31 December 2009

The End of the '00 Decade

First off, I want to emphasize that I'm sitting here writing a blog at 10:07pm Arizona time on New Year's Eve. We're now a mere one hour and 53... 52 minutes away from ending this utterly disastrous year and a decade of nothing but bad things.

I suppose the very fact that I'm here writing to a blogosphere that doesn't really actually read my musings on New Year's Eve instead of being out celebrating with friends is tribute enough to that. While I'm here, my sister has two of her friends over and they're currently running on the deck on the roof making a racket, Mom and Dad are attempting to find a movie to watch (unsuccessfully thus far), one of my brothers is watching "Burn Notice," the other is out doing God-knows-what with his crowd, and I can only assume my friends Matt, Angela, Scott, Ryan, and Abigail are having fun at their respective parties. Sadly, I did not get any offers of New Year's celebration parties for myself to attend, so I'm simply waiting for the ball to drop for a drink of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider and writing aimlessly.

That said, onto my point: this decade sucked. I mean, aside from a world-changing terrorist attack in 2001, subsequent wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the degredation of America's world standing, an economy that went from the best ever seen to a near-fatal recession, the deaths of icons and actors (Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger come to mind), and the elimination of an entire former planet from our textbook solar system charts (Pluto), there hasn't been much to cheer about since Y2K.

One hour, 43 minutes and counting....

What will this decade be known for? The sixties was the sexual revolution. The seventies, the hippie movement. The eighties will be remembered for the Reagan years and the computer technology upstart. The 90's were the dot-com era. But the 2000's? Obviously, firstly this decade will be remembered for its political distresses, both good and bad. 9/11/01 changed everything. There's no denying that. This country and the world will never go back to being comfortable and worry-free as things were (at least, to a greater extent) before those attacks. We cannot undo the new security measures, the greater Federal control over security, or the color-coded warnings. Every day we step outside is another day we see the post-9/11 changes: cameras on every street corner, now full-body scanners in airports, stories every night on the news of casualty reports from overseas.

Alongside these dramatic changes, politically we've seen historic firsts in our sociopolitical climate: the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, the first black President of the United States. We've had a massive political and even ideological shift in the country in 2006, then 2008 as the country went first from anti-Bush sentiment to pro-Democrat sentiment to most recently tangentially segmenting to a hyper-libertarian ideology thanks to McCain-Palin and the Tea Party movements. We've dealt with Truthers, then Birthers, with a bit of Cindy Sheehan nuttiness and Ron Paul revolutionaries mixed in. This decade has had us deal with issues of illegal immigration (which we all greatly failed epically on), healthcare (which we're currently going down in flames with), privacy (is sacrificing personal liberties for the security of the country sound?), and the economy.

One hour, 29 minutes and counting....

Ah, the economy. Since we're closing out the decade with a recession which I daresay is the worst since the Great Depression of 80 years prior, of course this decade will be remembered as the boom-bust decade. We had explosive growth, probably thanks to the wars and overall prosperity, followed by the utter collapse of the housing market, the job market, the stock market, all of which has translated to failure at the local supermarkets (and other retail establishments). Yet to be seen is the effect of over $2 trillion worth of stimulus money pumped into reviving banks (without closing down bad regulatory lending practices, so this will probably happen again in 20 years), failing industries (does America really need to be making cars anymore if the Japanese can do it better?), and the rise of "green" technologies.

Speaking of that, how about science? What will the double-zero decade (hey, that's not a bad-sounding catchphrase... copyrighted here!) leave in its wake on the scientific front? I can't think of a more apt figurehead than a comparatively tiny ball of ice and rock millions of miles away. Astronomically speaking, Pluto is not just a "dwarf-planet" (yes, the IAU resolution really did include quotes and a hyphen) to us any longer, but the symbol of the failures and degredation of this entire decade. When we lost Pluto as a planet, a little part of most of us died. Of course, there are silver linings here and there... the Hubble Space Telescope was upgraded and fixed up for several more years of service.

That said, the biggest science stories of the 2000's will inevitably have to include Al Gore (I shudder). His crusade (as Quixote-esque as it may be) to fight "global warming" and save the polar bears have begun to finally wrench free the ironclad grip of oil over America. Whether or not global warming is a real event or just a well-explained hoax, I don't think anyone could deny the fact that moving away from oil and coal toward electric, wind, solar, or nuclear energies and dissipating the hold the Middle East has over us and our pocketbooks is a good thing. Frankly, I think global warming is a farce, but I'll gladly drive a hybrid if it will mean that I don't have to worry about buying gas for $5.00 a gallon anymore.

Personally for me, I will remember the 2000's as the decade I figured out who I am and what I want to do. The 2001 terrorist attacks spurred my love of political research, and thanks to the nurturing of both my professors like Chris Esseltine and my friends in the College Republicans, that love of the system grew into a desire to help shape the future for the better by working to make that system better. Thus far, I've been unsuccessful in my attempts to wedge my way into that elite club of politicos, but tomorrow is another decade, as they say. The last ten years have also been my transition from childhood to adulthood, as I graduated high school with honors, and completed college with a degree I'm proud of, even if it hasn't yet helped me out.

Which brings me to my New Year's conclusion, at a mere one hour and ten minutes away from "Auld Lang Syne." This decade sucked. We all know it. We all know what things were bad, and what things people screwed up royally on. Here's my resolution to the new decade (not just the year, mind you): I'm going to do something to help make things better. It might not be much, and I may never be noticed for my work, but come Hell or high water, I plan to do something to undo the complete travesty that 2000-2009 has made of planet Earth. I hope more people out there would choose to do the same.

Happy New Year, everyone. Goodbye, 2009, and good riddance; hello 2010!

29 December 2009

Holiday Quickness

Thanks to the holidays, I've been unable/unwilling to post anything of substance for the last couple weeks. So today, the two people that read this blog are getting an ultrafast rundown of what's been happening.

1. Nice Weather = Geocaching
Thanks to the weather around here being highly conducive to being outside (as opposed to a/c-inducing 120-degree July temps), I've been doing a little bit of hiking and geocaching again. I'll be posting more pictures in weeks to come, thanks to my new Christmas present - a digital camera.

2. Christmastime WAS Here
My last post was December 11th, and in the almost three weeks since then, I'm still waiting on a paycheck from Borders (from the week of Dec. 3rd), went and saw the lights at the Mormon Temple here in Mesa (a yearly tradition), bought gifts for people (The Audacity to Win for Ryan, a photo frame and coasters for Scott and Abigail, the "Fable II" XBox 360 game for David, a nutcracker for mom, woodworking clamps for dad, a photo frame for Sarah, and some random tools and a toolbox for Nathan), received a few gifts (a $25 gift card to Half Price Books from Scott; gift cards to Harkins Theaters, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy from extended family; a camera, cheese grater, and baseball cards from my family), and have hung out with various friends a couple of times.

3. Goodbye, and Good Riddance 2009
As 2009 comes to a close, I plan to do a longer post on this theme soon, but plans are in the works for the usual - staying up, playing games, singing Auld Lang Syne, etc.

Today, however, I am going to have lunch with Ryan as Fogo de Chai, which is apparently a Brazilian steakhouse in Scottsdale which I have never been to. Ryan's friend Eric will also be accompanying us, which will be interesting because Ryan has made him out to be basically the anti-Andrew politically speaking. Good times should ensue. I'm also going to be beating Borders to death about my paycheck, because, hell... that's a good $100 they haven't paid me!!!!

Wish me luck, look for more posts to come in the nearish future.

11 December 2009


Yep, you read it correctly. I am the only "geek-peat" winner of MSNBC Science Editor Alan Boyle's Geek Gifts contest. Mr. Boyle announced my winning suggestion - the Calabi-Yau Manifold Crystal - on his science blog the Cosmic Log (yes, I did set that up to rhyme) through MSNBC this evening.

Thanks to my family and friends, I garnered the most votes (comments to the geek gift blog post) and won a copy of Mr. Boyle's newly published book The Case for Pluto, which I am looking forward to reading. I'll post a book review for y'all when I'm done.

Check out the Cosmic Log blog daily for the latest in science updates, like the UFO-slash-malfunctioning Russian missile, SpaceShipTwo's debut for the space tourism industry, and daily/weekly science roundups from around the web.

10 December 2009

Is It Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas?

Sure doesn't feel like it is to me. Yes, the temperatures are a bit colder, we've put up our Christmas tree and lights, and KEZ 99.9 FM is playing their traditional Christmas music from Thanksgiving to December 25th. Even so, something is missing, and I can't put my finger on it.

Everyone still seems to be nonplussed about the Christmas season this year. The snowbirds aren't full-force, I'm not having to wait in long lines to buy groceries or gifts, and there really aren't a multitude of holiday celebrations out there right now. It's kind of depressing to realize that we're merely 15 days away from Christmas, one of the best days of the year, and have it not feel that way.

Maybe it's because I haven't been able to do much of anything lately. Borders had a mix-up with my paycheck and direct deposit information, so whereas I was supposed to get paid last Friday so I could pay my cell phone bill and do a little Christmas shopping, I am actually still waiting on a paper check to be FedEx'd to my house. What that means is that my extremely (I mean this literally) low checking account balance isn't letting me experience the holidays as I normally would. I like to donate a little money to charitable organizations this time of year, but I cannot. I like to send out Christmas cards, but I cannot. I like to buy a few gifts for my friends, but I can't do that yet.

