Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Sorry Charlize

 How many times have I watched Charlize Theron die? Specifically, I wondered this as I watched her in Old Guard, an adaptation of a comic book in which she plays an immortal warrior. An immortal warrior who can be killed over and over, then rejuvenated and sent back into whatever fray history has them taking part. So here's your spoiler alert, of sorts: She and her compatriots are riddled with bullets in the first few minutes of the film. Really gory stuff. Charlize is laying flat with a bullet hole in her head, then slowly she blinks, shakes it off and the hole begins to heal. Moments later she is up and kicking and shooting and slashing her way through what we can only assume are "the bad guys." 

Then the movie goes on for another two hours or so, with plenty of blood spilled and limbs hacked at and bullets fired. But since she's the star, and an executive producer, we don't expect her to be part of the nameless pile of bodies that continues to stack up as the story progresses. Which led me to the next question: How many times have I watched Charlize Theron kill

Not as many as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not as many as Bruce Willis. A whole lot fewer than Clint Eastwood. And yet, I was confounded by the notion that this is a way that we can announce that women are finally getting their due in Hollywood: body count. I know that I am thinking more about this since I started reading and thinking about our worship of guns and violence. More to the point, I was reconsidering my own place in the matter of guns and violence. I can remember feeling so clever when I was still quite young, pointing out to anyone who would listen, that this or that movie was unrealistic because the good guys never ran out of bullets. There was no reloading. That point has been addressed patiently and methodically in all manner of action movies since then. My wife noted that she had her own passing familiarity with how to reload a semi-automatic handgun from just watching characters in moview do it. Over and over. Thanks for the small arms training, Hollywood. 

Then there's the matter of the damage done by guns big and small. It used to be that simply clutching one's chest and falling down in a heap was enough evidence for us to believe that you were dead. Bullet holes have given way to exploding heads and exit wounds that have been deemed realistic by forensic specialists. Sure, it's make believe, but without a certain amount of guts spilled, you wouldn't ever believe that Charlize Theron had been shot in the head, and then got up to mangle those responsible for it. Maybe the romance of a sucking chest wound has diminished for me over time. 

I think this is a good thing. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Keepin' It Real

 Sometimes I refer to myself as "the utility infielder" for my elementary school. For those of you unfamiliar with the inner workings of baseball, this is a player who shows competency at a number of different positions, giving coaches options when it comes to moving folks around. Over the course of my career, I have filled in at every grade level. I know where the kitchen is, and how to get the ladder out of the room where the water heater is. I have answered the phones and taken attendance. I have opened the gates and swept the floors. I have watched over recess and shooed stray dogs off the playground. I spent a few years teaching fourth grade, but mostly I have been the computer teacher. And lately, the PE teacher. 

It is probably because of all this moving around that, from time to time, I have not been included on notices for "real teachers." Not having a group of students that I supervise for most of the day leaves me with this asterisk that does not allow me to be eligible for some of the perks and information available to "real teachers." 

Which, over the years, I have learned is fine with me. I tend to prefer the big picture, and even though this tends to get me the kind of attention that requires me to be the guy who takes his keys downstairs to open the third grade room for the substitute when I would perhaps prefer to be sitting at my desk planning for the events in my own day, I can live with that. 

Because teachers burn out. Especially "real teachers." Some have moved on to other schools. Other careers. Some have gotten married and started families and left the grind of elementary education behind. What keeps me coming back is the way there is always something left to do. When it's time to go home for the day, or at the end of the week, or even at the end of the year, in my mind there is a to-do list that stretches on into the distance. We're going to need that ladder again. The lunch lady is out. A first grader threw up in the hallway. Somebody needs to cover first grade until the teacher gets there. 

And somebody's got to teach PE. And computers. There has never been a utility player named MVP, and that's fine with me. I'm not in it for the trophies. I'm in it for the chance to get up on the roof from time to time.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Danger, Will Robinson!

 It may be a pure coincidence that as I stumbled on this article about Tesla that, in the background, Billy Joel's song "Shameless" was playing. The story was about how Elon Musk's company wants an advocacy group take down videos of its vehicles striking child-size mannequins, alleging the footage is defamatory and misrepresents its most advanced driver-assistance software. 

So let's back up half a step. Tesla, along with a few other car manufacturers, have been working on developing software and hardware that will allow their vehicles to drive themselves. I am personally fond of the ones that have creates systems that enable hands-free parallel parking. That one portion of the driver's license test terrified me. Little did I know that my examiner would skip that portion of the exam and I would fail miserably because I turned from a one way street into oncoming traffic. I would imagine that a pinch of common sense would have saved me there. No need for auto-pilot. 

But are we really ready for artificial intelligence to take over our commutes? Isn't this precisely the scenario or which our robot overlords have been waiting? 

And while we're on the subject, I was reminded of a phrase I read earlier this week. A reporter was asked about the leaning toward catastrophe in media, to which he responded, "We don't go to the airport to cover landings." 


Which is why a series of videos where expensive experimental robot cars running over child-size mannequins gets so much play. Supporters of Tesla have suggested recreating the demonstrations, sometimes involving real children, in an effort to show that Tesla's software does actually work.

What could go wrong? 

Well, once you know that the head of this "advocacy group" is none other than tech founder and billionaire Dan O'Dowd, whose own work in operating systems for planes and cars could be seen as direct competition for Tesla's. 

Or maybe Dan and Elon are both robots, and their plan proceeds apace. 

Stay tuned. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022


 There is a scene early on in the movie Rocky where the titular character decides not to break the thumbs of a dock worker who has gotten behind on his payments to Rock's boss. He figures that if the dock worker's thumbs are broken, then there's no way he can repay his debt. Later, when he relates this to his boss, Mister Gazzo, he is berated for such an action. "Let me do the thinking," he is told just before he is left once again standing out on the curb. 

In this model, the dock worker is anyone being crushed by student loan debt, and Mister Gazzo is all those companies charging ridiculous interest on those loans. However, this time Rocky is Joe Biden and he happens to also be President of the United States. When he decided to forgive student loans, it's Mister Gazzo who is left standing out on the curb. 

The high cost of education is evidenced in the eighteen percent rise in tuition and fees over the past ten years. Interest rates for loans on those costs range from just over three percent to fourteen percent. The average student loan is paid off in twenty-one years. Companies that hand out these loans suggest that you could be out of the shadow of their loans in ten or eleven years. The reality is twice that. In true loan shark fashion, most institutions allow a six month grace period in which the newly minted college graduate looks for a job. If you're lucky you find a starting position somewhere that will pay you enough to compete with the interest rate they locked in when they started school. When they were a teenager, for the most part. 

So, there are some people who would like to blame the ones who took those loans in the first place. Like those who got themselves into home loans they couldn't afford before the housing bubble burst. Paying interest upon interest is a game only the house wins. College graduates enter the work world without any choice about stimulating the economy. They are, for give the allusion, stimulating Sallie Mae. Or any one of the multitude of creditors who are happy to sign you up to a lifetime of repayments. 

Then along comes Joe Biden, with an idea based on most every left-leaning type who has looked at the situation over the past twenty years. How about we just release these wage slaves, and get them back to living lives out of the shadow of their education? Of course, there are those who would argue against spending the money to hang these same people with a new rope who insist that it's not fair that some people paid off their student loans themselves, and there are plenty of people who didn't even need that assistance in the first place. What about them?

