Who’s Teaching Who?

I just saw the movie, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and I thought it was really great. I read the book in December 2000 and enjoyed it so much that I read the other books as well. In every book, there seems to be a central theme of good versus evil. It’s probably the most basic theme in most stories, including my favorite trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.

But I hear that these stories of witchcraft and sorcery spread the wrong messages and should not be told to our children. They are “non-Christian” and depict the beginning of the “new world order.” There is contact with the supernatural world, where spells and potions are the norm. And there are reports that these stories reflect evil beliefs.

As John Stossel of ABC News would say, “Give me a break!”

I could counter-attack with another story that speaks of spells, alcohol, infidelity, and many other things that we find appalling today, but my point isn’t to compare the Bible to modern literature (that would be blasphemous). No, my point is that some people have way too much time on their hands and need to stop ruining those things that the rest of us want to enjoy in peace.

A case in point. Every December, the State of Wisconsin puts up a tree in the capitol rotunda to celebrate the holidays of the season (let’s face it, it’s a Christmas tree). In 2000, a decision was made to not decorate the tree with religious ornaments. That upset a group of people, who then sued to have them put on. So, in 2001, the decision was made to place all sorts of secular and religious decorations on it. That upset another group, who is now suing to have the religious ornaments removed. A newspaper author suggested that in 2002, we put up a naked tree so that it stands as a tribute to those that want to ruin a holiday for the rest of us.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for free speech. But when does that speech become extreme? I admit that I’m a Christian. I’m also open-minded and believe in many other beliefs. But some people just need to get a life.

Let’s face it, I say a lot of things on this site that are probably just fluff. But what better way to get something off your chest than to say a few words about it. Those people that argue about the most mundane thing, though, are so full of it. I remember that Proctor and Gamble once had to change their logo because it resembled a satanic image. “Dungeons and Dragons” was banned by many because some twisted teenager committed suicide when his fighter character was cursed. And “Barney and Friends” and the “Teletubbies” are taboo in some circles because of either the actors or the symbolism of a character. Do you really think kids notice?

The fact that Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings has fantastic characters should not alarm people. Disney’s been doing it for years. But unlike the original “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” tale, Disney did a bang-up job of adding ridiculous characteristics to the dwarves. I mean, who wants to be friends with a short dude named Dopey? And does that name connote something more (such as pot-smoking)? Or what do people think about swimming around with a half-naked mermaid, as in “The Little Mermaid?” But the message is always the same at the end: lock lips with someone and the spell is lifted! Oh, look out, you may spread mono that way!

I especially have a hard time listening to people that feel that they have to push their beliefs on others. I’m not referring to Jehovah Witnesses, who peddle their religion but move on if you say no (although I have my reservations about them as well). I’m referring to those who preach brimstone and fire if you don’t believe in the healing powers of whomever or whatever they believe in. Yet I see so many acts of kindness in the face of all religions and all walks of life, whether it be Hindu, Christian, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Paganism, or even Atheism. We all live by some form of ethical code, which we normally refer to as morals, and it’s this force that drives us to either do good or not. But if these people that preach their way or the highway are so freakin’ righteous, why the hell are they the ones that drive like complete asses on the highways and disregard other drivers out there? What hypocrites!

This country was founded on religious freedoms, but it was also found on the premise of majority rule. Yet I can’t help but notice that we always have to listen to the minority. Maybe we should listen to what they have to say… to a point. But to have to bend over backwards and appease them is absolutely ridiculous. These people are extremists, and they’re willing to take their beliefs to dangerous and deadly extremes. The U.S. is at war with extremists who terrorized our country. I often feel that other extremist groups are no better, especially when they send messages of fear and blow up clinics or factories.

I suppose there’s a balancing act in place here, and that these people do have some rights to express their opinions. But, in conclusion, I also believe that we, as sentient and intelligent human beings (well many of us… perhaps), should also be able to tell when these people need to be ignored. It kind of makes you wonder why I wrote this… after all, I’m reacting to their bull.

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The First Year

I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary of living in Madison and at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Although it’s been a trying time, it’s also been a time worth sharing. Since this is pretty significant (at least to me), I thought I’d write about both my working aspects and my living experiences.

Employment

When I first arrived at WisDOT, I was a little overwhelmed with how things are structured. Fortunately, the staff was really friendly and helpful (there’s no manual here). The former analyst was still in the office (who is now our lead analyst on our team), so I used him as a resource quite often (I still use him as a resource, but not as often). My section chief was extremely patient with me (and still is), and offered me some guidance.

I didn’t realize the amount of detail among the different appropriations. But I spent much time learning about them, especially when my section chief assigned me the task of creating a document that explains all of the appropriations and current issues. I continue to learn about other aspects of my assigned division by interviewing divisional staff and writing allotment requests. I know I’m still learning, but I have a better idea of how things are done now, thanks to my section chief and the former analyst.

I thought about looking for a part-time job not long after I moved to Madison. I missed working in customer service. I looked at places that I went shopping, but nothing seemed to really impress me. Recently, I went shopping at a store called Bed Bath & Beyond. I was so impressed with the way people treated me and with the products they sold, I went back and bought a second item, then a third, and received the same treatment each time (no, they didn’t tell me to kiss my own…). So, I applied for a job there. After a couple of weeks of working there, I’m really happy I made this move. I interact with people all the time and I have fun playing catch and climbing a ladder (all stock related). Although it’s a ton of work, it’s also pretty fun (or so I keep telling myself). The pay is, well, let’s just say that I took the job for fun.

Recreation

When I wasn’t traveling to Milwaukee for the weekend, I spent time trying to find recreational things to do. A coworker introduced me to cross-country skiing (well, I went once) during the winter, and golf (I went very often) during the summer. I took golf lessons and really enjoyed knocking the wind out of a small, helpless ball on the driving range. I spent most of the summer playing. Although I still have lots to work on, I’ve had a good time so far.

