Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Just a Minute Navel Gaze

Don't read this. It's just a recording of one day of my life. Pretty much a typical day for a school teacher.

*5:45-6:45 showered, dressed, fed cats, fed blue jays, made tea and bagel, put on a little bit of makeup, brushed teeth.
*6:45-6:55 drove to work
*6:55-7:04 signed in main office, signed in assistant principals' office, took home room folder to classroom, posted learning targets, went to cafeteria
*7:04-7:34 cafeteria duty, watching students, greeting students, monitoring behavior
*734-7:50 home room, pledged flag (partial), re-iterated directions for tomorrow's dress down day, took attendance, called library to see if it was open to students, filled out missing ID and lanyard forms, got students started reading, checked email and responded as needed
*7:50-8:30 while students read and/or finished up their memoirs, reviewed all finished memoirs in Google Classroom, made notes in margin, created general notes for the viewing screen, monitored student reading, sent students to library/guidance/nurse/bathroom
*8:30-8:40 reviewed guidelines for student memoir, reminded students to capitalize "I" and all proper names (these are 9th graders)
*8:40-9:00 answered questions, reviewed memoirs, exhorted students to finish, and when finished to submit their pieces
*9:00-9:15 student volunteers shared memoirs with the class. Every one had missed capitalizing at least two "I" pronouns
*9:15-9:45 parent conference in guidance office
*9:45-10:00 distributed union updates to my assigned wing of the building (15 teachers)
*10:00-10:30 got students started reading, checked emails, reviewed all memoirs and made notes as needed, encouraged students who weren't finished to catch up
*10:30-10:40 exhorted students to take one last long look at their peer-reviewed work and make sure all capitalization had been done correctly and the assignment covered all the requirements
*10:40-10:50 students did final proofread and submitted work
*10:50-11:10 volunteer students shared memoirs with class. Every one had missed capitalizing at least two "I" pronouns
*11:10-11:15 showed gratitude video.
*11:15-11:20 modeled gratitude chart and letter of thanks
*11:20-11:30 circulated the classroom to make sure all students were on task
*11:30-12:00 lunch
*12:00-1:00 read writer's notebooks (with 70 total, now had 20 left to read, finished 5)
*1:00-1:30 tried to get students to settle down and read, had to raise my voice, had to distribute multiple bathroom/nurse/library passes, one student continued working on his memoir
*1:30-1:45 thoroughly reviewed assignment parameters and reminded students they had all seen examples of "A" work ... students submitted their "D" work proudly, convinced they were geniuses
*1:45-2:10 volunteer students (lots of them) read their "D" work proudly ... strangely all "I" pronouns were capitalized, I suspect the inclusion teacher must have been on them about it
*2:10-2:15 tried fruitlessly to get everyone's attention
*2:15-2:20 showed gratitude video
*2:20-2:30 tried fruitlessly to get students to make gratitude chart, at bell students leaped from the room like racehorses
*2:30-4:35 packed up chrome books and read writers notebooks, commented on each, submitted marking period grades and progress notes, reviewed possible articles for use next week, searched online for related content
*4:35-4:40 talked to secretary who had also come in at 6:55 a.m. about the meaning of life
*4:45-5:00 drove home

It's now 5:45 and I have to make dinner. Then I will need to do further research for articles matching the content of the one I want to use on Monday.

The Gods are exhausted.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Damned Woman in the Grocery Store!

So there I was, at 5:00 on a Friday evening, standing in line at the Snobville grocery store. It's less than a week until Thanksgiving, and the strain of actually having to cook is already showing on the faces of the kept women of Snobville.

Did these females spend the week trying to keep fractious 14-year-olds from tripping, elbowing, smacking, or pushing each other? Do they have 50 writers' notebooks to read between now and next Wednesday? Are they dealing with angry parents who have stopped blaming themselves for their kids' behavior and are now blaming me? Are they sitting in conference rooms until 9:30 at night trying fruitlessly to negotiate a new contract for their co-workers? No, no, no, and no. You know how they spent their week? Looking for online coupons!

On my feet pretty continuously from 7:00 in the morning, I found myself in a checkout line behind a person who had a $1.50 pie crust that she felt she should get for free, since she had an online store coupon for $1.50 off a pie crust. The cashier was completely flummoxed by the transaction. Why, I don't know. The person had the wrong brand of pie crust, it was clear as the fading daylight. But she insisted that this was the one that was on sale with the coupon!

Feeling herself being stabbed by the white-hot daggers emanating from my bloodshot eyeballs, the disgruntled customer finally said, "Never mind. Just take it off my bill." But then she persisted when the store manager came to clear things up.

Ten minutes later, two store employees and a third checker sent in to mop up the drama determined that the patron had the wrong brand of pie crust, that's why her little phone coupon would not scan.

Did I tell you that my school administration imposed a dress code on teachers this fall? We are not allowed to wear sneakers or running shoes. In other words, my feet were going numb from painful footwear, and I had six items that I had unwisely stacked on the conveyor belt.

What is it with people and online coupons? God damn it! What is more precious than time, lady? Tell me, please! Will your family go without Thanksgiving dessert if you don't get that graham cracker crust for free? We are all mortal, and you just spent almost 15 minutes arguing about a $1.50 pie crust. You may remember this on your death bed and long to go back and snatch that 15 minutes from the bin of squandered time! The worst part is, you stole 15 minutes from me -- and not 15 minutes staring at phone coupons, but 15 minutes in my easy chair, with my cramped toes finally expanding in comfy slippers! That's 15 fewer minutes of being awake, petting my cats, bagging up this week's newspapers, oh! The list goes on and on! You owe me, pie crust lady!

People get on my last nerve. They really do. I'm sick and tired of dealing with anyone who wants to argue about anything. Especially about a pie crust. Pie crust. Not even something decent and wholesome like a bagel, or a bag of Peppermint Patties. No! One of those graham cracker pie crusts encased in foil and plastic, the kind really bad cooks use for slipshod cheesecakes! She just did some group of diners a huge favor by refusing to purchase the item. That's one corner-cutting dessert they won't have to choke down and pretend to like.

Tired of teaching, tired of Snobville, tired of being tired. Tired of the Keystone pipeline rupturing. Yeah. That too.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Interview with a Bored Goddess: Cloacina

All Hail, and welcome to The Gods Are Bored! We're now in our 12th year, and up to 202 followers! In a nation of 325 million people, we're standing tall at the rock bottom of the heap.

But la di dah, we believe in the Divine and all goodness! And just between us ... have you seen the headlines on the busy God's followers these days? How low can they go? Disgraceful. No better time than the present to bliss out with a loving Goddess who wants you to have a healthy lifestyle and plenty of clean, clear water! Please give a warm, wonderful, Gods Are Bored welcome to Cloacina, Goddess of Sanitation Management!


Anne: Look, Cloacina, I painted the powder room! I know it's your favorite room in the whole house. What do you think of it now?

Cloacina: It's beautiful! I do wish you would put a mosaic tile on the floor, though.

Anne: Can't live like a Caesar on the salary of a peasant, dear Goddess.

Cloacina: What was that object you pulled out of the water throne while the top was off?

Anne: (aside) Isn't it cute? She calls the toilet a "water throne!" (to Cloacina) Funny you should ask. It was a paperweight from the Ronald Reagan Library, sent to Mr. J more than a decade ago by a clueless friend in California. I put it in the water throne, feeling it deserved to be there.

