Monday, March 30, 2009

Mount Gallitzin Memories

There was a certain amount of sadness when I read last week that several Catholic schools in the Pittsburgh area with declining enrollments were closing their doors at the end of the school year.
These closures include Mount Gallitzin Academy in Baden, PA, a Pre-K through 8th grade school operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, which I attended from the 1st through 7th grade. The school has been in operation since the Sisters built this lovely facility at right in 1901. Just to the right of this building is an indoor swimming pool and locker rooms.

The ground level of this building housed 1st through 8th grade boys, many of whom
were boarders, when I started 1st grade here in 1966. The upper floors were a girls' high school until the following year, when those girls and other students formed the initial class of Quigley Catholic High School, on the hill above Mt. Gallitzin.

This left the remainder of this huge building for the establishment of a co-ed school for 1st through 8th graders, and while we were exploring the huge classrooms and hallways with high ceilings and Victorian-era woodwork, we had the new dynamic of girls to deal with.

In 1968 and 1969, the Sisters expanded MGA's facilities to include a new gymnasium, music and band facilities, and a walkway over the driveway from the old building. On June 5, 1968, my mother woke us up with the news that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. I went into school and sat with about 30 other kids from all grades, watching the news reports for the entire morning. The room was silent.

I played the French Horn in the school band, and was the only Horn player until the 6th grade. During that school year, over a long Veterans' Day weekend, several of our teachers (mostly nuns) were on the way to Edinboro, PA for a conference when the van they were riding in crashed.

The Principal was killed, at least one teacher was seriously hurt, and the remainder suffered some form of physical injury along with emotional scars. We had an extra week off, returning to class with mostly substitutes until after Christmas break.

My parents pulled my brother and I out of MGA after one more year, and although I kept in touch with some friends I had made there, they unfortunately faded away with the years. This included the first girl I ever slow-danced with, and of course never forgot.

Four years ago I responded to an alumni survey, and participated in a "Making Lifetime Connections" presentation that highlighted the whereabouts of former students and their chosen professions, along with their thoughts on how their experience at MGA helped shape their future education and life.

One featured alumnus was in the 8th grade when I was in 1st or 2nd; I remember seeing a series of photographs of his Bar Mitzvah on a school bulletin board. Would we see something like that in a Catholic school today, or Confirmation photos in a Yeshiva? I hope so...

I made contributions to the school in recent years, and was truly saddened when the news came out last week that this would be the last year of the sound of children in those large, ominous hallways. As it happens, the school's fate was sealed by declining enrollment, an aging population, and the loss of a major benefactor that contributed over half a million dollars to MGA, and over $4 Million to Catholic schools in the area.

The benefactor was later identified by the media as a charitable foundation established by the late founder of a Pittsburgh-based housing construction company. As their business went, so did the money. Chalk up another casualty of subprime lending and financial chicanery. So it goes.

The Sisters of St. Joseph also operate a skilled nursing facility on the expansive campus. Perhaps these rooms and facilities will see new life as our generations become even older.

At the end of 7th grade, as I packed my stuff out of the building and said goodbye to MGA for the last time, I was struck by the silence of those hallways and classrooms when they were empty of children. The silence of empty rooms has haunted me ever since, from the one last look at our empty house in Pittsburgh before the drive to Colorado, to locking the door of my late wife's condo on Cape Cod for the final time last summer.

Growth, transition, and loss. In essence, reflective of the constancy of change in all of our lives.

Good night, Lisa Delbene, wherever you are.


Photo Credit: Beaver County Times - Lucy Schaly

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ticking





"You've slept too long in silence" Mama said
Remember Mama said
Ticking, ticking
"Crazy boy, you'll only wind up with strange notions in your head"
Hear it, hear it, ticking, ticking
- Elton John and Bernie Taupin

I won't even begin to think on how to speculate on what was tormenting the young man that opened fire on two Grand Junction couples and a neighbor last year. It's just something that our meager earthly resources just can't comprehend.

I might go further to ask if we would even want to, and what would we do with abilities like that?
We have an idea thanks to masters of imagination like Philip K. Dick, whose The Minority Report delved into a world of extrasensory knowledge, as well as human imperfection.

In any case, it's over. Judging from the newspaper accounts, the survivors are moving on. So should we, but not before we embrace our loved ones and children, tell them how much we love them, and show it by putting down the paper, shutting off the TV, and stepping away from the computer and any other weapon of mass distraction and listening to and guiding our children.
If we don't, the manifest trappings of the marketplace will do it for us, and their motive is to make more customers, not quality human beings.

It's tough not to be immersed in the waves of information that we are bombarded with daily through the various outlets of communication that we are subjected (or subject ourselves) to. That's been my life and my livelihood, so guilty as charged. I need to remember to periodically come up for air, and take a walk among the truly beautiful things of this world, very few of which are of man's creation.

