Sunday, June 29, 2008

All the World's a Stage...

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

- From As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII, by William Shakespeare
After a wonderful dinner with friends on Friday evening, I made it to Mesa State in time to see the Barry Tuckwell Institute's final concert. I waited at the entrance to the Recital Hall while one of the several pieces performed by the participants was being completed. Standing in the alcove with me, not more than 3 feet away, was Barry Tuckwell, eyes closed, listening intently to the Mozart Horn Quintet that was being played.

The participants ranged from teenagers to adults my age and a little older, several locals and some not. The performance was lightly attended, mostly by relatives and friends. The quality of the playing was excellent, the atmosphere congenial and informal. It was a nice visit back to a previous role in my life that I played well.

This and several other things combined to get me to thinking about the roles we play in our lives, the stages upon which those roles are set, and the lines we're called upon to deliver. Witness the following:

The demise of the Cabaret Dinner Theatre was not unexpected. One of the comments left in conjunction with the Sentinel's report summed it up fairly well; "The moral of the story is that actors shouldn't run businesses". While this may or may not ring true, the fate of the Cabaret was foreshadowed by the failures of the Empire and Greenshoe theatre companies, and of Mr. McConnell's own Metro Playhouse. I always felt that there was too much of this live theater going on for a town this size, and Branson this is not.

This leads to the question of the next roles that the operators of the Cabaret will play,
along with possibly the other theater companies that are no more. There appears to be considerable expertise and talent in the performing arts locally, and a lively, enthusiastic market for live theatre. With perhaps the dinner part stripped off to help reduce some of the overhead, is there the creative and pragmatic experience and will to facilitate the creation of a non-profit regional theatre, perhaps a part of the offerings at a newly renovated Avalon?

Gary Harmon's column last week likened the recent Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission hearing in Grand Junction to Japanese Kabuki theatre. Given all of the histrionics and hyperbole present in this debate, that's an interesting comparison.

While Gary may have stretched things a bit in trying to pin any reduction in energy industry activity here on the Commission and Gov. Ritter, the script gets a little deeper when considering other voices and facts.

The reported theatrics of some present at that hearing are remembered in perhaps a different light after reading Pete Kolbenschlag's column in Friday's Free Press. Apparently there are performances for the public and performances for your investors, and from the looks of it the play is undergoing several rewrites between curtain times.

One of the essential premises for Gary's column was his claim that kabuki translates literally to "the art of singing and dancing". This may not be entirely accurate, according to Wikipedia, which states:
The word kabuki is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning "to lean" or "to be out of the ordinary", so kabuki can be interpreted to mean "avant-garde" or "bizarre" theatre.
Given the tone of this and other political debates so far this election year, maybe Gary's on to something. Then again, his column tends to specialize in the avant-garde and bizarre, so perhaps he's got the pulse of this thing. I can see Gary rehearsing his lines in his cubicle, murmuring to himself, "I don't care if his suits are better than mine, I'll scoop that young whipper-snapper Saccone yet".

In keeping with his keen political insight, the Sentinel's Mike Saccone gave me perhaps the most intriguing performance idea when he chronicled in his blog his attempt to get State House candidate Laura Bradford to answer the question "Do you consider yourself a Christian Conservative?" The resulting dead air would likely induce panic in any director.

As Gene Kinsey pointed out so well today, and Ralph D'Andrea before him, Ms. Bradford appears to be rehearsing her lines in front of the audience, and it's not working out for her. Gene even offered her some good advice, but also opined that she "threw away the election".

I feel for Ms. Bradford. She's trying her best to put forth Republican ideals in a manner that will endear her to voters over incumbent Bernie Buescher. However, no Greek Chorus is there to help reinforce the moral of the play she is performing, and Dick Wadhams is not always going to be there to feed her lines.

And besides, Bernie is the better qualified person to do the job of representing the 55th District. I don't believe that any performance from Ms. Bradford is going to change that.

Politics is all about role-playing, theatricality, and telling the best story. The true nature of things often does not present itself in ways that generate the best production values for the performers.

All we can hope to do as citizens is attempt to distill that true nature of who is standing there before us, and make the best judgment that we can as to who is capable of representing our common interests, and be able to effectively work with everyone else over in Denver trying to do the same things for their constituency.

Which leads me to the roles that I am playing. My girlfriend Leslie admonished me last night for living too much in the past, focusing too much on old accomplishments, and relying on what is comfortable and accessible instead of creating new realities for myself, in accordance with the plan that God has for me. She was right.

I'm stepping off of the stage from one of the major roles I have played in my life. Since Jan went to be with her Lord, I have felt called to make changes in my life that have affected my ability to be what I consider to be an adequate and competent father and mentor for my son as he prepares to enter his last year of high school, and make decisions that will affect the course of his life for many years to come.

My work has suffered, in part as a result of this change in perspective. When faced with these realities, including a switch to the overnight shift next month, I could no longer see myself being able to play that role to my own expectations, or to what God expects of me.

