Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Pro-Am Election 2016*

August 15, 2016

lk080916dapr

Watching contestants for the Mountain Biking World Cup event prepare at the top of Mont Sainte Anne I realized this is an elite group of athletes, not just alt boys and girls in dreads having fun on their parents coin. Warm-up routines were everywhere – bursts on portable resistance machines, hopping and stretching, meditating while pedaling backwards, slogging a Redbull and peeing just off the trial. These were the pros.

They may have started as those alt boys and girls, but they have honed their skills enough over the years to challenge a mountain face of loose dirt, trees, and rock walls at speed. I was not there race day, but on a practice day when teams walk sections of the course discussing the best line, runs are made to find and test that line, and ambulance teams handle the horrible results when that line was missed. This up close view of an unforgiving course it became obvious years of preparation are mandatory.

This also gave me a new appreciation for all the work the Olympic athletes have put in. The TV teases with montages of the childhood gymnastics classes and kiddie swim meets, but it’s the big leagues now and as cute as they were in those family videos, it is their ability to seriously focus the years of practice and coaching, to bring all of their learned skills to the moment of competition. This ability, along with some luck and appropriate gene pool, propels them into the elite rank of world class athletes.

Remember Eddie the Eagle? In 1988 Winter Games he became the first Brit to compete in the Olympic Ski Jump since 1929. Eddie’s dream was to compete on the world stage – the Olympics. He was a good downhill racer, but couldn’t make the British race team; however, there were no applicants in ski jumping. Eddie could ski, he could jump. All he needed to do was put it all together and dream realized! Cramming in as many jumps as he could (sometimes nearly sixty a day) prior to coming in dead last in both the 70m and 90m ski jump in Calgary. He became a hero to us all as an example of the little guy with the audacity to dream and make it happen no matter how badly he performed. As Bill Murray tweeted, “Every Olympic event should include one average guy for reference.” Eddie was our reference.

Now we have the Donald the Developer running for president. Has he run for a political office before? No. Has he always been a staunch Republican? No. Has he a long history involving himself in political causes? No. He is the outsider. But he claims to have made contributions to some political candidates (both major parties) and he has plenty of opinions. He’s just like us, but with a TV show and born into oodles of wealth.

People take pride in the Donald’s plain speech, using “the best words.” His meaning is always clear, until he says things like “By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know…” or Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing, I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” or “ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He is the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.

Didn’t he just encourage an armed insurrection, foreign cyber-invasion, and claim our current President is a traitor? Like any good marketer he repeats these comments louder and more forcefully until a few days later, when pressured, he changes the facts around what he said. Media bias… Sarcasm… Jus’ sayin’…?

He likes to change facts around a lot. He says he remembers days after September 11th when he saw on thousands cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center on TV –  

TRUMP: It did happen. I saw it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw that —

TRUMP: It was on television. I saw it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: — with your own eyes?

TRUMP: George, it did happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Police say it didn’t happen.

TRUMP: There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As I said, the police have said it didn’t happen.

Or this when asked about the goings on in the Ukraine and Putin –

TRUMP: He’s not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand. He’s not gonna go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?

TRUMP: OK, well, he’s there in a certain way, but I’m not there.

Trump has his facts straight on one point – he’s not there.

He then threw Europe into a tizzy when he said he would first check if NATO countries were paid up before fulfilling our treaty obligations. If they weren’t “…then yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, ‘Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.’” Anybody want to invade Europe? Russia – if you’re listening, sounds like an all-clear if you check the financials country by country.

I know it’s fashionable to hate elites, but why? Just like the pro mountain bike racers and Olympic athletes I’d rather my sports played by the best. Not somebody who tells me they’re the best, but folks who have actually been tested and come out on top. I expect the same for my plumber and mechanic. I want someone who knows what they’re doing, someone with experience – that stuff really matters. Why should my President be any different? Why should the job with the potential to do both the most good AND the most harm in this world be left to someone who can’t discern fact from fiction? I love the Eddy the Eagle story – full of pluck and can-do spirit – but his success or failure on the slopes did not have the potential to destroy a thousand years of civilization. The Presidency of Donald the Developer does.

