Ask and I shall receive

I’m going to take just as much credit for this as I can.

On January 5, the Daily Times put my comment in the Grapevine section:

WHEN WILL NEW ROADS OPEN? While it’s nice to have those extra-wide sidewalks known as the Sharen Drive extension and the Northeast Collector Road nearby for my regular stroll, I’d prefer to be able to drive on them. Since they’re all complete with signage and light poles are up, are we simply waiting on the mayor and assorted politicians to schedule a ribbon-cutting?

In today’s Daily Times come this article. The beginning of the story notes:

SALISBURY — Like every good thing, phase two of the Northeast Collector Road took a long time and a lot of energy, Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman said Monday.

“Today is a great day,” she said.

Tilghman and city and county officials celebrated a blue ribbon-cutting ceremony on a windy afternoon just outside Emmanuel Wesleyan Church. (emphasis mine.)

Do I know politicians or what? That road sat basically ready for a week, the only work I saw done on it was pouring the concrete on a couple small traffic islands and that occurred last Friday. But they still haven’t turned on the street lights.

I do like the extra two minutes I get now going to/from work, and it’ll really be nice for trips to the pharmacy, library, and post office, which will be quite a bit shorter now.

They have one more stretch of the road to complete, when that’s done there will be a second route to the Centre of Salisbury mall. Expected completion time is the end of 2007. Of course, by that time I’ll probably not be living here in this part of town.

New feature

Courtesy of Newsbusters.org, there should be a new daily “Gaggle” cartoon way down at the footer of my blog.

I’m sure I could link to it for free, but I’ll send the Media Research Center a small donation since that’s the parent of Newsbusters. And it’s generally a pretty funny cartoon!

Merry Christmas to all!

This is a greeting for a Merry Christmas and a shout out to those who I’d like to thank.

First, Merry Christmas to those who created WordPress and the people at midPhase who serve as my server. Without them monoblogue is still a germ of an idea in my head.

A Merry Christmas to all of you who have read my blog. There may not be a whole lot of you but Rome wasn’t built in a day, either. Having started one month ago, you can consider yourselves as trendsetters.

To my blogging friends I extend my Christmas wishes:

Dawn at WriteWingBlog…thanks for being among the first to find me and for your help. Hope things continue to improve with your family.

Flip at Suitably Flip…for a startup blog this year you’ve come a long way! Keep up the good work!

Timmer at Righting America…Soldier, you continue to fight the good fight. While it may not always seem that way, we’re winning.

Dan at The Crallspace…while we’re generally at loggerheads with each other, you’re becoming a more noble warrior for your cause. The next couple years will be an interesting battle.

TB at Tidy Bowl Begins…I really appreciate your insights and point of view. May that new diploma of yours serve as the key to your dreams in life.

Drea at Fina’ Drea…All the best to you and Travis. Hopefully I’ll be getting some special news from you soon.

I know I’m forgetting some of you bloggers out there who I’ve enjoyed reading, particularly those who I don’t know personally (yet!) I wish you a Merry Christmas as well.

Now it’s time for the folks in “real life” to have their due:

A Merry Christmas to all those I work with – Keith, Lee, Steve, Jen, Trish, Randy, Jeremy, Tim, Bob, Eric, George, Bill, Dave, Korey, Joe…and a Happy Hanukkah to Mike.

To my friends Judy and Kristine…you both deserve a wonderful Christmas.

For the Swartz clan: you may not read this, but Merry Christmas to you Mom, Dad, LJ, and Tom!

And finally for my daughter Danielle: May you get all your Christmas wishes to come true. luvya!

On morality and free will

I finally finished reading Atlas Shrugged today. I’ve spent most of the last month reading this book, reading a chapter here and a couple chapters there. Think the longest stretch I read was about four chapters. It’s a very powerful book, and it has a very simple premise: what if all the doers and thinkers went on strike? What would happen to society?

I can see the book’s appeal to libertarians. The main heroic characters eventually accrue to a place where they can act of their own free will, unencumbered by regulations but trading in things they value. The remainder of characters (save one) can only ride along as their society descends through the stages of socialism, totalitarianism, and finally anarchy as no one wants to assume any sort of responsiblity. The last stage occurs when the final heroic character realizes there’s nothing left to save in that world.