I hope it starts to feel more Christmas-y soon... I don't think I can take yet another year of going 12 months without a real holiday.

02 December 2009

MSNBC Geek Gift Contest 2009

As some of you may remember, last year I won the MSNBC "Geek Gift" contest with my suggestion of XKCD.com apparel, thanks to the support and votes of you all. This year, I am once more a finalist in the contest, and I need everyone's help again to repeat my victory from last year!

My Geek Gift suggestion this year is the Calabi-Yau Manifold Crystal, which is a 3D representation of 6 of the 10 dimensions in basic string theory from quantum mechanics encased in crystal, just like the ones of the Eiffel Tower or DNA strands. Check it out here: http://scientificsonline.com/product.asp?pn=3151544&bhcd2=1259795585.

Voting is very simple. Go to the web page link for MSNBC's Cosmic Log at this link: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/12/02/2140001.aspx and post a comment on the page with your vote. It can be as simple as "Calabi-Yau Manifold Crystal." I would really appreciate the opportunity to be the first and ONLY multiple winner of this contest!

Thank you!!!

24, et al

Sunday was my 24th cycle of the Earth around the Sun, and sadly, I was really not feeling well enough to party or do much in the way of celebrating. I took the day off of work at the bookstore/kiosk because of my car crash, and relaxed most of the day. My singular indulgence, my family took me out for dinner at the Olive Garden, which I really love to do annually. It's kind of my personal birthday tradition. My mom also made me a delicious white peppermint cake with minty frosting and crushed peppermint. Yum!

The following day, I was scheduled to work, until I got a call from my boss telling me I wasn't scheduled to work, but could I come in anyway because another employee was having car trouble (I resisted the strong urge to say 'Worse car trouble than mine?'). So I went in with the understanding that I would not be doing any heavy lifting during the shift. Once there, I was bounced around between the kiosk and department all day, and my shift-that-wasn't-really-a-shift was cut from 9:30-3:30 to 9:30-2:00. My neck was aching, and I was starting to get frustrated. (Them: "Andrew, go work the cash register." Me: "Okay, sure. Are you going to train me to work the cash register?" Them: "Um... never mind. Go help this lady with the online ordering system." Me: "Okay, sure. Are you going to show me how that works or give me a password to log in to the system?" Them: "Um....")

So after that lovely day of disaster, I talked with my folks and made the determination that I no longer wanted to work for a company that was going to treat me unfairly. Mom and Dad concurred, and they want me to go back to school and take some online classes in something so I can get a second degree. I don't really want to do that right now, especially since I'm already in debt by about $50,000 for the first degree and have no idea how I would pay for, or pay off, a second degree. I would love to just find a decent job in my field that is going to last more than 2 months, but that still seems unlikely. So I'm basically back to where I was a month ago.

Yesterday, I found out that my manager at Borders flew out to Washington for management training (WTF?) and wouldn't be back until Saturday. I got kind of fed up with this whole "waiting" thing, and told the supervisor on duty (who has no power for anything hiring-firing related) that I was making Thursday my last day, and that I needed her to pass the message along to whomever needed to know. When asked why, I said I had found a job in my field for better pay and I was taking it. A lie, I know, but I didn't think it appropriate to tell this supervisor what I was really thinking, since it wasn't her problem to begin with. That, and I don't like to cause unnecessary drama if I don't have to.

So, yeah. Now I'm out of work again, this time by choice, and looking for a better employer. I'm trying to avoid medical bills (which I can't pay and have no insurance to cover) by doping myself up on Advil until my neck gets better, and it's the Christmas season and I have no ability to go out and find gifts for the few friends I still have left after this Hell of a year in which I've been kind of a cynical asshole. Still, I suppose things could be worse. I'm not sure how, but they could be.

I'm still trying to bug Jeff Flake's office into giving me a job, but it seems very much like that's not going to happen. The guy does very few events around the district because he's going to win any election he's in here in CD-6 by double digits, which means he doesn't have to do much in the way of campaigning, which only means there are few opportunities for people like me to get involved. I need to start going to more LD meetings again to see what opportunities are out there, so I suppose that's the next order of business.

28 November 2009

My Headache

On my way to work this morning, I was involved in a car crash. And when I say this, I mean I was in a parking lot and hit a light pole head on while trying to leave the lot. It was fantastically and epically a "FAIL" moment if ever I've heard of one.

Basically, I was cutting across a row of empty parking spaces, glanced over at a silver car to make sure it wasn't going to hit me, and missed a light pole in the car's big blind spot between the driver's side window and the windshield. I hit the concrete base of the pole going about 16 miles per hour, and crumpled the front end of the car, damaged the radiator, and caused the airbag to deploy. The airbag whacked me really good in the face, and the exploding gas burned my arm pretty good - like a rug burn, only with the airbag fabric instead of carpet.

I wasn't out for more than a split second, and my only injuries are a nasty headache from the airbag and a stiff neck from the whiplash effect. I got out of the car on my own accord, and a couple nice ladies shopping in the area came to see if I was okay, and waited with me until a fire truck showed up (they weren't called to the scene, just doing some grocery shopping) and they stayed with me until Dad arrived. We made the decision not to go to the hospital (I don't have health insurance and couldn't possibly afford the medical expenses) and instead came home and took some Advil.

My neck's still stiff, and my head still hurts, but I think I'll probably live. What a nice way to celebrate my birthday tomorrow....

Turkey Day to Black Friday

Thanksgiving was nice around my place this year. I got to relax, watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, catch the Packers-Lions football game, and eat a bunch of great food Mom prepared. We had turkey (of course), stuffing, mashed potatoes, au gratin potatoes, banana bread, pumpkin bread, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole with French fried onions, jello and marshmallows, and pumpkin pie and apple pie. Delicious!

Hopefully, my readers all had a nice Thanksgiving with their families too.

Yesterday was Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. And after all that relaxing and turkey-eating I did, I had to work. I was scheduled to work the calendar kiosk from 8am to 5pm with a one hour break for lunch in between. I was also scheduled to have a partner to help me out during that time from 1pm-5pm. Both aspects didn't really materialize nicely though. My break was only scheduled from 2-3pm, after 6 hours of work, and since my partner didn't come down to the kiosk to help me and instead stayed on the book floor, 2:30-3:30pm was the ONLY relief I got all day. No water breaks, no bathroom breaks, no get-away-from-the-annoying-shoppers-and-clear-your-head-for-five-minutes breaks. It was frustrating to say the least.

But, on the whole, besides being completely drained and exhausted when I got home, I got through it okay. I am really glad that only comes once a year, and truth be told, it went better than I expected. The Black Friday shoppers really were not bad at all to deal with, save for one or two. One older gentleman came in to look at the Maxim and Playboy calendars we sell and I asked him if I could help him find anything. His reply: "Yeah, how 'bout $50 million so I can pay off my mortgage and shit?" My immediate reply without missing a beat: "Sure, sir. It's in center court right next to Santa's Workshop." I still don't know what that means, but that guy gave me a grunt and left - quickly. (This was at the very end of my nine-hour shift, and I was kind of done dealing with morons at that point.)

My fabulous schedule now allows me to work today for seven hours, tomorrow on my birthday for 4 1/2, Monday, and Tuesday before I get a day off. I'm getting almost 30 hours a week the last two weeks though, so I am hesitant to complain about hours and days off at this point. It would have been nice not to have to work on my birthday, though.

If you're by the mall, come feel free to stop by my calendar kiosk and say hello!

25 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know I've been neglecting to post as often as I usually do on here, but getting settled into the work routine is taking some time. I went from about 16 hours of work per month as a substitute teacher to about 25-30 hours per week at Borders starting just two short weeks ago.

At least work is improving for me. As I mentioned in my last post, the employees and managers are all very nice people, if a bit disorganized in the run up to the holidays. I am slowly but surely getting my training in on the various aspects of the store, though to be honest, I still spend most of my time out at the calendar kiosk, so I don't need to utilize that training much yet.

Earlier in the week, I also got my first "free" book from the store. Like I would imagine many large booksellers do, some publishers send out advance "press" manuscripts which are unedited or uncorrected for people to read and prepare themselves to sell or to write reviews on. Borders allows employees to read these advance copies, and once the book has been released and upon approval from management, we can take the copies to keep. Well, I got a manuscript of Anthony Zuiker's (the creator of the "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" TV phenomenon) new novel Level 26: Dark Origins. I finished it earlier this evening, and found it to be pretty good. There were some things I wish had been explained further, and some parts of the storyline were left as dramatic cliffhangers that I didn't feel were adequately resolved in further chapters, but all-in-all, it was a satisfying read.

The novel follows protagonists Steve Dark and FBI Agent Riggins in their search to catch the serial killer known as "Sqweegel." This sadist is an entirely new breed of serial killer, off the charts of the FBI's scale of "evil" which runs from 1 (justifiable homicide) to 25. Ted Bundy and Charles Manson didn't even crack the 20th level, whereas a new level had to be created for Sqweegel, a brutal homicidal maniac with a narcisistic complex so deep he actual believes he is a God among men, and has the skills and talents to make it seem almost plausible. That's where the book gets its "Level 26" title. Sqweegel has been maiming, torturing, and killing people for over two decades, and the only member of law enforcement to come even remotely close to catching him is Dark. However, after Dark's near apprehension of Sqweegel, the serial killer brutally murdered Dark's entire foster family, causing Dark to suffer an extreme breakdown and retire from the Special Circs Division of the FBI. The story begins here, with Riggins sent to bring Dark back into the hunt.

