Thursday, February 17, 2005

An awesome traffic jam

KSL News: 116th Troops Return Home

Ezra and I were on our way to get Brad from work when we ran into the most amazing traffic jam I have ever been in. It was just off Center on Main in Spanish Fork, and northbound traffic was pretty much at a standstill. I could see police lights ahead, and it took a minute or two to put that together with the crowds standing on the sidewalks, waving flags and signs. The 116th unit of the Utah Air National Guard returned home today, and apparently some twenty odd are from the Spanish Fork/Salem area.

Since I wasn't getting anywhere sitting in traffic, I pulled to the side, parked the car, and got Ezra out of his carseat. Then we waited until the fire trucks filled with soliders came past. We waved and cheered and pointed (Ezra liked the helicopter overhead especially), and the soliders waved back. Within a few minutes, the parade was past, we got back in the car, and were on our way.

But what a neat thing to have happened! I have so much respect and admiration for those men and women, and I feel like there's not a lot I can do for them. So it was amazing to have been able to welcome some of them home.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

On the lighter (definitely random) side

The U.S. Dept. of Defense will commission its newest attack submarine on February 19--the name of the sub is the USS Jimmy Carter. There are excellent reasons for naming a sub after our 39th president--for example, he is the only US President to have qualified in submarines (not sure what that means, but it sounds impressive).

However, among the more conservative folk on the blogosphere, there is a great deal of amusement over this announcement. Some of the best remarks can be found on NRO's group blog The Corner. A cartoon about the announcement can be found here.

By far the most amusing, however, are the snide remarks about Killer Rabbits. Having been born in the late 1970s, I was not previously aware of the event. Imagine how educated I feel having read this article! (Warning: Maybe I'm just hard up for a laugh, but this had me laughing aloud.) If you want pictures, look here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

One More Reason to Support Griffith

I thought Thomas Griffith, a BYU General Counsel that has been nominated by President Bush to the DC Court of Appeals, was awfully dumb to let his law license expire. It caused a hold up on his confirmation in the Senate. But I read about some comments he made (blogged elsewhere) that really made me reconsider him. Now I read this tidbit at the end of a Tribune article and I think he may have something going for him: common sense. Here is what the article said.

"Griffith has also been criticized for opposing a portion of a federal law that would give women opportunities in school athletics roughly proportionate to their population."

It sounds like Griffith was talking about Title IX. This is a piece of legislation with good intentions that just didn't make sense in practice. As you probably know, Title IX was supposed to make sure that if 60% of your college or university student body was female, then 60% of your student athletes would be female. No problem, right? Well, it turned out that football was a problem. Football squads had a zillion people with no counterbalancing female team. Thus, a lot of other men's sports got the axe to preserve the ratios. Men's gymnastics programs are harder to find these days. Gone are many wrestling teams. New womens sports were added.

So we built ratios that helped many women get into athletic programs (and be eligible for scholarships) than otherwise would have been--that is great. But it had to come at the expense of the men. It turns out that there is a higher percentage of men that want to participate in sports and receive sports scholarships than women. Instead of using the ratios based on interest and desire to participate, we based the ratios on raw gender percentages. This has resulted in an over-representation of women in college athletics compared to their gender's desire to participate.

At BYU, where federal money is less of an issue, some men's sports dried up anyway in part due to the lack of nearby schools against which to compete. We had a male and female club soccer team. Both wanted to become an "official" sport at the university. The men's team was winning national competitions against other club and college teams. But there could be no scholarships for the men. The women were able to become an official team and have done well in their own right.

I suppose the point is that decision about funding would wisely take into account more than the simple male/female ratio at a school. If this is the sort of thing Griffith advocates, then it is hard to see where the "critici[sm]" comes from.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Home birth and midwifes | Midwife legislation passes in close vote
A bill that requires training and certification of "direct entry" midwives passed the House Tuesday in a close vote, 41-30...The debate was at times emotional, technical and direct, with a number of House members saying the bill would actually make home deliveries of babies more dangerous rather than safer as advocates claim...Biskupski [D-Salt Lake, sponsor of the bill] said just the opposite is true: that by knowing the midwife is certified, and by signing a consent form before the birth, the mother will know the person helping her deliver her baby has been properly trained.

