Saturday, June 30, 2007

Viva la France

This weekend, we approach the mid-point of the Formula 1 racing season as the 11 teams attack the Magny-Cours, France. I have to admit that I had lost my interest in F1 years ago but some 5 years ago, a friend sparked a renewed interest in a larger set of horsepower than I usually enjoy.

Formula 1 is far from the most popular racing here. NASCAR dominates most water cooler discussions and only hosting two events on the North American continent does little to increase interest. The recent changes in format though I believe have done much to increase fan interest, the addition of several new teams and more importantly, qualifying. The old method of parading the cars, three at a time onto the track to make one run at a qualifying time was more than boring in my opinion. The simple change to actual racing to qualify has me on the edge of my seat again on Saturday.

Sadly, timing seems to have worked against Michael Schumacher this year. I believe he will continue to be one of the greatest drivers of F1 but unfortunately, there never seemed to be a driver to really challenge him and build the rivalry that is growing this season. Jithin Jerald at The Kerala Articles has a wonderful post of his opinion on this matter. I do have to differ though with some of his points.

There is a developing rivalry that the sport of F1 has been sorely lacking in past years but I believe it is more than restricted to McLaren-Mercedes and their drivers Alonso and Hamilton. Ferrari has been struggling through the beginning of the season but I can see much the same rivalry existing within their team. The added bonus to racing is Ferrari not giving an inch to McLaren-Mercedes and allowing them to drive away with the championship.

Hamilton arrived at the McLaren-Mercedes as the rookie and most probably believed he would take the back seat to Alonso's throne there. His ease at adapting to the car and their program has allowed him to show his rearend to Alonso on several occasions. The added fact that he shows no fear in pursuing a win for himself and the team has set up a thrilling competition within McLaren-Mercedes and will serve to keep both drivers at their best on the track.

Raikkonen arrived this year at the Ferrari stable and most probably felt that he was the heir to the Schumacher throne with his reputation and large contract in tow. Massa, the former test driver and second seat to Schumacher last year, has proven otherwise so far. He also has shown no fear of driving for his own wins. I believe that is the driver he is, even though it can be seen by Ferrari's uneven performances this season, that they need every point they can get.

Both rivalries can only benefit the fan base that may have been stuck in the doldrums as of late and the addition of having two teams, four drivers all driving hard for the next win can only lead to better racing. It is unfortunate that timing has left Michael Schumacher out of a season that could have been only more nail-biting and explosive in my opinion. It may have been the year he could have "closed the book" on the doubts of his being the greatest driver in Formula 1 racing. I can only hope that what is beginning to take form as rivalries this year, will continue to solidify through the second half of this season, increase with a more consistant Ferrari performance and continue into the years to come.

Legal commonsense

Late Tuesday night, June 26 2007, a Chevrolet Trail Blazer veered into the path of tractor-trailer on Route 5 near East Bloomfield NY. The incident at about 10 pm ended in what will be a far reaching tragedy for many.

"The fire trapped the five girls in the SUV. They were unable to escape. Both vehicles were engulfed. There was no chance for rescue," according to Lt Bill Gallagher of the Ontario County Sheriff's Office.

Keisha Koneski, one of four friends of the victims following in a second car, told both the Chronicle and the Rochester Democrat that the driver had tried to pass a van that was driving slowly in front of them. She said that it appeared that the driver may have thought the van was swerving into her as she tried to complete the pass and jerked back out into the left lane. They ran head-on into the tractor trailer and ended up on the side of the road, partially under the trailer as both caught fire.

Sara Monnat, Hannah Congdon and Katherine "Katie" Shirley, all 18, Meredith McClure, 17 and Bailey Goodman, 17, the driver all perished in the accident. All five had just graduated the previous Thursday from Fairport High School and the two vehicles were headed to the Keuka Lake camp of a parent.

Bailey Goodman should not have been driving that Tuesday night though. Goodman had a NY DJ license which made it illegal for her to be behind the wheel that night. A Class DJ license places added restrictions on New York drivers under the age of 18. These include not carrying more than two passengers under 21 unless they are immediate family members and not driving after 9 pm without a parent, guardian or someone performing parental duties unless they were going to work or school.

Bailey's parents failed to "just say no" to their daughter, just as the Hagars in NC failed to say no to their 16 year-old daughter and consented to her marrying Brenton Wuchae, 40 recently. The Goodman's though had the power of the law to make it easier for them to keep the car keys from their daughter, which may have prevented this tragedy from occuring.

A community will mourn, many will grieve and those immediately involved in the accident may suffer long-lasting trauma from their witnessing it. The Goodmans are included within those numbers but I don't believe it excuses them from the responsibility they now hold. Youth and inexperience may have played a large role in Bailey's actions but New York law saw those factors and placed the restrictions they did on young drivers for their benefit. The Goodmans, for whatever reasons, chose to ignore the law. I can't excuse them because of their very real grief, I believe they are more responsible for the grief all must now share.

Update: posted July 2
Funeral arragements for the five are as follows: The funerals for Hannah Congdon, Katie Shirley, Sara Monat and Bailey Goodman will all be held today. The service for Meredith McClure will be held on Tuesday.

The Fairport School District will close all schools and offices and cancel all district programs on Monday out of respect for the families and friends of the five girls.

There has been no blame for the tragic accident placed on David Laverty, the driver of the tractor-trailer that Goodman hit. Authorities have said that Lavery tried to help the teens who were trapped in their SUV by the accident but was kept away by the intense heat of the fire. Laverty, of Olean NY, could not be reached for further comment and NBS Trucking, his company in Pennsylvania, is not commenting on the accident because of the pending investigation.

The family of Bailey Goodman, Periton NY, is cooperating fully with the investigation of the Ontario County Sheriff's office. Bill Goodman, of Ithica NY, Bailey's uncle has stated that Bailey had successfully completed a driver's education course at Fairport High School that qualified her for an unrestricted license but the Department of Motor Vechicles stated Thursday, that Bailey still had a junior license. Goodman has said that the Goodman family would not discuss the crash publically until after the funerals for the five young women.

Being qualified for an unrestricted license and possessing one are two different matters. The states that do restrict drivers under 18 years-old, do so for the reasons that may have led to this tragic accident..... driver inexperience. They are legislating the commonsense decisions that many have shown they are unable to do.

To view a memory gallery of pictures look here.

Update: posted July 3

"I have done young people's funerals, but never in multiples, never on the same day and never with such tragedy. To have five is just incredible," said the Rev. Edward Palumbos of the Church of the Assumption in Fairport NY.
Palumbos celebrated two of the funerals Monday and attended all four. More than 1,000 people were at each ceremony, many attended all four and will attend the fifth today.

For a more complete report of the ceremonies held Monday, look here. Video from Monday can be found here.

An account has been opened to accept donations in memory of all five who died in the crash. Principal David Paddock has said that discussions will be held later to establish "the appropriate scholorships to honor our five angels."
Checks made out to Fairport-Perinton Dollars for Scholars can be sent to:
144 Fairport Village Landing, Suite 198
Fairport NY 14450

Update: posted July 4

Principal David Paddock has stated that the school is planning a celebration of the lives of the five young women who died for sometime in August before their classmates move on to other pursuits in the fall.

For complete coverage of Tuesday's service for Meredith McClure go here.

The photo gallery from Tuesday's service is here.

A complete listing of all the photo galleries related to the tragedy is here.

Update: posted July 5

Investigators have said that alcohol was not a factor according to the newly released autopsy reports. They also do not believe that excessive speed was a factor, rather, that Goodman may have overcorrected after passing a slow-moving vehicle. The final report may not be complete until sometime next week.

Bailey Goodman's parents have provided documents that showed she had completed a driver's course in 2006 that should have removed the restrictions placed on a junior driver. Motor Vehicles still states that she had a junior license. Not only does a junior driver have to meet the requirements needed to change their license, they must also exchange that license at Motor Vehicles to lift the restrictions.

The medical examiners reported that all five young women died from the impact and not from the following fire. David Laverty, 50, was not injured in the crash and no charges have been filed against him.

Update: posted July 7
Tribute bracelets to honor the five young women will become available in about two weeks. They will feature a forget-me-not flower, the words "forever our angels" and the initials of all five. Former Pittsford resident Samantha Schwartz, 24, has organized the effort along with setting up the fund mentioned above. The bracelets are expected to arrive around July 20 and can be purchased at Regalia Fine Gifts in Pittsford, any branch of the Fairport Community Savings Bank or from the website she established: The cost is $15 and all funds raised by the sale of them will be donated to a memorial fund which will be at the descretion of principal Dave Paddock.

Go here for the website.

For a descriptive tribute to each of the five young women:

Hannah Congdon's is here.

Bailey Goodman's is here.

