Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Tink broke her pinky finger last night at her first soccer practice of the year.

Wow. Just reading that sentence over again makes my daddy-empathy wince.

She's fine, got it splinted this morning and continued to school in her own merry way. Hakuna Matata, mate.

Course, I could tease her and tell her she's not supposed to use her hands playing soccer, but I won't. :)

Double Ugly

I hope everyone at least watched a little of the UT/Florida basketball game last night on ESPN. Did you see me? I was up in the nosebleeds, I'm sure you spotted me - I was the one wearing orange.

Sorry, that's quite possibly the oldest and stalest UT joke that exists today.


Anyway, my dad and I arrived at Thompson-Boling at about 7:30 and soaked in the pregame festivities. It was the first time I'd been to a men's basketball game in quite some time and I'd almost forgotten what a pageant it can be. The student section and "end zone" cheering mob were already there and looked to have been there for some time. We sat in the opposite end in the balcony, looking straight down on the basket toward the student section - it's a unique perspective, to say the least, after watching so many games on TV from that prime half-court perspective. The plays on the basket on our end were much more dramatic because they were so much closer.

Florida was booed soundly - and rightfully - when they took to the floor for pregame warmups. Never has a program existed that deserved to be booed more than the Florida Gators. Ok, well maybe the Oakland Raiders. But that's it.

No, on second thought Gators win that contest.

Dane Bradshaw got a video retrospective and deafening introduction welcome that was very emotional. He's been one of my favorite players for a long time, but I had no idea until recently really how much he's meant to this program. From interviews I've seen he really seems like a good guy and I hope he does well in the future.

The $100,000 scholarship in his name that Bruce Pearl established is a testament to his character.

When the Florida players were introduced, each one was booed more loudly than the last. Ok, yeah, it was funny in the moment but eventually the boos get a little old. The names of Tennessee players couldn't even be heard over the cheers. The arena was amazingly raucous in a way I hadn't seen there before. Almost every seat was filled (except, happily, for the one beside me which meant I wasn't too cramped).

Then the tipoff---

First Half

Some early back and forth, but the Vols hold tough. It was easy to tell very soon that the officiating was going to be uneven (big shock) and by that I don't necessarily mean bad, but just inconsistent. What counts as a foul here doesn't count there, etc.

Wait! First time out. Something's happening...the crowd is murmuring. A flurry of action in a corner of the gym - it''s...


(Hey Pat, nice legs...and I think I saw Masi Oka run out and try to save her...)

The tempo was extremely upbeat during the first half. I'm not sure what Tennessee's shooting percentage was but it had to be high - they couldn't miss. And their backcourt press was very strong, especially in the first half.

What was amusing was the chant of "Double Ugly" for Joachim Noah whenever his name was called for a foul. The big guy has been a thorn in UT's side for a couple of years now, and it was fun to watch him get frustrated with himself. No points in the first half for Scrunchie, although his size gave him several rebounds. He really is a good player and it's actually fun to watch him play - as long as he's not scoring on us. Which he didn't. Much. Till later. Anyway.

Tennessee did what they haven't done much all year - open up a lead and maintain it, or build on it. It was fairly evenly matched for a while, until the Vols began to open up an 8-10-15 point lead. The crowd sensed at about 8 minutes to go in the half that something special was happening. UT would go up by 15, lose it down to about 13 then go up by 17. Then down to a 14-point advantage, and finally back up to a 19-point lead at the half. There was no letdown, no sense of complacency in the final minutes and the tempo never wavered. They also played the clock well, limiting the number of possessions Florida could take advantage of and chose their shots well.

Even Super Senior Dane Bradshaw hit some nice shots and Ryan Childress had a sweet free-throw miss/rebound/jam that was probably one of the highlight plays of the year.

Second Half

(Mmmmmm.....arena popcorn. Drooooool....)

Hey look - there's Peyton Manning! Did I mention Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning? Sorry, Dane, you were favorite son for about an hour - hope you enjoyed it :)

Anyway. You hear that what a team does with a lead in the first five minutes of the
second half can be crucial to the rest of the game. Would they have a letdown? Would Rex Grossman and Danny Wuerfful show up in the locker room and serve tainted pizza? Would they rather tune into American Idol?

Thankfully, no. The Vols built a 19-point halftime lead into a 25-pt lead after the first five minutes. Hopefully the five-minute theory holds true. In fact, we outscored them 10-5 in the first couple minutes to further pad---

Against the inevitable fall.

True to form, like every Tennessee team that ever existed (1997 in The Swamp ring a bell, Peyton?) we began to wilt at about the 10-minute mark.

Truthfully and fairly, we didn't really fade as much as Florida began to wake up. Time and time again they shot themselves in the foot - bad passes, steals, walks - nothing they did was working. But Scrunchy got the hair out of his eyes and dunked a couple, which got the Florida faithful in the crowd--

(, Florida faithful? Hm. They must have left early. Probably a sale on 2nd seeds down at Mayo's)

Let me start again. --which got the Florida bench back in the game.

The Gators scored used several 3 and 5 point runs to our sole baskets or free throws to get back in the game. They never seriously threatened although they made things antsy. Fouls were called left and right, with Duke Crews finally succumbing. Even Scrunchy had four near the end. The most they whittled down our lead was about to 7 points, but again we did enough down the stretch to keep it an average of a 10-point lead till the end.

