Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Utah is Last in Spending on Secondary Education

I heard a report yesterday on TV that Utah is dead last in spending per pupil on secondary education in the US. The average spent by a state in this great United States is just over $10,000 per year. Utah spends just under $6,000, New York spends $17,000.

We all here knew Utah was the cheapest state in the Union with respect to spending on our kids. We often volley back and forth with Mississippi for largest class rooms and least amount of money spent. We can't even say anymore "at least we aren't Mississippi". I suppose the Mississippians are saying "At least we aren't Utah".

The TV talking head gave as justification for this poor record on spending that "in Utah we have big families". That is crap. Not that we don't have big families, but to use that as the reason we don't spend as much money on our kids' education is a huge copout.

We don't spend money on our kids because our legislature would rather use our taxes as incentives to their friends' industries or not raise taxes at all or trade our state lands (the taxes from state lands goes to schools) for below market rates.

It is amazing that we get the quality of student we do in Utah with such a poor spending record.
Our kids are well educated relative to our stature (or lack thereof) in the rankings of spending. This is a testament to the dedication and sacrifice of the secondary teachers. We routinely hear of teachers using their own money for supplies.

We (the liberal commie left wingers) have been saying for many years that we would gladly do away with the multi-million dollar subsidies to Wal-Mart or Kennecott to give more to our kids. Every few years the legislature gets shamed into throwing a few bucks at the education problem in the hopes it will go away.

At least we aren't Mississippi where they don't have the quality of student or the business base for the kids to get underpaying jobs below their level of education just so they can spend more money at Wal-Mart or Xengo.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ho Do They Come up with This Stuff?

It is hard being a Utah legislator, the Governor included. In my daily wade through the Utah section of "my favorite newspaper" this stuff just jumps out at me.

This week two things hit my "What the H@!!" button.

The first was that a Utah legislator came up with the brilliant idea that it should be mandatory to teach gun safety in Utah schools. That would be neat to see little Jimmy packin heat.

In all fairness the article did cite as the reason for this consideration a recent death of a 6 year old who found a gun in her parents bedroom and fired it. The article went on to say that the course could be taught as part of health class, would be gun nut neutral and would focus on what a child should do if they find a gun.

That all sounds good but everyone who believes this is the way this will be taught in say Bountiful or Provo hold your breath and stand on your head.

The other bit of wonderment from our esteemed leaders was a call from our grand poobah, Gov. Gary Herbert. After seeing how long it took to get to the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner (25 years) he wants the appeals process for condemned prisoners streamlined so executions can be carried out more expeditiously.

Ever heard of the Constitution? Guess not.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Midvale Takes the Meat out of Taco Stands

Catchy title ha? That is the title I thought "my favorite newspaper" would run. They are usually so good at silly double entendre headlines, choosing to spend their time there rather than on unimportant stuff like facts and spelling, but enough about "my favorite newspaper".

Yesterday there was an article in the Utah section about Midvale inacting a law to limit the size of the Taco Carts allowed on Midvale streets to 6 feet x 4 feet.

I am a fan of these rolling fonts of delicious meat and hot spicy condiments. They allow you to pull over anytime and get a meal for cheap. The food is usually very good and it lends a little atmosphere to an otherwise white washed landscape. I try to frequent one in particular in West Valley City that seems busy all the time.

Many of the cart owners in Midvale shelled out many thousands of dollars 5 years ago or less (that's when Midvale allowed these carts) to get set up. Now many of them will have to buy new carts to stay in compliance.Have you ever seen a 4x6 space, let alone worked in one? Go down to Home Depot and look at a 4x8 sheet of plywood and imagine lopping off 2 feet and then setting it on the floor. Now you are supposed to prepare and serve lunch from this space.

I think the 4x6 limitation is a chicken way of saying they don't want these vendors in their city. They know the vendors have put money into carts already and that they will have to invest even more to get into compliance. They also know that it will be hard to carry enough product in that small a space to make a living.

The really chicken thing about this is that Midvale used as their excuse "this is what the public wanted" and they didn't grandfather in these existing carts. That shows a lack of process and a determination to eliminate the element rather than working with these entrepeneurs.

