Friday, August 29, 2008

Stunning? Or just stunned?

John McCain will have two good looking women up there now that's he chosen Sarah Palin, 44, to be his vice presidential choice. She certainly is something to look at, but she brings some real non-Washington politics to the table.

We’ll know in about a month if this was brilliant strategy to win the race or if he gambled big and lost. He’s certainly trying to appeal to a lot of people here.

This certainly takes the news-cycle winds out of a strong Obama acceptance speech on Thursday night.

Now we've got two 40-somethings on national tickets.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lights, camera, action

What do you get when you cross a 40-year-old guy with one real community theater role to his credit and a director who is desperate when a person drops a role less then three weeks to opening night?

You get roped into helping a friend with a play. Actually, it's going to be a blast.

A hilarious book, "Dearly Beloved" is set in Texas with the Futrelle sisters getting ready for the wedding of Frankie Futrelle's daughter, who may or may not show up at the church with her future. Among the minor characters in the laugh-filled play are a fortune teller, an over-medicated wedding guest, a fill-in preacher and a dim-witted police officer (played by your favorite blogger, me).

I actually auditioned for another role in the show when my director friend e-mailed me after a cast member dropped the show. I showed up a day after my hernia surgery, hobbled up to the stage, read some lines, and hobbled off. My friend must have felt bad to drag my still-healing body out for the audition, only to give the part to another - and, truthfully, a more-qualified - person. Still, it is nice to be asked.

If you get a chance to see this play and aren't offended by references to menopause, potentially wayward preachers, and other minor indiscretions - the person I'm replacing apparently didn't like (or his wife didn't like) the "direction" the show was going, even though he had the script more than a month - I'd recommend it. I did a Google search and it appears to get wide play at various community theaters across the country.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get ready for my close-up.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dems hit the halfway point

The Democratic convention hit the halfway mark on Tuesday, and so far the women are doing the heavy lifting.

Michelle Obama delivered a performance that took the edge off of earlier reports that took shots at her likability.

Hillary Clinton, while infusing much of her campaign into her speech, came out enthusiastically for Barack Obama. Hard to tell is the references to herself and her husband were laying the ground for 2012 (if Obama loses) or serving as a national political obituary. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Entrepreneurship is the new old thing

Ever wonder how our local institutions got their start? Same way Ford and Microsoft and others began: an idea, a little money and a lot of hard work.

Whether they are serving pulled pork or pulling teeth, the people who start uniquely local business all fall into the same category. They are all entrepreneurs.

We wouldn't have Main Streets and shopping centers and corner grocers with this breed of people who - despite failure and other risks - devoted their lives to their business ventures.

Individually, these businesses may not have a tremendous impact. Collectively, they have the power to influence the local and regional economy by providing goods and services and jobs to an area.

A century ago - heck, probably not even a generation ago - there was little formal training for entrepreneurs. The business owners attended the School of Life to prepare them for their venture.

That's changing for the next wave of entrepreneurs who hope to tackle bigger and more complex new business opportunities.

Purdue Research Park recently finished it's second annual Entrepreneurship Academy for high school students. In many cases these students are high achievers in science and technology. The academy introduces these youth to a product already developed by PRC firms.

In less than one week, the teams of four or five students must research the product and prepare a pitch to investors, which are comprised of business leaders who judge the presentations while peppering the students with tough questions.

The academy is no mere summer week camp. One of its goals is to equip today's bright high school students with the tools they'll need if they choose to be entrepreneurs.

Is there a Bill Gates or Henry Ford among them? Who knows? But judging by students' responses following the week-long introduction to entrepreneurship, the seed has been planted. We'll see what grows from that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In my day...

What do karaoke machines, GPS navigation systems, and NC-17 have in common? They are all things that the collegiate class of 2012 has always known, according to the annual Belot College Mindset List.

The annual compendium of pop culture and ways of life helps serve as an aid to college professors to help them understand their incoming freshmen.

Those of us in our 40s (and up) know - or at least have heard of - the Warsaw Pact, Pee Wee's Playhouse, and Roseanne Barr's horrid rendition of the National Anthem. But to incoming college freshmen, that's ancient or unknown history, unlike always having things like Caller ID, free soft drink refills at McDonalds, and Nintendo.

The list wasn't around in 1986, when I was heading to college. If it had it may have included such nuggets as:
- Ronald Reagan is a politician, not a movie star.
- People did not need a local operator to connect their phone calls.
- The Dodgers have always played in Los Angeles and the Giants have always played in San Francisco.
- TV shows have always been in color.
- The Surgeon General has always said smoking is hazardous to your health.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And the No. 2 Democrat is ...

The New York Times is reporting that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama may make an announcement on his vice presidential pick as early as Wednesday morning, Aug. 20.