Sara Monnat's is here.

Meredith McClure's is here.

Katherine Shirley's is here.

Update: posted July 13

Ontario County Sheriff Philip C Provero held a news conference today at the Canandaigua Sheriff's Office to announce the outcome of the investigation.

At the time of the accident, the teens were traveling to the Goodman family vacation home on Keuka Lake in Yates County and were followed by four of their friends in another vehicle. Goodman was driving east on Routes 5&20 when she passed a car driven by Michael Short, 21, of Honeoye. The pass began in a legal passing zone but ended in a double-line no passing zone. Provero said that there was no evidence that Short sped up as Goodman began passing him. Goodman's SUV reportedly rotated counterclockwise after completing the pass, leaving tire marks and then crossed back into the westbound lane. David Laverty, who was driving a semi westbound, braked and swerved right but was unable to avoid the SUV.

The rig hit the passenger side of the SUV head-on, driving the SUV backwards 138 feet and entangling the vehicles. Goodman and Monnat were seat belted in the front seats while Congdon sat behind the driver, Shirley in the center and McClure was on the passenger side of the rear seat. None of those three were wearing seatbelts.

Provero stated that Goodman's vehicle was traveling approximately 60 mph at the time of the impact. He also stated that a text message had been sent from Goodman's cell phone at 10:05:02 pm and one was received by her phone at 10:06:29 pm from that friend asking, "What are you doing?"

A call reporting the accident from a passenger in Short's vehicle, which Goodman had just passed was made at 10:07 pm. Provero said that there is no way of knowing who in the SUV might have been text-messaging with that phone.

David Laverty, 50, of Olean, was driving from Fitchburg MA to Buffalo NY with a load of paper that was due there at 8 am. No violations were found in the truck or trailer and Laverty was properly licensed.

The sheriff said that no actions by Laverty or Short contributed to the accident. There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol, the weather was clear and the road was in good repair. He also added that neither of the vehicles of friends had been passing each other along the trip.

Although Goodman had taken a driver's education course qualifying her for a standard license, the Department of Motor Vehicles had received no paperwork and does not recognize that her license was ever upgraded from "junior status."

Nine eyewitnesses were interviewed: four friends of the young women killed, Laverty, Short, Short's passenger and two people in a vehicle behind the semi. Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo has said that no charges would be filed in the incident. Provero stated that Goodman's inexperience and possible distractions were being considered as possible contributing factors.

As tragic as this accident is and the long reaching grief and pain that will follow many of the people involved, driver inexperience I feel is certainly a major factor. It is true that this accident could have happened on any given day and at any hour of that day but the fact that it was at night contributed to the difficulty of the successfully completing her pass. Daylight would have afforded her a much fuller field of vision and possibly, less chance of overcorrecting. Some states have moved to restricting young drivers licenses for just that reason, to allow them to gain the experience they need with fewer added risks. They have legislated what many parents "years ago" did to guide their children.

Just as parents confront decisions for their child's best interest each day, saying no to them is far from "bad" parenting nor is it cruel for them to do or for anyone to think that is a legitimate choice to have been made.

Update: posted July 18

It may never be known who within the Goodman car had been sending and receiving the text messages on Bailey's phone but it is known that Bailey spoke briefly to one of the four friends in the car following her several minutes before the crash. Sheriff Phil Povero cited the succession of calls and texts on her phone as a possible factor in the June 28 crash.

A final note:

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, I am....... you are as well. I still stand behind my original opinion but before you begin to the form the sentences to say that I may be cruel, uncaring or angry at the Goodman's for a choice they made, one they may wish they hadn't many of you have extended much thought to David Laverty.

Extended a hand in comfort during this time in his life.

Many still grieve for the five families that are still trying to make sense of this tragedy, how many grieve for a life that has also been changed, through no choice of his own. Has anyone given much thought to whether Mr Laverty still sees the car in front of him, feels what must have been a sickening crash............ feels the flames in his dreams as he tried to approach the car............... wonder whether he will be able to quiet his own ghosts of "what if " when he wakes in a cold sweat.

The police have cleared him from playing any adverse role in the accident........... that doesn't clear him from the memories of what happened.

Have you thought for a moment, to include him in your prayers?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Bring it on home

Earlier this month, Joey Chestnut moved himself from "also ran" status to world record holder by not just breaking the old record, but by smashing it. Now it seems, the excuses are coming out, posturing, subterfuge, the friendly psych-out of your opponent.Takeru Kobayashi, 29, of Japan, the former record holder and six-time winner of the annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, may not be up to another winning performance.

It seems that according to his website, his "jaw has abandoned the frontline" during his extensive training for his title defense on Cony Island NY. A specialist has diagnosed him with arthritis of the jaw which may prevent his title defense but he has found a doctor he can trust to help him dedicate himself to healing.

While it is preferable to meet head-to-head with your most capable opponent, I am sure that if Chestnut does win this year, he will do so convincingly. As for Kobayashi, he may really have a serious jaw problem from years of competive eating contests and I wish him the best in healing. It also could be the "smoke and mirrors" psych game that so many competitive athletes use against their closest competitor.

My best wishes to them both because I am not going to even think of attempting to eat 50+ hotdogs, not even if they gave me a 6 month time limit.

Snowflake in the Alps

This past Sunday, at around 10,000 feet above the Les Laures valley in the northern Italian Alps, rangers were carefully snapping pictures of a snowflake. This wasn't just any snowflake clinging to the rocks on the mountainside, it was "Snowflake" and his mother.

Snowflake is the first ever documented albino capra ibex. The capra ibex or alpine ibex is the species that inhabites the european alps and is similar to it's relatives the spanish ibex and the middle eastern nubian ibex. The capra ibex was almost extinct by the beginning of the 19th century due to overhunting and would be extinct if not for the efforts of a small group of foresters who protected the remaining animals by 1816. Victor Emmanuel II of Italy placed the animals under his personal custody in 1854 and since then , with extensive reintroduction programs, the population in the wild has grown to an estimated 30,000 ibex.

"This is the only one ever documented, the only one ever seen," said Christian Chioso, regional wildlife official.

Hikers in the region had been reporting the sightings of a white animal so rangers have been on the lookout for an opportunity to document the rumors. Snowflake was finally spotted near the boundaries of the Big Paradise National Park and photographed with his mother. Chioso said that about 4,000 ibex call the park that was established to protect them, home.

It is estimated that Snowflake is about one year old and he has already beaten the long odds that his rare and unusual coat have given him. It would be even better if the early and ongoing efforts to save this species allow him to continue to grow old naturally in the wild he was born to.

Good news, bad news

Bad news: Just the other night, Taz, a good friend of mine, informed me of his personal injury accident.

Good news: It wasn't serious enough to require emergency services.

Bad news: I didn't get to see the cool flashing lights and men in uniforms.

Good news: There is no damage to the side of the pool.

Bad news: There is damage, in the form of a rather nasty bump, to the top of his head.

Good news: There was no blood loss so his chances of being devoured by sharks was practically at 0%.

Bad news: The pool was well lit and the sun was out, so visability can't be to blame.

Good News: The pool was well lit and the sun was out so he could easily grab the edge of the pool after he came up spitting the water he ingested on impact.

Bad News: No one was there to save it on film for posting on YouTube.

Good News: His dog witnessed it and is willing to give interviews.

Bad news: I can find no reason to hold the pool designer, installer or maintainance crew responsible for the event and therefore, can't attempt a $54 million lawsuit.

Good news: With the simple addition of a rope attached to one end of the pool and the other to his ankle, I believe this can be prevented from happening again in the future.

Bad news: There isn't a big breasted nurse yet to volunteer to assist in his rehabilitation.

Good news: The rope I discovered is much cheaper than installing a larger pool which would simply tire him out before he could hit the side again.

Yes Taz, I totally believe you when you plead the 5th to the question of this being the first pool vs head collision and that "if you had any sense to begin with, you wouldn't have hit the side."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Not on my grocery list

I can say that I have never had a kipper, I do have slippers though. Now that I know that this "wonderful" food item can be mistaken for the smell of an electrical fire, I know I won't be rushing out to try any.

Evidently that is exactly what happened to a couple in London England recently. While their hapless kipper lay on the counter, they believed they had an electrical fire and called the fire station. The dutiful firemen went to the length of using a thermal imaging camera to eliminate the possible sources of the smell and finally traced it to, you got it..... the kipper.

Nishant has said that there is quite a difference in the two smells and for the moment, I will have to believe him. It may be that they had very untrained noses or they may have smelled a rather "fishy" fire before, although i can't comprehend how the smell of burning plastic is "fish-like." Either way, kipper isn't going to be on my grocery list anytime soon.

hat tip to Nishant at OMG Teh World

Stolen dreams

On Monday June 18 2007 Brenton Wuchae and Windy Hager, both of Oak Island NC married quietly or so they thought. Wuchae, a science teacher and cross country coach had his submitted resignation accepted by the Brunswick County Board of Education the following Tuesday.