The book also made me think about the interactions of faith, morality, and free will. It’s obvious to me without reading any biography of Ayn Rand that she was an atheist, or at the least agnostic. Her depiction of faith in the book leaves little question of her attitude. But I began to wonder if all three are mutually exclusive.

It’s fairly clear that morality and free will are opposites in the sense that for one to have absolute free will would leave them unencumbered by morality; at least morality as expressed in commonly accepted terms like the Ten Commandments. These are used as guideposts to what one should not do, or, limits to absolute free will.

But one can be absolutely moral and at least have some free will in the matter, if only by choosing to continue to be absolutely moral. However, that choice would bring one off the extreme of absolutism if they elected, even for a moment, not to be absolutely moral – a hollow choice. Thus, morality and free will are not quite polar opposites. But they are close.

Faith and morality tend to interact in a way where, the more faithful one is, the more moral one is. But there are exceptions. An atheist can be almost absolutely moral (as defined by the Ten Commandments.) A priest can be a pedophile.

An interesting question can be asked when one considers the interaction of faith and free will. There are many out there who believe in predestination. I received an e-mail from a friend where she stated that, in her belief, God had chosen who she would marry and when the time was right that man would come to her.

But would not a belief in predestination then eliminate the incentive for free will? Why choose to do anything when the result is already written in stone someplace but you’re not free to see it? You become an automaton, drifting through life on someone else’s plan. Of course, that’s probably the extreme in faith. But, in order to be faithful to most religions, one gives up some of their free will.

Most people have a little of each of these components in their lives. Even the homicide bomber, who acts as the warrior of his absolute faith by killing those of other creeds and the final destroyer of his morality by killing himself and those around him, retains his free will of whether to blow himself up or not until the instant of his detonation.

One of the final passages in Atlas Shrugged details a judge busily rewriting the Constitution to add protections to commerce from government.

It is wonderful how the Founders came up with a document that is supposed to protect the rights of the governed from their government. But there is a paradox in this: they assumed that the governed would be those who value highly their morality, and they enlisted their faith in Providence to ask that the entire enterprise be showered with His blessings. Thus, the free will of the people who were delivered from the tyranny of the Crown to the freedom of being governed by and with their consent was still kept within the boundaries of morality and faith. Still, it was much better and provided much more freedom than being subject to the cruel whims of an emperor.

So is it any wonder that, in a nation where morality and faith are in shorter and shorter supply, that the government no longer operates by and with the consent of the governed? It is now a single man who can turn aside the will of the people, by declaring something they duly voted for null and void because that proposition conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution and what it says (and doesn’t say.) Instead of a crown, this man wears the black robes that once signified justice.

And the downward spiral of society profiled in Rand’s book has began in some quarters. The absolutism of right and wrong is eroded by the waves of political correctness and secularism. We are asked to consider the root cause of a criminal and blame ourselves for his crime when it was, very simply, the decision of the bank robber to attempt to take money that does not belong to him at the point of a gun.

But by the absolutism of the Eighth Commandment; thou shalt not steal.

And by the absolutism of laws that are based on the United States Constitution (as well as indirectly in the Fifth Amendment;) bank robbery is illegal.

Even if the bank robber is only attempting to get money to further his crack habit, or to feed his starving kids because he’s lost his job through no fault of his own, it’s still illegal and immoral. It’s a place where free will cannot go – to enable one’s free will to be accomplished, he prohibits others from enjoying theirs.

For anything other to be acceptable, it becomes only a matter of time before the strike begins.

Saturday football is back!

I’m a huge baseball fan, so that whole season is my favorite time of year. But second comes the final few weeks of the NFL season, and when the Saturday games start, that’s the time when they’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. Today is the first batch of Saturday games, and all three of them have some sort of playoff implication (unlike the remaining Monday night games.) For all the things the NFL is, they are the worst prognosticators of what teams will be in the hunt at the end of the season, so it seems like in the last several years they’ve had some real stinkers for MNF at season’s end.