Cloacina: Who was this "Ronald Reagan?"

Anne: A Caesar. I thought he was the worst. Little did I know.

Cloacina: If this was a bad Caesar, why take out the paperweight?

Anne: Well, it had gotten a bit calcified after all that time. Besides, I need to make room in the water throne for something that deserves to be in there even more.

Cloacina: What could that possibly be?

Anne:


I found it in a strip club parking lot last week!

Cloacina: Anne, you might want to think twice about this. An item like this might clog the water throne, and then the dear thing won't work.

Anne: No worries, Goddess. This hat is cheaply manufactured by over-extended, poverty-stricken workers. It will fade on the first flush and dissolve within a week. Which hopefully will become a metaphor for the Caesar who is selling it.

Cloacina: Oh well, you needn't worry! I have learned all about your water thrones and the piping in your house, and I will keep everything flowing brilliantly!

Anne: Thus saving me plumbing bills ... O Great and Mighty Goddess!!!

Cloacina: I hope you don't mind if I'm late for dinner. All that wind yesterday brought down a lot of leaves. There are storm drains to be seen to.

Anne: And you are just the Goddess for the task! Work Your magic, Cloacina! It is an honor beyond measure, having You in my household. Blessed be.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

My Awesome Adventure at the New Jersey Teachers' Convention

You know how it is. You have all the best intentions, and you even have made your plans, hour by hour, and you're itching to get under way. So it was with yours truly when she set out at 8:30 a.m. for the New Jersey Education Association's annual teacher-fest in Atlantic City.

It's a mere 60 minutes from my door to AC, if I take the expressway. Except I hate that damn expressway. It's always busy, and it's dead boring. I take the old Route 30, locally known as the White Horse Pike. It passes through a few ugly Jersey towns charming little hamlets and then goes straight into downtown Atlantic City.

On the way to AC, my best intentions were all buzzing on maximum impact. I was going to beach comb a little bit at my favorite spot, then drive up and fling the Subaru into a parking space, and then go to the windowless Convention Center, where I had mapped out several improving teacher workshops that would no doubt leave me brimming to the plimsol line with fabulous new skills.

I had no problem finding free parking where I beach comb: the extreme northern end of AC. I pretty much had my choice. So I parked, got out of the car ... and a fresh waft of sea breeze tickled my nostrils and ruffled my hair. The sun was shining in a deep blue sky, and the waves hissed and swished onto the sand.

I thought about spending the rest of the day in a windowless convention center. And in a rare moment of completely decisive behavior, I aborted the whole teacher-fest mission for a day on the beach and the boardwalk.


I mean to say, how much could I possibly have learned at the teacher convention that would make up for a day off in the autumn sunshine?

I took a long walk. A really, really long walk. I just looked it up: well over four miles. And that doesn't include the beach combing.


Pretty, huh?

They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Well, la di dah, it has to be paved with something!


I had lunch with this guy. Only he didn't get anything, because the sign said not to feed him.

This concludes my awesome adventure at the New Jersey Teachers' Convention, 2017. Maybe next year it will be raining.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

My (Not So) Helpless Scream at the Sky

Did you hear that we Resisters had a planned event tonight, on the anniversary of the election? We were supposed to go outside and scream helplessly at the sky.

I was all ready to do this. In fact, I had -- very reluctantly -- issued an invitation to the Bean Sidhe, so as to make a really impressive scream fest.

In the end, though, I canceled the howling, or rather I relegated it to this single miffed boat-tailed grackle:



Screaming all done now. There's too much to celebrate!

I don't care if our New Jersey governor-elect is some pond scum bloodsucker who slunk out of Goldman Sachs to plunder the Garden State. I don't care if the guy keeps three mistresses on his payroll (heck, that's a New Jersey staple!) I don't care if he has bad breath or foot odor. For all I care, he can fart with great regularity in closed elevators.

He is not Chris Christie. We are done with Chris Christie! We are bidding farewell to the Teacher-Hater!

EXHIBIT A: THE CURRENT GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY


EXHIBIT B: THE GOVERNOR-ELECT OF NEW JERSEY, A PROUD DEMOCRAT


New Jersey, the state I used to hate, is now firmly in Democratic hands. Oh sure, we have a fistful of Republicans -- and the gods know we have high taxes -- but we don't suffer fools. Or rather, after eight long years of suffering a fool, we're ready to TURN. THE. PAGE.

And so the anniversary of the presidential election finds me cautiously optimistic. I'm not giving up the Magical Battle for America, but let's say that we've won our first skirmish. In New Jersey. Heck, it sorta feels like Washington just crossed the Delaware!


Saturday, November 04, 2017

Fairy Kon Least

Every year during the first week of November, there is a convention regarding fairies in Baltimore. I have a limited budget, so this event generally gets the short shrift. This does not mean I don't regret staying home.

But la di dah! How hard is it to stage a convention? I took a very brief break from vigorous housework and errands and attended Fairy Kon Least! Here are some of the great photos I took so I wouldn't suffer from Fear of Missing Out.

EXHIBIT A: Anne rocks her tie-dye, wings, and witch balls.



EXHIBIT B: Can't afford the fairy convention because I bought this last spring. No regrets.


EXHIBIT C: What, me clean the kitchen? Let the elves do it!


EXHIBIT D: Everything is so chill at Fairy Kon Least.


EXHIBIT E: Here I am all geared up for the Bad Fairy Ball. I even have the ball!



EXHIBIT F: Friends and foils at Fairy Kon Least!



EXHIBIT G: Gamma looks so fly in his Reyen silk!




EXHIBIT H: Okay, I clearly need a fairy godmother. Maybe I should monetize this blog... nah, the bored gods advise me to keep it amateur.


Saturday night, laughs are good for the soul. Sending the bad faeries not to Baltimore, but to Washington, DC.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Samhain 2017

Just think. Last year this time we were in the final weeks of an election we all thought was a lock.

What a difference 51 weeks make.

But that's not why I'm writing today. I'm writing because it's Samhain, aka All Hallows Eve!


Agnostic though I am, I have had so many things happen in my life that just don't seem to be coincidental. They were more like messages from another dimension, like someone trying to reach out to me and using a code only that person and I share. Have you had that experience?

Case in point: Just before my family farm in Appalachia sold, Olivia and I were out for a walk on the property. We went down into the hollow where a farm house used to stand. It burned down in 1938, so there's nothing left of it now.

Just as I said to Olivia, "I wonder where the midden pile was for this house?" she stooped over and picked up a fully intact 8-sided jar with not a nick on it anywhere. It was just lying there, somewhat obscured by grass and weeds for 74 years.





Now I use it as a beloved vase.

Yes, yes, coincidence that this jar was just lying there on the ground, muddy and forgotten, until I just happened to think how nice it would be to find the trash heap that these old houses invariably had, so I might, oh, you know, find a pretty glass jar or two. And this jar wasn't on a heap. It was right directly where the house would have been.

If the Veil thins, if our ancestors peer through it to see us, then this practice of veil-hopping goes all the way back deep into the mists of time. What mother wouldn't want to peek through the Veil to see her daughter? Where would that circle be broken?

I never met my great-grandmother, but why wouldn't she come with my grandmother to see me? Why wouldn't she hand me a glass jar?

I don't have answers, but I do have suggestions for Samhain ancestral visitations.

