Friday, March 31, 2023

Don't You Get Tired Of Reading This?

In the wake of Monday's school massacre in Tennessee, a mother who survived the shooting at Highland Park, Illinois back on July 4th found herself a spot in front of Faux News cameras and microphones. "Aren't you guys tired of covering this?" She was referring to the traveling bands of media crisscrossing the country on call for the next bloodbath. It's only a matter of time, usually just a few days, before they pack up their satellites, makeup and hair people, and hit the road to their next gory destination, ready to shove some grieving parent, friend or bystander into the lights and ask them how they feel about the people that were recently alive but were killed for no apparent reason. 

In Nashville, Music City, three staff members and three nine year old children were killed when a lunatic shot their way into a private Christian school and started playing a song we know all too well. The victim's names. The thoughts and prayers. The search for a motive. The wringing of hands. The use of an AR-15. Then it's time to get on the bus and head to the next catastrophe. 

Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee had this to say on the morning after: "It's a horrible, horrible situation. We're not gonna fix it. Criminals are gonna be criminals. And my daddy fought in the Second World War, fought in the Pacific, fought the Japanese, and he told me, he said, 'Buddy,' he said, 'If somebody wants to take you out and doesn't mind losin' their life then there's not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it."

Can you guess which party Congressman Burchett is from? Can you guess what he answered when he was asked how he keeps his own little girl safe? "Well," he replied, "We homeschool her." 

I am sick and tired of these "answers." None of our children are fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. There is a heck of a lot we can do about this. All I can figure is that somewhere deep inside we are all just too terrified of standing up and saying Guns Are Bad. Guns Kill More Kids Than Cancer. 

And the media, well maybe we should take a peek at another anguished mother, this one happened to be a Faux News reporter on the scene of a lockdown recently in Denver. She was quite emotional upon being reunited with her high school son who came up to her in the middle of a live shot. 

Live shot. Irony fully realized. Only a matter of time before one of those reporters gets the news that their child was among the dead. Then maybe they will get tired of covering it. 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Let's Get Physical

 Since you were asking, and you were asking weren't you? I got my job teaching PE in an even more unceremonious way than I began teaching computers to kids. 

Far from being my life's calling, I had always maintained a certain island-sized grudge against Physical Education. While it is true that I was one of those kids who might have benefitted most readily from an ongoing specialized series of courses to improve my mobility, stamina and flexibility, I was not predisposed to it. I was the bookish, round kid with no particular set of skills. I wasn't fast. I wasn't strong. I wasn't agile. I was good at reading. And math. It seemed to me that this whole PE business was just set out there in front of me as an obstacle to get past on my way to scholastic greatness. 

I would like to say that my elementary school gym teacher, as we called them back then, was not enamored of me from the start. I was stubborn and my fear of ridicule from my fellow students kept me from embracing the participation portion of my grade. Instead, I hung to the back of the group when it was time to choose up sides or volunteer to demonstrate dribbling a ball or skipping rope. I could say that he had favorites and I wasn't among them. I could also say that I never did anything to ingratiate myself to him, either. 

I endured. I lived through jump rope. I survived trampoline. I tolerated tumbling. And I waited with mounting anxiety for the time each year when we were compelled to climb that big rope hanging from the ceiling. This trope has been dragged out more times than any of you have an interest in rehashing, but let's just say that my pitiful attempts at inching up that thick, splintery cable that stretched from the floor to somewhere just below magic beanstalk height were like those you've already encountered. 

This being said, it came as a bit of s surprise when my principal asked now some number of years ago, if I could gather groups of our little darlings to take out onto the asphalt expanse we call a playground and engage them in organized Physical Education for fifty minutes at a time. I did this, with a series of fits and starts until I finally arrived at a group of activities that more or less matched state PE standards and did not cause them to hate me. I was now that guy with the whistle. I was putting them through the paces. I wanted to make sure that I could do everything I was asking them to do myself. 

And do I have favorites? Well, let's just say that I have a special place in my heart for the bookish ones who would rather not be there. I work especially hard to make their fifty minutes pass without being overwhelmed by fear. And since we're outside, there is no chance of them having to climb a big splintery rope. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Embrace The Strange

 Why would I want to have a discussion about gender dysphoria with someone who doesn't believe that climate change is real? Why would I want to talk with someone about LGBTQ+ rights who also believes that "slavery wasn't so bad, really." Why would I engage in any debate about freedoms with someone who sees Donald Trump as a victim of persecution? Why would I want to speak about anything with anyone who is afraid of pronouns? 

It has begun to weigh more and more heavily on me just how hard conservatives are pushing back against all things that skew left of the line they have drawn in the sand. Never mind that this line seems to have been drawn in a circle around values that were fashionable back in the late fifties. Never mind that most of these attitudes completely ignore the strides made in all manner of civil rights, science and common sense. These heathens are going to go back to the closet on their own. They're going to need to be corralled there through legislation designed to keep them there. 

Where they belong?

Or maybe there's that fear factor, once again rearing its head and upsetting what all those straitlaced individuals. Of course, they don't seem to exist long outside of their packs. When strays show up on social media they are abruptly ridiculed and taken to task for their moral ineptitude. Instead, they thrive in those homogenous rally-size herds, feeding off the nonsense spouted by their leaders. Those same leaders who seem to be finding ways to repackage hate and intolerance into bite-size nuggets for the masses, with an eye toward groups that have already been historically minimalized and have only recently begun to find their way in our land of the free. It should be pointed out here that this is not brave behavior. This is the work of bullies. Imperfect souls looking to boost their self esteem by denigrating others. 

How do they do this? By leaning on others' fears and weaknesses. Things we don't understand are the easiest things to do without. The Cold War was fought before there was an Internet and cell phones. Carrying on a hate relationship requires that you don't know anything about the individuals on the other side of the curtain, be it iron or rainbow. Allowing any of these individuals to take up space in our minds, our schools, our churches, our lives makes them real and they can no longer simply be wished away. Or legislated into non-existence. 

It breaks my heart to see that there are so many Americans who are willing to reignite the fires of hate and fear because they imagine that their lives are somehow made less great, or that they country is not as cool as a red baseball cap because there are drag queens and transgender humans. America works best when it works for everyone. Everywhere. All at once. All the time.  

Tuesday, March 28, 2023


 I became a computer teacher because I showed up at a time when teaching technology to children seemed like a forward- thinking idea. My credentials at that time consisted of spending a few years wrestling with the machines that checked out tapes and VCRs at the video store where I worked. That, and a few weeks under the tutelage of a very wise family friend who took it upon himself to prepare me for a life in the late twentieth century that was starting to fill up with job opportunities that required a certain amount of tech acumen. I learned about C prompts and DOS and what was happening behind those newfangled "wordprocessors." My first regular experience typing prose into a computer was done through the auspices of Wordstar. I was careful to save all my work to the five inch floppy disc latched into the slot in the front of the machine.

After a stint in the furniture installation business where my contact with computers was primarily unplugging them so that I could raise or lower the workstations for IBM employees, I spent a few years lugging books around a warehouse where our inventory was meticulously inventoried via handy dandy barcodes, a new frontier in obscuring valuable information from end-users. It was just a hop skip and a few years between that and the moment where these bits of contact with what would become my job title brought me to The Computer Lab at Horace Mann. 

The first thing I got to do when I arrived was to untangle the mess of cables and more cables that connected a bunch of Mac LCIIs to dot matrix printers. And once I got all these little plastic boxes hooked up and humming, I invited groups of kids in to practice making blocky scribbles with KidPix and try their hand at avoiding dysentary on the Oregon Trail. 