The prospects for the development of other roles are exciting and scary at the same time, but I feel that so long as my priorities and principles remain in line with God's plan for my life, the performances will take care of themselves.

Perhaps if more of us, in the course of the roles we play every day, took into consideration what Shakespeare so eloquently put forth in Hamlet, Act I, Scene III, regardless of what belief system drives us, we would enhance the world we live in with performances that we can all be proud of.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Barry Tuckwell in Grand Junction

Which instrument would our Lord have chosen, assuming He played an instrument? Probably not the French Horn. It takes too much of a person's life. French Horn players hardly have time to marry and have children. The French Horn is practically a religious belief all by itself. In some orchestras, the horn players are required to be celibate--sometimes by their wives. Because they think about the horn all the time anyway.

I played the French Horn from 2nd grade into college. I went to a private school that had no band or orchestra from 8th grade to 10th grade, then hit the public high school as a Junior ready to prove my mettle as a musician. In my Senior year I was first chair, district and region honors band, and then toured Europe for three weeks with a youth symphony. I was very into the horn, and very into myself.

I vaguely knew of one of the horn players in the Pittsburgh Symphony, who lived in the town that I did. My memory of him is wearing all black, brooding, chain smoking. I also met some other "professionals" whose demeanor kind of soured me on music as a potential career path.
As much as I may have been already, I didn't want to end up like them.

After high school I got interested in other things, and put the horn down. I sold it to a deserving middle school age girl just after Evan was born. I still listened to my favorite classical pieces where horns played a prominent role; Mozart's Horn Concertos, Brahms' Variations on a theme by Haydn, Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, and Bernstein's Candide Overture are some of my favorites.

When I was in my 20's I got tickets to the Pittsburgh Symphony when they played probably my favorite classical piece for the horn, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings by Benjamin Britten. It's basically several English poems set to music, including Blake's The Sick Rose, which I have referenced here previously.

Barry Tuckwell was the horn soloist, with Robert Tear singing tenor. Tuckwell is widely regarded as the world's foremost horn virtuoso, and the performance verified to me what his recordings and reputation had already led me to believe. I taped the performance the following week on WQED, but it got lost over the years. There is a Chicago Symphony recording with Tear as tenor and Dale Clevenger on the horn, but it's not Tuckwell and you can tell the difference.

In a relatively obscure entertainment listing earlier this week I saw the Barry Tuckwell Institute listed as having concert events at Mesa State all week. Investigating further, I found that Tuckwell himself is lecturing and teaching horn players from all over the country here in Grand Junction, with the assistance of a few other professional horn players. The "horn camp" includes concert performances all during the week.

It's a shame that I may have missed the initial publicity, but I really couldn't find any. The Sentinel's website listed a performance at 8:00 PM tonight at the Moss Performing Arts Center. Turns out the group performed at the Farmer's Market and at Sherwood Park. Oh, well. There's another concert slated for Friday night, but I have plans and may not make that one either.

In any event, the presence of a virtuoso performer in our area should probably have been more than just a blip on an entertainment calendar, but maybe Tuckwell didn't want it that way.
I hope he brings his camp back next year. Who knows? I may decide to dive into it again.

Then again, maybe not.

Bresnan - Online Privacy Alert?

A report issued jointly last week by the Free Press Action Center and Public Enterprise detailed some disturbing information about an application used by several Internet Service Providers (ISPs) around the country to monitor users' web browsing actvity, and provide those users with advertising tailored to their web browsing habits.

This application is marketed to ISPs by a a company called NebuAd, and is an example of a potentially intrusive trend among Internet marketing firms known as Behavioral Advertising.

To quote the press release accompanying the report:
Robert M. Topolski, the chief technical consultant for the organizations, found that NebuAd uses special equipment that “monitors, intercepts and modifies the contents of Internet packets” as consumers go online. Topolski...said in the report that “NebuAd commandeers users’ Web browsers” to load tracking cookies and collects information from users in order to place ads from ISPs.
Internet privacy advocates and at least two Congressmen have expressed concern about this technology, especially since the 4th largest ISP in the country, Charter Communications, announced recently that they would implement the NebuAd application on their servers.

While Charter has since canceled that implementation, there is cause for concern for residents of the Grand Junction area, as Bresnan Communications has also been listed as a user of the NebuAd technology, along with CenturyTel, which provides local telephone service to the Collbran and Mesa areas of eastern Mesa County.

While not citing NebuAd by name, Bresnan's website contains a page that describes the "Advanced Advertising" technology being tested by them, as well as some FAQ's and a link to supposedly "opt out" your web browser from the service. I verified with a Bresnan customer service rep today that the technology in use by them is indeed provided by NebuAd.

There is considerable chatter on technology-related blogs such as Wired about this, along with some concern regarding the ability to truly "opt out" of this type of tracking. Many who are much more savvy about this than I are calling this revelation the Internet equivalent of illegal wiretapping.

