Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Year that Was 2006, part 2

Last week I started a retrospective of the year 2006 as perceived by me in my Over Coffee columns. I made it through June. So this week, while sitting in yet another coffee shop drinking a large decaf sugar-free vanilla latte with cinnamon, I’ll finish out the year.

In July, I grumbled about the fact that Indiana is one of only a handful of states that do not provide free textbooks to school children. Only 10 states charge a book rental fee, and some of them pay part of the fee for the parents. Indiana pays only for those who are on the free or reduced-price lunch program.

Also in July, I wrote about this guy in Canada who got the bright idea to trade a red paperclip for a house. He did it via the Internet, working his way up from paperclip to a fish pen to a clay doorknob, to a camping stove. Later, merchandise included a snowmobile, a van, and an evening with Alice Cooper. Finally, he traded a spot on a TV show for his sought-after house. What a deal!

I started off July with an intriguing story about two researchers who determined with mathematical certainty that every person alive on earth today is a descendant of someone who lived between 2000 and 5000 years ago. We just don’t know who, but he or she probably lived in Asia.

In August I wrote about some unbelievably naïve Californians who gathered at a chocolate factory to see a lump of chocolate drippings that had solidified on some wax paper underneath a vat of melted chocolate. The owner of the place thought the drippings resembled the Virgin Mary. So we had yet another virgin sighting in California; that is quite rare. But being made of chocolate, I wonder if we could call it a sweet Mother of God sighting.

And kids, there is one less planet you now have to learn in science class. In August the International Astronomical Union decided to downgrade the former planet Pluto to just a large asteroid.

In September, I wrote about Edinburgh’s Fall Festival Parade. Even though it’s a small parade that changes little from year to year, I enjoy coming together with the rest of the crowd and observing the event each year. I did get a couple of e-mail complaints, however, because I wrote that I didn’t see any purpose of having some annoying semi truck in the parade. After all, I see enough of them on the freeway.

In October I let out my frustration yet again at Pres. Bush’s education policy. Give me a break. The No Child Left Behind Act would be a joke if it were not hindering so many mainstream students in their quest for a good education. As a teacher, I know for a fact that putting too many resources into trying to bring the incorrigible kids into line and including so many special needs students in mainstream classrooms cheats the majority of students out of the attention and resources they would otherwise be getting.

In November, I lamented how Thanksgiving often gets left out. It is the poor stepchild of holidays, stuck halfway between two more popular observances, Halloween and Christmas. Even so, I love the turkey dinners.

I also complained about the trouble we seem to have doing elections. My plan would be to let people vote online. After all, they do everything else online, from renewing their license plates to booking air travel. Why would it be so hard to vote online?

I finished off the year’s columns with an idea to have a real jury trial about whether or not global warming is real. I believe it would be a slam-dunk case.

In an update, last week the Bush administration moved to place the polar bear on the endangered species list due to the lack of shelf ice in northern Canada. It was a backdoor admission that the climate is warming. Still, Bush did not blame the problem on human activity.

No matter how often Bush is wrong, he’ll never admit any of it. It’s in his nature. Let’s hope 2007 gives us some more Bush surprises like the decision on polar bears.

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