I learned a lot on the job. One of the first tasks that landed in my lap was lashing a group of IBM 486 machines together with SCSI cables to push a ghost image onto them to make them "Internet Ready." I accomplished this by carefully following the pages of detailed instructions that were printed on someone else's dot matrix printer and I can only now remember the experience as a near-miss. 

It wasn't until we approached the turn of the century that a benefactor appeared to ask me what it would take to fill a room with "Internet Ready" PCs that would allow our students to reach out into the vast sea of information that was only a frontier not unlike the Oregon Trail at that point. He put together funding that became what he had suggested. And I figured out how to put them together. 

I don't play Oregon Trail with my kids anymore. I spend more time trying to scare them away from using the Internet when they aren't supposed to. We don't use floppy discs. Or CD-ROMs. We access the cloud in nonchalant ways that make me miss that blinking cursor in the upper right hand corner of the screen. The decades that have passed since I showed up ready to learn how to teach computers. 

Monday, March 27, 2023

Let's Play House

 I heard all the voices. Most of them were in my own head: 

"What if it gets broken?"

"How do we keep the kids from climbing on top of it?"

"Who is going to monitor who is inside it?"

"Whose bright idea was this?"

And so on. The focal point for all these questions was the playhouse donated by none other than Habitat for Humanity, part of a program that brings little habitats to the smaller bits of humanity in urban schools. A former teacher and good friend of mine looked us up when he started working with the group as part of his non-retired retirement. The cost to our school? A signature from our principal. 

Well, that and the attendant flood of worry about how we could manage this little wood structure when we are just barely staying ahead of the soccer balls kicked up on the roof. Our head custodian, who has seen and scrubbed her share of graffiti and hauled her share of misbegotten furniture and toys to the dumpster announced that she thought it was a bad idea. 

I had to check myself there. Because my reaction would have been to fall in line and complain if I hadn't known the genesis of the playhouse. I found myself on the defense, pointing out that the price was definitely right for us, and that if we kept our kids away from every opportunity to play like kids, we would be left with the crumbled asphalt on the playground for them to hurl at one another. Instead, I figured it was time to raise our expectations a little, and give them something they could care about as a community. Our house. They would be the ones responsible for it, and if the elements or bad people conspired to ruin it, then the moments we were all able to share in its wonder and joy were bonus moments. 

I thought of the Boogle House I constructed in my own back yard for our son. Scraps of lumber left over from various house improvement or demolition projects, cobbled together in the shape of a starship or frontier fortress or rebel hideout, whatever the imagination said it was that day. I wondered how many of the kids at my school had Boogle Houses of their own in their back yards. How many of them had a yard. I hoped that the new addition to our playground would stand the test of time. However much time that is. 

Sunday, March 26, 2023


 During a routine pat down at his high school, a seventeen year old Denver child shot two faculty members, wounding them. He then fled and was found dead a short time later from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. There are a few terms in those first couple sentences that I feel the need to dwell on. 

The first is the "child." I used this term to describe the fact that he was not in any way an adult. Except for perhaps in his own mind. By taking his own life, he was ensured of being always a child. 

The second is the phrase "routine pat down." I understand that I have been living for many years now in a world of metal detectors placed at the entrances of schools, and not just high schools. This particular youngster was being searched as a part of his "safety plan." It was during this interaction that a gun was found, retrieved by the student who shot several times and fled. 

He made it two tenths of a mile away where he ended up shooting himself. 

So here's my question: Did this safety plan work? 

Well, sadly I suppose the answer to the question lies in just how many lives were saved. Not the kid with the gun. We won't get another crack at that one. The lives of the administrators who conducted the search will probably not be signing up for additional duty in that area anytime soon. But they are alive. Prior to last Wednesday's shootings, the kid had never been found to have a weapon, so I suppose we can count the search as having a one hundred percent success rate. 

And a one hundred percent failure rate.

I would like to point out that this child who shot two adults and killed himself would not have been able to do any of that without a gun. I understand that a certain Colorado Congressperson would argue that children should be able to bear arms just like the rest of their family on a Christmas card, but when did it become commonplace for children to be patted down before the beginning of every school day? When did it become commonplace for children to know how to shelter in place during an active shooter incident? When did this become normal? 

Trick question: It's not. 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Chew On This

 I've had enough of this cancel culture. When I was a kid, we didn't wear seatbelts and we all survived. Most of us anyway. And who really needs bike helmets? Get your big government hands off my skull! 

And now they're coming for my Skittles. 

California Assembly members Jesse Gabriel and Buffy Wicks' AB 418 proposes that California stop manufacturing, selling, or distributing foods that contain Red Dye No. 3, Titanium Dioxide, Potassium Bromate, Brominated Vegetable Oil, or Propyl Paraben. These items include but are not restricted to SkittlesHot Tamales candyDubble Bubble Twist GumWell Mister Gabriel and Ms. Wicks, I would like to suggest to you that Potassium Bromate is the very stuff that made California the place it is today. 

Hold on. Back up. Before I go too far, I want to point out to those of you who haven't fully appreciated or recognized the sarcastic tone of those first few paragraphs that I am saying all this with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. Which is not mean feat, I can tell you. 

That said, I would also confess to the foot I have in a previous generation. The one that invented things like lawn darts and pixie sticks. I spent my youth in a world that did not put stickers on record albums to promote their explicit content. It was a time that required little Mikey from the Life Cereal commercial combining Pop Rocks and soda to determine that these were unsafe food combinations. 

Okay. Let me back up on a few more points here: Record albums were physical media made of vinyl and they were the way we used to transfer media from one to another. Pop Rocks were a candy created with the sole purpose of inducing pain in the mouth of the consumer. And commercials? Well they were why YouTube was created, so they would have a place to grow old and die. 

Now back to Skittles. My son and I only recently celebrated to return of the original lime flavor to the standard package, ridding us once and for all of that miscarriage of candy malfeasance that was green apple. Finding out that other ingredients include poison? Well, that's just another great heaping disappointment on the road to adulthood. To paraphrase Robert Frost, "nothing with Red Dye Number Two stays." 

Friday, March 24, 2023

What Happens Next Year

 Okay, I confess. I was resigned to the idea that my school was going to be closed. I spent months putting on a brave face, pretending that I would march forward into the face of overwhelming odds and make the powers that be shiver in their boots. I made some mildly impassioned speeches, and carried my party's line, but inside I was terrified about what was going to happen to me.

After more than a quarter of a century on one spot, I could not imagine where I could set up shop with anything approaching the kind of respect and autonomy I enjoy at the place I have called "home" for all these years. Here being Mister Caven carries some weight. It means that I have institutional knowledge and wisdom that goes back to a previous century. I can remember when there were a different set of portables on the yard. I can remember when we all moved out of the school for a year while it was remodeled. That was a long time coming, and now visitors who come into our school see a building that looks like it's been through a few tough weeks, but at least the wiring for our network is safely tucked into the walls.

Wiring? Yes. Once upon a time volunteers came to our school on a weekend and ran CAT5 cable throughout the school in order to bring Al Gore's Internet to all the teachers and students. We had one long run that snaked its way out to those portables, not the old ones, but the new ones. That was the line that vandals routinely pulled down over the weekend. We asked if that might be a place where this newfangled "wireless" connection might be tried, and for years we were denied because of security issues. 

Now we do most all of our daily business without ever plugging in an ethernet cable. Teachers take attendance online. We project videos with projectors and share files in the cloud. Security? That's someone else's concern. 