NebuAd attempted to respond to the Free Press Action Center report with the following:
NebuAd does not collect or use any personally identifiable information. Any non-personally identifiable information that is used is anonymous and cannot, by itself or in combination, identify a specific person. Since a web user (ISP customer) is always anonymous within the NebuAd system, anonymous user profiles can never be linked to an identifiable web user. Therefore, we could not provide this information to a customer. However, a web user may opt-out at any time, at which time the profile would be immediately deleted.
Many comments on technology blogs quickly pointed out the self-contradictory nature of the above reply. If a web user and their profile is always anonymous, how can the profile be deleted without being able to link it to an individual user, perhaps via IP address or another method?

The only local web reference I could find was a link to an Associated Press story on the Sentinel's website, which did not mention Bresnan. There was nothing from the Free Press.

As of the time of this post I cannot locate any coverage in either local paper regarding the involvement of Bresnan or CenturyTel in this potentially egregious invasion of user privacy. Hopefully there will be some local follow-up in the upcoming days.

I am a Bresnan subscriber, and have already used the opt-out link provided on the Bresnan page, available here, near the bottom of the page. I will be watching this closely as it continues to unfold on the national level. If there continues to be no local angle, I'll attempt to contact Bresnan management later in the week.

In the meantime, the best information appears to be available here and here, or perhaps at 1-877-BRESNAN. I'm sure they would love to hear from you.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Master of Uncivil Discourse

George Carlin helped to shape at least two if not more generations of our citizens, myself included. The first time I heard his comedy was when I was 6 or 7, watching what I think was a rerun of The Jackie Gleason Show. He was doing Al Sleet, the hippie dippie weatherman. I can vaguely remember the forecast; "dense fog until I get up and get out of my apartment", or something like that.
Later, as a typical 12 year old adolescent male, I was drawn in by my friend down the street's copy of The Seven Words You can Never Say on Television. No, I'm not going to link to it. Find it yourself, it's real easy today. When I was in my 20's, I won tickets to a Carlin concert by calling into a radio contest and knowing the nickname of the neighborhood he grew up in. I took my brother, and we did laugh an awful lot.

In later life, Carlin started to become more aggressive in the social commentary aspects of his work. I was not a devotee, probably because I was turned off by the abrasive and profane aspects of his presentation.

As much as I believe in the ability to discuss our society in an honest and civil manner in the majority of circumstances, I probably did myself a disservice by not paying more attention to him. I did like the fact that Carlin appeared to be drawn to a kindred spirit in the form of filmmaker Kevin Smith, contributing nicely to his comedies Dogma and Jersey Girl.

More recently, Carlin had become more astute than he already was in assessing and expressing the frustration that many of us have for the situations we find ourselves in. To his credit, he toned down some of the abrasive language, but lost none of the passion and intelligence that was always present.

If there is any earthly good to come from his passing, it will be that his message will proliferate into cyberspace ad infinitum. Civil or not, agree with him or not, there is something there that is worth listening to and thinking about.

Rather than cite an example of Carlin in performance, Keith Olbermann, now a nearly equally controversial (and spot on) figure himself and the subject of analysis related to his civility in this week's New Yorker, devoted the last segment of his show tonight as a tribute to George Carlin by re-broadcasting an interview from last Autumn. I especially liked Olbermann's sign-off at the end, truly a classy touch.

Enjoy, and have a good night.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Beauty of Gateway

Evan and I drove down to Gateway Canyons on Thursday evening to walk around the grounds, have a nice dinner and take in the Burning Desert Fire Collective. This was part of the resort's "Third Thursday" series, which combine dinner with educational and arts presentations.

Gateway is truly a beautiful place, and as concerned as I am about development in seemingly unspoiled areas such as Gateway, I have to say that what is happening down there appears to be a positive thing for the community at large.

There are those in the area that do not like what John Hendricks has done with their little enclave, and I have been critical in the past of development in the face of limited resources to protect it and those who use it, as well as the dispute over who will foot the cost of providing adequate power to development such as this one.

In spite of those growing pains, what has been done thus far, and what is planned for the future, is impressive. The resort staff has become directly involved in providing emergency services for the region, working to help manage and staff the local volunteer fire department.

While this may not be an optimal arrangement for more populated areas, they are at least trying to be a part of the solution, and one must acknowledge, if not applaud, the effort.

Other plans for the Gateway area don't sound as positive as this one. Despite the area's rich history in the extraction of Uranium and Vanadium, the proposal to re-open the Whirlwind Claim southwest of the resort up John Brown Road has several community groups concerned.

Today was the last day for public comment to the BLM regarding the permit process to allow mining of Uranium ore at the Whirlwind site, which would then be trucked to a mill for processing. Several local agencies have publicized the comment process in hopes that all concerned will voice an opinion to the powers that be at the Grand Junction BLM office.

I'm wondering out loud about the effect of all of those trucks on Highway 141 on the quality of the resort experience, what happens when crashes occur involving them, and what public safety infrastructure exists to deal with this effectively.

