April 24, 2004

Web-Enhanced Memories

We watched the remake of Failsafe today, and it brought back memories of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember the nervous churning in my guts each morning that wasn't made any easier by the principal at Croft High School, Mr. Kinney. He had risen to administration after a long career as an English teacher, and began each day by personally intoning the announcements over the school PA system. With all that literature knocking around unused in his mind, he made sure to include a quote or literary allusion whenever he could between class play rehearsal times, Latin Club meetings, and lunch menus. He was especially in his element during October of 1962. I don't remember the specifics but I know there were poems about mortality and pointlessness read in a stoic, world weary kind of drone. Exactly what a 14 year old wants to hear before Algebra I.

The cover of the Saturday Evening Post is also burned into my memory. By coincidence, they were serializing the Failsafe book that week. The image of bombers streaking over the Kremlin lay on our coffee table as we watched the UN debating the end of the world in black and white. I haven't seen that cover since 1962, but on a whim while watching the movie today I typed "Saturday Evening Post" +failsafe into Google and a second later, there it was: the October 13, 1962 cover by Robert McCall. The web amazes me yet again.

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April 20, 2004

Stepping Away from the Keyboard

Last night was one of my favorite parts of EDTEC 570. I got us all out of the lab and out running around the campus doing a GPS-based scavenger hunt. Two teams competed for a box of cookies to be the first to return with all 4 questions answered.

It was fun to do something different. I've got to set some time aside to design a more educationally sound version that could be used outside the class. Maybe a history-based hunt in Old Town or Balboa Park. Or something involving writers who have lived in San Diego. Now that some people have web access via their cell phones, I suppose I could do something that involves physical clues at the scene combined with Google searches to get the next clue. Ah, if only Bill Gates would give me a fellowship to sit around doing stuff like this. (I still wouldn't use Windows, though.)

April 16, 2004

Baking to Beat the Bushes

Thanks to a heads-up from friend Pam Monroe, I now know where I'm going tomorrow: to a Bake Sale in my neighborhood. The money will go towards countering the hundreds of millions that Dubya is raising from his fatcat fatheads. You can find a bake sale near you, too.

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April 13, 2004

Unpresidential Press Conference

What a performance! Stumbling, repetitive and content free. David Sirota has a point by point analysis of all the untruths in it. And Critical Viewer has the condensed version.

Among the mixed reviews gathered by the AP: "I feel sorry for him," said A.L. Reynolds, 68, a retired businessman from Chicago who described himself as an independent. "He has not answered one reporter's question, he has not apologized, he has an arrogant attitude and he's not going to change anyone's opinion with this speech. ... I feel very sorry for him and I'm scared for us."

It's great to see the press corps finally rediscovering their spines and asking some tougher questions. But the answers? Holy smokes! How do you respond to those who say that you never admit a mistake? Can you name something you wish you had done differently? In every case he deflected the question, blamed others, and showed himself to have no capacity to learn from experience or see things in other than black and white terms.

Such a tiny man. So completely inadequate for the office.

P.S. On a smaller scale, I experienced a direct encounter with the kind of thinking that drives this president earlier yesterday. I received an email filled with exclamation points warning me not to buy any Pepsi because their new cans had a patriotic theme that contained the Pledge of Allegiance with "under God" left off. That immediately sounded fishy, and a quick Google search revealed it to be an urban legend. I wrote to the person who sent me (and dozens of others) this warning as follows:

"I don’t know who you are, but you really should do some homework before raising the alarm. Simply by typing the words “Pepsi new can God” into Google you would have found this:

http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blpepsi-can.htm

To atone for your sin, you should forward this link to everyone you spammed with your first message. There’s enough to be concerned about these days without getting everyone riled up about something that isn’t real."

Within minutes she responded:

"I think that you calling an honest mistake such as that a "sin" and taking on the role of priest or pastor by dolling out "penance" is more nearly a "sin."  Furthermore, admittedly, there are many, many problems in the world today, and I think that if more people became willing to stand up and do something about them, rather than turning a blind eye (even if that means making a potential mistake) the world might become a better place."

That's it in a nutshell: don't admit a mistake, don't reverse course, don't pay attention to actual data. Something in our culture elevates steadfastness and good intentions above intelligence, flexibility and reflection. It explains both how Bush thinks and why, in spite of all his failures, he still has supporters.

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April 11, 2004

Quiet Holiday

While Christians in Pennsylvania tormented bunnies and Bush prayed for a drop in Iraq casualties instead of actually doing something about it, we spent a calm day at home.

Alex finished his poetry project, June baked popovers, and I kept working on getting the taxes in order. We colored eggs, though, in spite of what the Glassport Assembly of God might say about it.

And in the interest of actually posting something interesting, here are some links I've stumbled on during the recent blogdrought:

That last one's a wiki, so anyone can add to it. It's like design patterns for sitcoms.

April 05, 2004

Closing a Family Century

I've been remiss in blogging these last few weeks. Too much travel. Too much on my plate. Yadda yadda yadda. But I'm back.

This is a picture of Ellen Theresa St. John and Richard Scadden on their wedding day in 1904. Over the 28 years of their marriage they had 12 kids including my mother and last month the last of them died. My Aunt Winifred was 92 years old and was always the most memorable of my aunts. My grandmother once told my mother that Winnie would be the last to go because she was so mean. She did have a sharp tongue that she used to keep the rest of the family in line, and a strong set of opinions to go with it. But she was also the most interesting of the bunch and even late in life when she was housebound she managed to keep an entourage of neighbors who came over regularly and enjoyed her company.

Aunt Win's passing impacts me because she named me as executor of her estate... which was a surprise to me since we hadn't spoken in two or three years. Our last conversation ended with her biting my head off because we weren't raising Alex as a Catholic (or as anything but a good human for that matter). She hung up on me and I never called back. I thought for sure that I was out of the will as her final handler but she never got around to changing it. Now I've got the long distance job of settling her bills, selling her house, and distributing what's left to Alex and seven of his cousins. That meant spending spring break in Florida racing against time to clean up the house, get unsaleable stuff off to charities, gather up the pictures and photo albums, and find a realtor all in three days.

Somehow I managed to get it all done. And so the span of Ellen and Richard and their twelve kids has come to a close an even hundred years after their wedding. My cousins and I are on our own to make our own mistakes and live our own stories.

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