Last Week, In Case You Missed It: December 29, 2013

tagxedo-123113The last week in 2013 was a busy one at Oak Ridge Now, as it probably was for you and yours. As such, may may not have caught everything we published. Here’s a quick recap of what went on.

Our Lady War Eagles blew out one of their nemeses, the Lady Cavaliers of College Park, 66-43 to score their first district win of the season. Big congratulations were in order for them.

In our Texas news, there was a lot that changed in public education in 2013. We brought your the complex and wrenching story of an Iraq veteran from Texas now on death row. We looked at how hunters in Texas are donating extra meat to food pantries around the state, which is especially good given the recent cuts in food stamp benefits. And our beloved Senator Ted Cruz has no regrets and is offering no apologies for his actions during his first year in Congress.

We published two studies from our friends at Pew Research this week: the first explores the public’s sentiments in the wake of December’s bi-partisan budget agreement in Congress. It seems most folks would prefer not to cut back on aid to the poor or entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. So that leaves…? The second study looks at how we think about Christmas now compared to how we thought about it in our childhood. Yes, this one probably belongs in the “things that are fascinating only to me” category, but I really think it is an interesting read.

My favorite piece of the week is where Robin O’Bryant confesses how really difficult it can be to keep smiling amidst bouts of depression during the holiday season:

I keep it breezy on Facebook and say things like,  “Have a great turkey day! May all your food dreams come true! Happy Holidays! Fa la la la laaaa!!!”

Because it’s easier than saying, “Hey, I realize today may be really hard for you because it’s not what you thought it was going to be 5 years ago, or 3 months ago or 2 minutes ago. But I hope it’s bearable. I hope it’s good. I hope you make it through this day with a smile. I hope you are kind to yourself today. I hope you breathe and notice something beautiful. Maybe it’s not what you thought it was going to be. But maybe you’ve been adopted into something that is lovely and beautiful and full of light.”

We published three movie reviews this week, for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Wolf of Wall Street, River Phoenix falling in love with a computerized voice in Her, and of course, Will Ferrell’s triumphant return in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Sweet Lincoln’s mullet!

Our other features included Peter Funt looking at the lives of a number of people we lost in 2013 that didn’t make the cover of US magazine or the Today Show. Dave Ramsey advised a couple to catch up on their student loans, and we profiled six soldiers who lost their lives when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Afghanistan.

justine-saccoOur Opinions section included our take on the Duck Dynasty uproar and on President Obama’s overlooked income equality speech. Joe Gandelman then compares the Phil Robertson saga with the treatment Justine Sacco had when she tweeted the gem on the right.

Will Durst released his belated 2013 Christmas Gift Wish List and his frustration with password complexity.Bill O’Reilly rants on, guess what, The War on Christmas.  Jason Stanford believes it is high time Texas investigates the contract of it’s $462 million stanadardized testing vendor, and Tom Purcell believes the key to keeping New Year’s resolutions, is, you know, resolve. Agreed. Resolve is difficult, especially when you come home to the smell of chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven. Resolve tends to go out the window.

All that and our terrific editorial cartoons, last week on Oak Ridge Now.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Last Week, In Case You Missed It: December 9, 2013

tagxedo-120913We published a number of news stories, features, and opinion pieces last week in Oak Ridge Now. None may have been more important than the news that child poverty has increased in Texas 47% since 2000. More than one in four children were living in poverty in Texas in 2011. How did we get here? And how do we reduce those numbers? I don’t know. Elected leaders in our state seem to be more interested in determining who is the most conservative rather than who can come of with a plan to ensure that the least of these have a warm place to sleep, food in their belly, and a good college education. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Elsewhere in Texas, there is a three-way race to replace outgoing Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has his sights sets on the Governor’s Mansion. Republicans in the Texas Senate may be looking to follow Harry Reid’s lead and get rid of the two-thirds rule in the Texas Senate, which would allow the GOP to pass legislation without the support of the remaining handful of Democratic State Senators. And President Obama’s waning popularity numbers may have an effect on Democratic candidates in Texas in 2014. Unless, you know, unemployment keeps falling, peace deals keep getting brokered, and people find they actually have a better selection of health insurance options. Nah, that could never happen.

Speaking of health care, Medicare wants to cut back on post-hospital-stay rehabilitative care. It seems that a number of rehab facilities and nursing homes abuse federal guidelines and keep patients for a maximum stay, rather than only as long as needed. (No, really? Here’s looking at you, Regent Care Center of The Woodlands). And everyone’s favorite website, healthcare.gov, may be operating much better than before, but there are still some unanswered questions about how much of the info gathered from applicants is passed on properly to insurance companies.

In our weekly features, Robyn O’Bryant could still think of nothing other than Auburn’s amazing last-second missed-field-goal-runback-for-a-touchdown play that propelled them into the National Championship game. Will E Sanders questions whether dolphins should really be considered mammals. If it looks like a fish, smells like a fish and swims like a fish, then isn’t it a fish?

In Unknown Soldiers we ran the story of Jason Van Loo’s yellow lab, Blu, who stayed alive long enough to greet Jason when he arrived back home from his latest tour of duty in Afghanistan. Dave Ramsey advised a young couple to buy a house after the baby arrives, rather than before. And Kurt Loder reviewed ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, a movie currently in limited release that should be in a theater near us (think Market Street) soon.

Jason Stanford wonders why important people really care if Texas is better than California. He says,

“Instead, how about we ask ourselves a more interesting question: How can Texas be better? Doesn’t that open up a whole new range of blue skies? The alternative to the status quo in Texas has never been California. The choice Texas really faces is different: Do you want more of the same, or do you think Texas can do better?”

John Stossel wonders if we shouldn’t think twice about giving money to charity. There are smart giving choices to be made, and folks don’t always make them. Bill O’Reilly laments that reality TV has ruined television for most people. Welcome to 2008, Bill. Mark Shields advocates requiring each citizen to serve two years for their country as a way of increasing citizen responsibility. It is an idea worth considering.

Finally, in our funniest story of the week, Will Durst recounts the Top 10 Comedic News Stories of 2013, including these gems:

6. Ted Cruz rallies fellow Tea Partiers by reading “Green Eggs and Ham” on the floor of the Senate, then misinterprets the moral of a book aimed at kindergarteners.

1. Affordable Care Act website debacle. Most people decide it would be easier to let the NSA handle the whole thing. After all, they have all our information and probably know which plan best fits.

All that and our terrific editorial cartoons, last week on Oak Ridge Now.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Last Week, In Case You Missed It: December 2, 2013

tagxedo-120113We hope everyone had a great holiday weekend, and has finally finished off the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers. We hope you were able some quality time with family and friends, reflecting on all the things you are really thankful for. We take so much for granted in our world, like having clean water available in our homes at the touch of a finger. Thanksgiving provides us that opportunity to slow down, to look around, and to realize how truly blessed we all are.

Thanksgiving becomes even more fun with new grandchildren.