Please vote – just don’t vote for Trump (the elections rigged anyway, right?)

 

*I have been trying to write this for nearly two weeks, but Trump just keeps saying more and more outlandish things – I started when he went after the Kahns after they addressed the Democratic Convention. I’ve decided he will just keep going so I have to just work with what I have to date…


 

The alternatives:

The Democratic ticket: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Hillary has spent her entire life honing her skills for this job. She has been Secretary of State, a senator, wife of a former president, lawyer, and political since high school. She has gotten plenty wrong (haven’t we all?), but she learns and moves forward. She understands a political bargain means not getting everything you want, but moving things in the right direction. Even Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) says, “When you’re working outside of staff and outside of the press she is somebody I can work with,” though he will support the entire GOP ticket this Fall. She listens, she learns, and is pragmatic enough to get things done. She has learned to be incremental in her efforts and speaks in the precise, nuanced language of a lawyer knowing every word she speaks will generate an investigation.

Tim Kaine has been a senator, governor, lieutenant governor, and chair of the DNC. He is a Harvard trained lawyer, was a university lecturer and city councilor.

The Libertarian ticket: Gary Johnston and William Weld. Both have been governors (new Mexico and Massachusetts). Before being governor Johnson was a successful businessman and afterwards formed Our America Initiative, a political action committee. He was ranked among the nation’s seven top governors in each of the Cato Institute’s fiscal report cards between 1996 and 2002.

His running mate, Bill Weld, is a Harvard lawyer, studied economics at Oxford, was the US Attorney for Massachusetts. Weld began his legal career as a counsel with the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate impeachment inquiry, where one of his colleagues was Hillary Clinton. Reagan promoted him to head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department in Washington. He resigned in protest over misconduct of the Attorney General Ed Meese before running for governor.

The Green ticket: Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka. Jill Stein is a Harvard educated physician. She advocated for campaign finance reform, and worked to help pass the Clean Election Law by voter referendum. She has twice been elected to town meeting in Lexington, Massachusetts. She is the founder and past co-chair of a local recycling committee appointed by the Lexington Board of Selectmen. In 2008, Stein helped lead the “Secure Green Future” ballot initiative to move subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy and to create green jobs. She also served on the board of directors for Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Baraka served as the founding executive director of the US Human Rights Network, a national network that grew to over 300 U.S.-based organizations and 1500 individual members. He is currently an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. He has also served on the boards of several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Africa Action.

 

Advertisements

Bullies and Bystanders

August 15, 2015

trump

“And then [Megyn Kelly] hit me with a very, very hard question. That was when I came up with the Rosie O’Donnell statement, which really got a tremendous applause. That was the biggest applause in the evening actually, so it was sort of interesting.”
– Donald Trump on Fox and Friends

As a school teacher I am a mandated reporter of bullying. While watching the Republican debate I felt the need to report the Donald, but the audience response was even more vile.  In bullying seminars and workshops they point out that whatever the bully’s problem is, it can’t be easily be rectified; so the focus is on appealing to the bystanders, the bully’s audience and source of power. They make the bully the center of attention and their presence amplifies the humiliation heaped on the victim. Change the attitude of the bully’s audience and you can stop the bully.

The Donald’s crowd increases with each insult he launches. It’s giddy fun; – after all,  calling everybody a “fat loser” is great stuff to your inner twelve year old. Is this frustration with predictable political correctness? But now those government-sent Mexican drug lord rapists have been called out and anyone who has ever been given a hard time by their wife/girlfriend/mother knows that it was because she was pre-menstrual/menstrual/post-menstrual. Thanks, Donald – It’s not our fault. The Donald even spoke his version of the truth to Fox power and has all the other nattering nabobs of negativism in the news declaring him unelectable making him ‘Merica’s underdog and we love the underdog.

We may love the Donald right into the White House, despite the protestations of the pundits. Despite our fear and distrust of the big buck bankers and cartels, we may be electing one of their co-captains. Many despise the limited experience of the current occupant of the White House yet we may elect someone with NO experience. The more we are told it’s a stunt, he can’t possibly make it past the primaries, he is a plant by the Democrats; the more he gains in the polls.