My point of this rant is that we need this sort of diversity in our towns. Midvale has a sizeable Latino community. They should be celebrating this segment of their population rather than trying to eliminate it because it is a little messy or not what they are used to.For those of us from the East, street food is a way of life. The good stuff comes from vendors planted in your way as you stroll along a busy street. If you feel like a hot dog or pretzel you can just pick one up.

Stand up for our brothers and sisters who would provide us with outdoor sustinance. Go down to Midvale this weekend (where exactly is Midvale anyhow? - I looked it up: I-215 to 7800 S and I-15 to 1300 East - approximately - my appologies to Midvalites who are outside this general boundary description) and get a few tacos. While you are standing there sipping your Oranchata and trying to keep the hot juices from dripping down your arm, tell the vendor you appreciate what they are doing and that you are not going to patronize Midvale brick and mortar stores if the council doesn't do something about taco stands. Happy eating.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Helen Wait - Complaint Department

I feel like I am just peeing into the wind when I put up posts like this but it makes me feel better so here I go.

Why is driving so hard? If people just took a little time to think about what they are doing and concentrate on the task at hand rather than eat/text/put on makeup/read a book we could all get along much better.

This morning I was heading down 4800 South in the right lane (the lane closest to the curb). About a hundred yards ahead of me a car poked its nose out into the lane of traffic from a business parking lot. The lady inside was on the phone and she proceeded to slowly inch her way into the road, as if I wasn't even there. I had to slow down to a crawl to avoid hitting her.

It seems like this sort of inconsiderate, careless, dangerous action is happening more and more. Every time something like this happens I put on my lights to let the person know I am there. I can't remember the last time I went out and my lights were off for the whole trip.

I suppose it is the price we pay for a society that values the one over the whole. People think more about themselves than others. If people would just focus on driving and think about how to get along traffic flow would move much easier and we wouldn't waste so much time and money.

Yes, these inconsiderate acts cost us all money. How much money could we save if everyone who was at a left turn light actually paid attention to the turn signal and went when they were supposed to. Another two or three cars would get through the light and this would save gas.

Don't even get me started on merging. Does anyone in this blessed state know how to merge? The result is that the traffic backs up at a merge and we waste gas waiting for people to figure out that merge means one from the left and then one from the right and then repeat.

Anyhow, I don't have any delusions that I can change this. I know I will just have to "take it up the tailpipe" as Jim Carry says in "Liar Liar". I could take a zen approach and wish everyone well on their way and not get upset. Naaaaahhhhh. I think I'll go to Smith and Edwards and see if they have any projectile launching devices I can mount on my car.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gary C, Ronnie Lee and Does Organic Mean Organic?

I read the continuing accounts of the debate over Gary Coleman's estate and will(s) with sadness. The poor little guy lays in the morgue waiting for his "friends" to decide what to do with him. It is an embarassing end to a short life (that is what I am talking about - I can't even say something nice without the probability of a pun filtering in) filled with turmoil for him. I can do nothing but feel empathy for him.

I guess my bleeding heart is on one today because I turn the page and read about the refusal of the Utah Board of Pardons to commute Ronnie Lee Gardner's death sentence. I know we got them thar rules and laws in this country and where would we be if we sought to understand and be compassionate rather than seek retribution, but this case has caused me to look at my feelings about the death penalty.

I used to be a death penalty advocate. If you do the crime you got to be able to do the time. We can't have people killing others with wanton disregard and then just taking up space. Besides our nature says it isn't right to let someone off without the appropriate level of consequence.

Then along came Ronnie Lee Gardner. He doesn't care what he did or why he did it. He just wants to save his neck. He had a bad childhood; so did a lot fo people and they didn't kill a lawyer while trying to escape from their initial murder trial? My point is that he is exactly the type of guy we should consider commuting his sentence because he really doesn't seem rehabilitatable.

Everyone who is on death row has an excuse, a reason they are there and a consideration for why they shouldn't be killed. I don't think it is the reasons so much as the act. Do we really have the right to take another life? Is is right for us to judge another's salvation?

