Friday, August 25, 2006

Sophie Q – First Grader

This is one of my favorite pictures of my Sophie. My Mom and Dad bought her this beautiful Christening gown and we tried it on to see how it fit. She feel asleep while we got her dressed, and I got the idea to lay my sleeping beauty in the ivy at my parents’ home. I took one picture before the battery died. Several of my friends and family have found the photo to be unsettling, as if it is a death picture. One of my grandmother’s won’t display the photo because of it. I don’t see it, but I know others do. It's still one of my favorites.

My daughter’s been on vacation for nearly a week. She came home this afternoon around 3 p.m. and was glad to be home. Supper was ready when Mom hit the door. Don’t elevate me too highly; it was Pizza Hut after all, but it was supper just the same. After eats, my wife had it in her head to play with her daughter and spend quality time together. It’s been nearly a week you know.

Yes, well let me tell you about that. My first grader couldn’t care less. Not 30 minutes after dinner did the neighbor kids hit the door. They love to come to our home and play. We have a tree house and a kitty and toys. One girl says she likes to come to our house because it is so clean and put up. If you dear readers could only hear the snickers of my family and friends at that statement. My house is in a perpetual state of organized clutter and I make no apologies. I’m fine with it, but it’s by no means clean and put up. I’m sure my Mother is praying for the child right now.

We could turn the kids away and focus only on the family, but what Sophie really wants is to play with them. Some kids don’t have friends. Some kids can’t make friends. And when they do find someone who is nice to them, it can turn into a dependent relationship that ends up in heartache. I’m lucky that my daughter, unlike my wife and I, has lots of school friends early on.

My wife is a burn survivor and her facial scarring and multiple hospitalizations was a hindrance to friend-making. Me, I was big and loud and talked all the time. When it came to wrestling around I always hurt other kids because I just didn’t know my own body. I had friends, but not many although that changed as I got older. So the sound of kids wrestling and playing and jumping around is welcome to me. It means my daughter is developing relationships, maybe even meaningful ones. It is funny that most of her friends are older than her.

Monday is a school day for my Cubbie girl. She will be in first grade; soon she will be a senior. I guess we better make the best of the weekend before first grade starts and her senior year ends. For now I'll just focus on getting her through first grade.

And We Like It That Way!

Cubbie and Nanny kiss at Cubbie's 5-year-old wedding birthday party (2005). She wanted to marry here Daddy and we did just that.

Little Red Riding hood was in a bit of a pickle: Too young to stay home and too precocious for daycare. I am back in school this week and my lovely wife, being the only income source, is hard at work putting the rest of us through school. It takes a fair amount of money to keep the House of Jack fed.

So we packed up the Cubbie, red bonnet and basket, and sent her off for one last week of vacation before first grade started. My Mother, now known as Nanny, is retired. My Dad, Papa, still works for MoDOT. Fortunately for me, Nanny, who is very busy playing nursemaid to the rest of the world, was able to watch Cubbie for the week. She went a step further, by packing up one Great-grandmother, Juju, and taking the whole gaggle over to the other great-grandmother’s house. I’m sure it’s been a wonderful time of menopausal, post-menopausal and precocious enthusiasm to last the whole year.

The last couple of days the greats were sent back to their homes, and Nanny and Cub are probably somewhere playing dress up at the homestead. This easily equates to spoilage, you can be sure. Nanny is a high-maintenance gal and she loves nothing more than exposing my daughter to vanilla-scented body butter, evening facial scrubs, and freshly-warmed bath towels. At my house, you just pick up a towel off the floor and hope it’s dry enough to use. We don’t have an hour for a night time bathing routines. So there will be some adjustments. We don’t have fancy hair soap with mango fragrance. No indeed. We are poor students; we wipe are rears with cardboard, and buy breakfast cereal in a bag. Our soap peels off your skin and many of our meals are from a box out of the freezer. And we like it that way.

It’s been almost a week now and we are missing our baby girl. She comes home today and I can’t wait. I rented her Rocky and Bullwinkle, season year, disc one. She’s been asking for it. I know, tonight, she will come up to me and ask for our special night time routine.

We pile our pillows, crawl into bed, snuggle down under the comforter, and we watch TV together until she falls asleep. I don’t always have time at night to play with her, what with my school and all, but I do always make time for snuggling together. It’s what we do. It’s our version of vanilla body butter and heater bath towels. And we like it that way.

Walk This Way

There are 20-tons of people on campus. The Fall semester is an amazing difference between summer school. It can feel, at times, very claustrophobic. Riding the bicycle can be problematic, especially when folks stroll along, plugged into their iPod, meandering their way in the bicycle lane.

Do you see the difference in the concrete? One path, the walking path, is grey colored. The red path with bicycle icons stamped in it is the … can you guess … the bicycle lane. Many college students, like this young lady, have yet to figure this out.

She will soon enough. One of these days some bicycler will plow her over, splashing her backpack all over creation. Then she will use those critical thinking skills to deduce what those red bicycles mean. The joys of the epiphany.

Most of my classes are average – 30 people or less. My class, History 122, is a basic gen-ed class studying America after 1870. I share it with over 60 other people. I have never had a class that big. In fact I graduated high school with a class of 65. I earned my bachelor’s degree from Drury. I’ve never seen anything like this before. With that many kids, especially young ones, you can image how many clothes-related distractions there might be. I sit in the second row, isle seat, and keep my eyes on the power point presentation. See no evil … neither sleet, nor snow, thongs nor tit bibs shall keep me from my duties.

So far the class is interesting as the professor is talking about the discrimination of the Native Americans through the expansion of European settlements and the government-supported destruction of the Native American culture through the creation of off-reservation boarding schools. I find it interesting how the government used Native Americans to police other Native Americans in order to enforce the governement's anti-Indian culture policies. Any of this sound familiar? We do love to occupy and liberate. It’s what we do.

We wonder; we wonder, while we diddle our plunder. We just can't imagine why other's don't like us. We're pretty and portly while eating our cake. And the others they wonder how they lost their own culture.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Participate in Democracy: Post Your Questions Here!

