Heavy schedule means that blogging will be light for awhile. My general impression at this time is that college would be a much better place to work if it wasn't for all the students and administerial duties. I've also tuned out the news for a few days, just long enough to buy a cowboy hat. I am asuming that nothing is happening out there in the world.
Today while bathing Lemon Jr. in the master bathtub (a reward for showing his teachers the futility of postmodern pedagogy -- i.e., teaching from the heart), I noticed some very wet walls. Since it was the master bathtub (a very large soaking tub with room for massive amounts of toys), the walls don't have tiling, but are instead simply drywall and paint. No one would expect water to splash up there.
When asked how the water got on the walls (most likely when I went under the sink to get a new bottle of shampoo), Lemon Jr. replied, "It wasn't me. A giant airplane with a mouse came down and the mouse made the walls wet."
The NY Times will be picking up on this story shortly.
"Dr. Lemon, normally our discipline policy is to help the child understand why he hurt the feelings of others. We encourage passive resolutions of conflict. However, we believe that your child is an extraordinary child and for that reason we have drafted a restraining order. If your son doesn't adapt to our nuturing environment, we're calling the police on Monday."
Bob Kerrey had a rather well-written op-ed in the WSJ today. I won't link to it b/c you have to be a paid website subscriber, and because I like my news to come in tree form. Kerrey's main point was that Lieberman is taking the high principled road in the Democratic nomination process, willing to "tell it like it is" when it comes to issues like school vouchers and foreign policy. I'm a bit skeptical on some of Lieberman's positions since he has "gone wobbly" on a few issues near and dear to my heart (namely vouchers). Need I remind you he backed away from some of his more conservative policies when he ran with Gore.
Nonetheless, Lieberman is a Democrat I could live with in the White House. (And the way Bush is going, Lieberman may even be the more conservative.*) At a minimum, I wish Lieberman would get nominated in the top slot of the Dem's ticket as I think a real debate on some issues would be warranted. Bush shouldn't be afraid to debate the tough issues so long as he holds true to some basic conservative principles (which, as I implied, he has shied away from). And as I said before, I think a Dean candidacy would be a drawback for the GOP's Senate hopes as an early Bush sweep out east could mean a drop in GOP voter turnout out west (disproportionate to Dean's supporters) and this in turn could translate into not picking up key Senate seats (and governorships, etc.).
* I'm disappointed recently in the White House not using the bully pulpit for Estrada (and as a means of winning over Latino voters to the extent that they could have) as well as this weird commission on saving manufacturing jobs, which won't save manufacturing jobs but will just waste money. The UN in Iraq thing has got me down as well.
MSN.com, which usually has trashy little articles that make USA Today look like the NY Times, and which are really nothing more than advertisements dressed as articles, today had a trashly little article nearly dressed as an ad. However, it raised an interesting question -- is it better to go to a smaller college as compared to a big university?
My initial answer is, yes the smaller college route is better. You are able to get much better attention at small schools and the faculty are less bogged down with work so you are more likely to get challenging writing assignments. Of course, there are always exceptions (one I will note below), but I think this is basically true. Interestingly, we pick most of our graduate students from the ranks of "middle tier" small colleges, not the big research universities. Of course the argument can be made that the big research U's have the brilliant scholars, but if they aren't teaching much or "dumbing down" assignments to make grading easier, then students won't benefit much. You don't become smart by standing next to a brilliant mind. You become smart by working hard (and getting a dose of good genetics helps too).
My caveat is that certain students who are aggressive in pursuing their education at a big U can do quite well for themselves. In large part these students are self-motivated and willing to demand a great deal from their institution. These are the skills that are needed in the corporate or entrepreneurial world. Nonetheless, the chances are higher that the "average" student will find it difficult getting the necessary challenges they need to improve themselves at a big U.
This is getting ridiculous. The White House (via the EPA) lied about the air quality at Ground Zero following 9/11. Put your thinking caps on and lets imagine for a minute. It is September 12, 2001. Two buildings are down. The EPA orders an evacuation of a 20 square block radius around Ground Zero just in case the air is bad. What do you think the headlines would read now?
Perspective, folks. Perspective. No one ever imagined a couple of planes would down some major skyscrapers. And when it happened there is going to be some bad stuff in the air. Don't we have more important things to worry about relating to 9/11?
Lemon Jr. starts pre-school on Tuesday. In addition to an exhorbitant tuition, we get assessed a special fee for the privilege of serving on the PTA, which all parents must volunteer for. What the hell is the point of sending him to school if I'm always gonna be there volunteering? Aargh.
Anyways, we had to fill out a questionnaire ahead of time about our child. Here are the questions (in bold) and my answers to the questions. Unfortunately, Mrs. Lemon had white-out and made a few changes.
What are your expectations for your child this year?
Survival is primary. Beyond that, I just hope he doesn’t bite anyone. [I thought this question was inane since the curriculum is set. However, Mrs. Lemon informs me that this is a Monsterstory school, which apparently means “anarchy.” I was quite disturbed to discover that the teachers want our child to find “his own ways of learning.” First, what the hell are we paying the teachers to do? Second, I think they will quickly agree that biting is not an adequate pedagogy.]
