Saturday, December 31, 2022

Turning The Corner

 I won't say that I don't like to complain, because I do, but I will be very pleased to put 2022 in the rearview mirror. 

This past year included the looming shutdown of the school where I have worked for my entire teaching career. This had the effect of putting an asterisk on everything that we did, no matter how hard we tried to put a brave face on things and move through the fall without giving the impression that we were all deeply affected by this top-down bureaucratic decision. To say that I was disillusioned by this "cost-cutting measure" would be a vast understatement. But it's in the right quadrant. 

And I became an orphan in 2022. At sixty. You might guess that this gave me plenty of time to reckon with the heartbreak of losing my mother. Not really. Her steadfastness and continual ability to bounce back from serial bouts of all manner of maladies left me with the impression that it would take more than a couple falls to take her out. Her passing reminded me of that old saw about no one living forever. Which bums me out incredibly because it continues to be my personal goal. This has put a slight kink in that plan. 

2022 was also a year in which the sore losers continued to dominate the headlines. I suppose the only real gift for the coming run for the 2024 presidential election is that the former gameshow host will have to divide his time between complaining about the 2020 election and the one that he hopes he can win. If he's not in jail. 

Because he's not. Still. Coming up on the second anniversary of the insurrection pointed at our nation's capitol there have been nine hundred sixty-four people charged in the mob attack. I checked the list Donald "J is for Jail" Trump's name does not appear on that roll. Which  may be only a matter of time, but since we continue to play out the string here in the year before 2023, I can't feel anything but anxious about January arriving as scheduled. 

The new year may also bring good news on the school front, as a new school board and new mayor will be taking office with previously announced intent to keep schools open. But that won't be until 2023. That's how this stuff works. Patience is a virtue and all that rot. 

January will also bring the eighteenth, which would have been my mother's eighty-eighth birthday. And the whole grief cycle will start again from the top. It will be another day on the stack of fallen calendar pages, another moment to pause and reflect on what was and what can still be. Mom used to talk a lot about "rounding a corner," so let's get on with it. 

Good riddance, 2022.  

Friday, December 30, 2022

Darwin And The Weather

 I am kind of used to the idea of people ignoring suggestions from authorities. I'm a teacher, after all. But the ones I mean in this instance are the ones where the National Weather Service says there is a hurricane headed straight for central Florida and anyone living in that area should get out of the way. Cut to the footage of the proud and relatively fearless homeowners slapping plywood on their homestead with the very specific intent of "riding this one out." This is nothing new. 

I thought of this as I clicked past a video of a father and daughter having a beer with their burgers, wearing T-shirts and shorts in Buffalo, New York. Not much to see but these two hearty souls sitting outside in a blizzard, "enjoying" their lunch. Then I thought about the camera operator. They talked at least one more person, mom?, into standing in the middle of an historic arctic storm to take in this tableau. I can only assume that shortly after this production, they trotted across the street with their wind-chapped exposed bits to show their neighbors just how clever they were. Before posting it on Al Gore's Internet where we could all sit and stare at this exhibition. 

Exhibition of what? Man's dominance over nature? 

A ban was put into effect in upstate New York to keep residents off the snow-choked city streets. As of Tuesday morning, thirty people had died because of storm-related complications. Among these were those found in cars, homes and snowbanks. Some perished while shoveling snow, others when emergency crews could not respond in time to medical crises. Stay home. Stay alive. 

Or go out on the front lawn for a little picnic to prove that you're not afraid of a little weather. 

Back in September of 2013, Boulder, Colorado experienced a flood that destroyed sixteen homes, and required more than eighteen thousand people to be evacuated. And while all this weather-related chaos was going on, students from the University were floating on innertubes through pedestrian tunnels that had become filled with water. Some took the opportunity to try out their white water kayaking skills. 

But mostly, people stayed out of the weather and waited for their chance to go back outside and assess the damage. As far as I know, there wasn't anyone who moved out of Boulder after that storm. Just like the die-hards who rebuild here on the faults of northern California after the most recent earthquake. Hearty souls, all of us. 

Just not too terribly bright. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022


 I'll warn you now: This will be another one of those blogs about sports. 

Still here? Thank you for your patience and forbearance. Over the past few months I confess that I have retreated a bit into my spectator sports persona, and while I wish that I could tell you that it has brought me some solace, football season hasn't brought me much comfort. 

At all. 

There was that moment when, in the midst of losing every other game this season the Colorado Buffaloes posted their only win against California. In overtime. On the day their biggest fan, my mother, went to the cheap seats in the sky. Most of the rest of the football news emanating from the Centennial State has been pretty bleak. 

I'm addressing the ugly reality of the Denver Broncos' season. Bringing it all back around to my mother, who was also a fan of the local NFL franchise: The last conversation I had with my mom was reflecting on the Broncos' miserable loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Less than a week later, she was gone. 

I was struck by a memory of the seminal bromance TV movie, Brian's Song. Spoiler alert, Brian dies at the end. I kicked the lid off that can of "What?" in order to relate the following: Toward the end of the film, as James Caan's Brian Piccolo is fading fast, Billy Dee Williams' Gale Sayers urges his Chicago Bears teammates to win just one for "Pic." The Bears lost that game 24 to 21. Which is essentially a reminder to us all that all that pointing to the sky after a touchdown and pregame prayers don't take into account the other team having a relationship with god as well. 

Which is to say that this football season hasn't been exactly a tribute to anything but the patience of fans everywhere, particularly the ones wearing orange and blue horses on their t-shirts and bedroom slippers. On Christmas Day, I watched "my team" get dismantled by another struggling team, the Los Angeles Rams. The Denver Broncos helped the Rams feel better about themselves by collapsing in front of them to the score of 51 to 14. Those fourteen points were the result of two pretty long field goals and a consolation touchdown and a two-point conversion made against the second string defense long after the competitive phase of the game had been played. 

The next morning, the Denver Broncos fired their head coach. A lot of sport was made of the last name of the now-unemployed Nathaniel Hackett, as in "he couldn't Hack-it." This didn't bring me any particular joy, since I don't attribute any specific ill will on the coach's part, just like I imagine that there is a core of professional athletes caught up in a series of bad decisions and coincidence that created the kind of thing on which real sportswriters get paid to sharpen their axes. It may take another dozen or more years for a return to prominence for football in Colorado. This is fine with me, ultimately, because it reminds me of the fickle and tired nature of so much of what happens to us all. 

Hence, the Serenity Prayer: "Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other." No matter what the score. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Magical Misery Tour

 Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn when they got to Bethlehem. My guess is that if had been up to Texas Governor Greg Abbot, Jesus might have been born on Kamala Harris' doorstep. 

Yes, Governor Greg's wacky and sociopathic sense of humor was on display once again on Christmas Eve. Several busloads of asylum seekers from Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia were dropped unceremoniously at the vice president's residence in Washington, D.C. They were met by a group of relief workers who had been tipped to the arrival by a non-governmental organization in Texas. According to reports, these buses were originally bound for New York City, but were diverted because of the weather. 

The horrible awful life-threatening weather that had been plaguing most of the country in the days leading up to Christmas. This diversion may have saved lives as many of the migrants showed up wearing only T-shirts. Volunteers with the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network met the group and helped find them shelter and food, just as they have since this series of pranks conducted by Republican governors and lawmakers eager to "own the libs" by sending innocents into areas they hoped would create the most visible trouble. "See how they like it," seems to be the prevailing attitude. 

