Leave Alec Baldwin Alone

Yet another “news” story that drives me nuts. What is the fascination with Alec Baldwin’s marital and family problems? I am all for knowing a bit about the entertainers that show up on the big small screens, but diving into their problems is not what I consider news or even remotely entertaining.

Are we just so enthralled by peeking into these famous peoples’ lives? Do we get a kick out of seeing that yes, even famous people have problems? Maybe deep down (or perhaps not so deep) we want to see these people that seemingly have more than us in life, at least in money and fame, get knocked of their pedestal? Whatever it is, the media loves to run with it because obviously people are eating it up.

I wonder what gets said in the entertainment news editors office when a new tidbit of hurtful gossip blossoms into something they consider newsworthy. “Hey, looks like the Baldwin divorce is heating up. How can we exploit this and make their lives that much worse?”

Not that I condone what Alec said in his voice mail to his daughter; I don’t. I ask you though, who hasn’t said something anger that they later regret? Especially when dealing with kids! We are all just lucky no one cares enough to post our recording online and have it make national news. Give the guy a break and let them deal with their problems behind closed doors, in counseling, or however they need to; not in the public headlines. This coverage is definitely not helping things.

Will the media mongers feel a sense of accomplishment if they get Alec to finally get off 30 Rock as he has tried in an effort to focus on his family issues? Or, will it take Alec losing completely custody rights of his daughter to get that thrill they need? Why do we feed these animals the hits to their articles that get them looking for this kind of trash?

Hey, life isn’t always a rosy, but we don’t need to make it worse either. I too check out the accident as I drive by, but I don’t stop in the middle of the street and throw out insults to make them feel worse. Find ways to help the broken family deal with their hurt, not throw salt on the wound and tug at it to make it worse.

Winter Driving Isn’t Rocket Science

Winter has finally arrived in full force where I live. Some of you may have already had some big snowfalls, but yesterday was the first here in the Rocky Mountains for us. I enjoy all seasons really, so winter is neither good nor bad for me. I like the cold, I enjoy snow and I even enjoy driving in snow. I know, something is off in my head you are thinking. What I don’t enjoy is the drivers that have no sense about how to change their driving styles for the road conditions.

How hard is it really to recognize that when their is some snowfall and the temperatures drop that road conditions just might be a little less favorable than normal? Ice is not your car’s best friend, trust me. No amount of engineering into the roads and snow removal equipment efforts is going to completely remove the patches that can send your car a flyin’. I leave of the “when you least expect it” purposely here – because you should, EXPECT IT! If you allow for a little extra time in your commute to wherever you are headed, you can drive like a sane sharer of the road and avoid sliding your car around me, which is what I really care about.

Oh, I know, you have that wonderful SUV that makes you feel big and important, and impervious to any road conditions being a problem. Trust me, you are the worst ones on the road. You think 4WD is going to help you stop any faster? Little tip: nope. In fact, you have such a high center of gravity and bigger tires to go with that mammoth weighing tank you drive that you actually need MORE distance to stop than a smaller car. Uh oh, did I break your happy SUV owner bubble? Hey, I like enjoy 4WD on my truck too, but I also drive with some sense to keep that paint job intact.

As I said, I enjoy snow and the winter season. I have fond memories of sledding, snowball fights and forts, and playing in the snow throughout my childhood, and into my adulthood for that matter. I grew up in Washington State where snow was a plenty. Washington also has a lot of country road with big ditches for the regular rainfall we were so famous for. I also have fond memories of going out with my dad at each fresh snowfall and pulling cars out of those big ditches with our 4WD vehicles. And if you are from the Northwest, you know that most of those drivers were recent imports from California who didn’t realize you needed to slow down when there was snow on the road. Huh. I would have chalked that one up to common sense, but then I grew up in a state where we had “weather” 85% of the year.
So if you live in states that receive snow and ice, do us all a favor. Go find a big parking lot and do some practice driving. Get up to speed and put on your brakes, hard. Yep, you slide. Get used to the feeling and learn how to turn into that slide, pump your brakes and leave enough room to stop without sliding. Learn how to drive a little slower if the conditions require it. Save yourself the heartache of dinging up your fenders, or worse getting into a major accident. You’ll appreciate it, and if you live around me, so will I.