Wuchae, 40, had taught at South Brunswick High School since August 2004 and Hager, 16 had just finished her sophomore year there. He met Hager when she was only 14 and starting with the cross country team he coached for the high school. Hager's parents noticed that Wuchae was closer than "normal" to their daughter, dropping her off after events but with him living only 2 miles from her parents, it seemed to be easily explained.

Windy's parents, Dennis and Betty Hager, said that they had done everything they could to keep them apart after finding out it was a deeper-than-usual friendship between a teacher and a student. They said that they talked to Wuchae, went to school officials, pleaded with police and sheriff's office detectives, other teachers and students at South Brunswick. The school system did little to help them, law enforcement could not confirm their concerns and their daughter Windy, came to hate them they said. It was after a year of emotional warfare with Windy and a failed bid to get a restraining order against Wuchae that the Hagers say they reluctently signed a consent form allowing her to marry her coach.

Wucae had been suspended with pay on May 2 and both the school system and the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office investigated the allegations but didn't find enough evidence to merit charging or firing the tenured teacher. Immorality is one of the grounds for termination of a tenured employee and I believe that was proven by his very recent marriage.

"As a lifelong educator, I am truly shocked and disheartened by what transpired," Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Katie McGee said in her statement.

If the Hagers had not signed the consent form, as the minor's legal guardians, North Carolina law would have prevented the marriage. This in turn may have only served to prevent the marriage for two years, time in which Wuchae could continue to contact Windy as they were already, texting and e mailing as late as 3 am.

The Hagers had stated that they felt they had no other choice and that their daughter had now possibly thrown away all the dreams for her future. It does seem as though the Hagers tried to prevent contact between the two but did they do all that they could have? I am sure that there were other options available, moving, switching their daughter to another school, boarding her at any of the well respected schools out of state where she could continue to excell in running without Wuchae's influence. They could very simply said "no" to her as well.. no phone, no computer and if you choose to run away to see him, we will have you arrested.

I am sure that many high school students still feel the "crush on my teacher" feelings that have gone on for decades. Some may say he is a pedofile, he's not a pathetic, mal-adjusted 40-year old, I believe Wuchae is nothing more than a predator. Within one year of hiring at that high school he was beginning the careful grooming of a 14 year old girl even though he knew the distance he should have kept from any student is carefully monitored by school systems. He had much more to offer than the average 19 year old boy that most parents try to keep their daughters from, he had a job, car, house and the experience to keep driving a wedge between Windy and her parents.

Wuchae seems to have been very adept at avoiding detection legally and instead of slinking into the shadows when confronted by the Hagers, the school system and the Sheriff's Office, he continued to manipulate Windy. I certainly would be interested in knowing what his past teaching record has been as well as his record of relationships with women his own age is, if there ever were any. When contacted Tuesday, June 19th around 10pm, Wuchae declined to comment. What is there to comment on? He's unemployed and hanging out with his dog and the girl he carefully and systematically claimed as his wife.

Windy did not let go of her dreams, numerous parties are liable for allowing a predatory 38 year old man two years in which to steal those dreams from her, taking her from carefree youth to child bride.

Update: posted July 5

On Tuesday, July 2 2007, Brian Shaw, the attorney who is advising the county school system on how it responded to the recent relationship and marriage of one of it's teachers, Brenton Wuchae, released a statement to the press.

Monday, the Board of Education convened and passed a resolution citing a state statute that allows the release of information in a personnel file if it's "deemed essential to maintaining the integrity of the board."

"Media accounts of the situation give the impression that school officials did nothing to keep the student and teacher Brenton Wuchae apart. Nothing could be further from the truth," states the memo from Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Katie McGee.

As I had previously posted, school officials claimed they had investigated and found nothing, while the Hagers told the press they had gone repeatedly to school officials with their concerns. Last month, they gave the Star-News a copy of a letter by South Brunswick High Principal Vann Pennell in which he stated he had investigated the case personally and had not observed an inappropriate relationship between the two. That letter was dated April 26 and on May 3, Wucae was suspended with pay from the school system.

McGee states that sometime last month she approached Wucae and gave him the choice of resign or be fired. This was after Pennell had ordered both Wuchae and Windy not to have any contact with each other..... in October of 2006. They seemed to be complying with the directive until May 2007 when the school system received reports of their contact within school. School officials claim to not "know what happened outside the school grounds." It was then that Wuchae was suspended for insubordination and his dismissal was recommended.

Both the school system, the Oak Island Police Department and Brunswick County Sheriff's Department claim that they failed to uncover any signs of a romantic relationship between Wuchae and Windy. Even her parents have stated that they never witnessed any things such as cuddling or hand-holding. Dennis Hager though has said the text messages and email evidence should have been enough for Wuchae's dismissal.

The state is reviewing whether to revoke Wuchae's teaching license.

Maybe I am not getting this correctly......... in October, the school principal felt that there was enough evidence of something inappropriate as to specifically tell Wuchae to have no contact with Windy. He also felt that it was serious enough as to personally watch the two within the school setting and find if there was an inappropriate relationship. April 26, he mailed out a letter that everything seems fine to him and 8 days later, the school system, after receiving reports of a note and discreet conversations, he is suspended.

If everything was fine, I would think it was totally out of line for the school system to suspend him for what they report is the reason. Wuchae had six months notice before his supension that he was being watched. He had that many months to plot away from the school setting on how to continue to manipulate Windy.

I believe that when Superintendent McGee claims she approached Wuchae with her proposal, she knew there was a lot more than "nothing" going on between a teacher of hers and a student she was supposed to be protecting. As for the loss of his teaching license.... that should be investigated fully I believe. No teacher who did what Wuchae managed to do, should be allowed to teach. This was much more than a case of "inappropriate contact" with a student, this was a case of two years of careful work to avoid his firing before he could claim his prize.

I believe the marriage was a surprise to the school board. They may have felt that he would discreetly move away, possibly taking Windy with him and the news of their eventual wedding would not have been splashed in their local media.

Update: posted July 6
When the news broke about the wedding, I along with many others, was led to believe that those in charge had done the "right thing" by firing Wuchae the day after he married Windy. Apparently, this was not the case according to Harry Wilson, attorney for the North Carolina Board of Education. Wuchae resigned and married her the same day.

"As a board member, I feel let down by the administration and those handling this particular case," stated Brunswick County school board member Ray Gilbert.

He faulted Superintendent Dr Katie McGee and assistant superintendent of human resources Terry Chestnutt specifically for not revealing the depth of the contact they knew Wuchae was having with Windy. He states that the board did not know about the cell phone bills that document hundreds of text message interactions between the two and had they known, they would have moved to fire him months ago.

Betty Hager said back in April that Sheriff Ronald Hewett had assured her that he had "hand-delivered" those bills, which were part of the Sheriff's Office investigation, to McGee in December 2006. Gilbert states that he has yet to see that they exist but he would have moved to have Wuchae terminated or suspended since they would have proof of his inappropriate conduct.

Wilson, who is well versed in state education policies, stated in an interview, that Wuchae's alleged improper behavior which included, late-night text messages and emails, taking Windy shopping and out to dinner are all in direct violation of state rules for school employees. Just one newspaper article would be enough to ban Wuchae from teaching in North Carolina and most likely, anywhere in the U S. Wuchae's most recent actions he said, the application for and certificate of marriage, may well make Wilson's decision a little easier.

The North Carolina Board of Education, as a state agency, determines license revocations and they plan to pursue it soon. He sees Wuchae's actions as a pretty clear violation of the rules. If officials decide to ban Wuchae in that state from teaching. it is highly likely that education leaders in the other 49 states will follow suit. It is still possible that he could teach if the board revokes his teaching license but Wilson feels that it would be highly unlikely since it would be entered into a national database.

"The student should have been the number one priority, not the employee. I don't know if we could have controlled their marriage but we vould have terminated him. An opportunity to get rid of a bad teacher was missed. For that, I offer my sincere apologies to the Hagers," said Gilbert.

While I still believe that the Hager's should not have signed the consent for their daughter, it seems that someone within the school system more than dropped the ball in this case. Not only should Wuchae be banned from teaching in my opinion, there should also be a few more people sweating out an investigation. If it can be proven that individuals chose to hide facts in this case, they too should be fired. I'm not sure why the media chose the route of letting the school officials soft pedal their responsibility but it looks to me like a few people in charge of Windy's welfare in relation to school, did less than their duty.

