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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Last day of July. Whew! the summer is going fast. Still no tomatoes, but they're on the way. Lovely Daughter had her first cheerleading gig this morning. It was a rally for the tax levy we'll be voting on August 3rd. All the usual suspects were there. Big Scary Wolf, Sponge Bob and Crazy Injun who tried to hit me up for wampum.

Scary Wolf Crazy Injun Whoooo lives in a pineapple under the sea....

There were also speakers and cheerleaders. We saw many friends and generally had a good time.

Rah, rah, sis boom bah! Hey, what's that guy talking about blah, blah, blah

I went in fairly agnostic on the issue, in fact I was planning on voting for it--now I'm not so sure. The school district has been inundating us with all these doom and gloom scenarios that if they don't get the increase they will have to eliminate:

And on and on... As a conservative, I have a knee-jerk reaction to voting "No" against any proposed tax increase. I voted against a similar proposal several months ago. Since this is a fairly conservative area, I believe that many proposed increases are defeated in this manner. However this time I was prepared to vote for the levy. Primarily because I was listening to the rhetoric. Also because L.D.'s continuing cheerleading depends on passage of the levy. I was a little dissatisfied with the lack of specificity at the rally, but alas, perhaps they were preaching to the choir. Most of the people there were also prepared to volunteer and canvass door-to-door.

I got home and decided to do a little research. First, I downloaded the Missouri School Directory data files which include tax levys and property valuation for the 525 school districts in the state. Unless I'm mistaken, the tax levy multiplied by the valuation should result in district revenue generated from such levies. Total students in the district were also included in the data files so that the revenues could be normalized on a per student basis. A little sorting, multiplying, and dividing revealed the following results:

I'm actually glad I went to the rally. It caused me to ask some questions I otherwise might not have. Based on my analysis, I cannot say that this district is significantly underfunded.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Final Examination

BoyHead is due to get his driver's license in October and we've been practicing now for about 10 months. He had completed the instructional portion of the Livingston Driver's School, but had yet to take the Final Exam. That happened this past weekend.

Off we go to Chicago

The Mission: Plot the course and make the drive from St. Louis to Chicago (and back).

The Objectives:

Grading: Pass/Fail. No retakes.

Sounds a bit rough perhaps, but this is life and death stuff. It was a "live-fire" exercise so I did allow some variance with speed limits. After all, I'm sure he's not gonna be tooling down the interstate at 55mph when dear old dad is not in the car. Better to have "real world" experience.

Back Roads (how did I get this particular shot?  Don't ask. From the top of the tower Driving into the city

Actually, we had a fabulous time. BoyHead is an excellent driver and he takes instruction quite well. We departed the homestead at 0800 on Saturday. 8 hours on backroads! Enough is enough. Find us an interstate. So we hopped on I-80 and buzzed into town. First we went straight to the lakefront to have a look around. What a sight. Beautiful day. People everywhere. We got slightly lost, but BoyHead maintained composure. Keep drivin' til you know where you are, I say. We arrived at our hotel at 1800 (that's 6:00 p.m. for you civillians). After a quick regrouping and change of clothes we were out on the town. That night I drove; no sense tempting fate. First, we went to the Sears Tower. Hour and a half wait. By the time we got to the top it was already twilight--we got some great pictures though. (I posted a low-resolution one, but if you have a high-speed connection check out here and here and here.

Sir and BoyHead at the top of the Sears Tower Navy Pier Cool fountain

Left the tower around 8:30 and took a cab to the Navy Pier. I heard it was a good place to go (hat tip: Cousin Scott) but I had no idea what to expect. Fishermen? Boats? Sailors? Oh nay. Restaurants, Beer Garden, Live Bands, Theatre, Amusement Park. BoyHead and I strolled to the end of the pier taking in the sights and sounds. The weather was excellent--in the 60's with a northeast breeze. We had a late dinner at the Mexican Cantina on the pier. We had an upstairs table on the outside patio. The carne asada was a must. As we were finishing, there was a fireworks show and we had great seats. Excellent!! We got back to the hotel around midnight and fell asleep immediately.

BoyHead and Sir near the planetarium move a little more to your left Sears Tower

Sunday morning it was time for a walkabout along the lakefront. I just wouldn't have felt complete without it. I wouldn't have had the complete Chicago experience. Weather was perfect (low 70's and sunny). Walked by the aquarium and the planetarium. Didn't go in. Not enough time. (if you say that really slow, you can sound like Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise: not-enough-time) We strolled until about noon and then it was time to go. We got about 1/2 hour out of the city and we were famished. We didn't have breakfast, so we decided to stop and have a good sit down lunch--no fast food for my brood. We stopped at Chili's in Downers Grove, IL. Love those bloomin' onions. We got back on the highway only to encounter a severe wreck (complete with closures in both directions and life flight helicopters) about 1/4 mile ahead of us. We were stopped for 45 minutes and were told it would be another 2-3 hours. We proceeded to do a "Fred Flintstone" (think, lift car and turn 180 degrees) and find an alternate route. So a quick five hour trip turned into seven-plus. BoyHead handled it all well, though. He got us there and back in one piece. By the way, he passed. Look for him in early October on a road near you.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Seats about 12,000

It's a Tradition

Our summer tradition here is St. Louis is The Muny. It's the nations oldest and largest outdoor theatre. It's been in operation since 1917. This is the fourth (fifth?) year that we've had season tickets. I had a brilliant idea to buy Lovely Wife the tickets for her birthday one year, so now I have birthdays figured out for as long as we're in Saint Louis. The way I look at it, I put enough thought into that first year to last me at least 10 years. There are seven shows each summer. So far there have been four this summer: Meet me in St. Louis, Cats, Annie and Breakfast at Tiffany's. We still have The Music Man, Guys and Dolls and 42nd Street to look forward to.

Monday, July 5th, 2004

All of that is mosaic More mosaics Today, the girls (L.W., L.D., and Cindy-Lou) went to the Cathedral Saint Louis. Neither words nor pictures can adequately describe it. Here's a blurb from the Cathedral website:

This is the largest mosaic collection in the world created by 20 different artists and covering 83,000 square feet. The installation, containing 41.5 million pieces of glass tesserae employing over 7,000 colors, began in 1912 and was completed in 1988 by the Ravenna Mosaic Co.

LD in front of the Cathedral The Girls

The pictures of the Cathedral are OK, but these are the pictures that really interest me.

Sunday, July 4th, 2004

Happy Fouth of July Everyone. Here are the complete Fourth of July Celebrations.

L.D. is in the middle

Saturday, July 3rd, 2004

LW's latest effort

Lovely Wife has been quite busy. Here is her latest effort. She has painted a picture for a friend of hers. The whole family are avid golfers, so she has taken individual photos of them and put them on the links. Very good, I think.