Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A Charlie Brown Birthday

 Charles Schulz turned one hundred this past weekend. What would have been his centennial, that is, had he been alive. There is a certain Charlie Brown-ness to celebrating one hundred years from the grave, or wherever it is that the Great Pumpkin abides. From the grave, everybody sounds like the teachers in Peanuts. "Happy Birthday" sounds a lot like "mwah wah wa-wah." 

But enough of this ugly chatter. It is worth noting that this was the man who made comics big business. There was a time when everyone you knew owned a sweatshirt, poster, stuffed animal or hairbrush that featured the image of one of Charles Schulz's characters. According to people who keep track fo such things, his estimated worth was more than one billion dollars. And that's not Peanuts. 

Again, apologies for the low-hanging fruit. I have, over the course of many years, gathered up a certain amount cynicism when it comes to those icons of my youth. So much of what I learned about how to be a precocious kid came from the comic strips of Charles Schulz. "Sparky," to his friends. There was a lot of existential debate going on in those three or four panels. Sibling rivaly was discussed by Linus and his older sister Lucy. Unrequited love was always playing out in the background. It wasn't until many years later that I began to wonder for whom these cartoons were being drawn. There is something inherently depressing about a kid whose dog has a more active social life than his dog. 

And to be sure, more toy and t-shirt sales. Not a lot of stuffed Charlie Browns sitting on Linus bedspreads. Snoopy was everything. Continues to be. And if you happen to be the round-headed kid who started out drawing a comic strip channeling your adult fears and woes only to end up featuring the adventures of your pet beagle, maybe the despair is a little more tangible. Good ol' Charlie Brown. Good ol' Charlie Schulz. 

I missed your birthday. How Charlie Brown is that? 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Our Day Will Come

 Today is "Please For The Love Of God Buy Something Tuesday." It comes right after Cyber Monday and in the wake of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday and National Second Hand Sunday. If you haven't bought something in the past ninety-six hours, what is wrong with you? 

Do you want the socialists to win? 

Or Antifa? 

Or whoever resides currently in under the bed of capitalists late at night when the stores are closed and the wifi is out. 

All that inflation that we keep hearing about shouldn't stop you either. Everyone knows that the best way to keep prices down is to spend money. This is America, after all. First we gorge ourselves, watch a little football, have some pie and then spend the next three weeks and change saving the country's economy. 

Do your part!

In the interest of transparency, I confess that my wife and I raced out with our California Middle Class tax rebate and shopped for a new refrigerator. After spending all this time cooped up and with the memories of a toilet paper shortage still fresh in our minds from two years ago, we went to three different stores, walking through aisles of appliances that would do the job our old fridge was doing back home. Only better. In stainless steel. We compared and we investigated, and if they had tires, we would have kicked them because we were both entranced with the idea of owning a new refrigerator.

But we came home empty handed. We failed in our consumer mission. We decided to hold on to our money, with the notion that we might happen across a scratched or dented machine that would end up saving us more money than we might spend. 

And make crushed ice. 

Thanksgiving came and went, and our old refrigerator bore up under the strain of all those leftovers and we felt bad about sneaking around behind its back while it stood there in the kitchen, keeping things chill for us as it has for lo these many moons. All those voices, hideous insistent voices, urging us to spend, spend, spend. 

I'm holding out for "C'mon Dave, It's Never Too Late To Burn Through Some Cash Wednesday." 

Monday, November 28, 2022

In Real Life

 Hello, and welcome to another episode of "I've Seen That Movie," the show that helps us all keep guessing whether the life we are currently living is actually a work of fiction. Or not. 

For example, did the San Francisco Police Department really just propose that, in certain cases, their robots would be allowed to use deadly force? 

Robocop? WarGames? About half the episodes of the original Start Trek series? Is this for real? The robots in question are generally used to defuse bombs or to deal with other hazardous substances. But if the folks in San Fran have their way, "The robots listed in this section shall not be utilized outside of training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessment. Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD."

At least that's what the powers that be in San Francisco would like to suggest. In the heart of liberal, pacifist Northern California, how could this go wrong? Some fifty years ago, it was these very streets where Inspector Harry Callahan lugged his .357 Magnum from crime scene to crime scene, dispensing justice in ways that would make most Bay Area residents shudder. Or cheer, depending on the circumstances. Was it a movie, or did it happen in real life? 

Ultimately, on paper, this sounds like a good way to keep everyone safer than keeping Clint Eastwood on the payroll. After all, there is no way that a machine could make the same sort of deadly mistake that their human counterparts have. Which makes me wonder what Isaac Asimov would have to say about all of this. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. That seems like a pretty tough contradiction there, but maybe it's all about the extremes. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. This is the kind of logic that Captain Kirk would love to get some robot confused. And finally, a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. If one were to apply Asimov's Laws of Robotics, it sounds like it might be easier just to find these robots a desk job until everything gets ironed out. 

In real life. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Pardon The Interruption

 I waited a few days out of respect for everyone's digestive systems. Not that this entry is specifically disgusting, in any sort of visceral way. No, this is geared more toward your sensibilities rather than your sensitive tummies. 

Thanksgiving has come and gone. The big eating holiday. It's a feast. It's supposed to celebrate the moment in our history a year after the Pilgrims first came ashore and were welcomed to a big meal of corn and potatoes and the unluckiest bird on the planet. It was a gathering to share in all the abundance that the New World had to offer. The indigenous people who helped those immigrants survive for the first year never imagined how this whole thing would turn out. 

Imagine being a member of one of those tribes today, and seeing how that legendary show of hospitality all turned out. In 1637, sixteen years after that first big banquet, Massachusetts Bay Colony's governor John Winthrop declared a day of festive feeding. Not to commemorate that gathering back in Plymouth but to salute the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children of the Pequot tribe, burning their village to the ground. 

Happy Thanksgiving indeed. 

Four hundred and one years later, the victors continue to write the history books and celebrate their holidays. No matter what the real truth is, we continue to park ourselves in front of the biggest spread possible and gorge ourselves until the football is over. It's how we celebrate the escape of our ancestors from political and religious oppression. And eventually came to politically and religiously oppress the people who showed us how to grow corn. We gave them syphilis. 

Eventually, between the Spanish and those hearty souls who landed on Plymouth Rock, the people who were here first were all but extinguished from the continent. When I was a kid, my brothers and I would often recreate that very first Thanksgiving by having John Alden (me) shake hands with Squanto (my younger brother), directed by my older brother just behind the giant carboard cutout of a turkey. There was no back story for how Squanto was originally kidnapped by English explorer Thomas Hunt and sold into slavery in Spain. That would get in the way of the turkey. Not necessarily the cardboard kind. Which probably wouldn't keep us from eating it anyway. Which is what the day is all about. 

That and forgetting about how we all ended up at the table in the first place.  

