## Monday, October 2, 2017

### My New Venture

My years of blogging are about to come to end.  But don’t fret honored friends and onlookers.  I’ll still be here to lead and console you in my new role.  I’ll be starting my new lifestyle website Sploosh! with my longtime friend, bon vivant, guru, personal trainer, and spiritual advisor Bodhi Schwartzman.  Bodhi has been helping me with my diet and lifestyle choices for years and he’s finally pushed me into letting him to ride my coattails agreed to help me with this new venture.

Before I tell you some of the hush-hush secret things I’m working on and the great products we’ll be offering I felt it incumbent upon me to explain why I’m undertaking this responsibility of telling other adults how to live and why they’re wrong in what they’re doing now.  It came upon me as I was sweating majestically in the mystic lodge high in the mountains of Argentina (while Peru has more mountains their spiritual energy simply doesn’t have the gravitas and “life definingness” of Argentina) and a small child was fanning me and another was spooning my whipped lemon ricotta soy cleanse into my mouth.  I came out of my pose, chakras tingling, and informed my yogi that I could see my path laid out in front of me, shimmering and bright.  He mumbled unintelligently and smiled toothily at me.  I left the lodge, carried by more children from the local village dressed in splendid white.  They had the gall to look me directly in my eyes but I ignored the insult as I glowed in the moment of true understanding and oneness.  After my one o’clock coffee ground wrap and three o’clock yogurt massage and my four o’clock purge I had one of the village children take dictation.  Thinking back now it is entirely possible there were only two children at the resort but I had forgotten their names and it became uncomfortable to think about so I simply gestured for my needs.  As I relaxed in the recently built infinity pool I felt the nervous energy vibrate through me.  I would help so many people.  For some reason, and I don’t quite know why, people can’t scrounge up the measly twenty thousand for the spiritual retreat.  Honestly, it’s such a paltry sum when it can influence your oneness.  Obviously there is nothing more important than your oneness.  I pulled away my ruby encrusted smart phone and called my wife.

The next week I purchased the domain and began cultivating the items to sell to my loyal audience.  Here are some of the products we’ll be offering.

Current launch product line:
Miracle tea enema to draw out toxins – $35.99 This tea packet of carefully chosen green tea buds expertly picked in Cambodia is designed to draw out dangerous toxins through your colon. Purchase includes two silk tea bags, a decorative pouch, and a silk glove to keep your fingers clean for placement. Probiotic miracle powder –$42.25
Our gut bacteria is a rich and diverse battleground waging war everyday.  Enter this fray like a proud Valkyrie warrior and assault your stomach with “proven” bacteria to show your body who’s boss.  Available in greenberry, vanilla, and vegan chocolate flavors to mix with your favorite smoothie.

Dick cream – $52.75 There’s face cream, body lotion, and fur oil. Now there is my miraculous dick cream to make sure your Johnson is lovingly smooth and maintained. Each five ounce jar is comprised of 10 percent ambergris and other natural ingredients guaranteed to make you stand up in appreciation. Asshole bleaching wand –$47.99
Showing any bodily flaws is generally frowned upon even in this atmosphere of body positivity so why not feel bad about even more parts of your anatomy?  This wand will help you self-rectify any unsightly blemish to your posterior to enhance your outer beauty.  Especially helpful to cover pesky tea stains.

Photoshop (for editing your selfies) – $120 for a yearly subscription Sick of constantly reshooting selfies for better light, or finding that perfect angle that ignores your imperfections? Ignore embracing your flaws and instead embrace technological superiority. Sloggoth spiritual cane to ward off the dark terror Tero’ogh’tttoa the unknowable –$4,299.99
Ornate carved wood from the bark of Yggdrasil.  Ivory handle and gold inlay for style points.  Blessed by local shaman under the guidance of Ormazd.  Mahogany case sold separately.

Ginger candies – $24.99 Candied ginger, iIt’s great for the digestive system. Just the right amount of crunch and loved by nana’s everywhere. Tibetan cloud ascending raiment -$745.99
Knitted by hand from elderly monks these one of a kind cloaks slowly unravel over time to remind us of our impermanence.  Average life expectancy is around two weeks.  Sizes available: extra double small to medium.

Glacial cubes – $75.99 Water from the purest mountain springs carried down to special collection pools by antique wooden buckets. Frozen into irregular spheres and hand packed into single wrappers. Guaranteed to impress even the most erudite cocktail guests. Vagina glitter –$ 24.99
Purple, pink, and rose colored dainty confetti specially crafted for your nether regions.  Recommended to be removed before coitus unless that’s your kink.

While waiting for my website to finish you can shop at my inferior competitor here: http://goop.com/

First twenty five orders come with a free set of stickers that help align your energy to remove impure thoughts.

Ben

## Sunday, May 14, 2017

### The terrible no good life of a junior white house staffer

Jason’s Diary

March 23rd
I was originally hired for editing press releases.  My department head has been fired, replaced, then replaced again.  I’m unsure who I report to and I’m not entirely sure what my job title is anymore.  I try to wear dark suits to blend into the shadows, that seems to be keeping me out of trouble for the most part.  Trump doesn’t know my name and that seems to help.  He keeps firing people when he isn’t distracted but really only the people whose names he recognizes stay fired.  The rest of us just swap positions.  I have started to drink on the weekends.  I try not to tell my parents about the job.  My friends keep asking for any inside information.  I lie to them and say it’s wonderful.  One of the staffers who started the same week as me thought it would be funny to respond to emails like that by saying the Kremlin is wonderful this time of year.  I haven’t seen him in a few days.

My roommate is leaving for the next month on sabbatical and asked me to look after Charlie his cat.  I’m not much of a cat person but I figured it would be helpful for him and he’d pay back the favor in kind.

April 4th
I had to remind one of the new guys that all memo’s need to be in bullet points and large type font.  He thought I was joking.  I don’t think he’ll make it.  I focus my time on helping those who might be able to get through.  Trump overheard my name yesterday but I ducked when it was said.  I saw him scanning the room but he didn’t see me.  Pence saw but he remains a mystery to me.  I leave him alone and he seems to appreciate that.  His eyes remind me of a shark.  Dull and lifeless on the surface but capable of great emotion once engaged.

