vendredi, septembre 29, 2006

Please Support the 2006 Referendum for Continued Excellence in Schools; a Request in Three Chapters

Chapter One In Which our Heroes Outline Strategies around Pedagogy

This year, we devoted a lot of time and energy to shopping for schools.

We narrowed our list down to three public schools and two private schools.

We visited them all and kept separate mental lists of their strengths and weaknesses.

Mrs. Duf’s first choice was a public magnet school. We did not get in.

Her second choice (my first choice) is the public school that TinyE attends now.

My second choice was a private school – we didn’t even apply.

We chose the school we did, in part, because it offered many of the things we want in a school:

Music, incl. Band and Orchestra
Compuer lab
Physical Education
Field Trips
Resident Artist Program
Foreign Language

Chapter Two Some Frightening Realities become Apparent

The school year begins, and Mrs. Duf and I attend our first PTA meeting.

At the meeting we learn a few things.

First, the school has a library but no librarian.
Second, men don’t attend PTA meetings.
Third, a lot of the offerings that supported our decision to send TinyE to that school were funded by private dollars.
Fourth, band and orchestra cost money.

I felt sick*.

Here’s why. At the time we were making decisions about the school our daughter would attend, resting behind our decision was not the shrewd use of dollars uniformly given to every school by municipal governments. It was the same class-based stuff that is behind everything.

Her school happens to be in a progressive middle to upper-middle class neighborhood in St. Paul. The music program, the librarian (that we’ll no doubt hire), the foreign language, the Resident Artist program – it’s all funded by a combination of fundraisers and donations – emphasis on the donations.

Which means, to me, that a lot of schools that struggle do so because they don’t have the parental support that our school does. And our school has the parental suppor that it does because of where it is located. Schools in less fortunate neighborhoods can't count on the same level of support. And I kind of feel like we could/should be parents supporting one of those struggling schools. Choosing the school we did is, in effect, exactly the same as choosing a private school.

Chapter Three Denouement

In November, there is a ballot measure to increase property tax revenue generated for the Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS). ILIM learned recently that St. Paul desperately needs this referendum.

Some statistics:

SPPS ranks 27th among metro area schools districts in per pupil dollars generated by referendum.

SPPS is the second largest public school district in the state.

SPPS current receives $331 per pupil per year for education.

Kindergarteners count ½; so for each Kindergartener, rounding up, the school receives $166.

No, I’m not kidding.

Here’s how SPPS compares to the eight largest Twin Cities metro school districts:

Anoka Hennepin - $696
Minneapolis - $504
North St. Paul/Maplewood - $833
Osseo - $842
Robbinsdale - $848
Rosemount/Apple Valley - $1,042
SPPS - $331
South Washington County - $929

If the referendum passes, SPPS will receive $593 per pupil per year.

If it doesn’t pass, private dollars will find a way. And schools without access to those dollars, well…


I support the referendum. If I have any concerns about it at all, it that it asks for too little. $331 per pupil per year is a joke. It's a joke on its face, and comparatively it's hysterical. But $593 is subsistence. It is not excellence.

How much are we spending on the Iraq war again? What was that no child left behind deal again?

I hope everyone on St. Paul will vote for the referendum.

*And I have the whole middle-class guilt and educated African-American guilt thing working on me overtime. I’m impressed by friends and colleagues who don't mix politics and philosophy with education decisions. For me, where I live and what it means to be a part of a community is a component of how and whether I embrace the services offered by my community. I simultaneously admire and disagree with those who make education decisions divorced from obligations to place – be they real or imagined.

jeudi, septembre 28, 2006

It All Finally Makes Sense

So, Hugo Chavez calls Bush the devil and all hell breaks loose. Democrats argue that he can’t criticize Americans. 7-11 fires Citgo as it’s gasoline provider, thereby jeopardizing the jobs of 4,000 Americans who work for Citgo. People protest against the Citgo sign at Boston's Fenway Park.

But what slays me even more, is that no one I’ve seen has commented on how Chavez’s words differ very little from President Bush’s comments in his 2002 State of the Union Address. In that speech, Bush indicated that Iraq, Iran and North Korea were part of an axis of evil. Let’s turn to the Oxford American Dictionary, shall we?

Dev-il (dev-il) n. 1. the Devil (in Jewish and Christian teaching) the supreme spirit of evil and enemy of God. 2. an evil spirit. 3. a wicked or cruel or annoying person. 4. a mischievous person or a person of great cleverness 5. (informal) something difficult or hard to manage…

E-vil (ee-vil) adj. 1. morally bad, wicked. 2. harmful, intending to do harm. 3. very unpleasant or troublesome…


Recently, Jerry Falwell said that a 2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign would do more to energize the religious right than if Lucifer himself ran for President.