I won't give away any more details here, but I will mention that I am looking forward to the next Level 26 book, coming out in 2010. Aside from a good plot and writing, Level 26 is also the world's first "Digi-Book." At the end of every few chapters (about every 40 pages), readers are given a code which they can punch into a website (Level26.com) and watch the "Director's Cut" of what happened in that set of chapters. It's a way for the reader to really envision - quite literally - what the author was thinking without resorting to guessing on some details through one's mind's eye. Sadly, my press copy did not have the codes available to access the site's videos, but I plan on writing them down next time I can take a few minutes to go through a regular copy.

Anyway, enough blathering. If you're in the area, come stop by and say hello at the mall sometime. I'll be there for Uber-exciting Black Friday all-day goodness. I just hope I don't go completely crazy with how busy I'm imagining it will be. Apparently my little calendar kiosk will also be having a special sale: buy three calendars, get one free. Good gifts and all that.

Otherwise, I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving with your families, friends, or absent anyone else, the peace and goodwill of the country for a day. Enjoy the food, the floats, and the football... all the staples of a festive holiday!

18 November 2009

NOT Bookselling

I got home this afternoon from my fifth day working for Borders (notice the operative word "for" and not the word "at") and as promised on Facebook, I am writing a post here about how it's going.

To begin, I am not really working with books as I was told I would be. It's kind of a long story. My second day was Sunday, and I had called in to the store Friday morning asking what my next work day was, since my manager had not been able to post the schedule until Thursday night. I was told I worked 12:30pm-4:30pm. A short shift, to be sure, but I was also told that hours were tight, so I didn't think about it. Well, at 11:30am Sunday, I get a call asking me where the heck I am, since I was supposed to be there at 10:30am-4:30pm. Uh-huh....

I got there as soon as I could, explained my situation, and asked where they wanted me to work (I hadn't been trained on anything yet, so I was waiting for training). I was told to work at the information desk. Um, okay. I did that for an hour, then got moved to work at the kiosk. Ah, the kiosk. If you ever go to the mall during the holidays, you will see the stand set up in the middle of the walkway for the mall stuffed to the gills with calendars, and probably a bored-looking teenage kid sitting there waiting for someone to come by. Well, that's now me. All week. I am now Calendar Kiosk Boy.

Instead of my job involving shelving books, making recommendations of titles for literate academics, and cashiering, I now stand (by myself) in the middle of the mall for my entire shift trying to actively sell multiple calendars to snowbirds (they make a great gift!) who barely need one calendar to remind them of their ever-advancing years. To say nothing of the people who come by and ask, very specifically, if we have calendars of tap dancing polar bears or manhole covers from New York City (not LA or Tulsa, but NYC specifically).

At the interview, my manager very straightforwardly mentioned to me that I would be taking turns operating the kiosk around four-ish hours a week while it was open during the holidays. I come in on Sunday to find out that four people quit the store over the two nights I was off work and now I am scheduled to open this kiosk - alone and as a brand new employee - Monday through Thursday this week. Needless to say, I was frustrated with the obvious lack of communication. I kind of felt like I was lied to.

Now, it's not all as horrible as my hyperbole is making it sound. I mean, yeah, I open the kiosk alone, I don't see any other Borders employees all day until my shift ends, and since I work a mere 5 hours a day, I don't get a break (not that any of the other employees are "trained" to work my kiosk register - a 1985 MS DOS computer hooked up to a printer that still uses a ribbon to print on the register tape), and if I need to use the facilities or get a drink, then I have to call the store up and wait for someone to come and relieve me for ten minutes (the only time I tried this, it took 40 minutes). I mean, I do enjoy a level of independence (did I mention that my first day at the kiosk the loss prevention guy stalked me from the upper level of the mall for at least an hour to make sure I was doing what I was supposed to be doing?) that I wouldn't get in the main store, and I get a 33% discount on books (but no discount on calendars, strangely enough).

The one true positive out of all this is that the people I work with - the loss prevention guy, my managers, and the few other booksellers I've actually met ARE actually nice people. I just think there are some problems with the infrastructure and the policies set therein. I imagine that working this kiosk won't be too bad either the closer we get to the new year, as it ought to be quite busy after Thanksgiving. Then I will have something to focus on besides how many times I can "straighten" shelves which haven't been touched before the next customer comes along.

I have never liked retail work. I just need a job with a paycheck to last me a little while before I start looking again for something that doesn't involve me trying to push people to buy a product. I always feel dirty trying to make someone shell out money for something they don't need and could probably get way, way, WAY cheaper after January 1st.

10 November 2009


After more than 18 months of resume-sending, odd-job-doing, waiting and waiting, I am now the official owner of a part-time permanent retail job selling books at Borders Bookstore at the store here in Mesa. In the Kids Books Dept. no less.

I am also proud to say that I owned my interview. I wasn't worried about it (I usually don't interview very well), and I think partly because I really was at that point where I didn't want to care too much about it (though I did care a lot if I got the job) or about how I was being perceived. I had quick, detailed answers to all the interview questions, including the tricky "if you had a team member who was slacking, and you had to do groupwork together, how would you handle that person not pulling their weight?" I called upon my experience selling books at University Text and Tools, my customer service experience from Bashas, and my "dealing with problems" experience from being a resident assistant from Mountain View. And I frickin' ACED the interview. If you can't tell, this is me feeling good about it.

Anyway, I was offered a job pretty much on the spot, accepted it, and I get to start tomorrow with paperwork and cashier training. Then it's floor training, Kids Dept. training, and then crosstraining in other departments over the next couple weeks. Then the holidays hit, it'll be crazy... CRAZY... for a bit, and then in January I'll take stock, see where I am, and maintain the job while I continue my search for something more in my field. Mercifully, I will get to do that at a more relaxed clip knowing that I will have a job until I get laid off or fired or decide to leave, which I don't plan on doing until I have something else to leave for. So yay!

Okay, enough elated babbling... I normally don't yammer on like this unless I'm really excited, which I am now. So look for more fun posts about how things are going in the near future. Apparently as an employee at Borders, I get a couple fun perks!

Update on S.A. 2631

I know there were a couple of my longtime dedicated readers who expressed an interest in my quest to have Senate Amendment 2631 by Sen. Tom Coburn fail on the appropriations bill for the Justice, Commerce, and Science. I am pleased to announce that the amendment did indeed fail 36-62 with 2 not voting.

As you can see, both my Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl voted to pass the amendment, so I'm not exactly pleased with them right now - and with McCain up for re-election this next year, I'll be seeing what other candidates there are running against him more closely now. 31 Republicans voted for the bill along with 5 Democrats, and 9 Republicans, one Independent, and 52 Democrats helped vote it down. The two who did not vote were Sens. Byrd and Landrieu, both Democrats.

Congrats and thank you to those who helped my "crusade" out by calling your Senators!

09 November 2009


I have a job interview tomorrow! It's with Border's Bookstore at the mall, and I'll probably only get minimum wage, but I have a JOB INTERVIEW TOMORROW! For the first time since forever ago...! Hallelujah! I'll let my readership know how it goes tomorrow evening! For now, just enjoy a little bit of Handel's "Messiah."

[Edit: After I wrote this, posted it, and viewed it on the blog, I couldn't help but think how sad it is that I have to get this excited just for a retail job interview... not even a job offer yet, mind you, just the interview. Recession = yuck!]

05 November 2009

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catched
With a dark lantern and burning match.

Holla boys, holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holla boys, holla boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!

Guy Fawkes Day, commemorated on - appropriately - November 5th, celebrates the downfall of the Gunpowder Plot, led by Fawkes and members of a Catholic conspiracy to bring down the Houses of Parliament in London on 11/05/1605.

I learned the poem above when I was much younger, before it was given a storyline for my generation in the movie "V for Vendetta." And even though I don't celebrate with festivities like in England and many of the former British commonwealths, I still like to remember the story of the Plot and this poem.

For most of the rest of the world, Guy Fawkes Day slips by unnoticed as what is now called Bonfire Day in Labrador, British Columbia, and Newfoundland in Canada. New Zealand and South Africa commemorate the day with fireworks shows, while Australia stopped its celebrations of Nov. 5th due to the banning of the public use of fireworks. In Britain, where the largest celebrations occur, people burn effigies of Fawkes and build bonfires which they cook in, not dissimilar to the American Fourth of July and our traditions of fireworks and backyard barbeques.

So my friends, if even for just a moment, remember, remember the Fifth of November - if nothing else, it marks one of the first times a major terrorist plot was thwarted by a government... 404 years ago today.

04 November 2009

The Quarter-Term Elections

For those of you who don't follow politics, as I'm sure many of you do not, yesterday was Election Day for the mid-midterm elections and special elections from around the country. There were a few interesting races, made even more interesting after the votes were tallied.

In Virginia, Bob McDonnell (R) beat R. Creigh Deeds, a Democrat, by a margin of 18% to become the first Republican governor of that state in eight years. In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie defeated incumbent Governor Jon Corzine by 5% to take that state's top job.

