Happy Halloween 2004

Happy Halloween. Today, I’m dressed up as a Packers fan. Green Bay takes on the Washington Redskins at 1:00 p.m., eastern standard time. Despite a handful of injuries, Green Bay has shown a lot of vigor and flexibility in its last two games, resulting in a turn-around after a three-game losing streak in weeks two through four. Hopefully, they’ll have a three-game winning streak by the end of the day.

The Halloween party last night on Madison’s State Street ended less violently than last year, but it still ended with incidence. After some resistance to disperse at 2:30 and a bit of chicanery, police felt no option but to respond with spraying pepper spray into the crowds. Considering the alternatives (and it seems like there weren’t many), I think the police made the right decision. Law and order must be exercised to avoid crowds from getting out of hand, and the message sent must clearly state that fun is cool, but vandalism, violence, and stupidity are not. Fortunately the police used a method of maintaining the peace without using lethal force. Twenty years ago it would have been much worse; today, the rioters go home with a hard lesson and a memory they’ll hopefully never forget.

In other news, I had to rewrite a portion of my digital camera article. I recently learned (and realized) that megapixels on digital cameras are not as important as other factors. I’ve made changes to the tech-know article to reflect this and added two links that explain this in better detail (I can’t take credit for work I haven’t done).

In the meantime, I’m moving along on the new site. I am still working on adding content, fixing any pictures and adding them, rewriting, and making sure it all works. There is so much to review and rewrite, hence the length of time it takes to publish. But rest assured, it will (hopefully) be done soon. I’ve added a new screen shot (next to the picture of the desk) below to give you a better perspective of how the site will look when completed.

Today’s links:

Green Bay Packers home page

Wisconsin State Journal: Halloween 2:30 a.m.: Police clear State Street with pepper spray

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An interesting development occurred between yesterday and today. The Milwaukee Public School (MPS) Board came under fire for allowing students to conduct get out the vote drives during class, so MPS Superintendent Andrekopoulos stopped it. Although the students may not be happy, I think this shows that decision makers are capable of realizing the impact of these activities and realizing that they should not be allowed.

The best part of the article below is the double-talk from the co-executive director of Wisconsin Citizen Action and the Wisconsin Citizen Action Fund (the sponsor for the activity). His comments are so “canned” that I want to read them with a can opener. One comment he makes is, “to call this partisan is to be ignorant of the facts.” However, one of the fliers that his group put out asks readers if they want, “lower health care costs or bigger profits for drug companies?” If that isn’t considered partisan, then someone get me back to Earth.

In any case, I think Superintendent Andrekopoulos made a smart decision. Using students for this purpose is merely an excuse for them to get out of school. Sure they probably learn a little bit about voter registration, but it doesn’t really teach them about the issues or the governmental process. Those are things that are best learned through reading and watching it in action. Of course, we can always rely on what German Chancellor von Bismarck said in the late 19th century: Watching the law making process is like watching sausage being made; once you see it, you never want to see it again.

In other news, I have a little more work to do on the new site, but it’s really moving forward. I still plan on having it ready by mid to late November.

Today’s link:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article: MPS pulls plug on student canvassing

Phone calls do not teach civics

I am not going to play political sides on this one. People who know me know my political beliefs, and I don’t feel it necessary to explain here. However, partisan or not, the following Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article got me a little angry this morning. It’s about schoolchildren going door-to-door and using phones to encourage people to get out and vote. It’s being touted as a civics lesson.

I find this an abysmal excuse for teaching civics. First, my hard-earned property tax dollars are being spent for children to learn how to add, read, write, study history and civics, understand science and the world around them, and (*cough*) type on computers. But going door-to-door or asking people over the phone to vote is not what I want my children to do when they are in school. If I want to encourage civics, I’ll either teach them at home or enroll them in a scouting program where they not only learn about voting, but also being aware of the issues and the politics of it all. School kids are not going to learn this by passing out fliers and making phone calls.

Having kids tell adults to get out and vote is like having kids tell them how to drive, or spend money, or file their taxes. Children do not have any rights to vote (speaking of Civics, you become and adult at 18 years old, and the US Constitution’s 26th Amendment requires a person to be at least 18 years old to vote, among other requirements mentioned by either the Constitution or Congress). I don’t believe school time is well spent when children are conducting get out the vote activities. A better means of teaching civics is to have students attend a town hall meeting, a city or village hall council meeting, or some other similar activity (I don’t consider political campaigns). Even trips to a state capitol and watching a session of the legislature has greater significance because it is politics in action, not just faceless names on a ballot.

Allow me to digress here for a moment. I’m a little amiss with the way celebrities are coming on the tube and just saying, “get out and vote.” Well, all but one: Ted Nugent (aka the Motor City Madman). He believes that people should vote and exercise their civil liberties as well, but he adds that people should spend time finding what really matters to them and make informed decisions based on those items. His argument is that other celebrities are not encouraging people to become informed voters, but merely to just vote. Although I don’t see eye-to-eye with Nugent’s political views, I do agree that people must make informed decisions when they vote. Actually, I believe people need to make informed decisions in their everyday lives. It’s just good common sense. Furthermore, when you become an informed voter, you realize that the world is not black and white, but many shades of gray (or how many ways we’re getting screwed), and your voting decisions can have an impact on both your community and your nation. I’ve always believed that local politics is just as important as national politics, and would even argue that it has a greater impact on our everyday lives (unless you work for the federal government). In a sense, I am a greater advocate of getting more people to vote in local elections. But the money and publicity is not always spent at that level, so there is typically less press coverage.