1. Don't pretend like everything is going great if it's not. Be honest with the Kindred.

2. Be respectful, even if some of your ancestors (like mine) were hounds from Hell.

3. Be the kind of person you are. Don't put on affectations, because they will see right through it. They were you before you came along -- so whoever you are, that's who you bring to the fire.

4. If you ask them for a sign that they care, tie a natural object to it, or a song, or some mundane but not terribly common thing (a monarch butterfly, a white feather, a tune or fictitious character they liked). This is where the coincidences start to arise. Like, who expects to see a monarch butterfly flying through the stadium in downtown Baltimore during an Orioles game? It happened to my husband in September.

5. Remember that you are part of an unbroken line. Your ancestors were alive the last time the Yellowstone Caldera erupted. They walked across continents that had no names. They survived to bear children, and their children survived as well. Your ancestors were sturdy.

They are coming to call. Build them a fire, because some day hopefully someone will build one for you.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Interview with a Bored God: Anansi

Well, look who it is, back again and dapper as ever! It's my good friend the bored god Anansi!


If I didn't know better, I would think it's a piece of my sea glass he has there on his head.

Anne: Great God Anansi, welcome to my home and hearth, again! I'll prop the door open so some flies come in.

Anansi: Thanks, Anne. It's what I love about you.

Anne: While we're waiting for a fat one, do you have any new stories?

Anansi: I always have stories! But you must remember the important lessons you learned in your fiction-writing classes back at ol' Johns Hopkins: There are no new stories. Only old ones told over and over again in slightly different ways.

Anne: Old ones are fine with me. I've read Pride and Prejudice five times!

JACKAL HEARS THE NEWS
by Anansi

Jackal was firmly in charge on the savanna, but he was still vain and arrogant. He had a burning need to be the center of attention, so he convinced African Grey the Parrot to follow him around and tell all the animals what he was doing.



African Grey was a terrific observer and quite articulate. It didn't matter what Jackal happened to be doing, African Grey saw it and reported it faithfully to the other animals.

"SQUAWK! Jackal just stepped on an anteater's snout and didn't say he was sorry!"

"SQUAWK! Jackal took a whole haunch of wildebeest and gave it to his daughter. That much meat would feed ten jackals to where they couldn't walk!

"SQUAWK! There's Jackal, sleeping in again when there's work to be done!"

"SQUAWK! When the meerkats asked him for food, Jackal pelted them with cotton balls and said such silly-looking animals didn't deserve to eat!"

All the animals on the savanna listened to African Grey every day. They grew disgruntled with all they heard about Jackal's behavior.

Jackal went to Anansi to ask for advice. (Never a good idea, and further proof that Jackal isn't too bright.) Anansi told Jackal that most of the animals didn't know African Grey very well, so it would be easy to convince them that she was a liar. At the time, Anansi was living in a plush corner of Jackal's luxurious den, but after giving the advice, the spider packed his bag and went for a long stroll.

"SQUAWK! Jackal's fleas say eating his blood is making them stupid!"

"That's not true!" barked Jackal. "This is fake! My fleas love me, and so do my ear mites! My ear mites tell me I have the best ears ever!"

The animals didn't know who to believe. The parrot seemed reliable, but can you really trust a parrot?

"SQUAWK! The watering hole is closed so Jackal can admire his reflection in the pool!"

"That's not true!" Jackal cried, leaping away from the watering hole so that some thirsty elephants could get a drink. "See? Anyone can have a drink at this watering hole! Don't believe that petty, silly, ugly grey bird!"

After weeks and weeks of this, the animals began to mistrust African Grey. Even the smartest ones, like the vultures, noted that African Grey never said anything positive about Jackal. Surely something must be good about Jackal, right? Otherwise, how did he get to be ruler of the savanna?  And squarely in Jackal's corner were the other jackals, who, although they never particularly contradicted African Grey, never backed up her stories, either.

Over time the animals stopped believing African Grey or even listening to her. Only the meerkats continued to heed her broadcasts, because they were pissed off at Jackal and were willing to believe anything about him. Unperturbed, African Grey continued to shadow Jackal and squawk his every move out into the savanna sunshine.

"SQUAWK! Jackal left candles burning in his den, and now it's on fire!"

"WHAT?" Jackal exclaimed.

"SQUAWK! Jackal left candles burning in his den, and now it's on fire!"

Jackal ran to his den and saw billows of smoke rolling out of it.

"Help! Help!" he cried. "African Grey, tell all the animals that my house is burning down!"

Well, African Grey did as she was told, but none of the animals -- even the stately and intellectual vultures -- believed her. They just went about their business, ignoring both African Grey and Jackal.

In desperation, Jackal ran to the only animals that he knew still believed the parrot -- the meerkats.

"Hey, guys, you've gotta help me!" he said. "My den is on fire!"

"Oh yes, we'll help you!" the meerkats exclaimed. Then they pelted him with cotton balls and blew him some Bronx cheers and patted their furry little tooshies while his opulent den went up in flames.

Jackal went to look for Anansi in order to get more advice, but Anansi, having noted Jackal's complete recklessness with candles, had set up shop along the watering hole. It was a lot of fun watching the elephants frolicking in the water, squirting each other with their trunks, since they had nothing else to do.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Gray and Gritty Navel Gaze

It happens to everyone. You look at the weather forecast, you look at a weekend from the perspective of a balmy Friday evening, and you plan a project.

You know the kind of project I'm talking about. I'm talking about one of those simple and easy projects that will take a mere four hours and have lasting benefits to the old domicile. In this case, I thought the weather was perfect to spread a little waterproof deck paint on the front porch floor. Our handyman recommended a brand of porch paint that would help to preserve those pesky floorboards that always have to be replaced because the weather falls on them.

So, after a late breakfast on Saturday morning, Mr. J and I headed to Home Depot to purchase said paint and some rollers.

Don't know about you, but I hate Home Depot. I hate all stores that have more than six aisles. I hate all stores that you wish you had a bicycle to navigate. In a smaller subset, I hate stores with bright colors everywhere. Target? Oh my bored gods. All that red! Home Depot is the same way. Who woke up one morning and said, "Let's make a hardware store and swathe it in ORANGE?"

Next time I'll stick to Sherwin Williams.

So we went to the Orange Hellhouse and found the kind of paint that was recommended. We had it mixed to a nice charcoal gray and chose medium gritty for better traction. We figured one gallon would certainly cover a front porch. Little did we know.

Have you ever used deck paint? I opened the can, and I couldn't decide whether I was looking at paint or a charcoal-colored chocolate mousse. The stuff wasn't just thick. It was mud pie thick. It was marsh muck thick. It was so thick that my trusty edging brush (with which I have painted three large interior areas) said, "This is where I go to die." And die it did. Alas, poor brush! How well I knew you!

The way to use deck paint is:

1. Dip the brush in.
2. Move it two inches across the wood surface.
3. Repeat.

The stuff didn't want to spread itself around. It didn't behave like paint. It behaved like cold butter on a slice of bread.

I sucked it up and kept trying. After about three hours I had the whole porch edged, including under the railings. The steps were edged. The problem areas were daubed. And I was almost out of a gallon of paint.

Mr. J, who had very helpfully told me what to do before going off to nap, had to go back to the Hellhouse to get more paint. Then I tried to roll the deck. Each trip to the rolling pan yielded a whopping two square feet of rolled paint. No one told this paint it was paint. I still think it was a stinky gray cake batter pretending to be paint.

Four hours into this four-hour project, I was halfway finished. I had one-coated the porch ... and the directions on the paint can explicitly said two coats.

