Hobbit skeleton a metaphor for life

Last year, we discovered midgets.

As a culture, we have gotten to be so amazing at piecing together how things should be that we can look at a skeleton and define a person’s lifestyle. I guess this makes us equal-opportunity morons.

Homo florsiensis was, according to scientists, about three feet tall, weighed 55 pounds and live on an island between Asia and Australia. They hunted giant rats, sleeping “dragons,” and elephants. They went extinct 13,000 years ago after a volcanic eruption.

They’re so amazing, they’ve been called “hobbits” after J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series.

Fourteen months later, we know everything there ever was about their lifestyle and we’ve even given them a nickname after movie characters — I mean, book characters.

All they have is a skeleton.

Their cute little nickname is the first big mistake. I don’t consider myself an expert on Tolkien’s work, but I don’t think hobbits were crazed little guys running after giant rats and dragons. They were more the type to run away. Their days were spent smokin’ it up and drinkin’ the day away. Hobbits? They were more like college students than Hobbits.

In fact, I am taking the liberty to rename them. From this sentence forth, they shall be known as Mighty Mega Mini Monsters or MMMM’s.

The next amazing discovery scientists messed up was the exact and precise sketch of the MMMM. They were able to get the body fat, muscle tone, hair coverage and even the eyes in exact detail. There’s only one problem. All of those are frail and easily decompose over time.

The only thing left is a bite-sized skeleton under a pile of mud.

Then again, this could easily be the Michael Jackson of the species; something that was just like everyone else, but wanted to be more like everyone else. We have no way of knowing, yet we know.

This is what I see happening on campus. Not Michael. So many people pass by so many people, barely noticing what the other person looks like on the outside and not even seeing the inside, as the hurry in their eyes causes them to dart back and forth. Students to other students to professors to police and the other way around all take part in this dance.

All they see is a midgeted skeleton.

From that one skeleton, they can tell whether this person is good enough for them, or feel frightened by their presence, or know they can do better.

In that split second of reasoning, they choose to look them in the eye with a smile or subtly dart their attention to something else. Then they pass ways, perhaps never crossing paths again, or perhaps they repeat this ritual on a daily basis.

Of course, it would be silly to assume either side is consciously aware of what they’re doing. That might be thought of as rude. Sometimes people are so dense, they barely notice another person walking by. Some people see a shiny object in the corner of their eye and whip their head around to look at it. I know I fall under both.

If only life were so cut and dried that we could know everything and never mess up our judgment. How drab and dull it would be, indeed.

All we would have is a 13,000-year-old midgeted skeleton of a 6-foot world.

Wal-Mart making a monopoly

On Oct. 20, a preventable tragedy happened in Stockton. The same fate is destined for Hemet in Southern California. Chico may be next.

Wal-Mart opened a Supercenter.

It’s not your regular economy-sucking chain, but the super-sized version.

Some of you may be wondering, why is this such a tragedy? After all, Wal-Mart gives us rolled-back prices every day and the people smiling at the door (not in the store or at the register), which must mean they’re happy.

Allow me to burst your bubble.

If you stop by the Chico Wal-Mart, you’ll see some of the newly released CDs and DVDs at amazing low-advertised specials. There are even receipts from competitors as proof. By the way, it is against store policy to use some sort of an aid to record the prices at Wal-Mart. Gotta use the ol’ brain for that.

There’s a sharp contrast a few miles down the road. In my hometown of Oroville the prices are low, but not nearly as low, which tends to go against the old formula of more population equals higher prices. Then again, there’s no real competition. But this is the progress Wal-Mart brings, right?

The wonderful rolled-back prices and the even lower wages and benefits (or lack thereof) the employees are given forced many small businesses out of business. The presence of Wal-Mart even made a few who were in good financial shape at the time cut their losses and close their doors. In fact, the only companies of significant size are the 8,000 drug stores in town (because they’re closer to the hospital) and two supermarkets (the niche a Supercenter would absorb). Those wonderful commercials never seem to show the Orovilles of the world.

Speaking of these commercials, they follow a very important rule I have: If a large company is trying to be friendly and personal, be afraid; be very afraid.

First, there’s the commercial with the elderly greeter and the gingerbread man. From what I can see, this is a little old man who has probably had his retirement taken from him by Enron. His job skills are probably not compatible with the rest of the technology in the store, but since he can say hello, he has his doorside job. I’m almost willing to bet my tuition next year that the gingerbread man is a hallucination induced by sitting in front of the cheap televisions in electronics during his breaks watching “Shrek.” But it’s worth the shiny penny he gets every week.

OK, maybe I’m being facetious. They don’t get minimum wage, but $8 to $10 an hour without paid benefits doesn’t scream home ownership or luxury expenses (i.e. food, water, gas, etc).

Speaking of benefits, let’s look at another ad that’s been floating around for a few months with the proud daddy who works for Wal-Mart and had his son’s medical expenses paid by his company insurance. What you don’t see is the employees having to pay for this coverage out of their low wages.

As a result of this wonderful program, University of California, Berkeley estimates Wal-Mart costs California $86 million a year in social programs it encourages its employees to use in place of actual insurance (by the way, Prop. 72 could help change this).

The planned Supercenter is going to be plopped on the family-owned-and-operated Sunset Hills Golf Course on the Esplanade. In order to create a community-oriented environment, I suppose they have to squash part of it. Let’s hope downtown Chico won’t drain like Oroville. Or maybe this can be stopped.