Thanksgiving becomes even more fun with new grandchildren.

And then there was Black Thursday and Black Friday, and the tree to light up, the decorations to take out of the garage/attic (because there’s only four weeks left), and the obligatory Hallmark Hall of Fame movie to let us not forget that Thanksgiving is over now and Christmas season has arrived. [Editor’s note: It actually arrived at Kroger and CVS about four weeks ago.] While all this was happening, we actually published a few stories on Oak Ridge Now.

We had two articles this week on Texas politicians, noting that the Democrats will be running two women at the top of it’s statewide ticket, Wendy Davis for governor and Leticia Van De Putte for lieutenant governor, in the 2014 election.

Our two Texas Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, were compared and contrasted. Both are extremely conservative, but one is formal and reserved, and the other wields a flamethrower.

Twins, Nitza Alvarado Espinoza (black shirt) and Mitzi Alvarado Espinoza, with their sister Deisy, at a rally in Austin on November 9. The sisters started “Hijos de Desaparecidos” after their mom was kidnapped by the Mexican military in Chihuahua. They are currently in deportation proceedings but their attorney has filed a petition seeking a special-immigrant status since they were abandoned or orphaned. Photo courtesy of Marjorie Kamys Cotera.

 Photo courtesy of Marjorie Kamys Cotera.

Also this was came the heart-wrenching story of three sisters who sought asylum in the U.S. after their mother was forcibly taken by the Mexican military four years ago. They have not heard from her and do not know her fate.

Keeping you up-to-date on our health insurance fiasco, we posed six questions about the future of healthcare.gov. The answers out still months away. In the meantime, let’s hope the government IT folks can get their act together.

Dave Ramsey urged someone to not pay extra for the privilege of paying extra on your mortgage each year. Well, duh.

In our Unknown Soldiers feature we profile Shawn Hefner, from the little town of Hico, Texas, outside of Stephenville. Lt. Cpl. Hefner was killed in 2009 when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan.

We published two opinion pieces this week. Bill O’Reilly lamented over the increasing number of folks texting and checking e-mail on the beach, and we weighed in on our circuitous routes to promoting peace around the world.

Photo courtesy of Chayim B. Alevsky

Photo courtesy of Chayim B. Alevsky

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, began on Thanksgiving Day this year. We recounted the Hanukkah story and noted that the significance of the holiday is applicable to all:

Religious freedom and the hope that light will always triumph over darkness are significant for people of any religion and no religion, and, in this world, freedom and hope are not always common. Nes Gadol Hayah Sham.

We ran a few good Thanksgiving articles, beginning with Robin O’Bryant outlining the top 10 list of things she is thankful for, including:

2. I can’t remember the last time we took a family road trip where I actually contemplated walking the last 100 miles home because it would have been more pleasant than being in the car.

John Stossel pointed out that our nice Pilgrim Thanksgiving story really only happened after our forefathers abandoned their communal culture and instituted a more capitalistic environment that ended up producing a bountiful harvest.

Finally, Tom Purcell reflects on the very nature of Thanksgiving, a holiday where we simply give thanks for all we have, and concludes it with my favorite sentence of the week:

We are thankful because we are together — because we know that everything we really need in life can be found sitting next to us at our Thanksgiving table.

All that and our terrific editorial cartoons, last week on Oak Ridge Now.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Last Week, In Case You Missed It: November 11, 2012

Well, this certainly was a big week, what with the presidential election and all. There was all the last minute election build-up, election night itself with all of the projection drama, and of course, the post-election analysis. I also heard a story on NPR this afternoon previewing the 2016 presidential election candidates. Oh, joy.

While President Obama, Texas Republicans, and the GLBT and 420 communities all had good nights, the biggest winner this week has to be Nate Silver, who writes the celebrated and derided FiveThirtyEight blog in the New York Times. Silver correctly predicted the presidential outcomes in all 50 states, based upon the available polling data, historical voting information, and his own secret sauce. It was an improvement over 2008, when he correctly predicted only 49 of 50 states. As someone wrote this week, “If Nate Silver predicts there’s a 90% chance that it will be raining marshmallows tomorrow, I’m running outside with a cup of hot chocolate.” Nate’s new book, The Signal and the Noise, is moving up the New York Times Bestsellers List, and is also #1 on my Christmas wish list.

In the days leading up to this year’s election, we looked at how we vote for judges in Texas (i.e. Republican: good, anything else: bad). Even controversial judges like Sharon Keller have nothing to fear right now, so long as they have the (R) next to their name. We had a pretty good idea that Ted Cruz would cruise to a win in the Texas Senate race against Paul Sadler, but Tom Rosshirt thought the the GOP nationwide would probably have to make some policy adjustments should Mitt Romney lose (he did, and they will).

We looked at seven things that could go wrong during the election. One definitely came true: Florida was still counting ballots on Saturday. I’m thinking Florida should conduct voting for the 2016 election next week, just to ensure they’ll have everything counted in time. Finally, we all know that the election would have a tremendous effect on healthcare moving forward, and we provided a list of the specifics. We also presented seven factors that will continue to drive up the cost of health care. Number two: we’re growing older, sicker and fatter. Don’t matter who is elected president – that one is unlikely to change soon.

After the election, we pointed out that even though President Obama gets four more years in the White House, much of health care reform still depends upon the actions of states like Texas. Besides health care reform measures, Texas legislators have a lot to tackle in the upcoming legislative session. One thing that is unlikely to gain much attention in Austin: legalizing marijuana, even if it were a potential new source of revenue for the state.

As we mentioned before, Texas Republicans had a good election day, as expected. Of course, Ted Cruz won his U.S. Senate race, but Republicans up and down the ballot easily won their races. In Montgomery County, they often ran unopposed, as few Democrats want to waste the time, money, and energy on an highly unlikely chance at winning an election.

Our post-election analysis include Bill O’Reilly’s personal note to President Obama. Tom Rosshirt watches the election night speeches, and has some suggestions for what they might have added. For President Obama, he suggested:

“I want to say a few words right now — not to the people here in this room or to my campaign team here in Chicago or to my supporters across the country. I want to speak instead to the millions of Americans who voted for Gov. Romney and who are disappointed, even discouraged, to see me at this podium tonight in front of happy supporters — if you can even bear to watch.

“You hoped to see at this hour on election night the smiling faces of Gov. Romney and his team, and many of you believe that our chances for building a better country have been lost — at least for now.

“Campaigns are long, difficult, passionate quests. They fire the energy and idealism of a wide range of people and then leave many good and proud citizens discouraged for the future. In a close election, the results can leave nearly half the nation dispirited. In a large nation such as ours, that means nearly 60 million people. We cannot ultimately have a strong nation if 60 million vibrant, involved citizens feel discouraged or disenfranchised.

“I want to recognize your wishes, your hard work, your love of country and your doubts about me. I want to acknowledge your principles and your ideals. I promise you tonight that I will listen to you and to the representatives you have sent today to Washington with the deepest respect. I will do all I can within the constraints of my duties to answer your needs and meet your concerns for our country.