Guess how I was planning to spend my Sunday? I'll tell you: reading the New York Times and puttering in the garden. Instead, Sunday became a repeat of Saturday, including another trip to the Orange Hellhouse for a third gallon of paint.

I ruined two rollers and my edging brush that, as I have already pointed out, was in my trembling hand the night Donald Trump won the presidential election, being at that time put to use on a hall closet door. Oh, I didn't mention that?  This brush and I had a relationship. I believe in nurturing paint brushes. If you looked at my paint brushes at the end of a long and grueling interior job, you wouldn't know that they weren't brand new.

Two hours in the gray gritty mousse, and it was adios, edging brush. Another hour of spreading cold butter on bread, and the porch floor looked streaky but protected. The paint dried like concrete. Two rollers bit the dust. (This was equally painful to me. It is possible to have a long term love affair with a paint roller if it is treated with tender loving care.)

By this time, it was 3:30 on Sunday afternoon. Instead of puttering in the garden, I raked and clipped at an aerobic pace. Then there was the laundry that had been sitting in the dryer since Friday evening. Mr. J was sent off to another massive Rhode Island-size store, this one being Wegmans in all its mustard-painted splendor. He brought home some ready-made food ... and that was my weekend.

Back to work Monday morning, with a manicure of gray grit as a memorial to a totally lost weekend. Five more days until I get to try again.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Do You Know These Gods?

Out here in the Great Blue Northeast, an online resume company named ZipRecruiter.com is very popular. Job seekers can give your email to ZipRecuiter, and if you give a fuck really care about the seeker, you can leave a nice reference. Just this week I warmly endorsed a longtime colleague who is transitioning her career.

This can have its downside, though.

The first ZipRecruiter.com request I got yesterday was from EndodaWorld (see below). Apparently he saw an opportunity, pegged me as a sap, and put his bona fides online in search of praise and worship (and a hot shower).

Then this ashen deity must have recommended me as a hopeless sentimentalist to all his forgotten buddies. Today I was deluged with requests from ZipRecuiter. And the whole thing made me question the wisdom of my forebears regarding religious matters, let me tell you.

Do you know any of the following deities, and, if so, can you give me some deep background before I serve as a reference?

1. BigDiq

2. Shoutnstomp

3. Death Dodger

4. Tardigrade

5. Beelzebabble

6. Mister Softee

(Okay, just kidding about the last one. That's the ice cream truck.)

But for all I know, none of these deities is worthy even of driving an ice cream truck. Never heard of any of them! Why are they cheeky enough to reach out to me for a reference?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Interview with a Bored God: EndodaWorld

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Oh by all the fruit flies on the watermelon, there's a wild bored god here tonight! He's dressed in animal skins, and he looks pretty dusty. Thank goodness he's content to sit on the floor! I showed him how to use my can opener (I'm old school, I've got a hand-held), and he's opening all the cans in my pantry. Which is, yes, annoying, but he looks kind of hungry.

This deity doesn't speak anything like any language living or dead. Luckily I have Dr. Google. Dr. Google knows everything. It appears that this god is EndodaWorld, sacred to the extremely, extremely, extremely, extremely ancient peoples of the Fertile Crescent. Hard as it is to believe, Dr. Google can actually translate this diced-tomato-fixated deity for us.

Anne: Please, EndodaWorld, have another can of tomatoes! (aside) Glad he likes 'em, I'm too tired to bake a pie.

EndodaWorld: What are these delicious things?

Anne: Tomatoes.

EndodaWorld: Why didn't my people have these?

Anne: Hmmmm. Oh, I know the answer to that! Your people lived in the Old World. Tomatoes are a New World plant. Europeans didn't have them until Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

EndodaWorld: Who is Columbus?

Anne: Some dude. Oh! Ummm, Campbell's soup is better if you warm it up.

EndodaWorld: I don't see a fire.

Anne: I'll get right on that. So, EndodaWorld, tell me about yourself. What's that powder you're wearing? Looks like you fell into a vat of talc.

EndodaWorld: This? It's the stuff that fell out of the sky. For ten years.

[Anne takes a gentle dab with a Q-tip, gives the dust to Dr. Google.]

Dr. Google: Volcanic ash.

Anne: Wow! This fell from the sky for ten years?

EndodaWorld: Sometimes it came down dry, sometimes it came down wet. Either way, it killed a lot of people and a lot of gods.

Anne: How did you survive?

EndodaWorld: I didn't have to survive. I got hired after two years of famine by priests who blamed all the old deities and promised I would get this whole ash thing under control.

Anne: So that was after two years. What happened by Year Eight?

EndodaWorld: I got fired. It was a short tour.  My praise and worship team mostly died.

Anne: Guess you could say they bit the dust.

EndodaWorld: I beg your pardon?

Anne: Never mind. Totally tasteless joke. So let me understand. Some volcano erupted and spewed ash into the air for a decade, and it wasted a lot of people all over the place. I guess animals too.

EndodaWorld: Animals, plants, insects. It got very, very quiet. The people who wanted to survive had to migrate and fight for a spot in the areas that didn't get the dust.

Anne: Was your praise and worship team living in the shadow of this volcano?

EndodaWorld: What's a volcano?

Anne: Whoa! Ash falling from the sky for a decade, and you didn't even live near the volcano? Dr. Google, can you shed some light on this?

Dr. Google: This deity was briefly worshiped during the catastrophic eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera super volcano 645,000 years ago.

Anne: EndodaWorld, you are officially the oldest deity I've ever had the pleasure of meeting! Probably by a factor of ten.

EndodaWorld: Let's not talk about ten.

Anne: I read just the other day that the Yellowstone Caldera could fire up and erupt with just a few decades notice. It could happen any time. And you're here with an evocative name, warning me that such an eruption would be the end of the world.

EndodaWorld: Exactly.

Anne: Except it wasn't.

EndodaWorld: Who are you to argue? I was there!!!

Anne: But if it was the end of the world, there wouldn't be any people anywhere. Or animals, or plants, or insects. But we've got plenty of all of those things.

EndodaWorld: Well, Miss Priss, let me tell you: If you had been there in my time, you would have felt like it was the end of the world!

Anne: I daresay. And if that scary super volcano erupts in thirty years, it will certainly be the end of the world for me. But not for everyone. So long Anne, Mr. J, cats Beta and Gamma, beloved daughters, entire population of Philadelphia ... but not the human race. EndodaWorld, you've got to admit that some tribes of humankind survived the decade of ash rain.

EndodaWorld: Didn't do me any good. I've never gotten even a nibble on my resume, from then until now.

Anne: Speaking of nibble, could you please forego that last can of black beans? I need those for my soup.

EndodaWorld: But .....

Anne: Oh, never mind! Munch away!


I'm going to take a lesson from this hungry bored god. Apparently the shit hit the fan, and people stuck in the catastrophe blamed all of their gods and dumped them. The people drafted a new god, but that god couldn't fix the problem. In fact, it must have gotten a lot worse. Now, what does that remind me of?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thalia Paints Goddesses

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," still and always dedicated to deities who have too much time on Their hands! What happens to a Goddess when Her praise and worship team falls apart? Can you imagine the stress? Eternal life is so unfair!

There's always an upside, though. A Goddess who has plenty of time on Her hands can sit for an awesome portrait. That's where Thalia Took comes in.

Thalia has been painting portraits of Goddesses since before I started blogging. Her work is phenomenal.