The inside track of candidates includes Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware. On the outside looking in are Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.

Kaine and Biden give Obama geographic balance on the ticket. Bayh is a conservative Democrat who has appeal among Republicans, given his large gubernatorial and senate victories in a largely Republican state. Clinton, of course, brings instant name recognition - and potential baggage - to the ticket, while Sebelius is a popular choice, but as widely known.

While Bayh's Indiana roots are right next to Obama's Illinois home, that isn't necessarily a negative: Bill Clinton of Arkansas picked Al Gore of neighboring Tennessee in 1992.

A real stand-up guy

This is one guy who won't take death laying down.

The family of a man in Puerto Rico honored his wishes by having his body propped up in a standing position during his wake.

An unusual request to be sure - especially considering the wake was 3 days. If it's anything like some Catholic wakes I've been to, I wonder how many people walked up to talk to the guy.

I'm going back and forth between traditional burial and cremation. 20 years ago, I would have said nixed the idea of cremation. But with land a premium, I may just have myself reduced to ashes.

If you're on the fence on what to do when the Grim Reaper visits, WebMD has a slightly old, but still pertinent article covering funeral planning.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Politics via the Best Seller's List

Barack Obama aims to put his policies directly in the hands of people via a book called "Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise" scheduled to come out Sept. 9.

Obama appears to be taking a page out of Bill Clinton's book (yes, pun intended) when the former president published a policy book during his first campaign in 1992.

While the contents remain to be seen, the book is a strong move by Obama to put his policies in print. There is a chance it could backfire if he alters his stance after the book hits the streets, or if the printed version doesn't mesh with what he's said to date.

Commentators and conservatives will jump on any inconsistencies. Changing direction on a policy because you've learned new information is one thing. Altering your course because of political pressure or poll data is a sign of weakness. Don't take a stand on something if you're going to cave in when you see the latest Harris Poll results.

Not sure what John McCain will plan as a rebuttal. But wouldn't we all like to read about John Edwards' latest scandal. Then again, maybe not.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

No heavy lifting required

Just an update on the hernia surgery: All is progressing well. The scar is a bit unsightly - mainly because the belly hair hasn't fully grown back.

The best news (OK, maybe not the best) is that I'm under a "no-heavy-lifting" rule from the doctor for four weeks after the surgery. In the doc's opinion, "heavy lifting" consists of 20 lbs. I've got another week to milk this, so trash duty, litter pan duty, carried tired and whiney 3-year-old duty, etc. falls to my wife.

It could be worse. My wife works in the health field and she assessed a patient (in his 70s or 80s) who had the same surgery I did. One problem: His incisions didn't take (or he didn't follow doctor's orders) and he ended up with a nasty infection.

I'm hoping to avoid all that, although I may bust a gut when the post-insurance bill arrives.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Back to school is an investment

My memory might be a little fuzzy, but I recall school supplies a generation ago consisting of a pen, a pack of filler paper, maybe a pencil box and a permission from my mom for the nuns to use the paddle as necessary if I got out of line.

I also remember classes starting after Labor Day, no air conditioning on hot days and walking to school in chest deep snow (and did I mention it was a five-mile uphill walk both to AND from home). But that’s a story for another day.

The 2008 list reads like a geek scavenger hunt. And I have to wonder what the teachers are planning when they ask for 10 glue sticks and a box of Ziploc bags per child and erasers only in the color pink.

With four kids (three elementary, one preschool) school, the outlay of supplies and books for free and public education approaches the Gross National Product of Luxembourg (or at least a few hundred dollars). That’s better than the Piper household’s former Gross Domestic Product, which consisted of dirty diapers until 2007.

The economy being what is it, I wouldn’t be surprised in some kids with August birthdays get their gift list and school supply list merged.

Little Sally: “Uh, thanks Grandma for the plain pocket folder. This will go great with my Fiskar scissors, five-subject collegiate notebook with its own folder, and my pack of 3x5 index cards.”

Mom: “Alright kids. Let’s see who can bust open the piƱata.”

Kid No. 1: “Is it filled with candy?”

Mom: “No, but it’s loaded with No. 2 pencils, red pens and paperclips.”

Kids (in unison): “Awwwwwwww.”

You can’t blame schools, though, for turning to students to help subsidize the supply field. Budgets are tights everywhere. I’d hate to see what classrooms would be like without funding from local organizations that provide funding to classrooms as well as provide school supplies to low income families.

State government lends a hand in some regions. Alabama, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia were among states with “sales tax holidays” last weekend that applied to certain school supplies.

But if your kids are blessed by having excellent teachers (as ours have had so far), that box of crayons or dozen ink pens is a cheap investment if the outcome is a quality education.

Although I’m still wondering what they do with all those plastic bags …

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