Creative Statistics Revisited

The top headline on CNN today made me feel the need to revisit my comments about how statistics are creatively used, primarily in popular news reporting.

First, I need to ask you to put aside your feelings about the war in Iraq – this is not a discussion on whether we should be there or whether we should have ever gone there in the first place. I am not asking your opinion of whether troops should be pulled out right away or any of that. What I am asking is that you evaluate what is being said in this headline and decide whether it was skewed according to the agenda of the reporter and likely CNN in general.

Creative Statistics Revisited

The headline states that “Most” what the withdrawal by 2008 or sooner, which is seemingly a fair statement. Read the first line of the summation next: “Nearly six in 10 Americans…” What exactly does nearly mean? Typically close to or so close that you could assume it has reached that number. If you read the article, there are plenty of other statistics quoted for various points, but we are never given the exact number that justifies their statement of “nearly.” Update: They have now added that it is 58% to the inside headline.

What bothers me is that a slim majority in a poll that likely has a margin of error that could drop it under 50% majority does not constitute the claim of “most.” Most indicate a vast majority such as 7 in 10 or higher. Again, this is not a question of your stance on the war and political situation, but on the slanted reporting habits that are clearly aimed at laying the groundwork to a political party change in the white house in this coming election. CNN has a clear agenda, just read between the headlines each day and see how things are reported. Every republican or independent party or individual has a negative spin regardless of the meat of the item being reported, and the opposite is typically true of anything from the Democrats.

Creative Statistics Revisited

I like to think of myself as a conservative independent, so this type of reporting always bothers me. I never vote by party and I try to be educated and vote for candidates that most closely represent my opinions on important issues. Unfortunately, I don’t have the general public makes enough effort to get to the facts and often takes headlines at face value. That belief pains me because news agencies so clearly have lost all ability to report in an unbiased fashion. This goes for news agencies on both sides of the fence.

So, once again, read carefully any time you see stats quoted or referenced to justify a point. Expect that most reporting may be a bit shady, and you will likely be closer to the truth.

Traveling Long Distance With Kids

I am currently traveling to the merry land of Disney for a family vacation, so we are getting plenty of “quality” time in the car on the trip there. Quality, of course, is a loose term to describe the periodic calm between the kid’s grumpy phases from so many hours in the car. I really have nothing to complain about, and I have a new appreciation for what my parents went through.

These days we have electronic crutches to help get us through the long distance drives with kids. Sure, we still deal with repeated “how much longer” and “are we there yet” whines from the back seats, but creating quiet distractions is much easier these days. We have the portable DVD player and a video iPod to keep the two middle kids distracted. The youngest has been better than we could have dreamed for such a long drive.

This makes me think back to what it was like 25 years ago when I was as young as some of my kids.

First, we drove a 1974 Toyota Corolla station wagon that my dad paid $500 for used and we did a little work on it to get keep it running. This was the compact style, so no backward seats in the rear (thankfully). Because there were three of us siblings, that meant we were packed in the rear set, and someone had the “hump.” You know what I am talking about. Knees shoved up high and uncomfortable, or spread to the side causing constant complaints from your brother or sister that you are in “their space.” My family today drives a Dodge Grand Caravan, meaning plenty of seat space, room to spread out the legs and plenty of storage for the luggage.

Next was the temperature issue. I have some discomfort where the AC is currently not hitting the back of my legs, but overall it is a pleasant 70-75 or so in the car while 102 degrees outside the car. No complaints here. Sure, we had AC in that car as a kid, but of course, dad didn’t turn it on. No, back then the AC took too much power from the engine, cost too much in gas, and in general could cause the engine to overheat if we left it on too long. Thus the phrase was often coined, “we have 4-40 AC”¦open up all 4 windows and go 40.” So, this meant we sweated our”¦well, let’s just say it was hot and miserable. Long vacation driving trips in the summer were usually dreadfully hot. Along with the heat, with the windows open driving 60 was also loud and headache forming. I am sure we contributed to the headache factor in other ways as well.