Finally, it’s another waste of time for students’ educational progression, and it is a waste of taxpayer funding. We pay the schools to have children learn academic basics, not to conduct work for non-profit and supposedly non-partisan organizations. How would the taxpayers like it if I as a state employee spent a working day performing volunteer work for a non-profit group and not charging that time to time-off-with-pay? I think they’d be pretty upset because I’m not doing what I’m paid to do (not that most people out there really know what I do anyway). In such cases, I would be compelled to use vacation or personal time to conduct such an activity. It’s the same with using teachers as chaperones and using school resources (buses, gas, and liability insurance all cost money) for these get out the vote drives.

And what do the students really learn, anyway? “It’s important to vote.” Why? “Because our parents can.” And why is that important? “Because they can choose the president.” And what’s the importance of determining the next president? “Uh, he’s the leader of the country?”

The bottom line is that this is a waste of time, school resources, and energy that should be expended elsewhere. Don’t pull kids in as pawns to do the work of adults… there are labor laws against that.

In any case, I hope all of you reading this that live in the US and are able to vote get out and vote. But please vote based on informed decisions, not on what others believe. The dynamic of the political system in this country makes it the great system that it is.

Today’s link:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article: Voter drive using kids draws fire

My dad’s on-line

I just received an e-mail message from my dad. That means he finally managed to find the time to connect to the Internet. I spent about half an hour helping him over the phone learn a little more about how to send a message and to check his e-mail. So far, he’s doing pretty well. I did leave him some instructions, but I forgot to print them for him and he doesn’t have a printer. But it’s pretty cool that he now has the ability to communicate with people in other parts of the world without running up long distance costs or sending a letter.

It seems like every time I update another portion of the new site, I have to return and add something I forgot before. I was sure that the bio portion was completed, but I forgot to rewrite a couple of sections. I have a three-day weekend coming up, though, so I plan on spending a good deal of time migrating more stuff. I’m considering publishing the site without many of the things I wanted to work on so I can start troubleshooting and people can start checking out the new site. I’ll keep thinking about it. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away.

More site updates, politics turn-off, golf and six degrees

Work continues to progress on the new site. For the past few days, I migrated my England trip pages from this site to the new design. It won’t look much different, but it will be up. One goal was to keep the picture tables in a similar format, since they look pretty clean and distinguish themselves from the text. After looking at the coding between this site and the new site (which uses CSS much more effectively), I managed to write in the properties into my style sheet to give it a similar look. Unfortunately, I still have some hand-coding to perform to get it to work. On the plus side, it’s going much smoother and faster than I expected. Using Dreamweaver has made the process move quicker than I expected. Earlier this week, I completed most of the Bio pages, including a new break-out of the hobbies pages. I expect to complete those by the end of the week. Overall, I hope to have the new site up by November or December (just don’t hold me to that yet).

I hope I’ve done my best to not discuss politics on my site, but I can’t resist mentioning something here. This morning, Bob Schieffer of Face the Nation (CBS News) stated what I’ve felt for a long time. He said that people typically say that they’re turned off by politics. But what he realized was that people are not necessarily turned off by politics, but are instead really turned off by the negative ads that the candidates run. I agree; in my experience, many people are unhappy when the person that they support slings mud at their opponents because it paints themselves in a less positive light. I think people want to hear solutions, not name calling. I’m with Schieffer on this one; the political campaign process should be turned around to make it more fun for the citizens to listen to and appreciate. Of course, I don’t support the alternative as a daytime talk show-style debate with fists flying and four-letter expletives being thrown out… that’s just an exacerbation. However, if this type of forum is used in the future, please note that I stated it first and want some compensatory credit (please make checks payable directly to me). 😉

On a more positive note, I got out and played nine holes of golf with my friend and former DOT coworker, Josh. There was another single player who teed off with us, Jose, from Panama. Jose was in Madison to visit his children, who went to school here and are now successful professionals, and his grandchildren. After talking about what we did, he mentioned that he was the brother-in-law of DOT’s Chief Legal Counsel, Jim Thiel (whom both Josh and I know well). Talk about a small world. It was great meeting Jose and playing golf with him. On a less positive note, I still suck, although I managed to pull off a bogey (it could’ve been par, but my putting is horrendous).

Election day is coming

On November 2, the polls will be open to the nation’s electing population to determine if the country is moving in the right direction. Previous elections have shown that young people (ages 18-24) usually do not turn out to vote like older people (especially the elderly). One group that may not realize that they can vote is college students that live in another state. What scares me is that most people focus on the national elections yet disregard local elections. I’ve always believed that local politics affect us more on a daily basis than national politics (unless you work in national politics). So today’s blog is dedicated to Rock the Vote, an organization that does not promote any particular party or candidate, but just wants to let young people know that they have a voice in one of the greatest democracies in the world.

Only one week after we vote in the national election, Halo 2 comes out! I’m sure every Xbox owner is excited. Fortunately, it doesn’t release until after the election, so you can’t use your Xbox as an excuse for not voting!

Today’s Links:

Rock the Vote: www.rockthevote.com

Information for students: http://www.rockthevote.com/rtv_campuscampaign.php