I know that there are plenty of other schools in my district that experienced this same learning curve. I know that I can talk about "the olden days" because I'm old. And I've sat in one place for a long time, by our district's standards. Which is why I had that gnawing fear. The one that said I might go someplace else to finish out my career and not know everyone by name and not be able to trace back the history of that little corner of asphalt to the time the trash truck turned too abruptly and caused the chunks of playground to come up in pieces. And where the breaker for the faculty lounge is broken. 

And all the families and all the teachers and all the principals I have worked with all those years. 

I'm afraid of letting it go. 

There. I said it. 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Humor In Crisis

 I have to admire the wit of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In their most recent report, they suggested that our planet is "on thin ice." Figurative language in such a moment of crisis can be tricky, but I think you'll agree with me that they pulled it off. 

"Without urgent, effective, and equitable mitigation and adaptation actions, climate change increasingly threatens ecosystems, biodiversity, and the livelihoods, health and wellbeing of current and future generations," the report went on. Not quite as amusing, admittedly, but you can't expect every paragraph to employ those kind of pithy zingers. 

As a matter of fact, one might expect very little comedy in a report regarding what might possibly be the death knell of the human race. Of course, there will be those who will glance at the headline and laugh it off. Not because it's inherently funny but because it is so very far removed from their reality. Those oil and coal executives in their spacious and luxuriously appointed offices, stumbling over piles of cash on their way to their platinum commodes, watching their earnings reports and worried only about their annual reports, the one that says that they now have twice as much money as God. Those are the ones getting big yuks out of the United Nation's Climate Change Report. They are the ones living for today and leaving a dried out husk of a planet for their grandchildren. Which may be a pretty strategic bet, since their hope is probably that once humans are forced underground that their progeny will be the first ones in line for the really nice burrows. And of course by then, researchers at Shell will have perfected the water substitute refined from crude oil. Never mind the side effects. They'll figure a way to pay their way out of those too. 

The report does have a few bright spots. For example, it mentions there are many feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now. But if we don't pull the pin on that metaphorical fire extinguisher, we'll all be toast. 

That last one was mine. 

So what can we do to get the folks in those high rise offices to change course? Maybe we should tell them about the billions of dollars to be made saving us all from global devastation. Wind turbines don't cause cancer. Really. Solar energy can be stored in batteries. Seriously. 

Saving the planet shouldn't be a joke. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Learning Curve

 I am currently sixty years old. 

I don't have a father. 

I don't have a mother. 

I have a lot of teachers around me most every day, but they are busy with the education of children much younger than me. 

How am I going to learn now? 

The good news is this: I have a pretty solid base upon which to work. I've been paying attention, especially over the past thirty years. Becoming an adult with all its attendant responsibilities and vagaries hasn't been the awful chore that I had anticipated back in my twenties. As it turns out, many of those peculiar habits I had like setting out my clothes for the next day when I was in grade school made the jump with me to adulthood and have set me on a path that finds me showing up for work early rather than late. Most every day. And all of that reading I did? Turns out that knowing things is useful, even if it's only so that you can make innocuous conversation while you're waiting for the meeting to begin. 

Part of me would like to head on down to the ASPCA and find a mature dog, maybe eleven or twelve years old, and bring them home with the expressed mission of teaching him or her to do new tricks. Because that's what I feel like the last three decades have been for me. Getting over my paranoid fear of calling strangers on the telephone, for example. Not in a telemarketing sort of way, but in that reaching out to customer service folks whom I continue assume will only laugh at my ridiculous requests for help. I should know better, shouldn't I? Doesn't everyone know that replacing a compressor on a refrigerator is an extremely complex and expensive operation and should not be attempted by anyone without advanced certification?  I wouldn't know unless I asked. That little snap of shame turns out to be totally worth it, and I have discovered that giving others a chance to unleash their expertise is a great way to make them feel good about themselves. 

And along the way, I get to learn more about refrigerators. And exhaust systems. And most anything else in the world that still evades me. Show up on time, ready to learn. 

I guess I didn't need to worry about it after all. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023


 "While America is focused on indoctrinating our children with rainbows & pronouns, our adversaries are training their children to be warriors." This was a conservative's tweet accompanied by video of some children assembling AK-47s in a classroom followed by a troop of camo-clad kids moving awkwardly through some martial arts demonstration. The gentleman who made the tweet is obviously afraid that when the invasion of our country begins by Russian-led communist troops the Wolverines won't be available. We will have to stave off the attack with rainbows and pronouns.

This little nugget of right wing fear came to me just a short time after flipping past Ender's Game on cable. If you're unfamiliar with the movie or the Orson Scott Card novel, it tells the story of an Earth preparing for an attack by an alien race by recruiting children to be the new wave of resistance. The United States Marine Corps has included the book on its recommended reading list for their recruits.

And get this, ladies and gentlemen: Mister Card's book has shown up not infrequently on several other lists, like that of banned books. The reason? Because of it's violence, language, and renouncing of religion. Not because it tells the story of indoctrinating youth into a death cult that would (spoiler alert) possibly bring about the end of a civilization. 

So we seem to have a bit of a paradox here. What should we be teaching our kids? Empathy? Compassion? How to field strip an automatic weapon? Well, the good news is that we seem to be able to manage both as a nation. While some of us are busy teaching kids to get in touch with their feelings, there seems to be no shortage of young men who are ready to go out locked and loaded to shoot up their own schools, shopping malls, and churches. The idjits with guns seem to be lacking the direction for their power extenders. Getting them to point in the direction of our enemies would probably be a good start. 

But who exactly are our enemies? That depends on whom you happen to be speaking with. It has been more than fifty years since the United States had a military draft, and yet somehow we continue to drum up enough volunteers to justify an annual defense budget of more than one hundred billion dollars. This year the government has designated five hundred eighty four million dollars to be used for education. With this vast discrepancy, there are still those who fear what might be done with a little bit of Social Emotional Learning. 

And maybe after they're finished with the touchy feely part, they can learn percentages like the difference between the military and education budgets. Or they can sit down and read a few chapters of Ender's Game. It's all a part of what we like to call "indoctrination." 

Monday, March 20, 2023

Dressed To Thrill

 I had this image of a revolution. It would be held in Florida, where so much that is, in my judgement, wrong with the country currently sits lurking in the swamp. Last week, the governor of the Sunshine State was seeking to revoke the liquor license of the Miami Hyatt because back in December it had hosted an event called "A Drag Queen Christmas." The regulators of such things are attempting to find a way to get the hotel on the grounds that minors were allowed into a "lewd" and "vulgar" event. The tickets for the event did stipulate that minors were allowed if they were in the company of an adult. 

Keep in mind, this is overreaching by a  few months, since King Ron's edict regarding drag shows has not passed into law, though one can imagine that he must have extreme legislative envy for the law that ban that now exists in Tennessee. His Royal Huffiness has made a campaign out of the meme that "Florida is where woke goes to die." 

Interesting, since there are plenty of things that go to Florida to die, starting with the fifty million retirees who call it home. And the various and sundry victims of "boating accidents" and "alligator incidents" occurring each year that are in no way connected to organized crime. 

I think right here would be a good place to remind everyone of then-mayor of New York's appearance in drag "for charity" with then-New York slum lord Donald Trump. This comes to us form a time when we were afraid of terrorists with beards, not men in women's clothes. 

It was, in many ways, a simpler time. This was before idiots armed with semi-automatic weapons started shooting up LGBTQ+ bars. It was before the drag queens in those bars started fighting back. Which is what got me thinking about the New Revolution. In retaliation for the abusive power of King Ron, in the spirit of the colonials who dressed as Native Americans and threw King George's tea into the bay in Boston, drag queens from across the south could descend on Florida. And they wouldn't have to throw tea in the bay. They could throw a party. A great big, fabulous party. Show the world what we have all come to far to be shoved back into the closet or into the margins of society. "We're here! We're queer! And we pay taxes!' 