If you want to ask a question of Nancy Hagan, Democratic candidate for Springfield District 135, then your time is quickly running out. I am asking her some follow up questions to my original query. Email your questions to me, or post a comment here, by tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

E Equals Emcee Squared

Of all my education-related classes this semester, there is only one that asked all the students to write about why we wish to be teachers: my math class. Specifically, the class is titled: Mathematics for the Teacher. It is a content class, not a methodology class. We are being taught mathematics that we will teach to our students. This class is about more than the process of mathematics. It is about philosophical mathematics and the application of real, useful mathematics for the elementary student. Part of our learning is to discuss issues related to mathematics. Here are the questions that we are required to write about:

  1. Why do you want to be a teacher?
  2. What should 3rd and 4th grade students know and be able to do?
  3. Should students be able to use a calculator in elementary school?
  4. What is the role of the teacher?
  5. Write about the “Dumbing” of Amercia
  6. Respond to these quotes by British mathematician, W.W. Sawyer:
"The depressing thing about arithmetic badly taught is that it destroys a child's intellect and, to some extent, his/her integrity."

"Before they are taught arithmetic, children will not give their assent to utter nonsense; afterwards they will."

"Instead of looking at things and thinking about them, they will make wild guesses in the hopes of pleasing the teacher."

I haven’t quite formulated the answers yet. That should come as my educational path continues. So you can count on me answering these questions as time moves along. As much as I dread arithmetic, and it pains me to even think about looking at the monthly bills and computing and reconciling all of that, I am looking forward to this class. I think, just based on the first class, that it will not only challenge me, but help me really learn the concepts of mathematics and not so much the process.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Where Are the Mainstream Muslims?

Those of us who invoke the term “tolerance” talk about how the majority of Islam followers are not fundamentalist terrorists. We speak about how all Muslims do not hate America, and we defend the Koran, trying to inform the public that Allah’s teachings were not about war and hatred. Isn’t that what the enlightened believe?

I am a Christian, but I am by no means a conservative nor am I a Republican. I do not pledge undying allegiance to President Bush or the War In Iraq just because he wears the Christian moniker. As a matter of fact, I have spoken openly about my disapproval of using my religion in his war effort. There are have been plenty of demonstrations against the President and his war.

Maybe my perception is skewed, but where are the Muslims protesting the terrorist fundamentalists? Why am I not seeing reports of Muslims hitting the street and decrying these acts of terrorism and hatred in the name of their religion?

Is that because “they” all secretly agree with the terrorist attacks? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. Maybe these demonstrations are going on and I just don’t watch the news enough to see it. That is indeed possible, but I don’t think so. I asked my pastor this same question and he said that these anti-fundamentalist demonstreations are indeed taking place. Mainstream Muslims are coming out against the Muslim terrorists, but he asserts that the events are covered mostly by liberal religious periodicals.

If mainsteam Muslims are standing against their fundamentalist counterparts then why is that not being covered by the media? Is it not seen as a story? Maybe mainstream Muslims are simply too afraid of persecution by the fundamentalists? Maybe they are afraid of persecution by other Americans? Is this an issue for the Muslim community or simply the media’s willingness to cover the issue? I don’t know, but I want to know.

I think our country’s increasing fear of all persons non-white could really benefit from seeing mainstream Muslims actively demonstrating against the terrorist attacks. Seems to me that discrimination against Muslims, just for being Muslim, could lesson if there were an active effort by that community to fight the jihadist culture. Or perhaps, our country could benefit by the media giving coverage to this already occurring anti-fundamentalist movement?

The Path of a Martial Artist

My dedicated readers know that I am going back to school for my master’s degree in learnin’ young-ins. What most don’t know is that I am also studying Kenpo Karate. It’s something I always wanted to do, and I finally started in early middle school. I grew tired, you see, of getting picked on and feeling like a outcast. It’s not just the little fellers that get picked on, but the fat kids too fall prey to the packs of boys trolling for victims. My group of friends tended to be on the fringe of acceptance. We weren’t the true outcasts, but we weren’t really accepted either.

I didn’t tell my friends. I didn’t tell Charlie, my best friend. No one knew that I was taking martial arts. It’s just not something that I talked about. My parents were given strict instructions not to reveal my alter ego to anyone. In truth I shouldn’t have told them either. They ended up telling my friends. As talkative as I have always been, my martial arts has always been the one thing that I have kept pretty quiet.

I studied during high school and got pretty close to my black belt. Kenpo, unlike other arts, takes a minimum of five years to attain a black belt. If you really want that black belt, you have to work for it; a black belt factory it is not. As I progressed, I lost some weight, gained confidence and much to my surprise, I started to gain in popularity. Unfortunately for me, that newly found popularity was intoxicating for me. For once in my life, I was invited to parties with the cool kids, I was accepted, and I had a nice place in the hierarchy. It was good. My martial arts suffered my senior year as my priorities were on girls, partying and college.

I went to college, lived my life, graduated, got married and had a kid. When I moved back to Springfield I found my old martial arts instructor was teaching up here. So I started over, yes, I choose to start over, but it didn’t take me long to attain my original rank as a third degree brown belt (two belts away from black.) Over the past year, I’ve taken on more responsibility and with the support of our head instructor, started the children’s programming for our studio.

Teaching Kenpo affects my learning. I am a slow martial arts student because I have never really been an athletic person. This is the only sport-like activity that I ever felt comfortable with. Teaching has made the process slower, but I don’t mind. I’m in no hurry and I am not motivated by belt rank.

When I decided to go back to school, my wife and I decided that I was going to also focus on my own martial arts. I use my breaks from school to study Kenpo. After the summer semester was over, I had two weeks to prepare for my test. That’s hard to do when you are injured. Last Thursday I received my second degree brown belt (8th Kyu). I have one more brown belt and then it’s on to the black belt.