Sean Spicer was having a really bad day so I split my candy bar with him.  He asked me where I got the candy bar.  I joked that I never reveal my sources as I’m a trustworthy fellow.  He nodded solemnly.  I felt pity for him.

April 11th
A group of were in the oval office.  I stood next to Sean and slightly behind him, only just visible like something at the edge of your site.  Sean liked me as I kept a small supply of small candy’s in my pocket.  I would share them with him.  I pitied his constant expression of desperation.  It seemed like his sanity was clawing at the back of his eyes.  The words falling out his mouth were like hemlock he was forced to digest and regurgitate.  I wondered how long he could survive here.  He aged horribly.  I was supposed to be taking notes to turn the latest word salad in viable talking points.  I mostly spaced out and constructed them on my own.  I am unsure if what I am doing is sin.  I have not been sleeping well.  Charlie the cat has been taking to curling up at my feet sensing my trouble.  He is a good cat.  I started to pay attention when trump gesticulations grew especially large.  He smirked and looked in my direction.  Shit.  I couldn’t duck out this time.  He made direct eye contact.  Pence may have smirked.  That bastard, he’s been playing me.  That fucking shark!  I could see emotion in those fucking eyes.  Fuck, he wants to show me the red button, for the love of all that's holy don't push- oh, it's soda.  A man ushers in a cold soda in a slender glass on a silver plate.  I unclench.  He asks me something, I didn’t quite catch it.  Sean nudges me.  I nod affirmatively and say something.  I can’t quite recall but I think I said something about elegance and him and other compliments.  Trump turns to Pence nodding.  Pence’s eyes returned to normal.  I can’t see disappointment but I can smell it in the air.  Fuck that guy.  Next time I see him I’ll accidentally lock him in the room with Sindee.  She’s the intern we hired who’d some fashion designer’s grandniece.  She has zero experience but Trump always is nicer when she’s around.  Also she’s incredibly hot and dresses in a way that makes me feel like that one time Carol my Freshman year accidentally flashed me.  I know it's not appropriate to talk about a woman’s looks and rate her on them but she’s a walking erection builder.  Later that night I feel extremely guilty, took a long shower and drank heavily.

April 13th
I lost the vote and had to squeegee off the television.  Some idiot put on MSNBC instead of Fox news.  I’d punch that person in the kidney if I knew who it was.  I was about to eat Sean’s candy but stopped myself.  I’m not entirely sure but I think I’m the best part of his day.

Paul Ryan came by earlier today.  Sindee told me she thinks he’s hot.  I told her I could probably get a meeting with him.  Later that day she let me feel her up.  I cried in the shower that night.  I think this place is changing me.  I would never do something like that.  My parents would be so upset.

April 20th
I told Sindee to hide in the broom closet and she got mad at me for trying to feel her up again.  Later that day she apologized when she found out Ted Nugent was in the hallway.  She kissed me cheek.  I promised myself I would try to get a meeting with Paul Ryan.  I’m not a fucking animal.  I just realized today that not a single person from the team I started with has stayed on.  Pence was watching me again.  I still don’t trust that bastard.

April 24th
I saw a flaming skull in the hallway today.  I thought it was that old Castlevania nightmare I used to have at sleep away camp.  But it was real.    Someone told me the skull chewed its way out of the body they fit for Kelly Ann Conway.  They stuff the body full of snakes and shove the flaming skull inside.  This oddly made most sense out of everything I’d heard this week.  I told my manager about it and he started freaking out.  He told me if Pence found out he’d flip his shit.  Any witchcraft had to be kept from him at all costs.  I ate some of the candy I had been saving for Sean and hid in the bushes.  I found another staffer there had brought in a small television and we’d played x-box for a few hours.  He hugged me and wished me well then said if I told anyone about his hiding spot he’d cut me from stomach to throat.  I think maybe we can become friends.

May 2nd
I had one of the interns draft a memo to Paul Ryan lying about Tony Horton visiting the White House.  I figured it was gamble that might draw him out.

May 3rd
I had the best sex of my life in the broom closet with Sindee.  I feel a little bad about the intern being forced to assigned the flaming skull after his imbroglio.  I told him about the spot in the bushes but he had to be careful when he went there.  He thanked me.

May 8th
The other staffer are looking to me for orders.  I’m not entirely sure how this happened.  It happened so incrementally I can’t piece together the tipping point.  Jared asked me to play basketball tomorrow.  I’m not sure if this is a trap but I have to go.  I handed one of the interns a pile of candy and told them to follow Sean and keep him out of trouble.  She stood there looking confused.  I raised my voice and she ran away crying.  I felt bad but it needed to be done.  If they couldn’t deal with me there no way they could deal with the inner circle.  I told one the junior staffers to find her and apologize.  He looked dejected like he wanted to relish in her pain.  I fear for my people.  I’m not sure if I’m doing enough to try and keep a positive influence on my small band of staffers.

May 11th
Pence and I have come to an understanding.  He is spectacular fighter.  He both coughed up blood for the next hour and drank heavily at nearby bar.  He told me he was proud of me.  I did not shy away from his arm as he wrapped around my shoulders.  It felt… it felt good.  I took a longer shower than normal.  Sindee stayed over tonight.  She has decided her name for me would be babe.  She was in between that and hun.  I am unsure if this is a mistake.  That night I dreamt about going back to Princeton.

May 12th
Kissinger visited today.  I was told to keep “Kelly” away from him.  She might get confused and gravitate to a higher evil. I decided I’d go home early claiming to be sick.  I drank heavily and hugged my cat Charlie.  Charlie is becoming used to this behavior.  I think he worries for me.  He’s a good cat.

May 13th
I got into my car and just kept driving.  I had Charlie with.  Sindee is still asleep at my apartment.  I don’t think I’m going back.  I text Sean and tell him I’m sorry.  A moment later my phone starts ringing.  I know it’s him.  I refuse to pick up.  I know he won’t leave and I refuse to let him drag me back.  I try to hold back the tears but fail.  Charlie mewls at me and I tell him everything is going to be okay.  He lays his head down on the seat.
Today I am free.

