Why, Oh, Why Did These Two Have To Die?

The news was not good today.  An article in this morning’s Houston Chronicle hit me hard.  At only 13 years old, Asher Brown, a middle school student in the Cy-Fair school district in which I live took his own life, probably as a result of his being bullied because he was thought to be gay.  Then only minutes later I see in a breaking news article that there is a shooter somewhere on the campus of UT-Austin.

What is it in a young boy that would cause him not to want to live?  What’s happened to schools?  His parents said they had been reporting the bullying to school officials and nothing had been done.  I looked up the district’s safety pledges for students, and they seem to be good ones.

From the Cypress-Fairbanks I.S.D. Student Code of Conduct 2010-2011:

Secondary Safety Pledge
Recognizing that every student has the right to a safe environment where everyone is treated with respect:

  • I understand that I have an essential role in school safety and violence prevention.
  • I will immediately report any threats of violence, suicide, presence of weapons, explosives or drugs to school administrators, allowing them to investigate and determine the seriousness of the report.
  • I will do all I can to stop harassment of others.
  • I will promote the acceptance of individual differences, recognizing that diversity contributes to the strength of my school.

What the school did to prevent this situation, we don’t know.  What kind of home life this boy had we don’t know.  What we know is that this boy used a gun that he got from his step-father’s closet.

Then in Austin, we find out that the shooter, Colton Tooley, used an AK-47 to kill himself in one of the libraries on campus.

Why are guns so easily accessible to kids?  Why does any private person need a gun like an AK-47 or bigger?

I’m not against having guns.  But why do some people need so many guns?  Why does anyone except for the military or a S.W.A.T. team need large automatic or semi-automatic weapons?   Estimates say that “there are about 80 million gun owners in America with a combining total of 258 million guns.”   That means that the average gun owner has 3 guns, but I’m betting that many of these 80 million just have 1 gun, and about 25% have a lot more than 3 guns.  Our population is about 350 million people, so if there are 260 million private guns out there;  that’s still more than enough for each adult to have one if the guns were just divvied up.  (Make note that the powerful anti-gun control lobbying group, the NRA (National Rifle Association) has only 4.3 million members.)

I know you could never take guns away from gun owners, but what could be done is put a moratorium on the manufacture of guns for a couple of decades.  We really just don’t need any more guns being made.  There are enough.

What there aren’t enough of are details in either case to lay direct blame for these tragedies.  One thing is certain, though, when a 13-year old and a 19-year-old find reason to take their own lives and have such easy access to guns, it seems like we do not live in a very nice country.

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Wednesday Wanderings: Blue Fleece Pants, Christmas Road Trip, Swimming, and Bowl Games

Cold, clear day for a road trip on I-35

Taking out Annie in the morning has definitely changed since I moved to my house, especially during cold weather.  When I lived in my apartment, I’d wake up, get dressed in jeans, shirt, jacket or coat, and maybe even gloves and a ski cap.  Then I’d get the leash on Annie, and we’d go down the three flights, and finally, out to the sidewalk, and walk to the corner.  Now I pull on my fleece pants and a sweatshirt, and we slip down the stairs and out the back door.  I look at my plants while Annie finishes her “business” and back inside we go.  With the 8-foot fence, we’re protected from any wind or neighbor’s view, so it doesn’t matter that I’m still wearing my fuzzy fleece pants with the blue and white snowflakes.

So here I am still in my fleece pants happily thinking about the upcoming New Year’s Day and that I’m in my own cozy home after a Christmas road trip to Kansas.  We made the trips going and coming back each in a one day, but while the drive up to central Kansas never seems too long, the return always becomes drudgery, especially the last boring leg from Dallas to Houston.  I’m sure the reason the trip up is better because of the anticipation of the arrival and seeing family and the old home state.  This time, we had good weather driving through Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas both ways, but the snowy effects of the winter storm that went through the region were evident all the way from near Wichita into Denton, Texas, where the last remnants lay in the ditches and shaded areas.

Despite the cold wintry weather, we had a very pleasant Christmas.  It was the first Christmas that I had spent together with all my siblings since I was a kid out on the farm and the first time that we had all been together since my mom’s funeral last November.  It was an enjoyable time because it was one of the times when aside from the holiday itself, there was no stressful reason for us all to get together.