What are you [sic] child’s interests/hobbies?
Screaming in the car. Running around naked. Missing the toilet. Throwing Mommy on the roof. And farting contests with Daddy. Fortunately, grammar is not a key interest in our household as that doesn’t seem to be a priority at this school either. (This question was pretty difficult to answer given that “interest” implies some degree of focused attention – at least 5 minutes. You'll understand if you have a four year old.)
[Of course, our actual answers were: classical music, a desire to play the violin, reading Solzhenitsyn, and debating postmodern existentialism.]
What interest do you share as a family?
Farting contests. Screaming. That pretty much sums it up.
What kinds of guidance and discipline techniques do you use at home?
I wanted to say “smacking him with a brick” to see how fast they would sic the state on us, but calmer heads prevailed. Of course, like every other family, we put down that we have long, loving discussions with our son about the various consequences resulting from inappropriate behavior and then engage in a negotiation over acceptable boundaries. Our voices are always happy whispers.
What do you see as your child’s strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: He can terrorize the neighbor’s 7 year old. Isn’t distracted by any one thing for more than 3 minutes. Memorized Scooby Doo and Bad Boys theme songs. Doesn’t cry during horror flicks anymore.
Weaknesses: Still not as stinky as his father during various family contests. Can’t hit a 95 mph fastball.
Please offer any other information that you feel may help us to know your child.
He is pretty much annoyed by the 0.1% of kids who have peanut allergies since PB&J sandwiches have become a larger threat to our schools than heroin. And I really don't want you all to "know" my child. I want you to teach my child. That is why I am writing a big check. If I wanted somebody to know my child, I would allow him to wander freely at the Coffee Bean.
...what a shitty little airline. They sell you headphones, but don't have any audio, just lame video. (I like my Enya-like posers on the plane.) Everyone was crabby. They wouldn't recognize any of my United stuff for upgrades. Asking for a bulkhead apparently was akin to petitioning the Supreme Court. And when I spilled water on myself, having bumped the beverage cart (my fault, not theirs), they didn't even offer me another glass of water!
Why is it that I cannot paint my small tool shed (set back in the woods some 75 yards from the house) barn red, yet the neighbors kids can play in my yard whenever they want, leaving behind all manner of toys and items of apparel?
I think another name for "neighborhood organization" should be "supreme soviet."
"Daddy, let's clean the litter box and then throw Mommy on the roof."*
"Cats can't flush."**
* Totally unprovoked, this was one of the most quizzical comments I've heard from Lemon Jr. in quite sometime. FYI, Lemonhead does not have, nor has ever had, a policy of throwing the spouse on the roof.
I just had one of the best shoeshines ever. It took nearly a half hour, but I wish it would have continued longer. While the shoes were shined with the utmost attention to detail, my conversation with the shoeshine guy was one of the most interesting ever. The guy taught me more in 30 minutes than I learned over the past year, plus he did a dance. I gave him a 100% tip.
After a rather frustrating week, I finally had a pleasant experience. I put in an order at Road Runner Sports for some shoes and other stuff and the guy taking in my order on the phone was one of the most pleasant folks you could imagine. We talked about running and wished me well on my upcoming surgery (not actually surgery since they don't cut me open, but it is a special "procedure" nonetheless). Over the years, I have had countless pleasant experiences with this company and have never been disappointed with service or anything. A great company that specializes in selling running shoes and paraphenelia, but they have lots of other stuff for non-runners.
John Lemon will be taking a short vacation for about a week. John Lemon will not be taking his computer. Even if John Lemon did take his computer, he would not uplink. John Lemon is obsessive, but is not that obsessive.
(For those not familiar with the BB King posts, start here.)
Things in Beaniebabyville have been on autopilot lately. Members of the al-Cata feline terror network have been on the prowl, but we have not had any additional attacks. Dust bunny production has been poor, but the citizenry is becoming covered with dusty dust, indicating that they have been working in the Dust Bunny Mines under the Guest Bed Mountains. I cannot resolve this paradox so I plan to appoint a blue ribbon commission to study this problem. Unfortunately, when I went to get the blue ribbon I found only pink and yellow. The Yellow Commission Panel met a few days ago. This action apparently provoked a minor incursion by at least one member of the al-Cata network, which resulted in said al-Cata suspect vomiting up on the dining room carpet. It appears as if this attack was directed more at Mayor Royale than the Beaniebabyville citizens themselves, since Mayor Royale had to clean it up on orders of Mrs. Mayor Royale (a Rasputin-like character who lurks in the shadows of Beaniebabyville).
As Mayor Royale will be undertaking a world tour over the next several days, and since he is concerned about the well-being of his citizenry (being the benevolent dictator he is), I have take it upon myself to convene a parliament. While history tends to point out that this is a bad idea (think French Revolution), I am assured by Gizmo the Lemur (who looks like a trusting fellow) that convening a parliament is a good idea. Beanieparliament, as it has been so named, took it upon itself to introduce legislation decreasing the work week in the Dust Bunny Mines and raise the minimum wage. Mayor Royale reminded them that the proper role of a parliament was to keep their mouths sewn shut. More importantly, the only legislation to be introduced and debated by Beanieparliament will be legislation introduced by Mayor Royale. And the debate shall be restricted to praise for the pure genius of Mayor Royale.