## Tuesday, February 21, 2017

It seems relatively easy to be cast into uncertainty in regards to any and all American political machinations as of late but I plan on focusing specifically on the problems with our current Secretary of Education Betsy, both real and imagined.  This confusion is especially true as quite a few 'politicians' would have trouble understanding that proceeding sentence (it has too many syllables perhaps?) and label the author an elitist simply based on vocabulary, sentence structure and the fact that there were no glaring typos - something the current administration is laughably bad at avoiding.  More likely it would simply be ignored as it was not a simple bullet point list, which, unlikely as it might be, could be appreciated by Henry David Thoreau ("Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify."*) Or even worse it wouldn't be read at all beyond the title and it would be roundly criticized, mischaracterized, argued using straw men, then ignored once the next problem arises in, judging by current tempo, about twenty minutes.

*"Please don't associate my name with those cretins.  Also, did you not read any of my works about civil disobedience you idiot?", what I imagine Thoreau might say to this inference.  After, of course, the whole "Oh my god I’m not dead anymore and what the fuck is a cell phone and did someone build a parking lot on my fucking pond?  I swear to crap this country sucks now."  Guess all that time transcending or whatever didn’t stop him speaking like a longshoreman when angry.

Besides the fast and loose method of dealing with the truth, the terrifying manner in which we find ourselves concerning the fourth estate, we are at a cultural war between rational thought and anti-intellectualism.  Thrust in the middle of this fiasco is an entirely pleasant woman who simply wants to change our education system in the manner she thinks will help children.

Her complete lack of experience, her lack of knowledge beyond the narrow scope of causes she champions is entirely glossed over in an era when being an actual expert is derided.  She lacks knowledge concerning; education; differentiation and special needs (IDEA); guns in schools (wait, what if the bears have guns, how do we deal with them then?); classroom experience; the laws around education; and countless (boxless if we are using common core math) other important topics that should concern someone running the department.

Millions of citizens have emailed and multiple thousands have called senators over the hearing for DeVos.  Phone lines have been overloaded with calls.  This is both amazing and disheartening.  Amazing in that people who opposed to a bad choice took time out of their day to fight politically, something the nation has been sorely lacking for time due to what I can only assume is long standing apathy from consistent failure and painful realities of being an American in the modern age of obstructionism and partisan politics.  Disheartening in that only two senators dissented in the face of this unprecedented outpouring of concern.

When we look at the amount of push back concerning DeVos it is curious in comparison to other nominations for executive departments.  People who have, in their recent past, been actively opposed, in legal battle with, or defy the modis operandi of the very department they are nominated to helm.  It is placing wolves as shepherds.  These departments are meant to help and defend American’s against predatory practices.  The EPA is meant to protect us against businesses and individuals who would circumvent laws and morality to pollute our environment doing us irreparable harm.  Placing a proponent of dirty energy who sued (by sued I mean sued thirteen times) the very agency he is now beholden to uphold in charge of this agency is exceptionally damaging.  By the way he sued the EPA thirteen times.  Now, it could be argued that bringing law suits against the agency does not mean he finds the EPA to be bad institution he simply wants to take legal action as is his right and without looking into his lawsuits and simply claiming the number as evidence is sloppy.  I’ll just leave this here for arguments sake.  While job creation is important dirty energy is not creating jobs at the same pace as green energy.  It’s being phased out.  It’s a last gasp and it is terribly important that those giants of industry, as they crumble, don’t crash around us and threaten to further damage our environment.

But this follows a trend of nominations.  The first Secretary of Labor nomination was Andrew Puzder, who ultimately, thank goodness, decided to walk away from the nomination.  Nominating a man in charge of fast food chains to look out for workers’ rights is to turn a blind eye to the predatory behavior of the franchise models and the exploitation of the unskilled minimum wage workers.  Predatory also aptly applies to Steven Mnuchin who has already been confirmed as Secretary of Labor. A man whose company “[used] potentially illegal tactics to foreclose on as many as 80,000 California homes.”  80,000 illegal foreclosures.  Do we really want a man who illegally helped removed a small city’s population from their homes in this position?

It only seems logical to assume there is glaringly evil – and I mean glaringly mustache twirling, dastardly kind of evil - trend to nominate people who essentially hate the safeguards their agency in is charge of enforcing and creating.  This is beyond fucking terrifying.  Remember Flint Michigan still doesn’t have clean water.  Good luck having that fixed any time soon.  Imagine not having water for a few days, this has been going on since April.. April 2014…  twenty fucking fourteen!  DAPL is still fighting on sovereign Native American soil to place an unwanted oil pipeline through their territory.  Oil pipelines have a long, storied history of their contents someone how seeping into the ground and groundwater through breakages or seepages.
Here’s a few entirely unrelated links…

Pipeline Spill
Oil spill undiscosed
Does big oil care
Oil and gas well inspections

Unlike many of the nomination Betsy does not seem evil.  She seems quaint in comparison.  While some of the other nominees do have the experience and knowledge that Betsy lacks they combine that knowledge with hauntingly awful ideology.  But there are some trends that appear.  One trend seems to be with these nominations to highlight those who are not simply unfit but antagonistic to the very core of the department.  Also these individuals, who work for the executive branch of the government, are advocating having the federal government less involved in state affairs.  What does this have to do with Betsy DeVos?  It all boils down to school choice.

The aim of school choice is the ability to give parents and children choice in where they can go to school.  It’s intent is to give parents the ability to bring their child to another school be it private, religious, public or charter school.  In effect some politicians (while Republicans are the majority or those who want school choice the idea of supporting charter schools as a viable alternative to public schools is often a democrat’s rally cry) want to move the money bookmarked for each child to the school chosen by the family.  They want schools to compete and the best (the strongest) schools will grow stronger and the worst (the weakest) will be shuttered.  It’s the social Darwinism of education.  While this might be an effective policy in that good schools will get better and bad schools will close the reality is likely very, very different.

Part of the reason why schools are good or bad isn’t necessarily due to policy or the strength of the teachers and administration (I am in no way impugning teachers or policy but at a macro scale there is another metric that is far mightier).  It’s money.  Funding is derived from the state government, the local government and the federal government.  The state accepts federal funds (usually with strings attached which is why most states decided to accept common core as their mandate) and mixes that with funds from sales and income taxes.  At this point all schools are essentially equal.  The districts use property taxes to fund schools.  Higher property taxes correlates to more dollars feeding local schools.  This creates desirable communities for wealthier parents.  These higher performing desirable schools have more money to perpetuate this cycle.  Meanwhile inner city schools have less funding, they can barely keep up with infrastructure.  They start falling behind on items like federally mandated paraprofessionals, cutting arts programs, after school programs, and teachers begin to abandon the system.  It’s the opposite cycle.  Then testing comes into play with how federal and state funds are split.  Higher performing schools get more funds while other schools are penalized.  School in order to get those dollars they need simply to limp along alter how they teach so that they are focusing more on testing and less on holistic education.  The cycle perpetuates.  Parents move to better neighborhoods.