Well, as many people who have experienced this question, I can say, "So?" I was extremely fortunate. My parents were very clever with the extra money they had and negotiated two college degrees for their sons. The third went on tour with a rock band from his hometown, missing the trifecta. But that doesn't mean any of us view this move by the federal government as a slap in the face. It is a realization of the potential of our government and its power. Used for good. 

And we didn't have to break any thumbs. 

Saturday, August 27, 2022


 Taking a sabbatical. That sounds nice, doesn't it? While mired in a life full of family, career and life expectations that are sometimes difficult to meet, take a break. For a month or two. Maybe a year. Whatever it takes to get your hash settled so that you can come back to your job feeling refreshed and ready to take on those challenges that made the wish for what comes next. 

Tom Brady, once and future quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just did that for a couple weeks. Far from being the busiest time of the year, Tommy Touchdown left training camp in the second week of August, missing the first two of three preseason games. His coach insisted, “Tom has been excused today. He’ll be taking—he’ll be back somewhere around after Tennessee. He’s going to deal with some personal things.” He'll play in what is a formality of the last of the tune-ups before the games start to count. Will any of his teammates who had to suffer through all the practices, preparation and collisions that occurred during those trying weeks in their leader's absence? Time will tell. And speaking of time, it is important to keep in mind that at the ripe old age of forty-five, after twenty seasons of professional football he might just have this quarterback thing down. He decided to come out of a self-imposed retirement to play "one more" year. Everyone should be grateful, right?

If he wins another Super Bowl. Then this might become standard practice, or lack thereof. 

Meanwhile, back here in the Oakland Unified School District, the financially strapped and always challenging organization for which I work, our Superintendent is taking a three month sabbatical. A three month sabbatical that happens to coincide with the beginning of this school year. As OUSD continues to find its financial footing, with the plan to close schools, and a global pandemic that has not "just gone away," the School Board has sent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell off on some good old fashioned paid time off. The board states that this break is necessary to keep her from being burned out by the pressures that inherent with the job. They want to make sure that she will come back invigorated and enthused to meet the rest of her contract. The one the board just extended through June of 2025. The hope, according to the Board, is to increase "leadership stability." And you may wonder if this wish for stability extends beyond the Superintendent. 

Meanwhile, the board plans to close down our school. The substitute Superintendent, who is receiving a bump in pay to take on the extra responsibilities, probably won't have much to say on that matter. As long as we end up winning another Super Bowl. 

Friday, August 26, 2022

Fill A Hole

 There is an organization, based out of Colorado Springs and Philadelphia, called RAWTools. They are in the business of beating swords into plowshares. Or, more accurately, turning guns into garden tools. They take donated guns, melt them down, and pound them into shapes better used to cultivate than mutilate. They wrote a book, too. It's called Beating Guns. I was sent a copy with a nice note from one of the authors and founders of this movement. 

I read this book. More to the point, I contemplated this book. There are not a lot of thoughts between the covers that have not occurred to me over the course of the years I have been writing in this corner of Al Gore's Internet about America's gun problem. First of all, the problem is not a matter of supply. Back in 2018, there were nearly four hundred billion guns in the United States. There are not four hundred million people living in the United States. I don't own a gun. I don't know very many people who own guns. That means that there are a lot of people in our country who own more than one gun. Millions of new guns are made every year here in the land of the fearful and home of the factory that makes them. 

Which seems to suggest that people are snapping up those guns because America is such a rough town. Things are getting more dangerous all the time. Not exactly. Since 2010, violent crime rates have done a rollercoaster decline. And somehow, gun deaths over that same period have increased. Steadily. Maybe that's because there are so many "good guys with guns" out there taking care of business. 

Or maybe more guns just means more death. Good, bad, young, old. Guns don't discriminate. Guns don't kill. Try telling that to any of the parents of the children who were killed at Sandy Hook. Or Uvalde. Or I could go on and on. These machines were made for killing, or to quote the poet, "Ain't good for nothin But put a man six feet in a hole." 

Which brings me back to Shane and Michael, the minds behind RAWTools. Instead of an semiautomatic weapon that could be used for murder, how about we melt that bad boy down and turn it into a spade. For turning earth. For planting trees. For creating life instead of taking it away. Donate your guns today. If you own one. Better yet, if you don't own a gun.

Don't buy one. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Start Again

 While I continue on the odyssey that is the 2022-23 school year here in Oakland, California, teachers in Ohio are walking the picket lines. The Columbus Education Association says, “This strike is about our students who deserve a commitment to modern schools with heating and air conditioning, smaller class sizes, and a well-rounded curriculum that includes art, music and P.E."  

The district's statement insists, “We offered a generous compensation package for teachers and provisions that would have a positive impact on classrooms." 

Somewhere in there is what Strother Martin might refer to as "a failure to communicate." Which is about the time when people who have access to a keyboard, like myself, begin to toss around opinions and platitudes about when they were children. Retired teachers share war stories. Parents complain about how this kind of disruption will affect their kids. And their ten fifteen Pilates class. Then there's the rank and file union members who are looking for a little relief. Some will tell you that it's the paycheck, and how their salary doesn't cover the cost of living in a metropolitan area, or it will never include the money the spend out of pocket for the supplies their students need. The supplies the district is unable to provide because they are, once again, in a period of budget cuts to meet the new reality of making public education a profit center. 

And at the end of the day, when both sides push away from the bargaining table, they can be happy that they are not in Florida. In the Sunshine State, the "governor" is rejecting dictionaries for use in classrooms in his battle to eliminate "wokeness." This is the same guy who feels that teaching credential requirements are "too rigid," and he would like to have military veterans who served four years and have an honorable or medical discharge from the armed services be plugged right into the educational system. Tough for me to argue, since I came into the business of education thanks to an intern program. Which is one of my chief professional regrets. I would much rather have had the opportunity to be fully trained before stepping in front of a group of kids the first time. Alone.

Because as much as we like to say "it takes a village," and it does, it takes a certain set of strengths to get up there and teach. Maybe that comes from being battle tested. Maybe that comes from being properly compensated. Maybe that comes from not feeling overwhelmed by all those fresh faces and all that knowledge that needs to find its way into their heads. It's not a job. It's an adventure that has its challenges and stresses and it would be great to feel the support of one's community while you were attempting to prepare the next generation to take over for us. 

I really wish it wasn't so hard to convince everyone of that. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Reading Is Fundamental

 The first two weeks of school passed quietly enough. As the prep teacher, my job for those first ten days are to straighten out any confusion, rustle any stacks of paper, move furniture, direct kids to the water fountain, move furniture, remind students of what they may have forgotten about being students and move more furniture. 

Now it's the third week of school, and it's time for the Mister Caven Show. I will be performing in the Computer Lab, held over for the twenty-sixth straight year. I will also be appearing weekly on the playground as both yard supervisor and PE teacher to the masses. Additionally, this year I have been asked to teach a group of students phonemic awareness, a stepping stone on the path to fluent reading. 

And I confess that the weekend before I started this new gig, I was nervous. Those first day jitters that have always been a part of my school experience were back in full effect. There is probably a certain component of this that stretches all the way back to my first year in the classroom. I got my teaching job on a conditional intern credential. This meant that I was teaching during the day and going to school at night to learn how to teach. Unlike a traditional credentialing program, there was no master teacher in the room with me, in case things slid off the rail. My only hope was that whatever I forgot or messed up would be covered in that evening's lesson. "No, Mister Caven, it probably wasn't a good idea to hand those third graders each a copy of A Farewell To Arms and tell them that they would probably figure it out in time."