“I know that I am not the president that you wanted, but I am determined to be a better president than you expected.”

Obviously, Tom Rosshirt used to be a speechwriter. Peter Funt also took in the speeches, but worries that well just end up with the status quo for the next four years.

The election may be over, but we still have a whole lot of troops in Afghanistan. The national discussion about those troops will probably drop off (better to focus on David Petraeus’ domestic issues). That’s why we feature stories about the unknown soldiers in Oak Ridge Now. President Obama said today in his Veterans Day remarks,

“On behalf of the American people, I say to you that the memory of your loved one carries on not just in your hearts, but in ours as well.  And I assure you that their sacrifice will never be forgotten,” he said. “For it is in that sacrifice that we see the enduring spirit of America.  Since even before our founding, we have been blessed with an unbroken chain of patriots who have always come forward to serve.”

We did carry some non-election news this week – it comes as no surprise that Texas power rates are probably going to rise. Of course, no one can venture a guess as to how much. I’m not optimistic, though, and I just locked in a two-year contract to keep my rate at the house steady.

And for those of you who think President Obama might be soft on crime, the President has granted clemency at a lower rate than any modern president. In the past four years he has pardoned 22 individuals, while declining 1,019 requests, for roughly a 1 in 50 rate. Compare that to George W. Bush (1 in 33), Bill Clinton (1 in 8), George H.W. Bush (1 in 16), and Ronald Reagan (1 in 3).

The cleanup of Hurricane Sandy (or Superstorm Sandy, depending on your news source of choice) is still ongoing, creating much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth. Two weeks without power? Yeah, been there, done that. Personally, I’d rather have no heat in New York than no air conditioning in Texas, but that’s just me. So did global warming make the storm worse? We take a look at the scientific reasoning behind that. John Stossel complains about FEMA’s involvement in the whole mess, preferring to leave the cleanup to the private insurance folks. And Bill O’Reilly agrees, saying, “Life is hard, and then you die. But while you’re alive, you’ll be far better off if you forget about the big-government nonsense, deemphasize the machines and begin incorporating the discipline of self-reliance into your life.” Truth.

Enough of the national and Texas news already. On the local level, we recapped the season-ending War Eagle loss to the Highlanders. Football season is over, and we’re all going to miss it. We also took a look back at the bizarre Oak Ridge – Lufkin game that was called less than a minute into the second quarter due to an ill-timed storm. There’s no way, no way they could have made any other decision.

I would hope that most folks know by now that the War Eagle Marching Band will be performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in less than two weeks. They are also raising funds to benefit the victims of Superstorm Sandy. We are already proud of them. This is just icing on the cake.

Our regular feature included Kurt Loder reviewing Skyfall, the new James Bond flick, and Man With the Iron Fists, the Chinese Kung Fu homage from RZA. In Fashion, Sharon Mosley encourage ladies to forget the little black dress this holiday season, and dress like the women from Downtown Abbey. Really. And Mark Maynard takes a look at the new EyeSight driver assist feature in the 2013 Subaru Legacy. The package integrates adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane-departure and sway control warnings. Very cool.

Finally, we brought a little bit of the funny to you this week. Katiedid Langrock got to take her new baby trick-or-treating this year and Nick Thomas asks (and answers) the classic question: Why did the chicken cross the road? Among my favorites:

Dr. Phil: The issue is not why the chicken is crossing, by why we’re enabling it to engage in risky activities.

The United Nations: We will send a team of poultry inspectors to the road site in question and determine if a crossing is viable.  Then we will form a committee to determine if the chicken crossing should be internationally sanctioned. This may take 2 or 3 years at which time we will make an unenforceable recommendation.

All that and our terrific editorial cartoons, last week in Oak Ridge Now.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Last Week, In Case You Missed It: September 25, 2012

Illustration courtesy of www.tagxedo.com

This past week we’ve learned that you just can’t stick anyone with a striped shirt in the middle of an NFL game and expect things to turn out well. People who do their job really well are just not replaceable. That’s true not only for NFL referees, but for everyone in our community: our teachers, medical professionals, police and fire departments, and everyone else who does their part in our little corner of the world. If you know someone in our area who does their job really well, let us know – we’d like to find out more about them and tell their story. In the meantime, take a look at the other stories we brought you last week on Oak Ridge Now.

Our most popular article of the week was from Robin O’Bryant, who lamented saying (sometimes loudly) to her kids all the things she swore she’d never say. A couple of personal favorites of mine, “Yes, I am the boss of you” and “It’s my house so I get to make the rules.”

In another one of our popular features, Unknown Soldiers, Tom Sileo recounts the conversations he’s had with bereaved family members of soldiers who have given their lives in service to their country, and wonders if we and our leaders have forgotten about them. “Poor is the country that has no heroes, but beggared is the country that having them, forgets.”

We had a bomb threat at the high school that topped our local news, but we also brought you other news from Texas and around the world.

We’re all proud of our great state, and we like to brag we’re better than the rest. Last week the U.S. Census bureau released a report that Texas is indeed tops in the number of individuals without health insurance. This one is a political football that will be debated ad nauseum for probably years, while our emergency rooms get more and more crowded with folks that cannot afford to see a doctor when they become ill. Combine that with reduced spending for Medicaid, and you can see we have a big problem today in Texas – one that will only get bigger tomorrow.

Elsewhere in the Lone Star State, Democrats and Republicans are banding together to plan legislative efforts that more easily permit the sale of local foods. Today you can go to the farmers market on Rayford and buy peaches, but you cannot buy a peach cobbler made from those peaches. It’s nice to see political opponents using some common sense.

Technology has not yet reached the point where you can register to vote online in the state. You still need a written signature on your registration card. You can pick them up at the post office or library, but hurry – they need to be in by October 9 to be eligible to vote in this year’s election.

In national news we want to keep you informed on health care, so we brought you President Obama’s health care record and contrasted that with Mitt Romney’s stance on health care.

Also, last month, as many of us can attest, was the fourth warmest August on record across the globe. It was also the 330th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. But climate change is just a myth.

Our opinions section saw John Stossel express his admiration (OK, he gushed) for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, had Chuck Norris show his disdain for a UN resolution that he feels would adversely affect gun owners in the U.S., and had Mark Shields listing the questions he’ll never get to ask in a presidential debate.

One of my favorite articles this week is from Bill O’Reilly, who insists that you are a bad citizen if you cannot answer the ten basic questions in his quiz. He says, “But if you fall into that category, there is something you can hold onto. In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers designed a Constitution that gives every single citizen the absolute right to be a moron.”

We also wished that Congress, if and when they ever get back to doing their job, needs to do more to stimulate the economy and grow jobs. In the last of our opinions this week, we run the numbers and explain why churches and charitable organizations cannot come close to replacing the assistance to the poor that the government is providing today. It’s a myth. Just because it’s repeated a lot does not make it become truth.

