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Three score and ten or more

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dryer Lint

Has anyone ever thought seriously about dryer lint?  If you have a clothes dryer in your home,  you have to remove dryer lint carefully and completely or you are running the risk of having a fire in your home... That is one reason for thinking about it.

I have spent a fair percentage of my time for the last fifteen years sculpting.  I have sculpted puppets, angels, fairies (dolls or doll like things to put on the mantle) Santas and a variety of other things.  Some of the things have been made of clay, others of plastic wood, wood itself, as well as paper mache and still others of "dryer lint", mixed with glue in a sort of paper mache looking thing that is very strong and works for some sculpts.  When I was sculpting from the stuff, I got in the habit of saving it when I took it from the dryer, and still have that habit. 

I took some lint out of the dryer yesterday and looked at it in the pail.  I had gathered, in a fairly limited time, two thirds of a five gallen pail full of dryer lint.  Where does that lint come from?  From your clothing, of course, but when you look at freshly dried clothing, does it look weaker or thinner from loss of the fabric that became dryer ling?  Not perceptibly, but, logically it has to be so.  Everything seems okay until one day your shirt tears for no apparent reason, or your wife's sexy white blouse suddenly seems a lot more sexy than it used to be because it is getting transparent.

I sometimes think of current government programs and feel like the shirt is tearing from being ripped off forcefully, but I think that some elements of government and society have, for years, affected us the way our dryers affect our clothing.  It takes our infinitely small pieces as we gradually weaken and accommodate, but the small pieces, the lint sized elements that have been blown out of us eventually weaken us until we become almost transparent, or we rip and tear with very little pressure.   Where are we, each of us, after we have given up this month's or this year's personal "dryer lint?"  It is something to think about.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I saw a thing on the news tonite.  An NFL player ran a stoplight on the way to the hospital to take his wife to see her mother who was at death's door.  Some obviously racist (the driver was black) cop stopped him at the hospital and harassed him for thirteen minutes while his mother-in-law died.  I am so glad it didn't happen to me (unlikely since I am not black and probably would have been dealt with more courteously, though you never can tell when you have a cop who is so insecure that he has to reinforce his own ego by harassing others) I probably would be dead, because I would have looked at the cop, and said something on the line of "If you want to be the first cop in history to shoot a man for running a light, get out your gun, because I am going in the hospital.  If you are still here when I come out, I'll discuss this with you." and I would have turned my back on the SOB who gives all good cops a bad name, and walked into the hospital.  Who knows?  He might have shot me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Education. Oh woe is us, what can we do?

Yesterday, I was listening to Public Radio, and they were interviewing the Superintendent of one of the Atlanta area school districts, and the questions from the interviewer were, more or less, variations on the title of this post.

The replies were predictable.  Of course it is necessary to upgrade facilities, increase the number of teachers, improve their training, pay them more.  Other conclusions were interesting, and they included changing the school day to start earlier in the morning and go later in the afternoon, make the school year longer, discarding the agrarian tradition that children need to be home during the summer to work in the fields and instead go to school much, or more of the summer.  Emphasize early childhood education with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, and even increasing the length of the day for those children.  I didn't get much more, because I came into the program just before it ended. 

This morning I heard a part of President Obama's question and answer sessions with "the common man" and one of the questions related to education.  His answer mirrored a good part of what the school superintendent had to say, with a significantly larger emphasis on the early childhood education and the inclusion of a thought that there must be a means to create some form of merit pay for teachers that would not necessarily be tied to some form of national mass examination.

Most of what was said was a repetition of material that was given to me in my first education classes in the nineteen fifties, although there was little talk at that time of lengthening the school year, and, in my area kindergarten itself was a rare event, and pre-kindergarten beyond the imagination.

I haven't done any research into these topics, though I have read quite a bit, and most of what I have read has been heavy on broad solutions without much corroborating evidence or else dealt with very narrow concepts for which limited applications make sense.  In both cases the research was okay.  Much of my own Master's thesis dealt with the application of theatre training to high schools, and necessarily ended up with a lot more opinion than fact but what fact there was supported the opinion, but it wouldn't make much of a contribution to real curriculum.  (There was a time when I would have denied that to the death.)