It’s confusing to most people. The assumption is that if you have a black belt, then you are an expert in marital arts. Real practitioners know better. Earning a first degree black belt is like getting your four year degree from an accredited college. The student now has a good base knowledge and the necessary skills. But that’s about it. The real learning takes place after the degree. And so it is with Karate. The low ranked black belt is really just starting to gain real martial arts knowledge. The path has really just begun.

It’s been a long path. I’m like the college student who never leaves. I’m really on the 10-year plan for black belt. That’s okay with me. I enjoy the learning much more than the rank.

So why am I talking about this now? I think it’s necessary. Many of my students start martial arts for the same reason as I did: a bully. The schools do little to protect children from bullies. When the trusted adults do not fulfill their duties as protectors, then the trust between children and adults is destroyed. I understand that. How does a boy go home, look his father in the eye and explain that his clothes are wet because they other boys at school filled balloons with urine and pelted him after school? Why should any child be subjected to a culture of fear at school? Bullying at school is not just a one time pushing or knocking books to the ground. It is a darker, more sinister series of events that systematically ostracizes a child from the social hierarchy. It can reach cruel levels even in elementary. I’ve seen it done to others and experience it myself.

Last year, my daughter brought home a flier from school about bullying. One of the suggestions if a bully takes your lunch money is to ask your parents for more money. Bullshit and bullshit again. That is no solution and the school counselor should be ashamed for creating an environment of victimization. Martial arts, true martial arts, is not about fighting. It is about self-defense. Self-defense is about learning how to protect ones self, but more importantly it is about confidence. Strong, confident children do not usually get bullied. Bullies seek out the weak and the fearful. I won’t stand for it. That starts with talking about it.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hagan Jacks Around with the Issues

Nancy Hagan, democratic candidate for the 135th district, and I are finally in contact. She reports that there were technical difficulties and she never received my emails to her. She is getting them now and has answered a list of questions sent. She sent them to two different emails to ensure they go through: awesome. I did not edit the response for grammar and spelling. Here’s what she has to say:

Thank you for your patience in hearing back from me. I applaude your blog for offering another avenue for public discourse, and I hope that this Q&A is just the beginning of our conversation as the campaign unfolds. – Nancy

JACK: The Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD). This is an issue that was fast tracked during the last session, but then stalled in the Senate.

HAGAN: I oppose Matt Blunt's cuts to MAWD that the legislature approved in 2005. I am appalled that there are people in Jefferson City (my opponent included) who are playing politics with this issue. When I am elected to represent the 135th District I will sponsor legislation to restore all (not just a politically-motivated pittance) of the money cut from this important program. We are not only losing out on the talents of those workers who have been driven out of the workplace, but the money they would have earned that
could be circulating through our state's economy.

JACK: Detail your feelings on embryonic stem-cell research, which has garnered a lot of attention recently.

HAGAN: I support Constitutional Amendment No. 2 to protect stem cell research in Missouri. I am also supportive of the human cloning ban that is a part of the amendment. This research is our best hope to finding lifesaving cures to the many dieseases and conditions afflicting our friends and neighbors. We cannot outlaw hope. We must continue the push to find cures.

JACK: How do you feel about raising Missouri's minimum wage?

HAGAN: I support the increase, and am pleased that the ballot language includes future increases tied to the consumer price index. The current minimum wage is at its lowest purchasing power in over 50 years. Contrary to the thinking of Matt Blunt and others, this increase will be an economic boost to Missouri rather than a detriment.

JACK: Do you have any plans on introducing any legislation if you are elected? If so, specify your plans.

HAGAN: In addition to a full restoration of the MAWD cuts, I will work towards restoring healthcare access in other areas. We need to work together to fund the CHIPS program to insure healthcare coverage for the children of working families. By cutting Medicaid, we added over 100,000 to the list of the uninsured. This created a larger burden on our healthcare system and guaranteed an increase in premiums the rest of us pay. Also, due to the Medicaid cuts, we passed on over a quarter of a billion dollars in federal matching money. Missouri now sends more tax dollars to Washington than it receives back. We are now funding healthcare programs for other states like Illinois, that increased its Medicaid coverage in anticipation of our cuts.

JACK: What are you plans regarding funding for Higher Education? Elementary and Secondary Education?

HAGAN: I will work to bring higher education's overall budget back in line with the growth in the overall state budget. For this fiscal year, state revenue projections show a 9-percent increase, yet the legislature only gave our state-funded colleges and universities a 2-percent increase – this amount does not even keep up with inflation. On average, tuition has increased at our state institutions by an average of 40 percent over the past five years. My husband and I have benefitted from our higher education, and as your representative, I will support legislation to make a college education attainable for more Missourians.

As for elementary and secondary education, the legislature is not living up to its constitutional responsibility to fund our schools. We cannot take the changes made to the Foundation Formula seriously as long as it is not being fully funded. Right now, that amount stands at about 91 percent. We are just beginning the second year of the seven-year phase in of this new Formula. Our schools and our children and grandchildren need this money now. It is my understanding that the school districts that brought the lawsuit against the state for inadequate funding are moving forward with their case. We need to set aside party politics and meet our responsibility to our schools.

As a retired public school teacher I am opposed to the so-called voucher plans that are currently circulating in the Capitol. The Springfield Public School system is one of the best in the state. By implementing vouchers, we would be hurting, not helping, improve the overall education of our children.

JACK: Your website does not list your top priorities beyond a broad statement toward supporting education, civil liberties, economic development etc. I would like to know specifics. It does mention that you are a "solutions-oriented, independent thinker who will bring a fresh perspective to Jefferson City". Please be specific about the solutions you are alluding to.

HAGAN: There needs to be a major change in the way business is conducted in Jefferson City. Right now the two parties are playing to their extremes. We need more people like myself to step forward and do what is best for the entire state, not just the special interests that fund their campaigns. My goal is to work with other legislators to formulate better ideas that really are for the greater good. I am less interested in who gets the credit as much as I am in getting the job done.