A couple of other things crossed my mind or were put before me today that seemed appropriate to the topic at hand. One came from a friend on Facebook, and seems to be to be an excellent primer for anyone looking for someone, and perhaps thinking that Mr. or Ms. Right will solve all their problems:
You long to give yourself to someone to have a deep soul relationship to another.
To be loved thoroughly and exclusively.
But God says, "No, not until you are satisfied, fulfilled and content with being loved by Me alone…
With giving yourself totally unreserved to Me.
To have an intensely personal and unique relationship with Me alone.
Discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction can be found.
Then you will be capable of the perfect human relationship that I have planned for you.
You will never be united with another until you are united with Me.
Exclusive of anyone or anything else.
Exclusive of any other desires or longings.
I want you to stop planning, stop wishing and allow Me to give you the most thrilling plan existing…one that you cannot imagine.
I want you to have the best.
Please allow me to bring it in to you, just expect the greatest things.
Keep listening and learning the things I tell you.
Just wait, that's all.
Don't be anxious, don't worry.
Don't look around at the things that others have gotten or I have given them.
Don't look at the things that you want.
Just keep looking off and away and up to Me, or you'll miss what I want to show you with a love more wonderful that you would ever dream of.
You see, until you are ready and until the one I have for you is ready.
(I am working even this very moment to have both of you ready at the same time)
Until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me And the life I have prepared for you,
You can't experience the love that exemplifies your relationship with Me.
And is thus, the perfect love.
And dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love in My time.
I want you to see, in the flesh, a picture of your relationship with Me.
And to enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting union of beauty, perfection, and love that I offer you with Myself.
Know that I LOVE YOU evenly.
BELIEVE it and be SATISFIED.
And finally, Philippians 4:4-7:
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend. With the confidence that you are loved, and have the ability to love, it'll be beautiful no matter the weather.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Street View Comes to GJ


View Larger Map

Google Maps has a very interesting feature called Street View. This feature enables the user to get a 360-degree panoramic street-level view of a map location, simply by clicking and dragging an icon onto the map. If Google has photographed and posted the area in question, the Street View will appear. This view is adjustable in scale, direction, and viewing angle, like the example above. Clicking on the arrows in the white 'center line' that follows each street will move you to the next image in that direction.

I'm not sure how long the Grand Junction area has been included in Street View, but I have checked periodically in the past and there was no coverage. Now these types of views are available for pretty much every public road in the Grand Valley, all the way to Mack.

Outside the valley the main roads are covered, but most side roads have yet to be photographed. For example, I-70, the frontage roads and 45 1/2 Road, AKA the 'DeBeque Cutoff', are included but Roan Creek Road and the entire Town of DeBeque are not.

Judging from the position of the sun in the sky, the amount of
construction completed at the new St. Mary's Hospital, what people in the street are wearing, and the price of gas, I'm guessing that the majority of the pictures were taken in late summer and early autumn of last year. My son's car shows as parked in front of my house and at his friend's house, which seems to show the pictures were taken on different days with the sun at a position in the sky to minimize shadows.

Google apparently
unveiled the service in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands last week, but in Britain the arrival has been met with significant concern and opposition from privacy advocates. Seems that some folks over there have been photographed in places and with people that could potentially be embarrassing. Fortunately, Google has been quick to respond to complaints by removing photos that they have received complaints about.

Since its' inception, there have been numerous media stories and blogs that illustrate some of the quirky and unusual things that the little black cars with big panoramic cameras on top have captured as they drive through cities small and large. A good introductory collection is
here.

I'm personally finding some of the local vistas, and their simple beauty, more intriguing than some of the routine city views, especially with the 360-degree perspective. One example is below; the State Line marker along US Highway 6 and 50, about 26 miles west of where I live.


View Larger Map


Have a good weekend.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Getting Back to Church

I had the opportunity to get to church yesterday for the first time in several weeks, and the experience was a very good one.

Canyon View Vineyard Church's satellite campus in Downtown GJ has been steadily growing since establishing regular Sunday services in the Roper Music Ballroom at 5th and Rood. As of the beginning of this month they've added a second service, and have also taken the vacant storefront on the 5th Street side of the Roper Music building. Advertising free coffee and Internet service, it looks as though the storefront will serve as a church office and place to "hang out" during the week.

Since last October, Pastor Paul Watson and his staff have been using systematic theology to go through the essential Christian belief structure, and from there glean practical lessons in living from those basic teachings. This week the focus was on James 1:1-27; Paul provided the following talking points to go along with the scripture:
  • Know who you are in Christ. When you know, you will be able to determine what in the world you stand for.
  • Your physical troubles are an opportunity for physical growth. How you respond reveals what you believe about God. God is as interested in your response as he is your circumstance.
  • True and lasting religion is based in Jesus and faith in God. Believe that God has the ability to change your circumstance.
  • Show your faith in God in how you live. People believe what you live, not what you say.
  • Lasting religion makes a difference in people's lives.
This lesson continues to validate, at least for me, why I find this particular church's message appealing. They present their truth in a calm, non-judgmental way. Pretense and ritualistic formality are deliberately minimized; come as you are, for you are one of God's children and deserving of His love, as manifested by His earthly followers.