In each case, since this new tactic began back in April, these men, women and children are met with compassion and care. Amy Fischer from the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network said, “We are always here welcoming folks with open arms.” And blankets. And warm food. And welcoming smiles. 

We often hear from some corners that we are "a Christian nation." Those values I just noted seem to me to be the foundation of that Christian nation. Shipping a bunch of asylum seekers off into the cold dark night for some sort of media opportunity does not. Instead, it feels more like the sort of thing Roman despots were know for back in the day. If instead Greg Abbot and his cronies would have gone out on Christmas Eve to deliver aid and comfort to those individuals stuck on the border, the one between his state and Mexico, then he might still have received coverage from everywhere. Except maybe Fox "News." They would be busy covering the chariot race between Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Doctor's Recommendation

 Drove downtown last Thursday afternoon. I had an appointment with a doctor to look at the swelling on the back of my knee. I've had years of knee challenges, starting way back when I tore up my left knee when I jumped out of a swing. In my twenties. I am no longer in my twenties. For the past thirty-something years I have been managing injury and expectations where my joints are concerned. Each time a page falls off the calendar, I feel my age catching up with me. 

Al Gore's Internet was kind enough to diagnose that swelling as something called a Baker's Cyst. After a couple weeks of waiting for it to just go away, I decided to do something to which I am unaccustomed: I went to see a doctor. I don't like to go see doctors because it has yet to be my experience that they give me the once-over and simply dropped their clipboards and said, "There's nothing we can tell you. You're doing an amazing job keeping yourself up. You could teach us all a thing ro two about taking care of yourself."

Not once. 

Not this time either. First off, the x-ray confirmed Al Gore's suspiciions of a Baker's Cyst. The doctor who examined me concurred. Oh, and about that blood pressure reading, that's a little high isn't it? 

So what's the good news? In a couplle of weeks I'm going to get a call from a doctor checking in about that elevated blood pressure. We're going to take a "wait and see" attitutde toward that lump at the back of my knee. Which is pretty annoying since that's what I was doing all by myself without all that poking and prodding. And anxiety. That high blood pressure reading was most likely bumped a few points by my worries about being found to be not just aging but infirm. Why should I be worried? I'm going to live forever, right? Just like I'm going to keep running forever. 

Unless that swelling on the back of my leg turns into some sort of parasitic creature that crawls out of my knee and consumes me and the rest of my familly as we sleep, or my heart bursts in my chest as I watch this week's slate of NFL games. 

Medical science, don'tcha know. 

Monday, December 26, 2022

I Got Mail!

 I got a lot of lovely cards this holiday season. Friends and family who reached out to connect with me at the end of the year. They send their wishes for me and my dear ones. Usually they are brief handwritten notes scrawled at the bottom of a pre-printed card with barely enough room for a signature but still gets that interaction in, sometimes I get the impression that this is a way of reaching out in order to come in just before the calendar changes. You get credit for "staying in touch."

Which is why, when I pulled a festive green card from an envelope that had been left in my mailbox, turned it over and saw the entire back was covered with what I could only assume was cheer and festive greetings. I did not immediately read the wishes, but drifted down to the signature to discover who would be going to all this trouble to greet me seasonally. 

Aaron Withe. I wracked my brain to try and recall who this might be, so I did the obvious thing and read the card: "Dear David, Give yourself a gift this holiday season! Prevent $1200 on average in salary deductions every year. Start saving by scanning my QR code or visiting Merry Christmas!"

Aaron Withe is the chief huckster and face of the "Freedom Foundation." The card I received was part of an ongoing campaign by Aaron and his cronies who are trying to crush labor unions by getting members to leave them. The Freedom Foundation is taking on government union bosses and defunding their radical unconstitutional agenda everywhere."

Okay, so I'm no big fan of my union, and there are plenty of little nits I have to pick with them, but I continue to pay my dues because I appreciate the way they support new teachers and help those who find themselves in desperate times through sickness or the practices of the even more bizarre and arcane school district for whom I work. Yes, I have quibbled from time to time about how my union dues are spent, but I am also completely aware of the good that they do. I always return to the anecdote about how the union rep at my school dropped by my room to hand me my contract. I assumed it was to read it over to see if I wanted to join up. Then I was told that I already had when I took the job. 

That was a long time ago, and the times that I might have used an extra few bucks in my paycheck have been many. I am a teacher, after all. We are not making money in such bushels that the idea of saving twelve hundred dollars a year doesn't seem at times attractive. But at the end of the day, I know that my salary and benefits have been moving up over the past quarter century because of the work my union does. For me. If Aaron really wanted to impress me, he would tell me that he was working to get teachers across this great land of ours to make the kind of paycheck they should be making, before or after any deductions. 

So, maybe next year I'll send Aaron a card with that wish on it. For now, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022


 What I wish for

upon a star

when I toss a coin

into a fountain

has changed.

When I say it out loud

it still sounds the same.

I ask for peace

I ask for love

I ask for understanding.

It's the right thing to do

to wish for those things

outside ourselves. 

But inside

that's different.

I wish for one more

game of Gin

talk on the phone

bit of wisdom

that I've heard 

a thousand times before.

Upon reflection however

I realize that it's all 

really about the peace. 

The rest. 

The mind. 

The quiet. 

I wish. 

Saturday, December 24, 2022

The Steel Curtain Comes Down

 So remember when I said that some people should go out on top, rather than hang around and be caught looking like a shadow of their former selves? When I heard the news that Franco Harris had died at the age of seventy-two, I pretty much figured that this was the guy who spent his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and then moved on to basking in the Pennsylvania glory that would most lovingly be showered on the four-time Super Bowl champion running back. 

Turns out I forgot the eight games he played as a Seattle Seahawk. In 1984, after a lengthy contract holdout during training camp, Franco was cut by the team for which he became synonymous, and Franco took his talents to the Pacific Northwest. There he replaced an injured Curt Warner, and he continued to pursue Jim Brown's single season rushing record. When he arrived in Seattle, Harris needed just three hundred sixty-three yards to break it. 

Franco Harris ran for one hundred seventy yards in eight games for the Seahawks. After those eight games, he was cut by the team that had opened their doors for what they expected was a Hall of Fame running back. Their assumptions were correct, of course, but an average of just below three yards per carry wouldn't be enough to keep him around. 

After Seattle cut him, Franco Harris never played in an NFL game again. His time with the team was an asterisk on an otherwise stellar career. A lot of folks refer to this as "having a cup of coffee" with a team. Notable here since coffee is a lot of things, including bitter. 

Pittsburgh was preparing a celebration of Super Bowl sized proportions to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of The Immaculate Reception. This fabled moment in Steelers' history is known far and wide as one of the most famous plays in American football. In 1972, the Pittsburgh Steelers had not been to the playoffs in twenty-five years. In the moments before Franco Harris improbably scooped the ball up before it hit the turf of Three Rivers Stadium, it appeared as though the Steelers were headed for defeat. The last second carom allowed Franco Harris to snag a victory from the jaws of defeat, and propel his team to the AFC championship game. It would be a few more years before the Steelers would win a Super Bowl, but Franco was there when they did, and he was awarded the Most Valuable Player in that game. 