Saturday, November 26, 2022


 It used to be the Post Office. There was an expression: Going Postal. That's when a disgruntled employee of the US Postal Service would snap and shoot up his workplace. The suggestion was made at the time that the unrelenting stress of being a mail carrier or sorter was impossible for some to deal with. Eventually they would all crumble under the pressure. 

Then there was the meme of public school shootings. Most of these were easily connected to incidents of bullying, violent video games and rock music. 

Churches had a tough go of it too. They were attracting all kinds of non and disbelievers who sought to settle the issue by seeing if there was a heaven down the barrel of a gun. 

Shopping malls were a target-rich environment. While shoppers were scouring the place for values, idjits with guns were hunting, taking out their rage on those folks in aisle thirteen who just grabbed the last Ninja blender. 

Somewhere in there, Wal-Mart became a prime spot for mass murder. Over the past eight years, the retail giant has been the site of at least five mass shootings. The most recent occurred last Tuesday, when a night manager for a store in Virginia opened fire, killing six. That man shot himself. According to an employee of the Chesapeake store who escaped, their staff had only recently watched a training video describing what to do in the event of an active shooter. Six of his co-workers were not as lucky. 

Which brings to my addled mind the old joke about the guy who comes home and finds his wife in bed with another man. Furious, he pulls a gun out and presses it against his own temple. The couple in bed start giggling, at which the enraged husband shouts, "What are you two laughing about? You're next!"

Which is a very dark response to yet another mass shooting here in the land of the Second Amendment. The United States, Mexico and Guatemala are the only countries on the planet with the right to bear arms constitutionally guaranteed. Now for the really bad news: There are Wal-Marts in Mexico and Guatemala. 

What are you laughing at? You're next. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Q - uestions

 So, the site of Colorado's most recent mass shooting was a gay bar. This is a feature of many of the stories recounting the murder of five innocent victims this past Saturday night. Some prefer the more polite "LGBTQ Nightclub," but I keep wondering how it is that a bar or a nightclub can actually express its sexual identity. 

Before you suggest that it is the clientele that makes this distinction so clear, I suppose I should let you all in on what needn't be a secret: I have been in a gay bar before. The music was great. No one, to my recollection, made a pass at me. Neither relieved nor offended by this non-event, I should say that I also went to more than my share of straight bars in my day. I was never hit on in those bars either. So maybe I should be offended in some way. Or maybe I should surrender to the reality that I never went to a bar with the intent of meeting anyone. "Hooking up" as the kids used to say, was not on my agenda. I can also say with relative certainty that there were plenty of men and women who go out on any given night with the expressed intent of doing just that. The predatory vibe that exists in many of these straight establishments is often embellished by the institutionalized celebrations of Ladies Night, during which those of the fairer sex are invited to enter and drink copiously for next to nothing while the "Gentlemen" are there to pay full price to have their pick of the inebriates. 

All of which is to say that when it comes to "grooming," I believe the hetero norm does a lot more procurement of anonymous sex than their gay counterparts. When I was in college, I went out with a group of women who frequented a couple of gay bars because they wanted to drink and have a good time dancing without having to worry about being propositioned beyond the dance floor. 

It only took a few days after the hero of Saturday's massacre to be revealed as a combat veteran, father and husband who used his training to subdue the gunman with the help of another bar patron. That's when the comments and the social media posts began: "What was a forty-five year old Army veteran doing at a gay bar on a Saturday night?" The insinuation being made on the same level that brought violence to Club Q in the first place. Something wrong. Something bad. Something unnatural. 

Richard Fierro was celebrating a birthday with his wife and his daughter. He was dancing and having a good time when a nutjob showed up with an AR-15. That's when he stopped having a good time. His family stopped having a good time. He started saving lives. 

And in case you're wondering, if I were given the choice between having a child who was gay or a drag performer or someone who liked to go out and have a good time or having a child who was a murderer, I suppose the choice would be simple. I wish it was for everyone.  

Thursday, November 24, 2022


 I am thankful for you. 

The ones that read these words. If I were simply typing away here at my keyboard without the occasional thought to who might be taking a peek at what I'm crowing about, this would be a very shallow enterprise indeed. 

Such is not the case. Instead, I am gifted with an audience. A group of mostly well-wishers who seem to hang on every syllable, even when the ax I am grinding is getting a little tired. 

I am honestly not attempting to try your patience. This is what goes on in my head, and I believe that if I did not share it, I might find other less socially responsible ways to spread my thoughts around. I'm thinking spray paint here. 

No need for vandalism currently. I am content to go on and on in this spot until someone tells me to stop. And then I'll pause for a moment before going on and on again. Carving out a few moments each day to gather the wool that becomes the very small sweater you see before you every morning is a priority for me. Because a long time ago someone said they liked it. 

Imagine that. There was a time when the kids in my class were my audience. I found a way to responsibly get their attention without blundering into the class clown chair. I was an author. I managed to impress a few teachers along the way too. I wrote clever stories and anguished cries for anyone who would pick up the paper upon which I scribbled. 

I started to get the feeling that this was not "normal." Which was fine by me, since I have never been comfortable sitting directly on that mark. And I feel the need to tell people about it. Anyone who will listen. 

Or read, like you're doing right now. I'm thankful for all the appreciation I have received for this simple trick that I do, and all the patient reminders of when I have meandered into the wrong lane. You make this happen. Otherwise, it's just a journal. And it's not like you don't have your own thoughts, for heaven's sake. You just get to take mine along with you.

Thank you for that. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Connect The Dots

 Come on folks. The twenty-four hour period that brought Elon Musk's decision to return a failed gameshow host to Twitter corresponded coincidentally to the announcement that North Korea has a missile capable of bringing a multiple nuclear warheads to the continental United States and there was a mass murder at a gay club in Colorado Springs. It's difficult not to try and make some sort of causal relationship between all these events. Where are we living and why are we still making these kind of choices as a species? 

Death and its supporters are having a wild time out there right now. Hate is a prime motivator, and it seems to be for sale on every street corner. Five people were killed when a gunman walked into Club Q close to midnight on Saturday night. Eighteen more were injured before patrons subdued the evil twit. Unlike so many movie versions of a moment like this, the "suspect" was not beaten to a pulp or taken out with one clean shot to the head. He was handed over to authorities for processing. 

The North Korean missile thing isn't all that different. One guy decides that he needs a really big gun to threaten to kill people he doesn't know. He just wants a really big gun because all the other bullies on the planet have really big guns. Except all the other bullies have become very shy about using theirs. Kim Jong Un is does not fit the profile of being "shy." 

Which brings us to the man who decided that it would be a good idea to unleash the social media sputterings of a twice-impeached former "president" whose last tour of Twitter brought about such a wealth of disinformation that an attack was launched on our Capitol and the Vice President was nearly assassinated. Elon Musk made this decision based on a poll of the site's users, conducted on a Saturday afternoon, and declared that "the people have spoken." As if this process was in any real way connected to democracy. As if Donald Trump were connected in any real way to democracy. Or Kim Jong Un. 