I'm also wondering if Mr. Hendricks and his resort have chosen to weigh in on the effects of the increased traffic in the immediate area of the resort on the pristine quality of the resort property, and the experience that many will be paying good money for at that property.

To their credit, the BLM is also seeking public input for revising their land use plan around Gateway to better manage the recreation that is occurring with increased frequency in the area, likely due in no small part to the presence of Gateway Canyons. I'm personally unsure if the mining and transportation of Uranium ore through Gateway can co-exist with these increased recreation opportunities, and/or a significant private sector investment in the area as a retreat and a first-class resort experience.

As far as the Gateway that exists now, you'll get an eyeful of history coming from Grand Junction, to be sure. When you arrive at the resort, I think you'll be impressed with the job that has been done, and of Mr. Hendricks' vision for the area that is now being realized in a way that is very complimentary and respectful of the surroundings.

Let's hope that it stays that way.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bumper Sticker Road Rage

My son Evan passed his driver's test today, and is now on the road. He's meeting some friends for camping tonight. The Homeland Security threat level has been raised to..just kidding.

I'm sure that all parents can understand the rite of passage that this continues to be, especially when you see your son or daughter drive away for the first time without you. The house is too empty and quiet. Something I'll have to get used to, I guess.

One thing about driving that got me scratching my head recently was the study by a CSU professor that established a correlation between assertive or aggressive "road rage" driving and the presence of bumper stickers on that driver's vehicle. To quote a Washington Post story on the study:
Unlike any environment our evolutionary ancestors might have confronted, driving a car simultaneously places people in both private territory -- their cars -- and public territory -- the road. Drivers who personalize their cars with bumper stickers and other markers of private territory, the researchers argue, forget when they are on the road that they are in public territory because the immediate cues surrounding them tell them that they are in a deeply private space.
Well, I have 3 small stickers on one car, several larger ones on another, and I don't see myself as someone more prone to get angry behind the wheel than the next person. I am a more attentive driver, and perhaps that attentiveness translates into intolerance at times for those who are not.

My apologies for this unpleasant, albeit infrequent, lapse in civility. You can help by making sure that you are NOT the one who crawls at 15 MPH in the left lane of North Avenue without ANY shred of regard for other drivers who would LIKE to get to work on TIME....

Never mind. Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Homage to Habeas, Rocco, and Russert

Father's Day this year also coincided with an important anniversary for those of us who believe in the integrity of the rule of law. This from The Writer's Almanac:
On this day in 1215, King John of England put his seal to the Magna Carta, one of the first historical documents to state that subjects have rights beyond the power of their rulers. The right to a trial by jury and the right of habeas corpus, which prevents one from being unlawfully imprisoned, have been extrapolated from the Magna Carta..."Magna Carta" means "great charter" in Latin.
Ralph D'Andrea, in addition to some good insight, provided the link to the entire Supreme Court decision that essentially gave the right of habeas corpus to terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay. I took a little time to read through most of the decision, and gained some valuable insight in how these justices evaluate complex legal questions that get posed to them for review and decision.

Key to the debate is Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution of the United States, which states in part:
The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, referenced the Magna Carta in the specific details of his decision.
Magna Carta decreed that no man would be imprisoned contrary to the law of the land. Art. 39, in Sources of Our Liberties 17 (R. Perry & J. Cooper eds. 1959) (“No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed, or outlawed, or banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him, nor send upon him, except by the legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land”). Important as the principle was, the Barons at Runnymede prescribed no specific legal process to enforce it. Holdsworth tells us, however, that gradually the writ of habeas corpus became the means by which the promise of Magna Carta was fulfilled.
Justice Kennedy's decision concluded with language that will hopefully make it into the history books someday:
The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law.
I read some of the dissenting opinions, and most of them seemed to focus on the fact that the detainees are not being held in United States territory, and are foreign nationals not entitled to the rights and protections that being in the U.S. would otherwise afford them.

I read somewhere yesterday that Justice Kennedy, a Reagan appointee who has in the past voted to sustain decisions against abortion rights, along with other opinions fitting into a conservative agenda, teaches human rights law at a law school in Austria when the Court is not in session. It is thought that Justice Kennedy believes that U.S. law as it pertains to human rights should be consistent with that of the remainder of the western world.

The Daily Sentinel expressed considerable disdain for this decision on their editorial page of June 13. I respectfully disagree with their assertions. I believe that when wading through the minutiae that constitutes our earthly legislation and common law, there needs to be some core values at work that define us all as human beings, and subsequently shapes the laws that craft how we treat those accused of criminal activity, no matter how heinous.

For me, that includes the following:

Matthew 25:39-40

Isaiah 5:20-21

and numerous other references that can be viewed and researched here. Some I agree with, others I don't.