Here is one to add to that whole mess. I remember as a kid going on a scouting trip that required a few vans to transport kids and gear. I happened to be in a van that was not only sans-AC but also had problems overheating when going up long hills. The only remedy was to turn on the heat, full blast when going up the hill. That’s right, on top of the already sweltering heat from outside, we had to turn on the heater to pump it away from the engine directly into our hot box. Needless to say, we looked like a bunch of dogs with our heads out the window and tongues out traveling down the road.

Now back to the distraction topic. My kids get the luxury of surprise toys, games, books, and some added electronic time wasters; they have it easy. My parents did the old fashioned car version of just some books and homemade travel games to keep us occupied. I have nothing against what they did, in fact, we still throw those in the mix, just that they didn’t last all that long. Halfway into the trip, if we were lucky, all that was boring and we were looking for something more to pass the time. We still deal with the kid boredom, but I swear by the ability to show movies; it simply just passes the time. Definitely a luxury. Definitely just plain awesome.

Here ‘s another big difference, the speed limit. I know that 65 and 75 mph is not as fuel efficient as the old standard of 55 mph. Guess what, even the semi-tree hugger that I try to be I’ll give up a little fuel economy to get to the destination faster. Shaving off an hour or two from a long trip makes a huge difference. Don’t believe me? You must either a) not have kids, or b) have kids much older now and your memory is failing!

Here’s one difference that is admittedly “better” in the sense of safety, but was nicer before seatbelts. We are stringent enforcers of our kids (and us) always wearing our seatbelts. It’s simply not worth the risk. Back as kids, we were much looser on this necessity. We wore them, but we also took breaks while traveling to stretch out or get things out of the back. My wife remembers driving in the family VW Vanagon on long trips where kids would take turns sleeping on the floor. Now that could be nice, but I can’t bring myself to loosen up the seatbelt rules to let it happen.

Ever had sick kids in the car? Now that is a joy of all joys. Avoiding the gory details, along with a whiney, upset kid, car sickness is a mess that we would all be happy to pass on. Nothing beats the persistent odor of spew permeating the car for hours after the event as well. We have gained some wisdom from past experience and include a “sick bag” near the kids”¦just in the case; especially when traveling anywhere winding roads.

At this point I have to give myself a virtual pat on the back; there is one way I am different from the “old” generation of guys. I can handle taking frequent stops to make the ride more do-able. Jeff Foxworthy, among many comedians, has a great bit about guys and their need to make record time from point A to point B. I like to get to the destination as quick as the next guy, but I also am willing to sacrifice a little time in the interest of empty bladders and happiness. We plan strategic park visits along the way for kids to stretch their legs and work out the wiggles. See, we men can learn some things.

These are just a few differences I can remember between traveling in days past and now, but I am sure there are many, many more. I am thankful for the improvements, believe me. What can you remember from days gone by that was pain or simply unbearably difficult?

Lowering the Legal Drinking Age?

Rach, the “teen”

My hall has had five kids go to the hospital in the first six weeks of college. Everyone who lives in this hall is underage. Still, every weekend a group of us meet in the common room and we all walk together to the frat that’s having the best party. Clearly, underage drinking is a problem on my campus. But we’re not alone, this happens at almost every college.

We have had lots and lots of meetings and assemblies on how to take care of a drunk person, the signs of alcohol poisoning and when it’s time to call 911. But we haven’t had a single meeting on how to drink responsibly. This bothers me, not everyone experiments, but those who do, are not told how to manage themselves. Those who don’t drink are taught how to manage the drunk kids. Besides being unfair, this sucks for those of us who want to be responsible.

Lowering the Legal Drinking Age?

I’m angry that I went to a school that has greek life and a partying culture. The thing is, a lot of college presidents want to lower the drinking age. The president of my college isn’t on that list. He might or might not want to lower the age, I don’t know. But what I do know, is that drinking is a huge culture at my college, and yet the frats and sports houses are open every weekend letting freshman in. And that makes me regret my decision to come here. To be honest, the fact that there was a Greek life here had no effect on my decision, I didn’t even think about it.

So “mom” and “dad,” what do you think about the drinking age, the college presidents who want to lower it, and schools that have such a huge culture of drinking?

Mary, the “mom”

I have such mixed emotions about this.

I wonder why your college spends time teaching about how to take care of a drunk person instead of how to drink responsibly. I expect that their lawyers tell them that it’s unacceptable to lecturing on how to drink responsibly to an audience of students for whom drinking is illegal. That’s a shame, given the reality.