Among the ideas I would champion are finding viable energy alternatives – including giving tax credits to those companies that work towards providing cleaner, renewable energy sources. I believe that this industry is the next

JACK: Is there anything specific that you wish to discuss that I have not covered?

HAGAN: Now that my education career is over I feel that this is the next logical step in my desire to serve the community.

I appreciate Hagan’s responses to my questions. Her opponent, Republican Charles Denison, made perfectly clear early on that he was not interested in talking to someone who opposed any of his ideas. After reading Hagan’s responses, I have a few follow-up questions to ask. Camp Hagan does check out my blog, so they will get these questions soon enough. But before I send them to her, I wish to open this dialogue up to the blogosphere. If any of you have any serious questions that you wish to ask Hagan, I will be glad to include them to her in a personal email and post her response on this blog. I do reserve the right as the editor to accept or deny questions, especially if they are overly aggressive or offensive. It’s discourse over shouting, thank you very much.

She has been a good sport, despite the fact that I was highly critical of her not answering my emails. To reiterate, she states they had technical difficulties with their server. Since, she has answered every email I have sent her and every question posed. To which I say: Many Thanks.


1. It’s easy for folks to say that raising the minimum wage will do thus-and-so. In what ways do you believe raising the minimum wage will benefit our state economy? Be specific about how the opposition is incorrect in the assumption that raising the minimum wage will hurt Missouri.

2. You stated that Missouri has lost nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in federal matching money. Most people do not understand the federal government’s 60-40 split. Explain how this works and how that quarter of a billion dollars was spent.

3. School vouchers are becoming a nationwide issue, which appears to be split among party lines. Explain your belief that vouchers would be a bad move for Missouri. What leads you to believe that? If vouchers are not the answer, then how do we address the concerns that public schools are failing the community (as a nationwide concept) and that private institutions provide a better education than the public schools. How do vouchers help or hurt minority populations including persons of color and children with disabilities?

4. The Springfield Blogger's group has tossed around the idea of a legislative forum, where candidates will be invited to a public forum to answer topical questions on important issues. If we can ever get off our lazy bums and coordinate this event, I hope we can count on your attendance.

Pretty In Pink

I shot this picture a couple of weeks ago when I was taking pictures of the big red bugs, which turned out to be Boxelder Bugs in the nymph stage. (Thanks to my friend Stacy The Scientist.) This beautiful flower stood proud among the brown grass and dirt of my neighbor’s yard. It’s a handheld shot using the macro setting; I don’t like lugging the tripod around.

I am curious about the ethics of digital photography. I used the settings in iPhoto to enhance the color a bit. I adjusted the saturation and the tint in order to deepen the pink to represent the flower’s actual color. Is that ethical? Can I ethically submit the photo to the Greene County Fair next year? Is it important to note that I enhanced the colors? Is it important that I tell my readers when I enhance a photo? Surely with all these journalists and photographers in my midst, someone will be able to guide me.

One Last Hoorah!

School, real school, starts on Monday. And it ain’t for no eight stinking weeks either. This time it’s a full fledged 16 weeks of 15-hour dread. My wife tells me that the university is full of new insects moving in and scuttling about. That means more.

More idiot 18-year-olds, more jewel encrusted thongs, more lovely tit-bibs, and more yammering. I’m sure my office – Plaster Student Union 3rd floor mezzanine – will be crawling with babies missing their Mommies on one hand, and trolling for beer buyers on the other.

Knowing that is coming, I treated my girls – my wife and daughter – to a family weekend including a trip to Celebration City in Branson. I took some snaps while we were there. I love to take photos. It’s a fun little hobby. I don’t have the technical knowledge of Minutia, Curbstone, or ZachIsHere, but I don’t mind. My digital instamatic (Pentac Optio Water Proof) does my grip-and-grins a fine enough job. And from time to time I even luck out with a decent photo or two.

I did make the girls take a break from the fun a couple of times so I could take an artsy-fartsy shot or two. All this fancy photographing that Duane took at the fair gave me inspiration to shoot. Besides, we can look back years from now and prove that we do love each other, green boogers and all.

On our way home my wife commented that we had the best time that we’ve had in a long time. Yeah. We spent the morning and afternoon with Grandma Juju (Jewel to the rest of the world). Homemade biscuits and gravy makes for a happy Jack. Healthy Jack? Well probably not, but it was fun anyway. I love it when Juju cooks for me.

After that we went through old pictures, which I’ve never seen, of her side of the family. We even talked about … Ivan. We never talk about Ivan. Grandma never talks about Ivan. Juju nearly scared me skinny when she brought him up. Ivan would be my uncle, my mother’s brother. He died when his two boys were very young. It was tragic and bloody and it was my Mother who found him. He died in her arms. We don’t talk about Ivan.

That is, until today. I saw pictures of Ivan, and Grandpa, and Grandma kissing Grandpa. Up until now I was certain they never kissed. They were so young and beautiful and happy. Each cigar box neatly tied with string was stuffed with photos and negatives, Christmas cards and old ration coupon. Each time I finished one she would scuttle off and bring me another. We did this for hours, she and I, laughing and enjoying the dated hairstyles. Juju remembers everything. That was so-and-so. She lived on Main and Talbot. Now her Mother was a wild one … on and on. Oh yeah, that’s cousin I-can’t-remember, who married I-never-knew-her-anyway. My cousin Terry is right. Grandma remembers every wart on every person she ever met. I don’t remember things like she does. Too much multi-tasking I suppose.

But I can, from time to time, sit on the couch and rummage through old photos with my Granny. That’s our version of sitting on the front porch with a glass of iced tea talking about the neighbors goings-on. My wife was right. It was one of the greatest weekends we’ve had in I don’t know how long. I have pictures to prove it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Marmot Snarls and Finally Speaks

Springfield's gregarious burrowing rodent friend has been interviewing the crew of local bloggers lately. I thought it best that we learn a bit about this bucktoothed yokel. I set my trap and sure enough, I caught myself a marmot. Here's what I learned.