It's good to see this ministry begin to flourish in the way that it has. Being able to walk there on Sunday mornings is a blessing that I'm going to take advantage of more as the weather becomes more hospitable. I only wish that I had my loved ones next to me.

The church has its' own page on the CVVC website, which will hopefully have more information available on it in the future. Recorded sermons, maybe (hint, hint). In any case, if you're looking for a church to go to in the central valley, it's worth checking out.

On a related note, I was fortunate this weekend to speak with a couple of acquaintances who attend St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. They have a new Rector that has just started, and from the looks of their website and newsletter it seems that the congregation is energized and engaged in God's work for others. It's been about 8 years since I was last there; based upon these chance meetings, another visit is probably a good idea.

Have a blessed week ahead.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vince Lascheid

Vince Lascheid died Thursday in Pittsburgh at the age of 85, from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

Outside of the
recent news coverage of his death, Mr. Lascheid's name existed in relative obscurity unless you were someone with more than just a passing awareness or interest in Pittsburgh's sports or cultural scene. Two of my fellow expatriates from the Burgh did not recognize his name when I told them that he had died.

If you attended a baseball or hockey game in Pittsburgh sometime within the last 35 years or so, the chances are pretty good that your experience was enhanced by Mr. Lascheid's efforts.

Vince Lascheid was the organist for numerous Pittsburgh sports teams, starting in 1970. He is the answer to the trivia question, "Who is the only person to play for the Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins?". He's also likely the only organist to be enshrined in a team's hall of fame, in this case the
Pens.

Mr. Lascheid began a career as a keyboard player in the military during World War II, followed by a short touring stint with Glenn Miller's band, and then various jobs around the Pittsburgh area, including playing the organ at The Colony, a restaurant in the South Hills of Pittsburgh that specialized in service and the ambiance of the 60's, along with having the best steaks in town.
Mr. Lascheid recorded a live album at The Colony that still sits somewhere in my vinyl collection.

He enjoyed a modest local following until
Three Rivers Stadium opened in 1970, and the Pirates asked him to play the new organ there during games. The Penguins followed suit at the Civic (now Mellon) Arena, and soon Mr. Lascheid established a fan base that endured long after he stopped playing for the Pens in 2003, and cut back his playing to just day games for the Bucs.

Mr. Lascheid earned his accolades in part for being very inventive, whimsical, and downright mischievous at times when selecting music to play for a particular situation, or when a certain player scored a goal or came to bat.

My favorite one of these was when
Gary Rissling, a Pens enforcer in the 80's, would get into a fight, which he often did. Gary had been branded with the nickname "Studio", in part because of his penchant for pugilism but mainly because of the local TV show Studio Wrestling, which was popular in the late 60's. The show's opening theme music was the march "El Capitan" by John Philip Sousa, and that's what Vince often played whenever Gary decided to drop the gloves.

The
Post-Gazette put together an excellent news obit that tells Mr. Lascheid's story much better than I could.

My personal feeling is that Vince Lascheid, along with many public address announcers, broadcasters, and others involved in the marketing of pro and collegiate athletics, represent a nearly extinct breed of individual who enhances the experience of a sporting event through their own personality and enthusiasm for the game, and for the team they are paid to promote.

Of those who earned fame and a following in Pittsburgh doing this, such as the late "Rosey" Rowswell, Bob Prince, and Myron Cope, only Mike Lange remains as an iconic figure, associated mentally with his respective team as much as, if not more, than the participants themselves. These personalities anchored the events, the team, and the glory of championships in the collective mind of the fans.

Sporting events nowadays are too often peppered with fast-paced, testosterone-laden recorded music, and are too formulaic in their presentation, as if they are all trying to follow the same marketing plan. Those sports organizations trying to carve a niche for a chance at what may be a scarce entertainment dollar are the ones who truly innovate. Examples are many minor league baseball and hockey teams in smaller markets.

While the loss of Vince Lascheid may increase the number of those innovators that are no longer with us, someone at the Pirates had a good idea to start recording him a couple of years ago. They'll play those recordings during games for a long time to come, which will not only enhance the experience of going to a ball game, but may also help younger fans to a history lesson about personalities, individualism, and the power of your own dreams.

Thanks for making my experience special, Vince. We'll miss you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Postcards from the Twitscape

Jon Stewart came up with the above term while skewering CNBC and Jim Cramer last week. The more I get back into my life in Grand Junction, the more enamored I am of a simpler, quieter existence.

This is especially in light of Pittsburgh columnist Reg Henry’s assertions yesterday (re-printed in the Sentinel) that Twitter and services like it are:
"..the symptom of a bigger, more fundamental problem. Our national motto is fast becoming: 'Attention Deficit Disorder -- It's Not Just for Kids Anymore.' Everything in the culture is now designed to cultivate minds like butterflies that flit from one subject to another and always alight softly."
I resemble these remarks, but luckily have not seen fit to embrace services like Twitter. Others seem to like it, but like many other things related to computers and the Internet, too much of my time is taken up with things related to these devices, and there are too many pieces of information that have the potential to subdivide my attention span worse than an Orchard Mesa annexation.

