Monthly Archives: March 2017

Throw the Bloody Ball


The Donald will not be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the Nationals’ baseball season this year.

Big deal. There are more important things to worry about, like his systematic destruction of the EPA, the selling of your internet privacy, the fact that his campaign almost certainly colluded with Russia and Republicans in Washington seem perfectly happy to look the other way.

But for an image-conscious president (and the DT is nothing if not image-conscious), this bloody well is a big deal.

Throwing out the first pitch is just another in a long line of Things Presidents Do that Donny has given the middle finger to. His staff says he’s busy, which is weak tea. When you ask somebody out and they say,  “sorry, I’m washing my hair that night,” you know there will be no hair-washing that night. Of course he’s busy. The president — and put aside the tepid list of his accomplishments thus far — is always busy. But you make time for things that matter, things that remind the country you’re a person, things which are symbolic. Which is why presidents have been doing This Thing for a century.

Baseball? The national pastime? As American as baseball? Nah. He’s busy.

I’ll put aside petty personal jabs about whether or not he could even get the ball across the plate (though for the record, my assessment there is: doubtful — tiny hands and all). The real reason?

He’d get booed.

Mercilessly. For an extended period. By a stadium full of people. On national TV.

Not by everybody, to be sure. There would be Trump fans in attendance. But a baseball game isn’t a Trump rally; he wouldn’t be insulated from the people who can’t stand him if he stepped out into the unfiltered masses of a ball game. He’d be stepping out of the warm, pillowy bubble of support that he lives in and going out into the harsh reality of the world.

He knows what his approval ratings are, even if he calls them fake news.

For Trump, it’d be stepping out into the desert.

He knows that if he steps onto that field and takes that mound, he’d be met with a chorus of boos unlike anything he’s ever heard in his life. And he can’t have it. His massive ego would blow out like the Snoopy balloon at the Macy’s parade. The narrative that “real Americans” support DT would unravel like a Christmas sweater the moment he met some real real Americans at a baseball game. Because unlike a Trump rally, a baseball game actually represents a pretty decent cross-section of a community.

And getting booed on a massive scale like that would shatter him, and shatter the cocoon he’s spun around himself.

Supporters can make all the excuses they want — this doesn’t matter, he has bigger fish to fry, etc — and they’re right, in writing. In the scheme of things, what this thing literally is doesn’t matter. But we also have to face reality.

Things always mean things, and it’s a “ceremonial” first pitch for a reason. This could be a humanizing moment for him. Symbols have that kind of power. Just being there would do wonders for his image, and who cares how the actual pitch goes? Obama’s was terrible, and he got booed, but he took it like a man. It’s not about the pitch, it’s about the moment, the optics. DT could do the same thing. Show some humility, some appreciation, some willingness to actually connect with people. Do a Thing Presidents Do instead of just letting Bannon take a dump in a blender and then turning the blender on in the middle of our democracy.

But no thanks. He’s busy.

And, come on. Odds are he couldn’t do worse than some of the worst first pitches in history.

Image result for baseball pitch fail gif


Parents Who Hate Their Kids, Ch. 1


My son has a classmate named Taylor.

But not “Taylor.” It’s pronounced “Taylor,” but it’s spelled “Taeler.” Nothing against the name — I have a new niece named Taylor (and I hope I spelled it right, as I haven’t seen it in print yet, and HOO BOY am I about to make things awkward at Thanksgiving if I guessed wrong) — but this strikes me as a problem. Not because I don’t know whether Taylor is a boy or a girl; there are plenty of those names these days and that’s cool and trendy and whatever. But because poor Taeler’s parents have doomed her (or him) to a lifetime of interactions that begin with “actually, it’s spelled T-A-E-…”

Isn’t life hard enough?

Then there are C’Niyah and Zaniya. Pronounced the same, just starting with an “s” sound or a “z” sound. So is the apostrophe required? Or the “A”? How about the “H” on the end? Or are all of these things just flopping around like vestigial tails? And when it’s time to learn about capitalization, I pity poor C’Niyah — she (or he?) has to do it twice in her own name! How confusing is that?