Titles/Name of Author:
Amy Sholtis, Snarling Marmot

Why Snarling Marmot? Where did that name come from?
I find myself explaining that one a lot. In fact, I was just commenting to another reader that friends and family have stopped calling me Amy in favor of Marmot.

The name came about when I worked at PBS and was housed in a cube farm, for lack of a better term. We had these odd half-walls with shelves that were about four feet tall. If someone was standing outside my cube, I generally had to stand up to talk to them. I had a habit of popping up for a conversation quite a bit and one day a co-worker remarked that I looked like a marmot popping out of a hole. It stuck. The snarling part comes from my penchant for being a twee surly prior to my first cup of coffee ... my one true vice.

Estimated hits per day: 150 to 500 depending on what search engine has picked me up

Geographic location: Springfield, MO, my hometown

Age Range: 30 something

How long has your main blog been around? I started blogging in 2000, the home of the Marmot has been around since 2004, prior to the current site it was housed on Typepad. There were previous iterations on both LiveJournal and Blogger.

Why did you start it? I have a compulsive need to natter away about stuff.

Tell us about your slow cooker blog?
Poor neglected "What A Crock." I started that blog to spread the good word about slow cooking. It was a great project when it was cold and I had lots of reasons to be using the slow cooker … oh, that and I was unemployed at the time so I had lots of time to look up recipes. Now that I have both a real job and numerous volunteer responsibilities (I volunteer with APO as well as work on Street Talk) I've been neglectful of my cooking hobby. I hope to get back to it. Look for it to become part of a larger feature on my regular blog.

What role does blogging play in your everyday life?
Writing helps me process my thoughts. I think the blog is just a public place to do that. There are lots of things I want to either share or opine on and I like the public forum of the blog because it gives others a chance to chime in as well.

Do you consider yourself a blogger, citizen journalist, online diarist or storyteller?
All of the above, although more of a storyteller I think. The posts I like to write most are the ones where I get to tell an entertaining story. Sharing information is great and it's a nice by-product of the blog, but mostly I just wanna chat with y'all. I have a great group of people who visit my little corner of the web. We don't always agree on everything, but I enjoy hearing from everyone. I've also really enjoyed profiling all y'all. I was truly impressed by the group of bloggers here in Springfield when I moved here. Despite our differences, we can still break bread together and all seem to geniunely get a along. 

How does your journalism background affect your blogging?
It probably drives me. I got used to having to produce some form of copy every day so now I still have the need to write about something, anything. I practically grew up in a newsroom. Some of my earliest memories are hanging around Dad's desk at the News-Leader. Ron teases me about it being in my blood, and perhaps it is a compulsion with me. I will always be a news junkie and I think a by-product of that is wanting to share news with others.

How do you think blogging can effect a community? A country?
There's been a lot of people wringing their hands about this. The blogosphere certainly has begun playing a larger role in both politics and the media. Pols look at blogs to see where public sentiment lies. The media is kind of rueful of the bloggers because they have a tendency to point out their faults. However, bloggers have big faults too. Especially with a lot of the political blogs, the bloggers have an agenda they want to push. That's fine and that can be useful, but people need to understand that they aren't necessarily getting the full picture. They USED to be able to get it from the mainstream media but that's not so much the case any more. Unfortunately, the American press has become far too cowed by big business and the government. That's where bloggers can do a service to their communities, they can step in where regular journos are failing. Whether or not they're really up to that task remains to be seen.

What responsibilities do bloggers have to our community?
You have to make yourself credible. Admit when you're wrong. Admit to having an opinion and that often what you're writing is opinion. Just because I type it doesn't make it fact ... it makes it my thoughts, and my thoughts maybe based in fact, but they are after all my thoughts and opinions and should be viewed and understood as such. My gospel truth and your gospel truth may fork at the river, son and that's okay.

What defines the blogger?s community? What do those boundaries look like?
Well, there's bloggers as a whole, but then there's communities within that community. There are political bloggers, food bloggers, music bloggers ... you get my point. I think the boundaries are fluid actually, anyone who has a blog, and regularly posts to it, is a blogger. I'm a member of the local bloggers community, but I'm also a member of those other communities within the topics I post about.

How does it feel to have the interview turned toward you?
Humbling. Granted, I can fall back on the excuse that I've been taking my time because of my injured hand, but really these questions make me question myself. Why AM I doing this? Does anyone really care? 

Biggest pet peeve, online or otherwise?
Bad drivers. But I lived for most of my life in a city(Washington, DC) full of bad drivers. When it takes you an hour and a half to go 18 miles you grow to appreciate the minor amount of traffic we have here in Springfield.

What are you favorite blogs or daily online reads?
Of course I try to make it past all the local blogs every day. Y'all help me keep up with the community. Beyond that of course CNN, but I also spend a fair amount of time reading some other fun stuff: Amalah is a woman from DC who is blogging her experiences as being a new mom, she's funnier than anyone has a right to be. Tomato Nation is also some seriously funny stuff. I find PostSecret both fascinating and poignant. My friend Dawn and Tiff also write some great stuff, Tiff has a professional blog that's worth while for anyone who is job seeking. 

I have 10 more questions to ask you from famed Bernard Pinot and made famous by James Lipton on his show “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”

What is your favorite word?
Reading. It also happens to be my favorite pasttime. None of us read enough and books are such a neglected luxury. Yes it's easier to turn on the tube or surf the web and be entertained, but you get to create your own images with a book and I just think that's the coolest. Yes, I'm also aware that makes me a huge nerd. But I'm okay with that. 

What is your least favorite word? Problem.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Creatively, I'd have to say challenges. Specifically, challenges that make me think or reevaluate how I already look at something. I believe we should continue to learn our entire lives. Once we stop learning we may as well stop living. I don't ever want to be thought of as the kind of person rigidly adhered to some outmoded thought or custom. Change, while scary, can be good and cause us to grow.

Spiritually, that's a hard question to answer. I've never been an overly religious person, but I definitely have a spiritual side. I identify as Buddhist. I study Buddhism and go to meditation each week. I find it helps to calm me and help me to be more focused. I also feel connected to the ideals within Buddhism that implore us to treat each other with respect and kindness. I think that's something that is far too lacking in our lives today.