“I must have heard at least 15 times today that the thing people like about Trump is he says what we are all thinking but can’t bear to say,” said State Rep. Fred Doucette, the co-chairman of Trump’s New Hampshire campaign. “He’s a straight talker. He says what he thinks and thinks what he says and sticks to it and tells the truth.”

There are a lot of things that I think, but don’t say. I learned this by having my mouth washed out with soap by my folks a few times. The Donald’s dad must have been too busy building the inheritance to do the same.  What dad says “…if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her” even if she “has a nice figure”? Seriously? Is this the kind of straight talk we want running the country, our own inappropriate American version of Putin? Maybe the Donald will commission his own macho version of the Russian hit, “A Man Like Putin.” Of course his version would be the best.

This bully knows how to enlist the bystanders and how to turn statements that would cause most politicians to fall into the abyss into a rise in the polls. So here is a test: Who are his victims? A – Civility? B – Sensibility? C – Political discourse based on policy not pompous personality? D – All of the above? (The correct answer is “D – all of the above.”)

So how do we, a civil, sensible electorate who would like to base our vote on policy, appeal to the ever increasing crowd of onlookers ready to snicker at the next left handed compliment or wildly cheer for name-calling? I’m not sure this translates to the national stage, but here is some advice for dealing with school bullies from Stompoutbullying.org:

Whether you know the victim or not, there are things that you as a bystander can safely do to support the victim:
• Don’t laugh 
• Don’t encourage the bully in any way
• Stay at a safe distance and help the target get away
• Don’t become an “audience” for the bully
• Reach out in friendship
• Help the victim in any way you can
• Support the victim in private
• If you notice someone being isolated from others, invite them to join you
• Include the victim in some of your activities
• Tell an adult

As a teacher of History I have always wondered how some of the great villains of past rose to power and popular support. I think I may be living through the answer to that question. I’m going to tell an adult.

Jingle Bells, Something Smells…

January 6, 2014

Image

It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and The Grapes of Wrath were just on my libturd, Obamanation, communist TV this holiday season. It is part of the left-wing media’s war on Christmas, every Christmas. These movies are brainwashing workers into thinking they deserve a share of the American dream, when in truth, they need to earn it. Business succeeds by crushing the competition and minimizing costs – and wages are one of those pesky costs – so if you want more go out and earn more.

To hear it told by some Foxy commentators, Henry Potter is the real hero of It’s A Wonderful Life and Tom Joad should be thanking the farm-owners and the camp “guards” as job creators in The Grapes of Wrath. And isn’t Scrooge just a rational businessman in a secular world? Why should his workers get time off for their religious celebration when profits can be made? Propaganda they say and maybe they’re right.

Consider this:

It’s A Wonderful Life  – The Bailey Building and Loan was poorly run – a quaint family business with an incompetent relative charged with critical fiduciary responsibilities. Who can blame Potter when opportunity falls at his feet?

The Grapes of Wrath  – The murderer, Tom Joad, whines when his pay is reduced. What he didn’t realize is when 20,000 workers show for 800 fruit picking jobs wages were bound to head south. It’s the law of supply and demand and Joad wants to break that law, too. This criminal should be thankful he has any work. He should quit his bellyaching or get another job, duh!

A Christmas Carol – Poor Scrooge just wants to pay his workers what they earn – no more and no less. If his workers take time off, why should he pay them? His only true concern is his business, not his employees’ personal lives.

And now consider this:

All of the above makes sense – because business is all about maximizing profits and opportunities. That’s the story of business as told by Wall Street players and mega-banks and they are pitching their story hard.

In It’s A Wonderful Life the Bailey Building and Loan’s product to provide the people of Bedford Falls a valued alternative to slumlord Potter’s rents. Good for many, but cut into maximizing Potter’s profits.

In The Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad wants to earn enough to feed his family and for them to be treated fairly. The farm owners are all about the money, workers be damned.

We are also told that small business is the backbone of America; that they are the job creators. Every small business begins with an idea for a product or service and every successful small business has customers who find value in that product or service. Finding those customers and creating enough value is the real action of an entrepreneur, profit is the reward.

