Saturday, April 30, 2011
What Did You Call Me?
Doomsday, Bimmer, Stosh, Neeta, Dooley, Foo, Pollywog, were all pleased and happy to have the acceptance of their new epithets. I was given a few different names, but the one that stuck was Caviar. I was grateful that some of the more demeaning attempts slipped through the cracks. On those rare occasions that reunions occur amongst the urchins from Garland Lane, I would expect to be greeted as "Cav."
As a grownup, I got a new nickname: "Mister Caven." It was my first principal's insistence that everyone on the staff refer to one another, even in meetings with no children present, in this very formal fashion. We got so immersed in this habit that during parties at my own home at the end of the year I could expect to hear, "Mister Caven, where do you keep the Margarita Mix?" And so it went for years and years until this year, when I was suddenly being addressed as "Mister C." It was very flattering to have that sense of inclusion once again. It was doubly nice since I am only familiar with two other men with the same nickname: Howard Cunningham, Richie's father on "Happy Days," and my father. Just like that, I'm back in the old neighborhood. Looking for Dooley and Fooj.
Friday, April 29, 2011
To which I nod and smile, since I know that it is not just our school, but schools around the country that are full of kids who are going to be leaving at any minute. That is, if the kids had anything to say about it. Which is why it was a surprise when Jessica just stopped coming right before Spring Break. There have been plenty of times when a kid was absent for a week or more, and then suddenly reappeared right before we were ready to drop them from our roll. I expected that to be the case with Jessica.
I thought this because Jessica is, for lack of a better term, a bit of a pill. A second grade girl who has been suspended more than once in a school year is going to be a handful. In Kindergarten she was cute as a button and rarely said a word. In first grade she started to show a bit of a precocious streak: elbows akimbo, exerting her will on the boys who would chase her. When she entered the second grade, the streak became much wider, to an extreme. She pinched and poked and stuck her tongue out. It stopped being cute. She also decided that no one could tell her what to do. That made teaching her more and more difficult. When she chewed through a cord on a pair of headphones in the computer lab, she shrugged her shoulders and waited for someone to come and replace the obviously defective headphones.
We got word this week that Jessica is gone. Sadly, no one seemed to notice. Her classmates were a notch calmer. The drama on the playground was stepped down a notch. And the wiring in the computer lab was safe. It was a relief. Maybe it was for her as well. Perhaps she found that school where kids really are encouraged to hit back, or to talk back to their teachers. Or maybe she's out there someplace pinching and gnawing all on her own. Aloha, Jessica.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
The Real Thing
If we wanted to see the present and the future, we might just have to head the other direction. That's where we would travel if we wanted to see Barack Obama's birth certificate up close and personal. No other document, even the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, has stirred up such a fuss in the past forty years. At last, we can settle in to the business of governance: balancing the budget, ending the wars, creating jobs, finding alternatives to fossil fuels, and of course, preparing for the next election.
If you were the trusting sort, you could simply look at the full birth certificate on Al Gore's Internet. You might be as "proud" as Donald Trump claimed to be at the release of this record of an event that happened almost fifty years ago. You might also go in the opposite direction and start generating conspiracy theories about the time it took to produce the certificate, and why we are only allowed to see copies of it. After all, you can do some pretty amazing things with Photoshop these days. But maybe if you really believe that the shark was attacking the Coast Guard helicopter, you should stay home in your basement and wait for the death squads to come and take your liver. We'll be in Washington D.C. looking at the past, and worrying about our future.
Oh, and this just in: Donald Trump's hair is not of this earth.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Anything Will Happen That Can
To suggest that Cub fans are a miserable lot is to miss the point: There are so very many other choices. It does require a certain amount of self-loathing mixed with a wondrous amount of optimism. It is with this odd confluence that I read an article explaining how, back in 1918, members of the Chicago Cubs conspired to their shot at the championship of the world. Eddie Cicotte, one of the infamous Black Sox from the south side of town who was banned from baseball after their tainted World Series against Cincinnati swore n a 1920 court deposition that "the boys on the club" talked about how a Cub or a number of Cubs were offered ten thousand dollars to throw the 1918 Series. Conspiring or not, they lost four games to two to the Boston Red Sox.
And so it gives me pause. As a kid my father took me to see the Cubs play in spring training, and years later when I was in college we watched them play an exhibition with the Denver Zephyrs, who were then the farm team for the Cubs. He got it from his father, who lived in a major-league free Kansas, back in the day. I learned about Ernie Banks and watched Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe. I tolerated Harry Caray's drunken enthusiasm from the broadcast booth. I knew that it would only be a matter of time. Those hapless football also-rans the Denver Broncos managed to win not one but two Super Bowls. The Boston Red Sox managed throw off their own much-ballyhooed curse and win a Series or two. Even the neophyte Colorado Rockies managed to appear in a World Series in the post-war era. I know, I know: which war, right? There have been a few since the last time the Cubbies landed in the big show. But it's spring, and there is hope in the air. Maybe this time someone will pay them to win a World Series.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I started thinking about when the last time my personal software had been updated. Not Windows or Mac, but my very own personal operating system. I know that I am due for a new version of fatherhood, or at least a patch for raising an adolescent. I have been pretty successful at archiving all the baby files, but I keep a backup on changing diapers and peekaboo for infant related emergencies.