Emotionally, I'd say interacting with smart people who challenge me to think in new ways and explore things I hadn't thought to explore on my own before.

What turns you off? Closed minds.

What is your favorite curse word?
Damn. I use it FAR too much, followed by the s-word. Sadly, the f-bomb also works its way in on occasion as well.

What sound or noise do you love?
Most music. Regardless of what I'm doing, I like to have a little tuneage in the background. It soothes the savage marmot.

What sound or noise do you hate?
The phone ringing at home. I don't mind answering one at work because it means business, but at home it's nearly always someone wanting to sell me something I don't want. Does that make me sound like your 80 year old granny or what? 

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Professional Chef, I want to be Cat Cora when I grow up.

What profession would you not like to do?
Accountant. Math scares me. 

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"You aren't serious, are you?" My momma used to tell me that Heaven didn't want me and Hell was afraid I'd take over.

Any last thoughts from the rodent perspective?
The blog should be a reflection of who you are not something you hide behind. I'm not suggesting we should post our most intimate secrets and personal information on our blogs, but by the same token, it's yours, make it so. We should have more conversation and less arguments. I visit a lot of blogs where there is a lot of knee-jerking and labeling going on and not much discourse. Don't put something forth unless it advances or adds to the conversation. Shouting matches just make everyone tense, even the shouter.

Thanks for the opportunity to natter on.
Snarlingly yours,

Sucking Democracy Dry

This lovely t-shirt called "Sucking Democracy Dry" speaks for itself. If they made it in biggin' I would buy one. Alas, they do not. Damn them. Damn them all to Hell. There's more to life than skinny folks. Still a good shirt. I found it for sale here and here.

Searching the web I found more politicial t-shirts and paraphernalia at I choose some of my favorites, but they had ones from both sides. The best part: They have sizes for those of us who are horiztonally enhanced. Gotta love that. Maybe I'll order me a back to school shirt, that is if my lovely wife approves this purchase.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

Someone I knew in school died. It is very sad.

The entire family was ripe for bullying. From their olive skin stained with splotches of bleach white, to their unusually whinny yet deep nasal voices and their dirty garage sale clothes clinging to their small frames, the entire family was a pack of outcasts – powerless, hungry, poor and so pitiful. The Slagley’s ate at the shitty end of the stick and I just happen to know that high school stick stinks to high heaven.

Enis the Penis was his nickname. One particular, cruel hearted, ass monkey, son-of-a-bitch named Coy gave Michael that name and loved nothing more than making sure that it stuck, adding it to the common lexicon of the school. Coy was great that way. He took it upon himself to make sure that those weaker than him found no respite, no relief, from any relentless tirades of punishment and degradation.

Michael might as well have hung a sign, a great blinking neon sign with arrows and swirling colors, right around that spotted skinny neck of his flashing: Pick On Me Won’t You Please! He couldn’t help it and I know that. So it goes with those who are socially awkward and delayed from the get-go. The social scarlet letter is sewn early on kids like Michael and the only way out is to fight or flight. When everyone is bigger than you, fighting is hard. Karate lessons take money. Some learn to be funny, but Michael wasn’t quick-witted.

The typical bullying fare was the norm for Michael. I didn’t really pay that much attention to it at the time. I was in high school, finally became moderately popular and all was right with the world. I knew, but I don’t think I was aware of the amount. Years later, I now realize that the amount of pain he took was probably overwhelming.

My little group of friends took Michael out once. Only once. We invited him to go out with us one night. It was all Jason’s idea. Maybe Jason paid more attention than I did; I don’t know. He said we needed to take Michael out with us, to the movies and cruising downtown Branson. No, we didn’t pick on him, or trick him, or leave him naked at the Western Sizzlin. We just gave him a regular night out with the boys. I think he liked it. I think he had fun. I know that it was a first time for him – a night out with a group of guys doing regular high school boy things.

My only regret is that we didn’t do it more. The problem is, outcasts – extreme outcasts, don’t usually know how to act around other people. Their behaviors, much like gifted kids and children with disabilities, are awkward and can appear strange. It typically takes longer to teach them than teenage boys have time to devote.

That’s right I didn’t help him. I was content with not being the center of the attacks and after finally finding my place and fitting in, I was more than content. I was happy not being picked on and pushed around. It felt good to be a part of a group, to fit in, to be accepted. By the time high school came around I went from the fat kid getting picked on, to the fat kid who can fight. Unlike Michael, I could afford martial arts lessons. I was not about to destabilize that position. Besides, I guess somewhere deep down inside I figured he brought it on himself, being such a spooky guy. It wouldn’t have been so bad had he just acted normal.

Of course I know better now. I wonder what would have happened to Michael had we really let him into our group, protected him from the wolves, and given him a real place in the male hierarchy of high school society?

In May 2005 Michael J. Slagley, 31, died in automobile accident in my hometown of Hollister-Branson. It was one year and two months later that I found out about his death. I hope his life got better after school.

Homemade Hillbilly Jam

Our hometown hillbillies, Big Smith, are getting a lot of attention these days. The documentary, "Homemade Hillbilly Jam" has made the film festival circuit, was screened at the Jordan Valley Park, and will now be featured at The Moxie for two weeks starting August 23. You can read my preview on INCONCEIVABLE.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Discovering The Discovery Center

(Did you like that catchy headline? I'm sure that's never been used before.)

My wife and daughter headed out the other night for a Mommy-Daughter date at The Discover Center. For some strange reason we have never taken our daughter there before. I guess we've just never thought about it. From what I hear it was a fantastic time of – you guessed it – discovery. There's never a better time than when learning and play pretend intersect. The Discovery Center will have to become a regular place of play for us. Too bad I was such a Jack-come-lately.