I can't produce solutions, or defeat the propositions  stated by Obama and the nice lady superintendent with hard fact, but I can relate some of my own experiences to their conclusions.

According to most international evaluations, Finland is accepted as one to the most successful educational programs in the world.  I don't have anything that clearly relates to the current world, but I have had some experience with the Finnish system.  When I went to Finland in 1967 courtesy of Mr. Fulbright and the U. S. government, I took my wife and four children with me.  My oldest son had completed the second grade in the U. S. (in Southern Illinois, and though I wasn't completely satisfied with his school experience, he was good enough reader that he read The Hobbit, and Return of the King on the airplane as we flew to Finland.  I investigated the Helsinki school that was provided for the children of diplomats and other American residents in Finland and was not impressed, so we decided that he should, if possible, go to school in a regular public school.  In planning for this, we discovered that in Finland, in 1967, children did not begin school until their seventh year, a year later than in the U.S., so, though He was almost eight, my son was enrolled in the first grade at Puotila elementary school.

He struggled for a couple of months since he had absolutely no Finnish, and though his teacher had a slight command of English she had other students in the class and wasn't able to give him language training.  As a result, we sat together for more than an hour almost every evening while I corrected his reading and translated his assignments, but soon he was brushing me off as un-necessary.  The Elementary school started at 9:00 each morning and was finished at highly irregular times.  One day he would be out of school at one o'clock, and another he would be inclass till four P.M., and he was expected to keep track of his own class schedule.  During school they had time for a period of religion (my Mormon Son had to function in Lutheran, which he did rather well).  They had visual art, singing,  and considerable time for sports.  During the year he had time for running, soccer, and cross country skiing  most of which happened during the regular school day, although we had the occasional soccer game to watch on Saturdays.  He learned to write in Finnish, in Math, they were doing fractions by the end of the year and he had learned some basic skills of algebra as well.  He had learned about the Winter War and knew many of he stories from the Kalevala.  When he started the fourth grade at the laboratory school at the State University of New York at Oneonta, the next fall he was so far ahead of his class that he spend much of his time reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica.  He made that progress in a school without long hours, but which had  experience in all the arts, religion, and , I guess you would call it PE.  (They had very little time for what we would call recess).  What they DID have in the school was discipline.  Students stood when the teacher entered the room and actually bowed to her and addressed her by name ("Good Morning, Miss Nieminen.")  They were quiet in class except when answering or asking questions (Which involved raising the hand to be recognized, and standing while answering or asking questions.)  And, as far as I could tell, they had none of the politically correct crap that so often substitutes for content matter in our current public schools.  So much for necessary early child education.

I confess that I found it really irritating  that he couldn't speak a word of Finnish less than two years later, but that wouldn't have been true if I had spoken to him and the other children in Finnish as often as I did while we were living there.

I have taught, since then at the University level and I'll confess that for the first twenty years, there seemed to be a consistent improvement in students and their preparation for college, although a constant problem was always those who didn't want to be there and had not prepared for independent study, or who thought of college as a place where they could do whatever in the world they wanted and their parents wouldn't know, but that Place to have fun thing was true when I was an undergraduate as well.  I really wasn't aware of many of my undergraduate colleagues who didn't want to be there, but I didn't know the backgrounds of all my friends.  During the last ten years of my career there was more of a struggle with discipline, with the demand for "rights" (in all the multiple dimensions of that demand), and with the increasing element of "political correctness and political indoctrination" of students.

I have a couple of conclusions about how to solve our education problems, that are not couched in such clear experiential evidence, but it is my impression that many  administrators in the public schools are administrators because they couldn't survive successfully in the classroom.  There is an old saying that went the rounds during my undergraduate life, and probably before that (and after) that says "Them what kin, do. Them what cain't, teach, and them what cain't teach, teach teachers.'"  That used to really irritate me, and though there are clear exceptions, most of the Education Faculty in the universities at which I taught were pretty darn good, if occasionally lost in blue sky thinking.  But I really think that "them which cain't teach become administrators " is pretty close to true.  I think that the solution for many of the problems in the public schools is to require all administrators to teach in the classroom at least three hours each day.  This would eliminate many of those who are incompetent, and benefit the teachers because I think that administrators in general feel a need to prove that they have worth.  They do this by generating paperwork for teachers who have little time for that paperwork. If the administrators had to teach, they would be less likely to assign worthless paperwork which they themselves would have to complete as well.