Update: posted July 11

Dennis and Betty Hager have filed a lawsuit against the Brunswick County Board of Education, stating that the school officials failed to protect their daughter. The suit, filed July 10, is seeking at least $20,000 from the school district for allegedly failing to discipline former teacher Brenton Wuchae and causing the family emotional pain and suffering.

"I can say without reservation that knowing all the details of this matter, no reasonable person would expect any better performance by the Board of Education or the administration," Superintendent Katie McGee said in her statement Tuesday.

Board of Education Chairman Scott Milligan has said that the lawsuit is completely without merit. The Brunswick Board of Education released a detailed account last week of the school's involvement in the case. They said that they had closely monitored and limited the couple's relationship but that they had never found any evidence of romance between the two.

I am not going to say that I wish the Board of Education any luck in beating this lawsuit, I don't believe they should. They are entrusted with protecting their students first and they had ample evidence of months of inappropriate contact between the two. Unless Wuchae and the Brunswick School system had a clause in his contract as tenured faculty, that allowed him to have seemingly unlimited contact with a student in and out of the school setting but prohibited "romance" then I suppose they have a legal leg to stand on. I would think it is going to be a tough call to prove that his time spent with her was "school related."

They hired a teacher who as far as I have seen, wasn't romantically involved with anyone his own age. He spent two years getting very close to a 14 year-old and I am sure that he had ingrained in her, not only how important he was to her and how much he loved her, but the danger of anyone "seeing them" publically express their love. Wuchae wasn't taking the "team" out to dinner or shopping and I doubt he was spending all of his spare time emailing and text messaging all his students. He was doing that with one, young female student and when her parents alerted the school to their displeasure, they had a duty to protect her, even if they may have felt they were whining excessively about "nothing." I believe when they did complain, the time Wuchae spent with their daughter now fell into the realm of "inappropriate."

I'm sorry Ms McGee and Mr Milligan, I am a reasonable person and I feel you failed in your job and that this lawsuit, however after the fact it is, does have merit.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Prodigal car

On Thursday, June 21 2007, when authorities contacted Ronald Leung, 59, who runs Rent A Heap Cheap in Milpitas CA about a car they had recovered, he assumed they had one of his missing rentals. They were calling him instead, to inform him that they had recovered his own stolen car.

Palo Alto police were calling him about a 1956 Ford Thunderbird they had recently recovered. A Ventura County woman contacted authorities after the VIN on the car she purchased from an Ohio eBay seller was found to not exist in the California Department of Motor Vehicles registry. California Highway Patrol officer Christopher Throgmorton, an ace in this type of recoveries, took up the detective work from there. A sharp eye found the mixup between 2 and Z and that is what put the police in touch with Leung, a former sheriff's deputy and car enthusiast.

"The car's been gone longer than my son is old. My son's 30, the car's been gone 31 years," Leung told ABC News.

That's right, Palo Alto police called him exactly 31 years from the day it was reported stolen from his mechanic's shop in 1976. It was originally blue but Leung had repainted it white after falling in love with Suzanne Somers and her white T-Bird in "American Graffiti". He spent Friday working with AllState to try and reproduce the original paperwork for the car so that he can claim it. It had been recovered in excellent condition and is back to being blue. He may have to wait a few more days to drive his car again but he has said that he waited 31 years already and he doesn't mind waiting a few more.

"It's like my baby finally coming home. It's karma. You do good things for people all your life, and it comes back to you," Leung said.

The great escape

There is a distinct advantage to having a well thought plan, especially when you are attempting to rob a bank. Patrick Burr, 46 of Provo UT will have 27 months to understand how the flaws in his and his wife's plan to rob the Utah Community Credit Union on Dec 1 2006 put him in jail.

Patrick J Burr and Heather G Burr, 33 had been charged with conspiracy to commit bank robbery after a months long investigation by FBI agents. Those agents reported that they began investigating the Burrs after a connection was found to them with another case involving the trade of firearms to an undercover agent for methamphetamine. The couple had told an informant as recently as Nov 2006, that they were involved in prior bank robberies in Utah and at one point, accompanied Patrick Burr to a Provo credit union to "case" the place with him. The informant had also recorded their plans and the Burr's were arrested after Patrick stated that he planned to aquire a gun and steal a car.

"What in the world were you thinking," U S District Judge Dee Benson asked Patrick Burr.

Benson wasn't asking him about the "new" plans but was referring to their original plan. The Burrs had aquired two large inner tubes that would be hidden in the bushes next to the Provo River and be used as the "get away" vehicles. Heather Burr's car though was impounded a few days before the planned heist for an insurance violation and with it, the inner tubes. That seems to be the point that Patrick moved to plan B and the FBI moved in for the arrest.

Both the Burrs were detained, Patrick as a danger to the community and a flight risk and Heather with the option of possible work release or educational release and they have both now pled guilty to the charges. While Patrick was sentenced this week to the 27 months, Heather will have to wait until sometime next week to before she knows her sentence.

Plan A which was scrapped when the car was impounded...... not only did it take their evidently so rare they can't be replaced inner tubes but one was found to have a hole in it. I have to question as well, what were they thinking......Let's not use the car for the get away but instead, we will escape in inner tubes on the "raging" Provo River, a river that was running at an average 4 mph that time of year. There seem to be a few very large gaps in their planning.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sleeping with the fish

Patrick McCormack, 52 of Dublin Ireland, was initially reported missing by his brother in October of 2003. An investigation of that report by the Garda at that time revealed that he was last seen in June of 2002.

Two specific dates in June of that year are still being considered the last reported sightings of McCormack and his Opel Spectra car was found abandoned not too long afterwards in Shannon, County Clare. He was known to the gardai from his previous robbery convictions and had been suspected of being involved in drug dealing in the west of Ireland.

For the past five years it seems, McCormack has been quietly tucked away from public view. Tucked away until this past week when he was discovered, badly beaten, his hands tied behind his back and stuffed into a sealed plastic container. His post mortem had been repeatedly delayed because of the frozen state of his body but it was established June 20 2007 that he died of severe head injuries.

Superintendent Tom Curley, lead officer in the murder investigation said that detectives are exploring the very real possibility that McCormack's body has been in deep freeze until his recent discovery. It has not been determined yet, if he was killed at the Mermaid Fish Shop on St John's Avenue, Galway,County Clare or if that was just his final hiding spot.

Either way, I have to wonder about the inventory procedures they have, since his container may have been sitting in the deep freeze for five years, unnoticed.

Second arrest

On Sunday, June 24 2007, Myisha L Ferrell, 29, also of Canton Ohio was arrested on an obstruction of justice charge in relation to the death of Jessie Davis. Her arrest follows the arrest of her former classmate and friend, the now accused murderer Bobby Cutts.

The drama of this case has played out in the headlines and has led the nightly news for days now from the initial report of Davis being missing to the rapid arrests after her body was found this past weekend. Scared Monkeys and Hyscience both have more on the recent arrest. It is truly another sad case of lives facing ruin from the choices they have made.

I do not question that this case is in fact news but I do not think it so much more important a story than so many others out there daily. The Davis case has wound it's way through the news in much the way the Scott Peterson case did and the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba did. With Jessis Davis we have an unwed mother who had one child by a married man, who also had two other children by two other women already. She disappeared weeks before she was due to deliver a second child which is assumed to be his child as well. As important as each life is, I don't feel her story is more important than the soldiers who have lost their lives in the days she has been missing.

While I believe it is tragic that a mother and her child have lost their lives, I have to agree with an e mailer to Gateway Pundit:

"Things like this happen when you put yourself in this position. This is a young woman who made ALL the wrong choices. Think this angle will be covered? I doubt it. I think we send the WRONG message by not covering this event without getting into this area. I know it is sensitive and touchy but still it IS relevent."

It is relevent, just as it was touchy to discuss the choices that Natalee Hollaway made leading to her disappearance. Much was made of her meeting a tragic fate and very little was discussed related to her choices that evening. The choice to be out drinking underage late into the evening and her choice to allegedly get into a car with people she barely knew. Tragic as her disappearance is, she placed herself in that position and if the excuse of her age is to be used, then I have to question her parents and how they could put her in that situation.

Jessie Davis was an adult but in these times of internet access, she had every opportunity to do some investigating into her "boyfriend's" background.... the charges brought against him by one former girlfriend and mother of one of his other children, the reported problems he had while working as an officer. In the very least, I have to question the motives for having a second child with a man who is still married to another woman and how she could feel it was good for her children's future to be in the middle of what seems to me, to be a tangle of disjointed lives.

Update: For more on the tangle of Cutts's past go here.

and it doesn't surprise me today, that it has come to light that the reason Cutts had contact suspended with his oldest daughter by the court was a finding that he had been "emotionally and physically abusive" to his 9 year old daughter and her half brother, a child that is not his. For more, see here.