Nancy Hagan Emails Fat Jack

Democrat Nancy Hagan (candidate for the 135th District in Springfield) shot me an email yesterday (August 9). Here it is in it's entirety:

Dear Sir:

Apparently there are complications with our email server. I apologize and this is to let you know we are working to rectify the situation. Please contact me again with your questions and I will more than happy to answer them. Please respond to me at the above e-mail address or we are listed in the phone book under Jim HAGAN.

I want to encourage you to continue your pursuit of your Master's Degree. We certainly need more men in the education field.


Nancy Hagan

The following is my response to Hagan.

Dear Mrs. Hagan,

On my blog, I was quite critical of you for not responding to my two different emails. (Although I have been equally critical of Charlie Denison for his lack of response after my wife and I traveled to Jefferson City to speak with him.) However, I do understand technological difficulties. I have lived in the 135th district for nearly a decade and have been very frustrated to not have a representative support my issues and as the saying goes, "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." When I talk to candidates (or my legislator) then I publish those responses on my blog. Interestingly enough, there are several active and known bloggers in Springfield who live in the 135th district.

Here's your chance to shine. I will also publish your response to this email on my blog. I look forward to hearing from you.

As a former journalist and future teacher I take my voting right and responsibility very seriously. That is why I tried contacting you last month. I've never had a viable democratic candidate to vote for in my district. The last democrat I had the opportunity to vote for broke into a screaming sermon at a legislative panel that my agency hosted.

Specifically, I am curious about your stance on the following issues:

1. The Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD). This is an issue that was fast tracked during the last session, but then stalled in the Senate.

2. Detail your feelings on embryonic stem-cell research, which has garnered a lot of attention recently.

3. How do you feel about raising Missouri's minimum wage?

4. Do you have any plans on introducing any legislation if you are elected? If so, specify your plans.

5. What are you plans regarding funding for Higher Education? Elementary and Secondary Education?

6. Your website does not list your top priorities beyond a broad statement toward supporting education, civil liberties, economic development etc. I would like to know specifics. It does mention that you are a "solutions-oriented, independent thinker who will bring a fresh perspective to Jefferson City". Please be specific about the solutions you are alluding to.

7. Is there anything specific that you wish to discuss that I have not covered?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Camp Hagan Makes Contact

I finally received an email from Camp Hagan. You may recall that I contacted Nancy Hagan, democratic candidate for the 135th district last month. My emails, one sent to her using my email client and the other sent to her through her website, went unanswered. I waited over a week and then posted a comment on my blog.

One day after the primary election (Wednesday, August 9) Kent Davis, treasurer of the committee to elect Nancy Hagan, contacted me. Following is the correspondence:

Dear Sir,

My wife (Nancy Hagan’s Daughter) found the below blog this morning. Nancy has made great efforts to respond quickly to all emails and phone calls she has received during her campaign. We do not know what has occurred in this situation, but will investigate the response time immediately. She takes great pride in representing the needs of her district and would love to discuss her feelings on the MAWD program along with any other concerns. Again, we apologize for the delay. My wife is currently on the phone with Nancy and we will have her contact you on an individual basis immediately.
If you have any immediate needs you can reach me at 766-6374.

Kent Davis
Committee to Elect Nancy Hagan

Monday, August 07, 2006

Anyone Know What This Is Called?

Do any of you know what this is? My neighbor came over and asked me to look at a swarm of these bugs crawling all over the ground and on this tree. I have never seen a solid red bug before. For all of you scientist types, it is a race to see who can ID the big bad bug first. If it has no name, then I name it Red Jack Devil.

There were hundreds of them, babies and adults. They look like they have a hard exoskeleton, but when I smashed one between my fingers, it didn’t pop or crack like a ant. It squished ever so sweetly. My neighbor tried spraying RAID on them, but it did no good. (Sorry PETA, it was all in the name of science.) I went back in the house to grab something. When I came back out, they were all gone, except for twenty or so. (Click here to see more photos of the Red Jack Devil.)

Tell Me a Story, James Dickey, of Your Farm Boys

You probably think you've never heard of James Dickey, poet and writer, and Farm Boy yarn weaver. Most poets never gain any fame outside literature circles, and the same would probably be true of Dickey had his book Deliverance not been turned into an iconic Hollywood film by the same name. Ah, so you have heard of him? I thought so.

Well Dickey wrote a poem, which just happens to be one of my favorites, along the same vein as Deliverance. When he was young, Dickey was told a story. I imagine it was some older cousin or uncle as they tell the best scary stories. The yarn was wound around an old rural myth. Many folklore stories come from fear, and they serve as a warning to the young not to engage in such behavior. The first part of this poem is the story, the warning to stay away. The second half of the poem is the sheep child talking about its life.

Having grown up in a rural community, I am drawn to works about my culture. I share with you my favorite James Dickey’s poem.


Farm boys wild to couple
With anything with soft-wooded trees
With mounds of earth mounds
Of pine straw will keep themselves off
Animals by legends of their own:
In the hay-tunnel dark
And dung of barns, they will
Say I have heard tell

That in a museum in Atlanta
Way back in a corner somewhere
There's this thing that's only half
Sheep like a woolly baby
Pickled in alcohol because
Those things can't live his eyes
Are open but you can't stand to look
I heard from somebody who ...

But this is now almost all
Gone. The boys have taken
Their own true wives in the city,
The sheep are safe in the west hill
Pasture but we who were born there
Still are not sure. Are we,
Because we remember, remembered
In the terrible dust of museums?

