Wednesday, June 21, 2017

International Snack Facts

Lovely Wife and I recently celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this year with a trip to Europe, cruising up the Rhine. The trip was great - Operation Reconnect with Spouse: accomplished.

Many wonderful memories were made that I'd be happy to talk about. Here, I want to share with you one of my personal favorite trip activities: trolling my 15 YO son, Will. On school days, he gets himself up at 6:00 a.m. to make it to the bus. I had this nagging worry that he might oversleep, so (almost) every school day of the trip, I set an alarm for 6:00 a.m. MST to ping him. This was 2:00 in the afternoon for me (my texts are in blue):

Tue, May 23, 6:01 AM

In Amsterdam, they put peanut butter on their fries!
I see
Good morning
Good morning!  How y'all doing?
Wed, May 24, 6:20 AM

The vending machines in Amsterdam have a variety of unusual snacks!
🤠how's it going?
Good, it's 6:23
So far so good then.  Have a great day!
Thx u too

Thu, May 25, 6:04 AM

The dutch have many strange and wondrous ways to prepare potatoes!

Thu, May 25, 11:56 AM

Sry I didn't txt u I was tired
Cool potatoes
🤠they were quite tasty.  How are ya?
Good, in math class
Oh!  Do good maths - chat later.

Thu, May 25, 3:16 PM

The soldier who wields this blade is called a "doppel solder" and earns double pay for wielding the giant blade.
The one on the left looks pretty sick


I went to a cheese farm.  I now know how to make cheese!
Mashed sheep?
Is more complicated than that, but easier on the sheep than that.
Btw, German beer is more potent than Utah beer. *hic*
I see

You have school tomorrow?
So, maybe I shouldn't text you at 6:00...
So that's what u were doing
Ya plz don't lol
I thought u were just sharing snack facts and didn't realize how early it was XD
Ok - text if you want more dad facts about the world.  We in Germany now. XD
Hell ya I will
Hey - snacks are important.
I know that better than literally anyone ;)
Yes...yes you do.
Will chat more tomorrow - is 11:30 pm here (and I need to find moar snacks)
Fri, May 26, 9:01 AM

In Germany, they eat their french fries using wooden tweezers!

Fri, May 26, 11:30 AM
It was totally dark souls and ripe for assassins creed.
Ya, that was literally an area in dark souls 3, part of the castle😱
I wish I could see that
You will.

Sun, May 28, 9:49 AM

The German word "fahrt" means "journey"
This is Emperor William (Wilhelm)
Haha thx dad

Mon, May 29, 10:33 AM

German kamikazi submarine from WWII
That looks like the pilot would be miserable
Definitely - it was a suicide sub, so…

Tue, May 30, 6:05 AM

Bonjours, William!  Did you know that "french fries" were invented in a small Belgian village when the river froze over and the villagers, unable to catch fish and desperate for something to fry, turned to potatoes?
Tonight is our last night on the boat.  We'll stay in a hotel in zurich tomorrow night and fly out on Thursday.
How are things there?
Hooray! Things r good except I forgot to dry my laundry last night 😬
Whoops.  Hope you have something to wear...
Tue, May 30, 3:15 PM
Hey you, how goes it?
My final projects went bad tho :(
Ooh, sorry man.  Anything to be done about it?
Nah but my grades didn't really change much, still mostly a's and nothing lower than a b
That's pretty good.  Sorry your parents are cavorting in europe instead of supporting you.  
No worries 😉
(It is pretty nice here tho)
I bet
Ok sir - any message for yer mum?
Love u guys
Love u too. 😘

Will is currently on a trip and sending me annotated pics of his breakfast. *sigh* They grow up so fast...

Friday, February 24, 2017

Questions for a town hall: Climate Change

My zipcode is 84103 and nobody paid me to say this.

#TownhallHatch - website
#TownhallLee - website
#TownhallStewart - website

Nice windmill!
Gentlemen, I've been going over your websites, and in your "issues" sections, I don't see any positions about the environment, and in particular, nothing about what many perceive to be the greatest existential threat to the United States and the world. That seems a little short-sighted.  Thank you, Representative Stewart, for at least acknowledging alternative energy and putting a picture of a windmill on there.

Searching through your websites for "climate change" did turn up some information: 

  1. Thank you, Senator Hatch, for pushing for the advancement of nuclear energy - I agree with you that it's a logical thing to do.  
  2. Y'all are worried that what we do in the U.S. isn't enough to make a difference.  I agree - the Paris Climate Agreement is probably a good start, eh?  Just because Obama signed it doesn't mean it's bad, right?
  3. What about China?  We have that bilateral agreement.  Can we stick to that?
  4. Y'all don't seem to like cap-and-trade.  It's market-based!  Mike Leavitt likes it!
Trying to figure out if you believe that humans contribute to climate change led me to these articles that say you don't.  If that's not the case any more, feel free to correct me.  If people don't change their minds when presented with new information we'd be in a sorry state.

If you don't believe the scientific consensus, then how about insurance companies? How about the U.S. military? How about Exxon

Question 1:
What would it take for you to agree that climate change is real, humans contribute to it, and we'd better react to it?