I didn't do that, by the way. On the contrary. I was much more likely to be the one asking for clarification for the third time before I did anything. I was cautious and careful, not wanting to teach a batch of kids the wrong way to do anything. So now I find myself turning back the pages to the days when I first learned how to teach reading, and though it seems familiar I also feel the pressure of every child's future success riding on these half hour lessons. Over the course of my career I have been asked if I miss being "a real teacher." I tend to bristle a bit at this distinction, but I also understand the underlying meaning. We call this "subtext," but not in elementary school. And the answer is "yes." That's why I accepted the opportunity to bring a world of sounds and symbols and words and paragraphs and chapters and books to life for my young charges. 

They'll find Hemingway on their own, I suspect. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


 "Whaz so civil 'bout war anyway?" - Guns 'n' Roses

It seems to me that there has been more than a little talk lately about "a new civil war." Maybe we should begin by clarifying some things: The first American Civil War was probably the one that had us fighting off those oppressors from another continent who saw us as their property. Hindsight has us calling this one "Revolutionary" because we won. The next time we had a Civil War it was because people on one side of the country had factories and the other side had slaves. The side with the factories won that one. Slavery was abolished. And every so often, a few years after that one was settled, there are folks who feel compelled to recreate it. Usually they do this by dressing up in uniforms of the period and pretending to shoot at one another and leave historically accurate corpses across battlefields where the war between the states once raged. 

And sometimes, like right now, people get it into their heads that this would be a good thing to do all over. For real. Heck, they've already got the flags. We've got plenty of guns. And maybe, just maybe the side who used to have the slaves can win this time. Not that anyone would put it in those terms. We are led to believe that the tiny minds that carry the ideologies of the conservative right will prevail. At which point they would most certainly turn back the clock to a simpler time. Before all this "woke" nonsense. When men were men and women were men's property. And speaking of property, what was really so wrong with slavery anyway? Sure, it was an evil, but a necessary evil. And all that stuff about fractions and three fifths of a person was really hard math and couldn't we just return to the age of white men's votes counting and throw all the rest out? All of this "inclusion" just leads to trouble anyway.

These are the yahoos who are already openly advocating taking up arms against those they see as their oppressors. Like Luis Miguel, a Republican candidate for Florida's House who was banned from Twitter after posting his vision: "Under my plan, all Floridians will have permission to shoot FBI, IRS, ATF and all other feds ON SIGHT! Let freedom ring!" Mister Miguel is not a fringe-hanging militia member. Like his fellow Floridian, Martin Hyde, who in his attempt to bring some much-needed heat to his primary run against fellow Republican Vern Buchanan, insisted that he would have done away with any FBI agents who made the mistake of showing up at his door. "I wish they'd turn up at my home 'cause they'd have gone home in a body bag." 

Of course, this nonsense is just the thing to get inside the pointy heads of people who were far too close to the edge in the first place. Ricky Schiffer went to the Ohio field office of the FBI dressed in body armor and carrying a nail gun as a response to the Bureau's execution of a search warrant at the former game show host and twice impeached "president's" golf club. He was shot and killed by police. Rather than being made a martyr for the cause, many of the MAGAts are distancing themselves from such anarchic behavior, referring to the incident as "another false flag incident." 

And when it comes to flags flown over this part of the continent, that makes some sense. To some of the pointier heads. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Problem Solver

 I remember a Peanuts comic strip in which Linus wrote a story about loosening his big sister Lucy's ears to help the pain in her head subside. This is precisely the kind of thought Linus was capable. In spite of the near daily abuse, he was constantly trying to break through the inherent crabbiness of his sibling to try and improve their relationship. For a pretty stagnant cartoon age of eight, Linus is wise far beyond those years. 

Every so often I find myself wishing that we had a Linus at our school. The theological discussions regarding his rather explicit Christian beliefs tied to those of the Great Pumpkin would be an endless source of entertainment. And it would be awesome if we could get some of that ear-loosening kind of suggestion coming from eight year olds. 

So much of the trouble that comes to an elementary school is recycled. You don't have to dig very far to find the source of kids' trouble. It rarely comes from something at school. Oh, sure, there are most definitely inciting moments that ignite trouble. Like wind blowing on embers of a fire, it only takes a stiff breeze to get the inferno going. All the fear and confusion that lives in the hearts and minds of these kids who may not know where their next meal is coming from or where mom is and when she's getting home. When somebody cuts these kids in line, it can be the last straw in a very large pile of straws. 

Loosening everyone's ears would be a great way to take everything down a notch. On those afternoons when I am sitting out front with those students whose caretakers are running a little late to pick them up, I spend a good deal of time reassuring them that mom and dad wouldn't forget them. And I want to believe this with all my heart. At the same time, I have sat out front and waited for hours for mom, dad, sister, uncle, brother, auntie, boyfriend to show up to take them home. 

Or someplace safe. 

Meanwhile, I attempt to channel the spirit of Linus Van Pelt. I want to bring the calm assurance of someone who believes that security can be found in a blanket, and that he can lower somebody's stress level by properly aligning the flaps on the side of someone's head. 

Did I mention that Linus is a middle child?  Me too. 

Sunday, August 21, 2022


 If you are returning here for the second or third time, you may already be familiar with my dogged allegiance to most everything Disney. I tend to look the other way when the House of Mouse does things that disappoint me with other vendors. I have carved out a place for myself and my family where I can deny the existence of corporate greed and hypocrisy.

Buy the ticket, take the ride. Try not to notice the strings attached. Or the price tag. 

My son and I dropped a thousand dollars on two days in the Happiest Place On Earth. This experience was enhanced by generous gifts of vouchers for food that would fuel us through the days' adventures. We did not stay "on campus." We walked a mile to and from the place where all that fun was kept. It was the value plan. 

And would I do it again? 

Yes. God help me. I would do it again. 

I am old enough to recognize when I am sacrificing a chunk of my ideals to shovel my hard-earned money into the pockets of a five foot tall rodent. I have made my peace with that. But it still burns a little on the edges.

Which is how I feel about the Ticketmaster imbroglio that is currently surrounding the upcoming tour by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. A friend has suggested that after attending a Springsteen show with me, "Now I know what it's like to go to church with Dave." Those closest to me understand that Bruce is a core belief I hold higher than most anything else. Which is why seeing the word "Ticketmaster" anywhere near the discussion of how I might gain access to this semi-major-demigod is chilling. We can begin with the terrifying phrase "convenience fee." This is the additional charge attached to the price of a ticket that allows you to buy it. Sure, it may be a five dollar ticket, but you're going to have to pay ninety-five dollars for all that "convenience." And let's just go ahead and flip all the cards and say that a one hundred dollar seat to a Bruce Springsteen concert would be cheap. 

So let's go ahead and figure in this new invention: Dynamic Pricing. Also known as "What The Market Will Bear" Pricing. A ticket to one of the Boss' upcoming shows could run you five thousand dollars. Each. For my purposes, that's five two-day trips to Disneyland with my son. Thanks, Ticketmaster, you just made the Magic Kingdom feel like a value vacation.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

With Report

 I lived for thirty years with Wyoming as my upstairs neighbor. There were a few times when my family made the relatively short trek out of Colorado to the Cowboy State to take in the splendor of Cheyenne Frontier Days. But the fact that we had our own local rodeo and parade that took place during the summer kept the demand for the two hour road trip low. 