Then the idea of school choice comes in.  The argument is that parents should be free to choose schools and have a larger array of options.  On its face this is a wonderful idea.  Poor families who cannot move to desirable school systems could perhaps move their child out of poorly funded areas and give their child a better chance for success.  One question which immediately comes to mind is what happens to schools in inner cities or poor neighborhoods if all the children simply leave?  Another is the logistical nightmare regarding the sudden influx of millions cramming into better schools.  Obviously, the schools should be able to reject certain students, especially if they aren’t from the district of the parents paying into the system?  So then, if that’s true, not all the students can get in.  Choice is then narrowed and the students are competing for the school not the other way around.  Some students will make it out while other will not.  Yes, you may have choice but necessarily not the ability to get in.  In the end choice means nothing.  Could school choice possible work?  Yes?  Can it work without nitty gritty details, amazing legislative work and careful planning?  Zero boxes… sorry, I mean no chance.

Competition is not always better in this case we develop a zero sum game.  That’s essentially the system we already have.  For one school to benefit (get more funding) the other must get less.  So we can predict the success of school through game theory.  This of course is fucking maddening because it can look like this**:

M_{F}={\frac  {W_{O}+3W_{F}}{W_{O}+3W_{F}+2W_{O}+0W_{F}}}={\frac  {W_{O}+3W_{F}}{3W_{O}+3W_{F}}}

**Okay, maybe that is part game theory called battle of the sexes (postulated by Russel Crowe maybe?) but it still applies, kinda, but more than likely the formula for schools would be way more complicated.

So then we come to a decision are we treating schools like the economy and allow a free unregulated method for competition of funding, prestige, rating, and resources (this being teachers and students which one would assume have different values on their abilities both innate and learned) or do we regulate more tightly.

Is this about kids or is it about money?  Is this just some fucked up economic model to be exploited?  If so we shouldn’t let the administration populated with wall street villains hoist their pick upon us.  That’s damning in it of itself.  Look at the system for incarceration and how bad it became under privatization.  As an aside if group of politician think the best way to run the country is more privatization because the government can’t be trusted to run things correctly why are we letting those same politicians make choices?  Shouldn’t we stop paying them?   This obviously is not a real argument but simply one to highlight to hypocrisy and foolishness of privatization as simply passing along the problem.

Another solution is the probably unpopular but likely empathetic choice of the diverting funding into the failing schools that need more help instead of penalizing them.  If it’s broken simply fix it.  Bring those schools on par with the others in the nation.  Why have these schools compete when they aren’t on a level playing field.  That’s part of the premise of school choice: competition.  The weak fall and the strong survive.  Will this help all kids or will it simply divert funds from public and follow students to parochial and private schools.  Several politicians would like to see the money ear marked per child follow them to the appropriate school.  Troubling here would be that through choice American’s would be funding religious schools, private schools, or charter schools that don’t need to meet the same rigid standards as public schools.

So perhaps instead of figuring out ways to move people away from failing schools – which is the intent of school choice – we fix the failing schools.  But that’s just theory it isn’t like anyone has actually done that.  Well unless you count Finland because Finland totally did that.  They completely changed how they ran schools.

“There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions.”***

This lack of competition is decidedly an unamerican cultural trend.  It may very well be something that is helpful to education.  However, don’t think that removing competition means removing work or challenge.  It shouldn’t.  Finland also treats it’s teachers markedly different and enables then to teach in manner they deem most effective.  Imagine that the person who deals with the students directly, who has educated him or herself through countless years of schooling to do just that, is treated with the level of respect they earned through hard work and experience.  The teachers are trusted to do what is best for the children.

What Americans keep ignoring about Finland school success
***Why are Finland's schools succesful

Let’s ignore Finland for a moment.  Let’s even ignore school choice which is the only ideology we seem to know about from Betsy DeVos.  Let’s look at her first visit to a school that actually let her arrive.  For some reason schools’ have been hesitant or outright belligerent to Secretary DeVos.  I can only hope there is enough self awareness among Betsy and her cadre to understand that reaction.
She finally visited a school in the D.C. area (Jefferson Academy) and was able to spend the day watching teachers interact with their class.  While Betsy had praise for the school and the teachers it was comingled with sharp criticism in regards to them in what she terms receive mode.

Here is the quote in full:

“I visited a school on Friday and met with some wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers who pour their heart and soul into their classrooms and their students and our conversation was not long enough to draw out of them what is limiting them from being even more success from what they are currently. But I can tell the attitude is more of a ‘receive mode.’ They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.” ~ Secretary Betsy DeVos

Now it’s entirely possible Secretary DeVos is correct in her assessment.  More likely she is simply wrong as Jefferson Academy is “one of the fastest-improving schools in the city’s public school system.”****  It is also likely that DeVos, who has likely never gone into a classroom and observed before, is simply taking an opportunity to build a support system for her views.  If she states that the teachers here are in support mode and aren’t creating success she is developing a narrative that fits her goals.  That she is creating a narrative without any substance is what truly ties Secretary DeVos to this administration.  Perhaps she’ll mandate curriculum to include alternative facts or false narratives.
But I’m not an educator.  It might seem hypocritical to admonish her for something I have roughly the same amount of experience regarding.

Fortunately Jefferson Academy responded through a series of tweets (see below).  I really do hope that reliance on tweets to get messages, propaganda, and political views across is scoured from the earth sooner rather than later.  However, it’s nice to see the passion and counterargument from the school.

“This is what Sec. DeVos said about our teachers after her visit. Needless to say, we're about to take her to school...

“First, the secretary visited the classroom of Ashley Shepherd and Britany Locher, a dynamic co-teaching team that differentiates for the...

“needs of students ranging from a first grade level to an eighth grade level in reading. They build amazing relationships with students and..

“maintain a positive classroom environment focused on rigorous content, humor, and love. They aren't waiting to be told what to do.