Bottom Line: We profess to be One Nation Under God.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Like the protections we expect from our public safety agencies when we are conducting our daily activities, this needs to be consistent and irrespective of the imaginary lines that we draw for ourselves to establish earthly governance.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.


I watched a little bit of the US Open coverage on Monday, and have to take time to recognize the performance and demeanor of Rocco Mediate. He's originally from the Pittsburgh area, but over and above that he displayed the kind of attitude, professionalism, and performance in the face of considerable odds that we can all be proud to emulate.

I can only wish that I was more successful at some of what he accomplished yesterday. Congratulations to Tiger Woods as well. Pro Golf always seems to set a great example for extraordinary skill, intelligence, and civility.

Well done to all involved.


I didn't watch Meet The Press a lot, but I got the impression from watching MSNBC election coverage that Tim Russert was a class act of great proportions in what might otherwise be described as a morass of mediocrity.

His death, while very unfortunate and a great loss to the media in this country that specialize in covering politics, may go a long way in helping people in that segment of the industry remember how to sweat the details, do the homework, and have the courage to ask the right questions and report the truth.

With that in mind, I found the following clip as a tribute to Mr. Russert. It's the last few minutes of Good Night and Good Luck, with Edward R. Murrow (David Straithairn in a wonderful portrayal) issuing a warning to his colleagues. The clip starts with file film of President Eisenhower talking about habeas corpus. Apologies to those for whom YouTube is firewalled.

For those with any doubt of the need for some of the media to have a reminder of how someone of Murrow's stature, or Russert's, achieved that plateau, may I offer Jon Stewart from last night.


Riverfront Debate

I watched a good portion of last night's City Council hearing on the Brady Trucking property re-zoning, and I was as divided about it as Council seemed to be.

I belong to the Western Colorado Congress, and received postcards and e-mails alerting me to the importance of this decision to the quality of the riverfront that so much effort has been put toward to reclaim the beauty and usefulness of this unique portion of our area.

The initial arguments presented by WCC and others are convincing in the context that a return to industrial uses for riverfront land, at least in this area, is questionable at best, and ridiculous at worst.

The other side of this came to me upon the realization that the land in question includes the site of the former Grand Valley By-Products rendering plant. For me, any chance of getting this land reclaimed for any kind of practical use, especially if the private sector is footing the bulk of the costs, has to be looked at as a potential improvement until proven otherwise.

Insuring the integrity of our riverfront experience as it pertains to nature and recreation is very important. Can this intended use co-exist with that? The jury is still out, and that's a good thing. Time for win-win.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day Prayers

I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Father's Day.

I spoke with my Dad yesterday. He's on the mend at his home in Phoenix after surgery to remove his gallbladder with a subsequent infection. He sounds good, and is slowly on the mend. A trip to see him when he says he is ready is probably in the offing.

Evan gave me The Shawshank Redemption, which is one of my favorite movies that I didn't have on DVD. It had been on my mind lately, especially for the tagline, which is simple and enduring:

Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.

This was reinforced when I arrived at church this morning. Canyon View Vineyard has a group of very talented people on its' worship team, and the Matt Redman song that was part of our worship this morning sent the same critical message through me:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know You are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?
Pastor Kirk Yamaguchi had an equally compelling message on achieving greatness, not in the tangible sense but what truly makes a person great in God's eyes. He used Mark 9:30-37 to frame these three qualities:
  • Servant Leadership
  • Putting others before ourselves
  • A childlike faith
Truly inspirational on Sundays, but how about practical application in the real world? Considering how I've conducted a good portion of my life, it's pretty hard. Others in my life have brought me closer to understanding, but it's still difficult to completely surrender my life to Christ. I'm too drawn into earthly pursuits and relying on my own reasoning to resolve problems in my life.

I seem to do just fine with practical issues that have a seemingly easy resolution in reasoning and action. Jan's illness was one of these things. After she passed away, it felt as if my ship of progress and dedication literally had the rudder shot away from it. This lack of direction and conviction led to half-hearted actions in many areas of my life, which have resulted in misunderstandings, heartache, and deterioration of those practical skills that I relied upon so much.

When presented with something interpersonal and intractable, without a practical resolution, it's been my tendency to withdraw and just see what happens, rather than try to be a proactive force for understanding, resolution, and sticking to the core values that scripture has been a big influence on. This has nearly cost me relationships with people that I love very much.

Having a chance to pray out loud on Father's Day, I would pray for those who I care deeply about and are fighting illness or other demons, for faith, understanding, and forgiveness.
I would pray for tolerance, civility, and open mindedness for those who display very little in their public persona.

I would also ask God for guidance in helping me to see the peace that comes with life in Him, and for the courage to finally dedicate my life to following His will and acting decisively when feeling His direction.

I have been indecisive and paralyzed by fear and doubt of my own self-worth for too long. It's time to evaluate those parts of my life that I want to create, those that I want to preserve, and those I wish to cast aside, with God's plan for my life as a beacon or a guidepost for those actions.

I pray that you have had a pleasant and fulfilling day, and that this will continue into the week ahead.

