Saturday, July 23, 2005

Idaho's Carole King - Top of the charts- again!

Earlier this month Carole King released an album of music recorded during live concerts on her "Living Room Tour" last year. As a lifelong fan I was ecstatic to hear her music, but I also had the wonderful opportunity to get to know and travel with Carole last year while she packed auditoriums, halls, and living rooms all around Idaho.

Carole is pictured here during an appearance at the Bonner County Fair in Sandpoint in August of 2004. As a result of our travels together I'm proud to call her a friend.

Carole's passion and love for Idaho and America are complete and total, and her new album is a special gift that I'm glad she's given all of us. It's also a musical history lesson as she dives into a medley of outright classics that she's written over the years - every one of which all of us know.

No surprise, but Carole is once again on the Billboard charts with this album, hitting the Top 20 this last week after only two weeks of release!

Thanks, Carole, for making Idaho proud with another terrific album!

Click here to buy Carole's new album: Living Room Tour CD

Carole King's Website

Friday, July 22, 2005

Max Mows the Lawn

Not really, but he did contemplate the engine as it sat idle in the yard.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Brief blurb in story about Councilwoman Deanna Goodlander's announcement

Deanna Goodlander is a two-term council member and shouldn't have any trouble getting reelected.

Coeur d'Alene Press: "...Local software businessman Mike Kennedy said he is strongly considering running for Wolfinger's position, but will probably have to rent an apartment in city limits until construction on his new home is finished. His present home is just outside city limits. "

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Madeleine Sheils - Golfer Extraordinaire

Mark my word - you'll be reading about Kathleen's cousin Madeleine on the LPGA tour one day!

Golf Plus - The Idaho Statesman - Always Idaho: "Meridian's Marc Arima survived a second-day charge from Jake Harr of Buhl to win the boys title, while Madeleine Sheils of Boise captured the girls crown Wednesday at the Big I Junior Golf Classic qualifier at Shadow Valley Golf Course."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Cd'A Library Location

This is responding to a question on the Huckleberries Online blog about the location of the new library.

The land where the library will be built was partially donated (courtesy of the Jameson family), partially purchased with LCDC involvement, and adjacent to the City Hall, which was a strategic placement. Again, I'm not sure of all the exact reasons for the initial location there, but during the campaign we talked about a few key reasons why the location was a good one:

(1) 15,000 residents of the city (nearly half) live within a mile of the site;

(2) the demographics of the area and the schools nearby indicate that many of the city's most economically disadvantaged kids live in or near downtown, thus it would serve those people who need it the most (surprisingly, CdA has nearly half of it's children in SD271 on free or reduced lunch, an anti-poverty program);

(3) putting a library there could preserve public space for the entire community as opposed to the alternative, selling to the highest bidder and getting another high-rise to ring McEuen Field - I felt this to be a worthy goal philosophically;

(4) the land had already been secured, and with the sale of the current library building on Harrison and passage of the bond, the citizens would be bonding for less than half of the cost and value of the new library - with real estate costs the way they are finding new property would be tricky, and if the location were outside the LCDC zone the LCDC couldn't be involved and the advantageous funding structure there could make the entire cost of the project much higher;

(5) while growth is occurring in the North for sure (that's where I live) some visionary planners have told me that long term growth in this city - which is coming whether we like it or not - will likely be to the south and east, thus making the location perhaps more centrally located looking into the future; and

(6) lastly, there will be tons of new parking spaces in the new library (and theoretically the City Hall complex area next door) and downtown always needs more parking!

I discovered that arguing the location was like arguing religion - it was a matter of personal opinion and thus no one could ever truly be "right" (and the best assessment of the decision-making wouldn't occur until well into the future after the project is completed).

There are still efforts ongoing to raise the final amount of money for completing the project, fixtures, etc, and the city has a good team together working on it, led by Renata McLeod. There are great naming opportunities and ways to put your family's permanent stamp on the new library through tax-deductible contributions.