Well  my age has taken over and I have to quit.  See you all soon.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I hate when I get so angry it resembled hate

In my posts about the congress inciting mob violence,  I was very strong, and on retrospect, I probably should moderate my language.  i begin to resemble those whom I attack.  I no longer feel the intense anger that was reflected in those posts. 

I doesn't mean that I have changed my mind about the principles involved, but my emotions are less antagonistic right now than the are sorrowful.  I would like to blame the intemperate, illegal and immoral statements by  these congressmen on the hate that seem to flow in our current society, but it is something that exists, not just in politicians but in many of us who feel desperation or discrimination, or the other feelings that result from unequally enforced laws.

When the Mormons lived in Missouri, the Governor of that state, taking exception to many things Mormon, including the fact that most of them were abolitionist, or at least disapproving of slavery, issued an extermination order.  That's right, he officially issued an order that all Mormons should be driven from Missouri, and those who refused to leave should be exterminated (that is the actual term in the proclamation.)   AT least Barney Frankenfurter (I can't resist a little jab) and his friends didn't issue an immediate extermination order for AIG executives (though they came close).

What I feel at this moment is an overwhelming sadness that we as a people (yes I WAS that angry) can be manipulated though a sense of class or racial or ethnic or religious discrimination or fear into approving or even committing  hate filled acts.

I have rethought my position, and though those of my readers (such as remain after my long hiatus) who don't share my faith in God might not appreciate it, and though Barney Frank and those others who used the hearing floors  for blatantly obvious extortion  would probably laugh, tonight I will pray that I will be  forgiven and for them whose acts I so scornfully disapproved, and for the AIG personnel who are living in fear, and for the leaders of this country that they might have the wisdom to act in true deliberation for the success and survival of the tolerance, energy, and forgiveness that I think are part of the American Dream.

When we divide into groups whose focus is not deliberation but group envy and hate we weaken ourselves immeasurably in a world where weakness can be fatal.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bonus -Shmonus, Congress Has Become a Mob.

I was much too gentle in my last post. I spent much of yesterday watching C span and shuddering at the spectacle of a congress with the apparent IQ of a dozen free range eggs (several of which are overripe)competing against each other in Mob Rule. It is revealing that the two most disgusting example of virulence were both from Massachusetts . It is easy to picture slobbering Barney Frankenfurter and his colleague the "contract lawyer" (God help the honest man the comes before him) elbowing each other out of the way to get the first torch onto the "witches of Salem" Each of them made Joe McCarthy at his worst look like a pantywaist.

Barney demanded the names of those who legally (if not wisely)received bonuses (thanks to the intervention of the administration and Christopher Dodd into the final part of the bailout bill) and declaring that he would not keep them secret (moments after he had been informed that AIG executives had been receiving death threats.) thus, in essence, threatening their lives. Such extortion in a legitimate situation would have had Frankenfurter in cuffs for such an act.

His friend from Massachusetts suggested that Mr. Liddy should have told them that he was voiding their contracts (remember he is a CONTRACT lawyer) and let them carry it to the courts. As I remember he said that they would all be dead of old age before the courts settled that one. Wouldn't you like to have a contract with a firm that he represents.

The disgusting thing is that these mobocrats seem to have stirred up the mob to the stage that the congress has passed (with many threats and screams) a bill so obviously unconstitutional and immoral that the victims of the law would appear to a rational mind to be Saints in comparison. None of the victims has been shown to have broken any law, or done anything that was not PROTECTED by the wording of the bailout bill. The frothing screaming demagoguery of the congress is a typical action to a bunch of "slithy toads" who want to distract the populace into not noticing that it was all THEIR fault for voting on legislation that they had not even read nor did they have a clue what it was really doing. Unfortunately much of the population of this country has fallen for the act and is joining in on what is the obvious equivalent of a witch burning or a lynching. The most rational minds seem to be saying "Wait a minute, lets not lynch them without a trial, lets hold a trial and THEN lynch them."

In my three quarters of century, the incarceration of many Japanese Americans at the beginning of World War II is almost the only act of our government that is more shameful that what is going on this minute.