It’s a mixed bag for our local high school sports this past week. The ORHS tennis team lost its match to College Park, but took out their frustrations on Huntsville later in the week. The volleyball team won an exciting five-game match against Conroe, but the football team is still looking for its first win, after losing a close one to Stratford, and a not-so-close one to Aldine Nimitz. Win or lose, we always have photos of the football game, the band, the cheerleaders, the Liberty Belles, the color guard, and others. We like to think that Oak Ridge always wins halftime.

Finally, our fasion article of the week featured beauty tips from the pros, and Mark Maynard looked at the surprising Kia Rio (really, a Kia), which is rich in features.

All that and our terrific editorial cartoons, last week in Oak Ridge Now.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Last Week, In Case You Missed It: June 9, 2012

Summertime is here. The days are longer, the nights are warmer, and it sure seems like we have a lot more kids than we did before. On the plus side, the commute time to work has become shorter, we’ve not yet reached the point of heat exhaustion, and the dogs on the grill still taste good. So put your flip-flopped feet up, pop open a St. Arnold’s Summer Pils, and take a look at what we ran last week (actually the last two weeks) on Oak Ridge Now.

First up, Ann Allison attended both the Oak Ridge High School Class of 2012 graduation ceremony and Operation Graduation, and gave us a taste of both. Congratulations to those ORHS graduates. Go out into the world and do us proud. We took this opportunity to republish an article we originally ran two years ago on Oak Ridge Now, 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Graduating Seniors, that provides sound advice to those about to go off to college for the first time.

Our most popular article of the week was the story of  Lt. Col. Thomas Budrejko, one of seven Marines killed on Feb. 22 when two helicopters crashed during a training exercise near Yuma, AZ. Tom Sileo, who writes the Unknown Soldiers articles, also checks in on Staff Sgt. Travis Mills and other soldiers recuperating from wounds at Walter Reed Military Medical Center. We run Unknown Soldiers articles each week on Oak Ridge Now because we feel that it is important for folks to see and remember that we still have young men and women sacrificing everything they have for our freedom.

We found out that if the controversial health law is upheld by the Supreme Court, it would extend health coverage to thousands of the nation’s veterans. In other health related news, we reported on initiatives to reduce childhood asthma rates, and those dreaded high-deductible health care plans. The days of keeping out-of-pocket expenses below $1,000 a year are long gone, it seems.

The biggest local news story of the past two weeks was the Montgomery County Republican primaries, where Tea Party-backed candidates ousted more qualified folks. Montgomery County overall supported Tea Party fave Ted Cruz’s bid for U.S. Senator at a rate nearly 50% higher than the rest of Texas. Jason Stanford looks at some of the races around Texas where good legislators, including our own Rob Eissler, were defeated by the true believers.

Also across Texas, it doesn’t seem like there will be much change in the State Board of Education this year. Let’s hope they can manage to stay off The Daily Show for a while. Elsewhere in Texas, a recent poll showed that support for Planned Parenthood is split across partisan lines, and cities across Texas are boosting water rates. My bill is over $200 this month, and I expect it to hit $300 later this summer.

One in four Texas children are at risk of going hungry. “This study highlights an unacceptable level of food insecurity among children,” said Celia Cole, chief executive of the Texas Food Bank Network, in a news release. “Hungry children are more likely to have poor grades and health deficiencies, and these problems translate into lost productivity and higher health care costs as they age. We cannot afford to ignore this problem.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calls for a 70 percent chance that there will be between nine to 15 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher, of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane with top winds of 74 mph. Are you prepared for a hurricane? Best to do it in advance before the bottled water starts to fly off of Kroger’s shelves.

In more local news, West Nile virus was found in mosquitoes in The Woodlands. Time to stock up on the Off! and try to eliminate standing water around the house.

Our Opinions sections has been kind of light the past two weeks. Bill O’Reilly is always good, however. He looks at the accusation that Justin Bieber, all 5’7″ 110 pounds, battered a photographer. Yes, we do need tort reform in this country (and in Texas). Some of these lawsuits are way out of control. Mr. O’Reilly also believes that Mitt Romney will win this fall’s presidential election, simply because people will be voting out of fear.  “Fear is a powerful emotion and not easily diminished. So the president should be afraid. Very afraid.”

John Stossel weighs in on the effect that collective bargaining with unions has on a free market economy, and also takes another look at some paralyzing government over-regulation. And Cliff Schecter wishes that some Republican leaders would call out the Donald Trumps and other conservative extremists when they take the focus off of mainstream GOP talking points to bloviate on birth certificates.

Mark Shields takes a look at the notion that we need “a president who has made it big time in business, one who can create jobs and get American moving again”, ala Warren G. Harding. And Will Durst is looking forward to summer: “Now is the time for fireworks and lemonade and tires swinging on ropes over rivers and roasted marshmallows and ice cream on sticks that melt down your hand all the way to the elbow. And golf and hiking and roasted corn and suntan lotion and thunderstorms and baseball broadcasts on an AM radio and spending a week in the middle of August jammed in the back of a station wagon with no air conditioning, an 18-year-old incontinent basset hound and a leaking Coleman cooler.”

Our Faith section discusses spiritual smugness, which is “both a scourge and an epidemic, particularly within Christendom. Whatever the disagreement may be, we believe we know the truth — biblical truth, orthodox truth, God’s truth. And anyone who might disagree with us is either a fool or a threat to the life of the church.” We also look at the religious principles involved in setting government budget goals: “We must agree not to reduce deficits in ways that further increase poverty and economic inequality by placing the heaviest burdens on those who are already suffering the most.”

Marni Jameson contributed an excellent article about something many of us are already undertaking, or will be dealing with soon: what to do with our aging parents. We had fashion articles about women and the office dress code, and the likely little-read men’s fashion trends for spring. Oddly, there is no mention of Dockers and golf shirts.

Kurt Loder took apart two movies: Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus, the prequel of sorts to 1979’s Alien. And Mark Maynard looked at two very different vehicles: the Toyota Yaris, and it’s 38 mpg highway, and the Audi TT RS, which is cooler looking and zippier, but consumes more gas and costs a bit more. Meanwhile, Dave Ramsey did his usual thing.

We try to bring the funny once again this week, with Doug Sarant looking back on his favorite sports character of all-time, and musing on the frustration of golf: “What other sport can make you insane, yet you still keep coming back for more? Marriage is not a sport and does not count.” Will E Sanders reviews what to do in the event of a fire at a gas station pump. “If I almost blow up a gas station I am going to panic and posted signage is not going to stop me.” He also reaches into the way-back machine to reminisce about the various record & tape clubs of the 70’s and 80’s.

Also, Nick Thomas looks at grunting in women’s tennis, where today’s French Open winner Maria Sharapova holds the record for loudest sound at 105 decibels. “It makes you wonder about her vocal outburst in other pursuits. I mean, could anyone ever play chess with this woman? You’d probably keel over from a heart attack if she ever castled.” And he reminds us that June 22 is Take Your Dog To Work Day.