  A final note to King Ron: You want to know what I think is lewd and vulgar? Banning books and people. That's obscene. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023


 The story goes that notorious gangster and avatar for one third of all bad guys in cartoons Al Capone was never convicted on murder or racketeering charges. He was sent to prison for tax evasion. His sentence? Eleven years. If that seems like a drop in the bucket for the crimes this man allegedly committed or had committed, well that makes sense. He did not die in jail. After a raging case of syphilis substantially diminished his mental and physical state, he died of a heart attack at his estate in Florida. 

I bring this up because in spite of all the legal maneuvering and wrangling over the past eight years, it seems as though an indictment is about to be passed along to the former game show host and twice-impeached "president" who has thus far avoided the perp walk. While the bloated sack of orange protoplasm has skated free of any meaningful convictions, it seems as though the time he paid hush money to adult entertainer and his once upon a time paramour, Stormy Daniels. 

Imminent. That was the word used to describe an indictment coming down from the Manhattan district attorney. Of course, we have all heard this line before, All the witnesses and evidence and legal ducks have been lined up plenty of times before for various and sundry crimes and, um, other crimes. Eleven of the twice-impeached former game show host's associates have already been charged with crimes and accumulated thirty years of prison time, and this is before we start chalking up the minions who stormed the Capitol after the former game show host lost the popular vote for the second time. These gullible folks are the trailing end of a wave of corruption that rivaled and at times overwhelmed memories of the Watergate era. Names like Steve Bannon and Roger Stone hang around the edges of this pool of lies and deceit. But somehow, Donald J Trump has yet to face the music. 

Paying an adult film star to keep his tawdry personal life a secret seems like a pretty low rung on the justice ladder, but maybe there is some solid karma coming down from it. Considering the lead witness in this case was the failed "president's" attorney who was the fixer who paid off Stormy Daniels in addition to a great many other shady dealings, this seems like a pretty easy case to make. 

Easy, but not open and shut. Maybe we can just keep our fingers crossed for that raging case of syphilis. 

Saturday, March 18, 2023


 I've been struggling lately with this emotion called hate. As an elementary school teacher, it is my duty to remind kids that "hate" is a very strong word and if you were to examine the thing for which you have such a big emotion, you might find that there are layers, beginning simply with "I don't like." It is a whole lot easier to get a second grader off the ledge of "don't like" than it is to try and catch them once they plummet from the heights of hate. 

Hate means you like nothing about the person place or thing. Hate means you have spent time cultivating this feeling and enriching it with other bad stuff that will turn it still darker and more infected. Hate is about as dark as one can get. Sometimes I try and cajole my young friends out of that place with synonyms like "loathe" or "despise." Adding a layer of vocabulary around that poison can sometimes have the effect of shaking something loose. 

In this spot, I have mentioned several times comedian Denis Leary's remarks about hate. Here they are again for those who may have missed it. "Racism isn't born, folks, it's taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list." A couple things about this: There are people out there who will respond with "I hate Denis Leary," which is about par for the course, but the obvious response to that would be that your hate for Denis Leary must have been learned somewhere. The other note would be that this quote comes to us from 1992. This would mean that the son Denis refers to is now a thirty-three year old man. It would probably be interesting to check in with him to see how that list his father described has changed over time. What a triumph if would be if he got over that one issue with naps and didn't hate anyone or anything. 

Or maybe he just hates being asked about it. 

Which brings me to the place where I reiterate my feelings about hate crimes. I confess that I struggled for a day or two about my feelings toward the criminals who stole our catalytic converter. I suppose I owe it to my bleeding heart upbringing that the rationalizations and eventual forgiveness that came to me is based largely on the existence of car insurance and the fact that no human beings were harmed in this theft. I continue to believe, however, that the willful taking of someone else's life must be rooted in hate. Crimes of passion? Those would seem to slide in there somewhere before the cold and premeditated taking of murder because of antipathy. Victims that don't show up as human are much easier to eliminate. Most wars occur because the other side has been diminished by hate into something easy to kill. If nations around the globe can commit hate crimes as a matter of foreign policy, why would we expect our citizens not to take that bait in their own neighborhoods?

Disagree with me if you'd like, but don't hate. 

Friday, March 17, 2023

No Bones About It

 This is close to my son's heart: Buffalo Wild Wings is being sued for selling "boneless chicken wings." If your database is anything like mine, your brain just switched to a Gary Larson cartoon of a Boneless Chicken Ranch. Dozens of limp fowl laying on the ground, hanging over the fence, dangling from the sign. 

Not a pretty sight. 

But funny. 

And this is the feeling I got when I read about Aimen Halim, who purchased an order of the aforementioned "boneless wings" back in January, assuming that the "food" he had purchased would be the meat of a deboned chicken wing. At first blush, this seems like a reasonable argument, since this seems reasonable. Until you take into account where Mister Halim was standing when he chose this menu item. He was standing in a fast food establishment. He was getting these "wings" for just under a dollar apiece. The time and energy required to carefully remove the bones from a chicken wing, batter them up and fry them is astronomical compared to dumping a bag of pre-formed, breaded, processed "chicken" into a fryer and taking the time to let them cool only slightly before tossing them onto a piece of parchment paper. 

It's fast food.

Aimen might also be surprised by the fact that Arby's may or may not have the meat, but the actual "roast beef" they are serving on their sandwiches bears little to no connection to the meal your mom used to make. Depending on your mom. I have plenty of anecdotes regarding the "beef" that is cooked and served under that moniker, but I can't say that it is worth litigation. It's Arby's, for god's sake. 

Here's another anecdote, as long as we're in the neighborhood. In high school, friends would buy an order of chicken wings at an establishment called The Red Barn just to watch me eat them. Bones and all. I had made the logical leap that any "bones" left inside those deep-fried pieces of chicken had long since degraded to something easily digested, given the proper amount of chewing. 

Of course, it never occurred to me that suing The Red Barn for what would become decades of stunt eating, but then again, Mister Halim probably unaware of the case chemical engineer Ander Christensen brought before the Lincoln, Nebraska city council. His approach was a little different: “Our children are raised being afraid of bones attached to their meat. That’s where meat comes from: it grows on bones." Now if someone can just show me the anatomical chart that shows where the "nugget" is grown on a chicken.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Trapped Like Rats

 I'll say this for drought: No indoor recess. 

Over the past several weeks, my fellow teachers have met ever-so-briefly in the halls to discuss this matter. I say "ever-so-briefly" because our young charges are in a near constant need of supervision. Left to their own devices out on the asphalt plain that serves as our playground, they can go several minutes without intervention. This is not true with indoor recess.

Close quarters have been the theme of this year's rain-soaked winter. Growing things need water and while I am certain that the trees and plants in my purvey are content and grateful, the short people who I oversee are clearly struggling with the daily announcement of yet another day inside.

As with any experience, the first few iterations are a novelty. Finally! A chance to dust off chestnuts like Heads-up, Seven-up and Four Corners is a welcome change. That is the way things stay fresh. No matter that this same group of children can play soccer five days a week both morning and lunch recess for months at a time, if it's indoor recess, there had better be something new and different to try. 

Yes, there are those teachers who are just as happy to turn their kids loose on the computers in their room during most any break, creating a race to YouTube and many much less educational sites. Or in rare cases, you'll find a teacher who will be happy to share their Netflix account with the whole class, showing them something from the Family Section rather than risk losing their credential. 