The red and gold rug looks great at the entry

I hit the jackpot when it came to presents this year.  Everyone was thinking about my new house, and the gift cards to Home Depot and Lowe’s will definitely be put to good use.  I also got sets of screwdrivers and other tools that I will use.  I’ve been saying, “When you have a house, you never seem to have enough screwdrivers.”  I guess everyone had been reading my mind.  I also got a nice rug that matches the colors of my living room–red and gold.  There was a bit of color planning, but part of it has just been evolution.

One of my current do-it-yourself projects

I had been looking for a coffee table, but a bench I had seemed to be just the thing.  It’s the second “project” that I’ve been working on in my garage.  (I realize now that I am going to enjoy having a garage more than just for parking the car.)   I picked up the bench from a what-not shop at leat ten years ago.  I used stain, both latex and acrylic paint, and now I am finishing it with coats of polyurethane so that it will take the hard use I’ll give it in front of my sofa.  Actually, I’m surprised at how nice it has turned out.  Maybe I’ve got a knack!

Having a coffee table is a definite necessity for a place to put the remote controls and the munchies when it’s time to watch the bowl games, and I will be watching them until the last one is over.  This thing with Texas Tech’s football coach is something else.  Well, just as I’m writing this, I checked ESPN and see that Mike Leach has been fired.  I couldn’t see how they could let him get away with that, but coaches have done this sort of thing for a long time and for many there are no repercussions because of how much power these guys (and women, in some sports) wield.  How is it that in many states the football coaches of public universities are the highest paid state employees?  Mack Brown of the University of Texas makes $5.1 million.  I don’t care whether football pays for itself or not; there is something wrong when an employee makes more than the bosses, in this case the president of the university or even the governor of Texas.

Nathan Adrian helped Team USA win Duel in the Pool

With all the preparations for the Christmas trip, I missed out on the swimming news (not even on ESPN information banner), but Team USA won big over a European team made up of top swimmers from Great Britain, Italy, and Germany at the Duel in the Pool in Manchester, England on December 18th and 19th.  One of the big winners in the event was Nathan Adrian, who became the first American to swim under 21 seconds in the 50-meter freestyle race and helped the U.S. team set a world record in the 400 free relay.

OK, I suppose now it’s time to get out of these blue fleece pants and hit the shower before the day gets away from me.

Gay Marriage–Why It Would Be Good for College Football

It’s the first big weekend of college football, and since I upgraded my cable, I can’t believe all the games and scores I can get at the same time. Pretty soon, my thumb is going to need a sling because of so much channel flipping.

I really love college football, the whole thing–the game itself, the bands, the fans, the cheerleaders–all of that rah-rah-rah. Sometimes, though, that high level of testosterone and the arrogance it seems to bring about just is about too much to watch. I think a good gay marriage would be the best antidote to keep some of those involved with college football more bearable to be around.

First, I’d marry off Coach Bob Stoops of the University of Oklahoma. He’s fine to look at, but that attitude of his could use some toning down. Anderson Cooper of CNN would be the perfect match for Stoops. That soft-spoken southern charm would be just the chill pill for Stoops. And think about the great looking kids they’d have to boot.

The second one I’d marry off is almost older than football itself–Coach Joe Paterno of Penn State. I think he started coaching when there were still only 48 states. There’d be no better husband for Paterno than Sir Ian McKellan. The Wizard could conjure up a golden-years’ fantasy honeymoon that would surely get rid of Paterno’s grumpiness. In case the couple needed a little extra “sumpin-sumpin”, maybe they could look up one of those Nebraska wrestlers who got themselves a bit of fame on camera. One of them is somewhere up in Pennsylvania these days.

The last one that needs a gay wedding is Bevo, the longhorn mascot of the University of Texas. No one is sure if he could actually consummate any marriage because Bevo is a steer, isn’t he? Never mind that. Bevo’s perfect mate? One of the gay penguins. The warmth and attention the penguin shows for his eggs and chicks might help make ol’ Bevo a kinder, gentler soul, once he felt the love coming his way–not to mention toning down that god-awful burnt orange he’s been wearing season after season. A bit of the penguin’s fashion sense might get even an old steer like Bevo to have a bit of style for a change.

I’d say we’re way overdue for a gay marriage or two in college football. If Boston College plays USC or UCLA this year, who knows? It might happen.