In my own classes — this year alone! — I’ve got Michaela, Mikayla, Mikayela, McKayla, and Macayla. And maybe Mikaela. All pronounced the same. I’m pretty sure one of them has an “H” on the end as well, but does it even matter at this point? C’s, K’s, Y’s, E’s, H’s … they’re all flying around like cows in a tornado (RIP Bill Paxton), and there’s no telling where they’ll end up, or why. These poor girls (because there are plenty of other Michaelas, Mikaylas, etc enrolled) must ever clarify their identity by adding their last name, and have given up hope of ever having a teacher spell their name correctly — I personally couldn’t properly tell you which spelling goes with which girl with the first degree of confidence. These, too, might as well have the middle name “actually, it’s spelled …”

To say nothing of Caila, Kayla, and Kaela, whom I taught last year. Guess which one was pronounced “Ky-la”. You can’t, because there are no rules when it comes to names.

Here’s a fun one. How do you spell the name that’s pronounced “Jay-len”?

Trick question. I’ve seen it dozens of ways. Jalen, Jaelan, Jaylen, Jaelen, Ja-len, Ja’lin, Jalynn … I could go on. The possibilities are almost endless, because you can apparently capitalize whatever letters you like and throw around punctuation like you’re mixing salad with the SlapChop.

Image result for slap chop

Point is, none of these spellings for any of these names is “correct”, because there is no “correct” spelling when it comes to names. Which means — wait for it — ALL these spellings are INCORRECT! That’s just logic.

As a teacher, I dread meeting these kids for the first time, because inevitably, my first question will not be something insightful like “how was your summer” or something easygoing like that. No, the first thing I’ll have to say to them is “…spell that, please.”

And I know, I know. We want our kids to be unique, and we want them to stand out from the crowd because they are our delicate little snowflakes. But having been a teacher now for seven years (if that doesn’t make me the grizzled elder waving a yardstick around and get-off-my-lawn-ing), I can tell you that these names don’t uniquely identify a student to us, and certainly not in a positive way. Rather, these students are more likely than others to be frustrated with school, and people in general, because nobody can pronounce or spell their name! (Take it from a guy with a last name that’s vaguely eastern-European. I’ve heard so many different pronunciations I could start my own alphabet.)

If you want your kid to stand out, the way to do it is to bring them up to be a decent human being. One that seeks out learning and opportunities for their own sake. One that treats people with respect as a baseline. One who greets the world with positivity and optimism and effort.

You don’t do that by telling a child that they’re special all the time (and make no mistake, spelling your kid’s name “Taeler” when it’s pronounced “Taylor” only sets her — or him! — up to think that she’s special, that she’s different). That only confuses them when the world doesn’t back up that belief, and then they get mad at the world.

No, you make your child stand out by teaching them humility. Yes, to me you are special, but to the world, you are just another person like everybody else, and you have to earn what you want. In our new, technologic, me-centric world, it’s the person who actually lives in the real world, who pays attention to the people around them, who acts with compassion and good will instead of out of attention-seeking, who really stands out.

This post brought to you by M’ahtT, because apparently I can spell it any way I like.


Shop Vac


Things accomplished today:

  1. Odd-colored patch under the light fixture we replaced in the kitchen: painted.
  2. Peeling ceiling paint in the bathroom: scraped and re-painted.
  3. Warping and de-laminating bathroom door: liquid-nails’ed back into shape.
  4. Slow drain in upstairs bathroom: de-slowified.

Things I learned:

  1. Popcorn ceiling is terrible, in that it’s basically impossible to match an old application with a new one, and thus, if it ever needs to be repaired in any way, you almost have to re-paint the entire ceiling in that room.
  2. Popcorn ceiling is kind of awesome, in that it hides imperfections in the underlying surface, so the previous ceiling paint I didn’t entirely scrape off just kinda disappears.
  3. How have I lived 36 years without knowing about liquid nails? That stuff could fix the holes in the Titanic, I’m pretty sure. Never going to be without some in the house again.
  4. Kids will stuff anything down an open drain, just for the curiosity of it.