What did get me on the road to The Magic City of the Plains, once I was able to drive myself, was simple enough: fireworks. Colorado's regulations regarding incendiary devices were much more strict that our friends to the north. If you wanted something that would shoot up in the air, emit a shower of sparks, with a report, you needed to head up I-25 to the capital of the forty-fourth state. It was after a number of trips across the border that I began to question why there was this variance in fireworks ordinance. The it occurred to me that the folks in Wyoming were happy to trade the revenue for pop bottle rockets for the potential expense of burning that whole big rectangle to the ground. 

It was on one of these missions to the north that my friend and co-pilot suggested that, since we were in another state's capital, we should take the slight detour into town and check out the Capitol Building.  In the middle of the week, just after noon, we pulled up in front of the statehouse. We had no trouble finding a spot. Right in front. We walked up the stairs, through the front doors, and looked for some signs of life. Nobody to welcome us, no signs pointing us the way, so we continued up the stairs in the rotunda. At the landing, we found two large glass cases. On the left was a stuffed coyote. On the right, there was a stuffed sheep. We paused to take this all in. We figured that we had borne witness to the length and breadth of the history of Wyoming. We walked back down the stairs, creeped out by the silence, and went back to our parking spot. 

We took our several gross of pop bottle rockets and headed back south. 

All of this is to describe how I feel about Liz Cheney losing her party's primary this week. In the last primary in 2020, Ms. Cheney rode a wave of enthusiasm and massive majority t of the vote to win the Republican nomination for U.S. House of Representatives. That was before she found herself on the opposite side of the fence from the former game show host and the guy whom she voted to impeach. In her concession speech this week, she described the situation: “Two years ago, I won this primary with 73 percent of the vote. I could easily have done the same again. The path was clear. But it would have required that I go alone with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. It would have required that I ignore his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our Republic. That was a path I could not and would not take.” So now Wyoming's lone seat in the House is a contest between Trumpish Harriet Hageman on the "Republican" side and Democrat Lynette Grey Bull. The last time Wyoming had a Democrat in Congress was 1978. It's a pretty simple story, one whose end will hopefully be more interesting than the one between the coyote and the sheep. 

Here's hoping there will be fireworks. 

Friday, August 19, 2022


 The house never loses anything. At least that is the opinion expressed by my wife's grandmother. This was offered as a comfort to her children and later to her grandchildren. It was a colloquial restating of one of the laws of classical physics: matter cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system. That sounds like a pretty cool deal until one starts to peel back the definition of "isolated system." Your bedroom? Okay. Your dresser? Fine. Your entire house, including the basement? Not so fast, there Isaac Newton. 

We live in a Victorian built in 1895, and even though there have been times when the place feels crowded with just three of us and a cat roaming about, the surface area available on multiple levels can be quite intimidating. My wife and I routinely play a  game called, "Have You Seen My?" My glasses. My phone. My sock? My paycheck? And so on. After thirty years of cohabitation at three separate addresses, we continue to find ways to misplace things for minutes at a time. It is during those brief periods of insecurity that one's mind races to all the absurd locations that have little or nothing to do with reality. Ingested by the cat is a new favorite of mine, even though he is historically a finicky eater and sometimes skips his carefully prepared meals if they are not placed on the spot at the time he is insistent upon having them delivered. 

And then there are those always helpful probing questions: When was the last time you remember having your (missing item)? What was the last place you remember seeing your (lost ark)? These kind of interrogations tend to serve one primary function, and that is to make the subject become more confounded by the implied simplicity of the task. If I knew where it was, I would go where it was and pick it up. At which point the sound of my own mother reminding me that "it didn't just sprout legs and walk away," rings in my ears. Other aphorisms about how things "never stay lost" and "a place for everything and everything in its place" beg for review. 

This is usually just before a couch cushion is adjusted or a pile of papers is shuffled to reveal that whatever it was has revealed itself after the entire household and all activity has come to a halt while the keys have been located. At which point, the refrain "It's always in the last place you look," reminds us all of the ineffable. Which is why I tend, after finding the lost object, to make a point of looking in one more place. Just to be difficult. 

The relief in those moments cannot be overstated. The hiding place of that lone earbud or shoe should be cause for celebration, but I confess that I sometimes feel the need to prolong the feeling of confusion. "Where was it?" I will often shrug my shoulders and suggest that it doesn't matter, since the house never loses anything. 

Oh, but it does. Just not forever. And I should respect that. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

We Got Him (Reprise}

 I never figured Donald Trump for a King Missile fan, but there's this: 

Take stuff from work
It's the best way to feel better about your job
Never buy pens or pencils or paper
Take 'em from work

If you're unfamiliar with King Missile's 1987 ode to the oppressed office drone, chances are so is the former game show host and twice impeached "president." But that doesn't mean he didn't adhere to the philosophy. "It's your duty as an oppressed worker to steal from your exploiters." I would imagine that the Donald hasn't paid for a pen in his adult life. He probably just got used to pocketing anything with that big gold T stamped on it. As for the whole "oppressed worker" chop, one can only imagine that in that tiny brain there isn't a lot of room for shades of gray, or right and wrong. Just the ragged impulse he feels to take stuff. From work or wherever. 

The fact that the files may or may not have had "Top Secret" stamped on them doesn't hold a lot of water when you're a guy who made a living out of telling people "you're fired." Rules don't apply to this guy, and they never have. John Oliver eventually had to retire his segment called "We Got Him!" after the first year of the Trump administration when he figured out that the bloated sack of orange protoplasm was supremely proficient at one thing: deflecting blame. His three-pronged strategy of de-legitimizing the media, "what about (fill in the blank)," and trolling any and all who disagree with him has kept him above the fray for as long as anyone can remember. 

But at last he did something that, in his words, "only mobsters do": he took the Fifth Amendment. Perhaps this is because he finally had some time between tee times to study up on the Constitution past the Second Amendment to discover that he has the right to keep his mouth shut. Or perhaps he found a lawyer who promised to give him a prize if he kept his mouth shut. For a change. Maybe one of those fancy ashtrays with the presidential seal on them. 

Poor oppressed Donald. What would happen if the world just kept on spinning and stopped caring about what slithered out of that gaping maw just below his nose? I expect that the notoriety that comes with stealing state secrets will be enough to keep his ego charged for the current news cycle. I am certain that he is secretly pleased that his "light treason" essentially obscured the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, resulting in savings on health care, a plan for battling climate change, and the potential reduction of the national deficit by three hundred billion dollars. 

What about that? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022


 My wife is a list maker. She keeps track of things by writing them down. My reaction to this is to try and get out in front of tasks that might make a list, thereby eliminating them from their appearance on a list. That is my strategy for "to-do" lists. The suggestion I made in response to the exasperation this engendered was to suggest that we make a monthly list of all the things we have accomplished. Sometimes it has big things like painting the house on it. Other times we are congratulating ourselves for getting the trash to the curb on time. Some months are more vigorous than others. 

