Thursday, November 29, 2007

Baby Grace

In Texas, two parents were put in jail on charges of beating their 2-year-old daughter to death for refusing to say "please" and "yes sir." Baby Grace is the name being currently used while police identify the body found on and uninhabited island in Galveston's West Bay. It is expected by police and a woman named Sheryl Sawyers that the child was in fact Riley Ann Sawyers (Sheryl Sawyers' granddaughter). Sheryl recognized artist sketches on the news when the body was found and tipped police.

The mother, Kimberly Trenor (19) was living with her husband in Texas. Her husband, Royce Zeigler (24), had ordered that the child be spanked with a belt for not acting the way he expected. Trenor complied with this but Riley still wasn't following his rules. Zeigler then took it upon himself to further punish the child.

Riley's parents are currently in jail on pending charges of tampering with evidence and injury of a child. Their bail is $350,000. Bail should not be an option for these people. They should be put through the full extent of their sentence, when the sentence actually comes. I expect it should turn out to be a clear-cut case. From what I understand, Trenor is admitting to beating Riley with a belt and holding her head under water as punishment, then helping to hide the body when she died. I don't think that Zeigler has come out and confessed any involvement. I know they initially claimed that Child Protective Services had taken Riley and provided false documentation for support.

Zeigler's lawyer has said that Trenor's story did not quite fit. "She is placing all the blame on Royce, but I think that once the facts come to light, once the timeline's established and the evidence is combed through ... I think her credibility is gonna become a big issue."

I read the affidavit and Trenor's statements, which held all of the information pertaining to the death of Baby Grace. On October 29, a plastic box containing 3 black plastic bags had washed up, and the police were called to inspect its contents. When Sgt. Michael Barry arrived, he found a child's body in the bags. The cause of death was three fractures in the skull. On July 24, Zeigler had taken the day off to try to get Riley "under control." When belt whipping and holding her head under water wasn't getting him the results he wanted, Trenor says he proceeded to lift Riley by her hair and throw her across the room. This caused Riley to hit her head on the tile floor.

In Trenor's statement, she said she suggested they call an ambulence, but Zeigler feared repercussions and instead gave Riley over-the-counter pain killers. Riley, however, stopped breathing. They both went out and bought the plastic container, concrete mix, shovels, and some other supplies. The body was not thrown straight into the Galveston Causeway, but kept first in a storage unit for two months or so.

"Baby Grace" was the name given to the body during DNA testing on October 31, then on November 7 Zeigler's mother reported to police that the sketches she'd seen on TV might have been her granddaughter, who she had not seen in months.

I find myself a lot more disturbed reading about stories involving child abuse than probably any other subject. The act of hurting a child in some way is something that I can never wrap my head around. I realize that people who do such things are messed up in a lot of ways, and I recognize that as being why I can't imagine wanting to ever bring a little kid into harm's way. I read another story where a mother in Texas tried to burn her children to death, and she received a life sentence. I feel that this is an appropriate sentence not so much for the sake of what an abuser "deserves" to go through so much as to protect other children from potential harm. Since it takes a disturbed person to hurt a child, who's to say when it's appropriate to let the person be around their own or anybody else's children? Who knows what could trigger them to hurt somebody, regardless of the kind of therapy they go through? I hate to be so absolute about most issues, but I don't know of anything that can damage a human being more than abusing them as a child.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mike Judge Success

I watched Idiocracy today, and as I've mentioned education a few times already it should be no surprise I loved the movie. As I feel people are already a lot like the movie shows the future, I'm only more convinced that home schooling will be the only way for me.

For those unaware, Idiocracy (starring Luke Wilson) is about an average guy in the military who's task is to be put to sleep for a year to test some new hibernation chambers made to preserve valuable soldiers for when America needs them most. Disaster strikes (of course) so he wakes up 500 years in the future. While he was asleep, the intelligent people of the world all waited to have children until they could no longer reproduce whereas the, we'll call them "less intelligent," have reproduced like rabbits. As a result, the future is not the society of sophisticated and hyper-intelligent people that your normal sci-fi movies depict.

So, if you like movies that make you feel like you're not the only one out there who's sick of how stupid people around you can be, this is definitely a must-see.