“Then she saw Latisha Trent in action. Ms. Trent has been at Jefferson for 3 years, and each year her students grow MULTIPLE grade levels...

“in Math. EVERY student realizes his or her maximum potential in Ms. Trent's room. She isn't waiting to be told what to do.

“Then the Sec. met Band teacher Jessica Harris, who has built our Music program from the ground up. Ms. Harris pours her heart into her work.

“Ms. Harris is patient, kind, relentless, and reflective. She is everything you want in a teacher. She isn't waiting to be told what to do.

“Morgan Markbreiter was there as well. Ms. MB has unleashed the passion of countless students through her Video Game Design course. MB also..

“runs our INCREDIBLE after-school program, which provides FREE tutoring and enrichment to our kids. She isn't waiting to be told what to do.

“JA teachers are not in a "receive mode." Unless you mean we "receive" students at a 2nd grade level and move them to an 8th grade level.

Here are two links on the visit:
****DeVos criticized teachers at a DC school she visited and they are not having it
Public school fires back after betsy DeVos criticizes it's teachers

If you still believe Secretary DeVos is a good pick you are allowed to have that opinion.  But I hope you remember that not all opinions are created equal.  You certainly have the choice to make this opinion.  But maybe not the ability to make an informed one.  Now go and hug a teacher and tell them everything is going to be okay.  They likely need it.

Ben

## Thursday, October 15, 2015

### Batman is the villain

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” ~ Nietzsche
“… except for Batman because he’s fucking awesome” ~ me

Batman is the turned up to eleven American version of Sherlock Holmes.  He keeps the keen detective skills ditches the posh bookish possibly autistic nature then adds ninja powers, a rampant disregard for collateral damage, enough weapons to give proponents of the military industrial complex joyous priapism’s, and baffling amounts of paranoia.  He is the American ideal of justice.  A ‘stay the hell off my lawn’ approach to vigilantism that gloriously pelvic thrusts in the face of normal judicial procedure.  And we applaud him.  Also, and more importantly to my point, he’s pants-shittingly insane.

The problem
You might say “Batman is awesome and he defeats evil villains” and this is undeniably true.  But that’s not the debate.  “What’s the debate?” you might helpfully ask.  It’s that Bruce Wayne should have never been Batman.  Not because Batman isn’t awesome it’s because he is the least effective measure for helping.

He could use his money for a better cause
Bill Gates was more than likely was an insufferable bastard who ruined people’s lives in order to claim dominance in the marketplace.  Now that he’s retired he’s spending his fortune to fight crime as night as a hooded figure.  Wait no.  He’s trying to fucking end malaria.  He’s donating his money to the better of mankind.  Like a sane and moral person might do.

Look at Manoj Bhargava, the Billionaire CEO for five hour energy.  He’s pledging 99% of his wealth to charity (that still leaves him with over 10 million dollars) and he’s funding important research into solving world threatening problems like drought, energy problems, and healthcare.  He makes me feel like a dick and I routinely give to charity and donate blood to the Red Cross.

These guys are making a difference to millions of people with philanthropy not face punching.  Yes they do lose on that fact that face punching looks way better on film.

In Batman Begins Ra's Al Ghul admits that he uses economics as a weapon and Bruce’s parents were the bulwark against corruption and degradation.  Then Bruce runs away from his problems and his beloved city starts dying.  We see the sharp contrast in the city after the Wayne’s stop being the protector of the city.  Instead of fixing this he pursues a personal vendetta and punches people.

He didn’t work out his issues
Batman is not a sane person.  No sane person thinks the solution to fighting crime is dressing up like a leather daddy crossed with a furry.  Furries like bats right?  Maybe… I don’t know.  I’m not messing up my browsing history with that question I already get enough weird ad placements.

Or that whole one rule he refuses to break.  Does he really think his no killing rule is the only line that keeps him away from the bad guys?  That’s irresponsibly stupid.  If a criminal mastermind consistently evades the law, constantly breaks out of jail, kills people for fun and generally commits heinous crimes maybe you could revise that idea.

Also obviously no one dies from the whole property damage and explosions caused by the batmobile.  But that’s off panel/screen/out of view so that’s okay.  It’s like changing the channel when those feed the hungry kids in Africa commercial comes on.  It’s still happening but you’d don’t see it.
Then there is the whole young sidekick thing.  No one seems to have an issue with this?  If a rich dude wandered around town with a young boy and dressed him like mini me version and they weren’t related... even Xenu’s lawyers couldn’t protect you from the court of public opinion.

He beats up people with crushing mental problems
Arkham Asylum is the home for criminal insane.  Not the criminally maladjusted the insane.  And Batman’s method for dealing with this?  Punching them in the face and growling “I am the night!”  Maybe, just maybe, it might behoove him to pay for proper psychiatric care and try to separate these lunatics from other crazy people instead of amassing his army of villains in one locations.  Nothing bad can happen when you put a whole bunch of vengeful and determined people in the same space with a similar driving goal.  Good thinking bats. When the flash is better at dealing with crazy people maybe you should hang up the cowl.

Trust problems
For a guy who ends up having a squad of sidekicks he sure has a trust issue.  He seems to have no problem installing a surveillance state.  It’s totally normal for a guy to have a super computer full of notes on everyone and plans how to defeat his justice friends just in case?  No, that might be bad thing and come back to bite you in the ass?  You mean rampant paranoia has drawbacks?  Maybe I should get rid of my tinfoil hat collection.

I wonder if there any other circumstances where his lack of trust affected plans to help the city?  Oh like the time he defunded a project that could have helped create plentiful energy but could create a terrible weapon but inexplicably left that item around just in case for someone to exploit.  Nah.

In conclusion
Batman is great fiction but a terrible human being.  Also if he's such a good detective why the hell is his other go to move yelling where is she?  And why the hell if he was a ninja did his fighting skills consist of haymakers and grunting in The Dark knight Rises?  But hey at least they never used CGI for his suit.

Ben

## Tuesday, March 17, 2015

### The Problem with Football

On any given Sunday I’ll be downstairs playing video games where every few moments or so I’ll be distracted by loud screams emanating from upstairs.  It could be a guttural “yes”, perhaps followed by a gleeful laugh of indulgently gloating over a rival team, or a sharp “no” aimed at the television.  These verbal assaults are loud enough to cause inanimate objects to violently shudder or to cower in a corner weeping.  My wife is yelling at the television.  The dog, harried, has long since come downstairs to, in comparison, the soothing sounds of my video game slaughter.  Football has invaded my once calm household and my wife is yelling atavistically in an empty room.  I shrug, trying to ignore the cacophony, and indulge in my guilty pleasure of video game carnage.