I know we can't have them running around loose and there are practical considerations like the cost of incarceration versus terminating his or her existance. I don't know the solution but I don't think killing them will do anything for anybody except make the victim's family and us as society feel better.

I think we should be more enlightened and empathetic than that. That is my point of view.

The last item in this rant is a news article I read about food labeled as "organic". The label is allowed to be put on all products that are raised without artificial enhancers or drugs. The USDA (United States Separtment of Agriculture) regulates who and what gets to put this label on food.

The problem is that a lot of food comes from foreign countries and the USDA doesn't do a good job of monitoring the growing practices outside the US. The word of caution was that when you see the green round USDA "Organic" label on a food product, check to see where it was grown. If it is labeled as made outside the US, you may not be getting the produce or meat you thought you were getting. Just trying to help.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What the Heck?

I was crusing the isles at my local mega mart and found this. It was near the other processed meats in a can and was only 59 cents. I picked it up and looked closer.

I thought "what the heck is 'Potted Meat Food Product"? I had an uneasy feeling but I decided to look on the back. My worst fears were confirmed.


That's worse than reading all those chemical names. What exactly is "Mechanically Separated Chicken" and "Partially Defatted Cooked Fatty Tissue"? Never mind, I really don't want to know. I think it is all the stuff they can't put in hot dogs.

Another clue is the wording "Food Product". That means the FDA won't let them say "meat" without saying that it really isn't meat.

Caveat Emptor - read the labels.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Yesterday I took a mental health day and we went to Ogden.

We took Frontrunner, which in itself was a blast. The cars are double-deckers so you can sit in the top row and watch all the single driver cars go by on Legacy Highway and I-15 (pretty rightously indignant of me huh?). The trip took about an hour from the 5300 so. Traxx station to the Ogden Frontrunner depot. The best part was that it cost only $12 for 4 of us for both Traxx and Frontrunner. I don't know how crowded it gets during rush hour but there were plenty of seats for us during the seniors run.

We then went to a place only a few blocks from the Odgen Frontrunner station called iFly. It is a big fan in a tall room that lets you simulate skydiving without the fear of hitting the pavement at terminal velocity. It was a blast.

Again we were there during off peak time, but the instructor spent a lot of time with us telling us how to get the most out of our experience. Each of our "flights" (we had two of them lasting about 1 and a half minutes each) was guided by the instructor. On the second "flight" he did a few tricks with us, letting us soar up to the top of the tall room (30 -40 feet tall) and down again. What a rush! It was a bit of a workout but it beat the heck out of a ride at the other amusement park in that area. The cost was a bit steep ($50 each) but I would definately go again. You really felt like you were skydiving and there was no fear of suffering from deceleration trauma.

We also got a video of each of our turns set to reggae music. All in all a really fun experience.

Friday, June 4, 2010

What is Wrong with the Movies?

The Movies have changed in the past 40 years, and in my opinion not for the better.

Movies used to be made because someone cared about a story and they were able to assemble the right people to tell that story. Yes, some of them became iconic representations of what people felt at the time, but that was a result of the movie being made, not the reason for it.

I was watching a movie review program this week and they were recapping the movies from the first half of 2010. I hadn't seen any of them. I thought about the last time I went to see a movie in the movie theater.

I saw "Sherlock Holmes" with Robert Downey Jr. at Christmas. Everyone I went with said they liked it. To me it was 2 hours of video games. Every 3.2 seconds something or someone was flying through the air, clinging to life, or about to have their life ended.

That's why I don't go to the movies. Too many are made to be blockbusters, as Sherlock Holmes was. They go into production expecting to be the next big thing. They give the audience what they want so they can tally up the numbers and say "I told you this would be big". That is why we get the video game masquerading as a movie, because that's what the "audiences" want.

The story telling movies are relegated to the Indie festivals, most being seen by artsy-fartsy types (some of my best friends are artsy-fartsy types) and don't get into general release unless someone channels them into the mainstream movie market.

What happened to the making of movies like "Its a Wonderful Life", "Twelve Angry Men" and "The Great Escape". These movies were made because someone cared about the story and had the ability to tell it.