He later said he was kidding.

So, here are my conclusions:

It is NOT okay for Hugo Chavez to call President Bush the devil, even if devil means a wicked, cruel or annoying person*.

It IS okay for Bush to call three countries evil, even if evil means morally bad or wicked.

Christians of the Falwell variety would do very little to oppose Satan if he or she ran for President, but they would fight like the dickens against Senator Clinton.

And…if my logic is working right -

That’s why Christians of the Falwell variety support President Bush. Though he smells like sulfur, he’s not as bad a Senator Clinton.

*And I would argue that Bush is not only wicked, cruel and annoying, but that he also an enemy of God, a mischievous person, and that he finds the presidency difficult or hard to manage. I would not, however, argue that he is a person of great cleverness.

mercredi, septembre 27, 2006

An Open Letter to the GOP Convention Planners

1234 Illogic Way
Washington, D.C. 20510

RE: Your recent selection of the Twin Cities for your 2008 Convention

Dear Sirs*:

While we probably won't greet you as liberators, you should be very welcome when you come here for your little convention in 2008: we plan to stock up on caviar and expensive champagne. We'll have cuban cigars (and we'll remove the labels so as not to create any guilty feelings as you enjoy the gentle pull and robust flavors) and we'll recruit extra exotic dancers for when your prayer group meetings are done**. We'll bring in lots of BMWs for you to rent so that you'll feel right at home whilst you drive around***. We'll load in lots of earth-hating air fresheners so that you won't be embarrassed by your sulfuric essence.

We do expect that you'll respect our first amendment rights during your visit. You may see a sign or two - Minnesotans are very expressive people.

In closing, please be advised that your presence here doesn't matter, Minnesotans will continue their very long and excellent tradition of voting Democrat for President.

Thank you,


P.S. Watch out for flying eggs and/or tomatoes - I'd hate to see a Sable coat ruined.

cc: Neoconservatives
Enemies of Science
Religious Fanatics
Prosperity Haters
Deficit Lovers
Jack Abramhoff
Ann Coulter
Jerry Falwell
Pat Robertson
Dr. James Dobson
George Steinbrenner
Focus on the Family
People who do nothing while annual health care costs rise 20%
Social Security Reformers (ha!)
Plan B Proponents (Thanks Bush FDA!)
Lead Fiddlers amid the Inferno that is our Rome
(BTW, the Devil went down to Georgia, NOT Minnesota!)
Lovers of Tax Inequity
Terrorism Expanders
Vast Right Wing Conspirators
Eroders of the Separation of Church and State
Earth Haters

*and any token Madams out there.

** this is based on a true story. One night, my friend and I were leaving a Timberwolves basketball game and walking in downtown Minneapolis. We walked past**** a strip club just as hoards of exotic dancers exiting a bus were walking in. We asked the bouncer why so many dancers, and he said they brought in extra folks for the Promisekeepers Convention.

***I heard this morning that a disproportionate number of Volvo drivers are Democrats. BMWs drivers are disproportionately Republican. Very true.

****no kidding, we really walked past. Duf is not down with strip clubs, but, more than that, he doesn't kick it with Promisekeepers.

jeudi, septembre 21, 2006

"Lil' Bit, Lil' Bit"; Or: "I Had an Omelette"

Okay, so this brought me down a little bit. Sometimes I feel like it's not going to end well mother earth or her descendants/inhabitants. Will we figure it out fast enough, or won't we?

Hat tip to my friend JR who sent that link to me. He's an okay guy even though he's a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints*. The one thing about him that drives me nuts is that he's an unapologetic fence sitter. He won't just own up to his progressive liberalness and insists on pretending that both parties are equally bad**. He will never admit that I'm right all the time. Also, he had this really absurd argument about how tongues are only to be used for eating (or maybe I was arguing that tongues have a purpose beyond enunciation and the facilitation of swallowing, but I digress). He's in a rock band, and has some really pent up issues with golf. If we got in a fist fight, I would totally devastate him (as in totally ruin his life forever) in...oh, about 3.7 seconds. Even though I have only once hit another person in the face***. JR is the kind of guy for whom you make exceptions. About seven or eight really quick exceptions about the face, neck and ears.

*That's right, he's a mormon. They like root beer and cigarettes, but I'm not sure of the cigarettes part.

**Which is, of course, patently absurd - the democrats have plenty of room for improvement, but the Republicans are flat evil.