Update: posted July 3

Jessie Davis and her unborn child were buried together June 30 in a private ceremony.

Her mother, Patricia Porter, has said that her daughter Jessie realized in church a few weeks before her death, that she needed to reform her life. That life as a single mother and pregnant it is believed to the same married man again, Bobby Cutts Jr seemed to be entangled with people and things that were far from what is described as youth.

"Mom, I feel like God has really spoken to me today. I need to get my life in order," Porter said Davis told her.

Myisha Ferrell has been charged with obstruction of justice but could face additional charges now prosecutor Frank Forchione told a judge today. Investigators had said previously that she had lied to police but it has now been revealed that the prosecutor believes that she helped to hide Davis's body and lied to authorities several times. the revelation of this information was in an argument to keep Ferrell's bond set at $500,000 which is generally higher than most for just the charge of obstruction.

I can understand how some may choose to lie to protect a friend but how does one choose to help a friend hide a body?

Monday, June 25, 2007

All washed up

Today, Superior Judge Judith Bartnoff proved that not all judges possess the odd reasoning that Roy L Pearson has evidently had for the past two years. Pearson, an administrative law judge, has lost his $54 million dollar lawsuit against the Chung family and Custom Cleaners.

He originally sought $67 million and later amended it to $54 million after claiming the Chungs and their business had lost a favorite pair of his pants and later tried to give him a pair he claimed were not his. Evidently this really was his favorite pair of pants because Pearson, who has represented himself in this case, appeared on the stand crying when describing his lost pants.

Judge Bartnoff ruled that Custom Cleaners did not violate D C's Consumer Protection Act by failing to live up to Pearson's expectations of the "Satisfaction Guarenteed" sign they had displayed in their window. Pearson has claimed it was an unconditional warrenty and calculated his amount of damages by estimating years of violations, added almost $2 million in common-law claims of fraud and money he spent on a cab so that he could use another cleaners. He has also claimed millions of dollars in attorney fees, which is difficult to understand, since he has represented himself since beginning this lawsuit. I would think that he could have worked out a much better scale of fees simply by looking in his own wallet and then telling himself he couldn't afford that proposed charge.

"A reasonable consumer would not interpret 'Satisfaction Guarenteed' to mean that a merchent is required to satisfy a customer's unreasonable demands or accede to demands that the merchant has reasonable grounds to dispute," Bartnoff wrote in a 23-page finding of fact.

Bartnoff had also concluded that Pearson had not met his burden of proving that the pants the Chungs had sought to return to him were not in fact his pants. The Chung's have been awarded court costs to be paid by Pearson and they are seeking to have their attorney's fees paid by him as well. They have spent tens of thousands of dollars defending themselves in this two-year long frivalous case.

The Chungs have stated that they are very pleased with the verdict and have no plans to move back to Korea, something they had mentioned doing earlier in the case. They have even said that they would continue to have Pearson as a customer if he chose to use their services again despite the lawsuit being emotionally, economically and healthwise, extremely hard for them.

"Judge Bartnoff has chosen common sense and reasonableness over irrationality and unbridled venom," Chris Manning, the Chung's attorney said.
The fact that this lawsuit was allowed to drag out for two years and waste the court's time with an actual trial, I can't believe that other judges could have used the same logic Bartnoff has used and tossed it out before it cost the Chung's all that is has.

Life lessons

Note to self:

1. Don't send the flowers, call or try to see her.
2. Make sure the bike is fueled up.
3. Buy flares.
4. Get out of town when things get hot.
5. Respects others and their requests.
6. Check muffler on bike.

It seems that on June 11 2007, Brian Campbell, 39, of West Haven CT didn't take "his" list with him or even remember most of the items on it when Middletown police made contact with him on Silver St around 1pm. As police were preparing to arrest him in connection with alleged violations of a restraining order, he decided to flee.

Instead of using a much more quiet method of escape such as, I don't know, maybe sneakers, Campbell fled on his motorcycle. When police in Cromwell spotted him near the intersection of Main and West streets, he pointed a flare gun to head and pulled the trigger twice. On the second pull, the gun exploded in Campbell's hand, leaving him apparently uninjured. After wavering for a moment on his motorcycle, he dropped the gun and took off again on. Cromwell police collected his gun from the scene and gave chase until Campbell entered Route 9 north.

He didn't get very far, as Meridan police arrested Campbell around 5 pm that night and he was transported back up to Middletown. A brief check of him revealed what appeared to be bruises and swelling to the right side of his head due to the gun explosion.

Middletown police charged Campbell with driving with a suspended license, escape from custody and three counts of violating a restraining order and bail was set at $500,000. Cromwell police have charged him with driving with a suspended license, criminal possession of a firearm, engaging an officer in pursuit and unlawful discharge of a firearm. The remains of the flare gun they scooped up at the scene was found to be loaded with a single shotgun shell and hadn't been "defective" when it exploded. They also placed a $100,000 bond on him.

New note to self:

1. Restraining order really means no contact.
2. When they say halt, that is a good idea.
3. Shotgun shells look a bit like a flare but they aren't.
4. Who would have thought, two departments, two different bails?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sands of time

A hurricane swept across the water near Havana Cuba September 5 1622 and by the time it had passed, eight ships were sunk. About 550 people perished and a total cargo worth more than 2 million pesos lay scattered over 50 miles from the Dry Tortugas eastward.

Lost in that storm were the Guard galleons Santa Margarita and her newly Cuban built sister, Nuestra Senora de Atocha. They were outfitted with upwards to 20 bronze cannons to escort the flotilla of ships returning to Spain with various treasures, the majority of which had been assigned to the Atocha and the Margarita. The wrecks were found easily afterwards because they had not sunk in deep waters but little was salvaged from them at that time due to a definate lack of today's technology.

The sister's rested quietly in the sand for centuries until 1980, when the now late Mel Fisher discovered an initial cache of treasure and artifacts from the Santa Margarita. In 1985, he discovered her sister, Nuestra Senora de Atocha and became instantly famous from the huge cache of treasure found.

On June 15 2007, the shifting sands lost their grasp on yet another part of the Margarita's treasure. A group of divers from Blue Water Ventures, under a joint venture agreement with the Fisher group found a stunning part of her treasure while searching for the remainder of her wreck site.

"It's the greatest high in the world, I think, to find gold at the bottom of the ocean and bring it in." said Greg Bounds, captain of the Blue Water Rose.

Hundreds of artifacts including a gold bar, 11 ornate gold pieces, eight gold chains that include two that are more than 4 feet long and a small lead box. It is what was hidden within the 8-inch long box that has stunned the treasure hunting world, when it was opened live on the Web Friday by experts and revealed "several thousands of pearls," ranging from one-eigth of an inch to three-quarters of an inch in diameter. Pearls rarely survive in the ocean once they are removed from the protection of the oysters that create them but it is believed that the box as well as the silt that had sifted in worked to preserve them in an almost pristine condition.

The sister's Atocha and Margarita are rivaled only by Titanic and her sisters in history. While it is the treasures worth millions that went to the bottom with the huge galleons, the Titanic, Britannic and Olympic are remembered for the tragedies related to the another era of giant ships. The Titanic sank on her maiden voyage and the Olympic, the oldest sister was refitted after that tragedy and enjoyed 24 years of service until she was sold and scrapped. The youngest and largest sister Britannic never carried a paying passenger, instead she served in the Royal Navy as a hospital ship in WW I until she sank in the Aegean sea after more than a year of service. While she lies in a busy shipping lane and at about 300 feet deep in the water, she is still within the range of divers, being some 50 + feet deeper than the Andrea Doria. Plans are under way now to develope a multi-million pound complex nearby and allow increasing numbers of divers to visit the wreck.

The historic pearls though, will be conserved, documented and photographed in an archaeological laboratory above the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West FL. Their value won't truly be known until they are properly cleaned and conserved but they seem to be worth upwards of a million dollars. To those of us intrigued by what the sea takes to her depths and holds close, each new piece of history the can be viewed, below or on the surface is an awe inspiring moment.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Do they dream of plastic lawn frogs?

I raced to round them up and tuck them safely away last year when I first read the news. My head swam with visions of their numbers dwindling in the near future, the possibility of poachers cashing in on them, the possible black market sales as they became more rare and the very real possibility of their colorful flocks disappearing.

In 2006, Union Products Inc. closed it's doors permanently and the plastic factory ended the 50 years of production of pink flamingo lawn ornaments. Don Featherstone, who studied art before Union Products hired him in 1956 to expand it's lawn ornament department, designed the now famous flamingos for them. Featherstone worked from pictures in National Geographic magazine and sculpted his own versions of the graceful birds. These were in turn, used to create the molds used in the production of the plastic versions.

"There are other people who have tried to capitalize on his design, but none that I have seen hold a candle to the quality and detail he created," said J C Waszkiewicz, head of family-owned HMC.