At :20 left in the game, Billy "Dicky V's my best pal" Donovan took out the starters, and so did we.

The rout was confirmed, the white flag was waved and Dick Vitale could take the orange feather hat Pat Summitt gave him and hang it on his wall. This one is HISTORY, BABY!

Final Score: Tennessee 86, Florida 76.

In the immortal words of John Ward, "Pandemonium Reigns!"

Thanks, Dad, for a great night. :)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Holding My Breath

I haven't been very consistent in my blogposting lately, and I'm not sure why. Looking back over the last few weeks I think I've had more Friday Feasts than anything.

Mostly because my life is in a bit of a holding pattern, waiting for things to start or confirm to start.

I still haven't heard if I'm going to be directing a play down in Athen, TN - or even whether they want me to direct. All I got was an inquiry whether I was interested, and haven't heard anything more. Since auditions are March 11, surely some sort of decision or offer will be made any moment now. This will have a huge impact on my extracurricular activities during March and April.

I am music directing a show beginning late April, that's confirmed. I'm just in waiting mode for it to start. Which is fine, but it's interesting to be scheduled for something this far away in time (I've been attached to the project - how Hollywood! - for a couple months, already).

I also had an offer to music direct a show at Theatre Knoxville, but had to turn it down due to conflicts with the April show and possibly the Athens show. Who knew I was so popular? It's a shame, because I've never worked with them before and they have an interesting lineup of shows coming up. Hopefully we can work something out in the future.

BrainyBoy's Destination Imagination team is wrapping up work on their big aviation project, and is set to compete in a couple of weeks. This, combined with a number of other heavy school projects, has brought out some good work in him. The school science fair is upcoming which is a huge project as well.

Tink continues gymnastics and just being Tink, which wears her out.

I'm also prepping for another Atomic Horns gig Saturday night, this time at the UT Nuclear Engineering 50th Anniversary conference at the Knoxville Convention Center. Hopefully I will either hold off or get through the cold I feel brewing inside me, or any of the much worse stomach stuff that seems to be slowly working its way through town and our family.

Even more exciting is the two tickets I have to the UT/Florida basketball game tomorrow night at Thompson Boling Arena. I'm really looking forward to going with my dad, who I haven't gone to a game with in years. I think I'm more excited about spending time with him than going to the game itself (don't get the big head, dad... :) ) Especially looking forward to this, but am a bit nauseated at the prospect of this.

Finally, big projects at work weigh heavy, but are either out of my hands completely or I continue to wait on content, graphics, etc. Corporate websites are a huge collaborative process, but sometimes people tend to place that as a small priority in their daily responsibilities. And the guy whose job it is to build the sites has no choice but to wait.

I hope everyone had a good weekend!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday's Feast

Friday, February 23, 2007 - Feast One Hundred & Thirty Two

Appetizer - Where on your body do you have a scar, and what caused it?

Last year I was at the Oak Ridge Playhouse rehearsing the band for dress rehearsal week. We had set up in the lobby, and I needed to run down to the stage to get some instruments. I ran down the aisleway and, suddenly thinking I was still in high school, broad-jumped onto the stage. Well, that was the plan, anyway. I was wearing shorts, and something on the edge of the stage caught my thigh and cut a nice long (but shallow) gash. It hurt like crap for several days, and there's still a scar. The embarrassment of it all was the worst part...

Soup - What is something that has happened to you that you would consider a miracle?

Many years ago my wife and I were driving back from North Carolina to Tennessee via I-40 through the Smokey Mountains. If you've ever driven that route, you know it's very twisty and turny. That day there happened to be a lot of traffic, and it was particularly stressful making sure you didn't smash into the person in front of you (and the guy behind you avoided doing the same). I turned my head to say something to Laura and glanced back to see traffic had come to a complete stop in front of me, while I was still tooling along at 40+ mph. I slammed on my brakes, actually pressing the pedal all the way to the floor for the first time I can recall. We screeched to a halt behind the car ahead of us with only a couple inches to spare.

Playing on our tape player? "Angels Watching Over Me" by Amy Grant.

Salad - Name a television personality who really gets on your nerves.

Oh, so many. Simon Cowell, though I never watch American Idol. I've never been able to watch Jeffrey Tambor act. Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly grate on my nerves, as did Rush when he had a show. The most worthless, annoying and unwatchable user of airtime in the history of television, however, has to be Howard Stern.

Main Course - What was a funny word you said as a child (such as "pasketti" for "spaghetti")?

I can't think of any I used to say, but my son said "wakkim" for napkin and "ashleye" for eyelash. He still gets kidded for that by his little sister...

Dessert - Fill in the blank: I have always thought ______ was ______.

I have always thought improv comedy was the funniest comic form today.

Ok, that was lame...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bridging the Gaps

Cathy asked in comments to this post how we liked Bridge to Terebithia. I responded in the comments, but I wanted to repeat them in a post.


I enjoyed the movie and thought the acting was very good, especially by the girl who played Leslie. The acting of the other kids was good as well, although the directing was off sometimes - if the big bully boys were supposed to be tough, why were they singing and clapping and participating with the music teacher just like everyone else? Every bully I even knew detested "participating" and especially in music. It would've been more believable for them to have acted as if they were barely interested. Since they participated, I kept expecting them to come around at the end like the girl bully did. But it didn't happen so it felt a bit fake.