Finally, there is our Mother’s Day section, where we feature some very, very funny women who write about moms and dealing with life’s unexpected twists and turns. Katiedid Langrock is pregnant, wants a lemon cupcake, and gets a little pissed when the Starbucks barista questions whether she really needs it. She also fears that she’s having a zombie baby.

In Lost in Suburbia, Tracy Beckerman recalls her shoe-store encounter with a salesman with a lone eyebrow: “Had he been yellow and a muppet, I would have sworn I’d just met Bert from Sesame Street.” She also bites the bullet and tries her hand at baking cookies, a new and difficult experience for her.

Robin O’Bryant tries to find a spot on her rug where she can lay down and not smell pee [editor’s note: I am so glad those days are over for me]. She then has a tough time watching her three girls leave for a week at Grandma’s.

Finally, with a couple of my favorite articles, Teresa Strasser once wondered how motherhood would change her. “I didn’t become a fun, wildly animated, awesome with little ones lady. I’m still the pretty serious, four books on the nightstand at all times, inhibited, never even sings karaoke kind of lady. The woman who swings her child upside down over a sandcastle as he squeals — I didn’t become her, and now sometimes I want to.” She followed that up with the observation that the second baby is nothing like the first: “There will be no shower in your honor. Your fetal photos will not be distributed to family and friends, nor will they even be regarded at all after the doctor pronounces you basically normal looking. I won’t be investigating your tiny, embryonic face for my nose or my husband’s brow or thinking it’s AMAZING when you suck your thumb in utero. I mean, it is pretty cool, but mama has stuff to do now.”

All that and our terrific editorial cartoons, last week (or two) in Oak Ridge Now.

Do Old People Smell?

Me, with a Kid

How to Have Nothing to Do

Baby Number Two: I’m Just Not That Into You

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Last Week, In Case You Missed It: May 27, 2012

It has been a huge week in the Oak Ridge area, as we’ve been preparing for the end of school, ORHS graduation, an upcoming primary election, Memorial Day weekend, and the start of summer. You’ve been busy and we’ve been busy — here’s a recap of everything we’ve covered in Oak Ridge Now this week.

The Republican primary is upon us, and realistically, whoever wins the Republican primary in most Montgomery County races is going to win the general election in November. We brought you in-depth looks at each of the candidates in four important South County races: State Board of Education District 8, County Commissioner Precinct 3, County Constable Precinct 3, and State Representative District 15.

The SBOE race pits incumbent Barbara Cargill against challenger Linda Ellis. Ms. Cargill has been part of a conservative and controversial bloc of members that has often times been ridiculed by national media and others. Ms. Ellis believes the far right has had too much influence on the board and that a nonpartisan election for SBOE positions would better serve the public. I think Ms. Cargill will carry the day in this election, but that the conservative bloc will no longer have as much influence over the SBOE as they have had in the past.

The contest for County Commissioner includes four candidates, James NoackKenny SpeightPaul Cote, and Brian Dawson. Judging unscientifically only by the signs I have seen in the area, it appears that Mr. Speight and Mr. Noack will lead the pack. Mr. Speight is a long-time South County resident who has run a business here and has served the community in countless volunteer leadership roles over the past 25 years. Mr. Noack is supported by a Tea Party PAC. Whoever ultimately wins the job, they will have a difficult time filling the shoes of retiring County Commissioner Ed Chance, a shining example of everything a local government leader should be.

The race for County Constable may be the most difficult to predict. You have what seem to be three very worthy candidates, all from the Oak Ridge area. While there are subtle differences in their experience and qualifications, David Angstadt, Jr.Dan Norris, or Ryan Gable would all likely do the job well. The highly unscientific sign wars seem to indicate that Mr. Norris and Mr. Gable have taken the lead.

Finally, Rob Eissler, who has represented South Montgomery County in the Texas House for 10 years, and has brought sound leadership and direction to what is often a highly partisan yet rudderless State Legislature, is facing Steve Toth for the Texas House District 15 seat. Mr. Eissler previously spent 18 years on the CISD Board of Trustees, including two terms as President of that body. As Chairman of the Public Education Committee the past five years, he has been one of three highly-knowledgeable, steadfast and persuasive individuals in the State leading the resolution of the complex issues around the funding, administration and reform of public eduction in the Texas Legislature. The other two of that group, Scott Hochberg and Florence Shapiro, are not running for re-election.  Mr. Toth seems like a good guy, like someone you would want to be your neighbor. He is conservative enough to have won the support of the local Tea Party.

But enough election discussion. it’s difficult to even turn on the TV anymore without being bombarded by political commercials. There was a whole lot more going on this week. In Texas news, there were a couple of polls this week that caught our attention.

I don’t think it comes as a surprise that most folks in Texas support the death penalty. The 73% that support it, however, drops to 53% when a life sentence without the possibility of parole is viewed as an option. I think there are probably a lot of us who truly struggle on this issue, wavering at times between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Not to mention the whole problem with exonerating a dead man after new DNA evidence proves him to be not guilty. Also in that article, opinions about abortion and Planned Parenthood are more evenly split across Texas.

In this week’s other poll, only 36% of Texans say that candidates for public office should sign a pledge to not raise taxes. 47% said they should definitely not make pledges like that until financial situations become clear. Don’t expect, however, to find too many politicians that will pledge to raise taxes if the need arrives. That I do not see happening.

In U.S. news, we reported that many states, including Texas, would not use the funds won in the $974M settlement with mortgage companies to fund programs that benefit homeowners. The original lawsuit alleged that banks deceived homeowners and broke laws when pursuing foreclosure. Texas directed its $135 million to the state’s general fund, of which $10 million has been allocated for basic services to low-income Texans. John Henneberger, co-director of Texas Housers, an affordable housing group, said that in speaking to legislators, advocates had “received no assurances that this money will be used according to the purposes of the settlement.”

In other national news we ran a two-part series on the hazards faced by men working on cell towers. I know, duh. In the past nine years, nearly 100 tower climbers have been killed on the job. Nearly half of those were on cell towers. The annual death rate is nearly 10 times that of other construction jobs. yet, because most tower climbers are subcontractors to large companies like AT&T and Verizon, OSHA seems powerless to do much to prevent these deaths.

Also in national news, a new study finds that hospitals, outpatient centers and other providers drove up the price of health careat over two times the rate of inflation during the recent economic downturn. Shocker.

Overall, during the period analyzed, prices charged nationally grew the most for emergency room visits, up 11 percent, surgery that did not involve a hospital stay, up 8.9 percent, and mental health and substance abuse services, up 8.6 percent. The price per hospital admission rose an average of 5.1 percent, hitting $14,662. Surgical admissions had the highest overall price tag, at an average of $27,100,  representing a 6.4 percent increase from 2010.