Throughout the seventies, Franco Harris was the Pittsburgh Steelers. If there is a heaven, he's probably wearing black and gold. He stomped on the Terra, real grass or AstroTurf. He will be missed. Even in Seattle. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

When To Say Goodbye

 Just to be clear, I am not going to insert a poll here when I get bored with writing this blog. There are plenty of ways to go out, but I'm thinking that asking the people who are already logging into your corner of Al Gore's Internet if you A) like them, B) really like them, or C) would like them to step down as CEO of Twitter. Which is what Elon "Gate" Musk did over the weekend. I'm not sure what he expected to happen, but fifty-seven percent of those who answered the poll suggested that he take a hike, while just forty-three felt it would be a good idea for him to stick around and continue to run his toy app into the wall repeatedly until it breaks. Completely. 

So, I was looking for a model which would approximate not staying past your welcome. Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway comes to mind. He won back to back Super Bowls, was named MVP of the second one which was the last game he played and he retired before he could embarrass himself. He had succeeded in wiping those memories of Super Bowls lost from his ledger, and he rode off into the sunset. The same could be said of Peyton Manning, who really didn't have much to add to his resume, but the last game he played was a Super Bowl and he won that, so now he can pretty much show up wherever he wants and get a free slice of pizza, a hearty handshake, and a pat on the back. 

For about eighteen minutes back there, Elon "Elan" Musk was going to be remembered as a prime mover in saving this planet and opening up new frontiers for us in space. The forty-four billion dollars he threw at buying Twitter was a bad enough decision to knock him off the pedestal of King of the World. Who among us would trust this guy to pass out oxygen on his sponsored field trips to Mars? Somewhere midflight he's likely to change the terms. "Sorry, if you want air, you're going to have to pay twenty dollars." Unless Stephen King is on the flight and barters down to eight. 

As it turns out, a lot of folks are building electric cars these days. The public perception of Mister Musk's motor cars has slipped. So much so that stock for that company dropped to a two year low after shareholders witnessed the antics of the CEO. His conservative side was on full display when he attended a World Cup match with Jared Kushner. And started banning journalists from Twitter. And started looking like the spoiled brat with far too much money that many believed he probably was. 

Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick continues to be retired against his will. As a champion of free speech and Super Bowl quarterback, he was put out to pasture by the NFL for quietly shining a light on the injustices felt by people of color in this country. There were plenty of online polls that helped steer that decision, but I still think I would rather go to Mars with Colin than Elon. 

But nobody asked me. 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Over And Out

 On the cusp of two full years since the insurrection of January 6, 2021, the Congressional Committee created to look into those shenanigans has decided to recommend that the former game show host who had already been impeached twice be charged with four criminal charges related to his marathon struggle with the reality of his loss in the 2020 election. As the curtain rings down on 2022, the man who lost the popular vote in both of the elections in which he participated continues to stay just out of the consequences of his actions. 

He dodged having to hand over his tax returns. 

He ducked out on the responsibility for his theft of classified documents when he slithered out of the White House. 

His Org de la Trump is sitting on top of a ticking time bomb of fraud convictions. 

He has stayed just out of reach of a multitude of sexual misconduct allegations and lawsuits. 

His closest advisors are most readily identified by their criminal charges. 

And yet there are those who continue to paint this spray tan wannabe billionaire as a victim. His dinner guests include a who's who of anti-Semites and neo Nazis, and somehow it's us who don't understand that he really has all our best interests at heart. 

No. He. Does. Not. 

He is a liar. A cheat. A sore loser. A grifter. A narcissist of the widest stripe. He excludes himself from the consequences of his actions by pointing his fingers at those he claims wish him ill. He is not the victim here. Every day that goes by allowing that narrative to continue to gain any sort of traction is a bad day. The poison he poured into the well can only dissipate after he is gone. Turned away. Shut down. His flock needs to be awakened from the slumber and given back to real life. It is time for the boulder of truth to land on this ersatz Wile E. Coyote. English jurist William Blackstone suggested that it is better to let ten guilty men go than to sentence one innocent man wrongly. I don't expect that Judge Blackstone meant for all of that to apply to one man. Time to give us all Donald Trump's day in court. 

Time for this to be over. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

A Pause Before The Frolics

 Tis the season to be jolly. 

And we'll be right back to all that is jolly after this little bit of holiday despair. Over the summer we got the news that the little girl that lived across the street from us and helped teach our son how to walk had died. The circumstances, at the time, were called "suspicious." She was found unresponsive, face down in her bathtub. She was no longer a little girl. She had grown up and had four children of her own. She had moved away rom across the street, but we kept track of her and were were crushed to hear the news of her passing. 

Our reaction was less agonizing for another neighborhood-related homicide. A local restauranteur was shot and killed in front of his eleven year old son. It was not necessary to include "suspicious" in the description of that death. 

Now, after months of whispers and rumors, a connection between these two murders is being established. The estranged boyfriend of our neighbor girl is being investigated for both. Apparently he was already under suspicion for a series of diesel fuel thefts. I will leave the newspaper journalists and the courts to apply the "alleged" tags to this pond scum. I understand that judging this tangle of coincidence the way that I have points to me being less than patient. I would like nothing more than justice to be served. Big time. 

The creepiest part of this whole scenario is the fact that this guy's residence is just a couple blocks up the street from our house. I run past it just about every day. It makes me unhappy and uncomfortable, and I look forward to resolution to all this ugliness. That would be a great gift this holiday season. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Whereabouts Unknown

 I am currently sitting in front of my keyboard. This is my real-time location. 

Okay, so that really depend on when you are reading this. If you read this right about the time I happen to be writing it, then that would be pretty accurate. Of course I tend to make this a little difficult by banking a few of these posts ahead, so the actual reading you're able to do is running half a week or so behind my on-time reality. And I tend to write after I have posted the previously written post, so it's a bit of a stretch to say that what you see is what you get. And then there's the weekends when sometimes I don't get to sitting down to type until well after noon. 

So maybe this is a pretty inaccurate tracking device. But since my habits are pretty well-known, you can bet that at some point during each day I will be sitting in front of my computer working on one of these clever thought-pieces. Unless I'm using my laptop, in which case I would probably be found in my living room. Or if I'm at school and creating my musings on my work laptop. Of course sometimes I will actually write more than a few days in advance in order to give myself a cushion which I can use to take a day off for travel or other such excuses. 

Why would it matter where I am at any point during the day? My phone wants to know where I am. Advertisers want to know where I am. And if I were any kind of famous, or infamous, there might possibly be other people or entities that might want to trade on my location. Let's say I was rich enough to own my own personal jet, and someone wanted to track my movements via that mode of transportation. Flight plans are a matter of public information, so it's not that difficult to figure out where those rich folks are headed. This kind of record is also useful for calling out celebrities and their posses for flying to the next county because there's a sale at Target. That would be one of those "downsides" of being in the public eye. Ordinary people want to know where the fancy people are. They want to take your picture. They want to get a piece of you. 

Which is probably why Elon Musk is so very frightened. He's famous. Or infamous. And he doesn't want anyone to know where he is at any given moment. Which is why he started suspending accounts on his personal sandbox Twitter. Or at least that's what he tells us. He is so very worried about being discovered that he is turning off access to his corner of Al Gore's Internet because he believes that no one should be able to "dox" anyone. Elon has gone so far as to shut down the accounts of reporters who are documenting the ongoing paranoid fantasies of the formerly richest man in the world. All that wild talk about taking a trip to Mars will have to wait. Chopping that college punk who was posting the location of his private jet off at the knees is his business. And anyone who would point and laugh at this hypocrisy from a man who insisted that his new and improved Twitter would be all about free speech and transparency. 

Maybe Elon wants to argue with me. He knows where he can find me. More or less. 

Monday, December 19, 2022

The Deal Of The Art

 Odd Rods.