I'm seven and a half months pregnant with our second child, and Brad and I have discussed the motivations behind a home birth. (Please don't get me wrong, there is NO WAY in heaven that I want to deliever this baby anywhere but in the hospital, thank you very much.) But we are curious about it, as one of Brad's co-workers is training to be a midwife and is expecting to deliever her sixth child at home any day now. It's an interesting decision, and not one that I am going to condemn.
However, I do have some serious concerns and doubts about the process. We talked to one of my OBs (I was going to a clinic before we moved to Spanish Fork), and he gave us his opinion. He figured home birth is perfectly safe up to 90% of the time, especially if the mother has no risk factors leading up to the birth. But, unforeseen complications do arise in maybe 10% of births, which can put the mother or the baby or both at risk. Not always at risk of death, but of some kind of harm. The mother and baby must be rushed to the hospital in those cases, and precious minutes are lost in the transport. These same complications certainly can arise in the hospital, too, but there the mother is surrounded by trained medical staff and the correct monitors and equipment. Her chances (and that of the baby's) of recovering from the complication are much greater. In my doctor's opinion, a 10% chance is just too large, given there are other, safer alternatives available. I have to agree. Ezra's birth was relatively easy--no foreceps, no trouble, just a straight "catch", apparently; likely this next baby will be just as "easy" (ha, ha, ha). But I would prefer not to take chances.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Quoted on the Corner!

The Corner on National Review Online

One of my favorite blogs for politics and other stuff is NRO's The Corner. John Derbyshire wrote a bit about Intelligent Design (a counter-theory to the theory of evolution, the age of the earth, etc), and I responded with an email about my views on the subject, as a devout Mormon and a geologist. Much to my surprise, he posted much of my email on the Corner. Wow! I feel very flattered.

As a geologist, I am sometimes asked about potential interference between my faith and my profession. The short version is--there is no interference. I believe in God and I believe the earth is 4.6 billion years old. The long version? Well, check back here in a few days--I intend to post a longer blog about it soon.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Criminal cookie-dropping - LOCAL NEWS

I am flabbergasted by this story. Two Durgano, Colorado girls decided to bake some cookies and drop them off at doorsteps in their community. Apparently the doorbell ringing and running away (after leaving a plate of cookies at the doorstep) frightened a 49-year-old woman so badly she went to the hospital the next day suffering a severe anxiety attack. And then she SUED the girls for the hospital bill and pain and suffering. And WON the hospital bill money, which, incidentally, the parents were originally willing to pay if the woman wouldn't sue them further. She refused, and took them to court.

Shame on her. What a terrible, terrible way to behave. I don't care how scared you were. If you want to help the girls raise money to pay for the bill, you can go here. (scroll down a little)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Hamstrung teachers

From Reach Upward:
For all their lofty rhetoric, educator unions do not exist to serve the children; they exist to serve their members. And as you can learn in any collegiate organizational behavior course, all organizations, including unions, take on a life of their own and seek to expand and propagate themselves. Today’s educator unions have departed from even serving their rank-and-file members to merely serving themselves. They have become powerful lobbying groups that promote bleeding-edge leftist policies and that serve their officers and staff.

My oldest sister was a teacher in the Clark County School District for five years, and she used to complain about the union. She was a member (it was practically required), but she mildly resented the money that went for dues, and she certainly didn't think they represented her interests.
Thanks to educator overrepresentation in our education system (and probably due to a lot of parental apathy), schools have become increasingly bureaucratic and are hamstrung by policies that prevent implementation of improved teaching methods. Teachers are just as much hostages to this system as are students and parents. They are often not even able to consider better teaching methods due to heavy-handed union contracts.

In addition to not being "able to consider better teaching methods," good teachers are often forced to implement new "better" programs every few years, at considerable cost to the schools and considerable time for the teachers. When my sister first began teaching at a particular Las Vegas elementary school, she was taught to use a certain reading program. Within three years, this program was replaced by another reading program, which required the teachers to be trained and drilled on the techniques to be used. My sister's main interest (and therefore studies) is in early childhood reading instruction, and she did not think that either program was that spectacular. However, true to the contracts and requirements of the school district, she could not deviate in the slightest from the reading program rules. She could not choose to use a different, possibly better way to teach her students. And that, in my opinion, is a waste--of the school district's money (in licensing the reading program), my sister's expertise, and of the students' time in the classroom.

Don't Limit Family Size

At Reach Upward, Scott Hinrichs gave me a great perspective on an issue I hadn't thought about before. He references a Utah bill that would limit the number of children you could receive a deduction for on your income taxes. Why would this be a bad thing?

Dependent exemptions exist because our society recognizes the value that each individual brings to the whole. These exemptions exist to help parents raise the children that will become our next generation of workers, leaders, and thinkers. All dependent exemptions should be of equal value. Eliminating exemptions in excess of three sends the message that fourth, fifth, and sixth children are of no value to our society. It suggests that they are only a drain. It would effectively establish a government policy stating how many children you should have.