Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Kings of the Dinosaurs

There are tons of parenting blogs.  I know this because I've read a few and they often are parents of small children and they run akin to akin to 'kids say the darndest things.'  I don't ever plan to do that to you...but that said...

My son, like most five year old boys loves dinosaurs.  When I was his age I loved dinosaurs.  He memorizes little facts about each of them and reminds me which ones are fast, which ones are intelligent and which ones are meat eaters.

His dinosaur of choice?  You probably already guessed that it's the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  After all, he's the King of the Dinosaurs right?  The tyrant lizard?  The biggest, baddest of them all?  Not so fast.

I always had admiration for the large meat eaters myself but Tyrannosaurus Rex seemed to get a little too much press for my liking.  Sure he looked good in all the pictures chasing down some poor little Velociraptor but he seemed to be all image and no substance.

My favorite was the Allosaurus.  Allosaurus was the forgotten badass meat eater.  Allosaurus is the disrespected ass kicker of dinosaurs.  Even in the Land of the Lost the Allosaurus was off in this lost city and known as "Alice".  The show treated him like the weird old lady that lives in the creepy old house at the end of the street.  Hardly the image that is deserving for a first class bone crunching, meat chewing lizard like Allosaurus.

My son dismisses my claim that Allosaurus deserves respect and goes on talking about his beloved T-Rex.  We go back and forth on this subject and have up until recently refused to agree to disagree.

While reading a book on dinosaurs I pretended to read something about the Allosaurus.  Our dialogue went like this:

Me:  Oh look here.  It says that scientists have analyzed Allosaurus scat and were able to discover some of the things he ate.

Son:  What does it say he ate?

Me:  It says that there some small rodents, some plants, and lots of T-Rex bones.


Me:  (Laughter)

With a piece of paper and a dozen colored markers I began drawing two dinosaurs.  Allosaurus on the left was wearing a bow-tie (the nose ring of Republicans) and on the right was the stunning T-Rex wearing a pink skirt.  Above the picture it read:  Senior Prom.  My son saw what I was drawing and he grabbed it and began tearing it up while running out of the room.

I'm glad we have recently reached a compromise.  My five year old son proposed the notion that they both be Kings of the dinosaurs and they could work together to fight crime.  I agreed to his proposal.  We shook hands and I also made the concession to stop disparaging the reputation of the T-Rex by characterizing him as an effeminate cross-dressing lizard in sloppily scrawled drawings.

On a side note we may be starting a new comic book about our new dinosaur crime fighting duo.  Stay tuned.

Friday, September 09, 2011

10 Years and We’re Still Idiots

10 years have now gone by since the only memorable September 11th in our nation’s history.  In 10 years we should have learned a great deal but as far as I’m concerned, the country we live in now isn’t any better than it was then.

1.  We can’t get into a stadium without mandatory bag searches.  In my overly-careful neck of the woods we have to stand in bag lines even if we don’t have a bag. 

2.  The airports are a complete joke and everyone knows it.  Even the TSA officer who pulled me aside for a random search in an unnamed small city in the Midwest knew it was a joke.  He asked if he could search my bags and he seemed genuinely disinterested.  I told him that I do not consent to searches and he just waved me along knowing it was just an obligatory waste of time anyway.

3.  The 9/11 report demonstrated that among the reasons for the attack, the strongest reason was the presence of our troops on the ground in the Middle East and our continued bombing of a Muslim country (Iraq).  Our meddling in the region is still significant and making our country vulnerable and weaker.

4.  We are spending trillions now in our foreign empire and arguing at home over teacher pay and entitlements.  I’m for entitlement reform obviously but why is our militarism and expense of foreign adventurism off the table from a budget standpoint?

All of the memorials acknowledging the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 will be nothing more than a celebration of American resolve and cheering USA! USA! USA! like idiots.  All of the reasons for that attack are still present.  Instead of removing these reasons we continue our war against a tactic and we are going broke doing so.

10 years after Pearl Harbor we had defeated the enemy, rebuilt our economy and were bored enough to find another war in Korea to keep us occupied.  Now we’re nothing more than a broke and paranoid nation and our leaders are out of ideas.

I’ll return to more interesting posts than this but I couldn’t let this anniversary go by without going on record that I am not looking forward to the empty-headed remembrances that will be going on this weekend.

Friday, September 02, 2011

My Mom and Organized Labor

I mentioned that I had interesting articles coming up about my mom and I may have already broken the first rule of setting expectations:  Aim Low.  I have a friend that begins many of her stories by saying, “Let me tell you one of the funniest stories you’ve ever heard…” and she has to be warned that unless it involves a midget, a clown, and a dozen tubes of plastic wrap, she’s probably not going to come close.  So if this wasn’t interesting to you, I apologize in advance.

