Monday, February 21, 2005


"Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too
zealously, to make it easy for them."

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet,
dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832)

Friday, February 11, 2005

Entitlement Rant

What are we entitled to in this world? Well, if American, our constitution entitles us to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and a few additional things added over the years, such as a fair trial (ostensibly), the right to vote (again, suspect after this past election), but I digress...

A recent event, broadcast in the local news has been eating at me for weeks. Here is a brief summary: A bus driver taking a busload of kids home from school, finds that he has a pair of exceptionally rowdy students on board. (Habitual offenders, as it turns out.) When he attempts to stop their fistfight, they turn on him, cursing and hitting, and creating extreme havoc. In response, the harried bus driver kicks them off the bus, leaving them to walk home through the snow, roughly half a mile. The children are aged 11 and 12.

As you may have guessed, the parents of the two children were incensed. They called the school. The principal then officially reprimanded the bus driver. (So far, so good.) The parents then called the television news. After the story aired, the bus driver was fired. Within a week, the firing was not enough, and the parents brought criminal charges of child endangerment against the bus driver. He now faces time in court and up to a year in jail if convicted.

Have you guessed where my loyalties lie by now? Bear in mind, I'm no card-carrying member of the Elmer Fudd Party--no Wight Wing Wadical tendencies here--I'm about as bleeding-heart as they come. And I have children of my own. But child endangerment?? Come on. Yes, he should have been reprimanded, but he didn't strip them naked and make them walk home through a blizzard. They had coats. Plenty of kids in my neighborhood walk a mile to school and back every day. And these kids were being wretched little shits--fighting, using extremely foul language, and threatening the bus driver. Where is their accountability?

Oh, right. I forgot. "Children are our future, Mary."

Well, duh! My point exactly! Who do you want taking care of your country's affairs in your old age? Foul-mouthed kids that think they rule the world and can do no wrong? Kids whose parents overreact and rise to their defense, bailing them out of trouble and crying "unfair!" even when the kids are clearly in the wrong? Have you ever driven a bus full of kids? Been in charge of all those kids, of getting them home safely every single day, being hyper alert at all times? Have you even ridden on such a bus? Well, I can tell you that children turn into wild little beasties on the bus, far away from teachers, restless after a long day of sitting and learning, all-too-aware of the one, lone adult (otherwise occupied) who is in charge of keeping control of 50+ kids--kids who often spit and curse and fight, yell at the top of their lungs and write grafitti on the seats, rip holes in them, press their used gum into them. (Bear in mind that if you are the driver, you are solely responsible for the condition of both the kids and the bus.)

What do you think these children learned from this experience? I think they've learned that they can fight and swear and be disrespectful, and if anyone tries to rein them in or make them accountable, they will get their story put on the television, they will get excessive sympathy that negates the issue of their own bad behavior, they will get a grown man fired (such power!), possibly even put in jail, and their parents will defend them and pick up the pieces, no matter what they do. What will these kids be doing with this knowledge five years from now? I wonder.

I have an ongoing struggle with our current society's attempts to foster a feel-good attitude among our nation's children. Posters throughout the schools promise: "YOU'RE SPECIAL! JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE YOU!" Well, I hate to break it to you, but you aren't. You may be special to your mom just because you're you, but you ain't special to the world just because you're you. You can become special, by leaving the world a better place than you found it, you can bring enlightenment, or peace, or understanding to people around you or the world, and thereby become special, but I'm sorry, you ain't special without at least a little effort on your part.

And all of us, every one of us, should think about that bus driver's side of the story. We should remind our children how to behave on a bus and how to be respectful to those in charge of their safety and security, and we should hold them to it when they fail. We should put ourselves in that bus driver's shoes, and we should walk a mile.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Nature can provide for the needs of people; she can't provide for the greed of people.

-Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

Monday, February 07, 2005


The closing years of life are like the end of a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped.

-Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher (1788-1860)

Sunday, February 06, 2005

More snow?

No, it isn't predicted. And today it was in the 50's--nice, but a little weird for Western New York in February. Nonetheless, I took a chair outside and sat in the sun to get my Vitamin D. I crave the sun, get SAD without it, have a light above my computer with a full-spectrum bulb in it. I also took out two pots of spring bulbs that I planted and brought inside to force. They sat at my feet, companionably absorbing sun for their own purposes. They have been getting leggy from lack of sun--even the best, sunniest window in my house only gets a few hours a day--and seemed to enjoy the sun as much as I did (one of the daffoldils is about to burst a tiny yellow bud). This lack of sunshine in my house may be good for the furniture and paintings, but it's something I will remember to check out in any future houses I may buy. ("The first time you buy a house you see how pretty the paint is and buy it. The second time you look to see if the basement has termites. It's the same with men." Lupe Velez)

Anyway, sun and warm weather aside, I find that I would like just a tad more snow. I'm not missing shoveling, mind you, but, well, here's a northern truth: snow is pretty for about the first two days. After that, it's like a flashy woman--it needs a little upkeep. Yesterday, when walking, I passed compressed, jaggedly evaporating piles of greying, blackish snow with streaks and drippy yellow spots at each corner where dogs relieved themselves, plus little piles of excrement (vividly dark against the snowy backdrop) that had sunk a few layers down before cooling. Ugh.

So just a thin dusting would be nice--an inch or two, no more. It would transform the neighborhood into a pristine fairyland once again. Yes, I know that underneath it all would still lurk the urine and feces and trash and other various and sundry post-winter lovelies, but I wouldn't have to see them. And, yes, eventually spring will come and reveal the piles of twisted, rusting shopping carts in the Wal-Mart parking lot, pushed there by careless late-night snowplows, and the discarded, curbside Christmas trees that got covered before the city could recycle them, but by then my yard will be full of real bulbs, bright and beautiful, waking from a long sleep, bursting forth in smiling color.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


It's not the glass;
but the shattered world
and its elections
and the wars
and your father's suffering
and the long days of
waiting to grieve
and the way he reached up
with his shaking hands
after days of nothing
and said Thank you
to the nurse
for his morphine
and the way your face broke
in reply
and not these shards
at my feet.
They are just
what was once,
once a glass.

Mensa Invitational winners

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational asks readers to take a word from the dictionary, alter it (by adding, subtracting, or changing a letter), and then supply a new definition.

This year's winners:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until
you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone: The substance surrounding stupid people that stops
bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little
sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of
getting laid.

5. Cashtration: The act of buying a house, which renders the subject
financially impotent for an indefinite period.

6. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

7. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the
person who doesn't get it.

8. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

9. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off these bad vibes,
right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon: The grueling event of getting through the day
consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when
they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic fit: The frantic dance performed just after
you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug: Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into
your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor: The color you turn after finding half a worm in
the fruit you're eating.

18. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.