These two races matter mostly because they seem to be indicative of not only the political sentiments in the New England area, but also because they are a sort of referendum of the job President Obama is doing. Of course, it's very difficult to say one way or another whether this is a microcosm of the way the whole country feels, given that it's a political off-year, and the sample size represents only two out of 100 states, but the very fact that two Republicans defeated two Democrats - one an incumbent governor - in typically-blue New England in races for which the President made robo-calls and campaigned in both states on behalf of the Democrats shows just how weakened the President's power has become in recent days. Given that Obama decisively won both states and split Independent voters in 2008, the dramatic switch to right-leaning Independent voting patterns is telling. It will be very interesting to see how the President responds in the next year leading up to the 2010 midterm elections, and whether that provides a clearer picture of the political spectrum of the American voter.

Other important races around the country did get shunted to the side in the media reporting of the two gubernatorial races. Here's a breakdown:

NY-23 Congressional Race: This one was particularly interesting because the Republican candidate in the race (Dierdre Scozzafava) dropped out just a few days ago due to wilting support, and supported the DEMOCRATIC candidate over the Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman. If I'm correct, this represents the first true showing of the schism between the libertarian-leaning GOP and the "moderate" GOP. The Tea Party-type conservative members, who are really much closer to anarchists than conservatives, have been stirring the political pot lately in response to the socialist tendencies of the current Congress and White House. This makes sense: when one party goes to an extreme, the other must become more extremist to balance it out. The GOP started it with the neoconservative ideology of President George W. Bush in 2000, and the country as a whole after 2004 pushed back so hard that it made it possible for an ultra-liberal extremist like Barack Obama (or even Hillary Clinton, had she won the nomination) to beat out another neoconservative like John McCain. In response, ultra-conservative groups and candidates have been springing up to counteract that shift in ideology. Strangely, perhaps even ironically, it's probably going to take a revolution, as the ultra-conservatives like the Ron Paul Revolutionists and the Tea Party activists suggest, to bring the country back to the middle.

NYC Mayor: No big surprise, Michael Bloomberg won another term as Mayor, easily defeating William Thompson by 50,000 votes.

CA-10 Congressional: Another big surprise - Democrat John Garamendi won the seat 53%-42% over Republican David Harmer.

Maine Gay Marriage Repeal: Voters in Maine agreed to reject the existing law that allows same-sex couples to marry in the state, and allows religious groups and individuals to refuse to marry same-sex couples if they choose. It's a setback for gay-rights activists, but with the trend of the country to be more accepting of gay issues, I would imagine this repeal will eventually be repealed itself in the near future.

Maine Medical Marijuana: Voters approved a measure to expand medical marijuana usage and coverage to more treatment plans, and to create a regulatory system to oversee distribution.

Washington Domestic Partnerships: With 51% of precincts reporting as of this writing, the vote stands at 51%-49% in favor of allowing domestic partnerships with all the rights and responsbilities of marriage, without calling their living arrangement a marriage.

Here in Arizona, I cast my ballot on exactly one question: extending an already-existing tax of $0.79 per $100.00 on property to continue to fund the Mesa Unified School District #4. I parked, drew my line, got my sticker, and went home. Seriously, voting isn't supposed to be that simple! How did I vote on the tax extension? I'm not telling, but whether I voted for it or against it, it did pass by a considerable margin, so property owners, be prepared to pay the same amount in MUSD taxes as you have been for the last decade.

01 November 2009

Sudoku Math

I enjoy puzzles. I always have. Crosswords, logic puzzles, cryptograms, and number puzzles. That said, the Japanese "sudoku" puzzle is actually a fairly recent source of enjoyment for me. I never learned about them when growing up, and only did my first one while I was still in college.

So today, while I was working on a sudoku puzzle, I started to wonder how many different combinations of those 81 digits there could possibly be. Now, I'm no mathematician, but others are, and a quick Google search gave me my answer: there are 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960 possible LEGAL sudoku number puzzle combinations.

Or in word form: six sextillion, six hundred seventy quintillion, nine hundred three quadrillion, seven hundred fifty-two trillion, twenty-one billion, seventy-two million, nine hundred thirty-six thousand, nine hundred sixty. That is (really roughly) 6.67 x 10^21 puzzles. That's about three times more puzzle combinations than there are atoms in a standard U.S. penny. It's also about 300 times more puzzles than there are red blood cells in the adult human body. And it's about 8,130,000,000 times the amount of U.S. dollars in circulation around the world as of 2007.

A guy by the name of Bertram Felgenhauer and his partner Frazer Jarvis came up with the calculation for this number back in 2005: (2^15)(3^8)(5^7)(27,204,267,971) = (9!)(72^2)(2^7)(27,204,267,971) = 6.67*10^21 puzzles.

However, the number of essentially different puzzles, meaning puzzles which aren't so close to being alike that all you'd have to do is swap a couple numbers and it's pretty much the same for everything else was calculated to be a mere 5,472,730,538 puzzles by Mr. Jarvis and his partner Ed Russell.

Why am I posting this information? Didn't I know it would make most people have a headache by the time they finished reading? Yes. Absolutely. I just found it interesting and wanted to write. So there. Point of the post: go do a sudoku puzzle with this new perspective on just how many combinations there could possibly be to fit those numbers into there. It'll blow your mind (again)!

30 October 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, my friendly ghosts and ghouls! I hope your day is filled with plenty of fun, frights, family, and of course, sugary sweets. After all, this is basically the only day of the year besides Thanksgiving when gorging yourself on a particular food item is not only allowed, but encouraged. I myself will be digging into a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels tomorrow night while handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Sadly, my family typically does not get into the Halloween spirit. We don't dress up (though, I probably would if I had a reason... dressing up is no fun if you're simply going to sit at home), we don't decorate (I carved a pumpkin, but the rest of the house is barren), and we don't have any fun with it. For us, it's yet another excuse to eat junk food. Sad but true.

To be fair, when we were all younger, we did do the costumed, trick-or-treat, candy thing. I remember one year I was a weatherman who'd been hit by lightning... hair standing up, "burn" marks, the whole nine yards. I was also a black hole back in my astronomy phase as a little kid, but I don't remember much of that one. But now that we're all grown up, we only celebrate the Big Four Holidays: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and New Year's (with 4th of July being a semi-annual reason to stay up late and watch fireworks).

When I get my own place, I vow never to go a year without decorations of some kind for all the major holidays. I mean, shouldn't there be like a "Halloween Carol" movie for those Scrooges out there who dislike All Hallow's Eve? It's the one time a year you get to get away from yourself and be something or someone you aren't! Oh well, there's always next year.

As an aside, those of you who are actually interested in my crusade to keep funding for the NSF's political science department: no new news on the amendment's passage or failure. There's been no action on it since it was introduced on the Senate floor on Oct. 13. Updates remain forthcoming.

27 October 2009

My DBacks Pumpkin Carving Contest Entry

The Diamondbacks are holding a pumpkin carving contest, with the prize for the winner being a Brandon Webb autographed jersey. Here's a photo of the entry I submitted:

23 October 2009

Updates From the Floor

First off, thank you to all of you who read my blog posting about Sen. Coburn's amendment to cut political science funding from the National Science Foundation, and a bigger thank you to those of you who called your respective senators and asked them to vote it down (I know at least two people who mentioned to me that they called). You do your country a service by being active.

As far as an update on the amendment itself, I was hoping that it would come to a vote this week, but that didn't happen. Due to the motion to reconsider the cloture vote on the appropriations bill (HR 2847), the vote probably won't happen until next week. Good news for those of you who read this and still want to call your senators - you have time. To help in this endeavor, here is a very cool website I found with contact information for everyone in Congress (websites, emails, and fax numbers). To find a number, click on the Senator's name and check out his or her contact page. The Complete List of Email Addresses and Fax Numbers for the U.S. Congress and Governors.

In other news, AKA baseball, barring a miracle comeback from the Angels tomorrow night, it appears that the World Series will feature one of those two teams taking on the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. This means my predictions of a Cardinals-Red Sox series and a corresponding Cardinals victory were completely destroyed. In fact, of all my predictions, I only got two right this postseason: the Phillies beat the Rockies. In all the other series, I incorrectly predicted the Cardinals, Red Sox, and Twins to win in the Division Series games. Bummer. Glad I didn't put any money on my predictions!

Tomorrow is the 7th anniversary celebration of Hot Corner Sports Cards, out in Mesa, Arizona, where I go occasionally to pick up a pack of cards or some supplies to (finally) organize my card collection, which used to be sitting in a shoebox in my closet; it now resides in 3 big 3" three-ring binders and two 1" three-ring binders. My goal is to start finishing some of the sets I really like, such as the 2009 Allen and Ginters cards, 2002 Donruss Studio, and 2001 Pacific (all baseball). The Allen and Ginter cards are extra-special because of a couple bonuses I rather enjoy. First, there is a parallel insert card set of "code cards." These 100 cards feature a special border and symbols which are supposed to be used to decode a secret message. You then contact the Topps company with the message, and if you are the first to decode it, you win a special set of all the A&G autographed cards in this year's set. Now, the winner's already been determined, but I want to see if I can collect all 100 cards and figure it out for myself without looking at the answer (which is posted online, if you want to search for it). The other thing I like about the A&G set is its inclusion of parallel mini cards. They come in a few types: regular minis, minis with two different types of backs, black bordered minis, and minis without numbers. There are 350 of each type, which gives a collector like me 1,750 cards to go after. Add in the 350 base cards, 100 parallel cards, a few other special insert minis, relic cards, and autographs, and I'm looking at somewhere around 3,700 cards total I can try and go for. It's certainly going to be a project!