Henry Ford understood this. He also understood his workers could be his customers if he paid then enough – a short term loss versus long term gain. That is what the bankers and players don’t understand. That doesn’t feed their quarterly bonus programs.

These are the folks who came up with mortgage-backed securities and made money on both ends of a bad deal – Put your home on the line… no worries…oops, my bad… all the way to the bank.

Charles Dickens’ father was in a debtor prison because he owed the town baker £40. Luckily his mom died and left him enough dough to pay off his daily bread. These prisons and poor houses were the workfare of the day and were created so the poor would pay for themselves by working as a collective and, hopefully, generate enough revenue to reduce the tax burden on those well-off enough to have to pay taxes. When the forced labor didn’t produce enough money then fees were added – room and board fees, ankle-chain removal fees, skull crusher removal fees (seriously). All this was designed to teach the poor a lesson – don’t be poor.

In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Scrooge is asked to make a charitable contribution to help these poor, but he thinks he has done enough. This is how Dickens crafts the exchange:

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Much like Cain, he denies knowledge of his brother’s condition and wonders why he is asked to be his keeper.

Each of these stories pits the good of the many against the good for the few; the 99% versus the 1% and now we are being these stories have it wrong. If the 1% were left alone they would help the rest – honest… with sugar on top.

Does anyone remember the killing of Anna LoPizzo during the Bread and Roses Strike in Lawrence? Or the lynching of union organizer Frank Little? The seventeen workers shot in the back in the Anaconda Road Massacre? The actions of the Pinkertons during the Homestead Steel Strike? The Ludlow Massacre? The Memorial Day Massacre in Chicago? The Bay View Massacre? These were the actions of owners against workers who wanted improved working conditions.

This is not just in our past like the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 146 garment workers who couldn’t escape because exits were blocked or locked in the name of loss prevention. The Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India employed cheap, under-trained workers in a building where safety systems were shut off and maintenance was cut as cost saving measures. This plant exploded in 1984 killing 3787 and exposed a half a million more to toxins whose effects are still to be determined. In 2012, 117 garment workers were killed in a factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh and in 2013, in that same city, the owners of another garment factory building were told it exhibited cracks and was unsafe. The next day they demanded their workers return to work in the morning and the building collapsed crushing 1129 more workers.

This is business as lord and the workers as replaceable serfs. This is not theory. Businesses are run by humans and humans are greedy animals, be they boss or worker. But the boss has the power to act on his greed and the weaker worker can only react.

From the 1916 report for the U.S. Congress by the Commission on Industrial Relations:

Violence is seldom, if ever, spontaneous, but arises from a conviction that fundamental rights are denied and that peaceful methods of adjustment can not be used. The sole exception seems to lie in the situation where, intoxicated with power, the stronger party to the dispute relies upon force to suppress the weaker…

The origin of violence in connection with industrial disputes can usually be traced to the conditions prevailing in the particular industry in times of peace, or to arbitrary action on the part of Governmental officials which infringes on what are conceived to be fundamental rights. Violence and disorder during actual outbreaks usually result from oppressive conditions that have obtained in a particular shop or factory or in a particular industry. Throughout history where a people or a group have been arbitrarily denied rights which they conceived to be theirs, reaction has been inevitable. Violence is a natural form of protest against injustice.

The principal sources of an attitude leading to violence are … arrogance on the part of the stronger party. This may result immediately in violence through the use of force for the suppression of the weaker party… Such physical aggression is seldom used by employees, as they are strategically the weaker party and the results are negative; only under exceptional circumstances can an employer be coerced by the use of force or intimidation…

Many instances of the use of physical force by the agents of employers have … come before the Commission, indicating a relatively wide use, particularly in isolated communities… The instruments of industrial force belong chiefly to the employer, because of his control of the job of the worker. Their use is more common and more effective than any other form of violence at the command of the employer. The most powerful weapon is the power of discharge, which may be used indiscriminately upon mere suspicion, which under certain conditions may be almost as potent, either in use or threat, as the power of life and death. It is the avowed policy of many employers to discharge any man who gives any sign of dissatisfaction on the theory that he may become a trouble maker or agitator…

I am not condemning businesses here nor am I leaving workers blameless. The needs of both must be balanced, but will only happen if both sides have power. Now we have American CEOs making 273 times more than their average employee and their compensation is up 37.4%1 (for some context CEOs made about 20 times the average worker back in the 70s and that is still the norm for Germany). U.S. workers have averaged .9 to 3% increase over the same time period depending on region and job sector yet we are being sold the idea that unions are the problem. Union workers are a scant 11.3%. 2  Can they balance the power of the CEOs?