 Yes, we have coal and oil in Utah, and those things will become more profitable as the world runs out of them. We can use fracking and maybe more extreme methods in the future to get at those resources - at the cost of earthquakes like in Oklahoma and environmental damage. You seem determined to pin Utah and America’s future on this. Wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage solar and wind and maybe nuclear as an energy source? There’s still a market for petroleum products - plastics and other things. There are lots of jobs in alternative energy, and there’s lots of room for innovation and infrastructure building. How about that?

You say it’s not the government’s job to pick winners and losers. You’re right - they shouldn’t arbitrarily pick industries and declare them winners or losers. On the other hand, it should be your job to make America a winner - not just for the next election cycle, but for when you and I are dead and gone and our kids and their kids are running the place. And making us 'winners' doesn’t have to mean that the rest of the world loses.

Question 2:  

Describe what you think Utah, the U.S., and the world looks like in a hundred years if we stick with fossil fuels versus going big on alternative energy.

Questions for a town hall: Trump and Russia

My zipcode is 84103 and nobody paid me to say this.

I read in the “real news” that all of our intelligence agencies are positive that Russia attempted to influence our presidential election.  It’s very easy to believe that our president has a tremendous financial motive for altering U.S. policy to favor Russia.  Given that our president, among other things, has bragged on camera about grabbing women by the genitals, you should understand that it’s easy to believe that Russia has compromising material to hold over him.  In a recent interview, our president said that the U.S. and Russia had a moral equivalence, specifically in terms of killing people.  

I’m your constituent, and I think the U.S. is not morally equivalent to Russia, and that you, the congress, have an obligation to investigate and prosecute corruption no matter what the political affiliation of the perpetrator, in this case, the sitting president and his campaign and administration.  If you set up an independent investigation empowered with everything it needs to find out the truth, you might be able to restore some faith in the presidency, congress, and our democracy.  If you don’t, you’re going to go down in history for throwing democracy under the bus.

So here’s the question:  
Would you support an independent investigation of these issues and if not, why?

While you’re at it, can you make it a requirement that future presidential candidates disclose their taxes?

Also, Trump claims he doesn’t have to step away from his business by putting it in a blind trust.  If that’s so, then please change things so that future presidents have to.  If it’s not, then go ahead and impeach him - from what I read, Mike Pence was not a particularly good governor of Indiana, but at least he’d be a more stable President.


Questions for a town hall: Deconstruction of the Administrative State

At CPAC just the other day, Steve Bannon said, “the deconstruction of the administrative state” has just begun.  You can see it in Trump’s appointments - he’s putting in people who hate the agencies they run - the EPA, Department of Education, and Department of Energy.

The Johnsonville plant
I’m a Utahn by marriage who moved here in 1991, but I grew up in rural Tennessee in a community that was blessed to have the world’s largest titanium dioxide plant.  The processes they used produced large amounts of toxic waste, including dioxins.  When they started out in the 1960’s, they got rid of that by dumping it in the Tennessee river.  That didn’t change until the EPA came into being.  

They’ve worked over time to find a good solution to that toxic waste, but these things don't go away immediately - my home county and the neighboring one have the top 2 out of 3 cancer rates in the state.  My mom has Parkinson’s.  That’s been linked to dioxins - just ask the Marines about Agent Orange.  

I, for one, want a federal government that protects our air and water.  If anything, I’d just like them to get better at their jobs - give them proper funding and make sure they have the right tools.

I remember what the smog was like in the 80’s in L.A. - I couldn’t spend 10 minutes outdoors without getting a headache and an asthmatic cough -- it’s a lot like that in Salt Lake during the inversion.  I have to keep my two sons from playing outdoors on yellow and red days.

When my Uncle Ben was 17, he spent a summer blowing asbestos insulation into ceilings in a TVA power plant near Paducah.  Yes, he died from mesothelioma about the age I am today.  I remember Love Canal and Times Beach.   Go google “thalidomide” and tell me you don’t want to have an effective FDA.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but rivers don’t stop at state boundaries and neither does the air.  Ensuring clean air and water is something we need the federal government to do.  

Human beings have found or invented over 50 million unique chemicals, the vast majority in the past few decades.  A new substance is isolated or synthesized every few seconds, day and night, seven days a week somewhere in the world.  Those things go into consumer products, food, industrial processes, and some of those things are going to be very bad for people - we won’t know until they're tested.  We used to put lead in our gasoline to get better performance.  Go look up the effects of lead on a developing brain.  Now, nobody’s going to want to put lead back in gasoline, but what’s the next “lead” or "thalidomide"?

It’s a big job, but somebody’s got to regulate this stuff.  States aren’t going to - Utah’s not... Tennessee’s know New Jersey’s not.

I hear y’all complaining about regulations.  Trump wants to get rid of 2 regulations for every new one.  That’s a dumb way to go about it.  If federal regulations are getting in the way of business, you should be encouraging innovation, communication, and automation, not sending in a wrecking crew.

From my representative’s website:

"Anything we can do to reduce the power and influence of the federal government will strengthen our economy and help us reclaim the American dream."

Anything?  Really?  Chris Stewart, could you clarify that? Maybe walk it back a little?

