Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vote for Bart!

You may remember that a few days ago I withdrew from the 2012 presidential race (you can read about it in an earlier blog). However, my presidential exploration committee has been encouraging me to re-enter the race for the obvious reason that two and one-half Mormons in the race would be better than one and a half. I'll leave it up to you to figure out who the one-half is.

So to prepare for the grueling campaign, I have been having some practice sessions with my committee. They have been lobbing questions at me and then critiquing my responses. I thought it would be helpful--and most of the committee agrees with me--to seek some input on my responses from those who are likely to vote--that's you. Hopefully, you will be candid in your critique and at the same time send along a donation to the campaign.

Before reviewing the questions with you, I would like to introduce you to our campaign slogan, which is: "Vote for Bart!" That's it. Simple and to the point. I had actually wanted to make it "Vote for Bart--He's so Smart, he'll make you Part of America once more!" But in this, I was voted down. The committee felt that this second slogan was much too long, and they also worried that once you start making rhymes with a name like Bart, you could end up with some unintended consequences--like people substituting an "F" at either the start or end of the name, something the other kids at my elementary school figured out very quickly.

But back to the questions and answers.

Question #1: Professor Kowallis, what is your opinion on immigration?

My Answer: That's difficult to define. I'm more of just an American.

Question #2: Professor, what exactly do you mean by you're "just an American?"

My Answer: Well, it's kind of hard to define, but let me just say, however, that I'm not overly American.

Question #3: Professor, what about health care? Where do you stand on that issue?

My Answer: As you know, health care is somewhat difficult to define, but I'd have to say that I do care about health. Absolutely! No wishy-washiness here! I do care. That's not to say that I am overly caring, however. I've got just the right amount of caring about health care.

Question #4: One last question professor. What would you do about terrorists?

My Answer: Yes...terrorists. What exactly is a terrorist? That's not easy to define. But if you pressed me, I would have to say that I am not overly fond of terrorism. That's not to say that these individuals don't have a role in the overall global picture, but--if you could really define what a terrorist is--then I would probably stand firmly on the side of not being overly fond of them.

Well, I think that gives you a good flavor of the direction the campaign is headed. We really appreciate your support (although I don't want you to think that we are overly appreciative) and we have obviously taken some firm stands on the issues (at least those issues that we can actually define). So, please send your comments and donations on to my campaign committee and "Vote for Bart!"

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Into the Field!

Spring, I think, has finally arrived and that can mean only one thing...geologists will be out crawling around the outcrops (for those of you who don't know what an outcrop is, it's a place where there are rocks exposing themselves for geologists to gawk at). I once took my daughter Leanna on a field trip with me to Rio de Janeiro. Leanna is not a geologist and so she found it amusing and a little disturbing to see a bunch of grown men sprawled out on the ground with tiny magnifying lenses looking intently at a slab of rock. It probably didn't help that we were sprawled out in a fairly busy tourist attraction with a lot of other people milling around.

Anyway, I am once again diverting from my main topic. Yesterday and today I have been "out in the field" with a bunch of geologists (actually most of them are paleontologists, a special brand of geologist). And it has been loads of fun. We started yesterday in Wyoming (what could be more fun than Wyoming?). Now, before I go to far with the fun, you should remember that for the past week it has rained almost every day. So, yesterday just to keep up appearances, it rained on us a bit and, of course, that meant that the rocks were wet. Wet rocks aren't necessarily a bad thing except with this group we weren't looking at the sort of things most people think of when they think of rocks. With a little water added, these rocks had turned into a very sticky and sometimes soupy mud.

But not to be deterred, our faithful trip leaders plunged on. At our first stop, I ended up sliding sideways down the hill so that, not only were my boots coated with mud, but so were my jeans and coat. Why, you might ask, was I wearing a coat in the lovely springtime weather. The answer is that I was wearing a coat because we were in Wyoming. Wyoming is our own local version of Siberia, except Siberia is warmer and has less wind. The wind, you see, never stops blowing in Wyoming. We could, I believe, power most of the United States energy needs if we would just cover the state in windmills. I understand that they've actually started to do that in a few places across the state.

