Monthly Archives: July 2014

One Crazy Weekend On My Couch

It was right after Real Time with Bill Maher had aired on HBO. As usual, Mediaite had the clips up almost immediately, as they do every Friday. Here’s the link.
The first people I encountered were two French-Canadian separatist. They were determined to educate me on Zionism. We went back and forth for 3 hours. Names were called, they even spoke in French (which I understood, which seemed to surprise them). Emotions subsided, and the exchanges became more logical and rational. The next morning, after the Canucks and I had parted ways, an academic Aussie hopped on the same thread, using big words and asking me hypotheticals and being very polite. All in all, the thread ended on a peaceful, respectful note. One of the Canadians even sent me a friend request.

All, while preparing for our daughters birthday party on Saturday afternoon, so I was juggling the debate and 6 other things.

Saturday and early Sunday it changed. The discussions were nothing but graphic pictures from Gaza, which some were later traced back to Syria. It was a pattern: show horrific photos, call people child killers, and then post random pictures of “glorious” protest. Like protest in Paris, which ended with cars being set on fire. I’m no expert, but it seemed coordinated. All except, privileged American progressives, they wished Hitler was alive to exterminate all the “child killers” who supported Israel’s right to defend itself. Seen below. And then bragged about the attention their stupidity garnered them, like in this tweet.

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(h/t Chris Loesch for the photo.)

It all was pretty bearable, almost expected. Certainly not accepted, but it seemed logical that a digital protest, what I learned is dubbed the Digital Intifada, would occur.

What really got me was when I posed a simple question to a local St. Louis LBGT group protesting Gaza. They had this sign, seen below, at a protest, also available to be seen on STLPSC’s twitter account.

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When I pointed out that most Muslim countries and communities wouldn’t support their life style choice, I was immediately labeled as “peddling islamiphobia”. When I asked if they could hold up that sign in other Muslim countries, and I named several, all I got was silence.

No apology was offered, no exchange to understand our mutual perspectives–just a definite label of me and silence. My descent was not welcomed or even acknowledged. In retrospect, I don’t know what else I expected from “academic elites”. I guess what’s really bothersome is, that these folks at STLPSC are supposedly the open minded part of our states academic power structure.

All in all, my experience with the Digital Intifada was memorable, but failed to change my views on Hamas, in any way what so ever. The only thing they accomplished was to seem bigoted and hateful themselves.

I’d say, it was a wasted weekend…

Optics

Today a plane was shot down over a hot zone on the border of Russia and Ukraine. Both sides are known to be firing at aircraft. It’s unclear what happened. That analysis will take days to work through. What some find shocking, besides the 298 people killed, is how our POTUS chose to respond. Updated: The initial reports had 23 Americans on board, but that was contradicted by records held by the Malaysian Airline. At this time, the number could be 4, or none at all. It still doesn’t make the flaccid response from the POTUS any less unsettling. Here’s a thorough timeline via The Sydney Morning Herald, including a list of the nationalities of the casualties.

One would think, our POTUS would address the incident the first moment he found himself in front of a microphone, but he didn’t. He talked about developing infrastructure, which is what was scripted. That is to say it’s what was on his daily agenda. He mentioned the tragedy briefly afterwards to reporters. Like journalist Jason Howerton says here, this is about optics. The optics are not good. They also aren’t clear, as pointed out to me by Mohamed Elibiary, a former counter intelligence official.

One might suppose that this is what the president meant by “more flexibility” after his election. Which is something he was caught saying to Vladimir Putin. We don’t yet know who shot down the plane, but we do know that it was the current administrations foreign policy approach that set the table, that allowed the plane to be shot down, in the first place. His “flexibility” allowed Putin to start the regional posturing that has caused both sides to start firing at aircraft.

It was a Malaysian commercial airline, shot down by either Ukraine forces, or Russian backed separatist forces, or maybe Russia herself. It’s still unclear. No one in their right mind would try to pin that on the POTUS, but his business-as-usual-follow-the-script approach in the hours after the story has broken, is unsettling.
It feels like unsettling times. The headlines from Gaza, Turkey and, Tripoli, later in the day, only reinforced my unsettled feeling.

Update

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(Photo via Ambassador Powers)

One notable effort in this whole thing has been Ambassador to the UN Sammantha Powers. She seemed to be the only person in the current administration who understood the optics of this incident. It appears she was aware that things could keep spiraling even more out of control in the region. Which, unfortunately–they have.

Indy

I’m in Indy. All the kids. It’s not a romantic getaway. Not that one really thinks of Indianapolis as a romantic place to getaway, but I digress. It’s sucking it up and making my wife happy. She loves having the girls with her, she says she does a better job, not having that guilt of missing out on our girls development on her shoulders. So, I oblige her, happily take on some of her load.
I recently read, as one does in transit, The Glowing Light, via HowToBeADad. It hit me like a ton of bricks as I was stressed about the confined space, my 20 month-old’s reaction to her routine being interrupted, and boredom of a 3 and 5 year-old. When I read, “My sons keep the hearth fires burning inside me. My wife cleans the lenses on my eyes. And we burn the shit out of marshmallows over the flame.” I was ashamed. I hadn’t appreciated the day I had just had with my girls. We went to the children’s museum. The light, amazing…

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At first, Ruby wasn’t having it. She was 3 days out of her routine and cranky as hell. No naps to speak of.

She was clingy, luckily I found a art activity and I was able to hold her for a bit. I even managed to snap off this shot.

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This lady above was so animated and enthusiastic.

Then.. We found Ruby’s area.

