thought the article was at least partially incorrect in implying that Paul's support comes from a hodge-podge mix of various fringe groups and disenchanted voters -- I think his support includes more (real) conservatives than the article's tone accounts for -- the author(s) did hit the mark with this one: "[H]e appeals to a mix of liberals and conservatives who feel alienated and deeply distrustful of the government." Um, yeah, I'm most definitely in that camp. I'll gladly hoist the extremist flag when it comes to my opinion of government at higher levels. I don't know how many Paul supporters are actually liberals who just want a new face, but it's not hard to see how a candidate who actually has real ideas and isn't afraid to confront the real issues facing younger voters would have widespread appeal across ideological lines.

Unfortunately for America, there are far too many "emoticon voters" out there who just want somebody who looks slick, sounds smooth, and tickles their good feelings, but it's reassuring to see Paul getting some numbers. I wouldn't have guessed there would be that many folks with the sense to even consider his message. I wouldn't say it's restored my faith in the American populace by any degree, but much more of that behavior from the masses and I might just start coming around.

Friday, November 02, 2007

the headline says it all

This headline comes straight from the front page of

"Vols dismiss RB Coker after fourth failed drug test"

Not one, not two, not three...but four. That must make University of Tennessee alumni and fans so proud. Go Volunteers.

In fairness, Arkansas' response would have been, "Huh? We keep track of that stuff?"