There are a few crafts men and women who are doing this now. Rob Reiner and the Coen Brothers are a few. Look at "The Princess Bride" and O Brother Where Art Thou?". Neither of these were accepted by the general public until they were in release for a while. Many of these artist's films are still unknown to much of the public.

Back to the movie review show. I don't want to see a movie in its first run because I don't believe the hype. The studios promote the heck out of a film because they have so much at stake with each film. They can always find someone to say "this is the film of the year" and I don't want to spend countless hours and dollars seeing everything that comes out and weeding through the dross to find the good stuff.

An example is the movie "the Hangover". I think this is a really funny movie. I have rented it several times and I still get a kick out of it. The thing is that there are so many ensemble guy movies out there, most of them really bad (the latest that comes to mind is "Get Him to the Greek" and anything with Seth Rogen) and all claiming to be the next big thing, that I don't know where to spend my time and money until the movie has passed me by.

These movie review shows give me enough of a glimpse beyond the hype that I can whittle the field down to a few I want to see. I just wish I could get this information when the movie is first out. Oh well, I guess I will put my copy of "A Few Good Men" into the DVD player and wait for the next round of "the BEST Movie of the Year" to come out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day

We had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. We didn't go with the crowds this time. We went at our own pace and that seemed to work out just fine.

I wanted to do something fun this weekend, but each suggested activity came with throngs of people recreating along with me. This holiday is the unofficial opening of summer and with the cold wet spring we have had here in Happy Valley, it was a chance for the masses to get out and stretch.

On Thursday I noticed a lot of campers heading out of the city. The news reported that some of the high country camp grounds were still buried in snow. Camping sounded like the makings for a congested fight for survival rather than a relaxing long weekend.

On Friday my brother invited us up to the land. That sounded nice. We would be away from the crowds and it was only a two hour ride, rather than the 4+ to Moab.

They couldn't arrive until Sunday afternoon and we wanted to get back Monday so we decided to go up Saturday evening. We arrived about 9 pm, the roads were surprisingly clear of travel trailers and overloaded mini-vans. We set up our sleeping arrangements in the cabin and fell asleep to the sound of the wind and the light show of billions of stars over our heads.

We got up Sunday and went for a walk and then returned to the cabin to lunch and a nap. There is nothing like a nap in the day when there is nothing else to do and no one to bother you. I drifted off to sleep dreaming of the creatures that share this land with us. We often see evidence of other inhabitants on the land but rarely see one. They must lurk just out of sight, being curious but afraid.

That afternoon the others arrived and we had dinner. It was good to spend some time with my brothers and family. The kids are getting so big and are really fun to hang out with.

Just before we set off for home we heard a pack of dogs/coyotes/wolves. I'm not sure what they were but they howled and barked and yelped. We usually hear them in the spring, but these seemed closer. My brother and I sent off to look for them. As soon as we crested the hill outside of camp they went quiet. It was dusk and the light was dim. We couldn't see them at all but we knew they were there. We wanted around for a while until my brother suggested we might not want to encounter them. We scurried back to camp before it got dark and we might accidentally stumble upon them.

The drive back Sunday night was uneventful just like the drive up Saturday night. You wouldn't know it was a major holiday weekend. It was a pleasure, not at all what I expected.

We awoke in our own beds Monday morning and went about the day gardening and cleaning house. Except for a parking lot jam at Home Depot we were left to our own devices and set our own pace.

This less hectic pace allowed me to think about the people who are no longer with us but that have left a huge imprint on my life. Two women stand out in particular; my mother and my grandmother. I had time to reflect on how thankful I was that they were part of my life and that they would always be a part of me.

I am also thankful for the service men and women that have given their talents, time and in some cases lives, so that we may continue to take for granted the liberties we have. Each day I enjoy their efforts without knowing them.

Here I am back at my desk on Tuesday morning, my hands are rough from the yard work, I am sleepy and achy from the physical exercise, but I am thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to have a slow weekend and thankful for those who, seen and unseen, have done so much for me.

God Bless You.