There was a time, not too many years ago, when I was that frothing idiot spilling beer excitedly over touchdowns and spectacular plays while Adi watched me with no comprehension of football’s grasp.  The few years I spent in Philadelphia I temporarily converted to the city’s religion, the Eagles.  As it was Philadelphia the city loved their team loudly proclaiming their superiority and starting fights but they also turned on a dime over the players.  No one laid into Donovan louder than his own fans it seemed.  Eventually, sometime after moving back to New England, I stopped rooting for the Eagles after they hired Michael Vick.  This drew some confusion from other football fans.  They inquired as to the issue.  I said plainly I didn’t want to root for a team who hired a man who killed so many dogs.  They stated, correctly, that he had done his time.  I agreed but I didn’t want to root for the asshole.  Just because he spent time in jail doesn’t negate his actions.  They still happened.  It was not tabula rasa, those dogs still suffered and died.  They’d argue with no regard for my viewpoint (that I like dogs and people who aren’t jerks more than football) that I should get over it and root for my team.  And thus I uncovered some of the problems with football.  Football fans are dicks.

Football fans are great apologists.  As long as it’s their guy.  Teams are filled with so many rapists, violent spousal abusers, homophobes, bullies, child beaters, cheaters, liars, and unrepentant assholes you can easily fill a fantasy football team filled with convicted felons.  It would probably be a solid team.

So we have a bunch of football fans who forgive the atrocities of their players, this is not terribly uncommon form how we often treat actors and pop singers.  Maybe the league might take notice and stand above such pettiness.  Or not, probably not.  The NFL has a simple tactic.  Ignore it as long as possible and outwait the critics.  They seem to focus more angrily at enforcing players to make a certain amount of contractual appearances to the media than have players stop hurting people.  I am aware that being great at football does not automatically qualify a person to be a well-rounded role model but it would be nice to try.

A lot of football players end up penniless after they forget to change their spending habits after retiring.  It might behoove them to act a certain way so they can work afterwards.  I can deal with assholes, T.O. was a massive asshole.  But when he was on the Eagles he was my asshole (that sounds so much worse now that I’ve read that back).  But seriously stop being such merciless shitheads.  It will be awfully hard to become a spokesperson for  a company after sending unwanted pictures of your dick to random people… no… never mind.  Those wranglers look great I guess.

Not all the players are jerks mind you but there sure seems to be a bunch of them.  But that’s only part of the system.  Fortunately owners and coaches are above all that.  It’s not like they’d permit racism or ignore public outcry and keep a deeply offensive name for a football team.  Okay so maybe they might.  But it’s really expensive to change logos and print new items.  It’s not like the NFL teams are constantly updating their stores and fans are buying new version of jerseys… okay maybe they are.  The Redskins could make a positive spin by changing their name.  They could hold a contest for the new team name.  Gather a whole bunch of good press.  Hell, they could donate a whole bunch of money to Native American causes after raising money.  But fuck that, this is America and we like our football.

But that’s just one guy.  He might be alone.  Well, how about a revered football guy like Mike Ditka.  Yeah, he’s totally racist, maybe like racist light (only 46 calories but still filled with all that bitter hate you love) but still way more than acceptable.  Maybe it’s just me but espousing racism seems like a bad idea when there are walking human slabs of muscle who have been training to demolish other walking slabs of muscle walking around who might take umbrage at your unkind words.  These are very big dudes who get paid and rewarded to violently ram into other big dudes.  Did you know they are coming out with a new police procedural drama coming to a station near you?  It’s called “Mike Ditka Casual Racist.”

These guys are all jerks but they’re getting paid a whole bunch of money.  It’s not anyone’s fault that they often end up with nothing right?  Except for the whole concussion and brain damage thing.  Linemen, on average, are around 300 pounds (the internet told me this so it may be true) and this 300 pounds wants to make you stop in your tracks like the go to jail card in monopoly.  Do no pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, go straight to fucking pain town with a side order of memory loss, internal trauma, shortened lifespan, and a host of other problems.  But they only get so often and not always to the head.  Maybe like once a game.  No, more?  Okay maybe like three times.  No?  Well why don’t you just tell me Virgnia tech study I found on the internet?

“Football players were struck in the head 30 to 50 times per game and regularly endured blows similar to those experienced in car crashes, according to a Virginia Tech study that fitted players' helmets with the same kinds of sensors that trigger auto air bags.”

Oh, that seems like a lot.  Also that whole car crash thing sounds pretty bad.  I wonder what they estimate the tackling force might be?  What’s that internet?  Oh it‘s only “1600 pounds of tackling force”.  That seems only moderately life threatening.

Thank goodness these same practices don’t permeate sports at a younger level like high school.  It would way worse for developing brains to absorb that kind of repeated trauma.  Or high schools could totally drop the ball.  Even when good coaches and trainers take care of their of their charges we still have a bunch of kids who cover up their injuries to continue playing as they fear they’ll lose their spot.  It’s not like getting a second concussion during a certain time period after your first could kill you.  Actually it can and it does.  Concussions are some scary shit and medical science still isn’t all that great about it.  We’re making progress as this issue is gaining more support but we are in the dark ages compared to other fields.

Okay so it’s really dangerous, especially for our youth athletes, it’s steeped in racism and violence but hey it teaches unity and how to be a team player.  Nothing else is bad about football.  Well there is the whole cheerleaders who are treated like shit.  These ladies are paid barely anything for the privilege of wiggling seductively on the field.  But there seems to be some change on the horizon for that due to some recent law suits.

But why do these scandals keep popping up and sliding out of our memory?  Young men are dying or shortening their lives in football leagues but little is done.  Maybe we shouldn’t allow football to expand outside the states.  But hey, what’s more American as of late than that all permeating sense of apathy?  Maybe America deserves the sport.