Where do I start? I think my personal favorite Thalia Took portrait is Sedna.


But look at this one of Artemis!


Stirring, no? Let's jump pantheons again!

and again!


Freyja is here for you, Yellowdog Granny!

Thalia has an absolutely amazing web site, where you can see all the bored Goddesses you ever heard of, and many more that get absolutely no press at all anymore. In these particularly trying times for American women, it's nice to be reminded that there are Goddesses just lining up to help us all out of this mess.

Thalia has a patronage link called Patreon. I had never heard of it, but you can basically pledge her a little sum of money that helps her buy nectar and henna and incense and other things that Goddesses crave. If you sign on to Thalia's Patreon account, you can pretty much pat yourself on the back that you're championing the cause of bored deities. (She does male deities too, at least some of the decent ones.)



So, in honor of getting 202 followers myself, I'm asking you to biff on over to see Thalia and all the fabulous work she's doing! Let me know what you think.

Monday, October 09, 2017

The Bully Forgets. The Victim Doesn't.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. I believe it. How else can I explain the fact that I have attended quite a few high school reunions?

A few weeks ago I went to yet another class reunion for my old alma mater, The South Will Rise Again High School. You know the one. Our mascot was a Rebel soldier, and the school song was Dixie. I do not even exaggerate. (I heard that just recently the school changed its mascot and song. High time.)

Anyway, I've gone to my share of these reunion things, and they are always the same. Most of the people even look the same, which is pretty amazing given the number attached to the reunion.

When I was in middle school, I was bullied quite a bit. In those days, boys taunted smart girls for being too smart, and girls taunted girls over perceived flirtations with boys. I got tons of the former and a little bit of the latter.

In 1970, I had one conversation with a kid in my sixth grade class, and his girlfriend did not stand for it. She organized her posse, and they knocked the crap out of me when no one was looking. It would have happened again, except that the next time they got me in their sights, my dog was with me. He put an end to that bullshit just by suggesting he was going to bite them.

Free advice: You never go wrong adopting a mid-sized mutt.

Whenever I go to my high school reunions, the girl who bullied me is always there. She dropped out of high school, but using a marriage to one of our grads and a lot of revisionist history, she now presents herself as a bona fide diploma-holder from SWRAHS.

And she always comes running up to me and wraps me in a bear hug and asks me how I'm doing.

This baffled me in 1997 and again in 2007. Now it is 2017, and I have learned a lot about bullying from being a high school teacher.

Turns out bullies often forget all about their behavior, if they even perceive it as bullying at all. Did you know that? It surprised me to learn that.

One other thing I learned as a high school teacher that I already knew: Victims do not forget being bullied. They remember names, places, and events in stark detail.

And so, every time this former bully female comes running up and bear-hugs me, I stiffen and exchange the minimum pleasantries, while coyly suggesting that I don't recall her graduating with us. She always says she didn't have the money for senior pictures, so she isn't in the yearbook.

This conversation has been repeated three times: 1997, 2007, and 2017.

Will I be insane enough in 2027 to go back to another of these ridiculous beer-fests in an obscure Moose Lodge on the edge of the Potomac River? Gods! Make me sane! I'm never going to forget that bully, and she will never remember why.

Monday, October 02, 2017

People Are Dying: Trump Is To Blame

Today one of my students told me that her grandfather is in harm's way in Puerto Rico. With no lights and nay to contact authorities, citizens are facing crime along with a scarcity of every basic necessity. "Three people were killed right near his house," she told me. I have no doubt. This would happen anywhere if people couldn't get clean water and food.

According to the man in the White House (he calls it a "dump"), Puerto Rico should just suck it up. According to him, they're just waiting around for someone else to do the dirty work.

Like this.

And now we have a mass shooting that dwarfs the casualties in most Vietnam War battles. It's beginning to look like Americans are safer in Afghanistan than they are in Las Vegas.

But of course, we have every right to our precious guns. Our festering sore of a president ran on a promise of assuring everyone their Second Amendment rights.

As I've said before, this used to be a humor blog. Oh sure, I've always had my say politically on this page ... but betwixt and between, I interviewed bored deities, wrote about my daughters' antics, and pined for my Appalachian homeland.

Seems like another world, that.

Not my president.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Modest Proposal for Puerto Rico

Have you ever been to Puerto Rico? I have, and it is beautiful! I've seen the rain forest, and old San Juan, and some of those beaches that look like a commercial for a tropical vacation. I saw pineapples growing in the fields!

Add to this nostalgia the fact that about 15 percent of my students are of Puerto Rican origin, and you'll understand that I truly care about that island.

So, here's a modest proposal for Puerto Rico. Gods know our horrible leader won't heed it -- he's too busy blaming the citizens for not being plucky enough to fix their own power grids.

It's this very power grid that I want to talk about.

From what I hear, Puerto Rico is pretty much a blank slate at this moment when it comes to electrical power. And the power infrastructure was already really poor.

What if we used this tragic opportunity as a way to transform Puerto Rico's messed-up grid with solar and wind? What if we put solar cells on the roofs of houses and set up wind and solar farms instead of the other power plants? Nothing is going to save PR from bad storms (especially moving forward), but perhaps a more localized source of power generation could be repaired and brought back to work more quickly.

I don't know the first thing about power grids. But I do know that when something breaks so catastrophically, it offers an opportunity to try implementing the most cutting-edge technology, just to see how well it works.

My modest proposal won't matter. Poor islanders! When what they should be getting is a star on our flag, they will be getting cheap and shoddy workmanship, third in line behind Florida and Texas, and the dregs that FEMA and the military have left over from other disasters.

Might be different if presidential elections were decided by majority vote.

Readers, if you feel moved to help the citizens of Puerto Rico and you want to donate at the source, send me an email and I'll give you my address. I have a mentee at my school whose mom is going to PR next week. Her family there has asked for Home Depot gift cards. If you send me one, I'll give it to her.

My email is   annejohnson17211 at gmail dot com.

If you don't want to go through me, I beg you to help the island. If you've ever been without electricity for a day or water for a hot afternoon, you can maybe begin to imagine what those people are going through. Then again, none of us has ever had cholera.

Monday, September 25, 2017

My Admiration for Kneeling Athletes is Boundless

On Sunday, Mr. J and I went to see the Baltimore Orioles. We are both huge Orioles fans.

EXHIBIT A: TWO WHITE PEOPLE AT THE BASEBALL PARK


I did something at that game that I have never done before, ever.

I refused to stand for the national anthem.

I've been working with minority teenagers since 2005. I've been teaching them full time since 2009. Let me tell you this, right up front: I cannot stand in their shoes. The gods know I wouldn't want to.

This country is a land mine for people of color, for young Hispanic kids and Dreamers. They're very observant, and smart, and they can see the truth -- how everything is arrayed against them from the day they're born. Don't tell me about affirmative action. It's more mythical than Zeus. Even when minority kids work twice as hard as their Caucasian peers, they are starting out (many of them) with all kinds of subtle and not-so-subtle strikes against them. The strikes follow them right into adulthood. If they live to be adults.

This is where our nation's athletes step in.

EXHIBIT B: THE GREATEST

You want to see courage? Check this out. It's a wonder he lived to pulverize people in the ring.

I'll bet you already knew that Muhammad Ali was stripped not only of his boxing title, but was barred from the ring for three years at the very prime of his career. It's not like he had a trust fund or anything, either. He lived off the kindness of friends, even his opponents for three damn years.