The gist of my question is:

How are you all going to prevent the next tragedy when you’re hamstringing the people whose job that is?  


Oh yeah - my zipcode is 84103 and nobody paid me to say this.

(I didn’t even talk about global warming)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Hey, what's the big IDEA?

I've been trying to write a blog post about this for some time, but I keep deleting and starting over.  The other night, something made these thoughts boil over onto Facebook:

I was just looking at my Representative's web pages, trying to figure out if he's going to do a town hall, and came across this statement: "Anything we can do to reduce the power and influence of the federal government will strengthen our economy and help us reclaim the American dream." Anything? No sir... things can be streamlined, made more efficient, more accountable, but there are limits. As your constituent who is the parent of a kid with special needs, I want a Department of Education that works. As someone who grew up in a rural area where dioxin was dumped into the river for 30 years and has a mother with Parkinsons AND as a Utahn who can see two Superfund sites from his back yard, but only on days when there's not too much pollution, I want an EPA that can do its job. I want a CDC that can handle epidemics and a FEMA that can help in emergencies. I want a DOJ that helps protect our civil rights. While we're at it, I'd like to know that our elections are fair and free from foreign influence AND that our president is not a Russian tool who's using his office to line his pockets. You're my representative, Congressman Chris Stewart, and if you're not advocating for my interests, I'd like to know why.

There's only so much you can say in a Facebook post, so here's the rest of the story.

Deliverance: Nominated for 3 Oscars!

There's currently a bill before congress to abolish the Department of Education, co-sponsored by Utah's own Jason Chaffetz.  Supposedly, this bill is mostly posturing, but it's a real poke in the eye.  It's a big guy in a track suit walking into my shop and saying, "Nice place you have'd be a shame if something happened to it."  It's running into a guy with a shotgun in the woods who tells me I have a pretty mouth.  It's not funny.  

I want to know what this congressional threat is supposed to mean for both my sons, but especially for my son who has autism.

It wasn't that long ago that people with autism were institutionalized as a matter of routine.  What was that like?  If you've got a strong stomach, you might want to see Geraldo Rivera's 1972 expose of Willowbrook, a state school in New York.  Here's a clip:

That's what it was like before a whole lot of people got the federal government involved.  I'm not suggesting it was like that everywhere, but it was like that somewhere.  I don't think if the federal government took its eyes off education, states would revert to a situation like that...not immediately anyway.

In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed.  Before that, only about 1 in 5 kids with a disability was allowed in public schools, and many of those that were allowed were "warehoused" - kept separate from the general classrooms.  I experienced this personally when I was in 3rd grade (or so) , which would have been 1973ish.  I did well on an IQ test and it was decided that I should have a chance to get education beyond the regular classroom.  Periodically, I left my class and went to the special ed building - a separate structure from the main building.  I was given a workbook and tried to focus on my self-guided studies while the special ed class swirled around me.  It was not a successful educational experiment.

In 1990, the EAHCA was expanded into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, co-sponsored by Utah's own Orrin Hatch (thank you, sir).  As difficult as the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process may be, it's a lot easier than starting off with a lawsuit to get your kid an education, which is what had to be done before.  Knowing that every kid has a right to a "free and appropriate public education" (FAPE) in the "least restrictive environment" (LRE) is really, really important to parents of special needs kids.  Count your blessings if you've never needed to learn those acronyms.

It took a lot of work, from a lot of people, to get to the point where we are now.  It's not easy being a parent, and it's harder being a parent of a kid with special needs.  I'm in awe of those parents of kids with special needs back in the 60's and 70's who stood up for their children, filed lawsuits, pestered their congressmen, and got us EAHCA and IDEA.  They didn't even have Facebook to help organize. 
Who's wrong?  This lady!

The Department of Education hasn't been dissolved yet, but we do have Betsy Devos in charge of it.  In her confirmation hearing, she was asked if schools that receive federal funding should comply with the IDEA act and said, "I think that is a matter best left to the states."   

Meanwhile, we've got Jeff Sessions for Attorney General who called the IDEA act "the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today".

In my opinion, we should be increasing federal funding for IDEA to the 40% that it was originally intended.  How about pushing for that?

From their websites, a lot of Utah legislators are talking about choice and charter schools, just like Ms. Devos.  They seem to be in lockstep.  

I don't know much about charter schools, but some articles I've read say that although they have to accept kids with special needs, some charters will push them out over time to keep their success rate high.  

Here in Utah, we have a couple of charter programs just for kids with autism.  I know many parents with kids in them, and they feel lucky to have made it through the lottery to get in.  Lucky sounds right, since finding the right public school placement and fighting for services in an IEP meeting can be really hard - especially given our public school budget.  

If my kid made it through the lottery for one of these schools, I'd seriously consider it, but it would be a hard choice because we'd be missing out on mainstreaming and inclusion. 

I think that educating our kids - all of our kids - is one of the best investments we can make in our future.  Right now, it looks like there's a wrecking ball poised to smash the institution built to address that.  I'd really like to hear from my legislators about this. 

Rats!  I'm out of time, and I didn't even get to the EPA.  Maybe next time.