Ben

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/30/nfl-criminals-seattle-seahawsks-earl-thomas_n_6579402.html
http://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/chicago/mike-ditka-chicago-bears-quotes
http://www.inreview.com/archive/topic/14556.html
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/01/31/170764982/are-nfl-football-hits-getting-harder-and-more-dangerous

## Wednesday, September 17, 2014

### How to Fix Bad Movies: The Expendables

Every time you pay to see a bad movie you embolden horrible people to make soulless explosions and kick puppies.  There may be salvation (with or without Terminators) in  that if we stop buying tickets to bad movies Hollywood will eventually stop making them, maybe, I hope.  But for now we’ll deal with awful movies of transforming robots trying desperately to make me hate everything around me.  I think the series has devolved into CGI robots flipping me off but I’m no longer sure through my rage soaked vision.  Sometimes I get so angry my eyesight gets a bit hazy like in video game when your character gets too much damage.  I think Michael Bay either hates people or is just doing this on a dare.  Either way fuck that guy.

And you the audience is to blame, well, partially.  The whole international audience thing isn’t helping.  But when studios take a chance on a project that’s a bit out of the ordinary, one the internet clamors for, we tend to just not go.  Scott Pilgrim which was a film that is as anti-transformers as you can get without being an indie film about deep feelings and stuff performed poorly.  The internet screams and rallies and demands geeky tradition but the denizens of the dark corners aren’t shelling out money for the tickets to the right films.

Also, for some reason, sequels starting becoming more popular than the original film in terms of ticket sales.  There used to be predicable model of diminishing returns for films.  It’s the reason that even with diminishing quality (see Pirates of the Caribbean and Austin Powers) franchises still grow in quantity of sales.

But if we can’t stop bad movies and we can’t stop awful sequels we can at least bitch about it on the internet and propose better versions.  Here is one of mine.  Man, I am so good at segues.

The Expendables
From all reports Expendables 3 was awful and I refuse to give it money.  Even the morbid curiosity of seeing ancient creaking behemoths spout pithy one liners while pretending to relive the glory days can’t bring me to the theater.

So how would I fix this?  First I’d kill some people, and not the way the second film did which is totally cheating.  For those that didn’t see “Expendable 2: The Next Paycheck” they introduced a new guy you were supposed to like with the sole intention of having the bad guy kill them to motivate Stallone to exact revenge.  I understand why he did it and I appreciate at least some of the effort but I just didn’t care about this guy.  We as an audience didn't have much affinity for the new guy and felt less when he died.  Cliffhangar has a much more impactful death in the first few minutes that I actually cared about.   You’d think Sly would remember that.

The Expendable films aren’t that great to begin with anyway.  The first one felt detached - Stallone let his crew risk their lives because he had a crush on a lady he hardly knew.  The second one was a bit more fun but already felt bloated with cast.  But the third one overcrowds things even more and we don't really give a shit.

So how do we make this cynical Millennial audience care (are Millennials cynical, I’m not sure anymore)?

We start with the crew on a mission and things go nicely.  They are imbued with the invincible nature of being action stars.  But then they have a close call but not too close as it’s still the first act.  Maybe they talk about disbanding or being more careful or losing a step.  Something just to tip off maybe they aren’t invincible.  They fly home smoking, drinking, and talking about chest hair or something manly.  Arriving at the office they find it to be a smoldering rubble pile.  There is a lone knife stuck in the ground (this knife is important).  We see Mickey Rourke’s hat blow by in the wind.  If it’s R (which it should be bloodless violence is just a cartoon and again removes us from any manner of reality) we see his bloody arm sticking out.  Bam, we have investment.  Now we have set that shit can go wrong.

One by one the crew is picked off either killed, captured, imprisoned, set up, or hospitalized.  Have a car chase.  Jet Li has a martial arts fight because the man is a fucking martial arts legend and having him shoot someone instead of kicking them to oblivion is just insulting.  Don't kill the whole crew of expendables (now the name actually makes sense) but kill at least two or more.  Make it feel like they are in real danger.  Stallone and Statham are forced to get help.  Keep them on the run.  They recruit some people but they aren’t happy about it.  The new guys try to impress them and we care that they are constantly being compared to the others.  No one can pop and lock like Terry Crews and exclaim “woo!” you fucking imposter.  Go to your room and think about what you’ve done.

So they “investigate” the bad guy and find a few things about him/her.  Remember this is an Expendables movie so investigating is either done via shooting or extremely quick, albeit manly, exposition.  They find out where this mystery villain will be and plan on crashing the party.  But it’s a trap.  Statham is captured, Stallone wounded, and we get the big reveal of the villain.  It’s the son of Eric Robert’s bad guy from first movie.  That knife buried in the building was like the one that killed his father.

Or just have a shitty pg-13 nonsense that makes no sense and is seemingly designed to insult the audience.  Test groups would probably hate that Stallone is dead or insert him punching his fist through the coffin giving a thumbs up as he is lowered into the ground.  I can only hope there isn’t an Expendables 4: Old Men and Pointless Explosions.

Ben

## Friday, July 18, 2014

### What the hell is a thought leader or why LinkedIn is bullshit

For some reason I can’t stop reading articles on LinkedIn pulse.  I know that most of these articles have no practical advice for me, for varying reasons, and yet I still keep reading them.  When I do find something it simply ratifies something I already knew.  I have yet to find anything new or useful.  I’m sure it’s out there but for now, at least for me, LinkedIn is inundated with utter garbage, self-promotion, and shockingly unaware narcissism.  It is certainly a worthwhile platform that I think has a lot of potential and merit (I’ll get into that later) but it’s wasted by people who really would rather stroke their own egos than actually help anyone.

Curious about my useless addiction and whether most articles were in fact useless I started skimming them one day to see which ones really made my inner voice call bullshit.  Here are some of the articles in no particular order.

Take a walk

"A successful business is marked with one [characteristic] – happy employees. So all you need to do to have a successful business, is to keep your employees happy."

I couldn’t even make it past the opening lines.  Forget the spelling error in the first sentence (hence my use of brackets and spelling it correctly, you’re welcome), or the useless comma in the second sentence, this opening make me want shake the writer.  A successful business is one that makes money.  A good business is one that does this and keeps employees happy.  A great business does that and helps the world as well.  While employee happiness is noble and I think business leaders have a moral obligation to create said happiness it is not the main metric for a successful business.

Smarter Than the Boss?