Aside from this, the job hunt continues. I applied for holiday work at Barnes and Noble Bookstore, so we'll see if anything comes of that. I know I got a good review from one person there, who said she was going to "put a sticky note" on my resume that I was a higher-than-average candidate. We shall see.

I will add more updates on various things as I get them, as well as another political post in the next couple days. I had a fun conversation with Ryan regarding faculty and education policy that I want to write about. So look for that, and have a good week!

12 October 2009

Is Political Science A Science?

Last week, I read an interesting article from The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled "Senator Proposes an End to Federal Support for Political Science." In it, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) was reported as having submitted an amendment to the annual appropriations bill for the Departments of Justice, Commerce, Science, and Related Agencies for FY2010 (H.R. 2847 - link goes to the Library of Congress search page. Search for HR 2847). This amendment, S.A. 2631, says:
SA 2631. Mr. COBURN submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill H.R. 2847, making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, and Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:
At the appropriate place in title III, insert the following:

Sec. __. None of the funds appropriated under this Act may be used to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation.
 This got me thinking, since as a political science major at college this was, and still is, very important to me. So, being a good little politico, I called up Senator Coburn's Washington, DC office. I wasn't really expecting anything. Just to maybe talk to one of the Senator's interns, have my comments taken down, and then go about my business and call Senators Kyl and McCain to also voice my opinion. Instead, I got to talk with one of the Senator's staff members, Charlotte Pineda.

When I called, she answered, and I introduced myself and said I had just read the Chronicle news story, and wanted more information about why the Senator was so keen on stopping political science research in the National Science Foundation. Instead of sidestepping me, since I wasn't a constituent of Sen. Coburn (as I've seen happen many times before), Ms. Pineda took almost 40 minutes out of her schedule to talk with me and help me understand the Senator's point of view on the issue. I was impressed, to say the least.

Here's the argument according to Ms. Pineda on behalf of Sen. Coburn: political science, as it stands, is not a hard science. It does not bring about breakthroughs and developments which can help humanity - as sciences like chemistry, biology, engineering, etc can (she called them "transformative results") - and it creates very few, if any, jobs in the national job market. Political science, as a social science, has trouble even producing fact from theories, since it cannot demonstrably prove any of its conjectures.

Ms. Pineda also provided me with a copy of the research that the Senator's office had done in support of their claim. On the one hand, NSF-"hard"-science projects certainly do produce transformative results: biofuels research, medical engineering for disabled persons, a microchip-sized fan for laptop computers which helps with cooling the system more efficiently, and "fiber-reinforced concrete" which has the ability to bend without cracking or breaking to a certain point and is 40% lighter in weight. On the other side of the coin, the NSF programs in political science that they listed included answering the question "why do political candidates make vague statements, and what are the consequences?" NSF also held a conference in the effects of YouTube on the 2008 election cycle, research by universities studying why white middle-class voters vote Republican, and the production of "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer" for coverage of the 2008 Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

On the surface, it certainly seems like a lopsided use of taxpayer dollars. But the real thing that struck me in the Senator's research was a line which read, "The National Science Foundation has misspent tens of millions of dollars examining political science issues which in reality have little, if anything, to do with science."

I started to wonder, what constitutes "science?" According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (1997), "science n. 1. an area of knowledge that is an object of study." (#2 deals with "natural science" which in my mind is a substrate of science itself and not a definition of just the word science.) The word hails from the Latin "scientia" meaning "knowledge," and according to a variety of internet definitions, refers best to the system of practices which result in the production of a prediction or a predictable outcome for an event. In contemporary form, science is defined by the use of the scientific method, the process of developing a theory, testing that theory, observing and then analyzing results for any given event.

Obviously, we all associate science as dealing with subjects like chemistry (soda pop, anyone?), biology (cancer research), physics (Isaac Newton), and applied sciences such as engineering or health science. We even recognize to some extent "formal science" in the field of mathematics, even though mathematics does not conform to the scientific method. Why not political science - or social sciences as a whole?

I believe that political science research can produce transformative results in society, even though those may not be monetary or tangible or affecting the creation of jobs. NSF-sponsored research on the continuing trends of globalization, for example, with respect to developing societies, when given the weight of validity equal to other observed and verifiable events as a science, may in turn help us preserve cultures and histories which would otherwise be lost to oblivion as a result of rapid forced modernization. Studying how people react in times of crisis could help our leaders produce better responsiveness and readiness plans for a major disaster. Here in Arizona, studying the aftereffects of propositions like Clean Elections Law could help us develop a better system for ensuring fairness in campaign elections reform (this one is actually ongoing, by the way).

Do these studies create jobs? No. Do they produce some tangible good that you can go out and buy? No. Are they any less important to study than the projects in the "hard" sciences? No. And here's the important question: could an entity not backed by government funding adequately carry out research like this? My answer is probably not.

This brings me to my final point. One thing in both the research provided by Sen. Coburn's office and in my conversation with Ms. Pineda that I found some fault in was the argument that any number of smaller, non-governmental entities could carry out research like this. For example, the Coburn research says "The [American National Studies grant] is to 'inform explanations of election outcomes.' The University of Michigan may have some interesting theories about recent elections, but Americans who have an interest in electoral politics can turn to CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, the print media, and a seemingly endless number of political commentators on the internet who pour over this data and provide a myriad of viewpoints to answer the same questions."

While it is true that major news networks and a wide number of internet spectators (yours truly being in a position through this blog to provide a qualified comment) do help with political research and commentary, for the most part those entities provide opinion analysis and a few major statistics for the benefit of the current television audience that day. It's a one-and-done conversation between talking heads about the highlights of white or black or Hispanic voters in rural California that isn't comprehended, much less a matter of concern, for a television audience with an attention span numbering in the tens of seconds. Why else would TV news have a flashy graphic every 30 seconds?

This is not research. This is not an acceptable form of applying scientific principles to observed events in order to try to predict the outcome. And it certainly is not something that can be peer reviewed, thought out, and rationalized in a manner which befits the scientific community.

Science is an area of knowledge that is the object of study. That includes social sciences just as much as hard sciences, and political research deserves the backing grants and funding from the government just as much as anything else the NSF researches. As for the argument that political science studies some things which may seem like a waste of money or tries to answer questions that a private survey corporation can do just as easily, well, the annual appropriations bills for the United States currently contain so much money for pork projects that it's not even funny, including millions of dollars for scientific projects such as "$4,545,000 for wood utilization research in 10 states by 19 senators and 10 representatives (engineering)," "$1,791,000 by Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee member Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) for swine odor and manure management research in Ames (chemistry)," and "$150,000 by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), then-Rep. Thomas Allen (D-Maine), and Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) for the Maine Department of Natural Resources to conduct lobster research (I'll call this one biology)." These examples are from Citizens Against Government Waste's Pig Book 2009.

I urge the Senators from Arizona and across the nation to vote no this week (as I believe that is when it comes for a vote) on SA 2631, amending HR 2847.

04 October 2009

Postseason Prediction Updates

If you read my prior post on the postseason races and compared them to the matchups, you will see that I was expecting the Cardinals and Phillies to be playing the opposite teams in their series. However, the Phillies ended up with a better record than the Cardinals, and therefore I must update my predictions.

NLDS A: Rockies vs. Phillies
Prediction: Phillies in 3 games.

NLDS B: Cardinals vs. Dodgers
Prediction: Cardinals in 4 games.

ALDS A: Red Sox vs. Angels
Prediction: Red Sox in 5 games.

ALDS B: Twins OR Tigers vs. Yankees
If Twins, then: Twins in 5 games.
If Tigers, then: Yankees in 3 games.

NLCS: Cardinals vs. Phillies
Prediction: Cardinals in 5 games.

ALCS: Red Sox vs. Yankees OR Twins vs. Red Sox
If the former is true, then: Red Sox in 7 games.
If the latter is true, then: Red Sox in 5 games.

World Series: Cardinals vs. Red Sox
Prediction: Cardinals in 6 games.

03 October 2009

Happy October!

We survived another Arizona summertime, folks! Over 110 days of triple-digit heat, and what I believe is the 10th driest summer on Arizona recordbooks, since our monsoons never really kicked in. Actually, I don't think we even got one good dust storm the whole summer.

October means new beginnings for a lot of things for me: I get to start hiking again around some of the trails here in Mesa. Now that the weather is cooler, relatively speaking, I won't feel like dying after walking a few feet out of my car, and I won't consider myself inside an oven when I get into a vehicle.

October also means postseason baseball. Even though my Diamondbacks sucked big time this year, I will still enjoy watching the Rockies and Cardinals try to claim the World Series trophy for their own. If you're watching it, the Rockies can actually still win the NL West by beating the Dodgers today and tomorrow... it's intense!

And October means I get to start my door-to-door job hunting again. I consider it too hot to drive around and job hunt on the streets around retail establishments during the summer months, so the cooler weather means I have to get back to work in that department. For the past three to four months, I've been one of the 17% of unemployed job seekers that has stopped looking almost completely because of the lack of jobs out there. I need to find my motivation and get going again.

Finally, October also means the start of what I consider "Holiday Row." I have my sister's birthday here in just a couple days, then mom's mid-month, followed by Halloween, Election Day, Veteran's Day, my brother's birthday, Thanksgiving, my birthday, Dutch Christmas, Christmas, and New Year's. Lots of planning to do now!