Here are a few things that caught a fragment of that attention span over the last few days:

A Noteworthy Irishman

The national media made note of several things going on at the White House on St. Patrick’s Day, from President Obama receiving a bowl of shamrocks from the Irish Prime Minister to the White House fountains spouting green water.

One item that wasn’t covered very much, however, was the President’s appointment of Dan Rooney to be U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. I had to look in a Pittsburgh paper for that. Mr. Rooney is the second-generation patriarch of the family that owns the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Rooney family is one of the most revered owners in the NFL, all the way back to when Dan was helping his father Art Rooney Sr. build the Steeler dynasty of the 70’s. The Rooneys are held in high regard for the way they have run their team and cultivated players. They know what they’re looking for, and have a demonstrated formula for success; witness only three head coaches in 40 years, with each of them winning at least one Super Bowl.

They have also let players seeking what might be perceived as unreasonable money go seek their fortunes elsewhere, and have continued to win as a team despite the loss of supposedly 'name' talent. Examples include Gary Anderson, Joey Porter, and perhaps most notably, Plaxico Burress.

The bottom line here is that the Rooneys know how to run their business, and know how to manage people. I think that these are ideal intangible qualities that will help make Ambassador Rooney's tenure a productive and beneficial one.

Congratulations, Dan. Maybe you can get U2 to play the Burgh more often. And maybe a few shows at Red Rocks while you're at it.


Marjorie Moves On

Peripatetic freelance writer, journalist, and Free Press columnist Marjorie Asturias made me drop my mail when I read her farewell column in Wednesday's edition. She and her husband are moving back to Texas to be closer to family.

Marjorie's life experiences as expressed through her columns, along with her blogs on everything from running to Francophilia, conveyed a richness of living that I could only hope to scratch the surface of. What a dynamo.

Marjorie, here's to safe travels for you and B., and a continued great gift for conveying the world to others through your extraordinary talent and joie de vivre. Keep in touch with us when you can; one can only hope that the powerful analysis and insight that you lent to western Colorado will only become more sharpened when the subject is Texas. I'll keep your blog in the sidebar for when you get back to it.


So Does Mills

Godspeed to District 51 Superintendent Tim Mills and his wife, Gail, as they move on to another opportunity in Oregon. Their youngest is slated to graduate this year (I think), so it's probably the best time for them to do this.

My disagreements with the District lie more with operating inefficiencies at the school level than with the broad brushstrokes of running such an enterprise. From my vantage point, Tim did as good a job of running the District as anyone similarly equipped could have. Best wishes for a fresh start. Enjoy the Northwest.


It Ain't Heavy, It's My Newspaper

I read Denny Herzog's letter to Sentinel readers while I was out of town, and the first thing that I was concerned about was imagining that Gary Harmon and Rick Wagner were lobbying hard to make sure that one of the 5 comic strips cut from the print edition was Doonesbury. Fortunately, cooler (and smarter) heads probably prevailed.

It would seem that the paper is not only thinner, but that the production runs on the non-peak days (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) have been reduced as well. Driving home from work in the afternoon I see a lot of empty vending boxes.

A lot of print content is making its' way to the ever-expanding Internet edition of the paper, perhaps signaling not only the Sentinel's attempts to spruce up the siding and trim in advance of the Open House, but to also acknowledge that the future of mass communication lies not in the clack of the multi-color printing press, but the click of the netbook and the elegant silence of the phone-based browser.

With the demise of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last week, and their announcement of a strictly web-based presence, the future of information delivery is being hastened by the loss of those tradition-based inefficiencies that can no longer be sustained in the current economy. The P-I's excellent investigative reporter Andrew Schneider now has his own blog, and I've linked to it in the sidebar.


Natasha Richardson

One of my co-workers said it best; "when it's your time, it's your time". Some Canadian media were trying to make a point about the EMS personnel that responded just after her fall being turned away, but it was also reported that she was the one who refused treatment. So it goes.
The larger debate brewing is about requiring skiers to wear helmets. That'll be interesting.

I remember Ms. Richardson best for her title role in the film version of one of the 1990's better novels, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Not the greatest movie, but she was understated and radiant at the same time.

Ms. Richardson seemed to be more at home on the stage, and I would have loved to have seen her in the planned revival of A Little Night Music alongside her mother, Vanessa Redgrave.

Like so many things, tragically not to be. Send in the clowns.



Time to get away from the machine, and enjoy this springlike evening with a small fire and warm conversation with my sweetie, too far away. Enjoy your vernal equinox.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Can it, Cutler...

Denver - I had a good few days in Pittsburgh with Leslie and her girls. The weather was decent, Michaela weathered her chemo rather well, and as a result we got out to do a few interesting things. I had not been to a Friday night Lenten Fish Fry since leaving Pennsylvania, and I forgot how much I enjoyed the Carnegie Museum. Evan had some fun with his grandmother as well, and our flight back was pleasant and efficient. JetBlue's new terminal for its' hub at JFK is a very inviting and pleasant facility.