This month's list includes the completion of the new edition of the book she wrote with her mother, The Winning Family. When I say "completion," this is kind of a mixed bag. The actual publication date is still ahead, with last minute edits, additions and all the flurry that takes place in the month before a book can actually appear on the shelves of your local bookstore. Or online. Or wherever books can be purchased for a very reasonable price. 

What I am suggesting here is that while the list on our kitchen whiteboard says "Winning Family Completed," that's not entirely true. This draft with a few remaining tweaks will become that. Eventually. But maybe the thing to remember is that in the thirty-five years since the book first appeared, a lot of changes have occurred. For example, Al Gore's Internet was still just a rumor back in 1987. My wife was my very good friend, but not my wife yet. The family we were destined to create ourselves was not a fully formed idea. She was busy editing and illustrating and consulting for her mother. I was installing office furniture. 

This time around, my wife is a veteran of the parenting game. She has raised a son, with a little help, and has now been promoted to co-author status. I even got in on the act, insisting that they include the Bruce Springsteen quote, "Nobody wins unless everybody wins." The decades that have passed between the initial publication of The Winning Family have seen a generation grow and learn. Now it's time to tell the stories of what happened since. 

For example, I wasn't an elementary school teacher thirty-five years ago. I didn't encounter a lot of parents in my line of work, crawling under desks and moving file cabinets. Not that I was aware of, anyway. Now I do. All the time. And I'm glad that there is help out there for those who could really use it. And if you're interested in supporting this cause, or just finding out a little bit more, you can click on their Kickstarter link

And now I've got something else to add to the list. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Who Are The Troublemakers?

 Parker School in Oakland was supposed to close way back at the end of May. Instead, parents and community members came to the fifth grade promotion at what would have been the end of the year. And stayed. They have maintained a presence there as well as providing a summer program with art and music as well as security shifts for the grownups who camped out there to make sure the school stayed open. 

Last week, a group of district "security officers" were dispatched to Parker to clear the occupiers out. Ironically, these quasi-uniformed individuals were acting in the stead of the now disbanded Oakland School Police force. Their attempts to move the community off their spot was ultimately unsuccessful, but not without first riling up those who were there to witness the dustup. 

Now we find ourselves at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. It is at the end of this nine month journey that the Oakland Unified School District intends to close five more schools: Korematsu, Horace Mann, Brookfield, Carl B. Munck and Grass Valley. Korematsu is named for Fred Korematsu, a civil rights leader who resisted the interment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and native son of Oakland. Carl B.Munck was once the president of the Oakland school board and was instrumental in hiring the city's first African-American superintendent. If you look around, you can hardly escape the number of schools across the country named after Horace Mann. Way back in the nineteenth century to create public education. Though he wasn't from Oakland, he might have something to say about the way things are being handled here currently. 

The powers that be insist that enrollment and revenues are down. Enrollment? Of course it is. You may have read about the global pandemic that forced massive changes of lifestyle and habitation. As that crisis begins to ebb and people who were most immediately impacted by COVID-19 begin to find their way back to their neighborhoods, they need schools for their children to attend. As for revenue, well let's just say that California is currently trying to figure out how to manage a budget surplus of nearly one hundred billion dollars. Why isn't some of that finding its way to public schools across the state? 

And even if all that money has to go to Governor Newsom's plan to desalinate ocean water, maybe those powers could figure out a constructive way to engage with their community. Instead of sending in the goon squad, maybe they could discuss a transition process. Right now they have their hands full with one school and its troublemakers. I would imagine that if they go ahead with their stated program, that problem could be five times worse next August. 

We will have to wait and see. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Not The President

So much of what continues to happen to us as a nation is a direct result of things that happened over the past six years. January 23, 2016: " I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters. OK?" There are multitudes of additional recorded bits of this jabber, but I believe this one hits closest to the bullseye. Embarrassed, humiliated, and impeached, twice, the words of Donald Jabber Trump continue to echo in the well of history. 

And then there's a more recent morsel. This one is a photograph. It features the former game show host with his invited guests on a balcony overlooking his golf tournament: Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson, peering down at the rabble. Laughing. What they are laughing about is open to anyone's guess. The fact that this photo was taken just after the former "president" insisted that “Nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately.” This contradiction of his stance in 2016, “Who blew up the World Trade Center?…take a look at Saudi Arabia.” Might be part of the juxtaposition that brought on all that balcony hilarity. Since his golf courses will host two of the Saudi-backed LIV tournaments, he felt the need to set the record "straight." He encouraged those professional golfers who were toying with defying their own governing body to "take the money now." Pretty solidly on-brand there. 

Then there was that time back in 2019 when the guy who buried his ex-wife on a golf course wanted to sell nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia. Well, he approved these deals. Right after journalist and US resident Jamal Khashogg was murdered. Murdered by by agents of the Saudi government at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. 

What makes us all think that the nuclear documents named in the search warrant of his tacky Xanadu weren't a continuation of this squirrely behavior? Why would anyone imagine that such a thing could happen? 

Maybe because he once bragged that he could shoot a guy on 5th Avenue and he wouldn't lose any voters. 

Maybe. But when someone near you starts that tired saw about how "if they can do that to the president, they could do that to anybody," remind them that Donald Jabber Trump is not the president. He is, to quote Dorothy Gale, a very bad man. 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Situation Normal

 A week went by. We herded kids into their new classrooms. Their new grades. There were those who expressed surprise when there were "too many" students in multiple grades. This came about as a direct result of having the powers that be "downtown" predict just how many students we would find when we opened our doors this year. Those folks determined that we would need three fewer teachers, and that we would be hard pressed to find one hundred seventy-five students to attend our school. 

They were wrong. On Wednesday, we passed two hundred, with the anticipation of a few more each day as families begin to settle in to the 2022-23 school year. Those who had moved away from the Bay Area in the early days of the pandemic have begun to find their way back, and wouldn't you know it, all those kids need a neighborhood school. I have spent the morning of each day scrambling to find desks and chairs to put down in front of and under the kids who are returning to our school. 

Reports of the death of Horace Mann Elementary seem to be premature. Now we are scrambling to hire at least one new teacher, with the sad irony of having sent away valuable team members away at the end of last year. Those that have already found new places of employment to teach and grow with kids who need them. 

We really could have used them here. 

Has anyone from the school board or the district come down to check up on us? No.

Has there been at least a couple parents each day asking me, "Are they still closing the school?" Yes. 

What do I tell them? I say that our business is education. We are going to do our business. Every kid who walks through those doors, sits at those desks, plays on the playground that continues to be a wreck, will receive the very best education we have to offer. That is our job. That is our mission. 

Closing a school is not what we do. We keep schools open. The fact that there are still those of us on staff who have that question in our own minds as we go about our day gets pushed to the back. We have work to do. The kids have work to do.

Right here. 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Have You Never Been Mellow?

 It's a fair question, one asked in mild exasperation. Probably with the emphasis on the "never." Have you never been mellow? Chill out, my friend. Unless they were sung ever-so-sweetly by the one and only Olivia Newton-John. Olivia passed away this week after a lengthy bout with cancer. For those of us who grew up in the seventies, it was her voice that let us know that we would be safe from the harsh realities of life. She sang sad songs. She sang happy songs. She kept it poppy and sweet. Like so much of the seventies were. 

Or maybe that's how I choose to remember it. My older brother went to school with a guy who insisted that he met Olivia Newton-John and they went skinny-dipping in Gross Reservoir. Even though he maintained that the signature on his denim bucket hat was that of the Australian songstress, we all knew that Olivia would never be caught dead in a body of water called "gross." 