With the stock markets at an all-time high, bonuses are filling the clutching hands of the Wall Street brokers and the bankers are lining their personal vaults with millions. They tell us government oversight and union bullies have handcuffed American business – they are the real problem with our economy.  They tell us these classic movies that grew from the struggles of the Great Depression have it all wrong. They tell us we need to unleash American business on the world unencumbered and they will pull us all up from our weakened state! Who is telling us this? Let me take a guess…

Somebody once said to get to the bottom of a story follow the money. To paraphrase Shakespeare – Wall Street and the bankers doth protest too much.

Sing it with me people – Jingle bells, something smells, time to join a union…

1 http://www.epi.org/publication/ceo-pay-2012-extraordinarily-high/

2 http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm

A (mock) Review of Zonkaraz at Indian Ranch

June 29, 2013

Image

Zonkaraz – a mock review

Warning!!! The following review is NOT to be taken seriously. It is a tribute to all those who love Zonkaraz because the band followed their own muse – not the “common knowledge” of the music business. It was inspired while waiting for tickets to be printed prior to the Indian Ranch show when all the same questions and mispronunciations I heard 30 years ago were repeated by passersby. As to the actual show – It was as good as the band got 30 years ago, with the added power of the knowledge this would be the last time anyone would hear this music that had no pretense beyond its sincerity and honesty live.

June 22, 2013 (WEBSTER) –  Today this reviewer witnessed a group of lads and a petite young lady who go by the unusual moniker of Zonkaraz grace the stage at Indian Ranch for one show with their own mixed brand of music. This reviewer does not know what to make of the performance he attended.

The opening act, Maritime Pilot, was clear with their musical intent, instrumental rock designed to engage the listener in a wide range of orchestral moods delivered by talented musicians on guitars, bass and drums.

This was followed by the folk duo of Chuck and Mud backed up by the Hole Dam Band. This combination easily dispatched toe-tapping tunes with delightful vocals from the husband and wife team.

The final act was the aforementioned Zonkaraz. Before discussing their performance let’s talk that all-important first impression – the name. Zonkaraz – Just how do you to pronounce it? What’s it mean? In speaking with the band’s two founders; Paul, who plays piano and Ric, who plays guitar, this reviewer learned that it is a combination of the names of their pet dogs. Really? This reviewer loves dogs as much as any of God’s creatures, but naming your band after them is clearly a poor choice, and will become a hindrance for their future in the music business if they choose to continue on.

So much for the name; how about that first glimpse? There is one thing everyone in the music business knows that to be successful you need to pick a style and convey it. This group has not learned that lesson. There is no coherent look on stage and nothing to set them apart from their audience – anything from Hawaiian shirts to Duck Dynasty wear. This reviewer offers this observation: It was a very sunny day and many of the band mates kept their sunglasses on. This reviewer suggests they all adopt that look and wear shades on stage – that would be a start – and maybe an inspiration for a new name.

Let’s get to what should really concern an audience and this reviewer – the music. Whereas the other groups had a clear style, this group couldn’t decide if it was country rock, blues, a lounge act, Latin pop or a jam band with an odd mix of band originals, a blues cover and a show tune – maybe a little of everything for everyone? This is a big band, on stage were as many as four guitarists, two drummers along with a percussionist, a bass player and a piano player all displaying excellent musical skills. Joining them was vocalist Jo List, a young lady with a powerful, expressive voice. This reviewer did find himself tapping his toes at many points as this is a group of very capable musicians, but just as the groove was found it disappeared with a tempo change. It was a tribute their many fans that they were able to keep up when caught on the dance floor.