***I'm a pacifist, but I got in a little tussle in college when a skinhead attacked me at a party. I won the fight, BTW even though I had no earthly clue of what I was doing. I hit him in the jaw really, really hard (fueled by fear and adrenaline). He went down. My hand hurt and swole up. His buddies chased me and my buddies in my friend Paul's Cadillac. The night ended at a Perkins restaurant. I had an omelette.

mardi, septembre 19, 2006

A New Issue Emerges at TinyE's School (But it Doesn't Sound Like the End of the World)


Below is an email note from TinyE’s kindergarten teacher in response to my request for an update on how things are going so far this year.

Main Subject:


TinyE seems to enjoy being in class. She does at times want to walk to the beat of her own drum instead of going along with our class and what we are doing. I am working on trying to explain that we work on things together sometimes and there are times when you can choose what you would like to do.

J.T. Teacher


And gee, we haven’t recognized that tendency in her before, so…well…um…we’re naturally very…um…stunned (yes, stunned!) to hear it now, and…um…because it’s a new issue and all…well…um…we’ll think about how to start working on it with her and everything. Yep, that’s what we’ll do with this new issue. It sure is new. Yep. I’d call it a new issue.

In all seriousness, she has a bit of her Dad's obsessions and compulsions. And TinyE HATES to stop doing something just because the appointed time in which to do that task has lapsed.

We were at a poker party the other night (Mrs. Duf lost* more than I won, so it was a net loss for the conglomerate known as "our family"), and one of our friends, who happens to be in a band, mentioned that the band was struggling because their best musician has a very serious OCD problem and sometimes misses practice because he's painting his lawnmower. Of course, once he starts something, he can't stop.

And, by the way (completely different topic), why am I encouraged (not overtly, mind you) to call TinyE's teacher "Mr. T" and he very quickly called me by the abbreviated version of my first name ("Mike") without even asking me. And, am I off track here? It feels weird to me that I call a young man, some 10 - 12 years my junior, "Mr." and he calls me "Mike." Haven't we moved past all that formality and foolishness? I mean I still call my Dr. "Dr. L___," but she's older than I am, and well she's seen me naked, so some formality seems very appropriate there - but, well, I dunno, I just don't want the Mr./Mike mismatch here.

And I respect teachers, so don't even go there.

*Her signature hand was one where she bet hard against a guy who had been folding all night. It was texas hold 'em, and a 9, a ten and a queen were showing. Mrs. Duf had a pair of 9's. I won't tell you what she lost to - poker players know.

dimanche, septembre 17, 2006

What Bush Teaches about America, What Bush Teaches about Democracy, What Bush Teaches about Christianity

So let me know if I’m oversimplifying things.

Does it seem at all inconsistent that the Bush Administration has sent anti-terror legislation to the Senate, which essentially disregards key provisions of the Geneva Convention because (after all this time – Geneva was signed in 1949) it’s suddenly, according to the Administration, too vague for application?

Never mind that our departure here leaves our own soldiers vulnerable to mistreatment (vulernable to our own new interpretations) should they ever become prisoners of war.

Never mind that this is really just a continuation of a consistent disregard, by Bush, of international treaties and accords (the 1995 Biological Weapons Convention, the 1997 Kyoto treaty, changes to the U.N. pact on the illegal flow of small arms among others).

Never mind that expert after expert after expert has said that any evidence obtained as a result of torture is inherently unreliable.

Never mind that on the day when the President promoted legislation to torture people in new and exciting ways, two military leaders, Colin Powell and Lieutenant General John (Jeff) Kimmons used their moral high-ground and superior understanding of war theory and war practice to come out in almost exactly the opposite direction*.

Never mind the effect it has on our laws and how they’re interpreted.

Never mind the effect it has on the tortured, or, stated differently,

never mind the lessons of Abu Ghraib.

Never mind the effect it has on the torturer, or, stated differently,

never mind the lessons of Mahmoudiya.

Never mind that it’s good politics so close to the mid-term elections to promote anti-terror legislation (to label it such even) and then dare Democrats to vote against it so that you can say they’re soft on terror**.

Never mind the effect it has on Americans, the flag, our standing in the international community, the world’s reaction to “democracy***.”

Never mind that all this torturing we do in the name of protecting ourselves from terrorism only emboldens terrorists, and diminishes any sympathy or latitude the rest of the world may extend us; undermining our ability to encourage future coalitions of the willing – which is to say, future countries willing to join us in worthwhile responses to (God forbid) future acts of terrorism.

Never mind how just downright sad it is that talented men and women spend time parsing words and phrases from respected agreements that are more than 50 years old, with the goal of finding ways to hurt people – to hurt them so badly that sometimes they die.