We again had a strong opinions section this week. Bill O’Reilly wonders if his teenage daughter can pull herself away from social media long enough to ever care about politics.

John Stossel explains why ever-increasing government regulation kills businesses. He cites as an example, “Las Vegas regulators require anyone who wants to start a limousine business to prove his new business is needed and, worse, will not “adversely affect other carriers.”

Chuck Norris alleges that the IRS gives billions in tax refunds to illegal aliens. Peter Funt wonders, after all this time, how can 8% of voters in the upcoming presidential race be still classified as “undecided”?

We suggested that $2B could be saved by simply closing the US Capitol until November. It’s not as if anything useful will get done until then. And we at Oak Ridge Now will miss Ron Paul. “Other candidates talk about government and how they would steer it and allocate resources. Paul talked about freedom.”

Our Mother’s Day section this week included four articles from Oak Ridge Now contributors. Our Lost in Suburbia columnist, Tracy Beckermann, laments about losing keys in her purse. “my keys always seem to temporarily disappear into a Black Hole in my bag, spend time on the other side of the universe, and then reappear only after I’ve finally dropped everything else I am holding, thrown a giant hissy fit, and turned my bag upside down.”

Teresa Strasser, now pregnant with her second child, busted out her old copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, and had to smile the second time around. “It’s just another thing to love about the second pregnancy, the do-over, when one isn’t compelled to while away the midnight hours chomping niacin-enriched cereal and pondering floppy baby syndrome. Sure, this baby could be floppy, but I can’t muster the time or energy or obsession to care anymore.”

We introduced two new Mother’s Day columnists this week: Robin O’Bryant is a stay-at-home mom of three girls. “I am now the mother who prays some sort of vermin doesn’t crawl out of my backseat when the teacher opens the back door to get my kindergartener out of the car at school.”

And Oak Ridge Now newcomer Katiedid Langrock (sounds like a character on the Flinstones) also had to deal with key issues this week — she locked them in her Jeep. “A couple of things became very clear to me very quickly. 1) Hoisting up your body while pregnant is not that easy. 2) Tiny triangular windows are not made for pregnant chicks to squeeze their little meatball bodies through.”

Also of interest to moms this week, new Oak RIdge Now fashion editor Sharon Mosley weighs in with some advice on summer swimwear. We are also now carrying, “At Home With Marni Jameson”, a weekly home design column. This week she spoke with HGTV’s Kimberly Lacy for her curbside opinion of Marni’s current home. “It’s like those women you see at the mall, and think, gheeze, with a better haircut and a little lipstick!”

In other weekly features, Kurt Loder looks at two new films this week, Men in Black 3 and Moonrise Kingdom. He say’s that “MIB 3″ is a reinvigorated continuation of a unique sci-fi series and a happy demonstration that it’s still not played out.”

Dave Ramsey does his usual thing this week, advising a young married couple with a lot of student loan debt. He says they could consider moving in with his parents, but… My advice: parents, change the locks — those kids keep coming back over and over again! Also, Mark Maynard look at the Buick Regal GS four-door sedan with a six-speed manual transmission.

Our funny guys, Nick Thomas and Will E Sanders contribute their thoughts on the hazards of spring gardening (“Lucky for Adam the first thing he grabbed to cover his embarrassment was a fig leaf, rather than a bunch of poison ivy”) and illegal Canadian immigrants (“I whipped around, shot them a disgusted glance and said, “Learn to speak English or go back to your own country. Since they were French they immediately surrendered, gave into my demands and fled the store in a blur of flannel and denim, presumably back to Ontario”).

If you read nothing else in Oak Ridge Now this week, you must read the latest installment of Unknown Soldiers, looking at Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery. “I have never sacrificed anything. Over the past decade, thousands of brave men and women, including many buried in Section 60, have risked everything to ensure we live in a safer world than the one that seethed with hatred and fear on Sept. 11, 2001.”

Finally, I take a quick trip down Oak Ridge School Road, and bask in the memories that the one-mile stretch brings back. All of this plus our editorial cartoons last week in Oak Ridge Now.

Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Last Week, In Case You Missed It: May 19, 2012

 

It has been a busy couple of weeks for us here at Oak Ridge Now, getting everything cranked up again. We are still not where we’d like to be, and we could use a whole lot more help covering local stories, but here’s a special two-week recap of what we’ve had recently in Oak Ridge Now.

The most popular story of the past two weeks detailed the planned Grand Parkway extension through South Montgomery County, specifically the piece that rolls down Riley Fuzzel. Raise your hand if you were clamoring for a way to get to Kingwood a lot faster than we do today. My favorite quote from this: “we anticipate minimal impact and disruption to mobility on Riley Fuzzel.”

In other local news, we reported the latest population trends in Montgomery County, compared to a recently released report on Texas population. We’re still a largely white, non-Hispanic populace, but the numbers show we are not destined to stay that way.

In State news, Texas has become one in five “Minority-Majority” states, where 55% of the population is designated as something other than non-Hispanic white. We published the tuition rates at all Texas state universities in one handy-dandy location (UT Dallas, who knew?). We reported that Texas gained jobs for the 21st month in a row, and that Ron Paul finally brought his righteous bid for president to a close.

In Texas prison news, we discussed the unsettled issues around death row sentences, and in perhaps the most unusual story, a Texas prison inmate managed to garner 41% of the vote in the West Virginia Democratic primary against President Obama.

Our national news coverage included an update on the drought, and a report that, in advance of the President’s acceptance of gay marriage, many large companies already offer health benefits to same-sex couples. And in light of the short-lived mad cow scare and the extensive coverage in the past couple of month on pink slime (yum!), we offered a rundown on some of the best articles  on food safety available. Note: best to read after you’ve eaten.

But we’re not all about news stories. We have brought back some old weekly features, and we have added some new ones. First of all, Doug Sarant is back rolling his eyes at typical coachspeak. Doug will continue to bring his unique point of view to Oak Ridge Now. Dave Ramsey checks in with his weekly column giving sound financial advice. He’s not a big fan of giving checking accounts to 15 year olds. Will E Sanders riffed on wedding planning and responded to a letter from his biggest fan. Finally, our Unknown Soldiers feature is back, telling the stories of the lives and sometimes deaths of U.S. servicemen fighting for our country. Over the past two weeks we’ve profiled Capt. Nick Rozanski, who lost his life in Afghanistan last month, and Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, who last month lost his arms and legs in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan.

We also have a few new features. Nick Thomas writes a weekly column called Along These Lines, and this week he images the valedictorian speech some kids would like to give. Mark Maynard writes a weekly column about cars, and in the past two weeks he has reviewed the Fiat 500 Cabrio (JLo’s ride of choice, apparently) and the BMW 3-series. Also, you all remember Kurt Loder, right? MTV Music News? Well, now Kurt’s reviewing films, telling us what is worthwhile, and what is not worth the $9.00. In the past two weeks Kurt has taken on Sasha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator (gag) and gives less than stellar marks for Samuel L. Jackson’s The Samaritan and the haunted house film, Lovely Molly.

