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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Eyes Wide Open - Wage Peace

The American Friends Service Committee’s Eyes Wide Open exhibit stopped in the gardens near the State Capital in Sacramento today. The exhibition presents rows and rows of empty army boots, each with a name tag representing one U. S. soldier fallen in the Iraq war. Next to the empty boots is a large labyrinth laid out with thousands of men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes and slippers representing a small portion of the thousands of Iraqis killed. Several of the combat boots are decorated with photos and other personal items friends and relatives of the dead have added as the exhibit has traveled around the country. You can see more about the exhibit and a short film about the exhibit at . The website has an electronic petition asking the president to remove U. S. forces from Iraq.

The exhibit is very moving, the precisely arrayed army boots and the more casually arranged civilian shoes. Children’s shoes and baby shoes, old lady shoes. Standing and walking amidst thousands of empty shoes really drives home the enormity of this waste of human life. Shoes filled no more, visiting friends and family no more, They will age no more, breath no more.

It’s about time to say, “No More”.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Packing 9 Inches

I just gave in to a weird impulse. I measured my scar’s length. 9 inches baby! That’s what this boy is packing. What’s more disturbing is that my abdominal muscle tone has disappeared. I wonder if I could get a tattoo to integrate the scar into a landscape scene or something. Maybe an island sunset with the scar making the horizon over the Island's volcano.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Hey ho, Let's Go

After last week’s posting, I thought I better be able to report that I actually did something. Well, I did. Using my internet wiles, I found the direct phone number for the Dean of Mathematics at a local community College. She was willing to talk with me, she even returned calls. She asked me to complete a faculty application and personally deliver it to her. That’s great, since one of my goals is to navigate around personnel departments by recruiting a “coach” at the start. I guess I got some amount of sales know-how from all those years in the insurance industry. So, there. I have completed everything for the unbelievably lengthy application except recommendation letters, but I made some calls on Friday. At least I’m doing something. Next stop is to call two “boutique” type risk management consulting forms in town. And maybe the bossman actuary at CalPERS.

While I am typing this am listening to my ABBA greatest hits CD. ,There was something in the air that night. I don’t know why I love their music. Guess I am a child of the ‘70s, live with it. I figured for affirmative action purposes, they need at least one straight fan. Their tunes are so lively and happy, kind of like a polka with a disco beat. Don’t worry, rockin’ teens, I still like Sabbath and the Ramones. Some days you just feel like a little “dancin’ queen”.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

My Apologies to Mr Lear

These days it seems that compassion
Has fallen out of fashion.
But wouldn’t it be dandy
To elect leaders like Ghandi
And stop all this of killin an smashin.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Quotation of the Day

Wolfowitz, the World Bank?, Oy Vey, I wouldn’t let him run a sperm bank! – Al Franken as the oy yoy yoy man.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Movie Reviews: Saved and Shawn of the Dead

I’ve been dealing with a cold and laryngitis this week, so I rented a couple of movies for last night. Light entertainment that doesn’t require moving or saying anything.

Saved is a pleasant teen comedy set in a “Christian” school and community. The main character in the movie is a senior appropriately named Mary who always wanted to be the perfect disciple of Jesus, but ends up pregnant with a gay boyfriend. The cast is rounded out by several amusing characters; the goody-goody and sanctimonious Hillary Fay, who always takes care of her wheelchair bound brother Roland (played by Mackauley Caulkin), who is a teen with the mind of a dirty old man. Mary’s mom is having an affair with the married minister, and Roland falls in love with a Jewish bad girl sent to the School for reasons never completely explained.

The story line is simple but appealing. Mary is able to conceal her pregnancy until prom, when everything comes to a conflict at once.

I liked the portrayal of the teen characters, they were really true to what my students are like, except, of course, there’s a lot less acne in the movie. The movie was fun to watch with the exception of a very self-righteous few moments near the end, when good triumphed over evil, and everything turned out happy.

Overall, I give the film three stars (***) for its brutally honest portrail of teenage insanity.

Shawn of the Dead is a must-see horror/comedy for anyone who wasted Saturday afternoons or late nights watching old zombie-filled horror movies. Shawn lives the life of a suburban London slacker, he goes to work and drinks at the pub. His roommate never leaves the couch. As zombies start appearing, an aura of uncertainty arises, since the zombies’ behavior isn’t really that different from their behavior when they were alive. Shawn finds greatness within himself when he must defend his local pub from the zombies. This movie made me laugh several times.