"The demonstration of superior intellect, skill, (and I would include beauty) is, as a rule, a very rash thing to do in most company environments. We can say that mediocrity is always safe ground. Nothing in this world excites envy such as discernment, intellect and real talent."

Again this is bullshit.  What gets you in trouble is embarrassing people, making more work for others, disagreeing, and other maladies.  A manager might want to keep you down if you are star but just doing enough is stupid.  It makes you miserable.  You become toxic.  Toxic people fuck up the environment and culture.  If you aren't performing (mediocre, right?) and not enough people like you, you are gone.  And who says being smart means you are better suited for the bosses position.  The oversimplification here is staggering and annoying.  Also its predicated on a boss sabotaging a smart employee.  Plenty of bosses love smart employees because they make you look good.  Maybe the boss is sabotaging you because you are annoying and you act like you are better than you are.  A dash of humility isn’t a bad thing.

If I Were 22: Advice From a 25 Year Old, Relationships Matter

I'm not even pulling any quotes.  Even the author calls out the bullshit.  You can't give advice if you have no experience.  The article is mostly a poorly veiled this is about me not about the subject train wreck.  This is an abuse of the forum simply to get a name out there, to have published.  Also if anyone is really foolish enough to take advice from a twenty five year old on a business network might want to think twice about their judgment.

Potential - Why It's Over-Hyped

This article talks about studies without even providing a link.  It’s a Fox News mentality of suggesting something enough times by the end you might think it’s true without actually providing things like evidence.  It says nothing and it rests entirely on opinion while being veiled as factual.  It talks about promoting based on potential not on results.  It ignores things like what potential means, if the employee would be great but hasn't proven himself then let them and you'll have those results, dumbass.  They get an attempt without having the promotion secured and if they are successful they earn their promotion.  If not then they’ll have learned a valuable lesson and hopefully it was handled with tact so they can comfortably stay at the company and maybe later they will be ready for that promotion.

"I’ve never held a management position, but a topic of interest to me is the employee appraisal system"

I've never written for LinkedIn before but a topic of interest is idiots who do.  You have no authority to speak on this.  Everything after that opening sentence is colored by this admission.  If I speak on great management techniques I can't start by saying I'm not a manager but I've been managed.  It is staggering stupid.

But let’s move away from making fun of people who post things on the internet for a moment (though that is one of the primary functions of the internet now).  I actually not long agao found an article that I appreciated greatly.  It was about the method in which you might fire someone.  I’ve been on both sides of this having fired someone and having been fired.  It is ugly exchange on either side and I think the article gave a great glimpse on the experience.  It should never be easy to fire someone.  There is some failure on the company, and the manager, for this to happen.  The company hired this person over others.  The manager has a responsibility to this person to train and better them.  When the time comes for someone to be fired it should be handled with decorum.  Often the person is no longer happy at the role and this firing can be like a weight lifted of their shoulders but still this person now no longer has gainful employment, no more money coming in.  Maybe it was their fault entirely and you tried desperately to put them on track.  But as human beings we owe another person some empathy.  When I had to fire someone I was sick the whole week.  I was ill leading up to it and sick the day after.  I made sure to do so in a manner where they didn’t feel like they were a failure.  I wanted them to be optimistic.  It’s a scary world when you suddenly find yourself without a job.

If I did write articles in the manner of other writers here is what I would title them:

• How to deal with nepotism
• How to avoid killing your coworker
• The art of transferring
• How to deal with sabotage
• How to seek a new job quietly
• I may be saying this but what I really mean is this, and fuck you

Let me dole out some real advice like I promised at the beginning of the post.  Lots of people talk about your posture at the desk, and that’s great advice, but not too many people talk about talking you shoes off.  Yes, this might seem ewwy but trust me slipping off your shoes for a little bit in the cube can help your feet.
When you walk and don't look up you look vulnerable and weak - sadly office life can be like the jungle and some asshole with a douche complex will start picking on you.  Yes, the office is an extension of high school and yes walking in a certain way will cue up the bullies.

Front load your work.  I cannot overstate how helpful this is.  It has helped me avoid fire drills for years.  My busslhit detector goes crazy on Friday when some asshole casually wanders over to my desk at a few minutes before close to lay down a request.  Document your work and do it early.  You cannot stop others people being stupid but you can mitigate the effects of their stupidity.  Fire drills are caused by laziness, idiocy and bad process - two of these are preventable.  If you pursue work quickly and diligently so you have time when the inevitable compounding of stupidity happens you'll be happier.  Yes I will “happily” pull the information again in a totally unrelated time period to satisfy your mood swing.
Some situations are lose/lose.  There are bosses you can't please.  There are situations that are just unfair and you can't fix.  There are times when you are blamed for things you can't control.  This is bullshit but as a normal person who isn't the executive or the man/woman you are not even close to immune to bad or unfair situations.

Don't obsess over the unfair situations, or anything else for that matter.   Fix what you can and try to have a pleasant work life split.  This is easier said than done but at least try to actively pursue the goal.  It can be really easy to lose sight of this.

If you are leadership remember the business will be there tomorrow, even if you leave stupid people in charge they likely won't blow stuff up.  If you aren't leadership the numbers your crunching seem important but they probably aren't.  Fire drills seem really important in the moment but much less so a month later

And now, most importantly here is my list of office sins:

• Don't cook fish or stinky food in the kitchen
• Clean the fridge you jerk
• Respect the personal bubble.  Seriously you are so close you are almost kissing me
• Never send emails or follow up fifteen minutes before work close or later
• Understand when to reply all, and not abusing the email CC
• You work in a professional environment, certain shit doesn't fly.  Don't swear.  Don't make questionable jokes.
• Don't dress like a hobo
• Don't look at questionable content (and yes, I have direct second hand knowledge of this)
• Don't bring politics into the work place
• Block your damn social media profile.  People will Facebook stalk you, Facebook is built for stalking which is kind of creepy in it of itself.
• Be good to your colleagues.  Don't bad mouth them, maybe they are going through some nonsense, maybe they have roadblocks you don't
• Smile every once and a while, especially if you have resting bitch face.
• Don't exclude people.
• Check in on the new guy, we all know onboarding sucks.
• Don't be negative/toxic/complain too much.  And don't join in on it otherwise you'll be associated.

I think that’s most of it.  If you have any other office sins or actual useful advice that LinkedIn doesn’t I’d love to hear some.

Ben