Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stop Being Stupid

During staff week at Camp Interlaken one summer in the mid-1990's, our director related a story of an old director he worked for who said two things, after all the work of opening camp was done: "Have fun. Don't be stupid."

Bob Herbert's December 26th column

echoes this sentiment. On every subject but me, I've been meditating on that mantra ever since. In retrospect at least, I've been Bob Herberting myself after a multitude of choices.

Here's to a 2009 with less stupid in advance.

Happy New Year.

"Televandalists" and other copycoinage

Fine, there's a band. I didn't know that until three minutes ago. I "coined" the term in response to my friend Sandy, who bragged about writing on everyone's Facebook walls as her New Year's greeting. The act of scrawling on someone's virtual space should have a better name than spamming, or trolling even.

If you don't like it, ephough. That was almost me too, although there's apparently someone called that on FIQL. ? She never posted, though. If you manage to dig up this post and buy the domain before I do, I hope you liked what you read.

Last night, my non-TV-watching friend reminded me again that "TV will kill your brain." My response:

"Overachiever. UnderTVer."

I got that one.

The 700 Club

It's nothing to brag about, but I'm 10 Facebook friends away from 700. I do know most of them, really. And I'm pretty sure most of them actually know me. One claims she must know me, given the other friends I'd mentioned having in college.

As I (re)start blogging, tweeting, and continue facebooking, I contemplate the read-worthiness of This. What percentage of my 700 will make This club?

When I passed 300, I mused about a potential social project. I would contact each of my Facebook friends one day of the year. If I had not heard back from them within a month, I would de-friend them. What would be the point? I chalk that project's non-start up to a combination of laziness and anti-hubris. Who would I be to demand their response? Then again, I do get to choose. Always.

Now that I've doubled that mark, I shudder to think of the effort. Still, one-a-day can't be any worse than taking vitamins.

I'll add it to the list of resolutions. Tomorrow, I here I come!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In response to "How to Embrace Change"

My response to the recent post:

For one, I can stop self-layering, and hesitating. I’m constantly committing the “knowing the outcome” sin; if I do it to myself, you can bet I’m doing it to my kids. Thank you for this post, PM!

I love D.U.’s Anais Nin reference, to the necessary blossoming, but I love even more the W.E.B. Du Bois quote. It reminds me of a line in one of my favorite poems of all time, Trees, by Howard Nemerov:

“To stand for the constant presence of process
And always to seem the same;”

“The” leap is really a series of leaps, is it not? It is less the landing point than the act of leaping itself that ensures our constant spryness. To keep leaping, to BE the leap we wish to see, as it were. As I was born February 29th, I feel qualified enough. As always, the process, not the product.

For the hometown fans, by the way, Howard Nemerov taught at Wash U in St. Louis.

Us: Designed Obsolescence?

In plumbing the depths of my past academic submissions for nuggets on which to expound here, I found and have begun tearing apart my "brief" philosophy of education, which I titled "Within His Reach," after a line in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile. As it turns out, "plumbing" is a fairly apt word to describe the place shit travels. In groveling to that high-school-standardized-essay idol of pouring the first paragraph through an initially wide funnel into the thesis statement, I discovered that yes, I committed that hubristic sin of opening with something horrifically, glacially broad, in my case: "Since the days when the first humans lived in caves..." In its defense, however, I remind myself that Plato's Republic served on the panel of texts for that paper's course; is a cave reference in an education treatise so out of place?

Dwelling so on the housing and other living conditions of our cousins-so-many-times-removed, the opening paragraph mused about those aging hunters in the tribe who recognized their impending mortality. They would need to sum up everything they'd learned and transmit it, mostly orally, before they died. In roughly thirty to forty years, if they were lucky. If you've ever read about the Lascaux paintings and what the caves were like before they were excavated for study, you can appreciate the inaccessible rarity of permanence in the mass media of the day. What opposite times we now occupy, where the whole of human knowledge (and a fair amount of other sludge) slowly creeps toward a singularity of storage and access; and where our industrially-prolonged physical existences challenge the immediacy of passing anything along. We live longer and need to instruct less -- in effect, carving out a smaller role for ourselves as elders of a tribe with a diminishing need for our cerebrally-stored expertise.