Wacky Packages. 

Garbage Pail Kids.

Into this mix we add the limited series trading cards of twice-impeached former game show host and leader of the January 6 Insurrection. Collect them and trade with your "friends." As I understand it, these digital babies make great barter in prison. 

If you are not already aware of the substance, or lack thereof, that came via the former "president's" Major Announcement this past week this is what it was all about. And if the asking price of ninety-nine dollars seems a little steep for each one of these NFTs, just keep in mind that all the proceeds go to the Dear Leader himself. Into those same pockets that were once filled with cash from the sale of Trump Steaks. Tuition to Trump University. Or all those casinos he sold after they failed in Atlantic City. Again, I feel the need to point out here that all three of those prior examples came three to a package and you got a stick of gum that you could throw away. 

Hold on, you're not sure what an NFT is? Well you could spend the ninety-nine dollars to find out, or you could read the following: "non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique digital identifier that cannot be copied, substituted, or subdivided, that is recorded in a blockchain, and that is used to certify authenticity and ownership. The ownership of an NFT is recorded in the blockchain and can be transferred by the owner, allowing NFTs to be sold and traded. NFTs can be created by anybody, and require few or no coding skills to create. NFTs typically contain references to digital files such as photos, videos, and audio. Because NFTs are uniquely identifiable assets, they differ from cryptocurrencies, which are fungible." Thank you, Wikipedia. 

Non-fungible. Got it? Maybe you were hoping for something a little more fungible? Well that would require a whole lot more research, and the capacity of the originating minds to understand the preceding paragraph. Because there really isn't a replacement for 45. Just when you think that he has moved beyond parody, he does something that pushes the bounds of absurdity still harder and farther away from what most of us would imagine a former "president" of the just-barely-United States would be willing to do. At the same time, we all know that there will be those who will pony up their bitcoin or rent money to have their very own virtual set. Some will buy them ironically. Plenty more will buy them with the wide-eyed reverence we have come to expect from his most ardent followers. 

But they will sell. For a while. Only to be replaced by some new "deal." Then you'll have to find a place to store all those digital images along with the rotten steaks and ghost written books and keys to casinos that have been demolished. 

Happy trading. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Cold Dark Night

 Sending our kids home for a two week winter break is always a mixed bag. While it is a sure thing that teachers and kids are both in dire need of some time away from one another, there is another side to this triangle: Home. All of the anticipation and excitement that comes along with the opening of that gate on Friday afternoon soon gives way to the reality of day-to-day life in urban Oakland. The place where kids were getting two and sometimes three healthy meals a day will be closed for half a month. The place that was giving kids focused attention for six to eight hours a day will not be available until after the start of the new year. 

There are always stories of teachers who reach out and support their students over the holidays. Making sure that Santa comes. Making sure there is a feast, or at least food on the table. Because we know that there are families that will be clinging to that thin line of survival even at this happiest time of the year. We don't have enough teachers to make every kid's Christmas one they will always remember. Instead, there are plenty who would just as soon forget it before it even started. 

These are the ones who are going home to empty houses, waiting for mom and/or dad to come home from their job or jobs, and looking forward to some time to be together. That doesn't always happen. While their friends and classmates go on about the Nintendo Switch they are sure their parents are going to give them, the kid sitting across the room knows that the next two weeks will probably be another two weeks of the same. Try as we might, we won't get out in front of everyone's expectations. Hearts will be broken. 

And they will remain that way until the that gate opens up again the first week of 2023. The doors will open to let the kids back in, and those that were fortunate enough to travel to Hawaii or spend a week in Tahoe will sit down at that morning meeting, barely able to control their desire to share the details of all the fun and festivities they enjoyed. There will be a few who don't have anything to share. Not because the don't feel like it, but because they don't have anything to share. 

Our school is going to try and get out in front of some of this sad reality, but we know that we can't reach everyone who has a need. Especially when we don't know what those needs are. So, in January we will try and be there again for the extra snack and the patient ear. We will go back to what we do. And hope that it makes a difference. 

Saturday, December 17, 2022

A Dweam Within A Dweam

 You gotta respect marriage. It's the law. 

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, granting federal protections to same-sex and interracial couples, and marking a milestone in the decades-long fight for marriage equality.

There was a celebration at the White House. People sang. And danced. They hugged one another. The president's Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, stood behind his boss as he made things official. Marriage equality is now the law of the land. Pete's husband and millions of spouses around the country breathed a sigh of relief. The LGBTQ+ community took a victory lap around the White House lawn. Rainbow lights lit up the columns of The People's House. 

And for a moment, all people could relax and take comfort in the ones they love. They could enjoy the safety and protection of a federal law, not just Madison Avenue cranking out the periodic inference that the couple on that ad might be gay. All is calm. All is bright.

But just north of Whoville, the Grinches and the Scrooges and Proud Boys are already fomenting dissent. On Faux News, Laura Ingraham was pushing her angry agenda. "Joe Biden held kind of an over the top celebration—this extravaganza—that was named the Respect for Marriage Act," Ingraham said. "A bill that moves to restrict freedom of religion and freedom of speech, even. Meaning, whether you're Catholic or evangelical or maybe Muslim, any serious person of faith, you will not necessarily have the rights tomorrow that you had yesterday."

You are not alone if you are scratching your head about that tirade, but it's the sort of thing that occurs anytime the status quo is impacted. Status quo is Latin for "uptight straight white folks." What those folks hadn't fully reckoned was something Dolly Parton figured out all those years ago. "Why can't they be as miserable as us heterosexuals in their marriages?" It kind of takes the strange out of queer. Which is a good thing. 

Worth celebrating. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Let The Right One In

 In this particular case, there is a double meaning. No one would mistake Lauren Boebert for "the left one." Ms. Boebert, pronounced "Boo-Bay" from the original French, was re-elected to her seat in the House of Representatives after an automatically triggered recount was completed this past Monday and she was announced the winner. 

The woman who heckled the President during his first State of the Union address. The woman whose stance on guns and the Second Amendment gives even Wayne LaPierre pause. A steady stream of xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic and allsortsofotherthingsphobic have poured from her mouth and social media accounts. A great portion of this fear and hate has roiled up from her insistence that the former gameshow host she calls "president" did not lost the 2020 election. She showed up in Washington insisting that she would stride around the Capitol packing heat. You know, for protection. At the same time, she scoffed at mask mandates that were in place to keep our country's leadership from spreading and dying from a pandemic that was killing Americans in record numbers. 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the woman that Colorado's third district chose to represent them in Congress. Admittedly by the narrowest of margins, so close that a recount was required to be certain that the winner of the election was the one who went to Washington. She held off a strong challenge from Democratic challenger Adam Frisch. For his part, Mister Frisch was okay with the results, having conceded the election back on November 18. At that point, he was trailing Ms. Boebert by less than six hundred votes. At the time, he said this: “We do not have to let hate win, but we can come together and talk about issues that are important or individual lives in our communities. We have more in common than we differ.”

Yes, you read that right. No angry denials or calls for lawsuits. No screeds about election fraud. As for a recall election, Frisch told his supporters, “Colorado elections are safe, accurate, and secure,” adding it would be unethical for his campaign to continue accepting money from supporters. “Please save your money for your groceries, your rent, your children, and for other important causes in organizations.”

On Monday, it was back to business as usual in Boebertville. The freshly re-elected "representative" tweeted, "Conservatives, we need to be on OFFENSE not on DEFENSE." I was glad that I was not the only one to point out that she had already succeeded in being offensive. Yet another reminder of how much every vote counts. 