Daylight-saving takes a toll on sleepy time

I hate Benjamin Franklin.

Sure, “Poor Richard’s Almanac” is great and when he turns green he’s worth $100, but he’s made my life hell, and moved 2 a.m. from the spring to the fall, next to another 2 a.m.

Good ol’ Ben came up with this silly thing called daylight-saving time. It means we get a whole extra hour of daylight, or at least we’re told that. It really means we get rid of that light in the morning when we want to sleep in and stick it at the end of the day. Of course this makes as much sense as saving your breakfast eggs for dinner (this only applies to cooked eggs).

We needed that extra hour at night way back in the day to enjoy the warmth and light of summer outdoors because there were no light bulbs. Mr. Franklin just wanted to electrocute himself with a kite and let Edison do the hard work. Nowadays we can carry the magic of light with us.

Daylight-saving time is now nothing more than a nuisance. Fourth of July becomes a nightmare at my house, because we’re waiting for the sun to go down to set off the fireworks for the kids who are half-asleep by the time we start and the younger ones are completely out by the time we’re done.

DST is also a pain because it’s dark at 7 a.m. Two hours after morning purists say the day has started, the sun is having trouble rolling over. If the sun can’t deal with it, neither can I.

So I’m a little old fashioned and I can’t call a starry sky morning. Better times are on the way. In a few more days, time will start to make sense again. We’ll relax into a nice extra hour of sleep and refresh ourselves after nearly two-thirds of the semester is done.

After all, this is only a certain time of the year. It’s not like daylight-saving time isn’t universal. There is no religious conflict (except for the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Jews in Israel who recite prayers in the Jewish month of Elul).

Well, at least it’s an event all Americans take part in (except Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, most of the Eastern time zone, parts of Indiana, and Arizona (except for the Navajo Indian Reservation)). Other than that, it’s a fun time for all.

To be honest, the whole concept of daylight-saving time sounds like it comes straight out of the book of Revelation:

“And lo, one of the four beasts spoke, ‘Come and see.’ And I saw. Unto me was revealed a form of torture far more sinister than any ye may encounter under the canopy of the heavens. The damnation of man hath been spelled out before mine eyes; plans to make an hour of morning into an hour of evening for only a portion of days. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him” (Rev 6: 7, 7.5, 8).

So what hope do we have against this menace? The best advice I could give to a first-year student before registration opens is watch your times. If your earliest class this semester is at 9 a.m., push it back to 10 a.m. It is amazing the power that pushing time forward can have on a sleep cycle and the rest of the world. If you’re really unlucky and don’t take my advice, the bus you take in the morning will mysteriously appear five minutes earlier at its stop and Econ will be even more fun to take (sorry Professor Adams!).

For the rest of you, start writing letters and raising a fuss to your congressman. Maybe in the hunt for votes, they’ll adopt it as their cause and have a bill signed, sealed and vetoed before the November election, because it will remind President Bush of all his service in Vietnam, where they don’t have DST.

Wait a second. When was he in Vietnam…?

Public schools need help

I have spent my entire life in the California public education system.

Please save your apologies. I’ve heard enough from my professors and from my high school teachers. It’s the same old story: “It’s not your fault you suck, but we’re going to make you better.”

While my education was being sewn back together, there was a need for our children to be educated and politicians needed a good sound byte or two for their re-election. And thusly, “No Child Left Behind” was born. Unfortunately, for this to work, we need a couple of billion dollars that doesn’t exist, even though in 2000 we had a surplus. I keep hearing we’re “turning the corner,” but it looks like the only corner we’ve turned is a 180 to the economic crapper.

In order to understand this better, we need to take a trip in the WABAC machine to a time when we had more money. On June 7, 2001, three months prior to Sept. 11, President Bush signed a $1.35 trillion dollar tax cut with The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act.

Then the Great Presidential Excuse happened. I call it an excuse, because it’s the rationale for our sagging economy, a net loss in jobs (for the first time since the Great Depression) and Iraq.

Skip ahead to 2003 and you can find a $98 billion tax cut signed on January 7. Well, it cut $98 billion in 2003 and will cut $690 billion of tax income for the federal government in the next 10 years. This cut was the first cut we have ever had when we were at war.

It doesn’t take the sharpest person to realize if you cut the flow of money coming in (taxes) and you raise the amount of spending, it won’t be good.

According to toptips.com, the U.S. national debt is nearly $7.4 trillion. That’s $7,400 billion. The average family share in this debt is $117,066. The average US household income was $43,318 in 2003, according to the Economic Policy Institute. That’s almost one third of our spending!

This means we’ve managed to not only dump a record surplus, but fall into record debt.

This falls along the typical partisan lines. Democrats are tax, then spend. Republicans are cut tax, then spend, then cut programs for lack of funding (of course this doesn’t mean either side spends their money wisely).

Somehow, we’re going to take another couple of billion dollars and help our schools. Thanks to George W. Bush throwing money he couldn’t throw and the Democrats rolling over and playing dead at the sight of tax cuts, we don’t have a couple of billion dollars to spare. Eventually, “No Child Left Behind” will be quietly taken out back with a newly legalized AK-47.

But if this is so obvious and so (War on Terror) blatant, why hasn’t the media (gay marriage) figured this out? For some reason (terror alert: orange) they’ve been distracted (amendment to ban gay marriage) from (Vietnam) the iss-(Swift Boat Veterans For Truth)-ues.

The only thing we know is this administration has nothing to do with these distractions.