Attention Potential iPod Buyers!

I just recently had another iPod crap out on me, so please for your own sakes DON'T BUY these worthless things. My old 20 GB iPod wouldn't load past the apple icon and I couldn't re-format it no matter how many tricks I attempted from the internet, my old 512 MB shuffle started jumping into random PARTS of the song as opposed to random songs, then my newer 1 GB shuffle (the ones that clip on to things) won't turn on or register on my computer at all. Now, I've never personally used a Zune either, but I hear they're not a whole lot better.

My advice would be the Creative Zen player. Not only do they get really good ratings for reliability and durability, but if you're just out looking for the cheapest player, a 4 Gig Zen costs only $94 whereas the iPod Nano of equal storage costs $134 and the Zune reaches up to $149! If you want higher end models, from around 30 GB and up, the Zen's start to cost a little bit more, but personally I feel that once I'm spending over $100 anyway, I should probably spend a little bit more up front to ensure that the investment lasts. This is especially true after losing 3 iPods (2 were gifts. I wouldn't have kept buying them in the first place...)

Cure for Cancer Powers Engines

Be ready to add John Kanzius to the list of accidental inventors who changed the way society operates. While working to cure cancer using radio frequencies, he accidentally set flame to a beaker full of salt water. If any of you have tried (I myself have not) I'm sure you found that salt water is not the most flammable substance around. They haven't quite figured out why this happens, they only know it's some dynamic between the salt and the radio frequencies (it doesn't work in pure water). They've even gone so far as to power a small engine with it just to see if it could be a feasible power source, and so far it looks promising.

There are a lot of different options coming out in modern science to try and break us away from our oil dependency. Just open up any given Popular Science or Popular Mechanics magazine and I can almost guarantee you there's at least one article in there about some up-and-coming technology to replace oil. Electric cars, floating magnetic railways, flat wind generators that oscillate a magnet back and forth within a copper wire as opposed to a traditional windmill style, it seems to me that the problem isn't that we don't have any new ideas for energy sources, but rather that there are so many other ways that it's hard to channel enough money and resources into one particular idea.

Here's a video demonstration of the potential future engine:

Science Cookies

The time since my last blog has been spent finding a cure for the Midnight Munchies, and in that time my focus was pulled first to a very attractive plate full of chocolate chip cookies. What could be better? I snatch one up, shove half of it into my mouth, and just about gag. It was still pretty fresh, and it had been covered in the few hours since its conception, so what went wrong?

The blame ultimately comes down on a good friend of mine from high school. He came by for the Halloween party thrown by my wife and I, and as requested he brought some contributions. Now, the particular drink he brought over was of very, very high alcohol percentage, and may or may not have been home-made by a family friend of his. I use such vague allusions because, well, it may or may not have actually been a legal drink for him to possess. Anyway, it smelled as though it were a part of some child prodigy's science project. Ever the gentleman, he left it behind for us. A couple of days later, complaints are floating around the house of some smell in the fridge. What's worse, the smell is soaking into all of our food. It didn't really get to me right off because I have a knack for ignoring such unpleasantries, but tonight was the final straw. There has to be a solution to this! My wife has been keeping a fresh supply of baking soda in there since the drink was removed, but it's not really doing the job like she says it does.

My frustrated research tells me this: baking soda, while it does have some neutralizing effect on the odors (the pH of baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is mildly basic which neutralizes acids that cause the odors), very little actual surface area of baking soda gets exposed to the fridge and what does gets kind of crusted over by the vapors floating around. Useless.

Unfortunately, much as I hate to leave you all in a state of anti-climax, the only other solution I can find is a canister of activated charcoal. If there's another answer out there, it's just not quite urgent enough to devote any more time to the matter tonight.

Today's Color: Orange

Just for kicks and giggles, I wandered over tonight to the Department of Homeland Security homepage. The current threat level today is (you guessed it!): Orange.

"Only small amounts of liquids, aerosols and gels are allowed in carry-on baggage. See the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for up-to-date information on items permitted and prohibited on airlines."