Or the murderer in Colorado Springs. This is all a great big swirling mass of madness being kept in check by the tiniest conventions. Where is the outrage? It's out there, but those who feel it are not the ones prone to using long rifles or nuclear weapons. They are the ones who attempt to subdue the "suspect" until authorities arrive. Like the police that arrived on the scene January 6 at the Capitol. And the five people that died that day. 

Let's not let that happen again. Or anything like it. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Prep Cook

 I am currently prepping my "what I'm thankful for" bit for the table this Thursday. It is taking me a little longer than it has in years past, primarily due to the empty chair left by my mother. This was the lady who made more grasshopper pies than I will ever be able to count. She was the one who talked me through my first turkey, stuffing and all. As years passed, and I became more confident in my bird prep, I would still call her to walk through the details. Having a speaker phone with all of the attendant butter and other slippery bits keeping my hands full made it more feasible, and it was a little like having her in the kitchen with me, looking over my shoulder.

And I know that the conventional wisdom is that she will always be there, but not having someone to encourage my periodic flights of fancy, like using chopped apple instead of celery in the Joy of Cooking basic stuffing recipe. Discussion of the complete lack of nutrition found in the frozen dessert named for an insect could fill another hour. 

This was the lady who once prepared a miniature version of the feast that my friend and I were missing because we were too wracked with grief to make the trip out to the farm to eat with the family. Little tin containers of gravy and potatoes and a turkey breast to warm in our oven, filling that bachelor pad that was less one of its roommates. 

I will always treasure the memory of driving the car she was saddled with after my parents were divorced, a maroon Chrysler New Yorker, across the plains of Colorado with my younger brother riding shotgun. We played the cassette deck loud, with mom riding patiently in the back while we did our brother thing. 

Not too long after that, I returned to Boulder over Thanksgiving because my father was in a burn ward after the plane crash that would eventually take his life. Dinner that year was cold and quiet. We used the family china, and we tried to put on the feedbag like we always had, but appetites were hard to find and even the Grasshopper pie couldn't liven up our collective taste buds. 

This year I will be putting the best I've got out on the table. The bird. The pie. The experimental stuffing. And we'll be serving it on my mother's china. I expect it will be more flavorful than the meal we shared all those years ago. When my friend died. When my dad died. My mom once cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner at the last minute when weather cancelled our annual trip out to the farm. Everything I learned from her will go into this meal.

And I am thankful for the opportunity to make it. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

The Price You Pay

 I assume that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a fan. Maybe a Swiftie, but at least a fan of live music. Or perhaps she's just that dedicated a fan of social justice. So much so that she is actively campaigning to break up the monopoly held by Ticketmaster/LiveNation when it comes to selling tickets to concerts across this great land of ours. Twelve years ago the U.S. Justice Department approved the consolidation of these great beasts of entertainment accounting, and over the past decade and change ticket prices that were already ridiculously expensive have done nothing up go up. 

“We’re sorry! Something went wrong on our end and we need to start over. Broken things are a drag — our team is on it so it doesn’t happen again.” This was the message Swifties who scrambled to get tickets to Taylor's upcoming tour last week. Machinery that should be selling tickets to fans of the artist are instead dragged down by traffic that is snapping up ducats that can be turned around abruptly and sold to those same fans at an extreme markup. This is all part of the business plan engineered by Irving Azoff, the music industry weasel who made this unholy alliance and then washed his hands of it two years later and walked away. “Life at a public company ain’t for me,” he said at the time. 

Irving was able to walk away from the train wreck he created, taking with him the stable of clients he maintained as a manager, The Eagles, Christina Aguilera, Van Halen, Steely Dan and Jennifer Hudson. He also chose to remain on the board of Clear Channel and the sports management company IMG. 

Don't worry about Irving. He's going to be alright.

As a matter of fact, he probably won't have to buy a ticket for Taylor's upcoming tour. A bigshot like Irving will likely be comped in. If he really wants to see the show. All those folks, perhaps including Representative AOC, have to buy theirs. For the price that the market seems to be willing to bear. Before the public sales to Swift's "Era" tour, resale tickets were "available" for resale for as much as twenty-eight thousand dollars.

Here is the part where I bore you with the twenty dollar tickets I used to buy for concerts.

Here is where I remind everyone of Pearl Jam's ill-fated attempt at breaking Ticketmaster's stranglehold on the industry back in a previous century. For their most recent tour, guess who Pearl Jam has selling tickets for them? 

No word on if AOC is a Pearl Jammie. 

Sunday, November 20, 2022


 Proposition Thirty-Nine. This was the little bombshell left in my lap as the meeting came to a close. A group of teachers, parents and district officials had gathered on Zoom to discuss the potential closure of my school, Horace Mann Elementary. Perhaps the most agonizing part of that last sentence was the word "potential." The recent election had replaced most of the hardline closure seats with those more friendly to keeping schools open. Would this translate into a measure rescinding the previous decision? 

We were told by the powers that continue to be that we should "hope for the best and prepare for the worst." This put me squarely in the mindset of those folks living down in hurricane country, furiously nailing plywood to the outside of their little shacks while secretly wishing that the storm would pass them by and crash into some other more deserving portion of the coast. Which brought me around to the Albert Einstein nugget, "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." 

As our principal pointed out directly to anyone that was listening, we are trying to run a school currently with all the attendant complications, frustrations, and victories. Trying to keep a school from being closed is a completely separate challenge that sits just outside of the struggle to teach kids how to read. Which is where Proposition Thirty-Nine comes into play. 

A sharp-eyed colleague noticed a line in one of the district's slideshow. It suggested that if there was a charter school that was willing to give up their charter and merge with a public school, that would "solve the facilities issue." 

Nearly a year into this process, which has not included a single visit by a board member or district official, we find out that there is at least one avenue that could be taken to stop our school from being shut down. Why didn't we hear about this a year ago?

It was explained to us that Proposition Thirty-Nine was a very complex process that would have to be undergone to stave off closure. Someone on the Zoom call chimed in, "Anymore complicated than closing a school?" 

It may have been me. After the meeting, I looked into this complex document. My reading was pretty clear: If there is a charter school in need of more room, facilities, space, then they can gain access through the school district. If there is a struggling charter school that would rather have a spot for their students and staff and a public school would agree to absorb them, problem solved. The negotiation comes in where the charter school could be asked to give up their charter in order to facilitate the process. 

Given a year, this might have been an option that someone, in their voluminous spare time, could have pursued. Or perhaps someone with the district? 

Or maybe the district was hoping that this would all just go away. 

I won't. Not without more answers and a fight. If necessary. 

That's my proposition. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Field Trip

 Last weekend there was a shooting at a school in Virginia. Three young men were killed, and another two were injured. The murders took place at the end of a field trip, after the students had been to see a play. The killer was on the bus with his victims and opened fire on his victims after a brief scuffle. An eyewitness worried that the gunman was going to kill everyone on the bus. 

