Monthly Archives: May 2014

Of bravery, sacrifice and the weather

Yesterday morning, as I sat at my desk feeling miserable (bad cold & sore throat), I sipped coffee and checked Facebook. Someone mentioned feelings of gratitude this Memorial Day weekend for those who’d given their lives in service to their country. Browsing further, I read that a friend’s great uncle fought at Normandy, and she posted a link to some D-Day information. Of course, I followed it, and it led to many different places over the next couple of hours. I wonder if you’re aware of some of the unbelievable circumstances that surrounded this terrible event. It was a crucial victory for the US and its allies, but it came at a devastating cost.

Among the many interesting facts are three tragic scenarios, all relating to weather:

Army brass wanted to give the soldiers a special treat on the morning of the invasion. It proved to be a deadly gift. To provide the men with a good start on what was certainly going to be a long and harrowing day, the galley cooks prepared a hearty breakfast feast for the GIs: steak, chicken, sausages, eggs and all the trimmings, washed down with coffee. They didn’t anticipate the cases of acute seasickness that the men later suffered while being thrashed about in six-foot waves inside the cramped shore boats. Said Sgt. Bob Slaughter, Squad Leader, 116th Infantry:

It was a terrible ride to the beach. Over to our right, the battleship Texas was firing into the cliffs, and every time that big fourteen-inch gun went off, a tremendous tsunami swamped our boat, and the water would come over the side and just soak us and make our seasickness worse.

The repeated vomiting and subsequent dehydration took its toll; by the time many of the soldiers spilled over the sides of the boats into 10-foot-deep surf in order to avoid being mowed down by machine gun fire, they were too weak to free themselves from the 70+ lbs. of gear strapped to their bodies. Some drowned within the first few minutes of the battle.

The special amphibious tanks, designed to clear the area of German firepower before any feet hit the beach, suffered complete failure. Labeled “DD” (Duplex Drive or “Donald Duck”), these regular Sherman tanks were outfitted with watertight screens that allowed the vehicles to float. They were driven by a rear-mounted propeller, attached to the engine. But again, Army planners did not think about — or run tests in — rough seas, and the flotation screens quickly split apart and leaked. Of the 29 tanks in the water, only two made it to shore. Soldiers perched atop the tanks escaped into the water, but many of the drivers drowned, trapped inside the hulls.

Due to heavy fog, bomber aircraft crews couldn’t see the target. The plan was to obliterate as many German weapons from the air as possible, but the bombers couldn’t see through the thick fog and cloud cover. They were told to wait until they could get a visual lock. Thirty seconds later, they found their calculations to be completely off; all 13,000 bombs had missed their mark by a half mile.

However, not all the machinations of D-Day were non-starters. Among the most ingenious of strategies was the manufacture of a military base made up entirely of inflatables. Not only was it visually convincing: it worked. I’ve found this documentary, and will watch it later this weekend:

There are dozens of important military and historical facts about D-Day that tend to surface every year around this time. I’m glad I had the time to read about them. As for now — time to get ready for graduation. Yes, this is the last gig of the year. Saints be praised.


The Thriller and I were discussing how our fears sometimes limit us in life. (We are taking a trip to France in the near future, despite our discomfort with flying; more on that later!) But sometimes, one has to draw a line between facing a fear and just, well, not on your life. Behold today’s litany of NO:















Not thinkin' so

Not thinkin’ so


Ah, my old daredevil days. I don’t miss them. Wait…I would have never attempted these places even when I *was* young and foolish (maybe, just maybe the first one, but definitely not the others). I’ll just remain old and foolish, thanks. It was enough for me to stand a good 30 feet away from the edge of the Grand Canyon a few years back. That’ll last me the rest of my life.

OK, now that I’m woozy, it’s time to get started on the day. We’re heading into the last full week of school. Saints be praised. Happy weekend, fiends.

Why? This is why.