My husband drive is working as well as can be expected, given the years of dedicated service it has given me. A disk cleanup might be in order, since I sometimes have difficulty accessing romantic impulses due to the number of daily practical chore programs that run day and night. Certainly there are times when my wife and I, acting as one another's external hard drives, could use a little defragmentation: This is your stuff, this is mine. But I guess that's what community property is all about, after all.
I'm getting regular updates to my teaching file, though there are times when I have trouble running the program. This is probably because the hardware itself is somewhat outdated and memory is being stretched to its breaking point even as we speak. It does help that I have more room for some of these files as I compress the fatherhood sectors just a little.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with the performance of my central processing unit, and as long as I continue to take care of my peripherals, I should be able to make this thing work for a few more years. Until I come in tablet form.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Vacate And Shun
I actually had a moment at one point in the middle of last week when I had to think about exactly which day it was. The prime time television schedule brought me back to my present. That let me know that I was starting to uncoil. It let me know that I could probably find a way to spend more than a week away from the routines I have set up for myself: six thirty alarm, ten after seven departure, the ride to school, and on and on. The things that give my life rhythm and let me know what happens next. The bells ringing in the background remind me of just how regimented my time really is.
And now the bell has rung for the final round of the school year. The one that has all the standardized testing. The one where the fifth graders start to look back longingly at life with recess. The one where all the kids look forward to next year's teacher. Teachers start to imagine what next year's class might look like. There's another break coming. The big one. The summer. But for now it's a steady march toward the middle of June, where the days are longer and the chance to forget the day of the week returns. Meanwhile, the vacation continues.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Professor Colin Humphreys, a scientist at the University of Cambridge in England, would like us all to know that the Last Supper was actually held on the Wednesday before Good Friday. For centuries, Christians have been the dinner party on the Thursday before the crucifixion. Getting this kind of news after two thousand years is bound to shake things up a little, right? Matthew, Mark and Luke all say the Last Supper coincided with the start of the Jewish festival of Passover, John claims it took place before Passover.
Who are you going to believe? First of all, they were all probably a little worse for wear after partaking of all that "blood." Secondly, the apostles were under a fair amount of stress back in those days. What had been a non-stop caravan of preaching and miracles was becoming a great big political mess. Humphreys makes the logical argument that all the events that occurred after the Last Supper would probably not have happened over the course of just one day. Then there was the confusion over which calendar was being used. The professor believes that Jesus was probably using the old-fashioned Jewish calendar, rather than the lunar calendar that is still in use today.
This doesn't even take into account how hard it is to get a table for thirteen on such short notice. Humphreys suggests for all of these reasons that he can pinpoint the date for Easter as the fifth of April. At last there would be a fixed day of the year for this celebration. The pagan origins of a vernal equinox celebration that was most likely co-opted by proto-Christians are not mentioned in his calculations. Or maybe it would make it easier to schedule spring vacations. Perhaps when he returns in just about a month, Jesus can fill us in on the details. Happy egg hunting!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
What Burns Me Up
For this reason I found the following headline refreshing: "Candles recalled because of fire risk." At last, a concrete example of how our government is looking out for us, the little people. Not content to simply accept the wisdom of our overlords, I decided that I should check out the details. The last time I checked, one of the features of your standard candle was fire. Were the wicks made from some sort of incendiary material that caused a jet of flame to erupt from your birthday cake? Maybe it was some sort of novelty gone horribly wrong. Upon further reading, I discovered that the cups holding the candles are made of plastic and were susceptible to melting or catching fire. I chose not to take offense with the misinformation I was presented with initially. The problem was in the container for the candle, not the candle itself. As long as the candle was carefully monitored, there would be no concern about the fire which would stay restricted to the part of the candle that is supposed to burn, and the melting would be limited to the wax that we have all traditionally come to expect.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission would like us all to know that there are seven million of these potential conflagrations among us, most of which came from Target and other discount retailers. Maybe the Trumps and Obamas of the world can afford to spend thirty-four dollars on their tea candles, but for now I'll stick with the cheap alternatives to heat my home.
Friday, April 22, 2011
While she was in a veto-ing kind of mood, she also struck down a bill that would have allowed students, faculty and visitors to carry guns on Arizona university campuses. Her primary concern with this one was that "it was so poorly written." The Republican dominated state legislature was anxious to keep pace with neighboring Utah, which already allows college kids to pack heat along with their biology textbooks. No lone gunman is going to storm into a classroom at the University of Utah and shoot the place up. Now it will be a semi-automatic free-for all whenever trouble arises. Maybe Ms. Brewer noticed that just down Interstate 10, a kindergartner accidentally shot three of his classmates after the gun he brought to school fell out of his pocket. Maybe she's just tired of competing with South Carolina for the most ridiculous state in the union.
Or maybe she's just gearing up her own presidential campaign for 2012. Like Doctor Thompson once wrote, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Stay tuned.