September 11 Once More

None of my students were alive on September 11, 2001. It feels odd to type that, because to me the 9/11 attacks are current events. Granted, part of that is being trained that anything that happened less than thirty years in the past is “current events, political science, and popular memory” as one grad school professor phrased it. But I can clearly recall Sib’s voice on the phone, telling me to turn on the radio because “Your world just changed.” Sib was right, just not in the way either of us expected. Seeing Air Canada tails sticking up over the terminal building at the airport where I was working at the time was, ahem, surreal to put it mildly. Continue reading


The 0600 Garbage Truck: Services and the State

The city where I live provides garbage removal. At the moment, we have nice, large dumpsters in the alleys behind the houses. The city provides four per block, at least in my neighborhood. If you have big things that need to go to the dump, er, sanitary landfill, you put them curbside and call the city. They fetch them within 48 hours. We have dumpsters in part because of our frequent thirty-five mile an hour winds. When a downstate consultant recommended switching to curbside pick up of the little plastic bins, people laughed in the city commission’s face and asked if the consultant cared to chase down thousands of wind-blown rolling bins.

The down side is that the trucks start work at 0530. Continue reading

Dumbbells or Barbells?

So, when you do weight training, if you choose to use free weights, as I do, which option works better for those exercises where you have a choice?

I should begin by noting that the dedicated bench-press benches at my gym are too large for me to use safely – I can barely get the weight bar off the rests because of my short arms, and that’s elbows locked and bringing my shoulders almost off the bench, rocking forward at the waist. Really poor form, and unsafe to boot. So I use a regular weight bench without brackets. Continue reading

A Repeat: Light One Candle, Write one Book

I was going through my archives and this popped up. Not certain why it seems appropriate, but given the incessant media (social, anti-social, news and other) follies, might be a good reminder. This was originally written in late October 2016.

The comment said, in effect, that writing a few novels won’t stem the tides of darkness and the threats facing Western Civilization. The writer was, and is, quite correct, except . . . there have been a few times when a book changed enough people’s minds to tip a close balance. And there have been a few cases in history when one person made such a difference, or inspired such a movement, that it shifted societies and cultures, sometimes for the good, sometimes for ill. I don’t aspire to be that person – I’m not Harriet Beecher Stowe, or Paul of Tarsus, or Siddhartha Gautama. I’m just a writer and a teacher, a historian and occasional blogger. But if one spark touches two candles, and they touch four more, and another sixteen, and so on, the whole world might be lit. The first match will have burnt out, but the fire started somewhere. Continue reading

Scents of Summer

I had the opportunity to walk part of the way to and from Day Job, thanks to a quirky car and not wanting to impose too much on a generous friend. It was a lovely morning, just at sunrise, when I set off from the county black top, past the playa, and on to the school. Not much traffic, either, because I was before the student rush.

I’d woken up at 0300 and cracked a window to see if it was worth opening them farther. No, old hay was burning somewhere southwest of town. I cranked the window shut very quickly indeed. Nothing quite stinks like bitter, dank, stinging burning old hay. By 0630 the scent had faded but still didn’t improve the atmosphere, so to speak. Continue reading

Saints a’ Fire

St. Anthony Abbot, St. Florian, St. Elmo. They are all associated with “fire,” although only one is usually depicted as dealing with flames per se. That would be St. Florian, an Austrian martyr saint who is the patron of fire-fighters. A saint with a bucket dousing is building is St. Florian. He’s usually wearing Roman armor.

Patron of Firefighters, at least in Europe.

Continue reading

Too Calm?

As part of inservice now days, alas, teachers have to learn about “active shooters” and what to do. Do you lock the doors, turn out the lights, and hide? Do you get everyone out of the building as fast as you can? Do you try to fight the bad guy? Yes?

So we had ours, and afterwards, I got to wondering a little. Because I was nodding along, running through scenarios, considering defense strategies based on X part of the building or Y class room or Z activity. I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t shocked, or horrified. Listening to the librarian in Columbine H.S. talking to the 9-1-1 operator was sad, especially once you know what happened later in the library, but it didn’t surprise me. Does that make me strange? Continue reading