Saturday, January 30, 2010

lovin those acronyms

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wht Schools Don't Educate

A Sun Magazine classic.

Key Quote:

“But keep in mind that in the United States almost nobody who reads, writes, or does arithmetic gets much respect. We are a land of talkers; we pay talkers the most and admire talkers the most, and so our children talk constantly, following the public models of television and schoolteachers. It is very difficult to teach “the basics” anymore, because they really aren’t basic to the society we’ve made.”

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Monday, January 25, 2010

A Mayonaise Jar & Two Beers

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar, he shook the jar lightly.... The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else---the small stuff. 'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

'Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.. Spend time with your children.. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.'

The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.'

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Friday, January 15, 2010

The Loneliness of the long distance runner

Beth and Ron had both had escaped from the mental institution in recent weeks, temporarily attaining the mythic freedom we often discussed in the sanitized atmosphere of our communal living room. Each of us had roommates in the open ward. Most were there for drug or anger-coping problems, but not me. No, I was there because my basketball dreams had deflated. The patients would sometimes play basketball in the dungy basement too; and there I still had much of the natural ballet flow with which I grew up. Mellaril stifled some of this; but the bigger problem was that I realized how doubtful it was that any basketball scouts would be following up on their scholarship offers, by peeking in on me at the drab mental institution.

After several weeks of loitering there, I felt as if this wasn’t a place for me to make progress. So, I took a cue from Ron and went over to the nurse’s station to hang out for a final time. As the nurse dipped behind the partition to parse out a patients evening dose, I slipped over quietly and quickly tapped the elevator button. It wasn’t going to be enough time though, and I knew this from timing it before, while hatching my escape plan. So I hustled back and leaned against a far wall corner, stroking my beard and reading an important newspaper from my clipboard.

After checking under the tongue of her patient to ensure the dosage was properly swallowed, the nurse drifted behind the partition for more medicine, opening the chance for me to dash to the awaiting elevator. I hopped on soundlessly, hit the button for floor one and placed my palm over the floor indicator bell. The elevator took me down, and as I exited, I clung to my clipboard as if it was breaming with important information, then I nonchalantly walked out, pretending I was a doctor, while stroking my beard, and slipped past the two hypnotized woman at the lower administration desk and through the unlocked glass door to freedom!

It was a frigid freedom however, with the temperature in the lower twenties. Immediately after I strode past the front desk and up the hilly grass, I sprinted to the far end of Macarthur Park and slipped into a shady grove. There I followed an ancient railroad track though some thick woods. Even though the path was amid a bustling metro area, it was not well traveled, probably because of the large amount of briars in that neighborhood. The path came out conveniently near Key Bridge, which would be the natural route for me to head into Virginia. However, that’s precisely where authorities recaptured Ron and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake.

Therefore, I purposely walked deeper into the city. It was Saturday, December 23, 1978 – a long holiday weekend and not many people were out for this cold late night. Fortunately, I was dressed warm enough to walk around. I trudged into the heart of the red-light district, to elude police, alerted to any escaped mental patients, fitting my description. After a few hours of gerrymandering around the Capitol, I wound my way over to the 14th Street Bridge. Back then, it did not have a pedestrian walkway, and the guardrail was only thirty inches high, but as the traffic was sparse, it felt safe enough to cross the river there.

While crossing the 14th St. Bridge, there was a brief period when it became completely barren of traffic. Here*, I stopped and reflected above the Potomac for a few minutes, wondering if back at the institute they were aware of my escape yet. Then looking down at the dark water, it struck me, “So this is what it comes to for some people.” The thought naturally occurred, to make me wonder what would happen if I jumped in. The river didn’t appear to be flowing very fast, but that probably was deceptive, because it must certainly be powerful. Then I thought that if I jumped in, deception or not, there was a chance I would survive, because I was still a strong young man. Next, I thought, what a cliché this tragic event would be, and if I was to go, it should certainly be under circumstances that are more dramatic! Here they might not even find me, unless somebody actually sees me jump.

Thinking again about the cliché, I realized that this was something funny. Even though the doctors had drugged me badly, I recognized the element of dry humor above the river there and remembered that I had often been a funny guy. As I looked over at some vehicles approaching from the Rosslyn end of the bridge, I thought I could laugh at this incident in a year or two, if I filed the humorous fragment away for future use. Then I walked to end of the bridge to my Virginia freedom.

*Two years later, Air Florida’s Flight 90 crashed at the same spot of the bridge where I stood reflecting that dark evening. The crash resulted in some heroic, dramatic rescues, along with 78 fatalities, most in the frigid river:

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It made me stop and think

A few decades ago, a good friend of mine, and his girlfriend broke up. They had been together for several years, and were quite close, but circumstances were such that it was time for them to split apart. They still had places in their hearts for each other though, and even after they moved to different states, they kept in touch once or twice a year.

A few years passed, and they had not spoken for a while. Then one day, my friend received a letter from his old girlfriend’s sister. Before he even opened the letter, he sensed that she was no longer alive and the letter confirmed his sad intuition. Her next-door neighbor in a violent act murdered her, and I don’t know many more details than that.

My friend has often been an eye-for-an-eye type of person. For several years, he actively petitioned the Governor of the state where she lived, pushing for the death penalty for the murderer. For a long time, I secretly disagreed with what he was doing and with his grim death-row outlook. Finally, it was on my mind so much that I asked one or two friends what they thought of the situation. One woman said that if somebody murdered her, she would be proud that an old boyfriend would take such a chivalrous stance to avenge her death. This made me stop and think; to the point that eventually I started shifting my belief system about the death penalty - at least enough that I started respecting my friend's fortitude and resolution, dedicated to someone he once loved. After all, how could I purport to understand how he feels, when I’ve never experienced somebody that close to me being murdered?

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