And there’s something that really fascinates me about the math and gymnastics the NFL does to break ties in the standings. They set the schedule in a rigid fashion so each team plays the same number of division games, conference games, and a set number of common opponents for each team in a particular division. It’s rare that they have to go beyond the third stage of tiebreakers to determine playoff teams and scheduling position for the next season. The only time the tiebreakers get to the esoteric stage (like coin flip) is for things like draft order (which is based on standings in reverse order, except the Super Bowl teams draft last regardless of standing.)

But today is the first batch of Saturday games and they’re really all pretty good. So I’ll be sitting slack-jawed looking at the TV most of the day. First up:

Tampa Bay (9-4, 1st in NFC South) at New England (8-5, 1st in AFC East) (1:30 p.m., FOX)

What this game means:

For Tampa Bay, they can maintain their NFC South lead with a win regardless of what the Carolina Panthers do against New Orleans. If both teams win out, Tampa Bay would win the NFC South based on division record (5-1 vs. Carolina’s 4-2.) The loss to Atlanta last week hurt the Panthers badly, while the loss to Tampa Bay 2 weeks ago enabled the Buccaneers to split the season series.

For New England, a win and they’re in the playoffs as the AFC East champions. Despite it being possible to match New England’s overall record, Miami could not beat the Patriots in the next tiebreaker (division record, New England’s worst possible 4-2 vs. Miami’s best possible 3-3.) The Patriots would also maintain what is basically only a mathematical chance of getting a bye through the first week of the playoffs with a win, while a loss would end that possibility. (The top two teams in each conference get to skip to the second round of the playoffs.)

Other teams rooting for Tampa Bay:

Miami, because a win by Tampa Bay helps keep their flickering hopes of winning the AFC East alive for at least another day (the Dolphins host the 3-10 New York Jets tomorrow.)

Denver and Cincinnati, because a loss by New England helps their playoff chances by improving their seeding. Assuming they win their divisions, they can be no worse than a #3 seed, while the AFC East champion (with a New England loss) would be #4.

Other teams rooting for New England:

Carolina, because of the tiebreaker noted above.

Kansas City (8-5, 2nd in AFC West) at New York Giants (9-4, 1st in NFC East) (5 p.m., CBS)

What this game means:

For Kansas City, they can stay in the hunt for the AFC West title with a win, while a loss and a Denver win tonight would end their title hopes. It also puts pressure on San Diego (who plays at 13-0 Indianapolis tomorrow) and Pittsburgh (who plays at 8-5 Minnesota tomorrow,) both of whom share Kansas City’s 8-5 record as they fight for one of the two wild card berths.

For New York, a win keeps them on pace to win the NFC East title, as one of their closest two pursuers would be eliminated tomorrow (Dallas plays at Wahington, the loser would be out of the title hunt if New York wins.)

Other teams rooting for Kansas City:

Dallas and Washington, because a loss by the Giants helps their chances at the NFC East title. In fact, Washington needs the Giants to lose to either Kansas City or Oakland (in the season finale) to have a chance for the title. With a win, Dallas moves back into a tie for the division lead at 9-5.

Seattle, because a loss by the Giants brings them one step closer to a first-round bye – they could be no worse than a #3 seed and with more help this weekend they can be #2 or #1 seed.

Minnesota, because a loss by the Giants and beating Pittsburgh tomorrow puts them ahead of the Giants in any tiebreaker (they beat the Giants earlier this season.)

Other teams rooting for New York:

San Diego and Pittsburgh: both are in the 8-5 group with Kansas City fighting for an AFC wildcard.

Denver: (see below)

Denver (10-3, 1st in AFC West) at Buffalo (4-9, 3rd in AFC East) (8:30 p.m., ESPN)

What this game means:

Denver can clinch the AFC West title with a win in this game, coupled with an earlier win by the New York Giants over Kansas City and an Indianapolis win over San Diego tomorrow. But simply winning assures them a playoff berth, as that would eliminate Pittsburgh in a tiebreaker (at worst an 8-4 conference record compared to Pittsburgh’s best possible 7-5.) San Diego and Kansas City play next week, thus one of them could finish with no more than 10 wins and be eliminated from a possible tie with Denver.

Buffalo is playing for pride, they’ve been eliminated from the playoff race.

Other teams rooting for Denver:

Miami and the New York Jets: Miami would finish no worse than second in the division, and the Jets would have more of a chance to get out of last place in the AFC East. It’s down to pride now for them.