29 September 2009

Padres-Diamondbacks Fandemonium Game 9-26-09

Last weekend marked the end of the Arizona Diamondbacks home season at Chase Field, and I was there on Saturday to celebrate the teams successes and lament their failures (let's not kid ourselves, there were many) with the other fans during "Fandemonium" festivities. But I was also on a mission. I had received a ball from reliever Blaine Boyer at a previous game, and I had failed to get Miguel Montero's signature then. So my goal for the game was to get one big-name D-Backs player to give me their autograph.

First, though, I had business to take care of. I got to the ballpark early as I usually do for batting practice, and I got my fifth bobblehead of the year - Mark Reynolds (#27, 3B). I raced into the stadium right around the end of Diamondbacks batting practice, and I tried to get another ball from a player. Unfortunately, not many were being hit to my section of the field, so no luck. After BP concluded, most of the time, a few players will sign autographs down the left-field line, but that night it was Clay Zavada and Esmerling Vasquez, both of whom had already autographed balls/ticket stubs for my in the past.

Instead, I stuck to my guns and tried for more tossups/homers from the visiting Padres players. I actually had a really close play on TWO balls, a homer and a bouncer over the wall. Sadly, both were just out of reach (unless I wanted to jump on the guys standing next to me), so I came up empty-handed. I was also hoping that reliever Aaron Poreda would throw a ball in my direction. He did end up tossing a bunch of balls into the stands, and it was really fun to watch him go all-out to try to snag some of the long fly balls in left field, but alas, he really didn't throw anything near me.

So, 0-for-1,000,000 during BP, I decided my best option was to take a break and go get my Augie Ojeda bobblehead from the Picnic Pavillion in left. Augie's bobblehead was supposed to be given out on Sept. 26th, but it was moved up to Sept. 10th in place of the Tony Pena bobblehead, since Tony had been traded to the White Sox. Unfortunately, the bobblehead company was unable to ship the figures in time for the game, so vouchers were given out to the 25,000 fans who were supposed to get one, and they were finally available Sept. 26th. Two bobbleheads, one day... very cool!

After collecting my bobblehead, I wandered around the stadium, bought a couple scratch-off tickets from the vendors for the "Shirts Off Our D-Backs" promotion ($5 for three chances to win a game-used shirt from a DBacks player following Sunday's game). I didn't win a shirt, but I did win two free bleacher tickets to a 2010 home game... so it was cool! I kept wandering, a full lap around the concourse, and made it back to my section in time for the National Anthem and opening accoutrements, when I then saw a couple fellow DBacks fan friends of mine, April, Anya, and Julie, who were sitting in my section just a couple rows back. I went to chat with them, and stayed the whole time in that area.

The game itself was a doozy! The snakes scored three runs in the first inning, and Dan Haren kept the Pads at zero until the 5th, when they scored 5 runs. We snagged one back in the 6th, making it 5-4, but honestly, it wasn't looking good. We hit a couple batters, and things looked like they'd fall apart.... until the 8th inning. A walk, a hit batter, and a single loaded the bases for Chad Tracy, who blasted the Diamondbacks' third grand slam of the season into the pool area in right field (the prior two GS hitters were Chris Snyder on May 16th and Justin Upton on June 2nd). There was much celebration.

So finally, the game ended, my season of attending big league baseball games ended, and I still hadn't gotten my autograph. Humbug. But wait! I got a hot tip and an invitation from my friends to go join them at the players' stadium exit/entrance to see if anyone would stop to sign an autograph from their cars, and lo and behold, two did: Justin Upton and...

Mark Reynolds! YES! A star player from my final game of the year, on his bobblehead day! It totally made my night of effort all worthwhile! That brought my autograph collection to 8:

From bottom to top, left to right: [bottom row:] a Cubs minor league player from 1999 I'm still trying to ID, a commemorative ball from a D-Backs-Rockies game earlier this year, Glenn Sherlock (bullpen coach), [middle row:] Mark Grace (1B), Tom "Flash" Gordon (RP), Clay Zavada (RP), [top row:] Stephen Drew (SS, from Foz Sports AZ), Dan Haren (SP, from Fox Sports AZ), and Mark Reynolds (3B)! I also have a good-sized collection of bobbleheads and DBacks figures going:

[Bottom row:] Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Chris Snyder, Mark Reynolds, Augie Ojeda. [Middle row:] Brandon Webb, Conor Jackson, Chris Young. [Top row:] Luis Gonzalez figurine, D. Baxter soap dispenser figurine.

Can't wait for more baseball next year, though I will continue blogging about the postseason and about Arizona Fall League baseball until then!

24 September 2009

Post No. 200 - Where I Stand

I am excited to be writing tonight, as this is my 200th blog post! Frankly, I never thought I would make it so far as to have kept up on a blog for this long, and ever more excited to have a growing readership that includes my friends, former coworkers, political leaders, and other people. Tonight, as I write, I have come far from the person I was as a senior in college.

I am now a substitute teacher, though I remain vigilant in searching for a more permanent job in the political forum. To that end, in between lectures to elementary school students on the Constitution and helping my sister on math problems, I try to attend some events and functions around Arizona and get my name out there a little bit more. For example, today I was fortunate to have coffee (well, iced tea, really) with LD-22 Chairman Chad Heywood. He gave me some sound advice on "breaking back into" politics. (Because, as most of you know, after the debacle of an internship I ended up with in CD-1, I've had my name slightly tainted on paper.) The advice was to be more proactive in starting or running something that will show a level of competency in project organization. What I need to achieve that is an end goal and passion for some issue I believe in. Unfortunately, I haven't found that singular passion yet, unless it is the obtaining of knowledge.

Frankly, I would be just fine working the behind-the-scenes aspects of politics: research, policy analysis, constituent correspondence, or events staffing. I don't really enjoy coordinating speakers, gathering groups, or running the show. Don't get me wrong - I can do it, and I can usually do a pretty good job of it, but I am not passionate - or I suppose a more appropriate word would be "ambitious" - enough to want those types of responsibilities over other, more low-key ones.

I really don't know why it has to be so hard to find work doing those jobs. It really seems to me that in Arizona, if you don't do the grassroots part of politics, you get seriously overlooked. Even more so if you don't want to be a part of the indentured servitude that is implicit in the all-too-popular "internship" job. I'm the type of person who will do grassroots stuff for FUN - walking precincts, registering voters at fairs, and making phone calls (as my former volunteer coordinator friends will attest to) - but when it is made to be a prerequisite of finding work, it somehow loses its enjoyable qualities.

Maybe I'm just in the wrong line of work. I should just go back to school for a Master's in Library Science and settle into a quiet life of the stewardship and care of knowledge. Why haven't I so far? Well, to be honest, I know I have talents that could be of great use in the political world, and I'm not ready to exhaust my search for the right job in that arena yet - even though I'm fast losing optimism of finding a good fit.

But enough about jobs. 200 posts since my first one, the Arizona Diamondbacks have failed to secure a postseason berth in 2009, having one of the worst records in Major League Baseball this year. I don't really understand why, either. Sure, there have been injuries which have destroyed some of our talent, like Brandon Webb and Conor Jackson and Eric Byrnes, and year-long slumps to guys like Chris Young. The bullpen's been streaky, and starting pitching has at times been problematic, but even when everyone was healthy and people looked good, we've lost badly. It's just one of those seasons to completely forget. At least I kept up my goal: I have scored all but a handful of the DBacks' baseball games, and I have my scoresheets in a nice binder now. I will finish up the final few and attain my goal over the course of the postseason play.

200 posts later, I've discovered new hobbies and reclaimed old ones: geocaching, for example, is a new hobby that can be quite enjoyable. Who doesn't like hunting for buried treasure, unless it's 120-degrees outside? Even then, the occasional road trip up north to Flagstaff or to California or Payson has made the sport enjoyable even in the hot weather. An old hobby I've retaken up is that of baseball card collecting. Granted, I can't buy many packs of cards, but I've settled into a one-a-week groove to sate my appetite. And I've gotten some good pulls, too! Today I bought a pack of Allen & Ginter's 2009 cards and pulled a David Wright (Mets) mini-relic card with a swatch of his game-used batting gloves. Really cool design, too! I'll post pics of some of my faves sometime.

I guess that beings me to the future. I ask myself what it is I want to see in the coming hundred posts up to my 300th. Obviously, it will be nice to be able to blog about getting a job, which I hope I will have earned by that time. I hope in the next hundred posts, I will continue to be invited to events which I can then share on this venue and increase my readership. I hope that I will be able to regain my independence from home, and be able to get my first apartment, car, etc. I hope to see world events start to take shape to push our country onto a better path both fiscally and psychologically than we've been at for the last couple years. But most of all, I hope I can just keep writing honestly and candidly, and that people respect me for that, even though I know I go against the flow sometimes (especially politically within my own party).

I hope my readers will be around for the next hundred posts! Feel free to comment more, guys. I love hearing from you all.