Getting to the car and leaving the airport area, I was interested in what local news was saying about things, and after tuning to KOA I found out that the story generating the most coverage, analysis, and listener attention was of all things a whiny football player that is put out because he can't get his way.

As the local news has been reporting for a couple of weeks now, Jay Cutler is not pleased that his new Head Coach wanted to bring in his wonder boy from the old job, and didn't clue Jay in on what was happening, especially when they started talking trade. Young Mr. Cutler is now hurling accusations and epithets back at Coach McDaniels and his staff, and demanding to be traded.

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has already passed down his chagrin over the situation, and a shaky consensus appears to be siding with management over the disgruntled employee. Despite this, I have to sympathize with Cutler on perhaps one issue.

Mr. Cutler was considered a vital component of the Broncos' future, or at least until new management arrived, bringing along an agenda that included making Mr. Cutler available for trade consideration, apparently without his knowledge.

Unless he had a no-trade clause or veto power over a trade written into his contract, Cutler really doesn't have a complaint on this part. This is merely strategic business development, and Cutler is a resource to be utilized to optimize the business' success according to the vision put in place by management.

Cutler does have a beef about how he was treated as a human being, a supposed valuable resource with assurances that he was 'vital' to the team's success. Any change in that assessment needed to be conducted with Cutler's full knowledge, along with an opportunity to participate and contribute to that change process. Cutler feels that his trust in management was betrayed. In this context, I feel his pain.

Cutler had two choices on how to deal with this. Rather than accept the organization's plan for the future, he opted to go public with his frustrations and essentially make himself untenable. The cliche about there being no 'I' in TEAM comes to mind, as well as giving new management a chance to succeed or fail with their plans. I understand some of this as well.

With this demonstrated approach, it will be interesting where Mr. Cutler ends up. The NFL's version of developmental camp, the Detroit Lions, is one possibility. I'm also thinking that a trade to the Tennessee Titans, especially if Kerry Collins retires soon, may be an option.

This would put Mr. Cutler back in Nashville, where he plied his trade in college to great accolades. He might feel comfortable enough there to suck it up when a long-term coach goes away, and try to carefully evaluate potential change before stomping off.

Maybe he will thrive in those more familiar surroundings, occasionally churning up visions of past Vanderbilt successes before moving into a comfortable retirement, with a chain of used tractor dealerships, mail-order medical supply houses, and pawn shops, driving home in a vintage Cadillac, Springsteen's "Glory Days" blasting on the stereo.

I would hope that he at least learns something from his experience as a "professional" in Denver.

Back in GJ tomorrow. Have a good week ahead.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring Break...sort of

D.I.A. - Evan and I enjoyed a pleasant drive over the mountains after an excellent meal at Charcoal Burger in Glenwood Springs, which is a tradition for us when driving to Denver.

Now we're awaiting the 1:00 AM red-eye to JFK, and a connection to Pittsburgh that will put us back in our home town (hopefully) by 8:00 tomorrow morning. This really isn't as bad as it sounds; we're usually able to sleep on the plane. I didn't decide to do this until last week, and this was the cheapest way to go that I could find.

Evan is not thrilled with going back east with me. He knows that my primary motivation is to see Leslie, and he is not thrilled with Leslie being in my life. He stays with his grandmother. I'm not going to force him to participate in stuff we do if he doesn't want to, but I feel bad for him. I pray for guidance to understand my future, and act accordingly for the benefit of him and as many of my loved ones as I can. I thought about letting Evan stay in GJ with a friend while I was gone, but recent events were a reality check about readiness and trust that couldn't be ignored.

I've not seen Leslie since last October, and while we do talk regularly, we understandably miss each other. Leslie's daughter Michaela is still receiving chemotherapy while awaiting word on the start of a clinical trial for a newer oral cancer drug that is being tried with patients with Neuroblastoma. Her chemo this week may limit what we can do together, but I hope I can lend some kindness and support to this family that has been challenged by cancer as mine has been.

We'll be back after the weekend. I received some replies from City Council candidates in response to my earlier post, which I am still compiling. I also received a response from City Manager Laurie Kadrich. The responses have ranged from a referral to the campaign website (Reford Theobold) to a thoughtful statement about how some of the issues are already being dealt with (Teresa Coons), to a request to identify who I was and who I represented (Roland Cole). I'll hopefully be able to learn more as the coming weeks arrive before the election.

In the meantime, this will hopefully be a nice time for respite with family and friends, but I do feel like I'm in the middle of a tug of war of sorts. Prayer for balance, patience, healing, and understanding will accompany me, starting with our night journey across the continent. I'm hopeful for peace and understanding, no matter how long it takes.

Hope those of you with kids on Spring Break are coping well. Have a good weekend ahead.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Compelling Conservative Commentary

Today I was drawn toward the headlines of several columns written by authors who are generally considered to situate themselves to the right of the political center, some closer to the middle than others, and one teetering on the fringe.