For more information, or to make a contribution, go to the link above or here:

Thursday, July 14, 2005

National Group says Idaho best-prepared for disasters

Look at that - great national recognition for Idaho! Let's hope we don't have to test this.

KTVB.COM | Idaho News Weather & Sports | Local News: "COEUR D'ALENE -- A national group says if bioterrorism, infectious disease or any other disaster strikes, the best place to be is Idaho.

The National Association of County and City Health Officials has recognized Idaho as the best-prepared state in the nation to respond to health emergencies. "

Southwest second-quarter profit rose 41% despite higher fuel costs

Southwest Airlines is one of the best companies in America. I've been a fan since I started flying them in Texas, and their service and on-time reliability continue to be stellar. There are lots of folks who don't like the "cattle" feel of a Southwest flight, but I think they are efficient as can be and I'd trade lots of perks for low cost and on-time service. Face it - there are no perks on any airlines anymore, so Southwest just does what everyone else does way better and with more fun. Herb Kelleher has always been a business hero of mine. - Southwest second-quarter profit rose 41% despite higher fuel costs: "DALLAS (AP) - Low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines (LUV) said Thursday that second-quarter profit rose 41% from a year ago, as fare increases helped offset a 25% rise in fuel costs per gallon. Its shares climbed more than 5%. "

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Girl Critical After Riding Disney's Tower of Terror

This is sort of disturbing, as we rode this exact ride with our 9 year old and 7 year old last December. It was a scary ride, but something tells me there had to be something else going on with this young girl health-wise. - News - Girl Critical After Riding Disney's 'Tower Of Terror' Ride: "A 16-year-old girl is in critical condition after riding the 'Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror' ride at Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World, according to Local 6 News. Officials said a girl from Britain exited the ride Tuesday at about 9:50 a.m. and complained that she was not feeling well, Local 6 News reported."

Father's Day 2005

I'm blessed beyond words.

Father's Day 2005

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Laird Maxwell claims responsibility for Winder smear campaign

This shouldn't be a surprise, but the rank smear of this bad act should be punished. Maxwell has long been known as a bomb-thrower, but this was over the top even for him. Chuck Winder didn't deserve this, and though I think the right guy ultimately won the election (Mayor Dave Bieter, whom Maxwell also opposed), this was unseemly. Look next for Chuck Winder to file a civil suit against Maxwell - I think it would have some traction. Perhaps we're hearing the last dying days of Maxwell's organization?

KTVB.COM | Idaho News Weather & Sports | Top Stories: "We now know who was responsible for the Boise mayoral smear campaign in 2003.
Laird Maxwell, a conservative activist and lobby, filed an affidavit in a Boise court Thursday claiming he acted alone. "

The Dead Sea and Galilee: Can Goats Do SoDoKu?

More from a friend traveling in Israel - way more intriguing than what I've come up with lately!.

July 1, 2005

The driver of our Masada-bound van, 75 year-old Ari, was about as fearless as the Jewish Zealots, weaving our Econoline along bumpy two lane highways with little regard for traffic niceties like the passing lane. Probably figuring that if the Nazis didn't get him in his native Poland that a traffic accident was unlikely to catch up with him either, he sped us through the West Bank in record time.

The West Bank, or the Palestinian Territories as they're typically referred to here (unless you're in favor of keeping them inside the country, in which case they're called Judea and Samaria), is no garden spot to be sure. After dipping down from Jerusalem and slipping past the Palestinian city of Jenin, Highway 1 plunges down to sea level through barren, parched hills. The road keeps falling until it hits the city of Jericho at about 250 meters below sea level.

There isn't much to see on this drive, but what you do see isn't pretty. "Bedouins," and it's hard to imagine any nomadic people living this way, inhabit grimy stick and tin shacks along with their herds of goats and sheep who have successfully stripped the surrounding moonscape of every blade of grass. They live in apparent poverty so complete it makes an American Indian reservation look like Club Med in comparison.