Does it seem at all inconsistent that the President who blows the horn of his Christian faith more than any other President…does it seem at all inconsistent that this is the President who tours the country speaking to his faithful – other conservative Christians - about the need for simulated drowning, the need for sleep and sensory deprivation, the need for beatings, the need for induced hypothermia, in short, the need for people to suffer and die in order for us to…

…to what?

Reduce Terrorism?
Find Osama bin Laden?
Promote democracy?
Be a moral force in the world?
Preserve the Republican majority in all four estates****?
Maintain our status as a superpower?
Test people’s patriotism?
Promote Christianity?


For those who don’t understand America, for those who don’t understand democracy, for those who don’t understand Christianity, what is the message here?

* Kimmons said “…No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, tells us that. And, moreover, any piece of intelligence which is obtained under duress, through the use of abusive techniques, would be of questionable credibility, and additionally it would do more harm than good when it inevitably became known that abusive practices were used…”

** So what if people suffer, so what if people die, so what if future American soldiers find themselves water-boarded - if Republicans retain the House and Senate, it will all be worth it. Is that the argument?

***At a recent international protest at one of the many countries that are able to gather tens of thousands of people only to protest the United States, a woman was practically worshipped because she carried a sign which read “Be careful, the U.S. may bring democracy to you next.”

****Executive, legislative, judicial, and main street media.

jeudi, septembre 14, 2006

I Kind of Like George Bush Now...

...because gas is only $2.29 a gallon.

Is that how it's supposed to work?

Look, I don't know if it's a conspiracy or not, but it seems weird to me that the Alaskan Pipeline is shut down and prices drop. I also find it hard to believe the we "discovered" oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Hey, look what I found!*"

Later in the article, eased international political tension is cited as a basis for lower oil prices.

Hmmm...okay. I love world peace, but somehow I thought it would be more...oh, I dunno, palpable.

Let's also note that big oil is not beholden to the administration;

that big oil has no vested interest in retaining the Republican majority;

that there has never been a connection between the Bush family and OPEC leaders;

that there has never been a connection between the Bush family and the Saudi Royal family;

that no one has ever suggested that, as a favor to Bush, OPEC would increase supply and lower prices around election time;

that our President and Vice President are not oil men; and

that we're not kidding ourselves if we think lower prices will continue past November**.

*A way to eliminate a midterm election issue that was causing problems for Republicans. At least it WAS an issue (reference paragraph 3).

**And yes, I'm enjoying the lower prices (I've been driving all over the place whenever I feel like it, and I'm thinking of buying a gigantic SUV), but somehow, even while I'm driving around with no particular destination, I can't forget all the other failures of this administration***. I can't help but wonder if gas prices could not have been this low (and oil company profits a little less than their current record level) all along.

***I'll limit myself to ten: Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, Osama bin Laden, lies in the case to war (No WMD, no Iraq-Al Qaeda link, no imminent threat), eroded privacy rights, eroded constitutional rights, insane border policy, agenda of hate (homophobia, xenophobia, nationalism), failed economic policy, disregard for venerable international institutions (Kyoto, Geneva, U.N.), No Child Left Behind, Katrina response, health care? what health care?, rhetorical ineptitude, and the recent Francisco Liriano injury****.

****I meant ten or so.

mercredi, septembre 13, 2006

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow; or: First Day of Kindergarten, Image Three

Is it too much to wonder if that's an angel next to our angel, watching over us? Or is it just the flash bouncing light back at us. Hard to say.

Yes, I meant for this to be the last image, the one you saw AFTER the two that follow, but I would have to remember that posts appear on ILIM with the most recent entry at the top. Think of it like "Memento;" think of it as a film that plays backwards. Let it symbolize how our sad parting really has yielded happiness.

TinyE loves her school.

Making our Way to Kindergarten; or: No, She Doesn't Ride the Bus; or: First Day of Kindergarten, Image Two

TinyE does not ride the bus for two reasons (each of them, on their own, would rule it out as an option). First, we live outside the bus zone by about four blocks, and no exceptions are made. Second, because we both work full-time, we have to get her to school earlier than the 9:00 start.

Please don't be jealous of the 1999 Subaru Outback, Anniversary Edition. Thanks.

You can be jealous of the backpack.

Breakfast of Peanut Butter Toast; or: First Day of Kindergarten, Image One

Here is our little angel enjoying a breakfast of peanut butter toast on her first day of Kindergarten. Notice how happy she is.