The flamingo lawn ornaments hit the market in the late 1950's when America's exploding population of new suburbanites were looking to add that "something special" to their lawns. The color pink was popular then and with those factors, the flamingo sales took flight. While many have enjoyed their quiet grace within the garden, others have seen them as one of the great symbols of bad taste. The pairs of birds which typically sell for $10-$20 have been banned by some residential developements, targeted by pranksters and at times, kidnapped and forced to travel the globe leaving only the photos of their travels and memories for their former owners.

Fear not though, HMC International LLC has closed on its purchase of Union Products in April 2007 and plans to resume production of the birds in Westmoreland NY by the end of this summer. Included in the sale are the copyrights and plastic molds for the original Featherstone versions and Waszkiewicz believes retailers will appreciate the great looking birds he designed.

With production set to begin in the near future, I will no longer have to keep my birds locked away for their safety. Once again flamingos will flourish, stand proudly among the flower gardens, graze silently across the green lawns of America and huddle around the man-made frog ponds. The American made flamingo can hold it's head high above the cheap knockoffs and allow a new generation of bird lovers to embrace them.

Get real

Pat and Sheena Wheaton say that it was shortly after seeing the ultrasound, they were struck with the reality of their son's impending birth and they knew what they would name him. It seems though, that New Zealand's Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages feels their name choice is against the rules.

New Zealand law requires that all children born in the South Pacific nation to be registered the Births, Deaths and Marriages registry within two months of their birth and it doesn't allow names that begin with numbers or that would "likely cause offense to a reasonable person." The government office has opened negotiations though with the parents about their name choice under a policy that says all unusual names be given a case-by-case consideration.

"With this name, everyone knows what it means," stated Pat Wheaton to TV One, Wednesday.

The name they have chosen for their son certainly is unusual, it's "4real." Yes, it does violate the no numerals first rule and I think it is offensive to a reasonable person. That person would be their son when he is old enough to realize that his parents must have thought they were naming a cute puppy or picking out a vanity plate for their car. There is no reason for them to attempt to follow the long cold trail of "Moon Unit", "Dweezil", "Fifi Trixiebelle", "Daisy Boo" and "Tu Pilot Inspektor." The Wheaton's aren't celebrities who have an excuse, maybe, for saddling their children with names like that.

It is true that everyone would know what his name means if they are successful in getting him named "4real"..... it would mean that his parents aren't the brightest crayons in the box. Maybe they should have tried for "Sue", at least that would work better on legal forms as he grows up.

Update: It seems that finally, someone in a legal position has a clear head. A judge in New Zealand has blocked the Wheaton's from using the name they chose, "4real", for their son. I'm glad that this judge had the sense to prevent this boy from growing up with a name that I agree, is unfair. While some countries have laws against certain names being used and the French have a list of approved names to prevent teasing, in the U S anything goes as long as it isn't a "four letter word." This explains why two unfortunate boys, one in Texas and one in Michigan will have to grow up with the shared name of "ESPN." That does bring me back to the question of who isn't the brightest crayon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

It was only across the street

On May 28 2007, when Peggy Sue Phillips, 48, decided to check her account balance at First Security Bank, she didn't use the internet or the phone. She instead, decided to drive there. This seemed like a good plan until she was involved in an accident.

Instead of taking the family car there, she chose to drive a lawn mower across Highway 62 in Mountain Home Ak after dark and without lights. Her drive ended quickly when she was hit by another car which then hit a curb damaging a tire and rim. No one was injured in the accident but responding police officer Bryan Corbett suspected that Phillips was "impaired."

"The suspect's speech was slurred and her balance was unstable," he wrote in his report.

Phillips passed a blood-alcohol content test at the station but she didn't pass the search. Numerous narcotic medications she had been taking along with a small amount of marijuana with rolling papers were found on her person. She was jailed and faces charges that include, driving with a suspended or revoked license, driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor charge of possession of controlled substances, possession of an intrument of crime and lastly, careless driving.

I don't think the Lawn Ranger will help her this time.

God's will?

This June 12, 2007 a rare event visited the United States, rare even within the world. Two sets of sextuplets were born within 10 hours of each other to parents in Arizona and Minnesota. Both sets were born prematurely, the Masche set of three boys and three girls were born after just 30 weeks of pregnancy, the Morrison's four boys and two girls after only 22 weeks. Unfortunately Bennet, Tryg and Lincoln Morrison have not survived and their surviving siblings remain in critical condition in the neonatel intensive care unit at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.

The Morrison infants are considered "extremely premature" being 22 weeks or less and according to the American Medical Association have a 1 to 10 percent of surviving. Infants born at 25 weeks have better odds of between 50 to 80 percent and those who are born after 30 weeks have a better than 90 percent chance of surviving.

Both the Morrison's and the Masche's used fertility drugs to assist in their pregnancies. The life-long problems that a multiple birth child can face along with the life-threatening risks to both the mother and the child, have some in the medical profession questioning the wisdom of "fertility on demand." I also have to question it for several reasons. I can understand a little more easily the grounds for the Masche's choice since at age 32, Jenny Masche is facing the inevitable biological slowdown associated with age. I still can't fathom what would cause a 24 year old woman such as Brianna Morrison to resort to fertility drugs after only one year of trying to become pregnant.

"Maybe if God wants to, He can reduce them on His own, but I know this is not something that we can do," said Jenny Masche.

Both families were approached by their doctors after it was found that they were expecting six children, that they had the option of "selective reduction" to reduce the risk to the remaining children. Both families declined, choosing instead to place the decision "in God's hands." I can understand that this may not be an acceptable alternative for many but both couples also had the option of testing before they became pregnant to see how many eggs had been released that particular month. In a case of numerous eggs, they would have had the option then to wait for a month when there was less of a chance of such a large pregnancy.

"It's always an interesting situation when people rely on modern medicine and talk about God's will -- because if it were simply God's will, then you'd say, if you're not becoming pregnant, that must be God's will," stated USC's Alexander Capron.

Capron, the professor of law and medicine at the University of Southern California and renowned bioethicist also co-chairs the Pacific Center for Health policy and Ethics at USC. I can agree with his beliefs that some people will feel that it is God's will to use medical interventions to become parents but that the risks from such pregnancies should outweigh the need to become parents.

While he believes adoption is a very viable solution for couples who want to become parents, he would never advocate legislating a person's parenting options. There are a lot of children out there, waiting to be adopted, who need parents. If the reasoning behind using artificial means to become a biological parent and only a parent in that way, then i have to question what their real needs are.

"If what you are saying is: 'I want to pass on my genes, which are very special to me and the world, and the only way to do that is to reproduce biologically, rather than the act of parenting,' I sympathize with that but I am not one who believes you should run the risks to do it," stated Capron.

I hope that the debate continues about the ever increasing use of fertility drugs both in public forums and within the numerous comments to blogs. If the need to be a parent is so strong as to put aside the related risks, I wonder what the real need is there. Adoption is very acceptable now as shown by the numerous celebrities adopting in recent years and they are no less a parent for not being their children's "biological" parents.

Couples may look to multiple sets of children who have survived early births, some with no problems, others who have serious medical problems and still use the fact that they survived as a basis for their attempting the same. I find it a poor excuse for having children suffer minute by minute to leave that survival in God's hands. With all the options available to the Morrisons especially, at their young age, the rush to conceive after only one year of trying I do not believe was warrented and I have to question the doctors who made it possible for them. I am sorry that they will be facing what could be months of watching their remaining children struggle to live and grow, these will be very tough times for such a young couple. I don't believe though it is God's will that they are where they are now. The science they used to conceive them could also have been used to significantly reduce the risks.

Update: In a sad update to the continued struggles of the remaining Morrison sextuplets, Saturday morning, June 23 2007, Cadence lost her fight for life. The remaining two Morrison children, Sylas and Lucia, are still in critical condition in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children's Hospital.

Update Oct 23 2014:

Sylas, the only surviving sextuplet is now more than five years old.  He suffers from cerebral palsy which is common among babies born prematurely.  He still receives injections to help loosen his muscles and surgeries to help increase his mobility and posture.  He does seem to be enjoying the carefree life that all children should enjoy in a loving home.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lay off the diet pills

It seems that Pluto has been kicked in the shins again, this time by Eris. Last year the International Astronomical Union voted after eight days of contentious debate, to redefine what a planet is and Pluto was demoted to the status of a dwarf planet.

Only 424 astronomers were allowed to vote on the new definition out of approximately 10,000 professional astronomers worldwide. Pluto was discovered on Feb 18, 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh and it has been debated then since whether Pluto ever was a planet. Under the initially proposed definition, both Pluto and Charon, it's moon, would have been accepted as planets but they have both been demoted to also ran status because it is felt they are part of a sea of other objects that occupy the same region. The remaining eight planets all have clearly defined cleared space within their oribits in our solar system.