Merely with his eyes, the sheep-child may
Be saying saying

I am here, in my father's house.
I who am half of your world, came deeply
To my mother in the long grass
Of the west pasture, where she stood like moonlight
Listening for foxes. It was something like love
From another world that seized her
From behind, and she gave, not Iifting her head
Out of dew, without ever looking, her best
Self to that great need. Turned loose, she dipped her face
Farther into the chill of the earth, and in a sound
Of sobbing of something stumbling
Away, began, as she must do,
To carry me. I woke, dying,
In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
Far more than human. I saw for a blazing moment
The great grassy world from both sides,
Man and beast in the round of their need,
And the hill wind stirred in my wool,
My hoof and my hand clasped each other,
I ate my one meal
Of milk, and died
Staring. From dark grass I came straight

To my father's house, whose dust
Whirls up in the halls for no reason
When no one comes piling deep in a hellish mild
And, through my immortal waters,
I meet the sun's grains eye
To eye, and they fail at my closet of glass.
Dead, I am most surely living
In the minds of farm boys: I am he who drives
Them like wolves from the hound bitch and calf
And from the chaste ewe in the wind.
They go into woods into bean fields they go
Deep into their known right hands. Dreaming of me,
They groan they wait they suffer
Themselves, they marry, they raise their kind.

(NOTE: Dickey's poem has some words tabbed over. Blogger doesn't allow me to insert tabs, nor does it allow me to use gallons and gobs of spaces. Bastard Hell! Just be aware that the poem is not reprinted it its original state. The same is true for my poem in the post below.)

Say, James Dickey, I Have a Poem For You

I hadn’t thought of the James Dickey poem “The Sheep Child” in years until The Curbstone Critic posted a humorous song that he allegedly wrote. Between the humor and the genetics and the familiar tune, “The Sheep Child” came screaming back in a fit of dreamy dew. Ah, to think of poetry again. I am delirious to be in school again, to think again, to live and breathe (which means to write) again. I am comfy and warm in my poetic uterus. Oh I know, I’m not really a poet. (Don’t take that as an apology, but merely a statement of fact.) I don’t really think of myself as a poet. Fiction is where I swim, but from time to time I stretch my poetic muscles.

In college I wrote a poem -- a retort -- to James Dickey. Like him, I too was told a story that was said to be true. My friend from Arkansas, Jibs, shed this story on me while drunk on scotch one boring fraternity night, and I have never forgotten it. Misplaced it maybe, but not forgotten. So Curbstone, this poem my friend is printed for you. Thanks for reminding of James Dickey.


So tell me James Dickey
of your
"Farm boys wild to couple
With mounds of earth mounds
Of pinestraw"
Mounds of dead flesh on the hood of
a ‘68 Ford.
Say, James Dickey I have heard tell

That in a small town in Stone County near the border of
Missouri and
The body of the mayor's daughter
recently deceased
was found missing from the morgue
the night of her death
not ten hours afterwards.

Her newly-pickled eyes were wide open
when her own cousin
on her daddy's side snatched
her up and took her for a ride
in his ‘68 Ford
right down Main Street
right past her daddy's house
right to the drive-in theatre.

He took her to see “E.T.”
He paid for them both and after
the movie had started
he took her out of the car and onto the hood
The whole time hearing the voices of the crowd
and the movie and the sirens
and the whole time hoping to finish before
they came
"Mommy, mommy, what is that man doing"
muffled by the sounds of the sirens and the screams.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Finals Finally Finished!

Yes indeedy, I have finally finished my finals. Actually my last final was yesterday, but I didn’t feel like writing another school-related post. Grades are in for two of my three classes. My education instructor doesn’t use the online computer system, Blackboard. So I have to wait until August 8 for those grades. Where is my instant gratification? Damn that virtue, patience. Damn it all.

Two little weeks and then it’s back to the hack-and-slash of college. I’m hoping to spend some of this time off riding my bicycle, burning some fat, working on my next Karate belt, and especially spending time with my Cubbie. I think she and I may make a trip to White Water so she can swim, and I can scare the old women and disgust the teenage girls. Besides, after writing that last post I desperately need to hang with my bear cub and make for damn sure she feels loved, respected, smart and pretty.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tree Trunks, Knot Holes, Dishrags and Poles

Would someone please Love me and call my Pretty?
You don’t have to mean it or tell your friends.
You can just whisper it in my ear.
Sweet nothings.
Sweet somethings.
Dirty, drunk promises from a pole with beer goggles.
It’s just that I’m desperate for someone to see me –
hooker, whore, back on the floor –
Call me what you will.
I don’t really care.
I just want someone to say I’m Pretty
and Skinny
And good.
And hopefully, someday,
I’ll catch me a man and he’ll call me

She sits in front of me in my Intro to Teaching class. Her shorts are too tight for her hips and too short for her thighs, but she wants to be pretty like the girls in the magazines. She wants the boys to notice her and they do. But they only see a dishrag, nothing more than a scrap of overweight and overeager terrycloth, a perfect piece of soft goods to masturbate on and throw away.

She doesn’t get it, but I do. I’ve lived in a fraternity house many years ago. I remember the required Sunday meetings: where we voted on the weekly SAWSUB Award (Sexual Activity with a Skanky Ugly Bitch) complete with detailed stories and lots of laughs.

I had a friend who came up to visit me at the fraternity house one weekend. During the party he nailed the Tree Trunk on the pool table in the community rec room. The brothers were delighted and disgusted to know that someone knocked the knot hole on our precious pool table. SAWSUB was generally reserved for brothers, but exigent circumstances took precedence.

The nickname was given to her because her thighs were as big as tree trunks. I may not remember her name, but I do remember that awful nickname, which was only used behind her back. I also remember her making the rounds one night, smoking pole after pole, praying each time that she would find someone to love her. It didn't work; it just got her another award.

I don’t know the girl’s name, the one who sits in front of me in my Intro To Teaching class. She comes in every day with low slung, tight shorts and a shirt that exposes her ample nipples and muffin-top midriff. I wonder whose tree trunk she is and if she knows, has any clue, as to what she is doing? What lessons will she teache her students? If only I could go back and hug Tree Trunk, call her by her given name and tell her that she is pretty and good and kind and sweet. But then she’d want to marry me and I wouldn’t want that. I have no use for dishrags. I prefer women strong of heart and mind.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mac Spoofing: Networking

Many of you have enjoyed Apple’s Mac-v-PC advertisements. Well here’s a dandy little spoof found at iFilm that should put a smile on anyone’s face -- Mac or Wintel. (Click here to see Mac Spoofing: Networking.)