Thursday, December 15, 2022


There was magic in the air. That was how Christmastime felt when I was a kid. Not the least of the potpourri of feelings that swirled around was the almost painful anticipation that started gathering steam almost immediately after Thanksgiving. As soon as the lights were hung on my parents' house, each night I went to bed, staring up at the string of bulbs that were just outside my bedroom window. The sooner I went to sleep, the faster Christmas would come. 

Do I blame this time of year for my lifelong struggle with insomnia? 

No, but I am certain that it didn't help either. 

The other strain on my brain could be found on the advent calendar tacked to my bedroom door. My parents made a moderate ceremony of opening each little door. Shivering with the fever of Yuletide, I put a fingernail underneath each new paper door, reveling in each new picture that it revealed. Then, fresh with the memory of that number in my head, I was sent to bed to contemplate the math of backwards counting. And to stare once again at those five multi-colored bulbs dangling from the eaves. Taunting me. 

The tree kept a corner of our house busy. I don't remember precisely when we made the transition from Douglas Fir to polystyrene, but it was a direct result of my mother's diagnosed asthma and allergies. The fake tree was even more gigantic than any of the live ones my father dragged home from the YMCA lot. We all marveled at it's construction, and when it came time to move the furniture about so the living room could accommodate this plastic glory, we all took part in the process. It had to be a beast to bear all three boys' handmade ornaments and those that were annually added as part of a tradition that would eventually overwhelm even the rebar branches of our robot tree. 

There it stood, lit up like a Christmas tree, reminding me that there would soon be a sea of presents that would need to be sorted into piles and the orgy of greed would commence. 

But not for ten more days. Nine more days. Eight more days. And if my luck held out and I didn't take the life of my younger brother while we sat and stared at daytime TV and waited for the call to come to yet another dinner, followed by yet another bedtime, followed by another eternity staring up at those lights, I would be fine. 

Christmas was coming, but the anticipation was really the event. That is what time has taught me. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022


 So the nominally "world's richest man" is calling for Doctor Anthony Fauci to be prosecuted. If this sounds familiar, you may recall that this sort of thing has been rolled out from time to time for the past few years, perhaps no more horrifyingly than a year ago when Wyoming Senate hopeful Anthony Bouchard insisted that Doctor Fauci was lying and he should be executed for that crime. Back in 2020, a flurry of Tweets suggested that the good doctor had been arrested on charges of seditious conspiracy. These posts were untrue. 

Social media was a place where rumors and hoaxes abounded in the early days of the pandemic. What was real and what was less than real was a matter of whom you wanted to follow: Scientists and doctors or politicians and their conspiracy-minded minions. Access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like allowed anyone with access to a keyboard a chance to pontificate on a global pandemic that no one understood. 

Which didn't keep anyone from lofting their thoughts, often announced as facts, about a disease that was killing four thousand Americans a day. Like the time that the nominally "world's richest man" let this Tweet fly: "Based on current trends, probably close to zero new cases in US too by end of April." This poorly aged guess was made in March of 2020. The nominally "world's richest man" was very wrong. By a few hundred thousand. 

It was around that time that the powers that used to be at Twitter put some rules in place to keep people from making absurd claims and spreading misinformation. Those rules were dismantled at the end of last month, shortly after the nominally "world's richest man" bought the company and started firing people and opening up the doors to the MAGAts and the cheats and the deniers of all stripes under the banner of free speech. Free speech that the nominally "world's richest man" would like visitors to his site pay him eight dollars to be "verified" because Stephen King scoffed at the notion of paying him twenty. 

So now it's December 2022 and the nominally "world's richest man" is using his new toy to call for the prosecution of the man who rode herd on an historic health crisis to be prosecuted. For what? Maybe if Doctor Fauci game him eight dollars...

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Are You Kidding?

 When I go, because I probably will, promise me that you will be sad. But at the same time, please promise me that you won't be too reverent. Please don't worry about hurting my feelings. Not because I don't think I will have any. I don't know about that. Instead, go ahead and feel free to have your share of fun at my expense because I deserve it. 

Many of you will remember the story about how I broke the news to my father that his father had died. I was asleep in the basement, having slipped back into slumberland after taking an early morning call from Salina, Kansas. It was the rest home where my grandfather had lived until he stopped abruptly that morning. My father was coming down from our mountain cabin, and when I heard him open the front door, I dragged myself to the bottom of the stairs and hollered up, "Hey dad, Ira kicked the bucket." And I went back to bed. It could be argued that I had only met my grandfather once, and I took my cues from my father who didn't seem to have a great connection with his. I wouldn't make that argument. 

Instead, I would say that I was raised with a peculiar lack of sentiment. Not on the part of those around me. On the contrary. I felt loved and cared for to such a degree that the bonds that were forged between me and my family and friends were strong and fierce. But when it came time to discuss all that emotion, I was predisposed to a high level of cynicism. This tended to generate a great deal of sarcasm in moments of high stakes emotion. It was most certainly a defense reaction to all that love that was squishing around in there. 

How else would one explain the way we treated my own father's passing? The pitch black humor that pervaded that time continues to be a source of stories I like to pull out when things get tough. What's funny about a plane crash? What's funny about a burn ward? If you hang around with me long enough, I'll probably share that with you. Because it's covering up the world of hurt that came with that time. 

Now my mother is dead. Her sons have been, for the most part, much more polite about showing their affection at her parting. This is probably because of the way we messed with her for all those years. Myself in particular. Rarely did an April Fool's Day pass that I didn't pull something on my ever-trusting mom. Quite often she would remark, in the wake of some measured jape or prank, she would wonder aloud, "I wonder if all mothers get treated this way?" 

The answer I'm going to stick with is "no." I believe that the love and connection that we felt was much more than the mothers who get a card on their birthday and a roll of the eyes every time caller ID shows her on the other end of the line. Is this a bit of rationalization on my part? Of course it is. It's how I make peace with the time I spend without her in my life. And it's also the reason why I don't expect any sort of somber moping about when I go. After the way I treated my parents? Are you kidding? 

Monday, December 12, 2022


 A group of friends and constant readers took to a text thread early Friday morning, responding to the news that first term senator Krysten Sinema was changing her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent. We were in a bit of a flurried haze, having just relaxed to the notion of having a fifty-one to forty-nine seat Democratic majority. Senator Sinema chose, more than a month after the mid-term election to announce her true colors. 

Opinions varied, but there was some agreement that at least she didn't wait until the first major test of the now much more narrow majority in the Senate to announce, "You know what? I've been thinking..." To her credit, she gave an interview in which he let us know, “Nothing will change about my values or my behavior." Comforting only up to the point when one considers her values and behavior. Mitch McConnell said of Senator Krysten, “She is, today, what we have too few of in the Democratic Party: a genuine moderate and a dealmaker.” To that end, she is also a deal-breaker. Her vote helped sink a change to Senate rules that would have allowed for a simple-majority to advance certain measures that her now former party considered priorities. She also wasn’t on board for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure packages or an effort by the progressive wing of her party to boost the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. And there was that little matter of a Supreme Court. Had she acted with her party on the filibuster, it is possible that Roe v. Wade wouldn't have been overturned. 