"I'm embarassed for astronomy, less than 5 percent of the world's astronomers voted," said Alan Stern, leader of NASA's New Horizon's mission to Pluto and a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute.

Stern feels that the language used in the resolution is flawed by requiring that a planet "has cleared the neighborhood around it's orbit." Jupiter has been shown to have 50,000 trojan asteroids which orbit in pace with the planet and Earth, Neptune and Mars all have asteroids for neighbors. Not only has Stern's "planetary mission" been demoted but Mike Brown of Caltech has no longer "discovered" the 10th planet with his temporarily named object, 2003 UB313.

Stern will be 56 years old when the newly launched New Horizon's spacecraft begins taking photos of Pluto and Charon in it's approach to them in 2014. It is planned to fly within 6,000 miles of Pluto where it will analyze the surface temperature and composition, generate high resolution maps of both Charon and Pluto and glance back over it's shoulder to try and catch a glimpse of an atmosphere, rings and the contours of the surfaces. New Horizon's mission, if successful, may answer many of the questions astronomers have debated for so long about Pluto and it's surroundings.

That kick in the shin though has come from Eris, the formally known as 2003 UB313. Using the Keck Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope, Brown and graduate student Emily L Schaller have calculated the mass of Eris at 27 percent more than Pluto.

"Pluto and Eris are essentially twins - except that Eris is slightly the pudgier of the two," said Brown.

After suffering the indignity of being demoted from planet status, Pluto has now lost it's status as the largest "dwarf planet" to it's rival Eris, who is named for the Greek goddess of all things...... rivalry.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Another scam

In the early days of the internet there were the lottery winnings scams and scams involving "lost" relatives. Those seem to have evolved into the "Nigerian bank" scams, the various e-mails phishing for your private information and the recent scam aimed at our U S Military families.

Now the FBI is reporting a much more ominous online scam, the "hitman" e-mail. Not only does this e-mail suggest that the recipient will die because of a contract their "friend" put out on them, it continues on stating that they are monitoring your movements. The scam resides in the "blackmail" part of the e-mail. The recipient is informed that they will be left alone if they send the "hitman" anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000. According to the FBI, they have received more than 100 complaints involving this scam since it came to light in December of 2006.

"They can basically commit these offenses from anywhere in the world," FBI special agent James Burrell said.

The FBI has said that they have some leads and wouldn't provide specific details, although they believe that it originates overseas. Only a few people seem to have fallen for the scam, mailing thousands of dollars to "escape" the contract. Most realize that it is a scam since the e-mail contains generic information and nothing specific to the individual. It would seem that the internet scammers have stepped beyond simply tricks to gain you money and may have entered a new realm of "personal" threats.

Bad hare day

For a few hours on Sunday all motion ground to a stop. All except the whistle blowing, frantic arm waving and the ominous advancing line of safety vest draped people. It wasn't the scene of Paris Hilton's jail release but rather part of a twice yearly event in Milan Italy.

It seems that the wild hares that reside within the grounds of Milan's Linate airport have been extra busy this year enjoying the air of romance. Their rapidly growing numbers prompted a rare daylight hunt for the "wascally wabbits" since their large numbers interfere with the radar and sensors that monitor the airport. Officials at the airport said that the "hunts" are usually conducted under cover of darkness but this year, with the large number sighted, they wanted to give the volunteers a better chance of grabbing them.

Yes, more than 200 people volunteered to spook about 57 hares and 4 wild rabbits out of their burrows and into waiting nets. I can't help visualizing Bill Murray's "Carl Spackler" with his ever increasing gear, determined to destroy the unwanted vermin. This time there were no rabbits flying out of burrows with high pressure hoses, no explosives taking chunks out of the grounds and no one dressed for gopher special forces. There were just a couple hundred people chasing wabbits on the hot tarmac and into awaiting nets. Officials said that they were put into wooden crates and transferred to a wildlife perserve where I have no doubt they will continue their romantic ways.

This isn't just an "italian" problem brought about by the travel brochures of romance in the north of Italy. Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris France instituted "Operation Rabbit" to remove the rabbits who they believed were the root of their plane vs bird problems. Hunters did the original deed but today, ferrets are doing it for them. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey use falcons and hawks to keep the gulls and geese away from the bay near JFK Airport. Southwest Florida International Airport and Augusta Regional Airport in Geogia both employ border collies to routinely chase away the feathered timebombs.

Curt Kuehner, wildlife officer at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport doesn't have animals on staff to help him but he is left to his own devices for bird removal. So far, he has used bird distress calls, decoys and in times when those don't work, he entertains the terminal passengers by running towards flocks of birds waving his arms and screaming like a madman.

Activist's objected to Miami International Airports plan to bring in hunters to solve their rabbit runneth over problem, so volunteers trapped them and brought them out to a ranch in Texas. A judge later gave permission for hunters to come in and take care of the stragglers but so far, no humans or rabbits have been bagged.

The aviation industry is facing more than $330 million worth of damage to aircraft due to encounters with wildlife that has taken up residence at airports. They have teamed up with wildlife organizations, the United States Department of Agriculture and the FAA in hopes of finding viable solutions to reducing the numbers of wildlife drawn to the "easy life" at airports.

I still keep getting the idea that somewhere, there is a small airport with a small budget and their solution includes having the security guard working double shift with flashlights taped to his helmet and net in hand.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

His game is hot

It may have been all the hours spent at the driving range, maybe the new clubs for Father's Day or it may just be that his game is that hot now. Monday evening, a Wildcreek golfer in Reno NV sparked a lot of action after he tried to return to the fairway there.

The golfer evidently knocked his ball beyond the course and into the grass off the 3500 block of Sullivan Lane. It was while he attempted to return to the fairway that things heated up immensely. His club struck something that caused a spark, which in turn, started a fire.

Although Reno Battalion Chief Curtis Johnson didn't know if the golfer was the one who turned in the alarm, " He was totally honest about it."

The commonly heard "fore" was replaced by "fire" and Reno and Sparks fire engines responded around 8 pm. Almost 50 people arrived on scene and battled the fire that consumed between 15 to 20 acres of grassland northeast of the golf course. It is because of the dangerous conditions this year that the task force responded with three brush engines, three structure engines and a water tender. No structures were threatened by the fire and a 12-person crew from Sierra Front was schedualed to stay on scene until midnight to monitor the scene.

I will certainly pay more attention the next time a weekend sportman tells me that their game has suddenly gotten hot.

Mighta been tasty

Twice in the month of June 2007, luck has sided with the haplessly captured along the southern coast of New England. Within the first few weeks of this month, two lobsters have emerged from commercial traps, not to enjoy the bright red, butter soaked resting place their brethren will see but instead they are headed for lives of luxury.

In the first week of June, lobsterman Jim Mataronas IV hit the jackpot of pulling a one in 50 million lobster from his traps off Newport RI. Due to a very rare genetic mutation, the lobster flailing it claws before him was a very clearly divided, two-tone critter.

"I pulled it out and thought someone was playing a joke on us. It looks half-cooked," Matamornas IV said.

The color of a lobster's shell is determined genetically at the first division's of the embryo and is normally a mix of yellow, blue and red. These mix to create the normally brownish-green color seen in most lobsters. The shells of lobsters grow symetrically, each side developing independently of the other and it is the rare lack of both yellow and blue in one half of this lobster's shell that has resulted in it's unique look. The Mataronas family usually keeps rarer lobsters on display for it's walk-in customers at the family-owned Sakonnet Lobster Co. but this time, they will try to find the very rare crustacean a new home at a local aqaurium.

Despite the long odds of bringing in such a rare lobster, Alan Robinson of Steuben ME had the same experience in July 2006 near Bar Harbor ME. He hadn't seen one in his 20 years of lobstering and told the Bangor Daily News,

"I thought someone was playing a trick on me. Once I saw what it was... it was worth seeing."

Robinson's lobster was also spared the role of main dinner course when he donated it to Maine's Mount Desert Oceanarium. His is one of only three that they have received in the past 35 years, attesting to the rarity of the two-toned lobster.

Mid June brought a stroke of luck as well, when lobstermen Steve Hatch and Robert Green pulled a 1.5 pound blue lobster from a trap set at the mouth of the Thames River in New London CT. Hatch said that he had heard of blue lobsters but this was the first he had seen. Later that afternoon the unique lobster was packed in a cooler and brought to the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, joining two others in residence there and facing a life in an elementary school classroom for children to learn about it.