Speaking of the girl bully (whose name escapes me), it bothered me a little that Jesse and Leslie didn't seem to feel a twinge of guilt at the pain they caused her over the fake love letter. I was the recipient of one of those practical joke letters long ago and while I wasn't actually interested in the girl it was supposed to be from and assumed it was a fake from the tone of the note, if I had thought it was her and gotten my hopes up, I would've been crushed. But the movie seemed to take special care to present it as an acceptable form of "revenge". The girl was truly hurt and I thought the movie did a disservice to the audience by not addressing this as wrong.

I don't know how old the characters are in the book, but the kids almost seemed to old to be participating in the kind of "make-believe" that Leslie and Jessie were, which kind of took me out of that aspect of the movie a bit. I'm all for escapism and fantasy, and for not losing the aspect of childhood as we move into adolescence (goodness knows I still have it) but Jesse didn't seem to have enough of a "fantasy life" outside Terebithia to justify its creation. Sure we saw him draw and draw well, but nothing else in his life suggested he had any interest in fantasy worlds - trolls, kings, castles, faeries, magic, etc.

I would have liked to see him exhibit either more of a previous interest in fantasy, or come to embrace Leslie's vision of it more slowly. It was too quick and easy. For 7-yr-old Maybelle it was easy to believe, not for 12-yr-old Jessie.

The part where the teacher took Jessie to the museum, basically without her getting his parents permission herself, was creepy. If it had been another movie, I would've assumed some nefarious intent and if I were Jessie's parents I would be highly peeved that she just called him up - personally - and basically asked him on a date without consulting them. Teachers don't interact with students outside of class, especially middle-school-age and up students, without the parents being involved on the front end. I loved that she recognized his talent and wanted to take him and introduce him to the larger world of art but the way she did it suggests things we don't need to see and kids don't need to see as acceptable.

None of the kids we took seemed shocked or particularly upset that the girl died, but almost every one expected her to be in Terebithia at the end, waiting for Jesse and Maybelle. Or even thought she faked her death and ran away. They didn't want her to be gone, and didn't want to accept that fact. In tried and true boy fashion, they invented ways for her to come back. I'm not sure if that's a denial impulse or a male desire to "fix things" but I thought it was interesting.

This may seem a rather negative review, but overall I truly enjoyed the movie. Some of the parts above brought me out of true believability however and I think that was the director and scriptwriter's fault more than the actors or technical minds. Apparently the creator of the Rugrats kids show directed it, and that may explain some lack of acceptable maturity seen in the older kids.

I may be criticizing the filmmakers unfairly based on problems with the source material itself, but I haven't read the book so I don't know. I do know, however, that filmmakers have a responsibility to present positive messages to young people today. That doesn't mean everything in a movie has to be sanitized to the point there is no real conflict or controversy - not at all. I do believe that they need to recognize what things are good what things are bad, and present them that way. If a character stumbles, show the effect of the stumble and how they deal with it. If they do something good, celebrate it. If they do something bad, acknowledge it, explain it, and show how they deal with it (or don't deal with it - either is good storytelling). The ending of the movie, how Jesse dealt with Leslie's death by dealing his relationships with his father and sister, was spot on. But some of the other parts of the movie I illustrated above needed to be addressed in some way that was not. Even small, seemingly insignificant points can be stored by a child and pulled out in a real life situation at a later time without understanding their meaning. I hope a kid somewhere that's being bullied doesn't get the idea that writing a fake love letter is a good way to get back at the bully. It may be a satisfying way of taking revenge at the moment, but revenge is never a positive response to conflict. We need to emphasize that.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Beat Goes On

The overnighter was a big success. The kids decided to have a Jurassic Park marathon and collectively they watched all three movies back to back. I only made it half-way through the second one (the worst of the three, IMHO) and crashed about 2:30. The next morning the ones who fell asleep during the third one watched that one again.

That night the Atomic Horns had another gig, this time in the beautiful Oak Ridge Moose Lodge Hotel Ballroom, Casino, and All-Night Laundromat. The room was kind of small but the crowd was happy, the beer was flowing and a minimum of cold air creeped in through the doors.

That's two gigs for the band, and the next is not scheduled until the end of April so we're looking for something in-between then to fill in the creative gap.

I have an opportunity, possibly, to direct a play down in Athens, TN. Still waiting on some details but if it happens I'll be going almost directly from it into music directing "Suessical" back here in Knoxville so it looks like it's going to be a really busy couple of months.

I've been fortunate to get a couple of freelance website design jobs as well that pulls in some extra money. The sites are for real estate companies opening up new subdivisions, which is an interesting and fairly lucrative niche because a lot of what I do is simply redress the first site I built and use the new information with basically the same site structure. If I can keep these jobs coming in fairly regularly and find the time to do them, it will be a nice secondary (or tertiary?) source of income. In fact, I have my eye on a couple of new Dell desktop PC's....

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Bridge to Insanitia

Tonight Laura and I will host five ten-and-eleven-year-olds (plus BrainyBoy) in the annual birthday sleepover.

We'll go eat at McAllisters and then across the parking lot to Pinnacle theatre and see Bridge to Terabithia. Then everyone back to the house for munchies, DVD's, outdoor basketball, and general mayhem.

Tink has escaped to a grandparent's tonight and Laura will duck away early while I referee bounce torture facilitate the festivities all night long until everyone passes out.