Meanwhile, the atmospheric river that we have heard so much about continues to play havoc with the schedules of five to eleven year olds, and the strain is starting to show. When the announcement comes over the PA system that we will once again be sharing close quarters inside, the cheers have been replaced with moans, from young and old alike. Lately when we look outside, we wonder how a little water might hurt the little darlings, but then we remember that at least a few of us would have to sacrifice their warmth and safety to be outside to supervise the puddle stomping. 

So we wait. For that first part in the clouds. For that ray of sunshine. For that whole day of tearing around the playground without having to consult Doppler Radar. We're happy for the moisture, but for the love of all that is holy, please no more Heads-up, Seven-up. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Living The Dream

 Reality is so mundane. Dreams can take us anywhere. Anytime. 

And yet, my dreams are for the most part my reality. I don't mean this in a particularly cheerful way. Instead what I mean to suggest is that my life in dreams is more often than not uncomfortably similar to my waking life. On any given morning I find myself shaking myself awake from recurring visions of managing groups of kids. "Herding cats" as we say in the education biz. Once I get myself up and moving around, I hop on my bike and head to work where I do just that. 

Far too many of my dreams are now consumed with logistics. Even when I am fortunate enough to land in a lullaby trip to Disneyland, the experience turns out not to be about the various attractions or characters we might see but rather an extended primer on how and when to line up with tickets in hand and paperwork at the ready. 


After spending some time mulling this condition over, I have decided to give it an optimistic spin. There was a time when all my life was anticipation. I couldn't wait to fall in love or to fly in an airplane or have a child or visit Disneyland. 

I've done that. All of it. And more. I am at a point in my life where I realize that most of life is mundane moments of seemingly endless repetition. If you repeat the steps in the proper order enough times, you get to move to the next level. It's the video game model. 

Then there's this: I used to have terrible insomnia and a plague of homesickness that was all but crippling. I worried that my mother and father might disappear and I would be left alone. This feeling was always more present at night, and it stayed with me until we were reunited. I don't have that problem so much anymore. My mother and father have left on their own terms. I said goodbye to them, and those nightmares are gone. 

Now I dream of going back to work. I'll take some comfort from that. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Trigger Happy

 I can't help but think about the Christmas card Lauren Boebert sent out back in 2021. It features the the smiling mother of four young boys, all of whom are holding their rifles in front of the family tree. This was the lighthearted response the Colorado Representative gave to the criticism her colleague from Kentucky received after posting a similar holiday photo. 

I can't help thinking about this in part because of the willful sneer in the face of the families of victims of a school shooting in Michigan that had happened just days before. The fifteen year old shooter in that case was given a gun by his parents as "an early Christmas present." Also, "Representative" Boebert's oldest son was about fifteen when the festive photo was taken. 

And now he's about seventeen. And he's about to be a daddy. Ms. Boebert announced the blessed event at a CPAC breakfast weekend before last. She laughed about the math. "I'll be a thirty-six year old grandmother!" She went on to praise rural communities' acceptance of teenage pregnancy. The age of the mother was not immediately made available, except that she was "over fourteen." 

Here would be a good place to put in the part about how she has consistently railed against "comprehensive sex education" in public schools. One can only imagine how stifling the environment must be for a teenaged boy in the Boebert home. It might also be connected to the lessons handed down from Daddy, who did some time in jail for "lewd exposure." Which we can only assume would be met with praise for rural communities' acceptance of indecent exposure in alleys behind bowling alleys. 

This is, after all, (checks notes) the "Family Values" party. The party that insists that what you don't know can't hurt you. The party that seeks to rationalize their wacky points of view on the run, rather than providing anything but fear of being "woke." If you were awake, you could smell the hypocrisy. 

That would be the Republican Party. The party in Tennessee that is overseeing legislation outlawing drag shows in public places and targeting gender care for the trans community. represented in part by Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally. The hysterically named Lieutenant Governor Randy was caught liking pictures of naked young men on his official Instagram account. The seventy-nine year old responded with three red hearts and three "on-fire" emojis, along with the comment: "Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine." Which would be all well and good in a party that wasn't careening toward pushing everything and everyone back into a closet or worse. Randy is somebody's great-grandfather, by the way. I suppose rural communities are generally more accepting of #grandpaporn. 

I can't wait to see the Boebert's Christmas card this year...

Monday, March 13, 2023

Crime And Punishment

 At my school, we have a program called Restorative Justice. The key to this phrase is the restorative part. Rather than having kids miss recess or sit in the office or transcribe dictionary pages, our goal is to try and bring some justice to those impacted by the bad choices made by others. The most obvious version of this can be traced back to the rash of bulletin board vandalism we were experiencing a few years ago. It was an easy enough work party to organize. The kids who were tearing things off the bulletin boards were asked to spend some time repairing the damage they had wrought. 

Another aspect of Restorative Justice is the importance of bringing together those who were harmed and those who did the harm. The simplest version of this is the direct apology. Making amends starts with the asking and acceptance of forgiveness. Many times when the two parties meet in the middle, there is a dialogue that reveals what was behind the kick or shove. The hurt feelings that ended up being expressed in a burst of frustration. 

Yes, it takes more time, and the conversations are not always as fluid as we might all hope. Sometimes it still ends with kids sitting on the bench and missing out on their recess. But recess is like gold in elementary school. Even the truly tough nuts will almost always take the restorative path if it means they can go out and play afterward. 

I thought about this as I read an article about a man in Mississippi who was sentenced to forty-two months in prison for burning a cross. He pleaded guilty to a hate crime after being charged with violating the Fair Housing Act over a December 2020 incident in which he put together a wooden cross in his front yard and propped it up so his Black neighbors could see it. He then doused it with motor oil and lit it on fire. He also addressed the family with racially derogatory language.

And now he will lose his recess for three and a half years. 

When he is done serving his time, will he be ready to return to his neighborhood and carry on as if none of this had happened? Will anything be changed? Or will that burning cross be kicked further down the road, waiting to light up the hate-filled night once again? 

I don't know. I'm just an elementary school teacher, but it does seem to me that punishment without education is a waste of everyone's time. 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Cold Call

 I used to back down from confrontations. 

I still do.

Except when my phone rings while I am out trying to put a difficult day behind me.

"Hello. This is James calling from Mutually Assisted End of Life yadda yadda yadda - how are you today?"

"I'm fine, James. How's the weather where you are today?"

"I'm good. Thank you for asking. Before I transfer you to an agent, I just want to ask a couple quick questions: First, are you between the ages of forty and eighty?"

"Yes, I am James. But you aren't a real person are you?"

"Are you currently enrolled in Medicare parts A and B?"

"I honestly don't know James. How can I find that out?"

"Great. I'll just transfer you over to an agent, please stay on the line."

And I do wait, because I do want to have an interaction with someone who can make this seemingly endless string of calls to stop."

"Hello, this is Eric with Mutually Assisted yadda yadda yadda. How can I help you today."

"Well, Eric, first of all I have to say that you are a lot more interactive than that guy James."

"Oh yes. He's an excellent worker."

"But he isn't real."

"Oh he's very real."

"He's very robotic."

"That's what makes him such a good worker!"

"Eric, thank you for answering because I was wondering if you could help me with this one thing."


"I would like to know how your company picked my number but don't have any idea who I am."

"I wouldn't know that. I just take these calls."

"Then maybe you should know that the number from which you were calling identified as a local call from my area code. You're not calling from Oakland, are you?"

"I just take the calls they send me."

"Does it bother you at all to know that the caller ID has your number staked as Scam Likely?"

"Is there something I can help you with?"

"Yes. You can have my name taken off your list."

"I just take the calls that they send me."