We traveled the eastern edge of the Territories on the way to the Dead Sea, passing a few small beach "resorts" and farms of date palms laid out with geometric precision. The Dead Sea comes as advertised:
salty, inert, and warm as tubwater. I can also report that it's the only body of water in which I've reliably been able to float, owing to my freakish density and the steel plate in my head. The Sea is entertaining, but your body can only take being pickled, slathered with salinized mud, and left to bake in the 100+ degree sun for all that long, so I took a short dip. The Sea is slowly drying up because of increased water usage by Israel, Jordan, and Syria so maybe if it dries up completely the Palestinians will be able to fight over an even more worthless parcel than the one they want presently.
Regardless of it's drying up, though, the Dead Sea earns its moniker as the "Lowest Place on Earth" in more ways than one.

The drive back to Tel Aviv illustrates the dichotomy inherent in living here. After having every lick of moisture osmosis-ed out of my body by salt water and the Judean sun and doing my best impression of a sedated iguana on the ride back, one of my co-riders broke the van's briny silence -- "the goats are on the move," he observed. Indeed they were, a flock was topping a ridge no doubt hoping to annihilate what little grass remains here. But goats? Here I was less than an half-hour's drive from the capital of a nuclear-armed nation with a burgeoning hi-tech sector and people are still making their livings herding goats? And this was not an industrial goat operation, mind you, but goat herding the old fashioned way -- perfected in about 600 BC.

While some Israelis spend their days herding the goat it seems like all the non-goat herding population has been seized with a puzzle game called SoDoKu, which is published in books and in the daily papers.
SoDoKu, which, if you ask me, looks devilish enough to have been invented by the Japanese, is essentially a crossword puzzle with numbers. The puzzle's grid consists of 81 squares (9 columns by 9 rows), which is further divided into nine 3x3 boxes. The aim is to fill in the values 1 through 9 in each row and column, as well as in the 3x3 boxes, so that no number repeats in any row, column, or box.
Easier puzzles have more numbers filled in by the Satanic SoDoKu editors as prepositioned clues.

Israelis are consumed with the game, they work on puzzles everywhere and its popularity has elicited a number of editorial cartoons and opinion pieces theorizing why it has grown in popularity -- especially among children -- so quickly. I imagine that we in the U.S. will be seeing SoDoKu soon, although I despair for it 's popularity in the States seeing as it is, after all, vaguely math-related. But for now Israel has one foot stuck in SoDoKu and one foot stuck, so to speak, in goats.

My last field trip out from Tel Aviv was spent over two days in Galilee, Israel's breadbasket. Galilee, at least from the window of a bus, is bucolic with expansive fields of wheat, alfalfa, olives, and, at lower elevation, bananas and mangoes. It's also home to a substantial slice of Israel's Arab population, descended from local residents who (for whatever reason) didn't flee after the country's founding and thus became Israeli citizens instead of stateless Palestinians. Israeli Arabs cluster around the northern cities of Nazareth and Haifa, and live light-years away from the Palestinian cousins, who live, geographically speaking, only a few miles away.

Nazareth lives in an uneasy peace between its Muslims and Christian residents (many of whom are also Arabs) who have set up shop around the city's Basilica of the Annunciation, built on the spot where the Archangel Gabriel broke the news to Mary that she was to bear the child of G-d. Wisely, Israeli Jews have opted out of Nazareth's political fix. The city itself is charmless and tense -- its residents eyed us more than a little as we ascended its narrow streets on our way to the Basilica. Nazareth's limited charms were easily bested by our spry guide, a 65 year old Austrian Catholic who has lived on a kibbutz on the shores of Lake Tiberias for the past thirty years. When I asked how an earringed, chain-smoking, Teutonic Christian managed to find a job giving tours in the Galilee, he responded with the classic "As with all good stories, it begins with a woman..."

Nazareth, surrounded by beauty and plenty, is yet another microcosm -- the city's Muslims want to build a replica of the great mosque of Mecca next door to the Basilica of the Annunciation, dwarfing the church and placing it within earshot of the call to prayer broadcast over loudspeakers five times a day. "This is their custom," I was told by a Christian Arab. "Anywhere in the Muslim world where there is a church they build a mosque near by and disrupt our worship."
Christians, however, generally are bit players in the current Israeli drama. They are political quietists, content to take care of shrines and restoring churches and sites that figure prominently in the New Testament.