When other people have to worry about their families and their paycheck-to-paycheck salaries, professional athletes can make strong statements about what the world is really like for people like them.

EXHIBIT C: NO FLAGS BURNT, NO PUPPIES HARMED


This is, to me, one of the most compelling photographs of the 20th century. These are American athletes who won running medals in the 1968 Olympics, and they are listening to the national anthem. Is this the frivolous gesture of someone trying to be glib or cute? BAMP! No. Is this a despicable desecration of the greatness of America? BAMP! No. This is a dignified protest of racism. May all the deities of all the pantheons salute these brave men. Because they needed to be brave. They got savage treatment after this incident.

EXHIBIT C: NO SWASTIKA, NO FLAG BURNING, NO FOUL LANGUAGE


So they played the national anthem, and these guys knelt. They were making a statement about police brutality. They are visible members of a minority population in this country.

To me, there is nothing disrespectful to our soldiers, living or dead, in this gesture. (Has anyone asked African American veterans how they feel about this? BAMP! No.) There is no desecration of the flag. There is -- mark my words -- no foul language and no violence urged upon anyone.

I didn't hear these athletes call any policemen sons-of-bitches and demand that they be fired. Did you?

EXHIBIT D: THE REAL UNPATRIOTIC DISGRACE, AND A STAIN ON THE HUMAN RACE TO BOOT


So this guy goes to Atlanta, gathers together some 10,000 of his fellow racists, and dares to call these gracious and principled athletes sons of bitches. How dare he? A man who wouldn't even rent apartments to minorities! Now he is manufacturing prejudice and hate. Whoa, finally successful at manufacturing something.

Everywhere I look on the Internet, I see white people in outrage at the disrespect inherent in kneeling for the national anthem. Readers, I don't know about you, but swearing from a podium and calling for honest, hard-working minority men to be fired is far more disrespectful than kneeling during a song.

One last piece to this rant. We at "The Gods Are Bored" are all about bad form. If our NFL players flipped the bird at the flag, or mooned it, or trampled it or burnt it during the course of a game, I would call that disrespect. But since when is kneeling so damn disrespectful?

EXHIBIT E: SUCH DISRESPECT!


I guess it's a-okay when they do it like this.

The moral of this sermon is simple: Far from being disrespectful, athletes who kneel during the national anthem are exercising their constitutional rights to free expression. They feel keenly the plight of their less fortunate brothers and sisters and want to make a statement about it. Gods bless America that they can't be locked up, tortured, and killed for this behavior! (Even if the Ghoul in Chief wants it done.)

Until the menace Donald Trump leaves office, I will not stand for the national anthem. Nor will I say the pledge of allegiance beyond the first sentence. This is not one nation. Liberty and justice? Ask Colin Kaepernick about justice. It's too late to ask Muhammad Ali.

If I hear the "Star Spangled Banner," I'm going to take a knee and pray to the bored gods to save our land, now, before it's too late.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Free Advice on Getting Your Letter to the Editor Published in the (Not Fake) New York Times

Did you know that the New York Times was in publication during the Civil War? I did some research on the Battle of Antietam, and by golly, the good ol' New York Times had several correspondents right there in the thick of things.

It wasn't fake then, and it's not fake now.

That sound you hear is the buttons popping on my vest. Ten days ago I wrote my first-ever "Letter to the Editor" to the New York Times, and against all odds, they published it -- and first in line!

I'm an old-timer who likes to get her news in paper format. Imagine my conceit humble pride when I opened Monday's newspaper and saw my letter there, at the very top of the column!

(I had advance notice. The editors contacted me about word choice and length, of course. It's the New York Times, they don't mess.)

The letter is about the villainous Betsy Devo$ and her assault on sexual assault victims. It's in response to an editorial the so-called "fake" New York Times published that actually praised the menace Devo$ for her actions.

And here it is!

So, now you are asking ... Anne, what's your secret? Lots of people write to the New York Times every day!

Ahem ... well ... (twirls the casual coat button) ... my first guess is that, in these days of instant commenting, most people don't bother to write a formal letter to the editor, which first you have to look up the email address (kind of hard to find) and then you have to submit it.

Then, well, I sorta figured the best way to proceed was to lard the thing with every big word I ever knew from my days of bi-monthly vocabulary tests in Mr. Hershey's English class.

Finally, there was the passion. A good Letter to the Editor needs passion. Having had numerous friends, colleagues, and family members who have experienced simple and/or sexual assault, especially in college settings, I felt a pressing need to weigh in.

It's that pressing need that gets 'em every time.

If you ever feel a pressing need to write a letter to the editor of the New York Times, keep it short and fill it with big words. You know you can do it. Only smart people read this blog ... so you know you can. You know you can.

Friday, September 15, 2017

An Extra Fairie Festival!

In just a few short weeks, the Spoutwood Fairie Festival will be having its first ever Fall Fairie Fest. In honors of this milestone, I publish below a relic of Fairie Festivals past ... some fun that Olivia and I had when she was still The Spare.

Jabberwocky for the Spoutwood Fairie Festival

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How Do I Stop a God Fight?

Help! Help! It's a deity smack-down in my living room! And one of them is a true expert at ruining furniture!



The bored God Huracan arrived here in New Jersey today, and Cloacina, my dear Goddess, greeted him with the cold fury of a Roman statue!



There's a lot to be said for resting bitch face.

Cloacina was recently charged with keeping our nation's waterways clean, having been given my spare bedroom as Her personal sanctum. She taught herself how to turn on the t.v. with the remote (something I have never been capable of doing). Cloacina, therefore, has watched both Harvey and Irma, nonstop, clicking from Fox News to MSNBC, to CNN and the nightly networks. OMBG, is she pissed!

And here comes Huracan, winded and worn out after a double booking.

Hey, you two, can you take it outside? Cloacina, remember that you shouldn't shoot a gun at a hurricane!

For the love of fruit flies. How can I mediate this thing?

Okay. Okay. Both of you. Take a deep breath and handle this like deities, not roller derby contestants. Thank you.

Huracan, you really outdid yourself. I mean, really really outdid yourself. However (please listen, Goddess Cloacina), You are not responsible for Your ascendant power. Yes, You've gotten larger, and greedier, and more destructive -- which is Your duty and prerogative as a hurricane God. But that level of destruction You're so proud of? How much of it is the product of humankind? Look: they built on barrier islands, low-lying keys, floodplains and in swamps. Places Your original praise and worship team never populated in numbers, out of respect for You. You can't take credit for all this devastation. It's hubris.

Cloacina, I'll bet you know enough Greek to recognize the word hubris.

Now, Cloacina, I know Huracan doesn't want to hear this (especially in His severely weakened state ... just a little mist over Jersey). But those same humans who had their shoreline properties, their boats and their businesses reduced to splinters, will go right back and fix everything up again! Yes, no matter how foolish it is to live in a part of the world that can be leveled by a bored god, people are going to do it. Which means that yes, they will have to boil their water for awhile. (I know, I know how angry that makes you, Goddess!) But they'll fix it. Until the next time. They will. And it won't take long, either. Our government will pay for everything, even though the people asking for the money generally don't want to pay taxes or regulate polluters.