The fact that this took place at the University of Virginia and the victims were college football players does not change the dynamic of the incident. It is just an escalated version of the conflicts I deal with on the playground every day. 

"Why did you hit him?"

"He was messing with me." 

"Why did you shoot him?"

"He was messing with me."

I am fortunate that guns are not as readily available among the elementary school crowd. Mostly. But on that bus in Virginia last weekend, there was a gun, and it was used to "settle a score." That score was a field goal and a safety, five young men shot. Three dead. Two injured. 

The flashpoint of this shooting comes from the college football angle. I might imagine that an incident like this would put the thought that guns are bad into the heads of collegiate athletics fans. I might wish for those whose minds had been turned to additional restrictions on gun ownership could help stem the tide of death. It's far too easy to pull the trigger. It's far too easy to die. 

Kids were on a field trip. It doesn't matter what age they were. The victims include everyone on that bus. Everyone who knew one of the victims. Everyone who will attend the funerals of three kids cut down before their time. 

Meanwhile, it's happening all across our country every day. On school buses, on street corners, in living rooms and classrooms. It's the guns. 

It's the guns. 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Build Back Sanely

 Perhaps the era of slash and burn politics is coming to a close. The tough-talking shoot from the hip style of Kari Lake is where my finger is currently pointing. It strikes me that alienating members of one's own party may not lead to the easiest path. At a campaign stop in the days before the election, Ms. Lake made reference to the middle of the road Republicans exemplified by Senator John McCain. She asked, “We don’t have any McCain Republicans in here, do we?” former television anchor Lake asked the event’s attendees, who booed in response. She paused for a moment and then unleashed: “Well, get the hell out!”

Perhaps feeling the MAGAt vibe even more strongly at this moment, Ms. "I don't" Kari added, “Boy, Arizona has delivered some losers, haven’t they?”

John McCain served Arizona in the Senate for thirty-one years. He was elected to the House of Representatives for four years prior to that. And before his time in public office, he served in the Navy, enduring five years in a Vietnamese prison camp where he was tortured and kept in self-confinement. 

John McCain did lose one election. The one he ran against Barack Obama. It was in the closing days of that campaign that he felt the need to recuse himself from the racist and fear-based rhetoric that his party was throwing around about his opponent. A woman stood up at a town hall and insisted that she couldn't trust this Obama fellow because she had heard he "was an Arab." A month before the election of his life, John McCain assured his confused follower, "No ma'am, he's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what Kari Lake, former news anchor and first time politician, called "a loser." It should likewise be noted that four years ago that I Don't Kari wrote about the Senator's passing that the state of Arizona and the country had lost, “A war hero, icon and a force to be reckoned with.”

Well, it would seem that she has now finished reckoning with that legacy, as millions of new voters came to this most recent election and made their voices heard. Their rejection of the MAGA principles was a bright spot on a somewhat bleak political landscape. Do I imagine that this will be the end of mud-slinging and character assassination? Have we turned the corner on the politics of hate? 

I would like to cast my vote for that. 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Meal Ticket

 Someone once said, "There is no free lunch." This somewhat cynical viewpoint has been backed up by years of research and personal experience. I can attest to the reality of this world view based on my attempts to try and gather up a lunch from my school's cafeteria. As a teacher, I am expected to pay for the warmed over goop of various permutations served there. Never mind that the kids, who seemed to have been the target demographic for the saran-wrapped chicken and waffles, need only to line up and receive their food and a carton of milk. Where I work there are so many students on the free and reduced lunch list that it is much easier to simply check them off as they make their way through the queue. 

Which does not mean that they are always the grateful recipients of this meal. Quite the opposite. On any given day the trash and compost bins fill up quickly with the discards from those finicky palates. In a previous age, before the virus, we had a "share table" where kids could drip their less favorite offerings to be swooped upon by omnivores who will actually eat anything put in front of them. This was where a teacher might find themselves a morsel if not a meal in a pinch. 

Teachers are not included in the new free meal program. 

Which is fine with me, since I don't tend to eat until I get home at the end of the day anyway. It's just easier. I don't have to negotiate the price or the time to get some food to eat. There are places on the planet where teachers are asked to pay four dollars and fifty cents for their possibly lasagna. These are places in the firmament that ask for students to pay three dollars and fifty cents. Three eighty if you're a high schooler. But since California recently instituted "stigma free" school lunches, this won't be a problem. 

However, if you happen to have dealt with all the chutes and ladders of public education and found yourself a job at Twitter, you're going to be out of luck. Or you're going to have to bring your sack lunch from home, which we all know isn't free. Elon "Gated" Musk, the new da capo of Twitter, has announced with no small redundancy that there will be no more free lunches at his newly acquired place of business. In his cost-benefit analysis, staff lunches were costing four hundred dollars apiece. That number equates with the owner's view of an empty building and all that bouillabaisse sitting in a vat, untouched by employees who are not in the building. Not surprising is the contrasting view given by recently "departed" employees who suggest that the new guy was asking for eighty hour work weeks in addition to taking away the "free lunch" that was costing the company something along the lines of twenty to twenty-five dollars per meal.  

Somewhere in there is a discrepancy that only a teacher could probably discern. If your expectations for participation rises and the rewards, tangible or otherwise, decline there will be sad faces.

And empty chairs. 

Because everyone will be waiting to get home for their peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Nice Doggie

 Before there was a Spuds MacKenzie, before there was a Working Class Dog, I had my heart set on owning a Bull Terrier. You might imagine that these media images were responsible for driving the enthusiasm for this breed. You would be right. You might also ascribe a spike in the public's appreciation for bullies after seeing George C. Scott palling around with a doggie in his Oscar winning portrayal of General Patton. 

All of these images are stuck in my mind, but they were not the inspriation for my want. That came from George Booth. A lot of Georges squished into this piece. If the name George Booth isn't familiar to you, maybe you didn't spend the kind of quality time I did reading The New Yorker. Okay, I confess. I wasn't there for the articles, though I did from time to time check out Pauline Kael's movie reviews. I was there for the cartoons. And there were plenty of them that sailed wildly over my head. Metropolitan types complaining about their analysts or mice livng in rent controlled holes in the wall. I wasn't there for those. I was there for Charles Addams, who tweaked my monster movie sensibility. And shortly after that, I went looking for George Booth

The cartoons of Mister Booth were silly and filled with quirky little details. Like yakking cats and the inevitable bull terrier. These scruffy, ill-tempered beasts were not featured players. Generally relegated to the background, these were not Snoopy. Not at all. But they had character to spare and kept me looking for their master's drawings each and every week. Eventually I was the happy recipient of collections of George Booth cartoons. No longer did I need to skim through all that Manhattan esoterica to find those furiously scratching bullies. Page after page of all that oddness. 

