Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Move Over Mississippi

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
I’m sure that you’ve all heard the news… but Proposition 8 has passed & now it’s legal for same-sex couples to marry in the state of California… and living in the city of San Francisco… and with Pride Festival being this weekend… you can probably guess that the city is pretty excited about it. I’m guessing that the wedding business in the city could triple in the next year… but realistically, I don’t see a whole changing other than employee benefits being adjusted & Republicans trying to repeal it or something… again. Congratulations! Now you can marry… next stop, the vote. What’s that? Oh homosexuals can already vote? And drive cars? And basically anything else? Cool… so I never have to hear about oppression of their people ever again? Don’t tell me that there’s never been a gay President either… lest we forget James Buchanan (and maybe a few others that were bi-curious). Congratulations! You’ve achieved equality! It’s ugh… it’s kinda like graduating high school… but I’ll let it surprise you.
NBA 2K13 Update: Well, apparently the game simulates everything after the All-Star break… so during the break, I helped lead my team to victory in the Rising Stars Challenge, lost horribly in the Slam Dunk Contest (some kind of Guitar Hero code command thing, but an interesting twist) & after the fast forward… I didn’t win Rookie of the Year (remember the 12 minute simulations vs 5 minute quarters in my games?) but still made the All-Rookie 1st Team. Boom! Then we swept the Raptors in the 1st round, beat the Bulls in five games the 2nd round & swept the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Finals… so now the Milwaukee Bucks are in the NBA Finals for the first time since Lew Alcindor & the Big O Oscar Robertson were playing over 40 years ago. You’re welcome, Cream City! Yes, that’s their nickname… look it up. I could’ve went with Beertown or something… but Old Milwaukee sucks… and Cream City is MUCH funnier.
I also watched a great documentary called “Undefeated” last night. This movie follows the story of Manassas High School in North Memphis, Tennessee. The area is among the worst neighborhoods in the U.S. with regards to poverty, violence & all that mess… and the football team isn’t funded well. So a volunteer coach named Bill Courtney decided to put some of his own money in to help out… and definitely a LOT of his time to help kids without positive role models to make the most with their lives, to learn about discipline, character & other fantastic traits through team sports… and just to overcome being a teenager & the mentality that you’re not able to do anything. Yes, every single player is African-American. I know, spoiler alert… it’s a low income area. Yes, the coach is wealthy & white… so parts of it have that “Blind Side” vibe… but it really is a fantastic story about people coming together to help each other & offers some lessons about how team sports really can help people & among the top problems in low income areas is that they don’t see a way out. Or they find that it’s difficult… so they give up. It’s tragic… but this story is really good & told extremely well. I think they won an Academy Award or something for it. Check it out. Speaking of kids in horrible environments…
Move Over Mississippi – Kids, have you ever thought “This is the WORST place to live to be a kid?” Well, chances are… if you were in America when you said that, you’re an idiot or had never heard of places like… I don’t know… Afrika! Maybe it was something like “This place sucks! This has to be the worst place in the free world!” Well, unless you lived in Mississippi, you were probably wrong… but there’s good news for the children of Mississippi. Your state is no longer the worst place to be a kid! (Fireworks & confetti) That’s because a new set of annual rankings on children’s welfare says another state has dethroned Mississippi's perennial hold on the bottom ranking of the Kids Count list. For the past 24 years, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has used a series of 16 indicators to rank the well-being of children in all 50 U.S. states. This year’s edition is the first to not place Mississippi at 50 out of 50 on the list, citing gains in health and education. Congratulations!!! Then again, don’t get too excited, Mississippi is still No. 49 on the list. The foundation also noted that a third of Mississippi’s children continue to live in poverty. By comparison, 13% of New Hampshire’s children are listed as living at or below the poverty level. On the opposite end of the spectrum, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts finished at the top of the children’s well-being list. Yay New England!!! Mississippi was humble in praise of their accomplishment of not being the worst though. “While we are not where we need to be, the fact that our child and teen death rate, along with some decrease in the percentage of children without health insurance has been helpful,” Mississippi Kids Count Director Linda Southward told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. There also appears to be an overall improving trend in the South. Louisiana, which was 46th on the list, is the only other Southern state to finish in the bottom five.
So who is the new champion state of childhood misery? Why, it’s the Land of Enchantment – New Mexico (as seen on “Breaking Bad”). The Southwest has fared poorly on the test with three of the bottom-five states as New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. Southward (ironic last name, right?) said Mississippi saw its gains through improvement in the number of children enrolled in preschool and general student improvements in math for eighth-graders and reading for fourth-graders. Overall, Mississippi was 48th in the Kids Count educational rankings. However, it did not see any economic gains during the same period, continuing to rank 50th on that list. “The evidence is clear—we help children by helping families,” Southward said. “The importance of quality child care, fully funding education  opportunities for children and promoting evidence-based practices, underscored by economic development, is crucial to continued outcomes.” This year’s rankings were based on national data compiled between 2005-2011. For those years, Mississippi’s numbers improved across eight of the 16 statistical areas measured. Overall, the United States improved in 10 of the categories during the same period. Mississippi saw other gains on the list, including a drop in teen pregnancy rates and a drop in its infant mortality rate that has shown an improvement outpacing the national average. “We are still woefully behind the country in reading proficiencies, and the high percentage of high school students not graduating on time continues to be of concern,” Southward said. So there you go… children don’t like the South. Speaking of education…