Other teams rooting for Buffalo:

San Diego, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh: all need a Denver loss to improve their division title or playoff chances.

Cincinnati: a loss by Denver would enable the Bengals to pass Denver for the #2 seed and first-round bye. Both have a 10-3 record but Denver currently holds the tiebreaker for conference record (best possible 10-2 for Denver vs. best possible 9-3 for Cincinnati.)

Rooting for weather.com to be right:

Me, because it’s fun to watch games played in the snow and the prediction for Buffalo is 1-3″ today with more snow showers tonight up to 1″. Too bad Buffalo plays on artificial turf, it’s even better when snow games are played on natural grass.

Updates and additions

Just a few things before I go to bed.

Tonight was my bowling night. I had a lot of spectators during the third game, and no I wasn’t throwing a lot of strikes. Seems that the Friday night league that was at Strikemaster Lanes (see below) is now bowling after us at Seaford Lanes. That presents some interesting opportunities to get some extra bowling in. I really could use the practice and sub in that league. Nothing to bowling 6 games instead of 3, especially at the slower pace of 5-person teams.

I’ve decided to delete the “polls” page of monoblogue. There’s just so many polls out there and I don’t want to get hung up in the minutia of them all. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Dawn at WriteWingBlog tagged me with the “meme” virus a few days ago. Basically it’s reveal ten things about yourself. Well, if you don’t gather what you need from my blog posts, that’s what the “about” page is for. Wonder if anyone reads it?

I added a couple links to the sidebar here. Basically how I determine what’s there is what I’m listening to and reading. So Atlas Shrugged will be there awhile – it’s a 1200 page book for goshsakes, and I read Coulter recently as well. Probably on Monday I’ll change out the G n’ R and Motley Crue to different CD’s based on what I take to work next week. You know, I didn’t think I’d like the John Korabi version of Motley Crue as much as I do – it’s actually a quite varied CD with some melodic songs (like “Driftaway”) and a couple crunchers (such as “Smoke the Sky”, my favorite.)

I also linked Drea’s blog since I asked and she agreed I could. I don’t really like to link to “personal” blogs so much just because some people might want them, well, personal. So I asked Drea’s permission first. Something like “Crallspace” is a little different because he’d already commented on my blog a number of times and I knew he was more political in nature than Drea. Besides, we all need a leftwing archnemesis to give us our humor for the day. But trust me – I have a lot more links in my Favorites bloglist on my computer than I show here. The ones I selected to show are a judgement call on my part.

It’s 2 a.m. Time for me to run my anti-spyware program and go to bed. Tomorrow will be a day I do a news digest of sorts, finally read through some of the e-mail I get from various sources and a number of them piqued my interest. So I’ll touch on a bunch of stuff briefly and throw it open for reader comments.

Speaking of that, I do eventually moderate the comments. Think I’m getting better at it now.

The outside world

I was writing to my friend Drea last night and I got to talking about how I’m not a big fan of winter because I can’t sit outside and watch the world go by. Well, I could, but I do prefer staying where it’s warm. I’m paying for the heat, I might just as well take advantage!

In my previous Ohio life my first wife and I owned a small house on the south side of Toledo. It was in a typical lower to middle class area, nice and close to the school in a neighborhood that had been there for generations (my house was built in 1925.) One of my favorite pastimes was to sit outside on a nice summer night and simply watch the world pass by. Sometimes I’d be joined by my wife, sometimes I’d be joined by my stepdaughter, and sometimes by her and a host of her friends. But most times I could sit and ponder the world as it was.

Still, I would wave at the neighbors if I saw them and sometimes walk over and have a conversation with them about whatever was going on. One of my favorite neighbor couples were the Grohnkes, who lived a few houses down. They were an older couple, and both of them had lived in the neighborhood for decades – he was a lifer as I recall. Talking to them, I could imagine how the neighborhood was like in the forties and fifties when they were young. He worked at the old hospital that literally sat around the corner and she was the typical housewife. I could imagine her out in the backyard hanging her wash and talking to the next door neighbor or the lady back across the alley.

