Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Arthritis Walk on May 18: Please Contribute!

Arthritis Walk on May 18: Please Contribute!

Kelly and I are participating in the Arthritis Walk on Friday, May 18, 2007 in Forest Park.

Here is
My Donation Page.

Anything you can contribute is greatly appreciated.




This is Rosie, about a month ago. She was a stray cat whom I picked up one day from our front yard. She was very cute, precious, affectionate... and pregnant!

And these two blurry shots I took with my cameraphone are Rosie and her three new baby kittens, from yesterday. She must have given birth sometime during the day while I was at work and Kelly happened to not have gotten home yet.

Meow! Meeeewwww!

And so on.

Just too cute!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Shots Fired

Shots Fired

I certainly hope it's pure coincidence, but I am certainly unsettled to realize that just as the NRA's massive convention wraps up here in St. Louis:

1) Possibly as many as 30 people were gunned down today at Virginia Tech;
2) Saturday morning about 5, a hard-working father of three was shot in the thigh and later died while trying to keep his car from being stolen from right in front of his house, on the 1900 block of Utah Street in Benton Park, less than a mile from my house;
3) Sunday night (last night) we heard several volleys of rapid gunfire from inside our own house. We did call police, the 2nd time but I have to confess I didn't the 1st time. In between and afterwards, we heard the police helicopter hovering overhead -- which is just as unsettling to me as the gunfire.

It doesn't matter to me whether someone is in the military, a police officer, a security guard, a licensed concealed-carry permit holder, a terrorist, a convicted felon on probation, or a gang member who hasn't been caught yet -- I wish no-one carried firearms. Yet, realistically, I recognize the 2nd amendment may have some function, at least in maintaining civilian control over the military.

Both the University of Missouri and Washington University ban firearms from their campuses, as do many public and private entities. I see no problem with that.

Then again, military bases have lots of weapons around, but they're usually among the lowest-crime places in the country.

I remember being pretty stunned the day of the Columbine High School shootings; at the time I was an UMSL student, and we had a pretty poignant discussion on the matter in a class that evening.

Anyway, I don't have any answers. I have far more questions than answers -- but my gut reaction is that firearms are, all-in-all, bad for our society.

Monday, April 09, 2007

So Long, Ol' Pedestrian Bridge

So Long, Ol' Pedestrian Bridge

From the March 26 2007 "New I-64" email update:

On April 11, the pedestrian bridge over I-170 between McMorrow Avenue and Francis Avenue will be removed. All lanes of I-170 between Galleria Parkway and I-64 will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. for the bridge removal. Motorists will be advised to use Brentwood Boulevard as a detour overnight.

Both the closure of the Galleria Parkway ramps and the removal of the pedestrian bridge are permanent and will not be rebuilt with the project. The new flyover ramps for the interchange will connect with I-170 at nearly the same location as the current ramps and pedestrian bridge. There is no way to safely allow those traffic movements in the same place. Pedestrian access is provided on Galleria Parkway under I-170.

I suppose eliminating the ramps (April 4th the on-ramp from Galleria Pkwy to SB I-170 closed; the off-ramp from NB-170 to Galleria Pkwy will close in May), is inevitable given the close proximity of those ramps to the new I-64 ramps. Similarly, I can understand the much larger interchange means the overpass cannot be retained. Nevertheless, I'll miss that convenient shortcut from the MetroLink station to the Burger King on Brentwood.

Then again, the Shell and the Burger King are probably slated for replacement with a "Lifestyle Center" anyway.

Funny... I've walked through The Boulevard a few times, but I guess those stores and restaurants just don't fit into my particular "lifestyle." ;-)

During this construction period, it seems likely that it will be pretty difficult to get from the MetroLink station to the Saint Louis Galleria itself, safely. Sure, the closure of the ramps will reduce traffic flows, but what about all the construction going on overhead for the new ramps?

Not a pretty picture. But I guess if you wanted to access the Galleria, you could always hop off at Brentwood I-64, then ride the #02 WUSTL-Red around the corner.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

When Life Takes A Turn

When Life Takes A Turn

So as I was preparing to return from Detroit last Wednesday night, I got a call from my wife Kelly that her mom had fallen down our basement stairs and gotten injured pretty badly.

Fortunately, Kelly got to her almost immediately and called 911, although it was quite terrifying for her.

Her mom should be ok in the long run, but it's going to be a long road to recovery. She just got out of Barnes-Jewish yesterday, moving a few blocks to the affiliated rehab center.

Ultimately, I think everything will work out fine.... but you just never know what might happen when you least expect it.


By the way, did anybody notice there's an election today?