20 September 2009

Baseball Updates

It's been a while since I last posted a baseball update, so I figured now is an appropriate time, what with the end of the regular season fast approaching. There are roughly 13 games left for each team, and the standings are proving to be pretty resiliant to change. Here are the leaders and secondary teams in each division:

AL East:
New York Yankees (95-55) - leading division (12 to play)
Boston Red Sox (89-59) - 5 games back (14 to play)
Blue Jays, Rays, and Orioles - Eliminated

AL Central:
Tigers (79-70) - leading division (13 to play)
Twins (76-73) - 3 games back (13 to play)
White Sox (73-77) - 6 1/2 games back (12 to play)
Indians and Royals - Eliminated

AL West:
Angels (89-60) - leading division (13 to play)
Rangers (81-67) - 7 1/2 games back (14 to play)
Mariners (78-72) - 11 1/2 games back (12 to play)
Athletics - Eliminated

AL Wild Card:
Red Sox
Rangers - 8 games back

NL East:
Phillies (87-61) - leading division (14 to play)
Marlins (80-70) - 8 games back (12 to play)
Braves (79-70) - 8 1/2 games back (13 to play)
Mets and Nationals - Eliminated

NL Central:
Cardinals (87-62) - leading division (13 to play)
Cubs (75-72) - 11 games back (15 to play)
Brewers, Astros, Reds, and Pirates - Eliminated

NL West:
Dodgers (90-60) - leading division (12 to play)
Rockies (85-65) - 5 games back (12 to play)
Giants (80-69) - 9 1/2 games back (13 to play)
Padres and Diamondbacks - Eliminated

NL Wild Card:
Giants - 4 1/2 games back
Marlins - 5 games back
Braves - 5 1/2 games back

To sum it all up, we're going to see a post-season with the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, and Angels in the American League (very little chance this will change), and a Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Rockies National League lineup (also probably not going to change). The way the division matchups work is that the team with the best record plays the Wild Card team unless that team is from the same division, in which case it plays the team with the 3rd best record among the division winners. Then the #2 team plays the WC team. This year's division matchups should look like this:

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees (3 games)
Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (4 games)
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (4 games)
Colorado Rockies vs. St. Louis Cardinals (3 games)

I'm picking the Yankees over the Tigers, Red Sox over the Angels, Phillies over Dodgers, and Cardinals over Rockies. Therefore, the Championship Series matchups should be:

Red Sox vs. Yankees (6 games)
Phillies vs. Cardinals (7 games)

I'll then pick the Red Sox over the Yankees (a tough and gutsy decision) and the Cardinals to beat the Phillies. The World Series will feature:

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox (6 games)

And I'm going to pick the Cardinals to best the Red Sox and win it all in 2009. Will I be right? Stay tuned, sports fans!

17 September 2009

Constitution Day 2009

Happy Constitution Day, my friends! Every year on September 17th, we celebrate the founding charter of these United States. Typically, I like to celebrate by watching lots of television or seeing a movie (freedom of speech/press!), but this year, I was invited to do something a little different. I was asked to give a "lecture" (I use the term very loosely) to 5th grade students at Cambridge Academy East in Mesa, Arizona on what the Constitution is and why it is important.

I admit, I had a lot of fun setting this one up. The teachers combined classrooms for the presentation, a total of about 50 kids:
We started off with a basic history of the Constitution, from the Magna Carta in 1215 (1297 amended) to the Articles of Confederation (1776-77):
I decided to do something fun, so I drew representations of each of the three branches of government as I talked about them. First, the Supreme Court for the Judicial Branch:
Then the White House for the Executive Branch:
And finally the Capitol Building for the Legislative Branch:
The kids enjoyed hearing about the different qualifications for the offices, their powers, and some of the fun details I had to share (like, Thanksgiving isn't about food and Pilgrims as much as George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving as a day to give thanks for the Constitution).
I also brought in several different copies of the Constitution that I own, showing them those to try to illustrate a point about how different scholars have been trying to interpret the Founding Fathers' words for centuries, they're still working out how all the laws interact today, and it will be the charge of the next generation to maintain and interpret the Constitution in the years to come.
Here are 8 of my personal copies. The one in the middle is a Heritage Foundation interpretive book from a panel forum I attended at the Young America's Foundation West Coast Leadership Conference. Around the outside are (from top right, clockwise) an 1897 schoolbook history of the United States, a Constitution Day 2006 copy with Bill of Rights bookmark, a copy from the National Archives in DC, a copy from Liberty Day 2008, a copy signed and presented to me by Congressman Rick Renzi in 2006 for my work on his campaign, a "pocket Constitution" from the WCLC, and a gilded parchment copy that I received as a gift one Christmas:
I would like to hope the kids enjoyed the presentation. I tried to make it fun, including a Constitution Day word search and class demonstrations of voting by population (House of Representatives) versus the "one-state-one-vote" concept in the Articles of Confederation which extended to the Senate when the Constitution was written.
Hopefully, I will get the chance to do bigger and better presentations in the future as well. It's nice teaching elementary students, but I think I would connect better with high school government students on a lot of things!

13 September 2009

Quick Stats

Today, I scanned a cursory check of Google Analytics, a program I use to track basic stats about how many people visit my blog, where they come from in the world, and what they're reading. This blog has been around since February 17, 2008, and I've been tracking stats since June 12 of that year. In that time:
  • 2,303 visitors
  • 33 countries represented (USA, Canada, Australia, Philippines, and UK with top visits)
  • In the US, I've had visitors from 46 of the 51 states and the District of Columbia, with Arizona, DC, Michigan, California, and Virginia leading the viewership rates. (I'm still missing North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Hawaii, West Virginia, and Vermont.)
  • In Arizona, which holds 1,484 of the 2,303 visits, I've had hits from 42 different cities, with Tempe, Mesa, and Phoenix leading the way.
  • People typically spend 1 minute, 46 seconds per visit reading my posts.
  • On three separate occasions, 30 or more people visited my blog in one day: 12/06/2008 (31 visits, "Merry Christmas"), 05/04/2009 (33 visits, "D-Backs Live Postgame Show", 08/11/2009 (55 visits, "Congressman Jeff Flake's Town Hall").
  • 54% of the people that have viewed my blog returned at least once. 45% are uniquely new visitors.

So, loyal readers, thank you for your support! I hope you enjoy my musings. Please feel free to leave more comments on my work... it helps me get better, and keys me in to more of what I should write about to keep people interested!

11 September 2009

Eight Years Later

Since today does mark the 8th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Virginia, and the attempted attack on the White House or Capitol Building in Washington, DC, I wanted to make sure I acknowledged the day with a little rememberance.

I searched through my blog for the other posts I've made about this day, and I found that I really haven't written about it. Probably partially because I was involved with 9/11 events at college last year, and partially because it's still disconcerting to discuss it.

Like most people, I remember exactly where I was when I saw smoke billowing out of the first hole in the towers early in the morning here in Phoenix. I was at home getting ready for my fifth week of tenth grade at Life School Gold charter school, and my dad flipped on the news in his bedroom and told us all to come see what was going on.

I think I remember recognizing the impact of the situation when a second plane hit the towers, and while Mom was ushering us out to get into the car I said, "We can't go to school right now... this is too important!" Not out of an I-don't-wanna-go-to-school mentality, but rather out of a "Holy crap!" line of thought. Mom actually ended up leaving me at home for my dad to drop me off at school a little closer to start time on his way to work.

Naturally, school was effectively cancelled, with all of us students remaining in homeroom for most of the day. I was in the southeastern-most room, facing west, watching the broadcast on CNN on a television that they had wheeled in on a cart. I remember early on the confusion and chaos that reigned as my classmates and teachers watched the twin towers succumb to the heat of the fires and tumble to the ground, engulfing cameramen and reporters and citizens in ash-like powder.

I remember the first time an anchor had "breaking news" about a third plane reportedly hitting the Pentagon, and thinking that it was surreal that we were being attacked by our own jetliners. I remember the video of the smoldering wreckage of Flight 93, brought down in Shanksville, PA by a determined group of heroic passengers resisting the terrorists in the air.

I can still picture the blank-slated shock on the face of the President - actually, on everyone's faces - as he was told by his Chief of Staff that America was under attack at a school in Florida, and hearing his brief statement before being whisked off to an "undisclosed location."

My feelings on that black day were of numbness, even as a high school student in a small charter school in Mesa, Arizona. I was scared that someone might try to fly a plane into the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. I was in disbelief that something of this magnitude could even be accomplished, and I found myself unable to tear myself away from the television and the incoming redundancy of the news reports.

In the days following, I watched with resolve the President's speech from the rubble of the Trade Center on September 14, 2001, and I must have looked up hundreds of news reports online and on television. The dark gray clouds that could be seen from space over Manhattan Island of the smoke and ash that lingered for weeks it seemed, I see clearly. I remember feeling anger and hatred for Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network, and a sense of helplessness from realizing I was too young even to volunteer to go to New York and help in the rescue and recovery efforts.

Eight years later, when I watch the History Channel broadcasts of the news stories and the photographs taken on 9/11/01, my chest still finds a way of tightening up, and my blood boils when at 12:06pm EST they show the first photo of Osama bin Laden on the Today Show's coverage. It's especially hard to see the pictures of folks who decided to jump from the highest stories of the towers rather than be burned alive in the flaming plane wreckage or choke to death on thick, black smoke. It can be even more difficult to see the photos of people with eyes larger than saucers, mouths open, screaming in abject terror at a nameless, faceless perpetrator and the sense of impending death.

To this very day, I know that the events of 9/11 are what inspired my interest in and love of politics. Not really because anything political happened that day, but because in the weeks and months and even years to follow, I strove to understand why the attacks happened, what caused the failures of security and flaws in communications here in America, and followed the writings and speeches of the President, his cabinet members, the legislators who responded with the PATRIOT Act, the Attornies General charged with upholding and interpreting the new security legislation, journalists, and ordinary citizens who were directly or indirectly involved.