Translation: "Attention all terrorists: Perhaps today's not so much your day. If you'd like to try anyway, the TSA website tells you that your best hope of a carry-on weapon is a corkscrew, screwdriver or other tool shorter than 7 inches, or a pair of scissors."

The list of acceptable items is a nice thing to have available, but I don't think to many (if any) other nations use a "Threat Level" system like we do, or at least if they do it's not so readily available to everybody. Why would I take issue with this? Obviously it could change on a day to day basis, so all a potential bomber or hijacker has to do is check the threat level on the DHS website everyday until the threat level (and therefore the security procedures) reaches it's lowest point, making his job as easy as possible. Why tell them whether or not there are going to be special checks at the airport?

A "Smart" Veto

I just read a little headline that made my day. On Monday, November 19, Mr. Bush vetoed a proposed bill that would have provided $271 million dollars for education technology and added $1.2 billion to career and technical education. I realize we can't have every budget proposal approved, but don't career-specific schools seem pretty important? How many people go into these schools after they graduate high school instead of going to college? While I myself aim for college, it's no surprise to me that many people would rather skip all the "fluff" (aka generals) that they'd have to take and just focus on their career path. I believe in getting a broad education that covers many different areas, but it's not for everybody.

Back to the bill, on this same day, a $471 billion defense budget was approved. Yes, defense is also incredibly important, but as I don't feel it's going the right way either I think they could have spared just a little bit of that to put toward education. To me, $272 million just doesn't seem like anything at all compared to $471 billion. When is education going to become as important to people as it should be?

Maye defense wouldn't be the best thing to take this money out of, who's to say. However, how many ridiculous services does the government provide that it could do away with? If the government was less involved with day-to-day life providing this aide and that aide to everybody and maybe devote it all to more important things, we could afford better education.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thoughts on Theology

Religion was a huge issue between myself and my wife in our early relationship because she was from a Mormon family. She herself was "one foot out the door" but she still went through major bouts of confusion and indecision. As far as I could tell, she wanted to leave but she was afraid to do so without feeling like she'd found the "real answer." Naturally, this led her to become very frustrated when arguing with me because my ultimate answer in my personal life is there is no answer in life. I can't see what happens after we die, and I don't believe anyone else can either. Why, then, should I place faith and devote my valuable time in life to some person who claims to have some understanding of the afterlife? Lots of people have claimed this in the past, and their religions are all dead and/or dying. What makes Christianity any different? For me to say that I'm happy focusing on life rather than spirituality, it really threw my wife off. She couldn't grasp the concept of not caring whether or not Jesus was real.

So, she read all the information available online (particular the infamous ex-mo discussion board) and eventually came to terms with the fact that a religion which is constantly changing its teachings to suit the changing ideals of the world around them couldn't be the one true church. After all, shouldn't THE TRUTH remain constant? So, in short, she sent in her letter and removed her name from the church records.

Even then, she went through times of fear over whether or not what she'd done would in fact condemn her eternal spirit to damnation, but then she rethinks every reason that freed her from (in my personal opinion) one of the most oppressive churches of our time and realizes also that worshiping some "perfect being" for doing a good job doesn't make much sense anyway. What kind of accomplishment is that, really? If you're perfect, of course you'll do it right. Not to mention, what kind of perfect being would condemn an imperfect being for making a mistake, especially when they were fumbling in the dark? Last of all, why model yourself and your life after someone who was so very possibly made up or greatly exaggerated when there are so many great examples in life? Mother Teresa herself never claimed to be in direct contact with Jesus, she just did things because it suited her image of a good human being and what she wanted to be.

Blessing in Disguise?

This past Wednesday, I was laid off from my job as an electrician with Cache Valley Electric. Mostly, I welcomed the break and the opportunity to devote my time to finding a career that I feel better suited for. I had already applied for a job at ARUP (medical lab) working graveyards, 10 hour shifts, 7 on 7 off. Who'd complain about a week-long weekend? I could work seven days straight for that. Anyway, the pay's a little less than I got as a "sparky" but it's worth it for the awesome tuition reimbursement (they're part of the University of Utah) and the money I'll save car-pooling with my wife and mom (who already work there).

Just today, I got a phone interview for the job and she said she'd get back to me on which positions I could personally interview for. Here's hoping.