And the fans were also as mixed up as the band – young and old, hippie and hipster. This fan base could surely be expanded if the band displayed a more consistent style, and a like minded audience, appreciative of that style, is certainly more inclined to give the positive word of mouth every up and coming act needs. This reviewer was told this was their last show and that makes sense. After all, what audience wants to see a group that looks like themselves, plays a mishmash of music that appeals to no particular group and with a name you can’t pronounce?   Farewell, Zonkeraz.

Graduation

June 11, 2013

Zonk gradJune is graduation season. Lots of speeches are given to mark the passage from one stage of our lives to the next with an emphasis on the future and the many possibilities for the graduates.  My wife and I both earned some new notches on our education belts this year so we got to listen to some of these speeches, but honestly I can’t remember a word anyone said.  Soon enough though, I’ll be part of another graduation ceremony, but without cap and gown or pomp and circumstance. And I guarantee I’ll remember it.

This year we all graduate from Zonkaraz, a course of study I proudly say none of us completed in four years. The tuition was cheap when it started, about $5 a class, payable at the door. The vast majority of us majored in music; some of us focused on ballads – Different Song, Fill Me Up, and Blues in Mind – others on rock ‘n roll – California, Drivin’, Willy Mountain. This band has so many songs and so many styles to memorize, but we did. Just say hey, hey, the month of May and we all know it sleeps inside our bones (or was that the monkey man…?) Well, your hair’s still long and you know what your smokin’, right?  Watching an audience that can mouth every lyric of a band that plays all original music is a tribute to the relentless hours of study we all put in.

Most of the music majors minored in dance. The Zonkaraz dance was rarely a flamboyant thing. Usually small steps side to side with knees bent and just enough shoulder sway to keep the arms swinging, but just as every Red Sox fan knows when to pump a fist in the air during Sweet Caroline, every student of Zonkaraz knows to do the same for Jack Frost. The small step of the Zonkaraz dance may have its history and roots back to the Blue Plate, a venue looking high over Holden, with a floor that moved so much that perhaps the smaller step was spontaneously generated as an act of safety.

A Zonkaraz education wasn’t limited to just music and dance. The unintended goal was to educate the whole person. The band and crew joined the audience as they took on some very challenging courses in Mergers and Acquisitions involving the student body. Zonkaraz was the best wedding band that hardly ever played weddings. Paul and Linda, Walter and Valerie, Tom and Sue, Matt and Judy, Bobby and Debi and me and Pam all met and married while being schooled and, even though there were many other relationships that did not work out, that also was part of the education.

This June 22nd Zonkaraz will offer its final post-graduate course in essential American, outdoors boogie and blues at Indian Ranch in Webster, MA. The prerequisites for this course are few – positive energy, willingness to give and receive big hugs and active dancing shoes (don’t forget the orthotics!).  During this course you will learn just how much fun you have had with your fellow classmates, the reduced flexibility that comes with age and the discovery your memory is better than you think. At the end of class you will know that you have completed a course in life through the hallowed halls and somewhere over the rainbow of Zonkaraz University – my alma mater.

Re-Gifted.

September 24, 2012

Image

It’s my birthday and I got the best B’Day present ever – My mom’s alive. Turns out I’ve had this present before, but I never really thought about it and this year she became so ill at 89 there was some question as to her making it through or to my birthday. She did. I’m going to get a really nice card (are you listening, Susie?) and write her one of those thank you notes  she was always after us kids for. 

Other presents? Yeah – I got some other cool stuff. I got to talk with my brothers and sister a lot. I got to hang out with some of their kids. I found out how smart and compassionate my mother’s grandkids are.  I realize how well we all married. I got to text my wife sweet nothings and she texted back somethings. 
 
My advice? Blow out the candles and make a wish…  I got mine. 

Since it’s all about me…

August 14, 2012
Image

The Market on election day in 2008

Ronald Reagan famously said, “Ask yourself, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” and the pundits say in the privacy of the voting booth people vote their best interest. Am I better off? What’s in my best interest? Let me try to answer this to explain my upcoming vote.