Back then, there were a couple small grocery stores in the neighborhood, one right on our corner. A drugstore was 4-5 blocks over. There was a small business center of a handful of commercial buildings at the closest main corner with a filling station. The largest feature in our area was the state hospital for the insane across from the old hospital. It was literally the edge of town – the city limits were at Detroit Avenue then.

I think in some ways I would have liked that time, at least as far as being neighborly goes.

But the area evolved. The hospital closed in the mid-1960’s, later becoming part of the new Medical College, then sitting abandoned for most of the time we lived in our house. Just before I moved, they renovated the old building into senior apartments, and did a nice job. Most of the land that was the insane asylum now belongs to the Medical College and some is being developed into a business park.

More importantly, the people who used to own the houses moved away. Some houses remained as owner-occupied, but a number became rentals. And as more houses became rentals, the quality of the neighborhood began to decline. Crime, once unheard of, became an occasional occurrence but one that was still too common. Garages in particular became fair game for burglaries as most were oriented toward the alley.

I moved into the area in 1991, when most people still considered it a desirable and well-kept area. I don’t want to say it’s become a slum by any means, but along with the increase in absentee landlords, the heart of the area is now slated to be ripped out. The old school which was built about the same time as my house is to be replaced by a newer building in another location. While the school will remain after its replacement is completed (originally scheduled for the summer of 2007), it’s fate is unknown. There’s talk that it should be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, to wit:

“Arlington Elementary School is an excellent example of Collegiate Gothic architecture that has experienced a minimum of insensitive renovation. It is one of the few Toledo schools that has experienced neither major additions or renovations. The richness of detail and fine execution of the style define Arlington as perhaps the finest example of Collegiate Gothic executed by the…Toledo Public Schools Architecture Department…we believe on architectural merits alone, Arlington Elementary School appears to meet the criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.” (Historical survey by Mannik & Smith, 2002.)

But even if it stays, who will care for it? As the neighborhood becomes less and less owner-occupied, fewer people will want to get out and meet their neighbors – why bother when the place is just a way station on the path of life? And the houses will become solely cash cows for their owners, who will likely just do the minimum of upkeep on them. They start to deteriorate and rents start to go down. That attracts a lower element of people who care even less, and the death spiral begins.

It’s happened already in one neighborhood, where Toledo’s race riots occurred. A once-proud neighborhood gone to hell because no one really cared there anymore. I want the Grohnkes to live out their few remaining years in a nice neighborhood.

So why did I move out? Well, it wasn’t a matter of necessarily disliking the old house or the neighborhood. But wife #2 and I wanted a little bit more space and we found it out in the hinterlands of Wood County. However, we didn’t find marital bliss there nor did we find as many good neighbors. They all sat on their back porches as their main communal spaces faced inward instead of outward. Instead of walking down the street to see neighbors, I generally just talked to the two I had next door on either side. Kinda sucked.

I may not sit outside on these cold winter nights, but I do say hi to my neighbors when they pass. I live in an apartment complex now, but sometime I want a place to call home, and I want a good neighborhood to live in. Each of us should do no less than be good neighbors. It’s not just a State Farm slogan, it should be a way of life.

Sometimes capitalism sucks

Tonight I went bowling and I heard some sad news. The rumor I heard is that the bowling house where I bowled my summer league recently is meeting its wrecking ball demise soon. It’s a real shame, apparently the place is only 10 years old or so. Not only that, I just bowled a pro-am there for a PBA Wild Turkey East regional event in October.

It’s got to be hard on all those who signed up for a league over the last few months only to find their league’s being pulled out from under them. There’s not really enough vacancies at my current house, Seaford Lanes, to cover all these bowlers.

A sad story in some respects. Yes, Seaford will get its Home Depot or Lowe’s or whatever they’re putting up there. I know that it’s probably considered the “highest and best use” for the site, which sits on a relatively busy road but not right on U.S. 13 (that road sort of bypasses the main part of Seaford to the east.) And it’s not unheard of in this country to see a bowling alley go away. Where I lived before in Toledo, both of the former bowling centers that were situated close to the Westfield Shoppingtown were razed for retail establishments.