I never owned a bull terrier. But when I think of them, I think of George Booth. He died last week at the age of ninety-six. He had stopped drawing dogs some time ago, but they continue to scramble about my mind. George Booth scribbled on the Terra. He and his furry friends will be misssed. Aloha, George. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Participant Ribbons

 You might think that after all these years of teaching PE at an elementary school that I would learn my lesson. One of the things that was stressed for all those years by various and sundry clinics and trainings was that cooperative games are the key to a happy playground. Any game that ends in a winner or a loser will ultimately set you back. All that talk about "who won" will take away valuable instruction time and gnaw away at fragile egos. 

I also know that while I tend to finish each class with the question, "Who had fun?" then insisting that those are the kids who won, this is never satisfying for any child old enough to play Sharks and Minnows. Finding yourself "out" in four square, or trailing in the last leg of the egg relay race can be a soul-crushing experience for an eight year old.  Being on the losing kickball team? You might as well stay out on the playground and wait for the rest of fourth grade to forget.

But they never will. 

At least that's how grade school kids feel. Which explains why after ten minutes playing any game imaginable, a few of them will start to complain that a few of their playmates are cheating. For them, this can be the only possible explanation for the reason they are not able to catch the foam rubber balls being tossed across the yard. Cheating tends to be the best possible way to define the line between winning and losing. There is none. There is only winning and cheating. We try and mediate their bitter disappointments by offering them a solution: Rock, Paper, Scissors. As resolutions go, this works pretty well, but the tough nuts will still complain that even that game is fixed in everyone else's favor. 

You don't have to wonder too long about where these kids might have acquired this world view. One need only to look at the election coverage over the past few years to witness a group of sore losers like the playground could hardly imagine. The votes weren't counted right. The votes came from dead people. The wrong paper was used. All the efforts to suppress minority voters didn't work. 

Oops. That last one just snuck in there. Mostly, they agree with the nine year old who cannot fathom how they could possibly have been caught in Capture The Flag. They insist on the ultimate in universe expansion: the Do Over. The Orange One, who has lost the popular vote in both of the elections in which he has participated, cannot conceive how anyone could get fewer votes when they have been personally selected by his tiny hands. It's actually becoming more and more clear that on the whole people just don't like this guy or the people he recommends. It's not a matter of cheating. Plain and simple, it's a popularity contest and he's just not that popular. 

I know. I see you shaking your head. Hard to believe, isn't it? But maybe the truth lies more in the fact that these grownups are imitating the behavior of children. That seems to make more sense to me. Maybe the next election will be conducted by and for adults. 

I wonder if we could settle Georgia with Rock, Paper, Scissors? 

Monday, November 14, 2022

Calling Out

 Amy wanted to know how I was feeling. In spite of the fact that I was immediately aware of her robotic presence on my phone, I replied. "I'm doing okay, still a little sad." She moved somewhat abruptly to my age. Was I between the ages of forty and eighty, she wanted to know. I answered quickly in the affirmative, and then she wanted to know if I wanted to know more about a new low cost final expense insurance plan that is now approved in this state this burial insurance plan is going to one hundred percent of your funeral or cremation expenses. Having already taken the chance of answering the Scam Likely call, I said, "Sure. Why not?"

Amy connected to me with the first available agent who told me his name was Steve. "Steve" inquired again as to my relative state of mind, and I let him know that I was alright, but feeling a little sad. He told me he was sorry to hear that, which was more than his robo-friend Amy had done, so I went ahead and shared with him the reason for my melancholy: "My mom died recently." This gave "Steve" a pause in his pre-scripted sales pitch. I tried to put him at ease: "I was wondering if there was any way that this insurance you're selling could help me out with the cost of my mother's recent burial."

"Steve" tried to dodge my question by pressing on with his preprogrammed offer. Not being a robot, "Steve" had to stop for a breath, and that's when I asked if his parents were still alive. He told me that his father had passed in 2018. "I'm sorry to hear that. How about your mom?" I asked him. "Steve" didn't respond at first, but I pressed the issue. "Steve" assured me that his mom was still alive, and he tried to make a course correction by insisting that his mother had a very affordable policy that he himself had helped her purchase.

"So, do you pay the premiums on that account, or can she afford it on what I assume is a fixed income?" I was not being very nice to "Steve." Nevertheless he wanted me to know that mother was quite pleased with the insurance he had helped her pick out. "Steve" hoped that he could do the same for me.

"Well, I don't know, I'm just wondering if there is some way that the great chasm of grief that has been opened up for me and my family with the passing of my mom would be lessened by having an insurance policy." Then there was a quiet for a moment. I thought perhaps that "Steve" had hung up.

He hadn't. He was going to take one more swing, assuring me that he could help me find something affordable that would fit my budget. That's when I told "Steve" that I hoped that he would take some time before the end of the day to call his mother and tell her that he loved her. 

That's when "Steve" hung up. I hope it was so that he could call his mom. 

Sunday, November 13, 2022


 Where do we go from here?

The roof of my family's house was torn off by the death of my mother. 

The political landscape continues to shift, with "representatives" that don't appear to represent me. 

I voted. I buried my mother. But somehow, nothing seems to have changed. 

Don't get me wrong, I can feel the void left by my mother's departure. Becoming an orphan at sixty years old gives me a leg up on Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker, but I don't guess I am prepared for spending the rest of my life fighting crime either. 

I live in California where the map looks indigo from way up in the sky, but I know where those pockets of scarlet lie. I can imagine going about my days in a bubble of blue that keeps me safe from confronting the worst of the red baseball cap fomenters.  

And I remember the words my mother used to toss around about how things could still get a whole lot worse before they were going to get better. She lived through The Depression. World War II. Nixon. I figure she probably knows from worse. 

My home is now, in part, a museum of artifacts that tell a patchwork story of both my mother and father, lifelong residents of Boulder, Colorado. There are times when I am sitting in my living room located by the sea, or at least one major earthquake fault, and I wonder how I strayed so far from home.

There are times when I wonder how the country that brought us Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama could also produce a George Bush or two, and impeach a former game show host twice without convicting him. Still waiting for the arc of history to bend a little closer to justice. 

Making a place for those I love and care about where they can feel safe and happy is the job of a parent. 

I'm a parent. 

I'll figure out which way to go. As my mother used to say, "Sometimes lost isn't a bad thing."

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Surge Protection

 It is interesting to me that the midterm elections coincided with the hurricane season. Discussion currently centers on the storm we call "Nicole." Forgive me if my understanding of pronouns and storms is lacking, but this one has a lot of attention. He/she/they/it have been both disregarded and elevated by forecasters. He/she/they/it has not packed the punch of Ian, but it would be hard to imagine another hurricane hitting with the same power that crushed the coast of Florida at the end of September this year. One hundred forty-seven people died in that one. Property damage estimates were in the tens of billions of dollars. Ian was a Category Four Hurricane. Nicole isn't expected to get much past a One. 

But Nicole is still a hurricane, and any additional catastrophe will be piled on top of that which already exists in the Sunshine State. That last bit was tossed in as ironic counterpoint, in case you were wondering. I am guessing that Floridians would not want to promote their home with license plate bearing the nickname, "Mostly underwater." And yet they persist. The stories tend to center on those hearty souls who nail a bunch of plywood onto their estates and hunker down, waiting for the storm to pass. The ones that flee tend to come back, only to look out to the sea in anticipation of the next meteorological event. 