It was some time after that when I was given the hottest selling album of the summer of 1978, the soundtrack to the movie Grease. Try as I might, I could not escape the music that the rest of the planet was embracing. I had tried to insulate myself from this double-record set by collecting rock and roll, even some of that punk stuff we were hearing so much about. My parents had unwittingly cut through the veneer of cool that I had been so carefully maintaining. When my friends came over and started flipping through my record collection, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Elvis Costello. Grease? 

Have you never been mellow? Have you ever tried?

To test my resolve, my friends put on "Hopelessly Devoted To You" during a party at my house. In a fit of pique and in the interest of maintaining my punk rock attitudes, I came down the stairs in three giant steps, stormed into my room and proceeded to tear the vinyl disc from my turntable and folded it in half. Shards of the result were shared among those who witnessed it for months after. 

Two years later, I was swept up in a romance that took me to the opening weekend of Ms. Newton-John's Greek-muse inspired roller disco opus, Xanadu. Perhaps it was intended as a way to introduce a new generation to the dancing impresario Gene Kelly. Or maybe it hoped to cash in on those last remaining disco dollars. But it was with repeat viewings with my high school girlfriend that I learned to appreciate once again the sonorous sweetness of Olivia Newton-John. Her mashup duet with The Tubes stood out for me as the decade of New Wave swept over our nation. It was the following year that Olivia found herself on MTV heavy rotation with her sweaty anthem, Physical

Then, decades passed. Every so often, Grease would show up on cable. One of those seventies ballads would show up on my Spotify. And now she's gone. She will be missed every time I ponder that musical question. She may not have stomped so much as fluttered over the Terra, leaving a song in our hearts and minds. Aloha, Olivia. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Probably Cause

 A screeching head on Faux News insisted that "the left is laughing." He made this insistence just after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Mar-A-Lago, the home of one (checks notes) Barron Trump. And his father. As someone who has parked himself pretty far to the left for all these years, I have to say that I did chuckle when I heard the news. I also flinched a little when I heard those from the other side of the spectrum insisting that this was "unprecedented." Well, for the record, we "unpresidented" this guy twice. And yet he continues to insist that he's still the president, and he wants to run again. 

So, here's how this whole thing unravels, yarn-ball-wise: The perception for most of us is that, when you start ignoring subpoenas from Congress and insisting in the same fluid motion that you have "nothing to hide," it starts to raise more questions. When you haul off cartons of documents from the White House just after you had been accused of leading an insurrection of the government you used to lead, it raises some questions.  When the former gameshow host and twice-impeached "president" decries this raid by referencing Watergate, it raises some questions. Like, "which side does this guy think he's on in this analogy?"

Even if the only thing the FBI is investigating is the tax shelter 45 set up for himself by burying his ex-wife on one of his golf courses, why would anyone continue to see this squishy orange bowling pin of a man as a victim? Crybaby? Maybe. Victim? Nope. The line of people who have been victimized by this man starts over there and stretches for miles and miles. There is a way in which bad behavior can be passed off as everyone else's fault until you realize that all of those being accused have their own stories to tell. The outrage stoked by conservative pundits about how the FBI is going after this former "president" has obscured the reality of the fact that the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray,  was appointed in 2017 by (checks notes) Donald J. Trump. 

The parade of former Trump employees who would like to have a word with prosecutors continues to grow. The awkward and often shameful way that business was done in the White House from 2016 to 2020 will now be a series of discussions and discoveries. Rumors and whispers will now be amplified and brought out into the light. 

And if anyone's laughing, it's from a sense of relief. Those who have and seem to want to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the big orange baby are calling it "weaponized politicization." Which is pretty rich considering how solidly the powers that were ran over the Constitution back when they were racking up indictments like no previous administration in history. 

A long time ago, Al Capone finally went to jail. Not for murder or bank robbery or anything particularly nefarious. They finally caught up to him on charges of tax evasion. Sooner or later, the gangster life catches up to you. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Summer Reruns

 Getting excited about Joe Biden is like getting all worked up about a rerun of Friends. Completely serviceable situation comedy, but wasn't that twenty years ago? Certainly given the alternative of watching all fifteen episodes of Townies, Ross, Rachel and the gang seem like a completely worthwhile choice for your viewing pleasure. The same can be said of President Joe, who came to us primarily as the "Not Trump" selection in the 2020 election. As we creep toward the halfway point in Biden's first term, I believe it's important to point out that this is a guy who was never even offered a "honeymoon period." Pinheads were crawling over the scaffolds being set up for his inauguration the week before he was sworn in to keep that moment from happening. Two years later, there are far too many Americans arguing about whether or not Joe Biden is really president than what sort of president he really is. 

This past week, the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Plan, designed to combat climate change, address health care costs and raise taxes on large corporations. It was a fight that came down to Joe's Vice President casting the deciding vote to break the tie. With all this thoughtful work going on in the midst of a marathon session, there were still Republicans who managed to pull out a provision that would have capped the price of insulin at thirty-five dollars a month for those covered under private health care plans. Much like the ban on assault weapons that is making its way to the Senate after squeaking its way to passage in the House of Representatives, what sounds and feels like common sense measures designed for the good of all Americans, this administration has faced opposition from the moment the smoke cleared on January 6 and they moved into the Oval Office. 

Gas prices, which had flirted with six dollars a gallon have fallen steadily over the past seven weeks, and the wags will now hoot about how that's too much too fast after spending the early part of the summer complaining about how the president wasn't doing enough. Which is sort of how things have been for President Joe. There is no way for him to show up as anything but the antithesis of the guy who came before him. Just by showing up and being reasonable, or showing thought in his choices in decisions, he is a stark contrast to the former gameshow host who was impeached not once, but twice. 

The real trouble here is that the gulf between Democrat and Republican has always been pretty wide, but that between thought and lack thereof has become frightening over the past decade. Tiny minds scurry about the halls of Congress, making things ever more difficult to pass meaningful legislation because making noise is ever so much more entertaining than trying to make a change for the better. And yet, President Joe continues to show up and do the job for which he was elected. He may not be Chandler Bing, but at least he's not Sheriff Lobo

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Come And Go

 Birthdays come 

and birthdays go

It's time to turn the page

add another candle

Or maybe not

smoke alarms, don'tcha know

All that talk about

fine wine and cheese

So very many things

get better with age

Not being able to hear

and see everything

This might be one of those

blessings and not a curse

Today is the day we celebrate

another opportunity

Another opportunity 

to spend the day with you

Until the twelfth of never

we still have a while

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Hunting And Gathering

 I have had a lot of people tell me that I should give up cable TV and surrender tot he inevitability of streaming services. I continue to argue that without the ability to channel surf, my life would be a desolate wasteland of meaningless interaction with technology and media. And here's why:

I was climbing out of the shower a few days ago, and suddenly I found myself missing KFOG. If you don't recognize the call letters, it was the Bay Area's "rock station." If you don't know what call letters are, that's okay. If you don't know what radio is, then this next bit will become a bit convoluted. To say that I enjoy being programmed for is a bit of an overstatement. I am always pleased when I stumble on a group of sounds that remind me of music that I would have played for myself. KFOG used to do that for me. And every so often, they would slide in a something that would expand my horizons. And maybe even my CD collection. If you don't know what a CD collection is, well, this discussion is kind of going nowhere. 