What then, do we do with this extra time? And do we abdicate entirely our role as "elders" in the tribe? When we succeed in getting everything onto Wikipedia, and everyone onto their own blog, what then? Has it been a generations-long conspiracy to return to adolescence, only with golf clubs? Or is it a deliberate and noble pursuit to free up the additional decades it will require us as teachers and our offspring as students just to sift through all that "knowledge?"

What does the imminent collapse of our economy and the likely demise of the social safety net as WE ("we," the kids who watched The Day After, who saw Yeltsin dissolve the Soviet Union in a bath of vodka, who saw The Wall and then saw it crumble) knew it growing up mean about our own old age? Will we have nothing to do, or everything? Will we have to look up the symptoms of Alzheimer's on the Wiki and self-diagnose?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gestures of Weakness

Does this act of vandalism even deserve the moniker "gesture?"

Cf. "Stop Being Stupid" above. Are the Temple Sholom families lucky that school was out this week? Or is a 2AM firebomb hurled at the outside of a synagogue a calculatedly small act? It will and must get rapid and diffuse coverage. Sadly for their PR effort, the bomber did not leave his URL at the scene.

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Andrew Osborn on our 2010 Collapse

Personally, I think Professor Panarin's prediction is probably premature, but perhaps not impossibly prescient. Obviously not the first. Isn't 2010 awfully close to 2012, the supposed year of the Rapture, the Mayan apocalypse, and also the beginning of the Age of Aquarius?

Arthur C. Clarke thought 2010 might be "The Year We Make Contact." In this economy, if it's the year we make contacts, at least somebody will be manufacturing something.

My thought was, according to his map, I might actually end up better off.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Getting Aggressive About Passive Houses

In 2005 and 2006 I interviewed George Sullivan, a Chicago-based architect bullishly determined to remake midwestern homes more energy-efficient, without all the silly trappings of past eco-movements, such as solar panels. At least not in the Midwest, where the most important factor in energy cost is insulation.

Ears here aren't entirely deaf to passive homes. They just need the volume turned up.

Visit George's company page at

Hawks and Hawkish Fans

I awoke with conviction that I had something useful to post today. Last night's Blackhawks game was postworthy: I was part of the regular-season record-setting crowd of 22,712 who witnessed their record-tying eighth straight victory. I suggest that playoff ticket holders consider me as a companion - I've never seen them lose. For all I ignore hockey, I enjoy watching it. Not only were two goals scored in the opening two minutes, but they pummeled Philly. 38 shots on goal to 17. In my view, they won all three fights.

The last Blackhawk game I attended was during the first Gulf War, when the tradition of madly cheering through the entire national anthem was born. I'm not sure I understand the meaning of drowning out the singer, but they've held onto the tradition for seventeen years now, who is anyone to question it -- much less, a ritual seemingly steeped in a questionless broth of bravado and loyalty. This crowd might still cheer President Bush if he skated out onto center ice with a "Mission Accomplished" banner on his back.

I don't mean it derisively. Entirely. The majority of fans wore their Hawks jerseys. Politeness abounded. Cheers of "Detroit sucks!!!" echoed through the stadium, despite the evening's opponent being Philadephia. Unlike any of the other sports, and mostly like the theater, ushers make spectators wait to re-enter the stands until a stoppage of play. They wear dapper vests and hold "Stop" signs.

None of this is terribly post-worthy for me, other than the ability of Hawks fans to hold onto tradition and ritual, even through terrible times.