Which is pretty much how I have been viewing the 2022 Midterm Elections. All reports in advance of the event had me wincing in fear of a Red Wave. The one that would cover the entire continent and bring about the end of Democracy. 

Certainly the initial reports from Florida announcing Ron "Don't Call Me Ronald" DeSantis and Marco "Don't Call Me" Rubio as winners of the governor's and senate races just shortly after the polls closed down in Hurricane Alley. This was not the news for which those of us who live in Blue Enclaves had hoped. 

I tried not to stare at the results coming in from across the country. Would the Magats make landfall and wash all evidence of the 2020 election? Marjorie Taylor Greene was reelected. Not a good sign. Lauren Boebert lost. As the night wore on, it became clear that the Category Four storm had been downgraded to more of a severe thunderstorm. The complaining about the political climate continued, but the system of elections held. When the clouds parted, the land was still recognizable, with patches of blue and red, very much like it had been the night before. 

And somewhere around the time the polls closed on the West Coast, it hailed in Oakland. Make of that what you will. Now onto predicting the next hurricane. 

Friday, November 11, 2022

My Mother's House

 The morning after I returned from burying my mother's ashes, it was raining. "We need the moisture," said the voice inside my head. It was my mother's voice. The same one that I know was the driving force behind my younger brother getting us to the airport four hours early for our flights back to California. 

That last sentence was a bit of a curiosity as I typed it. It started out as "four hours early for our flights back home," but I ran into a bit of a factual junction when it occurred to me that the place where I had just been was "home." It was the place where I was born. The place where my brothers and I grew up. Where we came together to put my mother to rest. 

It was my mother's house that existed as a base of operations. It was the place where we landed and sat around making plans for what we would do. And have a few fistfuls of jelly beans. It was the place where there was a spot to catch up on Time magazine or the New Yorker. Chances were good that there would be marathon gin games accompanied by endless conversations. It was a place where the cookies were. 

Twenty-five years ago when my mother moved up the road to a smaller version of the home where I spent my childhood, it was still a gathering place. The configuration of the art and the furniture was different to accommodate the smaller floor plan, but the tchotchkes all found a place in the new place. The walls were a gallery of art that documented a life spent absorbing the culture around her. It was a concentrated version of the house of my youth. 

On this last visit, we returned to a shell. The furniture, art and tchotchkes had been taken away. The floors had been renewed, so we all found a place to loll about on the fresh carpet. Mom wasn't there, but she was. We told stories about the olden days. We remembered. 

And I felt sad because I missed my mother's house. When I walked out into the rain in Oakland, I found a sense of hope: I remembered what was inside the place I now call home. The art on the walls. The tchotchkes I maintain. The cookie jar. It will never be my mother's house, but I am doing my very best to keep the memories alive. My mother's piano sits in the front room, and sometimes if I work at it, I can plink out a tune. 

I'm home again. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Retail Space For Rending

 They're planning on tearing down the Flatirons Mall. This may not sound like big news to you, but it was for me. 

Sort of. 

The Flatirons Mall was opened twenty-two years ago, eight years after I had left the Boulder Valley, so I had a working knowledge of the real estae involved, but couldn't imagine how people in Boulder would make the trek over the hill to Broomfield to shop at Macy's and some of those other high-falutin' retalilers. But since the Crossroads Mall had been transformed into the retail spce known now as "29th Street" that should have taken care of everyone's consumer needs. 

But this is a town in constant flux. My hometown has never been completely happy with the status quo. Way back in the seventies, developers closed down one of the major streets to create the Pearl Street Mall, immortalized for many in the Robin Williams sitcom, Mork and Mindy. For a while, it seemed as those who preferred the outdoor pedestrian mall could coexist with those who enjoyed the enclosed environs of Crossroads

But Robert Frost would tell you that nothing golden stays, not even Orange Julius, and soon Crossroads was flattened to bring in a new and improved site for spending, the aforementioned 29th Street, cleverly named for the street which could no longer run through it. Meanwhile, the storefronts on Pearl Street continued to shift and change, leaving very little for Mork to recognize if he were to return. 

But I did. And all of this change and rearrange caused me all manner of confusion as I tried to find a place that would sell me what I needed. Not what I wanted, since that wasn't the direction in which I was headed. My search landed me at Target, where I once worked on the loading dock.

I guess you can go home again. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Time Travel

 Air travel used to be so much more exciting. For perspective's sake, I can remember a time when folks used to dress up to get on an airplane. Sure, the tie I wore was a clip-on, but I was a pretty wee thing when this all came to pass. The 1960s. You may have heard of them. It's also quite possible that you were under the impression that that time was all about hippies and free love and that sort of thing. I am here to tell you that was not the case. It took a long time to unclench from the fifties. When I was born, the Beatles were just starting to make their way across the pond, creating scandal for wearing their hair over their ears. Mostly, anyway. My hair during those years was cropped much shorter than that. And when I went to school or church, I wore my Buster Browns and a shirt with a collar. T-shirts and dungarees were for roughhousing after the day's business had been completed. 

Getting on an airplane was business. You might have swim trunks and flip flops packed away in your suitcase somewhere, but you were not by any means going to flaunt that look on board a passenger aircraft. Similarly, you weren't going to have your luggage anywhere nearby. It was safely stowed away in the compartment for which it was designed. You wouldn't need access to your laptop, unless by laptop you mean the tray table that would magically unfold in front of you to hold the coloring book you were allowed to carry on. And your phone? That was miles away at home where you would be missing calls because you were going somewhere on a plane for heaven's sake and who would want to be bothered with such trivialities when you're all dressed up and had somewhere to go?

And, if you were extremely luck and under the age of twelve, the captain might stroll through the cabin and drop a pair of plastic wings on you, just for promising to hold on tight. He wore a hat and had gold stripes on his sleeves. This guy was definitely not going to use autopilot. 

This may have been where I took off, but it's definitely not where I landed. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2022


 “It’s unthinkable what these people are doing to this nationThe way they want to destroy Christianity, the way they want to destroy our families, the way they’re destroying our children, the way they’re destroying our history, the way they’re rewriting our textbooks — guys, this is a cognizant war in this country. I’m not like the tinfoil hat-wearing guy. But if anybody thinks that they’re not weaponizing every single one of these systems — there’s only one party that’s weaponizing the systems." With these words, Eric Trump put the his listeners on notice that there is a cognizant war in this country. Since these listeners were attendees at a Qanon rally in Branson, Missouri it would probably be safe to say that if Eric was not himself wearing a tinfoil hat then there were probably a group somewhere in the auditorium who were. And that Don Jr.'s little brother may not have been wearing his shiny metal chapeau, he is most certainly in line for a fitting. 