What we have here is a failure to communicate between two fundamentally opposed deities. Huracan was once worshiped as a destroyer, His praise-and-worship team truly fearful of Him, and justifiably so. Cloacina, at the other end of the spectrum, drew all of Her respect from Her willingness to help clean up the human world. Add to that the fact that these two deities are from completely different pantheons from different continents, and you've got a whole lot of area for dissent.

Huracan, you cannot take complete credit for this. Humans are stupid.

Cloacina, calm down. Humans will fix this so they can go on being stupid.

Which means, Huracan, that You'll get many more shots at the same target.

But Cloacina, let Huracan do the shooting! Don't You shoot Him.

Can we just settle down and get along? Tell You what: I'll go get some Chinese carryout and confuse both of You utterly. While I'm gone, don't You dare stain my upholstery!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

A Poem (Not by Me)


Problems with Hurricanes
by Victor Hernandez Cruz

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it’s not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I’ll tell you he said:
it’s the mangoes, avocados
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying
Banana.

Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
But
to suffer a mango smashing
Your skull
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.

The campesino takes off his hat—
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
And says:
Don’t worry about the noise
Don’t worry about the water
Don’t worry about the wind—
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Do the Gods Hate Donald Trump?

For at least 20 years, climate scientists have been predicting that, with a warming planet, hurricanes would become larger and more frequent. This is not information that was passed to them via a burning bush that didn't get consumed. These are predictions based upon the behavior of wind and water, air currents and storm surges.

Please don't tell the bored deities who visit me for tea and Tastykakes, but I've always been quietly skeptical about Higher Powers. There has never seemed to me to be anything predictable about the behavior of Gods and Goddesses, including the busy God.

Still, you have to wonder.

Never, in my impressive lifetime, has there been two massive hurricanes in a space of two weeks. If you count Jose, that's three, and if you count Katia, that's four. In two weeks.

Keep in mind, this is September. Hurricane season lasts until November.

EXHIBIT A: DO THE GODS HATE DONALD TRUMP?


Is there possibly some agency in this? Chills me to the bone to think so, because a deity who would want to make a point about climate change at this particular juncture would be putting a lot of innocent plant life, creatures, and people in danger. And I'm not just talking about the USA. I'm talking about all over the world. South Asia is being inundated as well. Let's not even address the wildfires out West, or the uninhabitable Caribbean islands.

But if you want to make a point ... if you want to make a point to leadership that denies climate change science and is actively seeking to squelch it ... what could you do that would attract more attention than to fling hurricanes and monsoons around with reckless abandon?

It has been a mere three months and a week since Donald Trump announced that he was pulling America out of the Paris Climate Accord. Is it possible, possible, that a bored deity or two (or 200,000) could be so infuriated as to visit the good ol' Wrath of God(s) on this nation?

Okay, it's most likely a coincidence. A predicted eventuality that just happened to follow close in the wake of a boneheaded and despicable pro-polluter decision.

What a coincidence, huh? Wow.


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Witches to Evangelists: Not Now, Not Ever!

Philadelphia's Pagan Pride Day is always held on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. This year was the first in about five that I haven't attended. The last two years I did a drum circle there. This year it was rainy, but mostly I was just tuckered out from paint crew and teacher meetings. I stayed home.

Occasionally the event draws the ire of Christian evangelicals who, in small numbers, come to protest. Since they don't have a permit to use the park, they are always quickly escorted to the perimeter.

This year was no different, except that the protesters were louder (they had a bullhorn) -- and they videotaped the fracas and loaded it up on YouTube, after carefully disabling commentary.

If you want to watch the blighted thing, here it is. It's about 10 minutes long, and it's sad.

I started to watch it and stopped about two-thirds of the way through. What struck me about it was what the pastor said through his bullhorn; namely, "You witches haven't taken over America yet!"

Yet. Yet?

I'll be the first to tell you that I am participating in a Magical Battle for America, which is, yes, a concentrated astral Work. But the aim is not to "take over America." The aim is to protect and defend the America we hold dear:

*freedom of or from religion
*equality of gender, race, sexual orientation, region, and age
*a fair and balanced judicial system
*equitable tax rates based on income
and last, but not least, for me
*the right to organize peacefully and bargain collectively.

I'm not crusading for one nation under Anansi. I want Anansi to be welcome in the mix!

It's a tired old trope to suggest that your religion is the only true religion, and that anyone who doesn't practice it is worshiping a demon and going to Hell. Truth is, the demons belong to the Christians. Satan is not part of my practice!

So, open letter to you poor, scared Christians out there who fear the nation is about to be taken over by witches, who will quickly and thoroughly re-write the Constitution, institute rituals in the schools, and issue every kid a wand:

Nope. Not interested. Not on the agenda. The Philadelphia metropolitan area has more than six million people living in it. We're lucky if we get 300 folks out to Pagan Pride. Does this sound like a vast stampede for social upheaval?

It especially saddens me to see little kids get dragged along to these protests. What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon! They should be picking apples or riding ponies or watching Dora the Explorer! Teaching children to fear and hate is not productive. It's not Christian, either.

So, yeah, the "prayer warriors" are on their knees for Donald Trump, and some (by no means all) Pagans are in their circles to block him. That's just democracy at work! I don't look at it as a war, I see it as a battle. A battle for what is, not what hasn't happened yet.

Get a grip on something besides a bullhorn, y'all. We just want to drum and hold raffles.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day 2017

I blame myself.

In 1987, I left a full-time, full-benefits job because I moved out of the state where I was employed. Once the company ascertained that I could legally work for them as an independent contractor (some states did not allow this), I kept right on working for them. Without the benefits and on a per-piece basis.

I bought a computer and set aside part of my home for an office. For the next 20 years, I was self-employed. The company that got my work made a better profit on me than on its full-time workers ... so the company moved more and more work onto more and more independent contractors.

This was a bonanza for me for awhile. I had my husband's health insurance. I could make good money. I got to be home with my kids while they were growing up. I loved the work. I wrote four books plus chapters and sections of many others -- all fascinating stuff. The 1990s were prosperous for me.

Then the whole thing slid to Hell.

Competition ramped up for the contracts. The company forced me to incorporate as my own small business. Then I had to start coding my work (another pioneering effort -- I was coding before coding was cool). The fee structure plummeted.  Then another small corporation undercut my small corporation, and I lost all my contracts. That was 2005.

I had helped open the door to the idea that people will work without benefits. That companies could give work to "independent contractors" rather than hire a staff.

I was essentially an invisible scab.

The company that employed me in 1987 should have had a bargaining unit that would have insisted on rules against outside contractors. It didn't. And who was I? A new homeowner and mother-to-be who needed a part-time job. The macroeconomic implications of the work situation never occurred to me.


The cat is out of the bag. Why hire full time and get stuck with all that pesky paperwork and those expensive benefits, when you can get a few part-timers, work them just as hard, and expect them to care for their own health and retirement? Only some bleeding heart would want to see his profits gobbled by insurance payments and paid vacation days!

This scenario? It's coming soon to every line of work there is. Including public school teaching.

I know you won't believe me, but this used to be a humor blog.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

International Vulture Awareness Day

Drop everything! Today, Saturday, September 2 is International Vulture Awareness Day!


Without vultures, the world would be awash in putrefaction. If only they could clean up politics the way they do festering carcasses!


There are vultures in the Old World and vultures in the New World. They are not closely related genetically. They evolved in parallel manner because there's always a nice supply of rotting meat out there, no matter what (temperate) continent you fly across.


