Thursday, July 31, 2008

Whose your daddy?

photo: kelly weist
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I pass this billboard every time I drive downtown. I find it astounding.

Is this where we sit at the dawn of a new century? What kind of dystopian rollercoaster are we riding here? Little by little the absurd is inserted into our everyday lives insidiously and subliminally. The rally cry seems to be, “Avoid responsibility at all costs!”

Yeah, here’s your trickle down for ya. When the theoretical leaders of our cornerstone institutions, government, education, health care – spend more time avoiding accountability for their actions than doing their jobs – what can be expected from the folks for whom this crew is supposedly the role models?

Instead of witnessing the whole scale robbing of the U.S. treasury by this current band of thugs, war profiteers, health insurance lackeys, inept doctors, government on the take, education policy makers, and taking to the streets like a Frankenstein mob – we watch Maury Povitch to see who the baby’s daddy is – or we debate whether or not someone is wearing an American flag pin.

Sometimes I just have to shake my head.

Am I officially a curmudgeon yet?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How about a threesome?

Survived another triathlon today. The fairport Harbor 16th annual. I didn't place, but I did register a personal best time!

That's me there - looking at the camera with the red cap on

As You can see - the water was invigorating and I am so looking forward

to the bike portion of the race

This is the "transistion" area.

I'm getting ready to put on my number and jump on my bike.

Returning on the bike.

Off the bike - now it's time to hit the streets

End of the run!

Proof that some folks really did finish after me.

My dad, me and my son Frank.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stick 'Em Up

It has been awhile since I made a blog entry from an airport lounge. Up at 3am today to catch a 6 am flight from Milwaukee to Cleveland so I can make a 1pm speaking gig at Ashland College.

Sara and I have spent the last three days in Wisconsin working with teachers at the Walloon literacy Institute. The conference is run by our professional book publisher Heinemann. A professional book is what the teacher instructional guides we write are called in the publishing world – the straight up poetry collections would be known as a trade book.

This is probably our favorite conference, all of the presenters are fellow authors from Heinemann and it really is like a family. Our host and resident bigwig is Harvey “Smokey” Daniels – a real heavyweight in the educational theory arena and also on of the most genuinely nice people one could ever hope to know.

So about 25 or so of us presenters and upwards of 250 teachers converged on Lake Lawn Lodge in the Geneva Lake region of Wisconsin don’t ya know. Here we plotted on ways to actually teach and reach students while still jumping through the hoops that have been set up by the policies which make up No Child Left Behind. For those of you out of the loop on national education policy NCLB has proven to be nothing more than a boondoggle for administration cronies to peddle millions of dollars worth of mandatory educational programs which have recently been proven to be ineffective.

Now, these programs and other foofaw that have been foisted on our schools – mainly our poorer inner city schools (private schools don’t have to follow the NCLB guidelines, and this is a subject that I could veer off and vent about but I’ll spare you for the moment) don’t work because they were never vetted, never tested, were put together not by teachers but by text book corporations whose board members are on the government panel that dictated the policies to be set by NCLB. Sound a bit crazy, sound a bit like conflict of interest sound a bit like the wolf guarding the henhouse? If you agree you’re not alone, the government accounting office said basically the same thing.

So, we have a bunch of this administration’s goons – did I mention Neil Bush, W’s brother, is on the board of one of the biggest companies - perpetrating the injection of these non-working programs into our public schools raking in literally billions and billions of dollars. They’ve been at this for almost eight years now, wringing taxpayer cash from our kid’s schools as if they were bar rags. Now – after it is found out that the programs the schools were told they HAD to use don’t work one would think that the companies who shackled our teachers with these useless conglomerations of standardized tests, software and talking cows (there actually is a talking cow) would be held accountable wouldn’t you?

Hah! Fat Chance! You know what happens? These ratfinks get to pocket all the cash they have made selling non-productive programming to the schools AND because the programs didn’t work congress now cuts funding to the schools by the amount that was spent on the defective programming. As one of the Keynote speakers at Walloon Stephanie Harvey said, the schools still need the money, it wasn’t their fault it they were forced to spend it on stuff that didn’t work, stuff they had no option of refusing – but now they are the ones that suffer while the fat cats walk away counting their wads.

Just another example of how this crew attached to the Whitehouse has emptied the treasury – we’ve been the witness to the best burglary in history and they are getting away with it.

How’s that for an early morning rant?
There may be hope though - tell your legislature to support this document:
It may be a little too sane for our government - but who knows?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Anarchy on the jogging path

Okay – my first triathlon of the season is a week and a half away. I’m feeling pretty good about my preparations this year. That’s one dubious benefit of a slowing economy – it gives one more time for training. Fortunately running and biking around the streets of beautiful Mentor Ohio and swimming in Lake Erie don’t cost anything. Unfortunately, entering races does cost. I was hoping to run at least 4 races this year but budgetary constraints have limited me to three, one in Fairport Harbor on the 27th of July, August 3rd in downtown Cleveland and August 24 in Lorain. I’ve done Fairport and Lorain before it’ll be my first go at the downtown race.

I’ve increased my running distance this year upwards of ten mile stints once a week with shorter runs, biking and swimming mixed in. I’ve decided to concentrate on the running portion this year since it is my weakest leg in the race. (I was also challenged to compete in a 10 mile run by a family member who has since quit training – you know who you are) So with a special emphasis on this part of my training regiment I have come to the conclusion that I am really really slow. I have shaved off a couple minutes from my 5K time – but anyone that knows anything about running knows that if you’re taking minutes off a 5K time – you are moving really really slow.