"You know those meetings you have after your shift where everyone sits around and complains about their day? You can mention that a guy from Oakland didn't want to get any more calls and how do we take his name off our list?"


Saturday, March 11, 2023

Into The Woods

 Once upon a time, my mother who was a very big fan of musical theater, went to see a production of Stephen Sondheim's Into The Woods. As the various tales unfolded in front of her, she was enchanted. There was Jack and his Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel along with many other characters from the world of the Brothers Grimm. As the stories begin to intertwine, there is comedy to be found in the way that Princes handsome but confused gather together and with all this gold and magic flowing through the area, zany mix-ups are sure to happen. Little Red trades in her cape for a wolf's pelt, and Cinderella wonders if life on the road might be preferable to being locked up in a palace. 

Witty fun, not unlike the Fractured Fairy Tales that showed up between segments of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. When the lights came up, my mother was amused and happy with her night out, and was ready to go home. But, as it turned out, this was only intermission. There was an entire second act to Mister Sondheim's musical. That's when the giant comes down from the sky and crushes the witch's garden and the Baker's house. Rapunzel has gone mad, and eventually she flees into the woods, as the title suggests, followed by the rest of the company on various quests to right the wrongs that were set in motion during Act One. 

Spoiler Alert: Things get much darker from this point. When the lights came up again, my mother was devastated. The satirical romp she had enjoyed so much during the first half had not turned out so very happily after. 

At all. 

I relate this story to describe the way in which Young Tuck of Carlson is meting out the video he managed to squeeze out of Kevin McCarthy. By cherry-picking moments from forty thousand hours of recordings, he has painted a picture of calm tourists wandering "within the ropes" through the Capitol. Gone are the windows breaking, Confederate flag-bearing, police officer torturing mob that we know descended on our nation's capital on January 6, 2021. This was no insurrection. This was an assault on democracy and its process. So much so that three hundred thirty-five individuals have been charged with crimes related to the events of that day. Forty have been convicted of crimes and countless others, including the "QAnon Shaman" have pled guilty, avoiding additional jail time. 

Young Tuck of Carlson is happy to share Act One, but didn't bother to put any of Act Two up for his tiny-minded followers to digest. In case you were taking Tuck's word for it, I'll let you in on a little secret: It didn't end happily ever after. 

Friday, March 10, 2023


 My mother's house was sold this past week. Okay, it's been in the process of being sold for a few months, but the closing happened on Tuesday. That's where the sellers and the buyers sit down and sign papers and more papers and have one last chance to run screaming for the door. Because this little sit-down is all about hundreds of thousands of dollars. The money that is about to change hands will change lives. 

This is why the idea of "dabbling in real estate" does not sit well with me. We are talking about what is an essential right of all human beings: the right to shelter. We were in the midst of moving a home from one family to another, and the magic that surrounds all of this should not be lost in the decimal points. The home in question is the one in which my mother lived for twenty-six years. It was the place where we gathered for countless reunions and barbecues. It is where she spent her golden years. Now, that home will become a place for a family that is just starting out to find their footing in the firmament. 

This is not the house in which I grew up. That one has turned over a couple times since my mother moved out. That place was a golden years stop, ironically, for a friend of my mother-in-law. When that friend and her husband left this world, the house and the big blue spruce in the back yard was sold to someone new. I don't know who they are. 

But I hope they are really living in that house. Heaven knows I did while I was there. 

I do not think there is a price tag that could adequately be attached to the memories we have stored in these buildings. Instead, we account for the additions and repairs that have occurred over the years. Upkeep is important when you want to leave your home and trade it for a new one. Be careful not to use it up before you go. For instance, I know that the two holes I left in my childhood home had to be reckoned with before it was sold. Covering up the hole I put in the closet door downstairs and doing a professional job on the drywall where I kicked through the drywall in my parents' bedroom can't obscure the reality of the moments in which they occurred. 

I saw pictures of my mother's house when it was professionally staged for sale. It looked so very different. The books on the shelves were missing. The pantry was cleaned of all the raisins my mother had stored up for some raisin-related emergency. It was a blank slate upon which the story of a mother and father of a two year old could begin scribbling their own story. 

I wish them all the laughter and tears and adventures and quiet moments they can gather there. I wish them a home. 

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Ski Weak

 March can be a very long month. This year it includes just a single day off for teachers and kids: the Friday just before Spring Break begins on the thirty-first. I understand that I am, in the words of Douglas C Niedermeyer, worthless and weak for whining about not having additional time along with the many and varied holidays afforded to me by the calendar as designed by public education. I know that in a previous life I was working every day that UPS was working, and if I wanted time off, I was dipping into the bank of Paid Time Off. 

Here is where I drop these words: Ski Week. It is my understanding that certain school districts around the country, some of them right here in the People's Republic of California, that squeeze this observance into their schedules. It's a week off wedged somewhere between hope and despair, after the winter celebrations and the presidential worship in February and before the bacchanalia of Spring Break. 

In March. 

But here's the thing: Even if this time was allotted to us, I am not sure how I would respond. I know that I am not honor bound to head to the mountains, strap on a pair of skis and spend the week trying to avoid frostbite and radical knee reconstruction surgery. I could spend that time as I spend many of the breaks we get from the seemingly endless tide of classroom days, alternating between home improvement tasks and searching cable TV for movies that I have already seen. No one would have to be the wiser.

And yet, I would feel it in my heart. Born and raised in Ski Country USA, I would feel a twinge each year when that week would roll around. Why don't you gather the family together and spend outrageous sums of money to fight weather, traffic and all those other families for a place on the slopes? 

Because we were never the "sporty" family. Aside from my mild addiction to running and the insistence I carry with me about riding my bicycle to work every day, the organized sports my family acknowledges are the ones found on the television between the aforementioned home improvement tasks. We are those artsy types who didn't sign up when it was time to take the team bus. Among the group of five families that clung together after our kids were promoted out of Peter Pan Nursery School, we were the ones on those winter trips that looked forward to the time inside the cabin, reading and drinking hot cocoa. When we did go outside, it was for the purpose of building forts in the snow, and waiting until it was time to go back inside and read and drink hot cocoa. 

So this month will be a chore, of sorts, but not in the way that trying to make strapping boards to your feet and making it look like fun is.   

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Clothes Line

 The governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, signed into law a bill that makes drag performances or "adult cabaret performances" illegal on public property or in a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult. 

The second offense is now a class E felony in The Volunteer State, which carries jail time up to six years. Which suggests that if one were to show up in drag to the Nashville Pride parade, scheduled this year for June 24, you could be cited on that day. Then heaven forbid you decided to go back the next day on Sunday and wanted to continue to celebrate your Pride in drag, you could go to jail for six years. 

For dressing in women's clothes. 

Or is you happened to be a woman, dressed in man's clothes, just in case that degenerate thought slipped into your head. For perspective's sake, examples of other Class E felonies in Tennessee include theft of a firearm, felon in possession of a handgun, and aggravated rioting. So if a drag queen were to be arrested and charged, then that drag queen could no longer be found in possession of a handgun no matter what they were wearing. 

Speaking of handguns, it's a pretty big stretch to suggest that, in a world that includes six year olds bringing guns to school to shoot their teachers that drag should be a priority in anyone's legislation. Then again, crossdressing is not a right is not one of those rights enshrined in the Constitution that "shall not be infringed." Or is it

This past November, in Colorado Springs, the murders that took place at Club Q should have been a wakeup call for all of us. Hence the term "woke." Instead, it seems to have been a signal to the zombies on the right to close their eyes even tighter to the world in which we all live. What they don't understand is what needs to be feared. And what we fear needs to be outlawed. 