Friday, June 13, 2008

In Praise of Local Voices

Thanks to Gene Kinsey and his wife Nancy McCarroll for hosting myself and Mike Saccone for a small but entertaining gathering of local bloggers at Kannah Creek Brewery this evening. Linn Armstrong also stopped by for a bit. It was very interesting and enjoyable.

It never ceases to amaze me how just an informal gathering of a few people can result in such a diverse marketplace of ideas, experiences, and travels. One attendee has been to Israel, another is very fond of South Africa, and another will be headed to Australia later this year. I haven't left this country in 20 years, but have made enough trips across this continent in the last 5 years to rival any single jaunt across one particular pond or another.

In any case, over the last few days I've read some really great stuff from some of the inhabitants of the blogosphere who happen to make the Grand Valley their terrestrial home. In the spirit of reasonable discourse across political, social, and cultural boundaries, I thought I would share some excerpts of these writings with you.

Gene Kinsey, writing on ADHD research:
"Maybe it’s not a disease. Maybe it is a genetic characteristic essential to the survival of groups. In a natural environment someone has to be on guard for predators. Any movement, even a brief corner-of-the-eye movement must be noticed. Meanwhile, herd animals must be monitored, kids must be checked, and it is a good idea to keep an eye out for food."
Marjorie Asturias-Lochlaer, writing on immigration in the Free Press:
"Think for a moment about the impact on the Grand Valley of the collapse of the oil-shale industry back in the early 1980s. An economy so dependent on one industry — and a labor-intensive one at that — imploded when the jobs literally disappeared overnight. Fast forward 25 years and we’re still largely pumping out manual-labor jobs and encouraging our youth to pursue six-figure incomes instead of college degrees. We’re turning out field workers rather than engineers, truck drivers rather than managers. It’s not that we have no need for field workers or truck drivers, but these aren't the only options available to the young minds in our midst. Where once the United States exported many of its low-wage service jobs — customer service call centers, assembly and manufacturing — now we’re finding ourselves in a situation where those service jobs that can’t be moved offshore will be all we have left while the rest of the world improves its knowledge infrastructure and exports THEIR low-skilled jobs to US."
Ralph D'Andrea on the future of energy development locally:
"The argument that energy companies can't survive and be responsible at the same time--and will leave here if anyone tries to get them to be responsible--is, of course, patent bullshit. I'm an exploration geologist for an energy company. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that my company is going to be wherever the resources are. To do otherwise would be totally irresponsible to our shareholders. When you're hunting elephants, you need to be in elephant country. There's no gain in being anywhere else. The energy companies are going to be in Western Colorado, because that's where the resources are. Period."
Jim Spehar, writing about the contentious COGCC hearing in the Free Press:
"No one disputes that the energy industry is an important piece of Colorado’s economy. The issue is not if energy development continues. It’s how and what sort of balance will protect the other 70 percent of our economy here on the Western Slope and elsewhere in Colorado. Those other important economic segments include agriculture, recreation and tourism. All have the potential to be impacted by energy development if appropriate rules are not enforced."
And finally, Dick Maynard in the Sentinel, on boycotting all things Boston:
"Since Boston insists on hogging the sports limelight a boycott is in order. We’ll start slowly by no longer reading the works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson or Nathaniel Hawthorne. Realizing avoiding the writings of long ago New Englanders is much like giving up okra for Lent, we have to start somewhere. Should the Celtics have featured players with names like Oliver and Waldo rather than all time meanie “Jungle” Jim Loscutoff, the hoopsters in green would have won a lot less and I’d feel a lot better about the commonwealth of Massachusetts. "
Sorry Dick, but your column is wicked wrong. There are several quotes from Emerson that have helped to frame my life in many ways, and I'm sorry, but I just can't do without them:
Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
Go Celtics, and may Red Sox Nation continue to flourish.
Later, Evan and I went Downtown to the first Farmer's Market of the summer, which was well attended and fun despite the lack of fresh produce for sale (it is kind of early for that, I guess).
The Mennonites moved their roasted chile wraps and cinnamon almonds (mmmmmm) to the other end of Main Street, but there was a long line nonetheless, and well worth it.

The number of local businesses and non-profits showcased at this week's festival is also an indicator of how vibrant and diverse we are in this valley. Some examples are:

Decadence Cheesecakes. Continued excellence in the critical area of local foods that will make me gain weight.

KAFM Radio. Hey, it's time to buy your raffle tickets again.

Western Equality. Promoting diversity and acceptance of differences.

It looks like a lively weekend is approaching. See you out at the Relay for Life, and maybe the Glade Park movie if there's time. Good night.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Degrees of Separation, Loss, and Hope

I never met Rachel Harrington, her husband Steve, or their two young children, but something familiar was jumping out at me when I saw this beautiful young woman's picture, so seemingly out of place on the obituary page of Sunday's Sentinel.

