Monday, May 3, 2010

See Something, Say Something

I think the man who reported the suspicious vehicle in Times Square deserves to be called a hero. When I first heard the news that parts of the area were evacuated due to a vehicle, I suspected it was nothing like so many unattended bags, packages and vehicles are.

In this case, it was something and could have potentially killed or hurt a lot of people.

The T-shirt vendor wasn't enthusiastic about talking to the media, but he did give one piece of advice: "See something, say something."

One never knows what will happen and in this case it certainly was best to be safe and report the vehicle. So, the vendor definitely deserves a "Thank You!"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

For Kick Ass: I looked away

Violent movies aren’t my thing. I could barely watch the movie trailer for the new Nightmare on Elm Street. I can’t remember what version or number it is in the series, but I didn’t dare look at it. For those in the movie, you don’t dare fall asleep or “Freddy” or whatever the guy’s name is will get you!

Having said that — I watched the movie Kick Ass and it was brutally violent.
It’s about everyday people — teens and a father and daughter — who transform themselves into super heroes.

I read the rating explanation before I went to the theater. I understood there would be violence. The R-rating very clearly stated: “R:Strong brutal violence throughout, language, sexual content, nudity & drug use — involving children, 118 min.”

“It’s supposed to be funny,” I told my friend Julie.

We saw the movie Date Night the day before. Our options for a Friday matinee were slim. Her boyfriend wanted to see one of the other movies playing, so we couldn’t see that comedy. The rest didn’t capture our interest.

“Surely they don’t show it,” I told Julie.

We went and sure enough they did show the violence. My eyes were glued to the screen about two-thirds of the time. The story was very good. I just didn’t like the violence. Did I think it was too much? Yes. Did I watch it? No.

For one-third of the movie, I had one hand over my eyes with my head down. The other hand was rubbing my baby belly. I’m not sure if I just got tense or just became uncomfortable in those chairs, but I don’t think Enzo liked being at an R-rated violent movie with his mom.

The only saving grace for the violence was the music. I knew almost instantly when to look down and when I could return to the screen — all based on the musical cues that followed the action.
I only bring this up, because despite not seeing a third of it — I really liked this movie. I couldn’t sit through it a second time, but it was an interesting story.

A high school student with no super powers decides to become a super hero; because he’s tired of being robbed on the street by criminals and seeing other people just look away. Instead of just “existing,” he decides to do something.

My aversion to violence has made me miss many films. I’ve never watched No Country for Old Men despite its local connection to Del Rio. I love the tagline for this movie: “Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon some dead bodies, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in cash near the Rio Grande.”

I’m told the sudden violence in that movie would probably put me over the edge. The moral of the story is “don’t pick up anything in the desert.” I can get that without seeing a lot of people die in grisly ways.

I compared Kick Ass to my movie experience with The Last Samurai. I only watched the samurai film, because my late husband couldn’t read the subtitles and I had to play interpreter. I’m glad I watched it too, because it was a moving story.

My movie habits won’t change, because twice in a six-year span I have suffered through violence to catch a good storyline. I lean more toward comedies, romantic comedies and crying dramas.
I might consider a movie, if I hear it has an interesting story despite the R-rating for “strong brutal violence throughout.” But, we’ll just have to see how courageous I feel that day.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hey Texans, don't forget to mail it in!

Hey remember that Census form you received in the mail several weeks ago, DON'T FORGET TO SEND IT IN!

I was surfing the net on Tuesday and found a blog post on The Texas Tribune about how there is "concern" that Texans haven't responded to the Census like other states. According to that report, we're lagging behind the rest of the country. Oh, we're behind to the tune of like seven percent. Some Texas cities have response rates around 25 percent.

When we received our Census, I waited one day to fill it out and put it in the mail. I wasn't trying to buck the system. I just took my time. Technically, the form says the Census is taking a snapshot of the country on April 1. If something in our family changed by April 1, ie the baby arrived almost two months early — I was going to have bigger things to worry about than whether or not my household was accurately reflected in the Census.

Why is sending the Census form so important?

Well, it's easier and cheaper, if you simply mail the form back. If the Census Bureau doesn't receive your form, you'll be getting a followup in the form of a a Census worker showing up at your door.

While you may think you're helping the economy by giving this person a job, it's not really helping. I saw one interview saying it costs the government around 42 cents for you to respond by mail, but costs around $60 — if someone has to report to your house. How is that helping control our federal tax dollars?

The Census director's statement reported on The Texas Tribune said "For every percentage increase in mail response, the bureau estimates it saves $85 million in taxpayer money."

Sure, you may not like the idea of the Census. You may not like the millions they have spent advertising the Census and encouraging people to fill out the forms. You may not even like the 10 questions on the form. You may not believe it's the government's business to know who lives in your home.

If you believe whole-heartedly in that last line — "You don't want the government in your business" — you really, really should fill out the form to prevent a government worker from knocking on your door. All the Census workers want to do is count the number of folks under the roof — nothing more nothing less.

This is one of those times where it's really easier and cheaper for us all, if you just mail in the form. The whole idea of the Census is to count Americans across the country. The numbers are used to dole out government monies, grants, etc. It really helps your local community to be counted.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Every vote counts

Every vote counts.

We say it every election cycle, but people seem to always forget this. An election with a close result is good reminder — every vote counts.

In Del Rio, the Republican party had a close election for the county judge candidate. This week, after an electronic recount Laura Allen was declared the winner with 693 votes. Her opponent Dr. Robert C. Overfelt had 691 votes.

Election day was several week ago and the numbers have changed a bit. I recall the initial tally had Allen ahead by a single vote. Yes — one vote.

Close returns are tough. What ifs abound?

