Archive | November, 2012
11 Nov

Good news for teachers, teaching, parents and students.

Diane Ravitch's blog

This is a very good analysis of the election results that should gladden the hearts of teachers.

John Wilson points out that in one state after another, those who disparaged and demeaned teachers lost.

They blame their loss on the unions, but the unions have limited numbers.

And most of the rightwing candidates (maybe all) had far greater resources from Wall Street than the teacher-back candidates.

Typically the pro-teacher candidates were outspent 10-1, even 20-1.

The public is getting tired of self-seekers who claim to put “kids first,” “children first,” “students first,” while simultaneously attacking the dedicated teachers who take care of them every day in school.

Wise parents know that good education is a collaboration among students, teachers, parents, administrators and the larger community.

Those who talk about “first” and about a “race” are promoting division, not collaboration.

No one comes “first.” All work together. Teamwork wins, not a…

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Circuit du Soleil?

11 Nov

Usually on the day after every great storm there follows sunshine…bright beautiful sunshine! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use that sunshine to power our homes? I recently read a book about how much energy the world’s population is consuming on a daily basis and about how our energy consumption is growing exponentially in an effort to power all of the new electrical gadgets that we have all come to know, purchase and love. And our need for energy is growing so rapidly and so voraciously that it is even silly for us to think that we are ever going to reduce our energy needs or replace them with alternate energies.

In fact the reality of our greedy consumption is that in the future we are going to need not just all of the fossil fuels that we have left on the planet but new alternate energies like wind and solar and water and even nuclear, in addition to those fossil fuels, just to keep up…if we can keep up. It’s a moot point! We are going to be drilling and digging and fracking and mining and ripping this world apart until there is nothing left. that’s what we do. Humans never, in the history of humans on the planet, downsize. Let’s face it. Humans never go without, unless it’s gone.

A few months ago my son and I were walking down an old railroad right of way in Edison, NJ when we happened upon a PSE&G power plant that was surrounded by large solar panels for as far as the eye could see (maybe I exaggerate but it was a pretty big solar field. We even have names for them now) and I thought, Hmmmmmmm what does the power company know that we don’t?

What I think it is, is that solar panels work pretty darn well these days… but unfortunately I think the trick will be in how we can charge people for using the sun and make it into a big business? After all up until now (hopefully into the future also) sunshine has been free and available to all on a simply, just go outside, basis! It is truly the one and only completely democratic energy source in the world! Sunshine knows no greed.

Maybe we could privatize living! Free the people of Earth by giving them dominion over their own homes allowing them to hoist solar panels onto every inch of their roofs until each home is it’s own energy powering station wired into their own power grid and free from the tyranny of power companies. We the people could lay off the power companies! Wouldn’t that be cool? People laying off companies because it would make business sense?! And we’d have 8 billion more years of fuel (Until the sun burns out…sorry, apparently nothing lasts for ever) to waste!

I know, I’m crazy. Too expensive! Never happen! Can’t be done! It’s Beyond the limits of human imagination and ingenuity… like harnessing the power of the atom in a nuclear reactor, or creating remote control flying killer robot drones, or communicating with people on the other side of the world from a small devise held in your palm, or sending people in a tiny vehicle to the moon… and back.

Oh well, what was I thinking? No sense in dreaming such dreams. Maybe someday we’ll be able to smog over the entire world (See China)  so that the sun can only be seen in space. Then we can hoist giant solar panels into space, collect the energy, send it back to Earth and then charge people money for it! Problem solved! I think smogging up the world with good old gas powered generators and coal fired mega-plants is definitely the way to go…only until of course we finally blot out the sun (See China) and can then build sunshine factories in space and sell sunshine by the gallon, or whatever, to whoever has the time to stand on line and the money to pay for it.

“I’ll take a halliburton of sunshine please! And fill up this can while you’re at it too.”

But sunshine knows no greed. It’s a pity that people do. Will we ever learn otherwise? Perhaps if we just put good old human ingenuity and our tenacious spirit into figuring out how to provide solar power cheaply and benevolently to the world we could use the next 8 billion years to work on the greed thing.