In 2006, my employer decided to move all manufacturing to China and close all its retail locations leaving me – a 14 year employee – unemployed. Prospects for a job in my area of expertise were slim and none. Home entertainment electronics rode the refi bubble and now it had burst. I received a generous severance package that allowed me to return to college to train as a teacher. This is something I had wanted to do very early in life and I took my unemployment as a silver-lining kick in the pants.

Nervously, I took a look at my retirement savings – a 401k that I had split up between three funds – one very conservative bond fund, a blue chip fund (also considered conservative) and a growth fund – and all had lost half to two thirds their value. I won’t be able to do much with that if I don’t get a job right away so we might have to sell the house.

I graduated in May of 2008. Job prospects in teaching are not what they lead you to believe, especially at the end of the school year. Because of state cut backs my licensure did not come through that Spring so I applied for unemployment. Collecting took some pressure off – we didn’t have to sell the house – and I applied for every job I could get to. I started substituting to get my foot in the door, but that still meant no work during the summer and I took up subbing again in the fall. I finally got a job as a long term sub and at the end of the year I still had no job.

With one exception I have never left a job in less than 8 years and now I’m about to do it a number of times. That summer, with my application for unemployment being reconsidered (as a teacher I have summers “off” so I don’t get to collect – yeah, but I don’t have a job and have the paperwork to prove it – I got a check in November – barely enough to cover the credit card shuffle) a stimulus bill was passed and I got my job back. Full time this time, but the stimulus funds ran out so again pink slipped at the end of the year. My third pink slip.

In 2010 I got a job in my home town’s school system so the commute is easy. I’m starting my third year this Fall. We have had lots of cut backs (we will buy NO paper this year – think about that), but I am still employed. My 401k has recovered and then some.

So now I will answer the question – I’m I better off? Hell yeah! Is it all better? Hell no! We still have too many fingers in too many wars. We still have too many people looking for work. We still have much to fix here at home. Would I like it to be faster? Yes! Would I like stronger leadership with a clear vision? Yes. The Romney/Ryan ticket would put me back in the mess I’m just getting out from under now (though because I live in Massachusetts with Romneycare my family never lost health insurance… Thanks, Mitt!) I will take four more years of Obama because, even though he is not the superhero I hoped for, he has at least changed my position from a free fall of uncertainty to landing on a ledge big enough that I can see my way up and out.

So, YES, I am better off than I was four years ago. Having a job, a renewed 401k and a health plan – that’s all in my best interest – has me voting Obama in 2012.

Image

On the Eve of Thanksgiving – 2010

November 21, 2010

me, Addy, Zach, Pam, and my mom. Please note the big head on my boy...

I always think I should make lists of things I’m thankful for around this time of year and when I do I realize they are lists of things that just are chance happenings, things that no one really has any control over; like my being an American (it can’t get much better than that, can it?) or being a guy (I think if I was a girl I would answer the same – but I’m a guy). Then I jump to other stuff that makes me feel lucky (a friend from high school who was always better in English than I was pointed out that what I call lucky is really being appreciative – Thanks, Betty – I appreciate that). Things like gardens in bloom, the seasons, sunsets and sunrises, really good corn, the beaches and mountains and the places in between – all that kind of stuff.

But this is Thanksgiving and that means that you give thanks to someone; someone who did something for you, otherwise the holiday title doesn’t fit. Who do I give thanks to? And for what?  Should it be Steve Jobs because without him I wouldn’t have my iPhone, iPod, iPad, iBook and iMac (I have ‘em all – Maybe Steve Jobs should be thanking me, hmmmm…)? Should it be my good friends at NPR? They don’t want my thanks, they want my check and that’s OK with me. How about friends and family? Think about it…Have you ever met me? Those are the people who really deserve my thanks – they put up with me and I just want you all to know I appreciate it.