I can't wax too romantic about Hawks hope, though, since I only see a game during a war with Iraq.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Me 2.0

I've been given professional advice from a career educator and administrator that this might be a good idea. We'll see. What better time, though, to start (again) my blog - the day so many Westerners sort through everything new they've just received and decide what they officially don't want. If I can keep it up for five whole days, I'll be ready when they simultaneously decide to try something new, again. Maybe my 2.0 will meet their 2.0 and exchange URL's.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) published "Greyfields into Goldfields" in 2002, and followed with "Malls into Mainstreets" in 2006. They layout plans to reshape these vast suburban wastelands (which are already nicely graded, paved, and hooked up to municipal utilities) into new, vibrant urban nodes.

This All Things Considered story (aired 12/10/2008) about remaking Tyson's Corner, VA sits at the tip of the iceberg, in my opinion.

I would like to hear a followup to that encourages listeners to think of ALL "conventional" mallspaces as having this sort of long-range potential, for towns of ALL sizes. My friend Josh replied that the mayor (of the neighboring township) interviewed in this article "sounds like a total dipshit..." for wanting to "have a voice" in (i.e., complain about) such planning deliberations.

If you sit in your own shit long enough, Ms. Mayor, you forget that it stinks.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Hope of a New Generation

Shayna and I are looking at Facebook pictures of our friends' babies.
After we're done with one set, I ask (mostly to myself), "Lets see, who else does Shayna know?"

She points to a picture in the ad column and says, "I know Barack Obama!"

I don't know if the world or the neighborhood will be better off at the end of President Obama's first or even second term, but I feel good that she's rooting for him. I hope he's rooting for her. I sure am. She deserves a better place to inherit.

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today."

Barack Obama, November 6, 2008

President-Elect Obama's transition team launched today. Does anyone think he's STILL not ready?

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rooting for Me, Again.

Malcolm Gladwell's Late Bloomers, The New Yorker, 10/20/08

My response:

Here's hoping-
No joking.
I'm sloping
Toward stoking
The creativest in me.

I'm crawling
Toward scrawling
My calling
And galled when
The ageists don't see.

[Most productive three hours spent this week! ;)]

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Powell for Obama

Powell endorses Obama.

It might just be tragic if this man doesn't have the chance to serve in an Obama administration.

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain's Missed Opportunity

After some reflection, I think Jack was partially right. I shouldn't be ashamed of the woman who (erroneously) referred to Senator Obama as "an Arab." The thing of which I AM ashamed is John McCain's response.

My original note misquoted her. She actually said, "He's an...he's an...he's an Arab."

McCain replied, "No, ma'am...he's a decent, good family-man citizen..." a nice effort, trying to win back points his crew intentionally sacrificed that week--but wait a minute! The response blatantly implies that such things (decency, hard work, citizenship) are, by definition, NOT Arab. How could a reasonable Arab-American NOT hear the implicit slur?

The BEST I can infer her to have meant was that Obama is at once an Arab, a fundamentalist Muslim, AND a terrorist. I surmise that many Arab-Americans understand all too well that many prejudiced Americans equate all three.

Her ignorance (he is indeed not an Arab) and bigotry (clearly she means to say that Arabs are untrustworthy) are representative of a particular segment of White America that will never abandon its sad grip on white supremacism as a worldview. We can only hope and work if not to change their minds then to minimize their impact.

But McCain was there offered a magnificent opportunity to un-teach some terribly sad stereotypes, and he again chose tactics over strategy. Where he could have responded, "While Mr. Obama is most certainly not an Arab, being one would certainly not keep him from being a decent, good family man citizen..." He could have (once again) dis-equated Arabs from Muslims and Muslims from terrorists. He might have gone as far as to wish for a climate in America so racially tolerant as to elect an Arab-American president.

He might also have sprouted wings and flown under those Spanish power lines without crashing. Before I expect him to cure AIDS, I could at least expect him NOT to so willfully buy into the stereotype some of his most ardent supporters clearly espouse.

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Tim Dickinson's Rolling Stone story on John McCain's real record is a breathtaking read. I suspect many hold-outs for the Senator will decline to read this article, or dismiss it as lib-smear if they do. But to any of my friends who truly believe McCain is what he says he is, I will fact-check it with you, claim-by-claim (where possible), and we will see together.