All of which suggests a new bumper sticker: When stilettoes are outlawed, only outlaws will wear stilettoes. 

Stay woke, my friends. 

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Political Party

 The Conservative Political Action Coalition is took place in Washington DC last week, and there was a whole lot of fuss stirred about things political, conservatively speaking. Each year, like-minded individuals gather to complain about how much their cause still needs to be supported by those who aren't as like-minded as they are. 

When I say "like-minded," it's important to remember that what I really mean is "close-minded." Also, please understand that the term "conservative" lives in a special place right now, and one must fully commit to a very strict persona in order to hang with these folks. Mitt Romney, Republican Senator from Utah, for example is persona non grata in this particular circle even though he was his party's candidate for President just a few elections back. It could be that Mitt's exchange with rumored to be Congressman George Santos at this year's State of the Union may have knocked him off the guest list. Or maybe Senator Romney just isn't MAGA enough to share the stage with folks like Large Marge Greene or Tommy Tuberville, whose name I am not making up. 

The bar for this kind of frothing nonsense has been set pretty high by one of the "stars" from this past week's gala. Lauren Boebert, pronounced Boo-Bay, has been ratcheting up her own image lately by referring to herself as "ultra MAGA." If this doesn't  put you in mind of some second-tier foe of Godzilla, maybe you should spend a few more Sunday afternoons at home on the couch. Colorado's pistol-packin' mama showed up to her address/evening gown competition to announce her party's battle against evil in the form of "wokeness." She promised to root out all forms of this evil in every corner of the government wherever she finds it, even if she can't quite define what it actually is. 

None of that seems to matter for the folks in attendance. They stroll about the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in their red, white and blue finery hoping for a glimpse of one of the stars of their ever-narrowing cause. It starts to remind one more of a sad and demented version of Comic-Con, with the cosplay limited to a guy dressed like George Washington spouting platitudes like, “Ben Franklin gave us electricity, but not for the casting or counting of votes.”

For you history buffs out there, George Washington did not belong to a political party. He wore a wig and frilly shirts. This was back in the days when men and women were woke all the time because they had to be in order to build a country based on the mistakes made by a monarchy from which they fled. Some might go so far as to say that King George was just a little too conservative for those colonial upstarts. Still looking for video from that 1775 CPAC...

Monday, March 06, 2023

Skipping School

 "Jumping rope is for girls." 

I was prepared for this. I had a list of plenty of macho sports type figures who used jumping rope as part of their training. I felt that it was important for me to be able to take that edge off the activity we were about to experience in PE. Our school is about to embark on The Heart Healthy Challenge, in which they will be supporting their own aerobic health as well as bringing awareness to kids across the country who suffer from heart defects and difficulties. 

Wouldn't you like to grab a jump rope and show the world how fit you are? Just like Muhamad Ali. "Who?" I meant Lionel Messi. "Oh. Messi jumps rope?" 

And so on. The really tough nuts were the kids who, even at nine and ten years old, had never tried skipping rope. I have some distant memories of being the round kid with limited native coordination and feeling like jumping rope was a distant dream, and not a simple reality of the playground. These extend to an image of pony-tailed girls literally twirling and dancing with their jump ropes in circles around me. 

That is why I chose to be sensitive to those who might feel a bit of a pang about working out their own jump rope demons in front of their peers. Scott was one of these. A third grader who is generally quite affable and willing to take on something new, he shied away from our colorful new plastic ropes. He waited for the directions to be given for the activity, Jump Rope Four Square, before coming up to me and quietly confessing the truth: "Mister Caven, I don't know how to jump rope."

For Scott and those like him, I was offering a safe space adjacent to the more competitive crew where students could take their time working out the mystery of what I was asking them to do. I alternated between the game, which mostly ran itself once kids started to figure it out, and the small group that was taking on rope jumping for the very first time. 

About halfway through our fifty minute period, I noticed that Scott had given up on the solo practice and joined one of the lines for Jump Rope Four Square. As I watched, he made his way through and managed to keep up with some of the other kids. Not the hardcore, but the amateurs. When the class was over, he made a point of coming up to me. "That was fun, Mister Caven!" 

And that was good. 

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Take Out

 One of the best things about living in an urban area is the vast array of dining opportunities. I had an appointment downtown this past Wednesday evening, and my wife took the opportunity to turn it into a bit of a date night. Get your knee scoped, then go out for dinner. On the trip to the hospital, the discussion began: Burritos? Chinese? Stew? Is there anyplace nearby that would serve us a nice hearty stew? 

By the time I had finished with my inspection, we continued the debate into the parking garage and out onto the street. "How about the sushi place up the street?" I remembered this was an itch that my wife had been meaning to scratch since our neighborhood sushi bar had changed ownership. So, instead of availing ourselves of the wide variety of choices downtown, we drove all the way back to our neck of the woods and parked in the CVS parking lot next door to the place that was once Nama and was now Tomsa. 

When we walked in, the place was all but empty, and we were greeted with great enthusiasm. Sitting down, my wife and I reflected on how few restaurants we had sad down in over the past three years. We took our time ordering, enjoying the attentive service. I had soup, salad and a Bento Box with teriyaki chicken and mixed tempura. She had noodle soup. As we savored our meal away from our house, we talked about dining experiences we had in the past. What desserts we remembered. Where would we like to go in the future? 

On the way out, we waved goodbye to the staff, and took a mint for after dinner. So civilized. Then we walked around the corner to our car. 

My wife pushed the start button and began to back out of our space. There was a scraping sound. Then the engine kicked in and sounded like a hundred eight year olds making fart noises on their arms. 

We didn't look at each other for a moment. We knew what had happened. In the space of time, and probably much less, that it took us to enjoy our dinner thieves had crawled under our Prius and sawed off our catalytic converter. We decided to limp the beast the quarter mile back to our own driveway, where my wife immediately set about making the police report and insurance claim. I crawled under the car to inspect the damage. 

The protective cage that our mechanic had installed was nowhere to be seen. The back of the exhaust system was drooping down below, creating the scraping sound. I got a piece of wire from the garage to hold it up while the eventual trip to the mechanic was made. 

And through all of this, there was no outrage on either my wife's or my part. We had fully surrendered to the fact that we were now part of a trend: victims of catalytic converter theft. We didn't dwell on all the other places we might have had dinner that would have allowed us to come home with our car intact. We didn't imagine being part of a vigilante mob, roaming the streets in search of the evil twits who had chopped up our family car. 

We just set about the next steps. 

We live in an urban area where such opportunities come with the territory.  

Saturday, March 04, 2023


 I received a notice from the service that brings this little slice of heaven to you each day. It was a notice that one of my posts was placed behind a warning "because it contains sensitive content as outlined in Blogger’s Community Guidelines." Curious, I chose to click on the link to find out what sort of salacious content I had inadvertently or perhaps maliciously perpetuated on my readers. 

I know. You can't believe that such a thing could happen. Yours truly had a hard time imagining what might have set off the censor sensors. There are probably a number of you who would like to rush ahead and find out exactly what kind of obnoxious invective I must have been flinging in order for the Google Gods to descend from their high places to check out little old me. 

But not just yet. Instead I would like to share with you, in confidence, that I had a number of ideas about how I might have angered someone somewhere to raise any sort of stink. I am proud to say that I have used a very strict audience in mind all these years: I will only publish content I would want my own mother to read. Keeping in mind that my mother was a very open-minded woman, and a big fan of mine, but she was not tolerant for me "working blue." So I have not.  This would seem to clear me in the category of Adult Content. 