But still I persist: Having a service that would supply me with a "stream" of music that I love, sprinkled with the occasional surprise, was a wonderful boost for my aesthetic self-esteem. "Hey, I like that. I wonder what comes next?" 

This is what broadcast TV offers me. Programming is one thing, but the chance of seeing or hearing that old friend provides me a very central joy. TV shows and movies operate in my mind very much like music does for most people. Like a favorite song, you can hear it over and over. You might even sing along. Like I do every time Animal House comes on. Much to the chagrin of those around me, especially my eternally patient wife. 

Do I know that I could choose to dial up some computer server somewhere and have them send me over a little Delta Tau Chi whenever I felt the need to recite the script with accompaniment? Yes, I know that. I own the DVD. I could slap that bad boy in our 4K player and have it on a great big screen with just a push of a button or two. Pause, rewind, over and over again. But this is not the same experience for me as flipping around the dial, finding nothing but home improvement shows until -

There it is. No more flipping. I am safe for a little under two hours. Then the hunt will begin all over again. 

Which is how I like it. Finding my favorite shows, songs and movies is part of the entertainment process. 

For me. 

Monday, August 08, 2022

Dick Talk


"In our nation's 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump. He tried to steal the last election using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him. He is a coward. A real man wouldn't lie to his supporters. He lost his election, and he lost big. I know it. He knows it. And deep down, I think most Republicans know it."

Let's be honest: Most sentient beings know it. The trouble is getting past that brainwashing protocol that continues to keep so many Republicans believing that their once upon a time leader might still be their now leader. Seventy percent of Republicans, as of this June, say they don’t think Joe Biden is the legitimate winner of  the 2020 election. We could shorten that account by saying that seventy percent of Republicans don't think. 

Meanwhile we have to deal with this: The words that began this entry were those of one Dick "Dick" Cheney. If you've been stopping by this blog for more than a few years, you might remember "Dick" as a character in the tragedy that was the administration of one George W. Bush. "Dick" was his vice president. So much so that a movie was made about "Dick's" tenure called Vice. It was not the most flattering portrait of an elected official. 

Then again, who really elects a vice president? 

Which brings us back to the discussion of one Donald Trump. "Dick's" daughter Liz is on the leading edge of the January 6th Committee, the one tasked with uncovering just exactly how culpable the former gameshow host and twice impeached "president" is for the insurrection that occurred after he unleashed The Big Lie. To that point, "Dick" continues, "Lynne and I are so proud of Liz for standing up for the truth, doing what's right, honoring her oath to the Constitution when so many in our party are too scared to do so." Coming from a guy who played pretty fast and loose with the Constitution himself, this gives you an idea of just how deep into shark infested waters we have drifted. 

I (hacks into tissue) excuse me, agree with the words of Dick "Dick" Cheney. God help us all. 

Sunday, August 07, 2022

The Real Winners Of The InfoWars

 He who has himself as a lawyer has a fool for a client. This adage is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, a very wise man. It could be that in his years before freeing slaves and getting shot in the head, he was an attorney looking for a way to drum up business. That would make a pretty good billboard. Don't be a fool! Call 1-800-TALKTOABE. Of course all those perspective clients would have had to wait for the invention of the telephone.

Which is not the excuse for Alex Jones. The blustering blister behind InfoWars did not, in fact, choose to represent himself in the penalty phase of the trial in which the amount that the conspiracy monger will have to pay Sandy Hook parents. He picked F. Andino Reynal. The F in this case may stand for "fool," because he's the genius who handed over a digital copy of all of Mister Jones' texts to the parents' counsel. Two weeks ago. Which was just enough time for the man who lies professionally to spin some new deceit regarding what he did and did not say via text over the past two years. Awful Alex insisted that he did not have any texts on his phone regarding Sandy Hook. According to the phone records, this was a lie. The phone records handed over by his own attorney. Causing a red-faced Jones to respond, "This is your Perry Mason moment."

Except Perry Mason, television's epitome of clever justice, tended to be matched up with Hamilton Burger, a Los Angeles District Attorney who was pretty good in his own right, but never quite a match for Perry. F. Andino Reynal doesn't seem prepared to carry Burger's briefcase. Even though F's LinkedIn profile insists "He specializes in innovative litigation, conflict resolution, internal investigations, and managing accusations of violations of State, federal and international law," One might guess that handing over the contents of his client's cell phone without any strings attached probably doesn't fit the dictionary definition of "innovative." 

I'm not sure, since I never studied law. 

But I have studied irony. And I know it when I see it. If you haven't visited the InfoWars web site lately, you might be as amused as I was to find an ad waiting there promoting a service that will protect your cell phone data. Among other things. But that will do for now. Revenge is a dish best served cold, but perjury can be served at room temperature. 

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Through The Cracks

 As I wandered the hallways of Horace Mann last week, I felt sad. Sad because I know all the tiles and the cracks in them. Sad because knowing where the cracks in the tile are in this school won't probably won't match up with the cracks in the tile in any other school or office in the district. 

I am, for those unfamiliar, a huge fan of ruts. This quarter century of Horace Mann is pretty much the deepest of all the ruts I have been able to generate. Familiarity does not breed contempt in this case, but the fear of having to learn a whole new set of names and places terrifies me. 

I'm a grownup, and I know this is not what we grownups refer to as a "growth mindset." Because I am spoiled. I have become so comfortable with the way things are that I have forgotten that they have not always been this way. If I think back to that first day that I piled onto the school bus that took this brand new teacher with a staff that was made up of half new teachers and half vets, I knew no one. When the first day of school for children arrived, I had to go through another round of strangers. The school building itself felt impossibly large, and finding my way to my own classroom became easier over time. The trip to the men's room came along soon after that. 

Back in those days, I had a key that would let me into one room. My room. If there was anywhere else I needed to go, I had to wait for a custodian or my principal to let me in. 

Now I have a master key. I let other people in. 

Listening to my current principal describe the year ahead of us, with the potential of our school's closure and all the usual stresses and challenges that face an urban elementary school. She told us we need to be strong. We need to be courageous. We need to move forward. And suddenly I was struck by this vision of us all leading our young charges out the front door, whenever that last day is, and out into the world. That's something we have always done. I have always done. What happens after that moment will be different. Maybe I will turn around and go back inside to pack up boxes. Maybe I will go straighten up to prepare for another year in the rut. 

There are plenty of cracks that I have yet to explore. 

Friday, August 05, 2022

Old Enough To Know Better?

 This past Tuesday, I went into school. Not because I had to, but rather because I knew that the number of times I would be able to get at the various and sundry loose threads that begin to dangle like vines in a rainforest will do nothing but multiply as our official return grows nigh. Can you hook this up? Do you know where those tables went? The fan stopped working in the office. 

None of these things are specifically "my job," but when I started this gig twenty-six years ago, I made a point of remembering where the power strips are located and how to jostle that one door handle to get the closet open. That list has done nothing but grow, and after all these years I have learned to give myself a window to accomplish all the things that swirl around my job description and my reputation as "the guy who knows where/what/how" and so forth. 

On this particular morning, I found myself going up and down ladders, crawling beneath desks and portable classrooms, and retrieving a year's worth of balls that had errantly or precisely been kicked into the gap only accessible by removing a sheet of plywood. On my way down from the roof, where I discovered an additional assortment of playground equipment, I heard my lower back whisper, "Sixty."