Friday's Feast

What sound, other than the normal ringing, would you like your telephone to make?

Well, since we're starting off light I'll make a True Geek Confession. My cell phone rings with the theme to "Star Trek: The Next Generation".

Stop laughing.

But if would be cool if my home phone could announce, "*beep* Incoming transmission from ______ for Barry. Shall I put it on speakers, sir?"

Describe your usual disposition in meteorological terms (partly cloudy, sunny, stormy, etc.).

Sunny, but very hazy with occasional dark patches. Rarely rainy or stormy. Always warm, though.

What specific subject do you feel you know better than any other subjects?

Drama and music analysis, theory.

Main Course
Imagine you were given the ability to remember everything you read for one entire day. What books/magazines/newspapers would you choose to read?

a) The New Testament (as much of the epistles as I could). Proverbs would be good to have memorized, too.
b) So much news is fleeting, so there's no point to memorizing a newspaper or magazine...

If a popular candy maker contacted you to create their next candy bar, what would it be like?

White chocolate with pepperoni. Oh, and watermelon.

Hey, you asked...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Corporate Blogging Do's and Don'ts

Just got back from a lunch meeting of the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) of which Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds was the speaker. It was kind of interesting after reading his site for so many years and never meeting him, then seeing and speaking to him twice in one week. As a matter of fact, his wife Helen was there as well but I didn't get to speak with her.

His talk was about blogging in general, and corporate blogging and podcasting in specific. He mentioned how it's imperative for companies to monitor blogtraffic about themselves and their products, to head off negative or inaccurate information. Also corporate blogs and podcasts are increasing in popularity and demand (meaning more people are listening and more companies are asking for them) and they can be done fairly cheaply and simply, but they need to be done right and with creativity, individuality and not read like press release boilerplate.

Glenn's a good speaker and knows how to engage an audience. I enjoyed myself and made a few more contacts in the local internet community. Maybe I need to hang around him more often...

Oh, and the food was really good. Green beans with ham chunks, salad, chicken, garlic bread... Mmmmmmm.

UPDATE: Instapundit is all over the story. about self-referential...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Eat Your Brains

Great. As if we don't have enough to worry about these days:

Cadaver dog searches McClung rubble
A cadaver dog swept across debris piled two stories high at the site of the McClung warehouses fire to assure investigators nobody had been trapped in the rubble.
That's all we need - zombie dogs roaming the streets of town. Although they kinda fit right in with the County Commission of the Living Dead...

Over The Hill

Please help me wish BrainyBoy a happy 11th Birthday!

For the local bloggers, he's the one who was wearing my hat briefly Saturday evening at the restaurant.

He's currently working hard on not only a school science project but also his DI (Destination Imagination) team project. He started JV soccer last week, takes piano lessons and sings in a kids show choir as well as participating in a number of church activities. He's a busy young man and I'm very proud of him!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Center of the Universe

Can anyone claim that Knoxville's not the rich, creamy center of the blogosphere?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Top 10 Surprises at the Blogfest This Evening

Top 10 Surprises at the Blogfest This Evening

10. Perry Nelson wins rib-eating contest by stuffing 10 in his mouth at once. Still passed out under table.

9. Calhouns employees surprisingly unperturbed at SayUncle and Les Jones randomly firing off rounds into the rafters...

8. Rich Hailey looks surprisingly dashing in his Looney Toons pajamas.

7. Every 10 minutes on the dot, Michael Silence screams out, "Stop the Presses!!"

6. R. Neal mixing with West Knox Republicans surprisingly does not result in spontaneous combustion.

5. Supreme Court rules Glenn Reynolds term limited, wife Helen appointed to serve out the remainder of his term at Instapundit.

4. Bad reaction to spicy buffalo wings causes LissaKay to blurt out she keeps photos of Nixon and Reagan under her pillow at night.

3. Michael Faulk tearfully reveals he secretly loathes the mountains and would much rather live in a very deep valley.

2. Doug IM's Cathy to pass the salt. Cathy IM's Doug to hand her some butter. Doug IM's Cathy to remind her they need to pick up milk on they way home. Cathy IM's Doug that the baby needs changing. Not a word is said all evening....

And the #1 Surprise at the Blogfest This Evening...

1. Chase a kid, do a shot... Chase a kid, do a shot...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Blogger Meetup

All Knoxville-area bloggers invited to a blogger meetup this Saturday.
February 10
Calhouns West at Mabry Hood and Pellissippi
5:00 - ?

Be there, or...not.

Crash Cartwheels

So, if you were wandering the halls at Fort Sanders hospital this morning and heard a Code Blue called...well, yeah, that'd be me.

How's that for an opening line?

I went in this morning to have a Gall Bladder scan done because I've been having some pain in my side for some time now. I already went earlier in the week for a treadmill stress test and a echocardiogram to determine if there were any heart problems first. Everything seemed normal, although I have an elevated cholesterol level I'm going to have to try and bring down...

Anyway, the way the process works is they inject a radioactive substance through an IV which they can track as it passes through the gall bladder. After an hour has passed, they inject another substance that causes the gall bladder to contract. They can then scan the functionality of the little green organ.

So I sit down in the little chair to prepare for the IV. Now, in the past I've been subject to vasal vagal attacks when I see needles. I actually don't even need to see the needle, just knowing it's nearby can trigger a loss of blood pressure, the tunnel vision and *boom* I'm in the floor. I hadn't had this happen in a number of years, having had blood drawn on a couple of occasions, so I thought I'd put that behind me.