Sweet Home Alabama!

10 Nov

     Another 44 hours without power and this time because of snow…and only a few inches…but they say the snow was heavy… as in heavy snow. So that makes 122 hours without power in the last 12 days. I have never experienced anything like this in New Jersey in the US of A in all of my 57 years. Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe we’re all, country included, getting a little too old. And we sure picked a fine time to show our age: Now in the 21st century when we need power and electricity more than ever! One minute I’m on the computer, accessing the internet, charging my cell phone, watching television, recording another show on the DVR, texting a friend, tweeting on my iPhone while blow drying my hair. The fridge, washing machine, dryer and dishwasher are all happily doing their thing. The yard and driveway are lit up like a CIA compound in a third world country…and then poof! It’s suddenly the 18th century…for 6 days!!!

     Thankfully electricians from Alabama showed up and fixed our wires and got our neighborhood back up and running. Alabama?! I never, in a million years, thought I’d ever be thanking Alabamans for bringing me back into the 21st century!

     And Speaking of the 21st century…under New Jersey’s energy deregulation law, the supply portion of our electric bill is now separated from the delivery portion. However, it appears that thanks to deregulation we now have more energy suppliers in New Jersey than we have energy road crews! I can hear Glen Campbell now, “I am a lineman for the county and… I’m the only lineman left!”

     I googled energy companies in New Jersey and got tired after counting over 60 different suppliers from all over the country. How do they do that you ask? “Oh we just supply your energy but the same company you’ve always had delivers it through the same wires and from the same place!”

“Really?…but who fixes the electricity when the power goes out?”

“Oh it’s the same company that you’ve always had with the same great service!”

So nothing changes and I just have a new supplier and it costs less? That sounds great…and magical too! Everything I’ve always wanted in a power company! Until the power does go off and then we all sit around in the dark waiting for help from Tinkerbell because our “real” power company has been downsizing and laying off workers so that my old reliable lineman is now really in Wichita looking for a job because Kansas hasn’t deregulated yet.

I know it sounds like I’m just bitching and moaning because I lost my electricity in a freakish storm that will probably never happen again (fingers crossed) BUT, I live in a brave, new world where electricity is now more important than ever and we all use more of it than ever and we all need more of it than ever before.

So you’d think that in an advanced civilization and country such as ours that would translate into having more educated electricians and more skilled linemen and more expert and well trained power crews than ever before but sadly when I walk outside my home during a power blackout these days I am more likely to be stopped and accosted by someone who wants to sell me electricity than someone who knows how or wants to fix it!

We 21st century Americans know that the money is in the selling of things not in the fixing of things. Just ask Wall Street and Enron who came up with the idea of energy deregulation in the first place. You remember Enron don’t you?

On power deregulated Long Island they do. They haven’t had electricity for almost 2 weeks.

Yet on that wonderful truck that pulled into my neighborhood one cold clear November day it simply said “Alabama Power”. Sweet home Alabama, lord please don’t let them deregulate heaven!

 

Step Into the Light!

7 Nov

Here is another thought that I have had since the hurricane hit us here in New Jersey and over the following days of recovery.

Where are the kids?

All of the schools have been closed for days now and I live in a neighborhood that is only 2 blocks from the local grammar school and…no kids?

No school…all the children are home…during the regular school day hundreds of the little urchins can be seen walking to school or being dropped off from mini vans by their parents…There’s daylight now…and no school…but no kids!

Where do they go? what do they do? Why won’t they come out into the light of day?

In the aftermath of one of Mother Nature’s more frightening creations I think it’s time for parents to see to it that America’s children make friends with one of her more inspiring phenomenon…SUNSHINE!

In A New York Minute

6 Nov

                                                 

     For the last few days in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy I have been hearing constant police sirens and fire engine horns throughout the days and evenings. These are sounds that in my neighborhood are usually reserved for when the local HS football team wins a big game and certainly not something that we hear on a regular basis.