I was voter #6 in my precinct, at 7:10 AM.

There were no touch-screen voting machines, and the optical-scan machine was not working, so I had to drop my ballot in the side of the big black ballot box on which the OS machine sits.

It wouldn't surprise me if it was just a loose power cord or loose memory card -- the two most common problems with the Diebold OS machines that prevent start-up -- but there was obviously no tech spec this time, and the regular poll workers just said that's how it is. Later, when the machine is working, the ballots will be scanned.

Anyway I voted for Katherine Wessling and David Lee Jackson for school board -- mainly because they were endorsed by Local 420, AFT. While teachers' union support is not always the best reason to support a candidate, I think it's a good idea in this case both for reasons of policy and of self-interest.

Even though the elected school board most likely will be stripped of authority in June, it's good to have this board in place to provide some representation for the parents and teachers who have largely been excluded from the MO DESE decision-making process to date. In this context, I'd rather have a parent-and-teacher-dominated board than a corporate-dominated board. It's important to have the support of business interests for improving the district, but they have plenty of say in the appointment of the transitional board. So the elected board, for better or worse, will be more of an advisory board for the time being.

And I'm certainly really glad, right now, for the provisions of the SLPS-Local 420 "policy statement" (non-binding union contract) that include short-term disability insurance coverage! I think my job has that too, even though it's not union... nevertheless, it's the kind of benefit that unions have been crucial in maintaining and expanding for this country's working people.

I just hope the transitional board/overlay district doesn't mess with that benefit package too much.

I also voted to re-elect Joann Ordinachev for JCD Board of Trustees Subdistrict 3. I don't really know much about either candidate, unfortunately.

Although Daryl Hemenway made some compelling points in the postcard I received, it confused me because he excluded my ZIP code (63118) from his listing of the Subdistrict 3 service area. I guess my precinct is in Subdistrict 3, but for some reason I thought it was in Subdistrict 1.

I agree with Mr. Hemenway that the campaign for Proposition EJ, which I supported, was very badly run. However, much of the blame for that seems to lie with Subdistrict 4 member Michael Rohrbacker. Admittedly, the rest of the BOT probably should have taken a more active role, if they expected the proposition to succeed -- which of course, it did not.

However, I'm not convinced that five months' experience as an NEA rep is sufficient for a slot like this. For that matter, neither the incumbent Dr. Ordinachev nor the challenger Mr. Hemenway seem to have much higher education expertise, per se. That's not necessarily a requisite for this position, but it does seem odd their experience is more on the K-12 side rather than adult education or traditional college education.

But maybe that's a good thing, balancing the college-level expertise of board president Robert Nelson, a retired Forest Park faculty member; Denise Chachere, a consultant who teaches a few classes at SLU; and Dr. Dolores Gunn, the County health director who is on the SLU medical faculty.

Anyway, this is most definitely a very low key election day. I saw nobody handing out literature outside at either polling place I passed this morning.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Back In Town!

Back In Town!

The past few weeks have been incredibly hectic, which has made it difficult to keep up with this outlet for my whining and carrying on.

Anyway, I spent most of last week in Detroit, MI for the annual conference of the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC).

I was able to stay with a friend, a former colleague who now makes lots more money in the corporate world than she did working for St. Louis city government. ;-)

Anyway, she lives about 30 miles from downtown Detroit (about 75 minutes drive in rush-hour traffic), where the conference was held at the RenCen, a bizarre monstrocity of early 1980s architecture that now serves as world headquarters for GM.

Detroit is a MUCH larger city and metro area than St. Louis, but I would argue its downtown is not as nice as ours. Indeed, most of the city and many of the inner-ring suburbs are still quite blighted.

However, its waterfront is somewhat prettier, mostly because the Detroit River actually is blue, not brown!

I really enjoyed the Henry Ford Museum -- too bad it's out in the suburb of Dearborn. Likewise, I briefly explored the campus of Wayne State University -- located in the heart of the city, about a 15-minute bus ride from downtown and adjacent to the cultural district.

Metro Detroit certainly does NOT have very unified public transit. There's two major agencies serving SE Michigan -- D-DOT operates buses in the city proper, but SMART has the routes in the suburbs as well as commuter routes from the suburbs into downtown.

Meanwhile, the ridiculous late-1980s Detroit People Mover elevated tramway loop downtown is operated separately; and the tunnel bus to Canada is of course operated by Transit Windsor.

I rode two different SMART routes, and one D-DOT route, as well as the People Mover a couple times. I never took the tunnel bus, but I wanted too. I just hadn't remembered to bring my birth certificate; and my passport expired three days before the trip.... which I guess means my 10-year high school reunion is coming up!