As for Harassment, Bullying and Threats, I have definitely lurked on the edges of this one. Back in the day, for example, I referred to George W. Bush as "Pinhead." Not just in passing, but every time I mentioned him. Every time. So, points for consistency, but maybe not respect for the office. I continue to point out that the forty-fifth "president" of the United States was impeached twice and before that he was a game show host. Guilty of that too. But not enough to stop bringing it up. 

Hate Speech? I tend to agree with Denis Leary's line about things his son hates: Naps. End of list. While it is true that I hold many strong opinions, and share them liberally here, accent on the liberally, I don't imagine that readers would find my blog "hateful." I confess to being intolerant of the intolerant, and less than patient with the voices of those who would clamp down on dissent. 

Maybe now would be a good time to pull back the curtain to reveal the source of all this introspection. In March of 2018, I wrote about the various scandals of past Republican administrations, focusing first on the Nixon years. Then I shifted to the case of former Nashville mayor, Megan Barry, who was forced to resign her post after the revelation of an affair she had with her bodyguard. The account of this dalliance can be referenced on Wikipedia. My account of this news item included some of my traditional snark and a reference to Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. Get it? Bodyguard? 

Oh, and on the way out, I tossed in a line about Stormy Daniels, in hopes of stirring the pot that continues to be the odd case of the former game show host not being held accountable for his actions. 

So, if any of this offended you, please let me know, and I'll stop writing about local Nashville politics and while I probably won't stop dredging up the ghosts of Watergate, I will try to find something nice to say about them. 

And now: The Link. Let me know if you figure it out.

Friday, March 03, 2023

Ah, Spring!

 Spring is in the air. Even though the weather isn't actually cooperating on this front.

I am talking about the inevitable blizzard of relationship angst and personality shifts in the kids at my school. Having just crested the hill into the last third of the year, students in grades as low as second have begun to exhibit the now familiar signs of Vernal Disquietude. 

This is not an officially recognized condition from the American Pediatrics Society. It's more of a reality check for me and the rest of the planet, letting me know that I have probably lived too long. I search back in my memory for a time when I was overwhelmed with discussion of my relative connection with the girls and boys in my class. The leg up I have here is a distant memory of a taunt that began with my name being insinuated with a friend of mine, suggesting that we might be found K-I-S-S-I-N-G in a tree somewhere. Hindsight suggests that this would actually be a badge of honor in situations outside of second grade. The image of carrying on these suggested makeout sessions while perched in a tree does seem a little dangerous, but I suppose if we had been hiding behind the tree we would not have been as visible and therefore evade detection by the prepubescent relationship police. 

To my very great surprise, boys and girls still use that rhyme to suggest a relationship beyond that of four square buddies on the playground. The more troublesome and concerning matter for me as the adult who has to mitigate the sadness and frustration brought on by such accusations is the part where groups of chanters follow the individuals mentioned in the song, encouraging them to make good on their collective vision. Quite often this ends in tears. Even in fifth grade, where the boys are just beginning to comprehend the potential of having a friend outside their own chromosome arrangement. This is the time of year when boys and girls who had unwittingly struck up a friendship between one and another find themselves caught up in the expectations of others. 

There are those who embrace the suggestion and move forward awkwardly, based on some ill and preconceived ideas about what being boyfriend and girlfriend might be. The information regarding such coupling is tamped down mightily by the fifth grade puberty class, where boys are sent to one room and girls are sent to another and the ugly truths are spilled to them with all the clarity of pre-calculus. 

This only serves to invigorate those would-be matchmakers who are even more focused on pairing off everyone around them. With a clear and careful avoidance of doing so themselves. 

Meanwhile, we are also preparing for standardized testing. 

Thursday, March 02, 2023


 The funnies. That's what my dad used to call them. This was not his invention, but it is where I learned to call the section of the newspaper filled top to bottom with comic strips The Funnies. At that time in my life there were a number of these that I looked on with confusion and eventually glossed over completely. One of these was Rex Morgan M.D. I could not gather my concern for Doctor Rex and his soap opera cavalcade of patients. Likewise, much to the dismay of my father, I had little to no interest in the adventures of Prince Valiant. Sunday morning sword and sorcery? No thank you. 

Snuffy Smith and Barney Google generally got a pass from me, as did Andy Capp. Truth be told, I was really there for just one thing: Peanuts. Back in the day, Charlie Brown and his pals were right up front, a half page just above the fold. It was there that I found my joy, and Snoopy. And if I felt I could manage the time, I would go ahead and leaf through the other five pages of this full color Sunday treat. Beetle Bailey and maybe a little Blondie. And somewhere in that mix came Wee Pals

Morrie Turner's strip was like a woke version of Peanuts, not that Chuck Schulz was that conservative himself, but it was in Wee Pals that I first encountered the idea of Rainbow Power. I credit Mister Turner with sparking a kid's understanding of social justice. The polyethnic mix of children sounding off in thoughtful ways was just what I needed in my white suburban enclave of Boulder, Colorado. 

Eventually this led me to Doonesbury and eventually of the comics page entirely. By high school I had, for the most part, left The Funnies behind. When I did check in, it was for Bloom County and to sneer at Cathy. As open as my mind ever got, I could never be that interested in a woman with no nose trying on bathing suits. 

Somewhere in there, a comic strip snuck in there called Dilbert. It told the story of a cubicle worker. It was funny for a large cross section of cubicle workers. It became a big enough sensation that it spawned an animated version that ran for two seasons. The comic strip continued to run in papers across the country until it turned out that the creator, Scott Adams, was a racist. To get an idea of how low his recent hateful rant sank, Elon Musk chose to pop up to support him. Now Dilbert will be missing from The Funnies, which begs the question: Was Dilbert ever really that funny? I think I'd rather read Rex Morgan, M.D.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Muzak To My Ears

 A very long time ago, I enjoyed the story which may or may not be true about Ted Nugent wanting to buy Muzak, the company, just so he could blow it up. This story has a time stamp on it not only from the reference to Muzak, which has been bought and sold more times than I can count but barely exists now, but also because it suggests that Ted Nugent might have done something cool.

It was reflecting on this apocryphal tale that got me to thinking that everything, ultimately, is for sale. It's simply a matter of terms and decimal points. Watching Elon Musk stumble drunkenly into his purchase of Twitter lets us know that everything is negotiable, even if it's just that little checkmark next to your name. Walt Disney, another media beast, already owns Twenty-First Century Fox and all its bits and pieces: The Simpsons, National Geographic, and stray bits of Marvel that escaped their original net. What is keeping them from simply reaching out with their corporate tentacles and snapping up Fox News?

Once that little financial arrangement is made, then the folks at the House of Mouse can set about making all the requisite changes that come with the retheming of such an attraction. Sean Hannity can go and pursue his lifelong dream of being a full-time sycophant. Laura Ingraham's show can be retrofitted with a cooking segment and a co-host. Or two. I hear Kelly Ripa is looking for a new partner, for example. And what about Tucker Carlson? Well in my vision of the post-Disney-merger Young Tuck would keep his show, and everything about it would be pretty much the same. Except for the laugh track that would accompany every episode. Laughter that would be very pointedly directed at him, not with him. 

Of course, that might be too easy a solution. Instead we could have Jeff Bezos step in and buy all that "news" in preparation for the new frontier. He could send the whole passel of them off to space where they could report on all the happenings in the vacuum of space. Once we get ourselves squared away down here on Earth, we can look forward to having a crew out there ready to document our eventual colonization of some distant solar system. When we get there. If we get there. 

Or maybe we could all just take up a collection, maybe on GoFundMe, and eventually we could hit a price point where Rupert Murdoch couldn't say no. Business, after all, is business. And maybe we could even throw a little Ted Nugent in while we're at it.