Anyway, I use an IPod when I run and the music I listen to is the music of my snotty punk youth: Angry Samoans, The Sex Pistols, Social Distortion, The Ramones, Iggy and the Butthole Surfers to name a few. The pace is nice and high and the lyrics are so inspirational, “I guess I’m gonna have to tell’em – that I got no cerebellum…” I lumber down the road (being over 200 lbs I am in the Clydesdale division) pounding my feet into the pavement in time with the boot step march back beating Holiday in the Sun by the pistols.

And I wonder.

How many more middle aged bygone punks out there popping glucosomine, walking on treadmills, figuratively and literally, the music of our youth blaring in our white ear buds extolling us to be anarchist, to smash it up to realize that there is no future? Did David Thomas ever envision forty-somethings jogging to Non-Alignment Pact, was the Dead Boys’ Sonic Transducer meant to accompany a cardio workout? Then we toss our gym bag into the back of the car and drive home to cut the grass.

I don’t think of this transformation as selling out, jeez if it was selling out shouldn’t I have something to show for the effort other than a car payment and shin splints? In fact, I think that maybe this whole triathlon thing is a way for me to stay on the fringes of society without sustaining the rug burns on my forehead received in a mosh pit. Tell people you run triathlons and they look at you a lot like they do the kid with the green Mohawk outside the food court at the mall.

So rather than shaving my head and wearing leather I squeeze into spandex bike shorts which in itself assures that I remain pretty anti-social.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear

So far this summer two writing and performance conferences where I was scheduled to present have been cancelled. The drag that gasoline prices have put on the economy added to the general malaise of a financial system bifurcating into hard-lined camps of haves and have-nots is hitting quite a few of the folks I know pretty hard. Add the subprime swindle waltz and the rising food price tango to this dance card and things are looking a bit bleak and unfortunately, I think it’ll be a few more years after this current crop of robber barons blow office before anything gets noticeably better. Not everyone is suffering though and silver lining like a few of the folks benefiting from this are not fat cat oil execs or bankers.

Bill, the owner of Blue Sky Bicycle on E185th Street here on the north coast told us business is booming. He’s selling 9-10 bikes a week and forgetting to close on Wednesdays as advertised. We biked over there yesterday, 26 miles round trip to talk about upgrading the wheels on my bike and to get some tuning done to Sara’s road bike (the latter actually squinted and winced when I brought it out into the sunlight from the garage where it had been hanging like a hibernating fruit bat– the bike not Sara, she has sunglasses.)

Bill’s a good guy – he takes time to talk with ya and he gives just as much attention to the person buying a new bike from him as to the kid whose water bottle bracket has fallen off the bike he bought at Wal-Mart. We discussed some option for new wheels for my road bike (god knows I can’t afford a new bike now) and had some adjustments made to Sara’s making it a bit more comfortable for her so maybe this one’ll get as much attention as her market bike now.

Speaking of attention.

It is amazing how stupid people driving cars can act when they encounter a bicyclist. Like some schoolyard bully held back three grades so they are bigger than everyone else on the playground - these Neanderthals wrapped in steel and glass act as if it is a personal affront that they have to share the road. So here are my top 5 examples of motorists acting like morons when coming upon a bicyclist:

1) Hooting, shouting, honking their horn in order to scare the feces out of the rider. What’s the point? You were able to frighten a person on a twenty five pound bicycle by making a loud noise from your two ton rolling pollution machine. Why not make a surprise appearance at a day care center dressed as a zombie?

2) Tailing a rider refusing to pass even though you have had a dozen opportunities. This one pisses me off big time. When being passed by a car I will hug the side of the road, muscles tense waiting waiting waiting - for the automobile to overtake me. I am existing in a proverbial second shoe to drop moment of suspense. Prolonging the passing just allows more time for something to go wrong – as soon as it’s safe, go around idiot.

3) And when you pass – give a little room. A foot or two will do – you don’t have to get all the way over in the other lane, that’s a bit insulting – like you expect me to topple over and slide with the speed of an air hockey puck in front of you. Even so, I guess taking the overly exaggerated swerve to avoid me is better than clipping me with your passenger side door mirror “Miss Sears Driving School Student Driver”. Likewise – if you pass a cyclist and are making a right hand turn – check that the cyclist is not right behind you. I’ve been run off the road a half dozen times by folks making right hand turns. I guess I could suggest that people use their turn signals then again I could also suggest that bush babies fly out my butt.

4) Any good cyclist will obey traffic signals (most of the time). I stop at traffic signals and can make rights on red too so leave a bit of room over there when you come to a stoplight when I am coming up behind you. I’ve seen many drivers pull as far over to the right as they can at traffic lights in order to keep that damn spandex wearing monkey from pulling even with them instead of taking his rightful position stuck directly behind a noxious exhaust pipe. I think you’re gonna beat me off the line Earnhardt, lighten up a bit. You may not know it but a lot of us riders out here are wearing shoes that actually attach to the pedals with spring loaded latches – this makes it a bit of a process for me to free my feet. That sudden swerve you just made to keep me from pulling up beside you could very well send me into a ditch.

5) Finally, relax. Share the road a bit. The thirty seconds added to your trip because of me out on my bike isn’t gonna make any difference. Hell the fact that I’m going to the store on my bike is having a positive effect supply and demand wise on the gas you’re pouring into your Hummer. Like Jackie Gleason said in The Hustler – “You owe me money!”

If the pickup in business over at Bill’s bike shop there on 185th is any indication – chances are you are going to be seeing a few more bikes on the road these coming months. Subsequently, a lot of these riders are going to be new – give ‘em a chance willya?

Oh yeah, don’t be surprised when, after she shouts from your open window trying to scare me as you pass, I catch up with you at the next light and squirt the rest of the contents of my sticky sports drink filled bottle all over your black lipsticked Goth wanna-be tart in the passenger seat of your Kia Rio.