Concrete Canoes - Does concrete float? For the hundreds of civil engineering students at the annual National Concrete Canoe Competition, the answer is "yes." Teams representing 23 schools vied last week to design, build and race canoes made of concrete. Some vessels were as long as 22 feet and weighed as much as 180 pounds. A wooden canoe of the same size weighs about 40 pounds. Alicia Welling, manager of the California Polytechnic State University team, says the trick to making concrete float is to mix it with glass bubbles and other lightweight objects (like a regular canoe?). Welling says the three-day American Society of Civil Engineers event gives students practical experience in finding creative engineering solutions and working as part of a team. L'École de Technologie Supérieure, of Montreal, took the title Saturday. VIVA QUEBEC!!! Sounds like a cool day on the river, right? This story made me think of my wonderful trip out to Santa Cruz for my birthday last year… specifically Aptos & the sunken concrete ship. Remember?
Own a Piece of History - A collection of items used in the investigation of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky's sexual encounters with then U.S. President Bill Clinton is being auctioned online, Nate D. Sanders Auctions said on Monday. The 32-item collection was submitted by Lewinsky's former lover Andy Bleiler to special prosecutor Kenneth Starr during his investigation of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal in the 1990s, the auction house said in a statement. Lewinsky's affair with married man Bleiler (shocker!) came to light during the investigation that led to Clinton's impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1998 on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Clinton was acquitted by the Senate, and completed his second term in 2001. Among the items up for auction is a signed Clinton letter to the Bleilers. Wait, what? Signed Clinton letters… to the married guy… who was banging the chick that he was also banging? Do they start out “Dear Eskimo brother…”? Also included in the auction are photographs and cards from Lewinsky and clothing gifted by Lewinsky to Bleiler's wife Kate Nason, who is putting them up for sale, the auction house said. "Items owned by Monica Lewinsky, especially relating to the Clinton scandal and Ken Starr investigation are exceedingly rare," auctioneer Nate D. Sanders said in a statement. "This is, to my knowledge, the only collection of this nature to come to light." The items are expected to fetch between $25,000 and $50,000 in total. Online bidding for the lot began earlier this month and concludes on June 27, the auction house said. Lewinsky, 39, has largely remained out of the spotlight in recent years after moving to Britain… where it’s expected that a man in power has a few mistresses on the sly. Sorry kids… among the items NOT included in the auction are… the “slightly used” blue dress. You know what dress I’m talking about… eh? Yeah, you know… I think it’s in the Smithsonian or something already.
Anyway, that’ll do it for today. Wish me luck in the NBA Finals on NBA 2K13… I think I’m playing the winner of the Nuggets-Thunder series (my guess is Thunder because the newest member of the Roc Nation Kevin Durant is on the cover… but we shall see). Tomorrow night is a special preview screening of “Pacific Rim” which Dizzy & I are excited about... sorta. Have a great day everybody!!!

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