Tiberias, along the Sea of Galilee, is a historic city close to Jesus'
occasional home of Capernaum and across the shore from the Golan Heights, the region seized from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The Golan, like Galilee, is beautiful, its topography ranging from dramatic cliffs that plunge towards the Sea to giant slabs of farmland that dip towards the shore like massive tabletops. (The Golan lies on the Asiatic continental plate and someday will split off from Galilee and slide towards India -- it might just be that long before the Syrians get it back.)

Israelis live in the Golan, although not in "settlements," as they technically enjoy a different legal status than do Israelis who have moved into the West Bank and Gaza. Sitting on the patio of my hotel in Tiberias, drinking excellent Gold Star beer on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I can see the twinkling lights of the homes and farms high up on the bluffs of the Golan, their residents no doubt enjoying the cool highland breezes and looking down, in turn, onto the lights on the bars and beaches in Tiberias. Their placidity hides how close to danger they might soon be. The darkness hides the flags they fly.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Jerusalem Part II: A Hard Yarmulke Is Gonna Fall

More from a friend in Israel.

Tuesday, June 29 2005.

Much of the area surrounding Jerusalem reminds me of the American West (or is it the other way around?). The drive up from Tel Aviv is reminiscent of the climb into the Sierras from California's Central Valley with the hillsides studded with pine and a gradual switch from fertile plain to rocky hills and valleys.

Jerusalem itself, hillocky, dry, very rocky, and on a crystal clear June day feels like the best parts of the Great Basin. No doubt this is of great comfort to all of our Mormon friends, who planted their own Zion in that very desert and caused it to bloom. The real Jerusalem notes the presents of the Saints too -- the only point during our time there that any protestants were discussed was when our perky guide told us how the Israelis passed a law banning prosletyzation to prevent the Mormons from annoying the city's residents and adding to the already palpable tension.

Who lives here? Most of the government, lots of students, and all the normal trades and services to expedite the lives of such people. But like Florence, Jerusalem has a museum-like quality -- Tel Aviv is a real city but much of Jerusalem seems to be for show. Our tourist hotel, on the site of an old kibbutz halfway between the Old City and Bethlehem (and Arab city now that lies in the West Bank) was packed with American students plucked straight out of an MTV seaside reality show whose idea of a good time seemed to be wheedling vodka out of the hotel's besieged Arab bartender. These were the hotel's secular residents. I found the next morning that it's more devout residents had been saving themselves as they had packed the bar, their mouths agape and their heads lolling, having awoken themselves at 3 AM to watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals. There were so many sagging eyes and tipping heads that I was sure a squall of yarmulkes would hit the floor at any moment, possibly in sufficient numbers to earn us our own thunderbolt from the Almighty.

For all its beauty, though, Jerusalem takes some of its charm back by adding a certain ominousness. There's tension at the Western Wall, where men and women are segregated and the deeply conservative guard their turf and the privileges it accords them. Above the Wall lilts the Muslim call to prayer from Al-Aqsa, whose dome, from many vantage points, is ringed by Israeli flags. All these places are prepostorously small, the Temple Mount isn't any bigger than the grounds of my old elementary school. From my hotel room I can see the infamous security barrier, a series of walls, fences, trenches, and no-man's lands snaking between the West Bank and Israel proper. It's a stark contrast, and its presence belies much of the normal workaday activities of the city -- people driving to work on the highway or taking out the trash -- surrounding it.

As with much of our everyday lives, it's the little things that make a difference to me here. You can stay in a hotel as nice as you please, but the sound of "The Girl From Ipanema" sung in Hebrew would jilt anyone out of a state of complacency but quick. Hebrew is a fascinating language, one of the things the Israelis are rightfully proud of, considering it was nothing more than a ceremonial language less than 150 years ago. Now it's the living language of a vibrant and modern society, although its likely the chauvinist in me that it sounds inherently uncool when spoken. No matter how many flashy euro-styled announcers pop up on Israeli television, a language with so much glottal hacking makes me think of my high-school physics teacher, who produced phlegm in truly Olympic quantities.