     Whenever I hear them now I am reminded of the Don Henley song and the refrain, “I hear the sirens wail. Somebody’s going to emergency. Somebody’s going to jail…” and I wonder what it is that is happening out there just blocks from where I live.

     It has been a time for emergencies and sadly also a time for those who find opportunity in the misfortunes of others. I’m not sure how many of those sirens are for one or the other but I am pretty certain, judging by what I have seen and heard that most are of the help and rescue variety. And although it is unfortunate that so much grief and mayhem is taking place out there it is a comfort to see that man’s humanity towards mankind is winning the day.
     People have been pulling together and working hard to help and sacrifice for others even though the stories of opportunistic thieves and looting scoundrels on boats and afoot seem to persist and haunt those good efforts.

     It’s hard to know or understand why one person chooses one path or another, but we do make those choices. I think sometimes that no matter what we profess to be under the normal circumstances of every day life, it is in that unsuspecting moment of distress and despair, when we have our world threatened and our lives shattered or turned upside down, in that “New York minute” if you will, when we discover where are true selves reside.

     When the waves of distress come crashing down, do what damage they may, then roll back out to sea, will they reveal within our hearts and minds a sense of empathy or of opportunity? Are these the times that try our souls…or not?

      Why we choose to step to one side of morality or the other is both personal and perplexing. And is a question whose answer has eluded mankind for quite sometime… but I like to think that the angels of our better nature are ahead in the game and hopefully will someday move so far ahead that we will no longer need to wonder where it is we each stand when it comes to helping others who are less fortunate than ourselves nor will we need sirens or disasters to motivate us to show it.

 

Swan Song

3 Nov

Not all of the victims of Hurricane Sandy were men and women that’s for sure. My daughter and I helped rescue a wayward swan today (At least we like to think we did!) He appeared in our yard today from out of nowhere and looked as though he’d been on a journey of some length and duration. We knew that we had a pair of swans who lived in our neighborhood lake but that was a few blocks and one main road away so we figured that was where he came from but how long he’d been trying to find his way back or whether he even knew the way we had no idea.

So we Hansel and Gretel-ed him onto the right path with some breadcrumbs and did some traffic directing along the way and on wobbly knees and webbed feet and looking a bit disoriented and dehydrated he made his way back to the lake where the water seemed to instantly rejuvenate him…and sure enough there was his mate swimming around at the other end.

I’m going to assume that she missed him because as soon as they spied one another they paddled towards each other as though they were in a scene from a romance novel. All that was missing was the swelling of the stringed instruments in the background.

So what were once two ugly ducklings are now swimmingly reunited and happily enjoying their own swan song that I suppose only two swans could enjoy.

 

 

What’s In a Name?

3 Nov

My house was destroyed by a hurricane named Sandy! Sandy is a dog that says woof…not a Frankenstorm!  If we are going to watch our houses destroyed and our property blown away and our livelihoods threatened and our families scared witless on a yearly basis, now that global warming is upon us like it’s The Day After! (Did you happen to see the satellite picture of this last storm?) then we are going to have to give them better names!

They need to be names like Dr. Doom! Or Mr. Destructo! Or Megatron! Or Holy Crap! So then at least we can say things to each other like “I remember back in 2K12 when Dr. Doom wrecked my house.” Or, “It was way back in 38 when Megatron came up from the south and ate New York!” Or “Remember when Holy Crap left us with a shitstorm of trouble back in Ought6?”

Now those are names to be afraid of and to get people’s attention.

“Look out! It’s The World Eater! And it’s headed our way! Evacuate!”

Now that just might get folks to pack up and cross the bridges and seek safe haven someplace else.

I know this was a terrible tragedy and I’m really not trying to make light of a horrible disaster. I’m just trying to relieve some anxiety after 4 days of worry and fright in the face of Mother Nature. She really does deserve more respect than to be called Sandy or Irene or Andrew or Ivan.

We need to start giving nature her or his due and name these storms for exactly what they are and then get the hell out of the way!

3 Nov
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