Anyway we made it through the first day with some very interesting stops at Church Rocks and Jackson Ridge, sites of some of the most famous collections of Tertiary mammals just off the Oregon/Mormon Trail. Then this morning we headed out bright and early again.

Unfortunately, the mud hadn't disappeared overnight. This mud thing is pretty common with geology trips and is one of the main reasons you don't want to mention that you are a geologist to a rental car company. At our second or third stop, I forget exactly which one, we managed to get one of the vans stuck, which allowed us an hour of pleasant entertainment, something that is essential on a field trip. People were taking pictures of the stuck van, making stuck van jokes, and one of the leaders even got to roll in the mud in order to attach a tow rope to the van while the rest of us huddled together for warmth like penguins in the Antarctic. Then, because there were about 7 other vehicles lined up behind the one that got stuck, all the rest had fun backing up for about a half mile to a place that was safe to turn around. We didn't actually get to the outcrop at that stop, which was very unfortunate because I understand that it had a very nice layer of altered volcanic ash (altered volcanic ash is kind of my specialty).

The day finished, on a high note, however, as we were able to move south from Wyoming and into Utah where the sun was actually shining and the wind was only a light breeze. Then, late in the day someone found a carnivore skull that was about 45 million years old. If my daughter had only been there to see us all crowding around the find, I think she would have been proud of me, because after a quick look, I went off to hunt for volcanic ashes rather than sprawl out like most of the others gawking at the death scene of some 45-million-year-old animal.

(You can view pictures of this fun trip at

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Never give a boy scout 40 boxes of candy to sell

Moms...Dads...and assorted other family members and friends. It's that season of the year when your boy's scout troop will start raising money for camp. Or if you don't have boys in scouts, then you will probably have kids who will be trying to raise money for band or sports or for the chess club's important trip to London to watch the 2012 World Chess Championship. Even if you have no kids you will undoubtedly have several stop by your residence asking for donations.

Fundraising is an honorable tradition that should not be neglected. I participated in several of these fundraisers as a young boy and they taught me so much about life. The first one of these that I remember was indeed to raise money for scout camp. Our troop had decided to sell candy. What could be easier to sell than candy? Everybody loves the stuff and back in the 1960's we weren't worried about all this modern 'heart healthy', 'low cholesterol', 'refined sugar' business. No, back then we were actually more concerned about keeping our dentists gainfully employed.

Anyway, at one troop meeting the candy arrived and I was sent home with about forty boxes of candy to sell. There were chocolate covered peanuts and fruit jellies and several other varieties. I was sure it would not be a problem for me to sell my quota. In fact, I was so confident that I would make enough for camp, that I opened a box of the fruit jellies and ate them. I'd still have plenty with the proceeds from the other 39 boxes to cover my camp needs and have a little extra to spare, so why not enjoy some of the fruits of my (future) labors.

Over the next couple weeks I did manage to sell a box to my mother and another one to my grandmother, but I never found time to really get out and canvas the town. Besides, other boys from the troop must have hit up all the houses in our small town during those first few days. I'd just wait until the townspeople had finished off their first purchases and then I'd swoop in for the second round.

A funny thing was happening, however, and even though I knew it was happening, it was occurring so slowly that I really didn't pay much attention to it. You see, my pile of candy boxes was getting smaller and smaller. I mean, I did have a few pieces every night before bed, and maybe a couple in the morning after breakfast, but I never took any to school. Who would have thought that in four weeks time I could eat 38 boxes of candy?

I guess it didn't really hit home until I had finished the last box. Now I had a problem. Where was I going to get the money to pay for camp? In addition, there was the small issue of paying back the troop for the money they had invested in the candy. It's unclear in my memory where this money came from. I may have blotted this unpleasantness out of the old memory banks. But I suspect that some probably came out of my savings account, which never had more than about twenty dollars in it, and the rest from my parents.

The important thing is that I learned some great lessons from all of this...although I'm not really sure what those lessons were. I still went to camp, after all, and the candy was pretty tasty.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mr. President...