Now that winter’s around the corner, I spend most of my time at home in my little apartment. My office book club recently read The Hobbit, and I was so captivated with reading it again (I first read it in grade school) that I decided to reread The Lord of the Rings trilogy again, apparently just in time for the first movie. I’ve also been upgrading my computer to Windows XP, so I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with problems (easy to upgrade my a**). On the plus side, I now have high-speed Internet access. Although I like the speed, I still don’t use my computer as often as I probably should.

One evening, I had a craving for cookies, so I bought a stand mixer and some other necessities to bake them. So far all I’ve baked is cookies, but I seem to enjoy it, probably because I like to bake for others. And now that I’m working at Bed Bath & Beyond, I don’t know if I’ll have time to do much else.

Next summer, though, I know I’ll devote more time to golf. I also plan on traveling… probably to some golf destinations.

Domestic Life

A year ago, a friend of mine told me that I’d spend my first week alone in my new apartment feeling lonely. Thank goodness I bought a TV, a VCR, and a DVD player, because I’m still waiting for that moment. He also told me that I’d get sick of cooking after about a month. If only he knew what I spent on groceries just last week.

But seriously, I do enjoy my apartment (which I refer to as “right-sized” for me). It’s got most of the amenities of home (furnished kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living room, dining area, washer and drier in the basement). The building I live in is also set back from the road, so I don’t normally hear the traffic or much else. My neighbors are also pretty quiet. My only complaint is the small amount of countertop space in the kitchen, but I’ve compensated and adapted.

Besides eating, watching television, and sleeping, I spend some time in my apartment just catching up on domestic things (like cleaning, paying the bills, etc.). I’m not someone that could handle working from home all the time (I need to interact with people), but I do spend some time doing some house-type work at home. For example, I do use my computer for more than just surfing the web. There are letters to be written, finances to be analyzed, and Metallica to be listened to. And, of course, there’s plenty of room to practice my putting and swinging (though I still need to visit a driving range to actually drive any golf balls).

Social Life

There isn’t much to say about my social life in Madison. I guess one of the reasons I got a weekend job was to get out of the apartment and interact with people on the weekends, even if in a work-setting (oh, there’s the fun part). I spent so many weekends in Milwaukee during the last several months that I never really found time to get out and try to pursue a social life in Madison. And when I do go out in Madison, it’s either alone or with a couple of coworkers, but that’s pretty rare.

I recently discovered that I’m not a big fan of the bar scene anymore. I haven’t had any real desire to go out and have a drink, so my blood-alcohol content has been at zero for quite some time. Yet I also haven’t found a chance to date, so I’m still maintaining that I’m “happily” single.

I also spent much of my time on the driving range and putting greens this past year, since I’m really enthused about golf. Although I’ve met a couple of people in passing on the course, I haven’t made any real long-term friendships outside of my office. But I’m sure as life goes on, I’ll meet people and start living my life in Madison (just need to stay away from Milwaukee for a while)… and now with a weekend job, I think I have some excuse.

Volunteer Work

I’ve spent so much time helping out my Cub Scout pack in Milwaukee, that there are times that I feel that I could use a break from them. I’m still the Committee Chairperson of my pack, but I’m ready to move on. Fortunately, there is someone that acts on my behalf when I’m not around, and I hear he’s been doing an excellent job. I’ll be talking to him soon about relieving me.

As a result of all of the time I spent in Milwaukee, I haven’t found time to do any volunteer work in Madison. I did discover that other adult leaders work in my building that are always recruiting new volunteers for their Boy Scout troops. But with my busy schedule, it’s tough for me to find the time to help out another troop.

I’ve also been asked to sit in on an advisory committee. Although it sounds promising, I haven’t made a decision as to whether I’m really interested or not. Something tells me that I’ll be signing up for this soon, depending on whether or not my section chief gives me permission to.

So what are my feelings now that I’ve lived in Madison for a year? I like living here. It’s small, compared to Milwaukee. It’s got plenty of recreation to offer, which I need to capitalize on. My apartment feels more like home now, but could still use a few amenities (like a computer desk and a recliner). I’ve made some really good friends in the office. And I’ve taken up golf, so I’ve got something to look forward to every summer.

But I can’t help notice how many things I’m still missing out on. Because I live so near Milwaukee, I still drive there to help out with some odd thing or other. I would like to spend more time in Madison and try to get a jump-start on my own life (which has been slow-going so far).

In retrospect, the first year here has been very rewarding and very exciting. I hope that the next year allows me to pursue some more fun and exciting things… I’m sure it will.

Web site corrections

I’ve completed making a few corrections and getting some soapbox material placed on here. I am now going to spend more time on the web site redesign. Currently, I’m still using the current theme, but I’m thinking of some new changes that may cause people to really wonder (that’s what I do best, isn’t it?). The new site probably won’t be in place until after the new year, since I’ll be pretty busy with other affairs. Stay tuned for more…

Web site updates slow

The updating is going a little slow, but it’s moving forward. After some searching and adjusting, I’ve decided to keep the current theme, for now. But new updates are on their way. I’ll continue to work on them, but in the meantime I’m keeping the existing web material in place.

New site in progress

As you may have noticed, I’ve placed orange construction cones on pages that I’ll be updating. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks making changes and adding them to the site. The first “new-and-improved” update is the end of the “Contact Me” page… you can now find my e-mail address on my home page.

Lord of the Rings movie

The India pictures have been updated. Please visit them in My Scrapbook.

On another note, I am now ready for the first “The Lord of the Rings” movie. I finally completed the first book, and am now into the second book. I can’t wait to see how the ending of the first movie compares with the book.