I’ve shared before that I had the misfortune of attending awful public schools and without the aggressive involvement of my parents, I probably would’ve accepted much of the pedestrian narrative told to me by teachers who were simply not very good at what they did…and didn’t mind telling you that sometimes.  I’ve had former classmates give me the “the schools weren’t that bad” line but they usually retreat when I’m done reminding them of the facts that always clear up the sentimental thoughts of their youth.

As a child my mom, because of polio, missed large amount of school because of her long hospital stays.  I remember her telling me that what she wanted more than anything else was to be able to go to school.  She felt awful about the schools her children ended up in.
My mom became involved in the public schools and was a huge advocate for education of all kinds.  She tutored students in all subjects, volunteered in classrooms, and was a friend to teachers.  Growing up in my house it was not uncommon to come home and find a teacher in our house talking to my mom.  In the last years of her life, two people that helped her with things around the house or errands were both local public school teachers.

Thirty-one years ago almost to the day my mom was in the middle of a huge labor dispute.  My mom was chairman of the school board in our school district and the district’s teachers were coming up on the renewal of their contract.  I remember it vividly and I remember the conversations that went on in our house.  Months before the contract had expired, she knew the union wasn’t that serious about coming to an agreement and that a strike was likely.  Public funds were in short supply in 1980 and the country was facing inflation and unemployment.  Raises were in short supply, but the need for them had never been greater.  Contract negotiations were tense all over our state, but for this little rural school district, things were about to boil over. 

The decision to hire substitute teachers district-wide made front page news.

It’s impossible these days to talk about unions without having one of two pre-approved opinions on which to span a discussion. 
  1. You believe that only organized labor rescued the average worker from the Robber Barons and without the unions we would still have child labor and work seven days a week making mere pennies while living in houses with dirt floors.
  2. You believe that unions are the enemy of the worker and create widespread unemployment while protecting their own interests and anyone in a union is just a lazy bum who is afraid of competition.  You may concede they were once necessary, but are no longer.
My mom thought neither of these arguments were necessarily true.  My mom respected the right of people to collectively bargain and protect their rights to do the job they were hired to do and be treated fairly.  She also thought being forced to join a union to do a job was nonsense. 

But for the purpose of this blog she believed that the public schools belonged to the public and that no kid should have to miss a single day of school because of what anyone thought about the unions.  The school board made state-wide news for hiring in advance, substitute teachers for the whole district.  School opened on time and negotiations with the union continued.

Personally, I hated the news because I was hoping for a longer Summer vacation.  I was stunned though how opening the schools on time brought such controversy and how the media spun the events.  We had print and TV media at our house regularly trying to get comments.  My mom refused to comment.

On the last school board meeting before the contract was eventually signed the media was out in full force.  Parents, teachers, and even some students turned out and I remember my Dad and I taking my mom to the meeting (she never drove).  Other school board members with the protection of a sheriff’s deputy entered in through a side entrance to stay away from the picket line and arguing mobs that had formed outside.

My mom wanted to go into the front entrance since there were fewer steps (she walked with an exaggerated limp and stairs were not her friend) so this meant driving across the picket line with angry teachers (some had already been in the news for allegedly damaging cars with their signs) and making her way through the charged up crowd.  This was going to be awesome, I couldn’t wait to see the first teacher that hit my dad’s truck with a sign.  Nothing would’ve pleased me more than seeing my dad take one of these “educators” on a field trip to the pavement with his fist.

My dad slowly and patiently drove his truck up toward the entrance and my mom opened the door and a hand was extended to her by a man who would later become my high school Civics teacher.  My mom took his hand and she eased out of the truck and they walked along side talking.  That teacher, while not a good teacher in my view, was a welcome visitor in our house for years.  Maybe my mom didn’t have the good sense to be concerned about what could happen to her but instead she decided to be an honest broker and treat people with respect.  More respect than they deserved I remembered thinking.

The media told great untruths and were generally sloppy reporting on what happened and the events of that time eventually changed my mom’s mind about public education entirely. That’s a subject for another day.

I work near the Machinists Union building which serves as a headquarters for the local that is employed by the Boeing company.  In front of their building is metal artwork of people carrying signs by a burning barrel.  I’ve always been impressed that they chose to have that in front of their building instead of artwork portraying people actually working.

For me, Labor Day is the three-day weekend that tells me College Football is here and clothes are on sale at back-to-school sales everywhere.  There is no better time of year to head out to the stores to look for new clothes manufactured by child labor. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

No, I haven't forgotten

I haven't forgotten to blog, but instead I've been rather busy with all that life is throwing at me right now.  I have some cool stuff coming up though.  On a lighter note, I've take advantage of the couple of days of actual Summer weather to ride my motorcycle which has thankfully returned from the shop and is running strong.

I'll be back soon.