Why am I so angry about the government’s all-out assault on public education? This is why. It will take you an hour to read this article (I was up at 3 this morning, so I had time); therefore, I’m going to hit the main parts for you, and if you want to read further, you can. Believe me: should you ever need to have the “money trail” point driven home, this is the one to read.

I’ll begin with the bottom line: What happened (and is still unfolding) in Newark, New Jersey can also happen in Newark, Ohio, Newark, Illinois or Newark, Maryland. Education “reform” is the new pandemic sickness, and it’s coming to a town near you — unless we all do something about it.

Until we acknowledge and address the problem of what kids deal with at home (domestic violence, drug-addicted or otherwise incapacitated parents, homelessness, and most importantly, poverty), we will never solve the problems that plague them at school. Yet, teachers are now being held accountable for higher test scores, even though myriad issues in students’ personal lives are completely outside their control. Worse, if they can’t make the magic happen in three years, they’re out of a job.

It’s like firing the TV meteorologist because of a continued drought — and makes about as much sense. From the article:


Decades of research have shown that experiences at home and in neighborhoods have far more influence on children’s academic achievement than classroom instruction.


But let’s not allow pesky facts to get in the way. There’s money to be made, friend. Just ask the mighty triumvirate of the Newark parade of fools: Chris Christie, Cory Booker and Mark Zuckerberg (for the record — a Republican, a Democrat, and an Independent, respectively), who got together a couple of years ago and asked, “How can we purport to save the Newark schools, while making our friends rich and ourselves richer, so we can look like Christ on a pony and ride all the way to glory in Washington?” (OK, that was me quoting me. But you get the drift.) Young Zuck, ever the radical idealist, pledged $100 million to “fix” the financially ailing, violence-plagued Newark district. And of course, “fixing” the system meant spending millions upon millions in places other than the classrooms:


More than twenty million dollars of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms with various specialties: public relations, human resources, communications, data analysis, teacher evaluation. [There were] other programs in the tight-knit reform movement, and a number of them had contracts with several school systems financed by Race to the Top grants and venture philanthropy. The going rate for individual consultants in Newark was a thousand dollars a day.

Booker has maintained a public silence about the Newark schools since being sworn in as a senator. Christie has been trying to salvage his Presidential prospects. Almost all of Zuckerberg’s hundred million dollars has been spent.

[Christie’s people have not] acknowledged how much of the philanthropy went to consultants who came from the inner circle of the education-reform movement.


Said one concerned administrator, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.” And my favorite Christie quote, famously uttered after parents and community members protested the vast expenditure of time and money, and the fact that school children were not seeing any hope of benefit: “I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”


It doesn’t matter what or who you blame; the fact remains that the entire school “reform” movement — lock and stock — is based on the insatiable thirst for profit, using public school students (and their parents and teachers) as unwitting chumps in the scheme. I call out Bill Gates, the Walton (Wal-Mart) family, ALEC, Pearson, Battelle, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, whackadoodle Michelle Rhee, Teach for America, the Rand Corporation, Eli Broad, the entire US Dept. of Education, and every single politician who stands to profit from the systematic dismantling of neighborhood schools through the fist-down-the-throat tactics of Common Core State Standards and its high-stakes testing component. You’ve all been bought and sold, and now your sights are set on American kids.

You’re the wolf posing as the sheep. So I hereby declare you excommunicate and anathema. I cast you into the outer darkness. I judge you damned with the devil and his fallen angels and all the reprobate, to eternal fire and everlasting pain.

I totally stole that from one of my favorite movies.  :-) But again, you get me. This isn’t about a 21-year veteran public school teacher trying to save her cushy pension (Ha! Just typing that made me laugh.). It’s about someone whose grandchildren are now approaching school age, and will be subject to this and so much more (I haven’t even started to rant about data collection). It’s about my friends who teach core subjects, wondering how the Value Added Model is going to affect them, when they’re being judged by the test scores of students they haven’t even met yet, using a formula that no one understands.