Not so.

As the tech inserted the IV needle into my arm, I could feel the world closing in around me very quickly. They asked me if I was ok but I wasn't really able to tell them I was going to faint - I really thought I could lick it if I set my mind to it and thought about something else. Well, my blood pressure dropped faster than Rex Grossman's hopes for a contract extension and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back on a gurney with about 6 or 7 people scurrying around me. The tech apparently erred on the side of caution and pushed the panic button, summoning folks from all around the hospital on the crash team. As I regained consciousness I was able to smile and talk, assuring them (through a fog) I was ok and it's happened before. They cancelled the actual Code Blue before all the cart equipment got there but the ones that were there stayed for a while to make sure my BP came back up and I was ok.

After about 10 embarrassing minutes I was able to resume the actual test. The IV was inserted with no further problems.

Fainting aside, it's not a test I'd like to take again anytime soon. While the radioactive dye courses through my veins, altering my DNA as it goes, I had to lie flat on my back for an hour under a machine that relayed the position of the dye to the scanners. Luckily I was able to watch a TV that swivels above me and rotated facing straight down. Unluckily it was tuned to Fox News (Our New Motto: "All Anna Nicole Smith - All The Time"). Anything you want to know about Ms. Smith's untimely death that was learned between 9:40 and 10:40 am this morning, I can tell you.

After the hour was up and my arms beginning to cramp, they injected the testing solution. Hey, bottle that stuff up and send it home with me, whaddya say? Actually, not. By causing the gall bladder to squeeze, it can cause cramping in the abdominal area the tech said, though I never really felt it. However I definitely felt the head-swimming nausea caused by the sudden rush release of the bile or whatever foul substance the gall bladder puts into my system for about 5 minutes. I broke into a cold sweat while taking many deep breaths, attempting to quiet my gorge. After about 5 minutes the effect passed, and I was finally up and out of there by 11:15. A little wobbly and sore but none the worse for wear.

Kudos to the staff at Regional's Nuclear Medicine department and the Code Blue team. I hope I didn't keep them from responding to a real emergency, but it's good to know they're on the ball.

I joked that I was just testing them :)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Friday's Feast

Friday's Feast

Friday, February 09, 2007 - Feast One Hundred & Thirty

Appetizer - Have you been sick yet this winter? If so, what did you come down with?

Amazingly, none of us at the Inn of the Last Home have been sick this winter. We all got flu shots, so that's good right there... but barely a sniffle or upset tummy in sight.

Soup - What colors dominate your closet?

Probably brown and green. Lots of work-casual stuff like khakis. My favorite color is green so there are several dark and forest green shirts in there as well.

Salad - How would you describe your personal "comfort zone"?

I'm not sure what this means, but I am very comfortable around other people in close proximity. I don't have a very rigid "personal space" and it doesn't bother me at all to be touched - either by a handshake, pat on the back, etc. I think a lot of human communication can be accomplished by touch and shouldn't be resisted. A good hug is a great thing :)

Main Course - On which reality show would you really like to be a contestant?

Since I generally loathe reality shows, I guess the current "You're the One That I Want" would be the closest since it's casting a Broadway musical. However, I'm nowhere near the Danny Zuko type so I don't think I'd get very far. Maybe if they were casting a new version of "Into the Woods"? One can only dream...

Dessert - Which holiday would you consider to be your favorite?

I've always loved Christmas so that's probably my favorite. The last few years I've developed a new affection for Halloween, though....

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Nature vs. Nurture

There's an age-old argument regarding how children are raised, and whether the paths they take in life are determined by their own genetic dispositions or the quality of attention and love given by their parents.

Wikipedia defines it:

Nature vs Nurture is a shorthand expression for debates about the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities ("nature") versus personal experiences ("nurture") in determining or causing individual differences in physical and behavioral traits. With the development of human genetics, many important human traits have proved to be partially or mostly genetic.
Three recent media events I've witnessed brought the concept to mind and got me to thinking. I'll be as brief on their descriptions as I can.

First was the movie "Matilda" I watched with my daughter, Tink, on ABC Family last week. It's a 1996 movie based on the 1998 novel by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach). The story is about a little girl who develops extraordinary powers controlled by extraordinary sweetness, while being raised by parents who are extraordinarily obnoxious. The first line in the movie says:
Everyone is born, but not everyone is born the same. Some will grow to be butchers, or bakers, or candlestick makers. Some will only be really good at making Jell-O salad. One way or another, though, every human being is unique, for better or for worse.
Somehow Matilda develops a fantastic intelligence, a love for books, a desire for learning, life skills, maturity and - oh yes - telekenetic powers, while growing up from birth to about age 7 in a house where her parents almost completly ignore her and are rude, obnoxious, self-centered boors. How is such a thing possible? How can a child develop his or her own sense of independence and maturity in an environment where such things are violently discouraged? Interesting question.

Next is a story few people are unfamiliar with, Harry Potter. Since being protected by his mother from evil Lord Voldemort, infant Harry was raised by his aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, who had their own pampered son. We've seen in the movies and in the books how the Dursleys didn't tell Harry of his powers and kept him basically as an indentured servant in their own home, housing him in a small room under the stairs and rarely speaking to him with any kindness whatsoever. (In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if J.K. Rowling didn't dip into Roald Dahl's bag of tricks for this living arrangement, as it's eerily similar to Matilda's family.) Somehow Harry develops an innate sense of kindness and generosity, once again independent of his aunt and uncle's personalities. Their own son Dudley is a complete doddering, doted on mess but Harry is so completely out of place he might as well not even be related.