First, to my old friends that I rarely, if ever, see in person, but keep in touch with via occasional emails or Facebook updates – You are kind enough to have forgotten so many embarrassing episodes or polite enough to not bring them up – Thank you!  To all the great people I’ve met through MINIsOnTop – Thank you for your confidence and trust, as a group you are proof that people are, for the most part, giving, supportive and will do anything if you promise them a party. To the people at the Quabbin Middle School – Same as the MINIsOnTop folks, but without the party. I did not realize what a perfect setting you were for a first year teacher. Thank you for the lessons learned (and that goes for both staff and students). To Zonkaraz, not only the band, but everyone involved – You helped me grow up and were tolerant of my growing up in your midst, thank you for that and all the things I’ve listed for other folks (especially the embarrassing episodes bit and as to the party –  we were the party). Another reason to thank Zonkaraz is without the band, I would not have met my wife.

Without her, I would not be a teacher or a pilot. I would not have my sanity and the nice home that I keep it in. I would not have traveled. I would not have kids from A to Z (just two, Addy and Zach, but my mother likes that joke. She has grandkids from A to Z twice with Amy and Zoe being the other two).

Right now I am most thankful that the mother of our children is a nurse. Zach had called us at 3AM saying his head hurt, what should he do? Pam did not miss a beat. Get a cab, go to the hospital and call me when you are in the ER. He lives and works in Washington, D.C.  We are in Massachusetts. Pam and Addy were on a plane the next day to take care of him. As Addy put it, her brother broke his head. Zach fractured his skull from the right temple to the crown causing a loss of memory, smell and taste. He has gained stabbing pain in his eyes and ears, the sensation of ants crawling under his skin. These are not good trades. The long term prospects are so uncertain according to what I can glean from all my iDevices; everything could be OK, but things could also be very different for Zach.

Quoting from the Merck Online Medical Library:

Amnesia may persist and be both retrograde and anterograde. Postconcussion syndrome, which commonly follows a moderate or severe concussion, includes headache, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, variable amnesia, depression, apathy, and anxiety. Commonly smell (and thus taste), sometimes hearing, or rarely vision is altered or lost. Symptoms usually resolve spontaneously over weeks to months.

A range of cognitive and neuropsychiatric deficits can persist after severe and even moderate Traumatic Brain Injury, particularly if structural damage was significant. Common problems include amnesia, behavioral changes (eg, agitation, impulsivity, disinhibition, lack of motivation), emotional lability, sleep disturbances, and decreased intellectual function.

Neurologic function may continue to improve for a few years after TBI, most rapidly during the initial 6 months.

For a guy who has made his living based on his extreme motivation, near photographic recall, and high intellectual function (did I mention he takes after his mother?) these outcomes could be devastating. We will just have to wait and see, but patience is a virtue that neither Zach or I have (did I mention he takes after his father?).

I’m also thankful to my daughter who went to keep her mother company and help with her brother in any way she could. She has given up time with her fiancé to do this for her family. She has a wedding to plan (I can give her thanks for that while I’m at it – She is finding the best deals and scooping them up, saving tons of money while also making the wedding just right). Addy has always been there for her friends and family, sometimes I tell her that she is too giving of herself. This time I’m glad she didn’t follow my advice and my hope is that this event becomes no more than a story to share around the tables or in the receiving line on her wedding day.

So that’s who I am giving thanks to this Thanksgiving – my friends and my family. Thing could always be worse, but with you the worst is always made better. Thank You All! (with maybe just a little going to Steve Jobs for making it easier to keep in touch)

Hello world!

November 26, 2008

Thanks to WordPress.com I can clutter the world with my thoughts and musings. What a concept! Two things have prompted this new endeavor – a class and a job. “Technology in the Classroom” and 7th grade Geography have provided the motivation.

The other day was my last day as a teacher with no real past or future – in other words – a Substitute. I come in for a day and leave. Kids don’t know me; I don’t know them and if either drives the other crazy you know you won’t see them for long – kind of like the difference between characters in a great novel and a listing in a phonebook. Monday I started my first job as a full time teacher whose only chance at reprieve is the end of the year instead of the end of the day. Scary! It’s a blind date without the easy outs, but all the worry. What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t like them? What if they’re creepy?!?! I think (hope) that it will be something like the kids I met this past year – a mixed bag of strengths and hopes. It will be kinda scary until I get in there and find out for sure, but the teacher I’m replacing let me settle into the room for a couple of days before the Thanksgiving break and his complete exit. So fitting that the kids won’t have to go cold turkey!