The outfit, which she selected herself, is her favorite tee shirt, her fox tee shirt, with an orange paisley skirt, fancy socks and sandals.

mardi, septembre 12, 2006

Yanking the Band Aid Off; or: How We Survived the First Day of Kindergarten

Sorry so much time has passed since I last posted. I hope you are well.

TinyE is now a Kindergartener. She seems to enjoy it. Here’s how I can tell, the following are actual quotes from an actual conversation at our actual kitchen table.

Duf and Mrs. Duf: “How was the first day of school?”
TinyE: “Great” (her answer for everything)

The first day of school (last Thursday for Kindergarten) could not have come soon enough. We were all excited, and (counting Friday) we’d been home too many days in a row. Worse, I was trying to work and be a dad at the same time, and in case you don’t know it, let me share the Duf’s First Law of Parenting:

c + da = u

children + divided attention = unhappiness

One cannot attend work calls and watch a toddler at the same time. All things will suffer. All persons will suffer.

So the first day of school arrives.

Mrs. Duf, who starts work at 7:00, met us at the school at 8:30. We went to Discovery Club* with the intention of staying with her there for 30 minutes (adding money to her lunch account, dropping off paperwork, walking through the classroom, etc.) then escorting TinyE to her classroom. This was a bad idea from the beginning, but we were too close to it, we couldn’t see its badness. We completely forgot Duf’s Second Law of Parenting:

The length of time at which an activity or habit continues is directly proportionate to the expectation it creates in the child, that said activity or habit will continue. Or, expressed differently:

c x t = e

continuity multiplied by time = expectation

So, the longer we stay in the building the greater is her expectation that we will stay in the building.

We stayed until 9:00.

We created an expectation.

And, on the advice of the Discovery Club team, we left.

She cried**. I was on the very verge of tears myself***.

Mrs. Duf was stoic.

Many pictures were taken. I’ll share some in my next post.

Duf’s Third Law of Parenting, which I’ll share on closing, provided the right note for the entire exercise.

Parenting, is like band-aid removal. Sometimes, the nicest thing you can do is be a little cruel.

In the end, things usually go well.

*Before and after care for kids whose parents desire so little for their children that, instead of being home all day, they both take full-time jobs outside the home.

** I thought I might tear up a bit. I’m an emotional man, I don’t deny that. But, I actually held up okay. Perhaps it was Mrs. Duf’s sterling example that guided me.

***The best (or worst?) first day of Kindergarten story involved a man literally placing his kid on a bus, after much wrangling, wrestling and screaming; then running off the bus, having the bus driver close the door just before the kid got to it. Driving away while the young lad pounded on the windows. Ouch. Had that happened to me, were I required to make that kind of drop, I would have balled like a baby.

vendredi, septembre 08, 2006

"We Can't Wait Until You're All Done Killing Each Other."

Best political cartoonist ever. He's so funny, he's not even funny, well, except that he is.

For those of you who bristle when strong language is used, brace yourself.

mercredi, septembre 06, 2006

I'm Udderly Amazed by the Lengths to Which Haters Will Go

I understood when my MC skillz caused a lot of sucka DJs (who think they're fly) to hate on me.

Everyone who drives a 1999 Subaru Outback* suffers much hate at the mercy of those who's whips, to state it frankly, are not as fly. Which is to say 99.9% of the car-driving public.

My golf game inspires much hate; Tiger Woods himselfs looks on with something like awe when ever I pull my three iron out of the bag. He knows something is amazing is going to happen. He knows I'm going to defy the laws of physics, of thermodynamics, and of logic - as well as brush aside literally thousands of lessons from history.

And the wardrobe, straight out of Maine has been inspiring haters since 1912.

But lately the haters have been getting me down. People who don't have a giant cow three or four houses down from their house don't have anything to do with their jealousy and so they get petty.

And they lash out.

I'm sick of it. Get your own giant neighborhood cow**, haters!

Get your own.

*Anniversary Edition, haters, anniversary edition!

**Our neighbor, exactly four or five houses to the West, must have something to do with the Minnesota State Fair. The Fair, which is also known as "the great Minnesota get together," is approximately 1.5 miles or two to the West***. Each year, a few days before the Fair, and a few days after the Fair, there is a giant cow in our neighborhood. But we don't mind, that old holstein heifer yields a lot of milk. A lot of milk****.

***And I just told people how to get to my house. Dangit. Find the giant cow 2 to 2.5 miles East of the State Fair grounds, and then count six or seven houses to the East, and there we are. If I don't post anymore, it's because I'm dead.

****We pasteurize it here at the house. It ain't no 2% though; it's full on Vitamin D.