After giving it a lot of thought, I have decided that...and I know this will disappoint many of you...I will not be running for President this year. It's not because I don't think I have the qualifications. I am, after all, an Eagle Scout; I was president of the German Club in High School; and I received an "Honorable Mention" ribbon for my Hubbard squash at the Hooper Tomato Days celebration in 1962. I think that easily beats out the qualifications of our last two presidents.

No, after discussing this at length with my presidential exploration committee, I have determined that, even though I have all the qualities that would make a great president, I simply won't be able to get the votes because of one fatal flaw...I don't have the right hair for the job.

I mean just look at the possible contenders. First, of course, there's Mitt Romney. I don't believe anyone has ever photographed Mitt with a single hair out of place. Even those photos where it looks like his hair is blowing in the breeze have to be staged. You know, they get some stylist to come out and fix his hair so it looks like its blowing in the wind. There can't be any other explanation.

Even if I did manage to get past Romney, I'd still have to deal with Donald Trump, who, let's face it, would get more press in the first week of the campaign on just his hair than I would get during the entire race. And it's not really fair because Donald's hair is, well...atrocious was the word I was going to use, but that didn't seem strong enough.

Then--as my committee pointed out--even if by some miracle the press decided not to report on Donald's hair and instead to focus on the actual qualifications and positions of the candidates, allowing me to overcome the odds and get into the finals, there is still President Obama. Not only does the President have a full head of hair, but apparently voters think he is cute as well. And even though my daughter Melanie tells me I'm cute occasionally, I don't think she means it in a Barack Obama sort of way.

So, my dear friends and supporters, I am withdrawing my name from contention. Don't give up hope, however. I have scheduled an appointment with my doctor to see if perhaps he can recommend someone who could transplant a patch of the extra hair that seems to be all over my back onto the top of my head. Watch out contenders! I may be back yet.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

On My Honor, I Will Do My Duty...

It has been an interesting week with all of the news of Osama and Obama and Navy Seals and, of course most importantly, Kate and William. Everyone seems to be doing their best to do their duty.

My problem is that, even at 58, I can't think of that word, "duty," without bringing up memories of my childhood. Parents, as you probably already know, are an interesting group of people. They often do things that they think are good for their children, but which in reality end up scarring them for life. My daughter Leanna, I think, blames all of her relationship issues on the fact that I once went into the high school gym to pick her up from a dance rather than wait for her in the car. I guess some of the boys saw this freaky looking older guy inside the gymnasium and it affected their worldview in such a way that they never again wanted to go to a high school dance and stand around like a bunch of hyenas waiting for dinner.

My son Karl reminds me frequently of the deep scars that still remain from the night I threw his shoes out on the front lawn. I did it, yes, I admit that I did. And at the time it seemed like a sensible thing to do. I was trying to teach him something--don't leave your shoes in the middle of the floor for so many days that they have become the permanent homes for assorted field mice and pocket gophers. The only problem was that it didn't work. Karl never did pick up his shoes (he was, I assume, too scarred at that point to make it out onto the porch to get the shoes). I eventually went out and brought them back in myself because I was feeling sorry for the field mice, and I didn't want to have to end up buying him a new pair of shoes.

Well, this brings us back to my childhood. My parents--loving people that they were--didn't want my tender ears and delicate tongue to be offended by hearing or saying a word like "poop." So, to protect me, they decided to teach me that when I had to go number two in the potty, it was to be called "doing my duty." Seems like an innocent enough thing to do, but it had terrible consequences. You see, by age 8 I was old enough to be enrolled in Cub Scouts. It was an exciting time. I was looking forward to endless afternoons building speedy pinewood derby cars (I was unaware at the time that the dads actually built all the cars) and being able to dress up smartly in my uniform to receive all kinds of awards, badges, buttons, and pins.

I am sure you can imagine my horror when, on the first day of Cub Scouts, we were told to raise our arms to the square and repeat after our leader the words, "On my honor, I will do my duty..."

So, parents please be cautious about the well-meaning, but often life-scarring things you do to your children. What you do may be emblazoned upon their memories for the rest of their lives.