Ultimately, it's a game. It's a numbers game. Knowing the players is easy if you have a program, or it should be if the players aren't prone to switching uniforms in the middle of the game. The other hanging chad, if you'll excuse the nostalgic allusion, is Joe Manchin. The senator from West Virginia is another speed bump in the expressway of Democratic Majority. While he continues to bear the standard of his blue brothers and sisters, Senator Joe can also be found on the other side of the aisle, arms crossed, refusing to take a stand with his party on things like climate change and, well mostly climate change. Joe's a coal guy, and to that end, a friend inserted into our thread that he was the lump in our Christmas stocking. 

Which is what spurred me on to thinking of Krysten Sinema as a flat tire. If you're aware that you're riding on a wheel that's a little low before you start a trip, you can anticipate the trouble and add some air to get to the next stop. A lot better than hitting the highway and suddenly finding that you've got a blowout at sixty miles an hour. 

It's probably also time to change that tire, if you catch my meaning. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022


 There are trades and there are trades.

Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for Drew Lock. And a tight end. And a defensive tackle. And five draft choices over the next two years. And two hundred forty-five million dollars over the next five years. Which may at one time have seemed like a pretty cool deal, but as the 2022 season wears on, and on, that all seems like a pretty steep price to pay for three wins. And a whopping nine touchdown passes over the course of eleven games. 

If you are not a football fan, those numbers and exchanges may not be very meaningful to you, but if you can imagine trading your cow for a handful of magic beans, along with a number of your draft picks and a quarter of a billion dollars, you might be able to rough out this comparison. 

Please understand at this point that I am a Denver Broncos fan and will probably be just that when the dust settles. In a few more years. I am not talking about how degrading it is to spend yet another football season looking for something else to watch on Sunday afternoons. I am setting the stage for a little deeper dive into the sports pages. 

Women's basketball. The WNBA. You may have heard of it. If you haven't, you may have heard of Brittney Griner. Ms. Griner was recently traded for another player. Not a player of basketball. A player of much more nefarious games. We got Brittney Griner and the other guys got international arms dealer Viktor Bout. The "other guys" in this scenario are the Russians. 

They had been holding Brittney since February after vials of cannabis derived oil were found in her luggage at a Russian airport. She was in Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a Russian women's basketball team for whom she played on the off-season of the WNBA. It's not uncommon for WNBA players to take their talents to other parts of the world when they aren't playing in America. Because they don't get paid the same kind of astronomical salaries that men get in the NBA. Or the MNBA. 

There are those who insist that the United States got the short end of this stick, as Viktor Bout who is also known by such colorful monikers as Merchant of Death and Sanctions Buster was far more important than some professional athlete. It does make one wonder if it had been LeBron James being held in a Russian labor camp if there would have been a different attitude assigned. A black woman. Married to another woman. For those squawkers, perhaps LGBTQ+ cancels out the WNBA. 

That was the deal that was made, and the squawking about how the U.S. government couldn't swing a deal to get for retired Marine Paul Whelan who has been in Russian captivity for four years.

Slice it how you will, but I still think we did a better job than the Broncos did with Russell Wilson. 

Saturday, December 10, 2022



A friend and constant reader once asked me for advice on what a funny number would be. She's a painter and she was searching for a digit or two that would punch up her picture of an empty pink box that contained only crumbs of donuts. We came up with "Disappointment #17." It gave us a satisfactory chuckle then, and each memory of this work brings a smile to my face. 

Which is why she texted me a few nights ago. The Trump Corporation was found guilty of all counts related to a criminal tax fraud scheme. These included conspiracy, a scheme to defraud, and three counts of criminal tax fraud for his corporation and his payroll company. The combined total of those convictions? 


We smiled. The non-stick coating on the bloated sack of protoplasm is disintegrating. Appeals and machinations aside, this one comes as he was attempting to shake off the residue of his Dinner With Nazis. And the distance he was attempting to create between his calls for a do-over for the election he lost. “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” The Constitution of the United States, the one that he once swore to uphold and defend. He has discovered that you can take the Trump out of the Tower, but you can't get old social media rants off Al Gore's Internet. 

Then there was the Herschel Walker debacle. the orange bag's last best chance to come away with the tiniest of red ripples. Herschel, while being a very entertaining presence on the news cycle, was not able to defeat Raphael Warnock in their runoff election for the Senate in Georgia. Some suggested that Mister Walker was not prepared for a seat in the United States Senate. Of course, some suggested that a former game show host was not prepared to be "president" of the United States. 

Some were right. 

Way more than seventeen of them. And yet, the election in Georgia was far closer than most thinking individuals would have imagined. And, even though there were seventeen convictions relating to criminal tax fraud, the spray tan MAGAt in chief continues to make noises about running for "president" once again. Sometimes there's just not enough seventeen to raise a smile. 

Friday, December 09, 2022

It's A Drag

 So here's an interesting thing: There were "drag shows" back in Elizabethan England. They were written by Shakespeare. 

As any student of the Bard will likely relate, assuming they would like to show off their Bachelor of Arts degree or the three credits they got for taking a literature course on their way to an engineering major, women's parts were played by young men or boys. Desdemona, Othello's wife, was not played on stage by a woman until some sixty years after the play was written. 

There is still some discussion about where the term "drag" originates, but one of the most popular was that it was a stage direction abbreviation for "DRessed As Girl." The veracity of this claim is still a point of conversation among those who converse about such things, but the fact remains: Women's parts were played by men as part of convention. In Shakespeare. Exactly why women were not allowed to appear onstage is also up for debate, most of it centering on the widely held opinion that acting and the theater attracted less than the best types. And Puritan leader William Prynne's declaration that “popular stage-playes are sinfull, heathenish, lewde, ungodly spectacles, and most pernicious corruptions.” And apparently full of extra letters. 

Then there 's the sad reality that what we now revere, the works of Shakespeare, were not preformed in ritzy palaces to which we have become accustomed. More like big open barns, with audiences that tended to walk in and out during performances and a ready supply of rotting vegetables to hurl at any moment they felt needed punching up. It was some time before actors and their work became respected. Or revered. 

Which may help to explain the right's disdain for all things theatrical. The Hollywood Elite. The Blue Coasts. Never mind that when a James Woods or Dean Cain pops up they are quick to be absorbed by the MAGATs. Never mind the very theatrical way that these folks tend to carry on, and most of the talking heads at Faux News presentations could easily be defined as performance art. Never mind that the groups of "militia" that show up in their matching khakis to protest men dressed in women's clothing suggests a costuming effort. The puritanical streak is reminiscent of the fear and loathing experienced centuries ago. 

And just for history's sake, why not ask Anderson Lee Aldrich how tough drag queens can be. It's not what you're wearing, it's how you wear it. 

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Mr. C

 Some of the kids at school refer to me as "Mister C." Others call me "Mister Clean," or just "baldy." None of these epithets bother me much, though I prefer "Mister Caven," since it serves as my secret identity. My alter ego. Altered ego. I say this because the things that I do as "Mister Caven (clean, C, etc.) are strained through a filter that keep me on the right side of public education. The employed side. On those rare occasions that the mask slips, I go through all manner of twists and bends to try and right the morality ship, knowing that Mister Caven is supposed to be the person I want to be. The upright citizen. The valued community member. The shaper of young minds and lives. Which is why I was so embarrassed when I unloaded, however briefly, on a fifth grade class two days after my mother died. Herding the jutting spirits of ten and eleven year olds is a tricky business on any given day, but on that particular afternoon I didn't have access to all the patience I might have summoned otherwise. After asking for them to settle for the ninth time, I shouted: "Give me a break! My mom died this Saturday!"