I give Shawn three stars (***)

One disturbing trend I noticed in both movies is the repeated lines and images about smoking. Especially disturbing in a teen comedy where all the cool kids smoke. I suspect Phillip Morris is continuing its Sub Rosa marketing to kids.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Our Trip to Seattle

Kathleen and I spent the last long weekend visiting friends in Seattle. We had a great time. The weather was sunny and warm, and our friends were great hosts. We spent most of our time eating and walking around. Our hosts had a dinner party that was great. Our flight was fine, but I didn’t get a good view of Mt St Helens. On the way back, we flew pretty close to Mt Rainier, which was very cool. We visited Archie MacPhee’s store, which was an incredible big room full of kitch and schlock. It was fun. Somehow, in person, the stuff doesn’t look as cool as it does in the catalogue. Archie’s is brilliant at promotion.

Moby Slacker

“I would prefer not to” These are the words of Herman Melville’s Bartleby the scrivener, written in 1853. Bartleby was a scrivener, a creator of copies of complex legal documents. Although he was an industrious worker, when asked by his employer to assist in checking copies, he responded, “I would prefer not to”. These words are a personal declaration of independence in an industrial or postindustrial workplace.

The domination of masses by elites requires that we never speak these simple words. No excuses, no whining, just an honest statement of a personal preference. Uttering these simple words breaks the chains of peonage, freedom starts in your own mind. The difference between slave and free mentality lies in the ability to say these words unapologetically.

In my own life, I have used this affirmation and its liberating power several times. The most notable related to a client I once had whose business and financial practices did not appear to be “on the level” to me. I called the company president to inform him that I would no longer provide actuarial services. Typical for an arrogant executive, the president demanded to know why I had made this decision. I told him that a free man holds the right to refuse work that he prefers not to do. This was a liberating moment in my life.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Home Schooling Hills & Billies

You can take the billy out of the hill, but you can’t take the hill out of the billy.

I have learned this lesson through experiences with home-schooled kids. I have two home-schooled students. One student with an educated and dedicated mother is doing just fine. My other student, a sixteen year old girl, tells a different story. This kid’s mom introduced herself to me by explaining that they hadn’t done any math work for a few years because of, “oh y’know”.

For our first session I gave the student a basic skills evaluation to test her skills ranging from addition to fractions and percents. She cannot subtract numbers over 10, cannot add, subtract or multiply fractions, and did not recognize the percent sign (%). That puts her at a level near fifth or sixth grade. I have arranged for her to see an elementary ed person, since she is about two or three years away from algebra readiness. Her math deficiency came to light when mom finally faced up to the mandatory algebra testing the State requires for home school kids to get a graduation certificate. I wish them the best of luck.

The moral of the story: Don’t even think of home schooling unless you can look at yourself in your mirror and be 100% sure that (1) You are willing to devote several concentrated hours per day to your student, and more time for studying the material to keep ahead of the syllabus. (2) You have excellent knowledge of the syllabus. Hint – if you don’t remember how to solve systems of multivariate linear equations, you have some homework to do. (3) You will be willing to stick to the subject material that is the most difficult to learn.

In short, unless you feel you have the abilities and personal resources to expertly teach the high school syllabus, please keep your kids in school. If you can’t picture yourself as a teacher, don’t teach your kids.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Land of the Pharisees, Home of the Violent

Fr John Dear, a Jesuit priest, wrote this excellent column examining some moral implication of our good old American hegemony.

To make a long sermon shorter, he defines contemporary American culture as a culture of Pharisees. He sees a collective culture that is self-righteous, arrogant, powerful and murderous wrapped in a mantle of so-called Christian spirituality. He uses the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate Christian values of compassion, nonviolence, justice and peace.

Our culture resembles that of the Pharisees in our siding with the wealthy, the rulers, and the bankers and corporations, in order to comfort ourselves in our exploitive ways.

He describes contemporary “Christian” spirituality as the spirituality of empire, emphasizing that this spirituality teaches;

Violence saves lives
War is justified
Might makes right
Bombing is blessed, and
The good news is found in the death of our enemies.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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