I hereby suggest that the only reasonable way to get congress to act rationally is for every voter to vote against EVERY incumbent, that we might get some fresh uncorrupted people into our congress.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bonus post

A lot of commentary in the news about the bonuses paid to AIG employees following the last government donation to the company.  I admit that when I first heard about it, I was indignant, as I was about the Merrill Lynch bonuses etc., but that was an indignancy about greed.  I became more indignant about stupidity when I discovered that these contractual bonuses were included in the information given to our current Secretary of the Treasury (back when he was negotiating these bonuses in he previous position during the month of September.)  The bailout money (both times) was given to AIG with the full knowledge that these bonuses (I like the term boni as plural) were under contract.

The fact that, as if it were in a Bankruptcy position, the need for a cancellation of the "boni "  (I couldn't resist) would be a condition of the bailout, and if such was a case ,  I become (as we all should) indignant about the stupidity of the government negotiators (current Sec. of Treasures) in allowing the situation to proceed without such provisions.

So, we already have a case where venality was a major element for which we should be angry, and stupidity was a major element, for which we should be MORE angry, , but what I find most terrifying, if not anger generating, it the third element which is simply EVIL.   This afternoon I heard Senator Schumer (or however he spells it) of New York attempt to blackmail the recipients of these bonuses into returning the money (which they had received as part of a legal contract, which no-one has challenged) or he (I assume he planned to use the rest of the congress for this purpose as well) would enact a law that would tax this money one hundred percent.  I don't know who else has considered that this is the ultimate unconstitutional evil.  If it were to be successful (even if the threat without the law should be successful), no person in the United States would be immune from similar treatment.  No contract would be safe, no sales contract, no employment contract, not even a marriage contract could be made with the ensurance that some Jackass congressman could not, by fiat, void or remake the contract to suit him or her (In HER case, not a Jackass but a Jenny, I know how those things work>) 

We can observe the president lying or misstating this situation (actually if you have listened to the television you have already heard it), you can hear the voiced support of the Treasury Secretary, and you can listen to Barney Frank (Franck?), as whole line of other legislators and news media talking faces demagogue and rant, but the real concern we should have is about the congress perpetrating actual evil in the attempt to pervert the power of the congress into a weapon with which to attack individuals.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Back Again

After writing that whining plea for sympathy or something, I just blacked out as far as posting on line is concerned.  I couldn't get past the feeling that the whole world was going to hell in a handbasket.  I really know, and knew, that this was not the case.  Oh well.

Just some silly meditations on things I see:


First is the vanilla rapper that is doing commercials for Free Credit Report.com.  I think that it is every actor's night mare and every actor's secret wish to get an ongoing commercial like that.  I am sure that this young man started out to be a Star.  (Indeed he may be a star in some part of the music world to which I don't have entree).  My hunch is, that right now, he couldn't make as much consistent money on tour while being a star (though star musicians make a kind of money that the musicians I knew growing up would be stunned if they knew  the income that comes from a current pop or rock tour)

I remember going to see The Allman Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, and the Rolling Stones in the college gymnasium across the street from my old house, and I know that NO big star now (and darn few little ones) would consider playing a venue of that size any more.  But our young friend from Free Credit Report.com is now drawing a pay check far in advance from that  received by the Stones and Allman back in the pre-history.

Commercials are funny.  I once was in the same room with the actor who played the lonely repairman for Maytag, and he made the point that he had been a working actor in films and on Broadway for forty years, but that it was Maytag that was going to provide a pension for his old age (he was close to there already) and an inheritance for his progeny.  The interesting thing is that the singer, actor, rapper will probably be able to turn this gig into some kind of a STAR thing but he may be making as much as he will ever make right now.  Have you noticed that his current gig is so successful that Com Cast the cable network is now running commercials that are almost direct plagiarism of the Free Credit Report Commercial.

Well, Janet is at least partially out of her wheelchair after three months and is using her walker, and we are back in Water Aerobics (which I recommend for all of the coot and geezer set) .  I am finally sitting at the computer and hope to post something that is of genuine interest soon.   I am troubled enough to discard my promise to avoid politics though it will not be an ongoing thrust of my blog.  Hopefully I will find some stuff and put it on line often enough to reclaim  some of my old readers.