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She found this area that had air blowing through tubes moving cloth leaves. It freaked her trip. She spent a good while doing what you see in the photo.

But we went to see Mulan the Musical. It was our first one and the girls loved it. I was able to hold Ruby and she slept through most of the show. That good comforted sleep, no routine, but she knew who held her.

Ella and Tessa knew the words to the songs. They were laughing at the same parts, then laughing because they laughed at the same time, in a way only sisters can do. It was a twilight moment of it’s own.

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Above we’re Waiting to watch Mulan. Such a tender moment.

It is hard to stay in the moment. To capture it and always appreciate it. I’d like to think Ruby experienced a few moments described by Charlie, “There is a wakefulness between the purity of the aware and the somnolence of sleep that feels like anything is possible. It’s better than a dream.” Laying there on me in the theater, hearing the music, her sisters laughter, and comforted by the rise and fall of my chest, as she slept.

This was spot on “I am living in a future without a fully sorted out present.” I’m right there with you Charlie. Hopefully, we all get there. Hopefully, I manage to steal a few more good days before my chance is gone.

Library Enthusiast

I consider myself a library enthusiast. I happily pay my fines and fees, knowing it will help keep the lights on. It’s the least I can do, literally. I’m also a parent. My oldest daughter will be entering the first grade. I have 3 girls total and they are all being taught to be “library enthusiasts”. I feel it’s my job. One no one else is going to do. To instill in them faith in a system that allows for a person to see for themselves.

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Photo via St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Nine months ago, I started to look into the education system in our state. I started where most parents start: in kindergarten. We were lucky. Our oldest got an amazing teacher, who saw the upsides to the new controversial standardized testing in our state-Common Core, as it’s known. At first, I read Heart Of The Matter. I first heard of it on The Colbert Report, seen here, one night before my daughter was to start kindergarten. I read it because it was on that particular show. After which, I asked questions of every person who I came across, that worked in education. I wanted know about their opinions and experiences. For the most part, teachers were excepting, if not content, with the standards. All the while trying to block out the negative perception projected by those who are typically opposed to “progressivism”. Those who were saying “common core is evil!” (They were, which is precisely why I ignored them).

My personal experiences this past school year forced me to try and understand the institute as a whole, from top to bottom. It seems daunting, even impossible at times. I’m forced to use as many resources as I can find. I’ll be honest and vulnerable. The truth is I need all the help I can get understanding how our education system works.

I don’t know a teacher’s perspective. I don’t know what it’s like to finish school and want to make a difference. I don’t know the disenfranchisement teachers face. I don’t know what a dedicated individual working with underprivileged kids goes through to acquire funding for kids, that some people see as a bother. I don’t know what it’s like for the Washington University educated folks to work in very impoverished areas, for meager pay.

I need perspectives from other parents. I need insight and knowledge on how the power players operate, by people working along side policy makers and lobbyists.

This is me being honest and knowing my limitations. I hope it’s read and understood. A confrontational tone from teachers, parents, or administrators is the last thing we need.

Like we saw from Mike Jones, Vice-President of the Missouri Board of Education recently, when he confronted Steve Stenger at a County commission meeting. You can hear thorough coverage of the event via NPR. The tone was hostile. It actually shifted the focus to Mr. Jones’ actions and his relationship with County Executive Dooley and away from the kids for a moment . It’s understandable, an election is coming up, but this is education. It shouldn’t be subject to the counterproductive squabbles of local politics.

At the same time, those administrators who are appointed, not elected, shouldn’t be showing contempt or making light of the elected process. Like , Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro did in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Comparing our elected process to a “homecoming queen” election.

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I’m told to organize and network with other parents, but quite frankly, the parents who are interested in organizing are homeschooling or paying for private school tuition. So, I feel very much alone and outside looking in to a very complicated institute.

I do have faith, that good people will rise to the occasion and this problem will be fixed. Hopefully, my enthusiasm for libraries can help the process along, it’s a great place to start, but so much more is needed.

I will keep digging and striving to understand the system I’ve placed my daughters in at the tender age of five. I’ll always enthusiastically begin any dig at the St. Charles County Library…enthusiastically.

A Social Media Study?

Facebook is studying people I hear. Well, here’s my review of their product.
You can read about the study here.

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photo via Andrew Kirrell

It’s a good product for what I want it for, which is to communicate with a very specific audience. So specific, it can’t be explained, even if it could be, most people have no desire to explain how their Facebook page became their Facebook page. It’s people being social. You should always, wether you’re a person or a corporation, explain why you are studying/observing/documenting–especially if you’re calling it “hard data”.

Twitter is a more effective teaching tool than Facebook, especially if it’s an open account.

Spreading “misinformation” is harder. Anyone can see it and confront an assertion. Two kinds of people do that: 1) people who don’t want misinformation spread, and sometimes don’t want someone to look foolish. They correct out of kindness and integrity. 2) spiteful people who have a cause and are opportunistic. They pounce on mistakes or misinformation. Thats why it’s called “bait”. Because they pounce on it, without thought.

The latter group operates on emotion, the emotions manipulated by a “cause”. We label it passion, sometimes. Which makes them more susceptible to “taking the bait”. Sometimes we label it extreme, and the people “extremist”. Those people are very susceptible to bait.

I personally compartmentalize all my social media, so, the reasoning really cannot be explained. It all happened along side my life. It’s only recently, that I realize what I’ve been using all these years, and how it’s been using me.

I give Facebook 3 stars. Which is what I give most products, when I take the time to review their company’s efforts.