I wonder if those kids would drink so much if it wasn’t taboo – if there was a pub and having a beer or two was no big deal. Maybe the “greeks” still would, but at least the rest of you would have something else to do on the weekend.

I wonder how “we” can let an 18-year-old risk their lives serving in the military, but not allow them a beer.

Lowering the Legal Drinking Age?

I wonder how “we” can consider 17-year-olds old enough to marry and have a child, but not old enough to toast with a glass of champagne. (Of course, alcohol may well be how they got in the mess in the first place and, given the pregnancy, they shouldn’t be toasting anyway.)

I wonder how “our” system could actually charge nice kids like you with a crime if the authorities caught you having a beer with your friends.

Then I read what Stephen Wallace, Chairman of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) has to say on the issue and I think my wonderings are outdated. I was in high school (17 years old) at the time when the states were raising the drinking age. Having grown up with the drinking age being 18, I resented the change. I guess I still harbor that teenage resentment. But, as a parent, I have to take Mr. Wallace seriously. His statistics are eye-opening. The driving fatalities stat is the one that bothers me the most. The thing is, even if you trust your own kid to not drive drunk, what about everyone else on the roads? And, there is no way I think high school kids should be drinking and the lower the drinking age, the easier access to alcohol becomes for the high school set.

So, while I have some reservations about it, I think the legal drinking age needs to stay where it is. And, bottom line, I have trouble believing that this effort is going to get any real traction. As, for the culture of drinking, I have no idea how we fix that – maybe I’ll ponder it over a glass of wine later.

Lowering the Legal Drinking Age?

Brad, the “dad”

Really interesting, Rachel – and really disturbing. Because the Valkyrie came home from college just this weekend and told me about the three boys that live right across the hall from her in their co-ed dorm, and how two of them are drunk pretty much all the time, and the third about half the time. And that’s not really very unusual in college c. 2008, she tells me. La, la.

So I’m worried. Plenty worried.

I have to be honest: I was a pretty enthusiastic drinker in my twenties (post-college in my case, but so what?), and boy howdy, I was good at it. Lots of parties, and lots of stupid decisions. Inexplicably, I survived, and for some reason I lost the ability to function with alcohol in my system right around the age of 30 – apparently I’d used of all my Get Out of Hangover Free cards in less than a decade – so alcohol was a relatively rare thing in our house by the time the Valk and the Elf came along (they actually don’t believe my “back when I was drinking like a fish” stories; that’s just not me, they say.). But I know how easy it is to fall into, even for smart and stable kids; Frankly, I know how much fun it can be – at first when you’re young and bullet-proof. So yeah: it worries me.

But the Valk’s college isn’t quite like yours. The Chancellor has openly, repeatedly stated that he’s against lowering the drinking age – he thinks it’s just a ploy to avoid taking responsibility – and a big part of the school’s (apparently highly ineffective) orientation program was about not drinking, as well as dealing with the drunks you’d run into. They’re trying to cope by putting policies into place that isn’t quite ‘zero tolerance’ – and I agree with them, I think zero tolerance is a stupid, modern-day variation on Prohibition, and doomed from the outset. But they have already suspended one kid (for a first-night-at-college binge that resulted in alcohol poisoning) and said “Al-A-Teen or expulsion” to two others (including one of the guys across the hall) in her dorm alone. And AA has meetings right on campus, every night. What’s more, the RA’s have no trouble confronting the drinkers directly, and the Valk swears that these drinking kids, and others like them, are being ostracized from most activities. Binging is hugely popular with a small group, it seems, but avoided and even shunned by the majority — including, by the way, the majority of Greeks on campus.

So she says. And so I believe. Because I have absolutely no alternative but to trust she’s not into it. After all, at this distance, there’s nothing I can do. And as for changing the culture that says, “Drinking until you’re so hammered you throw up and fall over in your own sick is FUN!”…heck, I don’t know how it got to that point in the first place, so how can it be fixed? We just have to shiver in our jammies and hope that even the semi-healthy students will see just how dangerous and stupid binge drinking is, and take a step back into the Land of the Occasional Beer.

But truthfully? Confidence is low, Ground Control. Confidence is low.