What if more people had turned out at the polls on election day?

What if the losing candidate has just convinced two more people to show up at the polls and vote?

What if more people had turned up at the polls?

Our county seemed to have a low turnout. There were no lines at my polling precinct. There were no hot races like a presidential election or a county sheriff's race on the ballot. Those two tend to attract larger numbers to the polls.

This year, there were several gubernatorial candidates to choose from, but it didn't seem to create a large turn out on election day. There were plenty of county seats on the ballot, but this also did not motivate more voters to cast a ballot.

The election results are a good reminder that every vote counts. Literally, your vote could make or break a change in government. So, don't forget to vote in the next election.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Georgia on my mind today

The cost of a college education has been on the minds of many recently. This morning, I saw a report about Georgia college students taking their complaints to the Gold Dome in Atlanta. Rightfully, students want lawmakers to see the people who will be impacted by their cuts.

I'm thinking about Georgia, because I'm a graduate of The University of Georgia and my immediate family remains there. I recently received an e-mail from the alumni association talking about past cuts and proposed cuts. The overall picture looks pretty grim as plans include reducing the freshman class, faculty, staff and programs.

Colleges all across the country are facing similar problems. The economy is still in recovery which means that tax collections are down. If state officials can't make their budgets, something has to give. This is where the human toll begins. Some universities are having to take a hard look at programs, fees and tuition costs. Georgians are lucky that lottery funds pay for some tuition costs. Lottery funds don't pay for all the costs associated with education, so this could mean that some students may have to drop out until it becomes more affordable.

I began thinking about college costs recently, because my husband and I are expecting a baby. We put a small amount into a college fund for our son. We aren't even close to the amount suggested to fully fund the account to pay for a college education in 18 years.

Some parents have told me that funding anything at this point may be a bad idea or worse — make me bitter. Yes, I was scratching my head, too. It turns out, parents who plan (i.e. create and put money into college accounts for their children) often get bitter when they see how not planning for college results in free money — scholarships, federal assistance and grants.

When I went to college some two decades ago, there was no trust fund or money set aside to pay for school. My twin sister and I applied for scholarships, grants, financial aid and received minimal student loans to fund our education. We worked part-time at school and at home to pay for the extras.

It seems normal for many students to leave college these days with a diploma in one hand and a student loan debt in the other. I've heard from graduates with minimal debt — under $10,000 — to those reaching $40,000 and beyond. The student loan debt often surpasses the recent graduate's first year salary, if he or she can find a job.

Bitterness is also at work for those who repay their student loans. I'm not sure how people do it, but some people apparently do not repay their student loan debt.

Higher education isn't the only area taking a hit in this economy. Last week, there was story after story about communities closing city and county schools, firing teachers and increasing classroom sizes. Schools are finding they can't operate like they have in the past. They have to do things differently.

While I cringe at all the changes (some good and some bad), I can't figure out what the alternative is. We all want our government to cut costs, but we don't want those costs to impact the economy, health care, education, children or the elderly.

I can't figure out a way around. No money seems to clearly equal a cancellation of some services.

We want it all, but I don't think that's possible. Many of us have already looked at the reset button and hit it. We've had to adjust or alter our plans, because the economy and our bank accounts didn't make it possible. Some goals have had to be put on hold. State funded education systems need to do the same thing and move forward in the best way possible in this economy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oh, it's Census time again

I received a letter yesterday and I thought it was my family's Census questionnaire. It was not. It was a letter explaining how I will receive a letter. Silly, maybe, but the content is not.

"About one week from now, you will receive a 2010 Census form in the mail." The first line was bold. I'm not exaggerating.

The letter shared information that I already know. "Your response is important. Results from the 2010 Census will be used to help each community get its fair share of government funds for highways, schools, health facilities, and many other programs you and your neighbors need. Without a complete accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share."

The letter from U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves is a great reminder. I heard some complaints about the Census TV commercials, but I thought they were pretty good at getting the message out that your response is important. Unfortunately, you can't just send out a questionnaire with instructions and hope people will respond. The Census Bureau has to be proactive. In fact, they'll visit if you don't respond.

I hope their efforts will pay off in the large return on the questionnaires. It's important to stand up and be counted as part of the Census, because it determines how federal funds make their into our community. In this economy, I think we need all the federal dollars sent our way that is possible.

While it may be an important task, it doesn't take a lot of time. It takes about 10 minutes to answer 10 questions. And, bonus — it only happens once every 10 years. I guess most people spend more time watching TV in one evening than they'll spend filling out Census forms over their lifetime.

If you have questions about the Census, visit the Web site and learn more about it. The site explains the process and how the information collected remains private. Be sure to fill it out when you get your form, your community's share of about $400 billion in federal dollars depends on your response.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Why I write?

This week, the Creative Writers of Del Rio did a "quick write" about why we each write. The group formed a year ago after a new resident Diane Stroud discovered she missed her writer's group in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

She gathered writers one by one. Today, Diane has moved on to cooler climates, but her legacy remains on Wednesdays as now up to 14 writers gather to share their current works in progress or just a frustration or two about a computer glitch.

While my writing projects have been scattered and undisciplined in recent months, I'm really glad that Walt asked us to think about this.

In a few minutes, I came up with this list of Why I Write, which chronicles bits and pieces of my writing career:
  • I write for food.
  • I write to persuade public opinion.
  • I write to help people!
  • I write for release — to put an experience on paper and get it out of my head.
  • I write for purpose — to focus on one story, one day and one year.
  • I write to think new thoughts.
  • I write to share my opinion.
  • I write to challenge myself to do something different and to think something different.
  • I will write for food.
So, why do you write?