I see myself as a little bit left of center, and since I consider it important to try to know what the entire spectrum is thinking, I regularly seek these opinions out. It's easy enough; just surf Drudge and HuffPost and you'll have most of it covered pretty well.

I found three of these columns of particular interest and entertaining to read, and thought I would share some highlights from them, along with some miscellaneous thoughts.

By far the most high profile of the three is David Frum's cover story for this week's Newsweek, which details many of the ways that Rush Limbaugh is the wrong choice to act as either a point man for conservatives or as the de facto head of the GOP:
"Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.

But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership? Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic party in the 1980s. He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise—and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important."
What Mr. Frum appears to be saying is that, as I've said before, Rush comes from an industry in which hype, exposure, and influence are tangible commodities. His quest for those in the quantities that satisfy his ego will maintain and exalt a dedicated base of listeners and GOP voters, but not in sufficient numbers to establish a winning consensus among the American electorate. Quoting again:
"Forty-one percent of independents have an unfavorable opinion of him, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll. Limbaugh is especially off-putting to women: his audience is 72 percent male, according to Pew Research."
Of those within the Republican Party lining up to try and steer it toward continued relevance in the current political and economic climate, Rush Limbaugh is the nuclear option.


Speaking of fingers you would not want to have on the button, Michelle Malkin penned an interesting column trying to establish a connection between the 'tea party' protests popping up at different locations around the country and the philosophy of Ayn Rand, most effectively communicated through the character of John Galt in her novel Atlas Shrugged. Ms. Malkin passed along the stated interest of many 'tea partyers' of "going Galt", or deliberately reducing or eliminating their personal productive output so as to deny the government revenue, or at least get below the $250,000 income level.

I haven't read that book; I was more interested in The Fountainhead, which is rumored to be based on Frank Lloyd Wright. Both works contain within them as essential to the story Rand's core philosophies on individual achievement and liberty, laissez-faire capitalism, and according to Wikipedia:
"...holding that the sole function of government ought to be the protection of individual rights, including property rights. Rejecting faith as antithetical to reason, (Rand) opposed any form of mysticism or supernaturalism, including organized religion."
My first gut feeling when confronted with this approach is that it is inherently selfish. The attitude of scorn being stated in some circles for those with mortgage default and other problems is disturbing to me.

While I see some of the inherent value in an uncompromising approach to one's own productivity, this approach also raises a question that the Republican leadership will have to deal with, given Rand's disdain for religion and a stated contempt for what she termed
"today's mawkish concern with and compassion for the feeble, the flawed, the suffering, the guilty."

How do human beings act toward one another when they truly believe that they are not accountable to someone greater than themselves? How does the GOP balance something like that with its' evangelical base?

Thanks to Rick Wagner for highlighting the Malkin column. Ann Coulter with curves, indeed.


In the food for thought department, George F. Will deserves considerable attention for today's column on the Department of Agriculture and its' new head, former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack. The real topic was this Department's self-stated importance to so many facets of American life, primarily through our food supply.

Will went on to cite and lament the overabundance of corn-based foods and animal feed (which winds up as part of our food supply), and how this has contributed to obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease since the end of World War II:
"Vilsack's department is entwined with the food industry that produces a food supply unhealthily simplified by the dominance of a few staples such as corn. This diet, (food author Michael) Pollan says, has made many Americans both overfed and undernourished."
I resemble these remarks. Leslie admonished me this evening for, in part, spending too much time typing and not enough being active in doing more things. It's up to me to change that, so I will start doing that. Small moves at first, but with the extra light of the day and a more temperate climate, it's time to break out the bicycle and start paying closer attention to what I stuff in my face each day.

Have a good rest of the week.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Council Candidates and Public Safety

I don't get a daily newspaper on a regular basis right now, and that's probably how I missed the LWV City Council candidates' forum last night. Mike Wiggins of the Sentinel didn't, though, and his coverage of the event provided some good insights into what the candidates are thinking, particularly about the need for better public safety facilities.

It seems that the consensus among all of the candidates was to try to break down these improvements into smaller projects, with a little more of an austere approach. This bodes well for other improvement issues within the main project emphasis that I have mentioned before, such as the construction of a new Communication Center in a location better suited to emergency planning and security concerns.

Had I been there, I would have likely have tried to incorporate into a question the five points for public safety improvement that I detailed in a post and Sentinel commentary this past November. These are in addition to, and complementary of, any efforts to improve on the physical infrastructure of the City's public safety agencies.

I would have also attempted to elicit a response from each of the candidates on these points, which I will summarize below:

Regionalization / Consolidation - Begin discussion on the feasibility of resource sharing, and eliminating certain components of public safety that are duplicated unnecessarily. Conduct a feasibility study of a regional police force serving the entire Grand Valley.

Annexation Reform - Re-evaluate the current system of annexing property into the city, including a re-negotiation of the Persigo agreement of 1998. Delay additional annexations, especially in outlying areas, until a formal plan for improving public safety infrastructure is in place and underway.