It's interesting to note that both Harry and Matilda have supernatural abilities, which may explain part of their ability to resist the influence of their respective households. Yet I don't think even in the literary world the possession of magic powers specifically endows a character with innate "goodness". Two cases in point.

The last media example I noticed is the American TV series "24". Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) is the knight in not-so-shining armor who has saved America time and time again from nefarious bad guys, evil-doers, terrorists, ex-lovers, former bosses and wandering daughters. This season we meet Jack's brother, Graem and his father, Philip. Both men are high up in a multi-national corporation that has brokered nuclear weapons and nerve gas to terrorists, assassinated ex-presidents and controlled a sitting president. I believe it's safe to say these are not nice men. So how can ultimate good guy Jack grow up in a house where his father and brother were so mustache-twirlingly evil and not see what's going on, much less stay good himself?

The Bauer story is a much grayer area (no pun intended) than the two previous tales, because we've seen Jack use methods that would make even the worst "good guys" turn pale. Decapitation, shock torture, cold-blooded killing - none of these tactics would be considered "good guy" tactics, yet since Jack's motives seem to be (mostly) pure and done when they had to be done, he is forgiven. Only brother Graem, under Jack's torture in this past week's episode, reminds Jack that they are the same - two men fighting for what they believe to the best of their ability. They just happen to be on two different sides - neither good or evil. Just grey. This may be what Graem thinks, but Jack's loyalty to President Palmer I and his devotion to his friends, wife and others speaks volumes for the character Graem lacks.

Speculation abounds that Jack's deceased mother must have been a saint to counterbalance the influence of his father. That remains to be seen... There is no evidence at this point to suggest Jack's early home life was anything but ideal - perhaps later this season more details will emerge, in fact it's very likely we'll learn a lot more about Jack's history with his father and brother. I doubt, however, his home life was anything like Matilda's or Harry's - if Jack had been kept under the stairs, he would have broken out years before. Yet, Graem's assertions aside, there's no doubt Jack Bauer is a fundamentally very different person than his father and brother.

So there are three fictional examples of people brought up in homes where the families are horrid yet the children turn out to be moral and upright citizens. How is this possible? How do these children actually learn what it means to be loyal, to be kind, to be fair and understanding and patient and studious when nothing of the sort is taught to them? In fact, the opposite is taught. Matilda's parents hate reading, love TV, are crooks and can't believe she's a prodigy. Harry's aunt and uncle fear his his witchcraft heritage, ignore him, insult him and try to keep him from learning who he is. Jack's past, as I say, is a bit murkier but it's safe to say his father and brother were completely business and money-oriented, and while there's obviously a strong connection between Jack and Philip (witnessed by "The Look" Philip gives Jack during the torture, in which Jack backs down guiltily), it can't be a connection with a lot of love and mutual respect.

It's easy to explain these away as fictions - in fiction you can do whatever you want. 24 frequently plays fast and loose with logic (from Central to Southern California in 5 minutes???) and if Roald Dahl or J.K. Rowling wanted their creations to sprout third arms, know all the verses to "Rocky Top" or have a small colony of gnomes living under their bed that wear purple stockings and recite bedtime stories, that's all within their power. Do the family, "nature vs. nurture" assertions translate to real life, though?

Here's the real question: If one is to accept as an axiom the possibility a "good" child can grow up in a "bad" family, is it equally possible that a "bad" child can grow up in a "good" family? Is a child's innate, genetic nature independent of whatever influence a parent might have on them? Or do they have any actual choice in how they turn out?

I consider ours a "good" family. My wife and I love each other and don't fight too much :) We have two smart kids that are kind to others and mostly kind to each other. Laura and I are educated, teach right and wrong and Tink and BrainyBoy generally respond positively to discipline and instruction like most kids do. They're smart, creative, talented... they're not exposed to cruelty or ridicule except on an abstract evening-news scale. I have no real fears either will turn out to be anything different than well-adjusted, happy members of society.

But I've seen too many instances where families may also think they're "good families." They provide for their kids monetary needs. They give them opportunities for education, sports, extra-curricular activities, amusement - anything a kid might want. But is the emotional connection there? One but has to turn a jaded eye to deep West Knox County and the million-dollar homes with the business-obsessed dads and the status-obsessed moms (and vice versa). Witness the debate over relieving overcrowding at Farragut High School by rezoning Farragut kids to the new high school being built nearby - the outcry from Farragut parents that our kids might have to leave the safe halls of FSH and mix with their kids (the heathens at Karns and Bearden also being rezoned to alleviate overcrowding) was too much for the status-conscious to take. That kind of attitude reflects a greater desire for status and superiority than truly looking to create the best possible school environment for their children.

It's those kinds of things - nurturing aspects that on the surface seem commendable but when you dig deeper turn out to be selfish on the part of the parents, and don't care for the kids at all - that present a danger when raising kids. I go through the same thing at times, wondering time after time if my playing in a band or music directing plays takes precious time away from my kids to satisfy my own creative needs. While it brings in extra money and keeps me sane, does it always justify the time away? It requires constant attention and vigilance to ensure one's kids are being raised the best way possible, with enough love and caring and attention to who they are, not who you are.