Reading further, it came back to me all too quickly; Rachel's sister was Angela Herrera, who I had worked with at the GJPD until December 2002, when she died at the age of 25. Angie's passing coincided with Jan's 50th birthday, and has always stuck with me in part because of that, but also because Angela was a respected co-worker and a genuinely good person who left us too soon.

Reading the obituary of another young member of this family was troubling enough, but the first paragraph also stated in very stark, matter-of-fact terms:
Rachel, who never smoked, fought lung cancer for 20 months after diagnosis. She was just 35 years old.
I thought to myself, how many more are there in this area who, even in the absence of any risk factors, are suffering or may suffer a similar fate? What more can be done?

I found one answer to this elsewhere in the Sunday paper.
The annual Relay For Life will be held this weekend at Canyon View Park, and is a chance for all of us to sponsor teams that will walk the park to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

I got to see the positive effects of this firsthand in Pittsburgh two weekends ago. The Relay for Life typically begins with a Cancer Survivor Lap, honoring cancer survivors, their families and caregivers. I arrived at Leslie's house just in time to take Leslie and Michaela to the local football stadium, where Michaela could proudly don her purple "survivor" T-shirt and walk with others from the area who have succeeded in their struggle thus far.

Another key element of the Relay is the lighting of memorial luminaria during the evening hours. This is a very poignant and effective way of honoring or memorializing those loved ones who have been touched by cancer, either personally or as a caregiver, and support the work of the ACS as well.

I'll be out there Friday evening, if only to cheer others on and light some luminaria in memory of Jan and others who have have touched our lives before leaving us for their place in Heaven.

I know that's where Rachel Harrington is now. My deepest sympathies to Steve Harrington, Logan and Maya, and the rest of their respective families. May the knowledge that their beloved wife, mother, and daughter is finally at peace help to bring to them the peace that transcends all understanding, and help them to support each other in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Addendum: The Free Press has reprinted Rachel's winning essay from their "Love Story" contest held this past February. It's on Page 6 of today's print edition. Unfortunately, I've been unable to find an online posting.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A Compendium of Catching Up

I got back into Grand Junction yesterday afternoon, picked up the cats and the mail, and settled in to getting the house in order. The trip was generally a good one; Leslie and her family are doing well in the face of Michaela's cancer and other odds, and Michael is continuing to heal under the care of a wonderful family that have welcomed him into what appears to be a very stable and loving home environment.

Aside from having to endure the Pens losing their battle for the Cup, there were positive messages to be had all around.
I hope that I can learn from Leslie, Michaela, and Michael as we continue on through the adventure that God has scripted for all of us.

In the middle of catching up yesterday, I took a break and went through my usual pattern of e-mail and other online reading. Some of it is definitely worth sharing and expanding upon.


My flight from Boston to GJT on Delta was uneventful. This is the second time that I've flown non-stop from Boston to Salt Lake, which other than the 5 1/2 hour flight time is pretty comfortable. I slept most of the trip, then had an hour layover before a regional jet connection to here. Delta also had a regional jet nonstop from Salt Lake to Pittsburgh which was very nice.

My sympathies to Ralph D'Andrea for his unfortunate experience with US Airways. Being from Pittsburgh, I am all too familiar with the history and behavior of this loss leader of the "legacy" air carriers (or so they like to call themselves), all the way back to their original identity as Allegheny Airlines, or "Agony" as they came to be known in the 70's.

The company then re-named themselves USAir, or "Useless Air" to those of us who worked around the Pittsburgh Airport in the late 70's and early 80's. I was working in hotels at the time, which was back in the good old days when airlines would put you up for the night if you missed your connecting flight, or it was canceled due to weather or something. I can remember many a quiet holiday made very interesting by 100 or more "displaced passengers" needing accommodations and transportation.

I must give them credit where it's due, however. US Airways runs decent service from GJT to Phoenix, and from there to Hawaii. These are components of the old America West Airlines. They also have a nice regional jet nonstop from Pittsburgh to Boston that I have used several times over the last year without any problems.

Better luck next time, Ralph.


I was going to lead off yesterday with a personal retrospective of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, but Gene Kinsey and an op-ed in yesterday's Free Press
sent me in a different direction.

While I was in Pittsburgh, my mother brought out a bunch of old photos in a box that she had found. One of the first ones at the top was of my uncle Mario Pierotti, who according to family saw action in the Pacific in the early part of World War II before participating in the landing at Normandy, 64 years ago yesterday.

"Uncle Mutz" was an impressive young man in that picture, and an impressive man in his life afterward, working to retirement in the Aliquippa Works and raising a son and daughter with his wife Eleanor. He died several years ago.

The struggles he endured and the things he saw (which he would not talk about) are incredible in comparison to any struggles that his descendants have or probably will see in their lifetimes.

He fought to maintain the freedoms that so many of us take for granted today, or fail to engage in the proper stewardship to assure that reactionary responses to individual problems or issues do not undermine the fundamental bedrock into which the constructs of our government are anchored.