(Originally posted to Facebook)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

On the need for "Green" directors at for-profit corporations. While I think McCain seems only to want to drill, Obama is only scratching the surface of how this approach may just save us all, and needs to -- forgive the expression -- dig quite a bit deeper.

(Originally posted to Facebook)

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Slippery Slope

The Palin-Couric interview on abortion.

"Look here, it's a slippery slope, Katie...if you allow teenage rape or incest victims to go an' get unholy abortions, and let's face it, some of those girls are totally askin' for it, ya know, well, you're just gonna encourage more young girls to head down the dangerous path of incest, so ya gotta take a stand."

(Originally posted to Facebook)


Susan (10/7, 2:49 PM): "So sad, and yet, so true! You couldn't make this stuff up if you wanted to."

Rebecca (10/7, 5:21 PM): "except that it WAS made up. Adam, please, she didn't say anything of the sort. Listen, I'm not voting the McCain-Palin ticket, but this kind of crap makes me want to. Her position was simply that she would "counsel" them to keep the child and under no circumstances would she throw them in jail. She also called the morning after pill "conception," as those of us who have actually been fighting this fight for decades, know that is a huge step forward. Honestly, you aren't helping the cause here."

David (10/7, 6:46 PM): "Maybe she finally learned that the Vice President's role is that of a family planing counselor. To be fair, I didn't know that either. I always thought it had something to do with the government."

Me (10/7, 8:11 PM): "I thought the satire was obvious. Overall, she answered well, and shrewdly distanced her own views with those of the ticket. But you forgive too much to hear her equating the morning after pill with "conception" [sic -- "contraception"?]; she did NOT say so directly. She said she's all for safe and legal contraception, and then that she believes life begins at the moment of conception. While I'm not qualified to dispute either view, it definitely leaves her cover to claim the pill works AFTER conception, effectively aborting the newly fertilized egg."

Me (10/7, 8:43 PM): "Generally, this is not my territory, and I try to tread lightly.

But another part of the answer that troubled me was "women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal." I cringe at such an egregious understatement.

Finally, while acknowledging she wouldn't want to see people jailed for aborting incest-conceived children, she also tellingly omitted her likely governmental response, which would be to rally congressional support for and cast a tie-breaking vote in support of any federal legislation seeking to bar government funding for such cases."

My original response was going to include the above. Then I thought it would be a little too dry to just dissect what she said. Or didn't say. I thought I actually deleted the snark line because I didn't want to seem to glib about a serious issue. But I don't think she said as much as you want to have heard. Not in that interview alone, anyway.

Rebecca (10/7, 9:08PM): "Actually, I watched it again and right now I'm convinced that she is pro-choice. The thing to remember is that Roe v. Wade overturned a law that _criminalized_ abortion. She made it very clear that she opposes "criminalizing" abortion. In fact, she never even said that she supported laws that made abortion illegal. It's a remarkable little ... Read Moresnippet. I'm still incredulated but the fact that she called RU-486 "contraception." That is huge.

Again, I'm not voting the McCain ticket. But all of McCain's top VP choices, whom he was forced to turn down (Leiberman, Hutchinson, Whitman) are pro-choice, and I think Palin may be a ringer. Just a thought."

Me (10/7, 10:50 PM): "If by pro-choice you mean that in saying she would "counsel" a rape victim toward adoption, or less specifically, toward a culture of life, she acknowledges an implicit choice, it's hard to disagree.

but if you're arguing that her interview masked what conventional wisdom would consider to be a "pro-choice" stance, I think you've got a long way to go.

I think your optimism will be in desperate demand should that ticket succeed."

Friday, September 19, 2008


From the 9/18 Huffington Post: McCain on Zapatero (maybe?)

Interviewer: "OK, what about Europe...?"
McCain: "What about me what?"