But other than the language barrier, which really isn't one since most Israelis speak very good English, perhaps the biggest everyday difference is the pervasive security, very evident to the eyes of even a post-9/11 American. Most every bar, hotel, and public building in Tel Aviv employs and armed bouncer. Visitors to the Dizengoff Center mall have their backpacks checked and their bodies wanded. Our four pints of Guinness at the Irish pub down the street came with a mandatory "security surcharge," billed to us as a matter of factly as a cabbie might charge you and extra fare in a snowstorm. And of course there are the ubiquitous soldiers of the IDF, who one can see walking home with their M-16s slung over their shoulder like a it was a pair of rollerblades. Luckily for Israeli men, the women soldiers of the IDF have clearly figured out to alter their uniform pants to conform to the current hi-hugger fashion here, which might infuriate the terrorists trying to kill them more than anything. Nice work, ladies.

Security is still a massive political issue, especially with the disengagement from Gaza looming. Opponents of Disengagement sport bright orange ribbons on cars and clothes as a statement of protest. Disengagement opponents jammed Jerusalem's twice in the past week, spreading nails and other sharp objects in an effort to clog traffic in the city. The paper report defection from the IDF of young soldiers who refuse to "take land from the Jews" at a level of detail only found in celebrity weddings back in the States. The orange ribboned say that the process will rip Israel apart. Their opponents -- sporting blue and white in an inspried hijacking of the national colors -- say that the state simply can't survive without it.

During dinner at the home of a youngish, professional orthodox couple (three kids) in the TA suburbs, I was informed that Prime Minister Sharon's plan was total bunk, as it was clearly concocted owing to pressure from President Bush. Being a guest, I spared this man my conjectures on whether President W. could find Gaza on the map, but it was interesting -- and I guess unsurprising -- to see how focused Israelis are on their own country. Iraq isn't on their radar ("Do you have a lot of soldiers there?"), and that emphasizes the degree to which Israelis of both sides think their destiny is on their own hands.

Looking at the history of the Jews as a whole, maybe this shouldn't be at all surprising. Deep in the Judean desert, a wasteland if there ever was one, sits a huge basalt outcropping, a ship of rock docked next to the sheer cliffs that formed the ancient shores of the Dead Sea. On this island sits Masada, the fortress built by Herod the Great and seized by Jewish Zealots during their revolt against Rome. Rather than surrender and be sold into slavery, the Zealots held out on Masada for years until surrounded by the legions of, if you can believe the film at the interpretive center, Peter O'Toole. In a last act of defiance worthy of the Scots or (until lately) Red Sox fans, the Zealots voted to commit suicide en masse rather than risk defeat and bondage.

We visited Masada on a brisk day, only 102 in the shade, and skipped the dusty in favor of a very nice tram. Masada today is impressive for what isn't there -- namely water, shade, indoor plumbing, or anything green. That people could get to the point of suicide there is amazing in and of itself as the place looks about as habitable as the moon. The Israelis, and IDF soldiers in particular, point towards Masada as a great example of Jewish ferocity in the face of an existential threat, and vow to die fighting for their homes today as a Zealots did for theirs, only a generation after the death of Christ. Fighting for what you believe in, and fighting for one's homes and families, is a worthy goal. I would be interested to know if the Masada pilgrims know that many of the descendants of Masada's people still live in the shadow of its legend, if not in the shadow of the rock itself. These Arab descendants, more or less the same people as the Jews of 70 AD other than the way in which they worship, are also fighting for their homes. Are they, and the Israelis, just maximalizing their claims to land and heritage or are we just witnessing the slow writing of history by the victors in this latest division of this small plot of dirt?

Last stop: The Dead Sea, Galilee, and Goats on the Move.