Here's Floppy, one of my favorite vultures! See the bald head? It's a cleanliness thing. No feathers to get all matted up with gore as the bird feeds. Ah, evolution! Magnificent.


So, why do we need to be aware of vultures? Well, in both Africa and India, massive vulture populations have been killed off catastrophically. What kills something that eats festering carcasses? The medicines or poisons those carcasses ingested while they were alive. In the wake of plummeting vulture populations, some countries (especially India) have seen a rise in rabies, wild dogs, and other diseases that vultures shrug off like a walk in the park.


Fortunately, there are vulture rehab programs out there. The San Diego Zoo has spearheaded a modest but significant return of the California condor to the wild, wild West. In Africa, Vulpro is working with several species of African vulture. Due to their reproductive behavior, vulture populations are hard to restore. Here's hoping for success, though. Who wants to slog to work through dead skunks and fly-covered garbage?


So, happy International Vulture Awareness Day! Salute the next buzzard you see! I'm talking about a bald bird, not a political boss.

The word of Vulture for the people of Vulture. Thanks be to Vulture.

Friday, September 01, 2017

My School's New Dress Code: A Haiku

Hillary Clinton
Wears pant suits effectively.
It's just not my style.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Things That Go Boom

I am a high school teacher.

My students know that they are in school to learn and that they must finish their assignments well in order to be successful in my class and in the world.

While I'm in the classroom with them, walking around and checking to see if they're working, they buckle down. They pay attention (mostly). They try.

Intrinsically they know they're working for their own good, but the motivation comes mostly from my oversight and encouragement.

Let's suppose I told my students what to do and just left the classroom, fully expecting them to do what I told them to do. How do you think that would go? Twenty-five kids between the ages 14 and 15, all on their own, with some assignment to do. Would they do it?

Ha ha! That's a rhetorical question. Of course they wouldn't do it! Oh, of course one or two super studious kids would work, but the rest would goof off.

Oversight is important.

Another word for oversight? Regulation. As the teacher, I'm the regulator in the classroom. I'm the person with standards and expectations. These standards and expectations are often followed grudgingly by my pupils ... but they are followed, so long as I oversee.

The federal government is kind of like a teacher. Regulations are like oversight. All these businesses calling for less regulation? They're the kids who want to goof off because the teacher is gone. Except they don't really want to goof off, they want to make more money. Rules get in their way.

Maybe you heard that there was a big explosion in a chemical factory in Texas due to flooding. More explosions can be expected. Buried deep in the story is the fact that this company had ten violations recorded last February. This company should have had a fail-safe plan for a hurricane, but hey. This is Texas, land of conservative Republicans.

Now, even the safest and best company will run risks in catastrophic flooding. But companies who have been like kids in an unattended classroom will be more likely to threaten human health with their products and processes ... if there are no rules.

Don't tell me there are too many regulations! If you let the fox mind the hen house, someone is going to get hurt. Maybe a lot of people. Things will go boom.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Postcard from a Bored God: Huracan

Living in New Jersey, I've had plenty of visits from the bored god Huracan, sacred to the ancient Maya peoples. Once, in a fit of pique known as Hurricane Irene, Huracan knocked down three gigantic trees up the street from my house and snarled traffic for days. And then there was Sandy, which He technically didn't do, but still it bore all His earmarks. That was one terrible storm. Did you know it was five years ago, and there are still folks living in FEMA trailers?

The Maya had enormous respect for Huracan. They sacrificed and danced to keep Him away, which meant that He was always on their minds, so he wasn't bored. Now, He's not only not worshiped, He's downright forgotten. Add to this the climate change that everyone except our dictator has noticed, and you've got yourself a hot and bothered bored god.

He is wreaking savage havoc down in Texas, but somehow He took time to send me a postcard. Thanks but no thanks, o mighty Huracan!


Here's the text of His missive:

Well, Anne, that's a fine new president you've got there! He reminds me of Hernando Cortes in every detail. I'm down here in Texas, stirring things up because I'm BURNING HOT, I'm OVERHEATED, and damn if I don't want to pelt things extra hard! PS - I haven't ruled out New Jersey -- the season is still young.
See you soon,
Huracan

I admit I haven't mounted a praise and worship of Huracan for a very long time. I have thought about Him, though. In my mind I have kind of predicted His swelling power, based on the ocean temperatures and extra water and such.

Some of these bored gods aren't nice. They get angry when no one pacifies them. Natural phenomena like climate change can rile them up. If you combine a neglected deity with a rise in global temperatures, you're bound to start getting worse storms than you've ever seen in ten lifetimes.

What's to be done? I can't fix this with a scone and a cup of tea.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Frank Talk about Nude Sunbathing

If I don't write something funny I am going to crawl right out of my skin.  So it's time for some frank talk. For those of you just joining us, frank talk may contain content unsuitable for the teenage set. But maybe not. Poor teenagers! Staring at computer screens all day, when they could be nude sunbathing!

Right up front I'll admit I've done a fair share of nude sunbathing, skinny dipping, and otherwise lolling by a waterside in a state of extreme undress.


The state of New Jersey, population 9 million, has one sanctioned nude beach. It has limited parking, and -- just look at the photo -- you have to trek about a half mile across blazing sands for the opportunity to stare lustfully at gorgeous studly bodies swim without a bathing suit.

I visit this beach two or three times a year, and it's so refreshing! For one thing, what's wrong with the human body? It's nice. Mostly symmetrical, and nature loves symmetry. For another thing, what's wrong with enjoying looking at naked people? Of course you need to be polite and not get into someone else's personal space, but really.

The thing you learn from nude sunbathing is that everyone is beautiful. When you go to a nude beach, you're surrounded by a nice cross section of American humanity. It's refreshing. Since there aren't any other nude beaches, everyone who likes their clothing to be optional must gather in this one space. You get a real multicultural, multi-generational mix. And very few kids. Don't get me wrong, I love to watch kids have fun at the beach. But in these dark times, a nude beach isn't a very good hangout for the tots.

Here's where the frank talk comes in. Our society is so hung up on nudity that, when you get to go naked in public, you kind of want to act out. It's like having the keys to the ice cream truck. Now add the fact that the beach where I go does not prohibit alcohol. ZzzzzZZZZZttt! Sizzling stuff!

And then the iron fist falls.

It's legal to cavort nude on this beach with your strawberry daiquiri clutched in your palm, but it's against the law (with really ugly penalties) to have sex on the beach. I just don't get it. Anyone can stare at a computer screen and see people having sex, but ... wow ... actually see someone doing it for fun and not for profit? God (intentionally used as singular) forbid!

Don't tell anyone, but last summer when I was at the beach, I saw a couple breaking the law. I did not report the transgression, because honestly it looked like genuine fun to me. And it was realistic too! No exaggerations! That's how I like my salacious sex viewing ... three-dimensional, well-intended, and not performed with a viewer in mind.

There is one downside to nude sunbathing. It comes down to how thorough you are and how much attention you pay to detail. When you sunbathe nude, you've got a lot of skin exposed. (Duh.) If you lather on the sunscreen, and you miss a spot, you're going to get bad sunburn. Please don't ask me to provide chapter and verse on how I know this. Suffice it to say that I'm still wondering what I'll say to the dermatologist when I report my summer sunburn history.

So, on a night when a Category 4 hurricane is slamming into Texas, and our president continues his lunatic ways, I can only anticipate sticking my head in the sand while my glorious bare toosh goes on display for the world to see. Off to do some nude sunbathing! It does a body good.