For a very short moment, part of a moment, there was silence. Mister Caven has a mom? Had a mom? Mister Caven has feelings? That last one was perhaps the biggest leap. The mood in the room shifted. I thought about all the voices that had suggested that I take a few days off instead of leaping back into the fray. I thought about what I might say next.

That's when Cathy, who was never part of the problem in the first place, looked up and said, "I'm sorry for your loss, Mister Caven." In my head, the clouds parted and I savored that connection, even as the rest of the room found their way back to their own drama, their own operating noise. I thanked Cathy and went back to my job. It was the bubble that needed to burst. 

Over the weekend, another Mister C ran out of patience. An elementary school principal from Huntington Beach drove over to Disneyland, parked his car in the Mickey and Minnie structure, climbed to the top and jumped off. Christopher Christensen, the principal of William T. Newland Elementary School committed suicide just outside the happiest place on earth. Reading the account of how this man's life fell apart after he had been placed on administrative leave from his job in the wake of an argument with his wife two weeks ago which landed him in jail. He was due in court Monday after pleading guilty to child endangerment and battery. Life as he knew it was about to change forever, and so he took the only way out that he could see. “I have made so many wonderful connections with families over the years and those who know me closely know how much I cared for my students, staff and families,” his last Facebook post read. “Please remember me for all the good I brought to the world of education.”

I only wish that Cathy had been there. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

 Desperate times. This would seem to call for desperate measures. 

For the past seven years, I've been bouncing around the online water cooler called Twitter. You know, the blue bird and the wide variety of opinions. And the cat videos. I tend to show up for the many and wide, but stay for the cat videos. Seven years ago, I showed up at the mild behest of my school district hoping to spread the good word about things as "the tech guy." As it turned out, there was a lot of fun stuff to occupy my time that was not strictly work-related. There was that whole 2016 election and the four years of despicableness that followed, culminating in the insurrection of January sixth. 

For those years, Twitter was a place I could go to argue and agree in quick bursts with those whose politcs were different and the same as mine. There seemed to be a free-flowing exchange of ideas, even if no one's mind was changed. Somewhere in there, I started distrbuting this blog as part of my feed, and occasionally someone would find it and make a comment or complaint. Twitter was a place where I could come and hang out with like-minded individuals and feel good about the clubhouse atmosphere. It was a place where I could go to unwind online.

Then Elon Musk spent forty-four billion dollars so that he could own something else. He bought Twitter. It only took a few days for the Muskiness to descend into my happy place. Insisting that he was all about transparency and fee speech, he started inserting himself into the narrative. And my timeline. Then he reinstated the former game show host and twice impeached "president's" previouisly suspended account. And started letting some of those other folks who had made stuff up and lied about Covid and election results back into the Twitterverse. Elon's club. Elon's rules. 

Suddenly I started finding all sorts of people I didn't want to see were waiting for me to make their inane racist, homophobic, antisemetic and categorically unhealthy viewpoints. Sure, I could click on past, but that wasn't the reason I was there. Into the middle of my seventies nostalgia and bleeding heart sensibilities dropped Marjorie Taylor Greene and any number of conpiracy nimrods who would like to see the Constitution that they revere so mightily suspended so that their favorite spray tan victim can be declared "president" again. 

In this new environment, I feel challenged and annoyed. I don't feel affirmed or encouraged. I no longer seem to have control over the volume knob. Looking for friends that I used to know I find instead reminders of all the things that I am trying to forget. I understand that I could continue to click away from the noise. I understand that this could be the place where I make my principled stand. I understand that despereate times call for desperate measures. 

Maybe I'm not that desperate. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Call Back

 I am fortunate to remember when talking on the phone cost money. Long distance, they told us, was the next best thing to being there. This was likely from the same brain trust that wanted us to believe that TV dinners were the next best thing to your good cooking. This was a time when phones were attached to the walls. The distance you could move away from the telephone was dependent solely on the length of the cord that attached the handset to the beast of a machine that was nailed to one central location in your home. Talking on the phone for more than a few minutes required a dexterity exhibited primarily by your mom who could do just about anything required of her while cradling the handset neatly between her chin and shoulder, carrying on complex conversations while keeping everyone safe, clothed, and fed. 

I grew up in a home with a phone in the kitchen. An extension in my parent's bedroom. Another in the basement. To keep my calls private, I would try to take them in the basement, where I could drape myself over the easy chair and chat away. Unless my older brother, whose primary residence was also in the basement, was nearby. Then I surrendered to the phone in the kitchen, where I could step outside into the chilly garage and close the door, free to talk and talk until someone followed that spiraling cord through that crack in the door: What are you doing out here? If my parents were out for the evening, and both of my brothers were otherwise occupied, I could take advantage of the line in mom and dad's room, where I could watch their TV while I conspired with my friends. 

But mostly, I didn't talk on the phone. That was what grownups did. Sure, I heard about kids whose parents spent all that extra money to put a phone in their rooms. Mostly they were rich. Or on TV. And when it came to talking to anyone outside the city limits, well it just wasn't done. Not unless it was a special occasion like Christmas or maybe announcing the birth of a new relative. Or the passing of another. 

In spite of Madison Avenue's insistence, long distance was not for idle chit-chat. Unless you were willing to stay up very late at night, when the rates were cheaper and the person on the other end of the line was okay with catching up in the dead of night. Or, if you were one of those cheapskates who called collect, you had to hope that whoever was on the other end of the line was as interested as you were about staying in touch. 

I say all of this in a wave of appreciation for the way things work now. Phones are everywhere. No cords. No need to press the machine to your head. And if, for example, your wife happens to be across the ocean on some tropical isle and I need to check in with her about where that extra bag of potato chips got put away, I can do it. Much to our collective chagrin. 

Monday, December 05, 2022

What Do You Call A Bunch Of Twits?

 The headline read: "Twitter Suspends Kanye Again." Which is blankly accurate, but after Kanye tweeted an image of a swastika imbedded in a star of David, the social media company suspended his account. More pointedly, the guy who is nominally in charge at the blue bird took away Ye's membership card. This event more or less coincided with Mister West's appearance on Alex Jone's InfoWars podcast which was highlighted by the appearance of Alex Jones seeming to be the sane one. Not content to leave any questions about his hard line antisemitism, Kanye said "I like Hitler." 

This brought out the talk show host in Jones, who said that he thinks “most Jews are great people” and told West that he has a “bit of a Hitler fetish going on.” To this, Kayne replied, “I don’t like the word ‘evil’ next to Nazis."

Somewhere in the halls of the Twitterverse, there was rumbling. That was the sound of Ye making his last stand. “Sorry but you have gone too far. This is not love,” Musk texted West before his account was suspended.

“Who made you the judge,” West responded, according to screenshots posted by the rapper.

The answer to that seemingly rhetorical question is pretty plain: The guy who made Elon Musk the judge is (opening envelope) Elon Musk. 

So there we have it. Business as unusual at the free speech capital of the world, where Elon Musk is going to keep an eye out for those who step across whatever line it is that exists in his mind. The same guy who just reinstated accounts for nutjobs like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald "The J Is For Truth" Trump. 

Meanwhile, my own feed of silly animal videos and dad jokes is periodically interrupted by some loon who has been reconnected to his keyboard and a place to spread his or her or their point of view on pronouns or the way underwear is the same as the masks we wear to protect ourselves from infection. 

That mission to Mars can wait. Elon Musk is going to figure out "free speech" for eight dollars apiece. Yet another way in which Elon is working to save our planet. 

Now back to the cat videos. 