Citizen Advisory Board - Establish a Public Safety Advisory Board, made up of interested citizens that apply for appointment in the same manner as any other City or County volunteer board.

Emergency Management - Grand Junction is one of the largest cities in the state without its' own Emergency Manager. Reliance on the county for these services flies in the face of the City's stated commitment to effective service delivery, and creates an unreasonable span of control for the County's Emergency Management department.

Human Resources - Critical to making any infrastructure or shared resource solution work is adequate personnel to plan, implement, and manage the various technical and process systems that must accompany any new facility, as well as effectively manage and maintain the legacy systems that our public safety responders depend on to do the job now.

I'll be forwarding these points to all of the City Council candidates I can reach, in an attempt to secure their opinion and input on the issues surrounding those overdue public safety improvements that must be undertaken in a tenuous economic climate. I'll let everyone know what I receive.

My birthday is tomorrow. I think I may give myself and some newspaper a present with a home delivery subscription.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Finance in Perspective

I'm going to have to start taping Jon Stewart. In the course of one evening, he placed our financial system in sharp perspective, and laid waste to those who report on the system, and whose credibility is like the house of cards that our markets have become.

Yeah, my retirement took a big hit thanks to some of these jokers. I can't go on living every day in worry about those things. I've been there, and I feel that leaving things up to God, and receiving direction from him, is a far better arbiter of my life thus far than any balance sheet or talking head on the tube.

I pray for the awareness and resolve to use my God-given skills and abilities to focus on what is truly important, just as I pray for resolve, stability, and courage among those in government and the private sector who we trust to run things honestly and fairly.

Enjoy:



Do It Yourself Annexation Protest

I'm still feeling unsettled. For better or for worse, it translated itself into fits of creativity punctuated with bouts of insomnia. Must be my version of spring fever.

I thought that I would try something different today. This would have been less frustrating with a faster computer, but I'm reluctant to let the old standby go to the scrap heap for something more up to date. I'm trying to resist becoming a pack rat that can't let go of anything, and I'm pretty sure that I can't rationalize keeping the old machine because I might just want to look at a 3.5 inch floppy someday. Let's just say that this year's spring cleaning is going to be interesting.

Anyway, this took way too much time, but it was fun. I'll let the pictures and sound tell the story (I hope), and add more after this:

video

I prepared most of my remarks to City Council last night in advance. I've posted a revised version below for anyone who might be interested in re-visiting this topic with Council, every time there is a public hearing on an annexation. I'll try to be there every time one is on the council agenda, so that these comments can be provided as part of the hearing, and duly recorded.

If you are a city resident concerned with the effects of continued annexation and/or the development that triggers it, then consider using the below as a template for your own annexation protest. Council needs to hear it regardless of whether they want to do something about it. The candidates running for Council seats in April need to hear it.



Given the city's obligation to annex new development within the 201 Sewer boundary under the current Persigo Agreement, this effort may seem quixotic to some. I'm inclined to agree, but that doesn't really change my opinion that the need to communicate our concerns to our elected officials is a significant part of our duty as citizens.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a few other windmills to joust with, a son to raise, a woman to love, and a life to get on with.

Have a great rest of the week.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Unsettled

The wind is blowing harder now, blowing dust into my eyes.
The dust settles on my skin, making a crust I cannot move in,
and I'm hovering like a fly, waiting for the windshield on the freeway...



The semi-warm temperatures herald the beginnings of spring in Grand Junction, but my past experience tells me that March is one of the most unsettled months of the year. I've been feeling it since the beginning of the weekend, and continuing through today.

A general sense of recklessness, sadness, disingenuous behavior, moving to downright stupidity, has pervaded the last few days, and I feel directed to let them off here and thank God that my loved ones are safe, despite questionable decisions and bad judgment all the way around.

Friday's final edition of the Rocky Mountain News was a sad but not unexpected event. I won't elaborate beyond that other than to say that I didn't read it enough to really miss it. There is another tabloid-style paper in Denver that could pick up some of the slack, even if it's a weekly and has a slightly more irreverent style. But when I'm in Denver, I never miss an edition of Westword, nor their robust online presence.

Best of luck to the Rocky staff, and the remaining Scripps papers in the Denver metro area.
Sunday's Sentinel printed a column from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, written by one of their columnists who lives in my hometown. He said it very well:

The irreplaceable service of newspapers is the practical presence of that legion of reporters they employ and dispatch to monitor government in all its forms, starting at your local town hall...Democratic societies need facts to function. They need watchdogs to bark and arouse us to certain facts -- and those watchdogs need to be paid somehow.

The recklessness continued into Friday night, and to the credit of our local law enforcement they are doing whatever they can to stem the tide of some of the behavior that has resulted in an inordinate amount of fatal accidents involving young people.

As today's Sentinel reported, a task force of local police and state liquor enforcement was out over the weekend targeting potential underage drinking parties and liquor sales to minors. Unfortunately, one of the places they happened upon was my house, while I was at work.
It looks like I have my work cut out for me in more ways than one.

