~ A bit of joie de vivre, a comprehensive joy of life, with an occasional edge.

Friday, February 15, 2008


What has happened to our sense of values?

Was watching the news today and this evening, appalled by what I was seeing again, by history again repeating itself.

Steven KazmierczakOn Thursday, Valentine's Day, Steven Kazmierczak, armed with three handguns and a brand-new pump-action Remington shotgun he had carried onto the Northern Illinois University campus in a guitar case, stepped from behind a screen on the stage of a lecture hall, and opened fire on a geology class.

Kazmierczak killed five students and then himself.

University Police Chief Donald Grady said that the 27-year-old had become erratic in the past two weeks after he had stopped taking his medication. But that seemed to come as news to many of those who knew him, and the attack itself was positively baffling.

Investigators learned that a week ago, on February 9th, Kazmierczak walked into a gun store in Champaign and picked up two guns, the Remington shotgun and a Glock 9mm handgun. He bought the two other handguns at the same shop, a Hi-Point .380 on December 30th and a Sig Sauer on August 6th.

All four guns had been bought legally from a federally licensed firearms dealer. At least one criminal background check had been performed... Kazmierczak had no criminal record.

Most of us have seen this story plastered all over the media, so I'll go no further about it, but it did get me to thinking on multiple tracks; about history repeating itself, about media coverage, about my own beliefs in the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms), and thoughts about why such things happen.

Had been writing an angry reaction to this entire story when I happened upon a friend's journal on this topic... and it stimulated another thought, and that had to do with values. This is the reaction as I posted as a comment, with a few additions:

Maybe if we who are parents would put down the remote controls to our television sets for an extra ten minutes a day and discuss values. with our children, it might make a difference.

It Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 2002 - click here for full viewreally wouldn't be all that hard to do. Values could come from many different sources... things that shaped our own lives when we were young; spiritual things if a religious family; our success (and failures, being honest); even silly pranks that we may have pulled at a young age (this from my son, who's reading this with me)... it's your own choice here.

Values are not chuckling over the latest episode of Family Guy or The Simpsons, or who was the best talent on American Idol. If one wants to find values to discuss from television, there's always the Discovery Channel, A&E, the History Channel and such.

Right now one of our local channels is running the film Hotel Rwanda, the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda, when almost 1,000,000 Rwandans where massacred in a 100 day period. You can see the trailer here, but it's a pretty brutal subject.

Click here for more on the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda.

My son had seen the previews for this film, we talked about it (I've seen it before), and it was his choice to watch... and yes, we will discuss it later. It's been called an African Schindler's List, another film that he's already seen. And yes, this one will help shape his own values.

We agree on many things and differ on others, for he's always been encouraged from a very young age to not follow the crowd, but to shape his own opinions, his own sense of values.

Without values, we end up with situations like the tragedy we saw at Virginia Tech and the others that we've been seeing in the news. And values like this have to be taught from home, and not from our school systems.

It takes just taking a few extra minutes each day to do this, that's all.

The news today reported that Steven Kazmierczak's father, Robert Kazmierczak, appeared on the porch of his Lakeland, Florida home and pled for privacy, telling a reporter “Please leave me alone. I have no statement to make.” Reporters had been trying to contact Robert Kazmierczak after it was discovered his son was responsible for the killing of the five students before taking his own life.

The Polk County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department had been requested to notify Robert Kazmierczak that his son had died, and shortly after being notified Kazmierczak found several reporters in his yard.

He made a brief appearance, saying “It's a very hard time. I'm a diabetic.” Kazmierczak requested that the reporters leave, then broke down in tears and went back inside the house. It has been reported that he recently lost his wife as well. It's very difficult to imagine putting one's self in this grieving father's shoes.

From all that we know, all that has been reported, Robert Kazmierczak had instilled a sense of values within his son, so maybe my thoughts above are only a partial solution to this ongoing problem.

Many Larger view here.years ago, as young Marine, I took an oath that I would l support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and have lived by that oath... once a Marine, always a Marine. I was raised with firearms, and learned to shoot at an early age, skills that I proudly carried into my adult life. Was at a certain point fulfilled by my shooting skills as a expert and sharpshooter, both with pistols and rifles.

Times change, though, and I gave away my last personal firearm, a 9mm Beretta automatic pistol in the early 1980s as I just hadn't fired it in a number of years, even on a range.

But now my own beliefs in our right to bear arms as outlined in the Second Amendment to the Constitution are in grave doubt, and as a result of all of these wanton acts of firearm violence, am now looking more closely at the Brady Campaign to prevent Gun Violence.

Sometimes we all have to take stock and re-examine our own values.

And now I have a film and its values to discuss with my son...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Weather Prediction

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008 - It's official: Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so there will be six more weeks of winter!

America's most famous groundhog emerged from his burrow his shadow shortly before 7:30 AM, saw his shadow, and that means that winter will last another six weeks. This occurred before a crowd of more than 30,000 people from as far away as Alaska and Texas, one of the largest crowds in the 122-year history of the event in the central Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney. 

Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter.
According to lore, if the groundhog emerges from his burrow on February 2nd and sees his shadow, he will be frightened back into his hole, signifying another six weeks of winter. If it's a cloudy day, and no shadow, that means that means winter will end early. As luck would have it, the crappy weather of the preceding few days gave way to glorious sunshine.

Phil was taken out of a tree stump on a hill called Gobbler's Knob, and delivered his profound thought to William Cooper, President of Punxsutawney's Inner Circle, who organizers say is the only person in the world who can speak Groundhogese (the official language of the groundhogs). 

Cooper read a scroll containing the groundhog's prediction. It said: "As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me. Six more weeks of winter it will be."

According to the tradition that may have links with the European festival of Candlemas, if the groundhog sees his shadow, it will mean six more weeks of winter. If not, there will be an early spring. This tradition may have been brought to the United States by German immigrants.

Here are the facts (with maybe a little fiction) regarding Groundhog Day:

  • Punxsutawney Phil weighs 20 pounds (9 kg) and is 22 inches long. Although groundhogs live for six to eight years, legend has it that Phil, who is named after King Philip, has been making predictions for over 120 years now, thanks to a magic elixir that he drinks every summer to get seven more years of life.
  • Groundhog, woodchuck, land beaver, and whistlepig are all names for the same rodent, the Marmota monax. Related to the squirrel, for the most part they eat green plants like dandelion, clover and grasses. They grow to weigh roughly five to nine pounds (2 to 4 kg) in the wild, but can grow much bigger in areas with fewer natural predators. 
  • Like many similar animals, groundhogs hibernate during the winter. They often emerge from their underground burrows in early February, when Groundhog Day is marked.
  • The groundhog has not seen his shadow only 14 times since 1887, compared to 96 times when he saw his shadow. There were no records in nine of the early years.
  • The buildup of marking this special day formed the basis of the 1993 film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott.

More info and photos at the official Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, and don't miss the FAQ about this internationally famous celebration.

And don't blame me about the prediction for six more weeks of winter... I'm only the messenger.

Note: Posted later on Buzznet, with comments.