I am concerned about all the kids whose parents don't provide the right environment for them in the home. Whose own situation in life is more important to them than their kids'... Maybe it's possible for a Matilda or Harry or Jack to come out of a home where the parents are neglectful, uncaring or cruel. I certainly hope so.

But it could equally be just a fiction. I'd love to think that some kids in bad homes will turn out good. It's up to us, though, to make positive childhoods a reality.

Spirit of the Law

Moore: Ethics panel nominees broke law
Knox County Commission Chairman Scott Moore alleged Tuesday that four commissioners nominated for the new Ethics Committee violated the Open Meetings Act by gathering in Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale's office on Monday.

Participants countered that they merely waited in the office before walking together to a press conference announcing their nominations and did not discuss commission business.
Once again, the nominal leadership of our county shows its intelligence by alleging violations of the Sunshine Law - the very law the ethics committee will be investigating whether he and his cohorts broke in the first place.

Apparently no two commissioners can even speak to each other in passing without violation of the law. If they discussed the UT game last night, or maybe the Super Bowl on Sunday - is that illegal? Can two commissioners not even get together for lunch? And if they can, are they prohibited from discussing what color the carpet should be in the Meeting Rooms?

Next thing you know someone will be accused of violating the Sunshine Law by talking in his sleep. Lying in bed next to his wife, who is probably another commissioner the way things are working these days.

The purpose of the Open Meetings Act, or the "Sunshine Law":
The Open Meetings Act allows for "chance meetings" as long as there's no discussion of matters coming up for a vote.

[Ethics committee nominee and Commissioner Mark] Harmon said all the nominees did was greet one another and that "there was absolutely no deliberation whatsoever."
But that's not enough for people who like nothing more than being petty and vindictive. Knox Countians need to be on top of things like this....

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

And In Economic News...

Stock in Bluetooth wireless communication devices took an unexpected dip yesterday in heavy trading. Analysts contribute the fall to a projected decrease in overall nationwide usage, mainly due to the death of this man:

Graem Bauer, 45, was discovered dead yesterday of an apparent drug overdose. His brother Jack and father Philip was unavailable for comment.

An Untouched Comedy Mine

Astronaut to face attempted murder charge
A NASA astronaut charged with pepper-spraying and trying to kidnap a romantic rival was granted bail Tuesday, but her release was delayed after police announced they were filing an attempted murder charge against her, a corrections department spokesman said.

Astronaut Charged with Attempted Kidnapping
A NASA astronaut who drove hundreds of miles to confront a romantic rival, wearing diapers on the journey so that she would not have to stop to use the restroom, appeared in court today facing charges that included attempted kidnapping, and was ordered released on $15,500 bond.
When's the last time this kind of romantic triangle played out in the media? While the situation itself is very serious, can't pass up fresh territory like Astronauts Gone Wild without doing something.

I mean, this sounds like the plot of the lost episode of "I Dream of Jeannie", where Jeannie's evil black-haired sister attempts to kill her with a magical BB gun to win Major Nelson's affections...of course Roger Healy accidently gets in the way, Dr. Bellows witnesses something he wasn't supposed to and hilarity ensues.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh... keep from crying.

Jordan admits drug-dealing past
Newly appointed Knox County Commissioner Josh Jordan testified as a teenager that he sold cocaine for a drug dealer connected to the notoriously violent Florida Boys drug gang but said Friday he’s turned his life around since then.

Records from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1996 show that Jordan admitted peddling drugs — in the same district he now represents — when he testified against members of the gang.
I'm glad the guy's turned his life around. But in a normal world, how many former drug-dealers would be elected to Commission of a county the size of Knox? And in a normal world (not even a perfect world) how many would be appointed to a vacant seat without that kind of fact being brought up to assist in making an informed and responsible decision?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Friday's Feast

Friday's Feast

Friday, February 02, 2007 - Feast One Hundred & Twenty Nine

Appetizer - What was one of the fashion fads when you were a teenager?

I was a teen in the 80's - in fact, the entire 80's were my teenage years pretty much. So take your pick - parachute pants (had 'em), pastel shirt with white jacket (had 'em), Members Only jacket (had it), Panama Jack painters hat (had it - maybe that was a local thing), leg warmers (didn't have 'em)

Soup - Name one thing you think people assume about you when they first meet you.

If they meet me in the course of my job they probably think I'm a techhead. Although I design websites for a big local company, I'm probably the least internet tech savvy web designer out there.

Salad - On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how hard do you work?

Another work question. Actually the volume of work fluctuates from maybe 5 to 9, depending when I'm between projects or waiting on followup. I enjoy working and being productive, especially when the site is interesting or poses a creative challenge. It's doing the little piddly stuff like changing phone numbers on pages or adding and removing docs from the list of specialists in a local surgery center or some such that gets really tedious...

Main Course - If you were given a free 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl to sell anything you currently own, what would you advertise?

I can't think of anything I have that I actually want to sell, but if I had 30-seconds free in the Super Bowl I'd tell everyone across the country and the world how much I love my wife and kids, and that you can't buy that in a store from a commercial. Oh, and to hire me to direct a play. Wait-is my 30 seconds up??---

Dessert - Fill in the blank: I love to ________ when it is _________.