I was working when the victims from the latest fatal crash (right in my neighborhood) descended on St. Mary's. I'm hoping that when the names of the deceased are released, they will not be people that I know or know of. That's happened one too many times already this year.


On the safety front, I was flabbergasted when I read the account of the events at the old County Courthouse that precipitated a discussion about permitting county office employees to arm themselves. The gun part wasn't what floored me. This did:
An upset county resident made the clerk feel so threatened she clandestinely sent an e-mail to (Commissioner Janet) Rowland, who was in her office on the third floor at the time, while the man stood in front of her desk...Rowland said she did not know what to do and called Mesa County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin. Deputies arrived within minutes, but by then the man was gone.
The various public safety agencies across the county, along with the Regional Communication Center, spend thousands of dollars annually on public education and emergency awareness and preparedness training. Yet one of the county's highest elected officials, who approves much of those expenditures along with many more thousands to pay law enforcement and the county's lone Emergency Management professional, did not know what to do when faced with a perceived imminent threat to her staff?

Isn't it obvious, or were there other mitigating factors, such as message control? God forbid we call 9-1-1; that might bring a quick response, but also the media behind them.

The county says there are emergency plans and training, but they haven't been exercised or trained on in some time. Fail to plan, plan to fail, or as an old girlfriend admonished me almost 30 years ago, "complacency is death".

Media watchdogs, keep an eye on those consent agendas for contracts with a
certain security consulting firm run by a local legislator.


Among other things the Sentinel reported on this weekend was the so-called 6th Man that is credited with giving Grand Junction and Central High's boys' basketball teams superior records at home this past season.

I went to the GJHS-Central game a couple of weeks back, and watched the student section for some kind of inventiveness, irreverence, something to really get inside the heads of the visitors. Instead, the atmosphere was almost subdued in its' predictability. Two Assistant Principals and the Athletic Director stood guard in front of the student section, quickly admonishing any call or taunt that they found out of line.

To add to the surreal atmosphere was a PA announcement at the beginning of the contest, encouraging all spectators to engage in something called "sporting behavior". I thought that was too weird even for District 51, and after some research I was right.

It seems the Colorado High School Activities Association, which governs high school athletics here, put out a list of these little announcements on their website, along with articles on enforcing political correctness and tolerance in the athletic arena.

I agree with a lot of this, especially when it comes to racial and cultural issues. It just seems that the heavy hand of administration is taking all of the original thinking and innovation out of athletic fandom at the high school level. An example is the 2001 and 2002 Fruita Monument fans, one of which dressed as a can of PAM cooking spray when the Wildcat football team was playing Loveland High. Details here. Classic stuff, that.

Of course, the schools have the right and responsibility to see that their athletic events are conducted in a way that makes the participants and spectators feel safe. Safety is one thing; impinging on creativity and free speech rights is something else. Don't count on seeing me there again anytime soon.


Speaking of statements of personal freedom, today marked the first sign of spring for many of us in the Grand Valley, and perhaps the last great act of defiance for the valley's agricultural community. I saw it on the way to church; the high, almost mushroom-shaped column of smoke from a controlled agricultural burn.

To be sure, the fire departments were running fast and furious today for those folks who let their fires get out of hand, but the air was still hazy with smoke from the big, well-managed burns on both sides of the valley. This provided a twist of irony to the first day of the "Breathe Easy" restrictions imposed by three of the valley's 4 hospitals. As of today, all tobacco products, including smokeless, are prohibited from use on the property of St. Mary's, Community, and Family Health West. Indoors and outdoors.

Breathe easy, breathe carefully...it's burning season.

I was unable to contact anyone at the Grand Junction VA Medical Center to clarify their smoking policy, but imaginary sources report that budgetary restrictions prevented the VA from joining the 'Breathe Easy' effort. Seems they don't have the funds to keep a SWAT team on standby all the time...
Seriously, we appreciate your sacrifice for us. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em, boys.


I'll close on a congratulatory and cautionary note. I was impressed by the accolades heaped upon our local print media at the annual Colorado Press Association awards. A special shout out to Denny Herzog of the Sentinel for receiving what amounts to statewide recognition for his lifetime achievements as a newspaperman.

One recent development on the virtual side of the Sentinel's product has raised some eyebrows, however. It seems that the Junction Daily Blog has been removed from the list of community blogs on the Sentinel's website. This without any explanation or notice to Ralph D'Andrea, the Daily Blog's creator and Curmudgeon in Chief.

The Sentinel can put whoever they want in their list of blog links, and I appreciate their appreciation of the content produced here. Ralph says he isn't angry about it, but that doesn't excuse the lack of some type of private or public explanation for the Sentinel's move.

Denny, this is bad form, and not in keeping with your status as a journalist, editor, and manager, especially in light of your recent recognition.


There, I've got all that out. Time to get ready for bed. Along with that will be prayers for patience, firmness, perseverance, balance, and organization. Perhaps the month ahead will be better than its' opening weekend.

Have a blessed week ahead.