With the advent of a new run for our nation's highest office, other than being CEO of Twitter, it should be noted that the voices coming from the twice-impeached former game show host are not becoming any more reasonable. Instead, the emphasis seems to be to double down on the fear and spittle in hopes of driving a wedge even more deeply into the divide that already profoundly exists in this country. The formerly United States. The war that the orange one's thrid favorite offspring rants about was declared by them, supported and pushed ever further toward the point of no return by the brains protected by tinfoil hats. It's not cosmic rays they fear, but ideas from the past sixty years. 

These rallies are self-perpetuating. They can run forever on the lies and anger stoked by the powers that be in the ludicrously far right camp. When young Eric insistst that it's "unthinkable" of course he means we should do nothing but think about it, even if it has been made up of spare parts stitched together by those too afraid to come out into the light of the twenty-first century. Rewriting history? One would have to have a working knowledge of history to rewrite it. That's what cognizant means. So, I suppose in this way I guess Eric may be onto something. 

Onto the next rally to stir up more anger and fear. 

Monday, November 07, 2022

Not News

 So, remember a few days back when I was writing about news that maybe wasn't exactly news? Well, apparently in a world full of "alternative facts," this kind of reporting takes place all the time these days. 

For example, after an investigation, it turns out  rumors that San Luis Obispo County school districts are placing litter boxes in restrooms to accommodate students who identify as “furries” are false. The Superintendents of both San Luis Obispo schools and Paso Robles each issued a statement to make clear that this was an unfounded allegation. But they had to issue a statement nonetheless. 

They were just a couple of the superintendents who had to issue statements about the lack of litter boxes in their schools' bathrooms. All because sometime back in April a Facebook post was made by a Lori Word Harrison from Ardmore, Oklahoma insisting that "some schools" were catering to the demands of the furries. "Have y'all heard of this?" Ms. Harrison asks. Interesting, since the overwhelming abundance of Facebook posts Lori makes are about how drying her hair and autumn colors and deal she got on the bed cover she bought at Restoration Hardware. 

The folks at Restoration Hardware have yet to issue a statement regarding Ms. Harrison's purchase. But somehow, this one entry about "some schools" and furries managed to get traction and spread. To Iowa. To Michigan. To Nebraska. To Wisconsin. At least twenty Republican politicians have taken up this debunked social media trifle and begun to use it as a talking point. Speaking of points, as in the one on top of her head, Colorado's Lauren Boebert warned a luncheon for Republican women about this made up concern. Scott Jensen, GOP candidate for governor of Minnesota wanted to know, “What are we doing to our kids? Why are we telling elementary kids that they get to choose their gender this week? Why do we have litter boxes in some of the school districts so kids can pee in them, because they identify as a furry? We’ve lost our minds. We’ve lost our minds.”

Yes, Scott. I believe that is more true than you might have imagined. And speaking of imagined, let's not forget about all the twisted accounts of the attack on Paul Pelosi. So many ugly and bizarre versions of the story have been squeezed out through the cracks that authorities have been tasked with issuing statements that "reassure" us all that both men involved in the hammer attack were clothed. What sort of minds are working overtime to come up with this garbage? 

This just in: Aliens are not responsible for that patch of dead grass in my lawn. 

It might have been the neighborhood furries...

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

 In my sixty years on the planet, I like to imagine that I have had sixty extra hours to sleep, due to all that silliness surrounding setting clocks back in the fall. This illusion disappears abruptly as soon as I remember that I have sprung forward just as many times. This sum zero equation began long before I was born, 1916 to be precise. It moved from Europe to the United States in 1918, and we have never looked back. Or forward. You understand the problem here. 

The initial thoughts surrounding the artificial movement of clocks in a coordinated effort to allow humans to walk around more in the light of day. Saving daylight, get it? Its origins can be traced back to one Benjamin Franklin, who suggested this practice to help save candles. That was before 1918, so Ben's notions fell by the wayside. Even though a number of countries hopped on the Daylight Savings Time bandwagon after successful implementation in the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. Generations of otherwise clever people have bought into the notion that they are "saving time" by pushing the hands of their clocks backward, then a few months later shoving them forward again. It's supposed to be good for us, like LIFE cereal. 

Mostly, it has created its own swirling eddy of confusion, not the least of which is how to make the most of the experience. I have very deeply embedded circadian rhythms, and the suggestion that one day I will magically awake an hour earlier because of the manipulation of all the clocks in my house is ludicrous to me. The chore of tracking down all the chronometers in and around me is enough to keep me fretting late into the night, and up early the next morning to check my work. 

The stupid clock in the car is always the last one to be reconfigured. That usually gets done within a week or so of the magical hour when the time pixies alter our existence as only they can. 

Then there's this: When I worked late night at Arby's, we were open until two in the morning, since nothing feeds hungry drunk boys more than thinly sliced "roast beef" and potato cakes. Inevitably, it was that one Saturday in late October when two o'clock suddenly marched back to one. The powers that be at the franchise office issued an edict that told us all to treat this as a "value added" hour. It was a chance to ring up an extra hour of sales, so why not keep those doors open? 

Because the only people out in search of the menu offerings at Arby's during that hour were not specifically equipped to manage their digestive systems any better than they were able to hold their alcohol. Looking back on those years, it was those few extra hours that I had tacked onto my life in brown polyester that I regret the most. 

Will I miss Daylight Savings Time? About as much as I miss a Beef 'n' Cheddar. 

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Another Day In Paradise

 On Halloween, I met our other PE coach bringing a child in from the playground. I heard him first, but the tears from the kid didn't prepare me for what I was going to see. 

Blood dripping down the side of the kid's head, over his face, to his chin, onto his shirt. His tears making a red smear on one side as he wiped at them with the back of his hand. 

This was not something that could be fixed with a band-aid.

On the playground, so many things can be fixed with a band-aid. Some of the tiniest scrapes and the goriest wounds can be covered with an adhesive strip and a kind word. Generally speaking, it's the attention that carries all the healing weight. When things really go south, we might send them to the office for an ice pack. 

Not this head wound. This got a direct escort to a place where parents could be called and all the medical attention we have to muster could be dropped on this case. Not a band-aid.

And we needed the story. What could have generated this scary scene? Not a skinned knee. This was a scalp wound. 

Turns out another kid found a chunk of the playground that was loose, and in a fit of first grade pique, he hurled it with all his first grade might at the boy who had, moments ago, been his friend. Some perceived slight had caused the thrower to do harm to his classmate. "He was messing with me," was the explanation we were able to divine. Well, if the intent was to keep his ex-friend from "messing with him" any further, he accomplished his goal. 

As well as sending most of the school into a tizzy. Those who witnessed it were quick to share it with those who had not. The legend grew, but not by much since a sight like that wasn't something that needed a lot of embellishment. 

The good news is that once the victim was cleaned up, the laceration did not require stitches or an emergency room visit. A special bandage and the ever-present ice pack along with a day off school. Then the requisite meeting with parents as the kids try and navigate a path back to being on the same playground together again. 