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Getting To The Point

 "Many of our children… are already growing up without knowing or remembering their kindred tribe. Singing songs written by the descendants of African-American slaves, often playing the ape and imitating the habits and language, brimming with, frankly, second-rate quasi-cultural vulgarity. Clinging to this secondariness, being proud of it. Hence the growth of overt spiritual emptiness, depression, suicides. The lack of meaning in life."

If you are coming to this quote, and wondering who might have said or written such a thing, stretch out with your feelings. Are you thinking maybe Nick Fuentes? How about Marjorie Taylor Greene? Tucker Carlson perhaps? Maybe this was part of one of those all-too-familiar "manifestos" found in the aftermath of one of our mass shootings? 

Well, I suppose I can say with some tiny bit of relief that this was not written by an American politician or journalist. Nope, this one came from Vadim Shumkov, governor of the Kurgan region in Russia. He was using his Telegram account, the Russian equivalent of a service like Twitter or Instagram, to spout his opinions on what he considers the decline of the youth of his country. 

He did not choose to name his country's current and ongoing war with Ukraine for any of this malaise. It's the music. It's the TV shows. The secondariness. 

It's the excuse that the rest of Mister Shumkov's government doesn't see the need to correct. They're fine letting some pointy headed nincompoop describe the social emotional circumstances of their country's youth. It's not the mass conscription. It's not the oppressive regime that has been in power for the past decade. It's the songs written the by the descendants of African-American slaves. 

Sound pretty ridiculous, doesn't it. Kind of like, “You can call us racists, white supremacists, Nazis, & bigots. You can disavow us on social media from your cushy Campus Reform job. But you will not replace us. The rootless transnational elite knows that a tidal wave of white identity is coming. And they know that once the word gets out, they will not be able to stop us. The fire rises!” Or suggesting that Iraq is a “crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys.” 

Those would be the words of Nick Fuentes and Tucker Carlson. Not members of a foreign government. It's our own people flinging invective about. It's not brave. It's not incisive. It's racist. No matter how you slice it or where it comes from. 

Stop it. 

Saturday, December 03, 2022

These Proceedings

 I was curious what the Oath in Oath Keepers was. Exactly. According to their website, “Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

The short answer is: "I will defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Apparently there was some confusion on January 6, 2021 because the Constitution is not housed inside the Capitol building, but at the National Archives. An easy mistake to make if you're confused by things like maps and facts. 

Of course, the Oath Keepers are more of a "in the spirit of" rather than actually following the directions on the box we call Democracy. Which might explain how they periodically find themselves running into trouble with the law. The law that, ironically, they have taken an oath to protect. This past week, Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs were found guilty by a Federal jury in Washington of seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Not the National Archives. Stewart is the founder of the Oath Keepers. Kelly is one of his sheep. Three other members were found not guilty of seditious conspiracy, but all five were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting for their actions on Jan. 6, 2021. Perhaps what these keepers of an oath they don't fully comprehend may not have anticipated is that the lawyers they were going up against had more than a passing knowledge of the United States Constitution, and saw fit to apply it to the awkward hypocrisy applied by Stewart and his minions. Chief among the concerns that he and his group seem most worried about is the government imposing martial law in order for them to take everyone's guns away. The other little tidbit to take away from all of this might be that Stewart's actual first name is Elmer. Which may go a long way to figuring out what might be at the heart of his trouble with authority. 

Of course Mister Rhodes and his pals will look to appeal the verdict. That's something that is guaranteed in the (checks notes) Constitution. That thing that they are supposedly upholding and protecting. Unless they're busy breaking into offices and stealing from people's desks and beating police officers with the United States flag. 

Confused? That's okay. There is a lot about which to be confused. For instance, Where is the big cheese in all this talk about insurrection and so forth? That wispy hunk of orange fromage is notable absent from these proceedings. I guess there's still so much we all don't know about the Constitution. 

Friday, December 02, 2022

Bouncing Back

 The observation my wife made, upon hearing my account, was that I was tasked with comforting the woman that hit me. 

With her car. 

I was on a bike. 

The thing was, I was turning left and I probably could have slowed down and let the car pass, then made the turn I've been making for twenty-six years onto the street that would take me down the hill to my home. Safe and sound. I wasn't being as safe as I probably should have been. 

Nor was she. By her own flustered account on the sidewalk after we had merged paths, she was rushing to get to work. I was rushing to get home from work. I got up off the ground to get my bike out of the way, and was thankful that she didn't just rush on. Instead, she got back into her car and carefully pulled it over to the curb. When she got out, she was beginning to tear up and was calling for god and anyone or anything else that would listen. I was up and moving, feeling a little worse for wear on my left knee and my shoulder, but not in any obvious distress. Which upon reflection could have been the adrenalin that was surging after this near miss. 

But it wasn't really a miss. It was a near collision. The full impact of which was assessed by me while this frightened woman sorted herself out. There might have been a scratch on her side view mirror, but it was a glancing blow and since my bike had escaped along with its rider being crushed underneath the wheels of a Toyota sedan, I counted this as a win. 

So I went over and assured this distraught lady that I was fine, and I wanted to be sure she was going to be okay too. I introduced myself. I told her that I was fine and that if I were on the playground I probably wouldn't even need a band-aid for the scrape on my knee. 

As she began to settle down to the much less immediate moment, we began to appreciate how lucky we both were. I apologized for my part, and she noticed my Golden State Warriors beanie. "They've been doing so much better lately." 

Yes. They had. Still on the verge of crying, I reached out and gave her a hug. I told her that we were fine and that everything would be alright. Eventually, she calmed to the point where she could climb back into her car and be on her way to work. "At least you'll have a story to tell if anyone asks why you were late," I said as she waved one last time. 

Then she was gone. I walked my bike across the street, and finding no damage to the main systems, rolled on down the hill to my home. 

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Lights Up!

 Let's call it what is: A reason to skip Black Friday sales. 

The lights on the front yard at my house are as traditional as any post-Thanksgiving Sale-A-Bration. But I would not try and convince anyone that they represent anything more than my sideways ode to the season. The plywood cutouts of Santa and a disgruntled reindeer, along with a pointy-eared elf and Jack Skellington's ghost dog Zero hovering somewhere near the porch are as secular as the day is long. Which come to think of it isn't that long in December, but I suppose it reflects the vision I had when I was twelve and didn't have access to power tools and miles of extension cords.

For decades now, I have been taking the cue from the parting of the tryptophan haze to pull out the big plastic tub once again and commence to climb trees and scale the front of the house in an effort to bring light to all that darkness. I don' the fact that there is a streetlight on one corner of my yard discourage me. I don't let the monthlong bump in my electric bill sway me either. The advent of LED bulbs and the solar panels on our roof do a pretty good job of mitigating that expense. I suppose that's the money I could be spending on Black Friday Cyber Monday Buy Something Now Wednesday. 

But I don't. I am far too busy spreading my version of holiday cheer up and down the street where I live. Last year we received a note in our mailbox from a neighbor. Happily it was not a complaint about the rainbow burning through the late night, but instead a few words of appreciation for the consistent manner in which we light things up. 

It should be noted that the same fortitude that is involved in getting those strings of electrical joy up is also in evidence on January second when they all come down again. It's not that there is no need for illuminated happiness after the new year begins, it's just that I have self-imposed limits to how much jubilation I feel capable of sustaining. How much delight can I maintain without becoming sarcastic? I would hate to become a parody of myself. 

Even more than I already am? 

I head that.