Comic genius.

Good lord, get the man a translator, a hearing aid, or a hearing aide, for pete's sake. Forget about the fact that he panicked and started downloading anti-drug cartel, anti-terror rhetoric and US-Latin American relations while discussing Spain. That's just embarrassing.

(Originally posted to Facebook)

A Target-Rich Environment

The plane in Spain stays mainly with McCain?

You don't forget a country into whose power lines you've crashed a plane. The old man was being cagey, unpredictable - yet firm in a confusing time. I'd say he Maverickated that interview.

(Originally posted to Facebook)


Jeff (9/19, 11:45 AM): "Maverick, it's not your flying, it's your attitude. The enemy's dangerous, but right now you're worse than the enemy: you're dangerous and foolish. You may not like the guys flying with you, they may not like you. But whose side are you on?"

Me (9/19, 1:02 PM): "This is what I call a target rich environment."

Jeff (9/19, 1:18 PM): "Son, your ego is writing checks your body can't cash."

Josh (9/19, 1:59 PM): "We were inverted."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Only Fannie-ing the Flames

Politifact on McCain's warning about Fannie and Freddie

If I read a 340-page report that said my oil pressure was low, it doesn't make me a genius to roll down my window and shout "my car's gonna break!" at people I drive past.

(Originally posted to Facebook)

Curious Jurisdiction

John McCain's Committee experience that oversaw "all aspects of the economy." Except, of course, the ones expressly precluded by the committee guidelines. Maybe Senator McCain should examine item #13. And then decide if that's in his favor or not.

Incidentally: John McCain chaired this committee from 1997-2001, and from 2003-2005. I want to know why nothing has been done to make dry measures sexier.

(Originally posted to Facebook)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Jo Becker, Peter S. Goodman and Michael Powell (NYT) on Sarah in Alaska.

Awesome. Bush III waits in the wings as the VP. Let's just skip right to McCain's fatal pneumonia and start removing all the books on evolution from the Library of Congress?

(Originally posted to Facebook)


Joe (9/15, 6:40 AM): Thank god we humans are great dino-hunters.... Ugh, it's so much like reading the Onion. I'd laugh if it wasn't true. Alas I cry...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin on books as Wasilla mayor (ABC video)

To Sarah: If you were the town librarian, and I asked you to remove from the library a book explaining the actual pronunciation of the word "nuclear," what would be your response?

(Originally posted on Facebook)


Joe (9/12, 3:37 PM): Mine would be WTF??

Thanks for all the great laughs lately. They're well timed. My favorite is still "drill, drill, drill, or USA, USA, USA!"

Monday, September 8, 2008


Soldiers gain US citizenship in Iraq

I don't know what this means, but it does raise the question: how much more than you or I do these people value being American?

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Pie (and other food)-in-the-Sky?

I have dreamt this also. In Marin County, walking among the hills of John Muir National Monument, I saw plants as blueprints for our future superstructures. To absorb rainwater and fix nutrients in the soil, to sway in the wind, to expose as much well-insulated surface area to sunlight, for solar and soular energy. Next time I'll let someone know sooner.

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

We May Never Never Meet Again...

From Clive Thompson, NYT: I'm So Totally, Digitally Close to You

I feel beyond postmodern in posting this. A handful of my Facebook friends are under 18 (cousins, you perverts), and I wonder about them: while we of the over-30 crowd marvel at our miraculous, Facebook-facilitated, virtual grade school reunions, will they ever know what a strange feeling it is? Will they ever know what it's like to lose touch with their friends? Losing touch will necessarily be a more concerted effort from here on out.

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Monday, August 25, 2008


From the NYTMag article

The nearly 30 year-old Occam's Reaganonomic Razor has blunted after eight years of Bush whacking it upside the heads of the American middle class, and is oxidizing in an increasingly carbon-soaked atmosphere.

I like the quiet little point about the lack of new ideas from the right hurting the left just as much.

(Originally posted on Facebook)