Things I may or may not have shop-vac’d out of the kids’ (and my!) bathtub drain:

  1. Seven pounds of hair (interesting as I don’t have any)
  2. Two matchbox cars
  3. A collection of bathtub markers
  4. One missing cat (alive)
  5. One missing cat (deceased)
  6. A previously undiscovered Dead Sea Scroll
  7. Five dollars

Drums and Beats


The word for the day is March, and the only thing that came to mind was time marches on. Which is the annoyingly obvious sort of platitude that I both love and love to hate. I thought, well, I could write on that particular platitude, but it would turn into the meandering nothing that I’m trying, of late, to avoid around here.

Then I went for a run, and after my podcast ran out – which they tend to do when you run 7 miles – (Last Podcast on the Left’s recent offering on L Ron Hubbard, for the curious) I figured I’d crank some tunes, which, I’m pretty certain, is what the kids are saying these days. And as my feet pounded away, it struck me – there I was, kind of sort of marching to the beats of several drummers. AWOLnation. Flock of Seagulls. Fiona Apple. Glitch Mob. Lindsey Sterling. Radiohead. Ed Sheeran. Duran Duran. The Beastie Boys. Twenty One Pilots. Depeche Mode. Regina Spektor. The Foo Fighters. (What is a Foo anyway, and why does it need fighting? Or are they fighting for the Foo?)
And I thought to myself: once upon a time, I had a musical identity.

I could shop in just one aisle of the record shop (and there I feel time marching on again – I haven’t bought a physical cd at a physical record store in, I dunno, a decade? Two?) My musical tastes started and ended with hard rock  and heavy metal. Iron Maiden, Metallica, Guns ‘n Roses, Megadeth. I was that guy, in that group, listening to that music. Long hair, leather jacket. I listened to exactly one radio station. All this – music at the heart of all – was no small part of my identity.

These days? I have a dozen radio presets and it doesn’t feel like enough (though that’s an indictment more perhaps of the advertisement quotient). Dozens of Playlists and stations on Spotify and Pandora that I flip through like the pages of a well-loved book. Even in my personal collection – music I feel strongly enough about to pay for it (unheard of!) – there is no such thing as a favorite artist, favorite song. One day I can’t get enough of a track, the next I’m aggressively skipping it, impatient even at its opening notes.

Love it one day, hate it the next.

Which leaves me all the time marching to the beats of lots of different drummers.

Which is probably just as well; no sense in being the same way all the time. As Shakespeare said by way of Hamlet, “suit the action to the word, the word to the action… but use all gently.”

Use all gently. A little bit of everything when the time is right.

As time marches on.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results. This week? Maybe not so productive.


Fixer of Things


There is no satisfaction like the satisfaction you gain from taking on a task entirely foreign to you and mastering it.

Yesterday, found a leak under our sink. Today, it’s fixed. Not by a contractor, not by an expertly licensed and trained plumber with a truck full of tools and a belt that never quite seems to keep his pants up. By me.

So what if it took three hours and two trips to the Home Depot?

So what if my kitchen currently looks like a disaster area?

So what if I had to buy and learn to use two brand new tools that I may never use again?

So what if my face is going to be broken out for weeks from rubbing my mug against the underside of the sink?

So what if my back and shoulders may never be the same after cramming them into that tiny space?

I fixed a thing. And instead of the $300 it likely would have cost to call a “professional,” I’m out only $25, a few hours of work, and a small portion of my dignity (apparently the belt doesn’t hold my pants up on the job either).

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See that? That’s what a pipe looks like when it’s not leaking anymore. (Sidenote: I worked harder than I should have to get this picture, and it still looks like unmollified hell.)

Victory!


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