Now I come from a bowling family. I’m a proud card-carrying member of the United States Bowling Congress and Lower Delaware Bowling Association. My mom and dad were both league bowlers for years and years, they finally stopped just recently because they’re moving to Florida. Both of my brothers bowl, my brother LJ is the proud owner of rings for 298, 299, and 300 games. He, my other brother Tom, and my dad have all even participated in the ABC (now USBC) national tournament. I’m sure someday I will too, my game is starting to improve to that kind of level. Just tonight I got my awards for a set I bowled recently – 75 pins over average game and 140 pins over average series patches, a 200 game key chain, and 600 series card deck. Threw a 658 series (“triple deuce” – all 3 games over 200) with a 159 average. No, I’m not a sandbagger, I suck at converting spares sometimes. Much easier for me to throw a good game when I don’t have to worry about them.

(Note to USBC: Baltimore or Philadelphia would be nice places for your national tournament.)

However, these days there’s fewer and fewer league bowlers out there. Personally, I like having the opportunity to go out and bowl every Friday night. For a lot of folks though, it’s hard to have that kind of commitment in a 24 hour world, and I can understand that. Many houses have abandoned weekend leagues in favor of “glow bowling” where they create more of a party atmosphere. And, since the rolls of league participation and regular bowlers continue to shrink, a lot of houses find themselves sitting on land that’s far less profitable as a bowling center and coveted by retailers who like the idea of a property that already has all of the necessary services there and more than likely sits on a major thoroughfare.

There was a book out a few years back called Bowling Alone. It used that metaphor as an explanation of why Americans aren’t as social as they used to be, prefering to stay inside their houses and entertain themselves. I know how it is…I was married with a child (not once, but twice!) and there were a lot of nights where we ran ourselves ragged keeping up with what we wanted our (step)daughter to do in order to “keep her out of trouble.” Particularly with my first ex-spouse, we tried to do our part in our neighborhood – PTA, helping out with the young’un’s sports teams, Block Watch, etc., etc.

As it turned out, doing for others ruined us in a lot of respects (which is why we’re ex-spouses.) However, I think if the world were run a different way things would be a lot easier. A lot of couples are running themselves ragged because of one major factor: the wife has to work in order to maintain a lifestyle, yet also play mom to a child who ends up being a latchkey kid. I happen to think that moms are more nurturing and really want to be a mom, not necessarily attorney or real estate agent. (Now you can cite my track record as a married guy to know that my advice is worth the cost of this blog.)

It would not bother me a whole lot if people started to take the time and really consider the costs of “having it all.” I’m particularly annoyed by these places like Quicken Loans, who encourage people to take the one tangible asset they have equity in (their home) and borrow against it for yet more “stuff.” Let’s face it – is a big screen TV going to make you closer as a family when it sits silently because Mom’s working, Dad’s online, Johnny sits in his room listening to his iPod, and Sally is out at cheerleading practice?

Maybe if we focused less on “stuff” and more on quality time Mom and Dad can go join the ma and pa league at the local bowling house, grab dinner, and have a nice mini-date every other Saturday night. Or, even better, find an adult-child league and make a family outing from it.

It’s too late to save Strikemaster Lanes. But it’s not too late to reestablish family by cutting back on stuff and adding to quality time by letting Mom be Mom.

Welcome to monoblogue!

On my old site I somewhat confined myself to the political realm. But now it’s more about my passions on a lot of subjects.

I was actually trying to think of some serious weighty subject to do the “first” blog post on, but then a package arrived in the mail today. I’ve only waited 38 years for this shirt!

And there is a parallel in the shirt’s arrival to the purpose of monoblogue. On my old site I somewhat confined myself to the political realm. But now it’s more about my passions on a lot of subjects. (If you go to the “About” tab you’ll see something about my thoughts while creating monoblogue.) If you want to see my archives from the old website, I did place links to almost every one of my 100+ posts in the “ttrwc” section of the site. You’ll see that a lot of them are politically related. Politics is something I follow closely and will frequently comment on.

The post that may tell you a little bit about the 38 year wait for my shirt is the one called Joy in Mudhenville, part 2.

But tonight I’m just getting my feet wet here and making sure it all looks good. Tomorrow I’m going to catch up on my reading and start getting out the red meat. Actually, I’m watching the MAC championship and it’s tough to work back and forth while keeping focus. How’s that for honesty?