Gizmo the Lemur, head parliamentarian,* inquired to when I was leaving.
I said, "soon."
He smiled and wished me well. What a nice fellow.
* While Gizmo is technically a Prime Minister, I prefer the term head parliamentarian (small case letters) since it is actually a hybrid system like France. I figured France has a good track record with republican government, yet still maintains a history of tyrranical kings.
Al Franken was on one of the morning shows yesterday. I can't remember which one. He claims that the Fox News lawsuit was prompted by Bill O'Reilly. I found this to be a plausible hypothesis as O'Reilly is increasingly becoming a megolomaniacal blowhard. He is able to take criticism less well than Larry King understands humor. Nonetheless, when Franken tried to make jokes, it was very, very apparent that they were all set up in advance and the delivery was horrible. I mean it was really horrible.
One of my most despised sayings is "you can't judge a book by its cover." Of course you can. That is why publishing houses invest lots of time, energy and creativity into drawing up good covers. Or why book series have a distinctive covers so that you know that book belongs to a particular series.
This came up when Mrs. Lemon and I decided to get our windows washed. There is this little red truck that look like a scaled down version of an old-fashioned fire engine that drives around a neighboring community. The writing on the side neatly informs you that it belongs to a small window washing business. The truck is always spotless and well-organized. We decided to take the phone number off the side and give them a call. The "book cover" of this truck basically signalled that whoever washes your windows will take good care to do a professional job. Granted, this may be a ruse and the workmanship may be poor, but on first glance I would say the odds are against it.
Additionally, one of the things we look for when finding a handyman or specialty service provider (to fix things I routinely break) is the Christian fish symbol.* You've probably seen them on cars. Well, in the phone book, some businesses place these fish symbols on their ads. (We also look for professional looking ads if we want quality workmanship since a more expensive ad signals that the business is serious about capital investment and hence quality.) You've probably seen these symbos on the back of cars. Again, it may be the case that the business is just using this symbol deceptively, but odds are probably against it.
I think it is kind of interesting that I've never seen a contractor put a Darwin symbol** on their ads.
* I'm well aware that the fish symbol may likely has pagan origins, but that is besides the point so don't bother bringing it up.
** You have probably seen these on cars too -- they are a play on the fish symbol, basically a fish with little feet. I have always thought that whoever dreamt that one up was pretty creative.
If you are a teacher avoid this website like the plague. Also, if you are a parent and ever hear a teacher mutter something off this website during a parent-teacher conferences, get your kid out of that school ASAP!
And also for all you aspiring teachers, here is a bit of advice. Mrs. Lemon heard on the radio yesterday* that many teachers are trying to dress like their students to better connect with them. This includes shirts bearing the midrift and piercings. If you want to teach anywhere or at anytime, do not follow this trend. Kids have plenty of friends in their school, they don't need you to like or be liked by them. The two most beneficial things you can take with you into the classroom are authority and respect. Teachers who can achieve this and lighten the room up with some controlled humor are the best teachers around.
* Since radio is a format that tends to favor anecdote (spelled correctly) over aggregate data, this may not be a trend. But then again, a scatterplot is nothing more than aggregated anecdotes (again, spelled correctly).
Today started out quite poorly. I didn't put the coffee pot underneath the coffee maker correctly (you'd thing a $120 machine would do it for you). I then spilled my only cup of coffee all over the floor. I knicked the car mirror on the garage while leaving. It became difficult dealing with the YMCA to get my kid's tee-ball picture from a delinquent coach. The day continued in this vein (with much more serious stuff -- at least in terms of career).
However, at about 3:30, it just hit me that this all didn't matter. I was on my way to get my son from school and realized that he doesn't care how many articles I publish, how many times I get invited to Harvard, whether or not I'm advancing the paradigm or whether I get promoted to full professor or not. He just wants me to roll around and play with him on the floor. To bring out the big workout ball and play "baby bowling" in the backyard, or teach him how to play tic-tac-toe.
While in the car driving back home, he said to me (totally unprovoked), "Daddy, some day when I'm bigger I'm going to get a tee-ball coach shirt just like you and coach tee-ball. You're a great coach Daddy. I really love you." This conservative crank nearly broke down blubbering in the car. (Fortunately, I got my senses straight and realized only pony-tailed lefties have "feelings." I then vowed to myself to kick a homeless person next time I was in New York.)*
Someone once told me that when you finally end up in an old-age home, no one ever talks about their careers. They talk about their families. It takes some people 70 years to figure this out. And some never do. I'm not going to be an academic superstar. I'm not going to shift any paradigms. I'll probably never be invited to Harvard again. But I think I'll do okay at the old age home.
* I should note that my son shortly followed this up with, "Daddy, can we go to the Coffee Bean and get a cookie now?"