I still don't think I can ever know all the details of 9/11, but authors like Bob Woodward with "insider" perspective on the day, the 9/11 Commission charged with rooting out those details, and accounts and stories of the victims in the towers, planes, and Pentagon have helped to sate my curiousity.

I remember 9/11, and I firmly hold that it something we collectively should never allow to be forgotten. God bless America.

LD22 Meeting 9/10/2009

Every now and again, I am invited to attend LD (legislative district) meetings from outside my own area. If I kept a calendar, I'd probably remember to attend them more often, but at least I try to keep up with state goings-on. So anyway, last night I had to fortune and good luck to receive a call from Chad Heywood, the LD-22 GOP leader, who called to mention his meeting and to invite me to attend. There were a good host of speakers, and the agenda sounded like it would be really interesting, so I definitely wanted to make it out there.

I left a bit early from the house to make it down to the utterly fantastic Gilbert Public Library (which I had never been to before, but definitely want to check out again sometime), and I met Chad and two of his other friends, Brandon and Blake - two really good guys around my age and in similar employment situations who were helping to set up drinks, chairs, and other stuff for the meeting.

When we were allowed into the room, I was able to say hello to State Representative Andy Biggs of LD22 whom I had met at another previous LD meeting and who is the Chairman of the Transportation Committee in the House. I'd heard him discuss, among other things, photo radar and the state budget battles, and he was slated to give an update from the Legislature later on in the meeting.

I also said hello to newly elected Gilbert Mayor John Lewis, who defeated a rival incumbent in the last election back in May. I was unable to really be of any help in that election, but I think Mayor Lewis' platform of attracting new medium-to-large-sized businesses to Gilbert to ramp up their economic development. As I understand it (not well, since I don't live in Gilbert myself), their plans are going well.

Also there were Jenn Daniels of the Gilbert Town Council, also elected to her first term back in May and someone I'd met a few months back at an LD-22 meeting, and Mesa District 6 Councilmember Scott Somers. Scott was kind enough to talk to me at length after the meeting about Mesa's Fiscal Year 2010 balanced budget (what a feat for the Mesa City Council in a recession!) and about the differences in communications strategies between federal/state and local entities.

A few minutes past 7:00pm, they started the meeting with an invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance, and introductions of the different lawmakers, precinct captains, and visitors (like me) who were in attendance. Adam Armer, the 1st Vice Chairman of LD22 made a few announcements, and a gentleman whose name I did not catch got up to discuss Gilbert's Constitution Week.

For those not aware previously, Constitution Day is on September 17th each year, and commemorates the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America on 9/17/1787. Annually now, Gilbert hosts a bevy of Constitution Week activities, including a Patriotic presentation called "The Price of Freedom" this year on Friday 9/18 at Mesquite High School's auditorium, featuring stories from WWII veterans and a prelude from Senator John McCain. On 9/19 (Saturday) there is a fair also held at Mesquite HS for $2.00 per person with booths, games, music, a fireworks show, and historical characters like Ben Franklin. I attended a version of this for the 4th of July about 3 years ago, and it was definitely well-worth attending. Check out http://www.constitutionweekusa.com/ for more information on the event.

Once announcements were out of the way, the special guest speaker for the evening got up to give a presentation on the budget: Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. While currently not among his official duties as SOS, his former position as a lawmaker and President of the State Senate back in 2006, and his involvement with the records-keeping of the current Legislature makes him uniquely suited to speak on the issue and break it down.

His discussion focused on how the Arizona state budget is made, where money is spent, and how we came to be in this really big deficit in 2009 from the modest surplus of 2006. Without redoing his speech (which can be found at the Secretary of State's website HERE), the following explains how the state budget is structured:

1. General Fund: the portion of the state budget that the legislature gets to divvy up among programs for each fiscal year. This primary mode of spending accounts for about $10.5 billion per year (in 2009).

  • 1/2 of the GF comes from sales taxes, 1/2 from income taxes
  • Property taxes got directly to local government entities, not the legislature's GF
  • $5 billion per year goes to K-12 education, $1 billion each to higher ed and prisons/court systems, $2.5 billion to Health and Welfare (AHCCCS, CPS, ADES, etc), and $500 million to everything else.
2. Other Funds: funds appropriated by the legislature that comes from other fees or taxes (like on alcohol or tobacco). About $1 billion of this goes to transportation, $1 billion to health/welfare, and $500 million to higher education, and $3 billion to education.

3. Federal and Non-Appropriated Monies: money given to Arizona from the federal government directly to agencies, bypassing the legislature.

  • $6.5 billion goes to health and welfare
  • $2 billion goes to each K-12 and higher education
  • $1 billion goes to capital projects
  • $500 million goes to each state lottery & workers compensation, environmental agencies, Dept. of Administration, and others.
This means the state budget is made up of about $32 billion. $11 billion goes to K-12 education, $5 billion to higher education, $10 billion to Health and Welfare, and $5-6 billion to all other projects. The real shocking part of the discussion come from trying to interpret how Arizona fell into such a big hole. Here's the gist:
  1. In 2007, lawmakers projected $9.8 billion of raised revenue and $9.6 billion of state expenses through the General Fund. They ACTUALLY collected $9.6 billion revenue with that amount of expenses. There was also about $1 billion in state reserves from the Rainy Day Fund and cash on hand.
  2. In 2008, projected revenue was $10.1 billion, with $10.6 billion in expenses, but the state really only collected $8.8 billion and spent $10.5 billion (a nearly $2 billion deficit). This was due to the recession. To compensate, the state took $500 million of the Rainy Day Fund for the difference, conducted "sweeps" of excess money from other state budget areas amounting to $300 million, made $100 million in cuts, and "rolled over" about $300 million on K-12 education payments to the next fiscal year. This made it LOOK like the state was only in a $200 million deficit, when in reality it was behind about $1.2 billion. Confused yet?
  3. Okay, so the state was down quite a bit. Someone in 2009 decided the recession was over, and proposed revenue collection projections of $9.1 billion with $11.1 billion in spending. In reality the state collected a mere $7.3 billion and spent $10 billion. Again, the state took money from the Rainy Day Fund, borrowed over $500 million on credit, did another $300 million K-12 rollover, and made $400 million in cuts. What was the final score? A nearly $3 billion deficit problem for the state for Fiscal Year 2010. Confusing, yes, but true? Unfortunately, yes.
After a good long explanation involving charts and Kleenex boxes (simulating the billions of dollars being spent), SOS Bennett proposed a potential solution: living on 96% of our current spending. WHAT?! Yes. You see, there is a provision that for Arizona to receive federal money, our level of spending can't dip below that of 2006. In 2006, we spent $8.3 billion. That's roughly 96% of our current spending level as of right now. Then, we get revenue back up via one of two ways: either a temporary tax increase to raise $1 billion proposed by Governor Brewer, which only solves 1/3 of the deficit problem; or by finding ways to attract more businesses and companies into the state through spending cuts, tax incentives, and other means. I'm no tax lawyer, so I'm not always sure what the details are involved with something like that, but it's got to be better than raising taxes to get a few quick bucks which aren't going to completely solve the problem.

After the presentation, SOS Bennett took a few questions, and I wrote down some of the better ones. First, what's the deal with selling off the State Capitol buildings? The legislature's quick-fix, one-time-only plan to raise revenue is to sell off the House and Senate buildings, and then lease them back over a period of several years. On one hand, it does provide roughly $700 million right now, but on the other, it puts the state into what Rep. Biggs called a "$70 million debt service to raise one-time money for 2010." I haven't liked the idea from the get-go.

Another question: what can we do as individuals? Well, for one thing, being careful at the ballot box is a start. Many of the initiatives passed that require money to be spent somewhere end up being deemed "voter protected" and spending cuts usually pass those types of laws by when it comes time to audit finances. SOS Bennett mentioned that roughly 1/3 of the budget now has these "voter protections" on it, and it ends up being both numerically and politically dicey when it comes time to try to effect cuts in the budget.

A final question: Where does the money for K-12 schools go? Educators or administrators? SOS Bennett didn't really give numbers for this one, except to say that he found it odd that K-12 education gets roughly $10,000 per student per year, and that at a class size on average of 25 students, that's about $250,000 per class per year. The average teacher salary in Arizona is only $44,000 per year, so that leaves $206,000 being spend somewhere else for each classroom. And being a substitute teacher myself, and having my mom be a fifth grade teacher, I can say with conviction that I'll be damned if $206,000 is going into her classroom or those of the classes I've taught.

Okay, since this post is now the length of some airport tarmacs, I'll quickly summarize the remainder of the meeting: Mayor Lewis gave a City of Gilbert update, reiterating Constitution Week and reminding people about the Citizens' Budget Committee; Mesa Councilman Somers talked about airport fees info and about the balanced Mesa city budget; and Rep. Biggs discussed briefly the negotiations process with Governor Brewer on the state budget and some of the frustrations going on there right now.

All told, it was a very interesting meeting. I'd never heard in such detail how the state budget is put together, let alone how the deficit came to be in such a bad shape. Of course, it was good seeing my Gilbert friends again, and seeing Ken Bennett again - the last time was at a dinner up in Flagstaff while I was a member of the College Republicans. He's a good guy.

I'll try in the future to be more proactive about getting information on the LD meetings up earlier so others who are interested in the topics for discussion can also attend.