All we can do is vote out people who sleep with the corporations that fund this vulgar enterprise. In Ohio, that’s John Kasich. He has to go. I don’t care what party affiliation you espouse; if someone in power is prostituting the children of your state to the first entity that dangles a possible Washington office key, it’s time to go. I don’t care what he says — I’m convinced everything that comes out of his mouth with regard to public education is a lie. Voters just have to wake up and realize it.


I guess we all have our pet causes, and this one is mine. And it’s impossible to encapsulate it in one rambling, incoherent treatise on a Wednesday morning when I have a concert tomorrow and craziness for the next 14 days. But I hope it somewhat clarifies why I get so jacked up when I read of yet another school district capitulating to the BS that the corporate-controlled Department of Education is spewing today. I would feel rage for any victim, but I have to admit: it’s worse when the victims are kids, and elementary principals are calling Pearson on testing day, asking what to do with test booklets on which freaked-out fourth graders have vomited. It’s worse when kindergarten teachers are forced to retool their lessons because they have to think about their six-year-olds as “preparing for college.”

It’s worse when one of those six-year-olds is my grandson, Jake.

So this, in part, is why I’m mad today. Today, and every day. Fortunately, I can put the mad in a drawer for however long I need it to stay there. If I didn’t, I’d be a raving banshee all the time, instead of just…well…now. :-D


Addendum: Immediately after I pressed “Publish” on this post, I read that Newark had just elected a pro-public-schools mayor, defeating an opponent who’d been bankrolled by the education “reformers” of Wall Street to the tune of $3M. One for the good guys.

Well, rats.

I had an awesome post planned for this morning, but when I went to access the site for the photos and story that would have been certain to knock you out, I found that the site is down. After repeated tries over an hour-long wait, I must bag it till another day. Rats.

Instead, I shall ramble at random.

  1. Speaking of rats…I like them when they’re cartoony and cute and cuddly; you know, like me, up there to your left, with the John Lennons, turtleneck, pencil and music notes. (Again, bigtime thanks to talented Andy Nortnik, who drew her so nicely. I get a lot of my retro art and fonts from him, and you should, too.) But the kind that run across my classroom floor when I’m sitting at my desk? Notsamuch. Well, good news: they caught the little varmint, but just in case he went out and had a quick family, oversized traps (eww) still grace the nether regions of the choir room.
  2. Today is Mother’s Day. I always miss my mom on this day, more so than usual. I hope all the moms reading this are having a relaxing Sunday, where everyone in your family waits on you and makes you feel like the royalty you are.
  3. Know what I hate? All those clickbait video links on Facebook that say things like, “He knew his dad was coming home, but you won’t believe what actually happened” — or, “The last 30 seconds made me laugh so hard, I fell off my chair.”  They’re getting out of hand, people. “I thought nothing could change my life. Then I saw this.”  Seriously? Boot to the head.
  4. I am older than handsome John Slattery. (And I must admit, I’m becoming partial to that silver hair look — more on that later.)
  5. There are 16 days of school left. The busiest 16 of the year, but 16 nonetheless. I will get through it.

What do you feel you need to ramble about today? The weather? Your mom? Your house? I think I’ll ramble on into the kitchen and make another espresso. That’s the kind of party animal I am.


Odyssey Update

Plans continue to bounce around for the upcoming mini-Odyssey.

Originally, we weren’t going to decide on what show to see until we got there. We were bummed that we can’t see All the Way (as far as I can see, the run ends in June), and thinking that I’d really like to see a musical that was nominated for a 2014 Tony for Best Musical, I suggested this one, and the Thriller went for it immediately:

We grabbed one of the last available boxes at the historic New Amsterdam. How cool is that? It’s not orchestra seating, but we’ll be able to stretch out a bit, and I’ve read reviews that they’re actually great seats, which is good, because they were among the cheapest offered. Score.

Of course, we had to do the total Broadway tourist thing and book dinner at Sardi’s before the show.

But for now: reality. Five performances have to happen before I can relax for a while. Let’s get on it.

Have a great day, everyone. I can see the weekend from here.