Here's to you, Uncle Mutz, and to so many of your brothers in arms who sacrificed so much.

Thanks, Gene, for reminding us of those who have made much greater sacrifices so that we would not have to.


Mark Newton set an impressive example for his students, and the entire student body at Grand Junction High School, through his expert Journalism instruction, enlightened sponsorship of the Orange and Black, and impassioned defense of the First Amendment. His departure is still kind of churning within me because my son, who has found a talent and a love of writing, signed up for Journalism I and II next year.

I hope that GJHS finds someone with the talent and enthusiasm to continue the Journalism program in the same direction it's been going. I'll probably be offering my time to help in whatever way I can. This will include being a First Amendment advocate when necessary.


On the morning of June 5, 1968 I was a third grader at Mount Gallitzin Academy in Baden, PA, a Catholic school that maintains an impressive campus and educational program to this day. My mother woke my brother Dave and myself up with the news that Bobby Kennedy had been shot.

In the eyes of an 8 year old boy, my memory of much of this period is shaped by the television images of the day; I remember the stark, black and white SPECIAL REPORT announcements that had interrupted TV programs earlier that same year to announce the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the year before to report on the Apollo 1 tragedy, which touched me especially hard because I was a space program junkie.

We went to school that morning, but instead of finding classes in regular session I found about 50 other students and teachers in a darkened classroom, watching television coverage. Of the time I spent in there I can only remember how quiet it was. No one spoke; it was as if the events as they were unfolding had done all of the speaking, asked all of the questions, and drained the emotions out of all of us.

In researching information for this, I found that the 5th and 6th of June also marks the anniversary of another event that, like D-Day and the assassination of RFK, has made a profound impact upon world history.

The Six-Day War was fought June 5-11, 1967 between Israel and several neighboring Arab countries. The end result, according to Wikipedia, was:
Israel had gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

The results of the war affect the geopolitics of the region to this day.
(emphasis mine)
Indeed, the essential questions about US support of Israel, the integrity of the West Bank and of Jerusalem, and the continued state of conflict that consumes much of the region will be a source of much vexation to whomever occupies that White House come January.


On a concluding note, many thanks to Marjorie Asturias for highlighting the various and sundry capabilities and features of VistaPrint. I didn't know about their website services, but have used them on multiple occasions to design note cards and Christmas Cards. Their website is very easy to navigate, and allows for design capabilities that can create truly beautiful stationery items.

I'll be looking the site over this week. If the web design and hosting capabilities are as robust as the flexibility of their printing, it looks as if it might be of use to me in the short term future.

Until then, have a great weekend, and remember those who have made a difference for all of us.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In Transition - 2

Hyannis, MA - The peak travel season has an interesting impact on Logan Airport in Boston, as well as on the rental car industry. Some of these frustrations, combined with Boston rush hour traffic, has left me a little tired with a bit of a headache, and an urge for fresh fish and a bottle of Advil.

Yesterday was a good day. The weather in Pittsburgh was comfortable, with a slight breeze and lower humidity than over the weekend. Saturday night I took Leslie and her family to one of the local drive-in theaters to see Horton Hears a Who (hilarious) and Prince Caspian (fairly true to the book, moving and entertaining). I was sorry to hear that the Pens had lost, but felt that quality time with a quality woman trumped sitting at home watching TV.

As it happens, last night we went to a local watering hole and watched Game 5 until the third period, then went back to Leslie's and finished watching it there. If you follow hockey you know what happened - we ended up watching over a whole regulation game's worth of play, until the tremendous result at about 1:30 this morning:

This was classic hockey in the best sense. The Pens were out-shot almost 2 to 1. Much of the 3rd period and the 1st Overtime was played in the Pittsburgh end of the rink, with the Pens' defense continuously working hard and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury making some unconscious saves.

The redemption of this victory on the road, combined with the associated momentum that the Pens have secured and their significant potential advantage in stamina associated with the youth of their players, gives great hope for the Pens' chances in the two games remaining.

Best of luck to them - regardless of what happens, nobody can say that your best effort was not put forth. I wish I could say the same sometimes.

Tomorrow I get to see my brother-in-law Michael for the first time since his fall and subsequent head injury in April. I'll also meet with his case managers and the family that he is living with in what is called a "shared living" arrangement. I'll have more to talk about as I learn more, but from first blush it looks as if he is well cared for in a way that could not be duplicated in Grand Junction.

Off to Baxter's for fish and chips. Have a great rest of your week.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

In Transition

Pittsburgh - I'm here visiting Leslie for a few days. Had dinner with my Mom tonight as well. I will be in Boston on Tuesday to meet with Mike's caregivers and staff of the non-profit that operates the house that he lives in. He is in a "shared living" arrangement now, which I have to find out more about.

I decided that a trip to the Drive-In wth Leslie and her girls was time better spent than watching the Penguins lose. I was right. I hope they can rebound on Monday night.

Time to go. More in a couple of days.