I love to lay on the couch and read a book or take a nap when it is warm and sunny outside, there's a nice breeze, the windows in the living room are open and it's utterly quiet with no one around.


Have you seen the commercial for the new movie The Messengers?

Next time it comes on, ask your kids if they hear the ultrasonic whistle...

Here's the premise: Supposedly there's a set of ultrasonic frequencies that only kids can hear, and as we get older we lose our ability to hear in that frequency range. This is a scientific fact - the movie states that there may be a visual range kids can only see and adults can't....and there lies - MADNESS!!!

Well, whatever. Anyway, at the beginning of the commercial there's a graphic of a sound wave, with the word "Ultrasonic" at the top (while the movie scenes are playing). The commercial came on last night while we were watching TV. We asked BrainyBoy and Tink if they could hear the sound, and they nodded as if, "duh..yeah". Laura and I looked at each other with surprise, thinking they were joking around. I backed up the DVR several times and we played it over an over - every time they could hear the whine, and we couldn't. This caused great amusement for BrainyBoy, though Tink thought it was "creepy" and wanted it to stop.

Amazing they can hear this frequency just fine, but can't hear me tell them to finish eating their dinner or pick up their shoes...

Note: the link to the preview site above doesn't contain the TV commercial, only the theatrical trailer. I haven't found it on YouTube yet, but if I do I'll post it.

Our Only Recourse?

Yesterday the Knox County Commission held allegedly illegal backdoor meetings to replace their term-limited brethren. In violation of state Sunshine laws, they apparently decided amongst themselves without public input who would be appointed to fill the vacant positions. The practice of fair governing was blatantly usurped in front of our eyes to insert relatives, friends and supporters of previous commissioners onto the board. A lawsuit was filed immediately thereafter contending said violations.

What can be done about it by Knox Countians? The obvious first option is to vote at the polls. But since 20% of the populace ever gets out to vote at any one time, that's difficult to do in an organized way. Plus since most candidates are floated out by the local corn-fed versions of the two political parties, there is often not much to choose from.

Lane wonders if we should "impeach the whole bunch for just being idiots." Were it that easy, we'd do it in a heartbeat.

I wonder if it's not time for another recall proceedings, this time not directed at the city mayor's office at City Council but County Commission.

The 2006 True Stella Awards

The 2006 True Stella Awards

Issued 31 January 2007

(Click here to
confirm these are legitimate.

#5: Marcy Meckler. While shopping at
a mall, Meckler stepped outside and was "attacked" by a squirrel that
lived among the trees and bushes. And "while frantically attempting
to escape from the squirrel and detach it from her leg, [Meckler]
fell and suffered severe injuries," her resulting lawsuit says.
That's the mall's fault, the lawsuit claims, demanding in excess of
$50,000, based on the mall's "failure to warn" her that squirrels
live outside.

#4: Ron and Kristie Simmons. The
couple's 4-year-old son, Justin, was killed in a tragic lawnmower
accident in a licensed daycare facility, and the death was clearly
the result of negligence by the daycare providers. The providers were
clearly deserving of being sued, yet when the Simmons's discovered
the daycare only had $100,000 in insurance, they dropped the case
against them and instead sued the manufacturer of the 16-year-old
lawn mower because the mower didn't have a safety device that 1) had
not been invented at the time of the mower's manufacture, and 2) no
safety agency had even suggested needed to be invented. A sympathetic
jury still awarded the family $2 million.

#3: Robert Clymer. An FBI agent
working a high-profile case in Las Vegas, Clymer allegedly created a
disturbance, lost the magazine from his pistol, then crashed his
pickup truck in a drunken stupor -- his blood-alcohol level was 0.306
percent, more than three times the legal limit for driving in Nevada.
He pled guilty to drunk driving because, his lawyer explained, "With
public officials, we expect them to own up to their mistakes and
correct them." Yet Clymer had the gall to sue the manufacturer of his
pickup truck, and the dealer he bought it from, because he "somehow
lost consciousness" and the truck "somehow produced a heavy smoke
that filled the passenger cab." Yep: the drunk-driving accident
wasn't his fault, but the truck's fault. Just the kind of guy you
want carrying a gun in the name of the law.

#2: #2: The
specialty search engine says Google should be forced to include the
KinderStart site in its listings, reveal how its "Page Rank" system
works, and pay them lots of money because they're a competitor. They
claim by not being ranked higher in Google, Google is somehow
infringing KinderStart's Constitutional right to free speech. Even if
by some stretch they were a competitor of Google, why in the world
would they think it's Google's responsibility to help them succeed?
And if Google's "review" of their site is negative, wouldn't a
government court order forcing them to change it infringe on Google's
Constitutional right to free speech?

And the winner of the 2006 True Stella
Allen Ray Heckard. Even though Heckard is 3 inches
shorter, 25 pounds lighter, and 8 years older than former basketball
star Michael Jordan, the Portland, Oregon, man says he looks a lot
like Jordan, and is often confused for him -- and thus he deserves
$52 million "for defamation and permanent injury" -- plus $364
million in "punitive damage for emotional pain and suffering", plus
the SAME amount from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, for a grand total
of $832 million. He dropped the suit after Nike's lawyers chatted
with him, where they presumably explained how they'd counter-sue if
he pressed on.

©2007 by Randy Cassingham, Reprinted with permission.