We’re also featuring a whole handful of intelligent women contributors. Each week we’ll publish columns from five moms with their own point of view: Teresa Strasser, Tracy Beckerman, Sheila Moss, Robin O’Bryant, and Katiedid Langrock. They’ll all be appearing in our new Mother’s Day section. Over the past two week’s, Ms. Beckerman’s Lost In Suburbia column has lamented dead goldfish, and answered a new member questionnaire from her local gym; Ms. Strassertakes an introspective look at breast feeding and attachment parenting, brought on by last week’s much-discussed cover of Time magazine. She also weighed in with some unconventional advice given to her by her mom. “Know your dealer” is not what moms might usually say to their daughters, but it works here. Ms. Moss debuted with her story of a flat tire on the side of the road, and the golden chariot that rescued her an her Honey.

And, of course, we still have our diverse opinions section at Oak Ridge Now. Bill O’Reilly lays out the oft times harsh realities of our world, saying, “Capitalism is no beach day. The strong and sometimes ruthless prosper. The poorly educated and unfocused often fail.” On a lighter note, he goes on a surfin’ safari and looks back on 50 years of the Beach Boys. Chuck Norris explains how he thinks Mitt Romney can become our next president, and examines the questionable rule severely restricting kids under 16 from working on family farms. In classic Chuck Norris style, he asks, How far do we have to slide down the slippery slope of socialism before the descent becomes irreversible, before we say, “Welcome to Greece”?

Will Durst is back and is as laugh-out-loud funny as ever. He speculates on some lukewarm endorsements of Mitt Romney, like, “Hasn’t strapped a dog to the roof of his car in over 28 years.” and “Mitt Romney. A man who feels strongly about both sides of many issues.” He also gives his take on President Obama’s “evolution” on same-sex marriage.

Mark Shields looks back on the history of campaign slogans. I like the line, “This year, before they tell you what they’re going to do, make them show you what they’ve done.” Shields also checks in on Eduardo Saverin, one of the founders of Facebook, who renounced his American citizenship and moved to Singapore, all so he could avoid a big tax bill. “Fifty years ago, a young American president told the world that “to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” he and his fellow countrymen “will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship.” Eduardo Saverin not so much.

Jim Wallis’ recent commencement speech was so good that we felt it needed a spot in Oak Ridge Now this week. “…selfishness is the personal and political ethic that dominates our world today; but the kingdom of God says that your neighbor’s concerns, rights, interests, freedoms, and well-being are as important as yours are.”

John Stossel explains that life really is fair, and that it is virtually impossible to live in a risk-free world, even though government regulators are striving to enforce that. Peter Funt asks if anyone really understands how much a billion dollars is. It’s a number that gets thrown around way too loosely these days. He also looks into the speculation that Hillary Clinton will replace the ever talkative Joe Biden on the Democratic presidential ticket this fall. That might generate a little conversation.

Finally, Tom Purcell would like to live the easy life in France. “I dream of finally being able to relax, knowing that if anybody tries to take away my government job or vacation or generous unemployment benefits, millions of people, also on the government dole, will march into the streets in my defense.” Don’t we all?

All of this and our collection of editorial cartoons, last week in Oak Ridge Now.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Last Week, In Case You Missed It: March 19, 2011

It has been a week of contrasts, a week full of merriment and anticipation  and celebration cast against the shadow of worldwide drama and tragedy. We had the green beer and Guinness and the older lady at the office gleefully pinching folks. We had the onset of March Madness, where everyone, including our President, suddenly becomes a fan of college basketball, and carefully or carelessly fills out a bracket in anticipation of the coming weekend’s games. And this was the week when Rebecca Black became a YouTube sensation.

We also had the continuing tragedy unfolding in northern Japan, where nearly 500,000 people have been left homeless, another 20,000 folks are either missing or confirmed dead. And we have just begun the long-anticipated military action in Libya, to combat a dictatorial regime so consumed with maintaining power that they think nothing of slaughtering their own people to do so.

It’s OK to celebrate. To drink responsibly with your friends. To root on a team whose players you’d never heard of before. And to laugh out loud. But maybe we should just take a moment to be thankful that we don’t have to start our lives all over, wondering if the air we breathe or the food we eat is laced with microscopic radioactive material, wondering happened to our family and friends. And be thankful that we live in a country where, no matter how frustrated we might be with our government, we can rest assured that we won’t have to face the full force of our military if we dare to disagree with our leaders. Be thankful just for a moment, and then go back to your broken bracket.

Let’s take a look at what we covered this week in Oak Ridge Now:

With Japan’s nuclear fears broadcast round-the-clock, we gave you a handy reading list that points you to everything you might want to know about this tragedy, and it’s far-reaching implications. We also outlined the current worst-case scenario for the Fukushima Daiichi plant – it won’t have a direct effect on the U.S.

Closer to home, we kept track of what was going on this past week in the Texas Legislature. Budget cuts for public school funding dominated the news this week. Thousands of parents, educators, and students marched on the capitol to protest the pending cuts. And, of course, our elected leaders are pre-emptively trying to shift the blame for those cuts, with Governor Rick Perry saying, “The lieutenant governor, the speaker and their colleagues aren’t going to hire or fire one teacher, as best I can tell,” he said. “That is a local decision that will be made at the local districts.” Sure. After you cut billions from their funding. Don’t forget to reserve some money for the new social studies textbooks that downplay the historic role of that shifty Thomas Jefferson.

After graduating from public school, let’s hope our students are well-armed for college. In fact, let’s make then really well-armed, as legislators heard from both sides of a debate to allow students to carry licensed concealed handguns on Texas college campuses. I cannot wait for the first legislator to disavow any culpability after the first gun-related campus violence occurs.

We ran a Texas Tribune interview with the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards. The group is feeling pressure right now from both the Texas Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Finally, my favorite story involved a Houston man’s quest to draft Tommy Lee Jones, of Men In Black and No Country For Old Men, to run as a Democrat for U.S. Senator in 2012.

Even closer to home, our Oak Ridge High School Color Guard came in first place for the fourth performance in a row, and Linda McBride thought about what her friend Christie Mercer Sumstad, an ORHS grad who passed away last month, would have made of the event.

The latest of our In The Spotlight interviews brought you a look at Taylor Dye, an Oak Ridge High School football player who has learned to live with dyslexia.

Right now baseball, softball, soccer, golf and track teams are all involved in District 14-5A competition. The baseball team opened District play with a loss to College Park, but that was after excelling in a tournament in Austin, capping it with a big win over the host team. Meanwhile, the sophomore baseball team fared better.

The Lady Highlander softball team split a pair, taking an exciting extra-inning affair from Atascocita, and the getting walloped by a very good squad from The Woodlands. Finally, the ORHS girls soccer team accomplished something for the first time since entering the ranks of division 5A: they fought to a tie with The Woodlands.