A study by Professor Ronald Christensen at the University of Connecticut discovered that a genetic defect causes a blue lobster to produce too much protien and combined with a red carateniod molecule called astaxanthin forms a blue complex. This complex known as crustacyanin is what gives the genetically blue lobsters their color rather than environmental influences that can color some lobsters a pale version of blue that they will molt out when their environment changes.

These rare lobsters are now joining a group that have very high odds of ever being found. Blue lobsters are estimated to occur in one out of three million, yellow lobsters like the one residing at the New England Aquarium happen apparently one in 30 million. The chance of finding a split-colored lobster is about one in 50 million and the rarest, the albino lobster, is estimated to be one in 100 million.

I do have to wonder though, with two rare lobsters being caught within weeks of each other so close to one of the largest and richest casinos in the world............... who really did pull the arm for the lucky jackpot? The loberstermen who are now short one lobster to sell or the lobsters who are now enjoying the life of royalty, no butter added.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Payback can hurt

Kandi Hanson, 28, knows what the distinct "thud" of a deer feels like, and watched as they imitated Santa's flying reindeer since she has met a few of Bambi's friends with her cars. She totaled her first car, a Volkswagon Golf in a "close encounter of the deerish kind" and has damaged two others since then in accidents with deer.

On Saturday June 12 2007, while Hanson and 326 other participants were running in the Sour Grapes Half and Half 10-kilometer footrace at the Northland Arboretum MN, little did she know that "payback" was awaiting her. Hanson and her two friends, Lottie Oehrlein and Robin Warden were running along the trail about midpoint in the race when a spooked deer ran out in front of them and brushed close before hitting the other side of the trail. They continued their run cautiously, oblivious to the plans held by the second deer.

The second deer bypassed her two friends and headed straight for Hanson and with a "take no prisoners" attitude, slammed into the Pequot Lakes sixth-grade teacher. It made a direct hit on her chest and sent Hanson flying into the grass along the trail's edge before bounding into the woods.

"Somehow I flew, I don't know how because I shut my eyes," Hanson said

Sour Grapes director Jeanne Larson said that they were well prepared for the common runners ailments but when she heard that there had been a deer-human collision, she said they had no Plan B. Larson considers herself lucky to see a deer when she is out running but to be hit by a deer, definately, unlucky.

Hanson's sister, Kara Brick was about a mile ahead of her sister Kandi and saw the deer running hellbent through the woods. She figured that they might hit someone at that speed but when she found out at the end of the race, it was Kandi hit,

"Of all the people, of course it had to be Kandi, she's goofy to begin with."
In true runners warrior creed, Kandi picked herself up after the hit, spit out the dirt in her mouth and continued running to the finish. I know that sounds better than saying that she ran like heck in case there were more aiming to take her down. Kandi finished 31st in the race and received a first-place plaque for "being airborne the longest." Not only was she airborne from the hit but she is now one of a select club of runners who can claim they have been hit by a deer while running.

With "goofy" and Bambi's friends running amock, it sounds like a very low budget Disney horror story to me........ or maybe just a small lesson in payback and how much it can hurt.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Are you my daddy?

In southern Japan, June 16, 2007, she silently slipped into sight at 10:25 PM. After only 374 days from her mother's last "successful" date she entered the world rolled up like a packing tube, unfurled her nearly six-foot wings and began to swim.

The baby girl born to ID # 10 at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium late Saturday night is believed to be the first giant manta ray ever born in captivity. Her birth was recorded by the aquarium and broadcast by national broadcaster NHK throughout Japan Sunday morning. Her mother ID # 10 was brought to the aquarium in August 1998 after hitting a fishing net off the island of Okinawa and had mated with her partner, ID # 6 374 days before. He has been at the aquarium since May 1992.

Very little is known about the life of manta rays and according to Aquarium official Minoru Toda, the records from this pregnancy and birth will add valuable data to the understanding of this species. Manta rays are the largest species of ray and although they eat only small fish larvae and plankton, they are known to grow up to 25 ft wide across their fin tips and up to 6,600 lbs. They are found throughout the tropical seas and most commonly near coral reefs where they can find their favorite foods.

Their size and distinctive "horns" around their mouth have led them to be called the "devil fish" by some. Those horns actually help in guiding the food into their mouths in what is known as ram-jet feeding. Their grace in the water though has made them a prized sighting for many divers as they slowly fly through the water around them.

"We have unfolded some of the mysteries about the life of manta rays, including the length of their pregnancy. Now we have to make sure the baby grows in good health," Toda said.
The successful birth of such a fish rarely kept in capitivity because of it's large size is certainly something to celebrate. I think though, with a 374 day long pregnancy, it may be a long while before we see another one, if the "moms" have any say in the matter.

Update: Sadly, after moving her to the sea pen for feedings, the one in this video, she was found dead June 21 2007.

Low budget NASA

For days now, the drama aboard the international space station has been played down on the nightly news. The failed computers that control orientation of the station and produce oxygen are the latest technical glitch on the half-built $100 billion post-Cold War venture that in the past has seen gyroscopes and a Russian oxygen machine fail.

While none of these failures has been said to be serious enough to lead to an order to "abandon ship" from NASA, they have led some critics to call the space station a boondoggle. It has also fueled skepticism towards the Bush administration's "Vision for Space Exploration" program which calls for the so far, non-science producing station to be finished in three years, grounding the shuttles in 2010 and building the next generation of vehicles to go to our moon and Mars.

The success of NASA's unmanned craft programs has been largely hidden from the general public. On June 5 2007, the Messenger probe passed within 209 miles of the surface of Venus on it's second pass around the planet. Messenger this time was able to pair with a European spacecraft studying Venus for a rare opportunity to make oberservations from two seperate vantage points.

Messenger was launched in August 2004 and is the seventh in NASA's Discovery program of lower cost, scientifically focused missions. The Applied Physics Laboratory, which built the probe, operates it and manages the mission for NASA, plans to use the gravity from Earth, Venus and Mercury to slow down the lightly fueled probe and place it in orbit around Mercury in 2011. All went well on deceleration around Venus and Messenger is on target to make it's first pass of Mercury in January 2008, making it the first to orbit the planet and the first to visit since Mariner 10 raced three times around Mercury in the mid-1970's. It's mission is to stay in a permanent orbit around Mercury and collect data.

While NASA struggles with it's "billion dollar baby", it's unmanned space probes have led to many successes, from Mariner 2 launched in 1962, making the first flyby of Venus, through Rangers 6-9 who in 1965, returned thousands of photographs from the moon's surface. Viking 1 launched in 1975, successfully placed a lander on the surface of Mars in 1976 and it's lander was still functioning in a weather-reporting mode until an errant command shut it down in November 1982.

Probably the most efficient, reliable and cost effective program to come out of NASA has been the Pioneer missions. They are truly a shining example of what a small and talented group of people can accomplish, against all odds and when faced with performing something that had never been done before. Proof of that is shown by Pioneer 10 which is still cruising through the galaxy and sending back data thirty years after it's launch in 1972 and Pioneer 6, in a permanent solar orbit, is the oldest functioning spacecraft at 35 years old.

Today, the outcry from some is that NASA is wasting money and space exploration should be curtailed. The international space station may in fact be a boondoggle but NASA has shown that with the "right stuff", they can produce outstanding results that will only serve to further our knowledge of space around us and our planetary neighbors.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Protest laid bare

The Supreme Court's first ruling in regards to an Iraq war protest probably will not be remembered as a landmark case in law, as reported by Villanous Company recently. Once more it seems, free speech has come out on the losing end of a court ruling.

I can now add a 9-0 ruling in which the justices rejected a claim for legal fees filed on behalf of a Florida nudist who wanted to form a peace symbol out of nudes on a state beach there. Toni Anne Wyner and her protest ran afoul of the state's Bathing Suit Law and in February 2003, she went to court to challenge this law as a violation of her 1st Admendment right to free expression.

A judge at first saw merit in her complaint and allowed the protest to take place behind a screen, to shield other patrons at John D MacArthur Beach State Park in Palm Beach County. The protest was held, followed by a nude romp to the water, where I suppose there should also have been a screen to prevent hapless fish from viewing such vulgarity.

"The value of freedom is found not only in the larger issues of life but also in the fanciful and strange," said U S District Judge Donald Middlebrooks.

Wyner returned to court seeking a permanent order allowing such protests but the judge refused and ruled for the state. He did say however, that the civil liberties lawyers who represented her were entitled to be paid because they had won at least one round of the litigation. The Supreme Court reversed that decision in Sole vs Wyner, concluding that Wyner was not a prevailing party.

Despite what seems to be a legal setback for Wyner's free speech, she produced another nude peace symbol on the beach in 2007. State officials are said to have not interfered then and I am sure that there were more than a few that noticed her "message." I've seen some of the "bathing suits" that abound and I am sure nude is only a few square inches of material away from it.