Not a crippling or particularly disturbing moment, but I found myself asking the guy who recently finished his sixtieth trip around the sun, "When do you suppose you're going to give this up?' This was a reckoning. One that was probably exacerbated by the recent bout of COVID that swept through my house. My get up and go has yet to get up and leave on its own accord, but I know that it takes a little more planning to throw my energy around these days. I know that I have already lost a step or two, and the bike ride that accompanies my trips to and from my job are now a bit more of a conscious effort than they used to be. Not that I am willing to give up any of these feats of mild exertion. 

I'm just noticing it. And the math of sixty serves as a solid reminder of what I have done and seen already. And what lays out there in front of me. Sit down. Have some water. Catch your breath. 

Then back to work. It's turned out to be more true than I ever could have imagined that this is a marathon, not a sprint. That's why I need a little bit of a head-start. 

Thursday, August 04, 2022

The Personal Part Of Jet Packs

 July 31, 2022 was recently recognized as the birthdate of one George Jetson. For those of you uninitiated, George was, or will be, the patriarch of the space age version of The Flintstones, who were the stone age version of The Honeymooners. If you're following all that, then here's the nitty gritty: George Jetson had a flying car. Or will have a flying car. This is why time travel is so ridiculous. It's not the technology, it's the verb tenses. 

This flying car is what is at the core of my disappointment. For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of having a personal mode of transport that would lift me up and carry me over the traffic and the hustle and the bustle of earthbound twentieth century life. I have certainly mentioned it enough here in this blog that there are plenty of you who are past tired of hearing about it. And the personal jetpack. Same thing. 

I get it. 

But it hasn't been until this past week or so that I have begun to consider the folly of these pursuits. The idea of a flying car is integrally connected to the idea of a personal jet. And that notion has recently been under fire for all the right reasons. I confess that in all my fantasies involving my future modes of transportation, I had not considered the effects they might have on the planet that I seem so interested in floating lightly above. If you're a Drake or a Kardashian or a Swift, you may be as tired of hearing about the ecological impact of your private jets as my audience is about hearing me whine about the possibility of finally getting a flying car. But this is where the rubber meets the road, or rather the jet fuel hits the air: How about one ton of carbon for a ten minute flight to Las Vegas? And what if you did that fifty times a year? A hundred? A hundred seventy? 

Well, here's the thing: George Jetson was/is a fictional character. The world in which he lived had these flying saucer shaped cars that zipped around in what appeared to be fundamentally clear skies. That makes sense if there were that many private fictionally powered vehicles flitting about to the grocery store or to the office. But if I have my math right, it seems like we've got about forty years to turn that bit of made up cartoon world science into reality. Otherwise George and his boy Elroy might end up stuck on the ground, foraging for grubs in a dystopian wasteland in the aftermath of the climate Armageddon. Which probably wouldn't be as fun a cartoon, now that I think about it. 

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Star Date

 Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner shard the first scripted interracial kiss on television. I understand this may raise some eyebrows or tweak some pointed ears with that "scripted" mention, but this actually makes the scene all the more important. In 1968, these two thespians went where no one had gone before on commercial TV. While Shatner's Captain Kirk had certainly made the rounds across the galaxy it wasn't until he laid a big wet one on Lieutenant Uhura in the episode "Plato's Stepchildren" that most of America had seen such a thing. 

It should be noted that the story had these two crew members of the Starship Enterprise locking lips for the entertainment of an alien race who can control others with their minds. The suggestion there being that the ship's captain would never take advantage of his position with one of those under his command. Pretty sure. 

Nichelle Nichols, one half of that society-shifting kiss so long ago, passed away this past weekend. She joins so many of her cast and crew members in the great beyond, leaving William Shatner and George Takei to squabble with one another here on Earth. She leaves behind not just the legacy of her groundbreaking role as one of the first African American actors to be featured on a weekly TV series, but decades of work after that to bring more women and people of color to join NASA. She helped bring about the reality of the fantasy she helped pioneer. It was a discussion with Martin Luther King Jr., a fan of Star Trek, When she suggested to Dr. King that she was contemplating leaving the series, he insisted,  'you cannot, you cannot...for the first time on television, we will be seen as we should be seen every day, as intelligent, quality, beautiful, people who can sing dance, and can go to space, who are professors, lawyers." And though the Enterprise never finished their initial five year mission to explore strange new worlds, Ms. Nichols managed to ride the zeitgeist into syndication and eventually a series of films that featured her character in ever-more prominent position. 

Astronaut Mae Jemison and comedian Whoopi Goldberg count Nichelle Nichols as their prime inspiration for finding their way to their careers of choice. She paved the way for so many who would boldly go where she had already been. Elon and Jeff never invited her to go for a ride on their spaceships. She didn't need to. She stomped on the Terra as well as the stars, and she will not soon be forgotten. Hailing frequencies to heaven are now open. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2022


 There's still a war going on in Ukraine. While we spend our time mulling over whether or not to commit to our county's mask mandate, and make jokes about our President getting COVID for the second time, there is a war going on in Ukraine. The shooting kind. The killing kind. The dying kind. 

Nearly three hundred civilian casualties over the month of July. Almost nine hundred were injured. This is down considerably from March, when more than three thousand died and more than two thousand were injured. I know, I know. Approximately one hundred Americans die every day from gunfire, so what makes this such a big deal? 

Guns, artillery, rockets. The numbers from Ukraine are all innocent bystanders. Non-combatants. Not that Russia makes any particular distinction in this realm. Russia seems to be content to let the days and weeks go by as the body count climbs. Maybe Russia believes that once the streets and towns are free of Ukrainians, then the Russian flag can be raised and the war will be won. Maybe that is what Russia believes. 

I keep saying "Russia" as if there were some sort of collective or hive mind behind the destruction and death. There isn't. It's pretty much one guy: Vladimir Putin, whose virility and ego seem to be dually invested in this invasion. There hasn't been much in the way of justification for the past few months after starting out with the insistence that Ukraine was full of Nazis who had to be eliminated. Once that was pretty solidly beaten back by common sense and most media affiliates, Vladimir decided to continue as if there was some political or military slight that was being corrected by the continued bombardment of his neighbors. 

I thought about the feeling I get when I walk past the upholstery shop a couple blocks away, the one that burned out in a fire a few months back. Then I tried to imagine what that feeling would be magnified by entire city blocks. And the endless string of funerals for men, women, and children who had the misfortune of living in range. 

And how did Ukraine's president and his wife respond to this continued onslaught? They showed up on the cover of VogueVolodymyr Zelenskyy and Olena Zelenska are pictured together and apart, in and out of the capital, promoting their country and their cause. Some will talk. Some will roll their eyes, but I believe this is exactly how they will survive. They will do what is necessary to keep Ukraine from slipping to the back pages. All is fair in love and fashion, after all. 

Monday, August 01, 2022

Out To See




No matter what kind of ship you find yourself on

It's important to watch out for rocks

and icebergs

and other ships

Even if you're flying in a starship

watch out for stars

and moons

and discussions that involve home improvement

I've been on this ship long enough 

half my life

I's starting to get my sea legs

I don't mind that feeling

of the ocean beneath me

There are still so many things to see

so many port of call

I want to see them

I want to see them with you.