The punch line in all of this is that both sets of parents showed up for a meeting with the principal. They agreed on one thing: The school was responsible. Maybe a band-aid would help. 

Friday, November 04, 2022

The Circle Game

 I read an article that referred to plastic recycling as a myth. The plan was to keep all that single use plastic out of the landfills. And the streets. And the oceans. And so on. A new study has found that only about five percent of the plastic used in the United States gets recycled. That's five percent of fifty-one million tons. Each year. That's two and a half million tons getting recycled. So that's the good news. 

That leaves just a tad under forty-nine million tons that does not get recycled. 

Which is a bit confounding, since conservative estimates puts our household at about ten million tons a year. Oakland is fiercely proud of their recycling program, and encourages us all to sort and manage our waste streams, which sometimes can be about as foul as it sounds. Each week I roll a very large bin of assorted material to the curb for what we expect will be a chance for reuse. Carboard, aluminum, plastics of all sorts. All neatly stuffed into a container made of, ironically, plastic. Which makes me think about the George Carlin bit about trying to throw away an old trash can. Where do you put it? When you're done with your old recycling bin, what do you do with it?

Well, if you're a Caven, you might consider using it for holding all manner of gardening implements. Or using it to cover plants in the rare instance of frost in our Oakland climate. But mostly we try to keep it out of the landfill. 

Now, what about everybody and everything else? Plastic soda bottles, one of the most ubiquitous plastic products with the highest recycling rate, are only returned and reused at just over twenty percent. Plastic jugs fared even worse with just ten percent recycling rates. Lisa Ramdsden, senior plastics campaigner for Greenpeace USA says, “The data is clear: practically speaking, most plastic is just not recyclable. Single-use plastics are like trillions of pieces of confetti spewed from retail and fast food stores to over three hundred thirty million U.S. residents across more than three million square miles each year.”

And there I am, at the kitchen sink, holding up a cottage cheese container, squinting to see if that's a one or a seven pressed into the bottom.  Even when you can make out those tiny numbers and they turn out to be the correct one, plastic recycling is inordinately expensive and unlike other products, itcan only be reused once or twice. Some types of plastic are too toxic to be recycled at all. The U.S. remains the biggest producer of plastic waste in the world, generating more than four hundred eighty seven pounds per person each year. 

I'm going to keep separating and sorting my recycling. I'm not going to give up. I'm just going to feel a little more embarrassed about doing so. 

Thursday, November 03, 2022

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

 The reason that we cannot have nice things is very simple: We are not nice. When I say that "we" are not nice, I mean it in an aggregate way. The way I talk to a classroom full of kids even when I know there is that one kid with wide eyes who is as shocked as anyone could be by the behavior going on around him. In the model I am about to discuss, these are the folks who are posting videos of their kittens doing curious things, or passing along the picture of the giraffe hugging an ostrich. The classroom I am talking about is Twitter, that sandbox that turns out to be full of surprises left by those cute kittens. And giraffes and ostriches. 

It doesn't take long on Twitter to find something that might rub you the wrong way. The very nature of the quick-hit two hundred forty character blast of emotionally charged rhetoric is designed that way. If you're not offended at some point, you must be doing something wrong. 

Like the chuckleheads who jumped on the whiff of a made up story about the attack on Paul Pelosi. The one that suggested that there was "more than meets the eye" about the assault. The ones who are looking to stir up controversy in places where it is wholly unwarranted. Twitter is the place where twits go to tweet because they have an axe to grind and access to a keyboard. It is the nature of the little blue bird beast. Once something like that makes it into the pool, it doesn't take long for the aforementioned idjits to swarm like a school of mildly sentient sharks, passing along a lie the way Joseph Goebbels instructed. Such is the nature of the Twitterverse. 

This is when the grownups tend to come into the room, bellowing "What's going on here?" as those with bad intent scurry to the dark corners. Apologies and deletions are made. Wild talk about how some people are going to lose their privileges, but not much gets done. And for a while, behavior improves. By a while, I mean until the grownups leave. 

The trouble about this particular example is that the "grownup" in question just so happens to be the guy who owns the shop. Elon Musk was the user in question who promoted the lie about the attack on the husband of the Speaker of the House. Then, when those who remained to look on the mess that he had stirred up, he deleted his post. Users were already leaving the platform before Mister Musk paid forty-four billion dollars for it. 

Seems like this is no place for cute kittens or humans with scruples. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Tools Of The Trade

 "Put the hammer down." That phrase used to mean to accelerate, as in stomp on the gas pedal. It was introduced to me by the CW McCall song Convoy. I'll give you a moment to name another song by CW McCall. 


Okay, so those were the words that flashed through my mind when I heard about the attack on Nancy Pelosi's husband Paul last week. The Speaker of the House Spouse was beaten with a hammer by an assailant who allegedly kept shouting, "Where's Nancy?" 

It doesn't take any sort of deep analysis to find a great thick line between this incident and the insurrection of January 6, 2021. According to sources familiar with the investigation, the nutcase with the hammer was also carrying zip ties. Just like the nutcases who broke into the House chamber on that dark day nearly two years ago. And the echoes of "Where's Nancy?" also reminded me of the glee that Marjorie Taylor Greene took in shouting through the mail slot of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office door before MTG was a member of Congress. 

Welcome to the world of political discourse in the age of MAGAts. Kari Lake, gubenatorial candidate in Arizona chose to blame "leftist officials" for the attack on Paul Pelosi. Not the nutcases carrying hammers and zip ties. Not the ones climbing the walls and breaking windows and beating police officers with flag poles. Blame the victims. The party of law and order? Not hardly. 

Put the hammer down. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Not A School Shooting

 A seven year old child was carrying a gun in a Boston elementary school last week. 

Take a deep breath and let that sink in: Seven years old. 

The gun was loaded. 

No one was harmed.

Breathe out. 

Then again, maybe it's far too soon to say whether or not anyone was harmed. The seven year old who had to be persuaded to hand over the gun. No physical harm. The police officers who had to respond to this call and take the loaded gun from the child's backpack. Not injured. Not on the outside, anyway. All the other eight hundred kids who attend that school? None of them were shot. None of the teachers were wounded. No members of the staff had to put themselves in harm's way. 

Except they did. There was a loaded gun on the campus. It was being carried around by someone who has yet to master their multiplication facts. All the parents of all the kids at that school who found out about all the horror that could have happened. They have all had their own version of the active shooter drill that their kids get to experience at school. 

No one got shot.

I'm about as far away as I can be and still be on the same continent, but I still feel hurt by what happened across the country from me. It brought me back to the time when I was asked to confront a fourth grader about what many had suspected was a gun in his backpack. Add that to a couple of the actual lockdowns I have experienced. All the children were safe. No one was hurt. Physically. 

Unless you count the elevated blood pressure, the stress levels, the memories that will be here forever. 

Seven years old. Unhurt? 

Not hardly.