In maybe our most well-written piece this week, Teresa Strasser looks at Charlie Sheen’s and Tiger Mom Amy Chua’s obsession with WINNING! “In a world filled with participation trophies and a cloying, bogus focus on “self-esteem” that isn’t earned, there’s something satiating about this warrior attitude. Winners take all, so do warlocks, so do little girls who play the crap out of the piano.” It’s a very good read. Duh.

In Lost in Suburbia, Tracy Beckerman recounts her dog’s flirtations with other dogs around the neighborhood. Will E Sanders talks about a friend who has yet to comprehend time zone differences. And in Unknown Soldiers we tell the story of Sergeant Rusty Dunagan, who lost both legs and an arm in an explosion.

Dave Ramsey attempts to answer the classic question, “How do you find a balance between home and work?” [note to self: read this one again]. And Margo Howard wades into the sticky issue of a 17 year old girl in love with her 29 year old co-worker at a pizza joint. Once again, thank you, Lord, for blessing me with only boys.

Bill O’Reilly speculated on the possibility of Charlie Sheen as a cable news star. “I’m tired of pretending like I’m not a total bitchin’ rock star from Mars. And people can’t figure me out; they can’t process me. I don’t expect them to. You can’t process me with a normal brain.” Face it, we’d all tune in to watch him interview presidential candidates.

Mark Shields looks at Newt Gingrich’s recent rationalization of his affairs and failed marriages. “His “patriotism made me do it” defense is as nervy as it is imaginative, although it might have been more believable if he had been caught cheating with Betsy Ross and/or the Daughters of the American Revolution.”

John Stossel argues that the high prices of illicit drugs are responsible for a crisis in the black community. Yes, you read that right. And Will Durst looks back on the union-busting activities in Wisconsin. “As is their way, the GOP might once again have overreached and awakened a sleeping giant. Today, we are all Cheeseheads. Or as JFK might have said, “Ich bin ein kaasekopf.”

Finally, in this St. Patty’s Day week, we present you with five recipes, three of which involve Bailey’s Irish Creme as an ingredient. All this and our daily editorial cartoons, this week in Oak Ridge Now.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Last Week, In Case You Missed It: March 12, 2011

We’ve done a number of In the Spotlight profiles of Oak Ridge High School students in Oak Ridge Now, and it amazes me how often we spotlight someone who really has their act together. When I was 17, the only things I thought about were girls, leaving home, girls, frisbee golf, and girls.

We as a society expect high school kids, only a few years removed from The Disney Channel and the children’s clothing section, to somehow decide what they want to do with the rest of their life, and where the best place would be to prepare for it. We expect them to have this nailed only a couple of years after they learned to drive. Sure, many of them don’t have a solid plan — my wife and I have five so far that fit into that category, and the sixth is careening precipitously down that same path.

And then we meet people like Laurin Engle, who knows she’s going to Baylor, knows she’s going to major in Sports Management, and knows she’ll have to put her soccer days behind her. She’s passionate and articulate and actually enjoys her calculus class. Unreal. I read every story in Oak Ridge Now, many of them at least twice, and these are the ones I enjoy the most.

In other stories, we told you about the continued success of the Oak Ridge Color Guard, who is racking up win after win in their various competitions, and is heading to a national competition next month. They are scheduled to perform at 9:52 pm tonight, as they host their own 78-unit competition.

Not to be outdone, Oak Ridge baseball and softball teams both had good weeks. The Lady War Eagle softball team topped College Park, went 4-1 in a weekend tournament, and then got by Conroe. The boys started out in an early season funk in the Wharton tournament, but then crushed traditional 5A TAPPS powerhouse Houston Christian 12-0. They then started off this weekend’s Pflugerville tournament with a win over Killeen Ellison. And the ORHS girls track and field teams also continued to make strong showings at area meets.

In other local happenings, I probably offended some folks by incorporating a Cymbalta reference and Neil Diamond‘s Brother Love’s Travelin’ Salvation Show into an article about Alana Lane Baptist Church’s upcoming Revival. But I assure you, my intentions were all good.

Across the State of Texas, we looked at legislation designed to further protect high school athletes from the effects of concussions. A bill was filed to outlaw texting and driving across the state. And our Tea Party friends want state legislators to know they’re keeping an eye on them. “The people that were elected, they understand there will be no new taxes or they won’t have a job next round.”

Our features this week included Teresa Strasser wondering why other babies are mellower than hers. “It means that baby just sits on your lap at baby music class while my kid rummages through random diaper bags, climbs on a bench, helps himself to anyone’s juice, pulls off his socks, gums the side of a tambourine and attempts to escape out the front door before the wheels on the bus have even gone round and round.”

Lost in Suburbia finds Tracy Beckerman trying to remain a cool mom. “I wanted to connect with my daughter and prove that even though I was from another generation, I was not from another planet, and I did actually know the difference between Eminem and M&M’s.”

Unknown Soldiers tells the story of a Marine killed only last month in Afghanistan. “We said ‘I love you’ 20 times before hanging up on that last phone call because I wouldn’t say goodbye,” his wife said, “I have a feeling that he knew.”

Will E Sanders bemoans receiving yet another wallet as a gift. “After all, it is not like the three dollars I have in there are working my wallet double time or causing it to bust at the seams.” He needs my wallet, made by Rawlings and still smells like a baseball glove. Dave Ramsey encourages a couple to forget about the down payment on a house – get out of debt first.

Dear Margo tackles a complicated adoption dilemma and a man whose wife insists her dogs sleep with them in bed. Margo says, “I suggest giving it a try, to show good faith, and if they do actually interfere with your sleep, perhaps your wife will return your good faith effort.” Are you kidding me? She also addresses a woman who thinks there might be some tomfoolery between her husband and her sister. Ewww.

We previewed St. Patrick’s Day with a recipe for Lucky You Mint Pie. It says that the green food coloring is optional. Really?

Peter Funt examined the escalating costs of attending spring training games in Arizona. Tina Dupuy looks at her fellow potential jurors, waiting to be selected for jury duty. “It was like their outfits were trying to increase their chances of being dismissed. “You’re looking for someone who is impartial and has common sense. As you can see from my corduroy cut offs and Megadeth t-shirt – clearly that’s not me.”

Will Durst has advice for some of the emerging Middle East freedom fighters: “Democracy for one means democracy for all. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it enterprise. All men are created equal. And women. None of this wife- walking-five-paces-behind her-husband-while-dressed-as-a-grieving-beekeeper stuff.”  Mark Shields says he cannot believe that Mike Huckabee actually thought President Obama grew up in Kenya.

Bill O’Reilly is a union member. His grandparents were, too. But that doesn’t mean he disagrees with the union-busting actions in Wisconsin. John Stossel thinks those “green jobs” President Obama and friends talk about aren’t there. They’re not going to be there. They’re a myth. An illusion. And the ones that are there will cost way too much to create.

All that this week, along with our daily editorial cartoons, this week in Oak Ridge Now.

 

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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