Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mas o Menos




The feeding frenzy on Judge Sotomayor is on. One line out of context and the pundits and politicos are "Rush" ing to make judgments of their own. Isn't it logical that a self-made Latina might have a different perspective than any of the nine, eight, or seven, old men on the court. Aside from the fact that suddenly the critics are concerned with the intent of the law and the true meaning of blinded Justice, (Where were they when Scottsboro, Executive Order 9066, Plessy V. Ferguson, Dred Scott, et.al. went down)
What particularly amuses me is in their zeal to have this discussion, many of the old line media types can't even get her name right. Sota mayer is what I keep hearing. So the witch hunt is on. With Fox News leading the charge, the appointment will be dissected in short one liners out of context and political posturing. It'll be tab sploited in simple to understand pronouncements that compare the judge to everyone from David Duke of the KKK to Obama's former minister.
Just in time for summer, coming to a theater near you, don't miss this 3 month blockbuster. See how we take the enchanting story of the poor, unfortunate Latino family, who, despite the odds, enter the sacred halls of Princeton, and then Harvard. See how they take this most American of stories and parse, and plunder, question and quake, analyze and agonize. The only thing missing will be two minute and 2 second commercials from General Motors or Chrysler. While they take a moment to re-size, McDonald's new sugar laden espresso drinks will take the spotlight.
The good news is that this hearing will take the better part of the summer. Can't be too careful when you've got 500 channels to fill and 480 of them are devoted to sound bytes and hollering heads.
It's going to be a hot one, so get yurself some Taco Bell or Fresh Mex or at the very least a Margarita (someone must be making a syrupy strawberry one...esp if the farmworkers don't strike) and some chips and guac. Maybe a Corona...no wait, she's Puerto Rican...what do they eat?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You Move Me


It's all over. I'm 98.8% moved in. The trail from NE Portland to SE Portland covered 100 miles in 5 days. Given that my new home is about 3 miles from the old one, that's about 16 trips across town. Where did all the stuff we had come from? I swear I've paired down my books by the hundreds in the last few years. I've gotten rid on a couple of file cabinets, a working printer, lots of clothes I don't wear anymore and a number of collectibles that made their new owners very happy.
I still have work to do. But for now, it's over.
We're trying to find new places for our old belongings. Everything is still in boxes. I don't know where anything is and right now, I don't care.
I don't ever want to move again, but I know I will. Maybe just one more time.

We hired two guys from Thunder Movers. They were efficient, courteous, and very strong. They were also reasonable and on time. Doug and Corey. A tall thin white guy and a husky black guy. Laughing, sweating, lifting, placing, removing doors when necessary, thanking, appreciating. No Laurel and Hardy types.
Now the real fun begins: finding all the secrets of the new home.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lots Of Soup For You



Last week we stopped by Portland's newest soup kitchen. Katie had heard there was a small place built inside a catering facility on Belmont Ave. After a few passes through the area on our way back and forth to other errands, we never seemed to find the place. Last Tuesday was different. We'd been downtown and came up Belmont all the way, making sure to look at every storefront and recessed building.
There it was, a small banner facing us that read: Alf's Soup Haus. We parked. The entry way was facing away from our direction so it would have been impossible to find the "haus" unless we saw the small sign near the street.
"You found us," the receptionist squealed while we stood there looking around. I saw another sign that read "Soup and bread $5.00 Affordable huh?" Katie began asking questions and I wandered into the main room which was more like an industrial kitchen with some tables and benches newly placed around. A large food locker was to the left and a nice chef's work station directly in front. Enter Alf. A large Swede, with red splotches on his face and a passion for soup in his demeanor.
Katie asked about his Chicken Tortilla soup and he noted that today it was fish chowder or mushroom white bean. Neither are Katie.
"I'll come back for the Chicken Tortilla," she said. "Do you make a different soup each day?"
Alf, explained that he made two or three kinds of soup every day, depending on what was available and how he felt.
"I make chile too," Alf noted. With that he took off for the big food locker. An enormous refrigerator, it enveloped him for a few minutes. He returned carrying four pints of soup each in a plastic container.
"Here's two buffalo chile and two black bean soups for you." It was a gift. Alf refused when we offered to pay and wished us well.
"Where do you get the buffalo meat," I asked. I was thinking bison and quite pleased because I enjoy a good piece of bison once every few years.
"It's water buffalo, I get it from a Russian who has a ranch in Estacada. You have to grind it up, he grinds it for me and it's good for chile."
It sure is. Great chile; a bit of zip to it and the ground meat tasted just like beef. It would fool anyone.
Katie is still waiting for the Chicken Tortilla.
Imagine that, Oregon raised water buffalo from a Russian to a Swede.
On the way home, it occurred to me that Alf was the direct opposite of the famous "soup Nazi" from Seinfeld. Instead of withholding, he's forthcoming. He's the soup Commie. "Some soup for you, lots of soup for you."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Virtually Yours




There is an issue that's been poking around the local papers in my town for a few weeks now. It involves the notion of a charter school and the legitimate concern of some that students have needs that just can't be met in a traditional school setting. As an educator, I'm certainly sensitive to the variety of learning styles, degrees of emotional maturity, and the kinds of personal baggage all high school students bring with them.
It's called a virtual school. Child stays home, works mostly online, doesn't have to deal the pressures, difficulties, temptations, dangers, difficulties of a real school. Is a virtual school a legitimate educational option? I would argue no. How could it be?
I realize that leaves me standing with the evil, corrupt, unions, but here I'll stay. I get that traditional schools, often referred to as Brick and Mortar schools in this discussion, don't work for everyone. What concerns me is how people can glibly remove their children from the socialization of a school and truly believe they are doing the right thing by their kids. Especially since the "corporations" that are presenting this electronic curriculum can do so for profit. Of course we have no research to support any side of this issue. It's too soon. But I hope, when it comes pouring in, I'll be around to see it. I'm curious what kind of education is being provided-virtually. I can see the advantages; it's certainly a lot cleaner. I get that some of it is hands on, that young people can even "discuss" issues with people in various corners of this country online. But what happened to human interaction? What happened to talk in the classroom? How are ideas exchanged?
Most of it is all in writing. Nothing wrong with writing. But what happens when human beings do not encounter each other, do not work (in reality) with each other, do not literally speak to each other? How can anyone in their right mind think that this type of virtual education in any way is equivalent to anything remotely resembling the totality of an education?
I like that the debate has begun. It forces some folks to ask the important question about what it means to educate another human being. But I suspect some of the people who advocate the virtual model have other agendas. If we look at those who would argue that a child can be educated in isolation, at home, or on a computer, there is always something else lurking in the room. Virtual schools are the logical extension of technology in this young 21st century. Can't stop them, and I'm not sure I would want to. But it's troubling to think that educating another human being can become completely electronic.
Hopefully some day we'll get to hear from students who have experience with both models. Their thoughts will tell the tale--virtually.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Thanks Rachel


The first Saturday in May has come and gone making and taking lots of history in it's wake. The upset victory of Mine That Bird (if ever there was a name that did not sound like a Derby winner...) had turf writers scrambling in all directions. Adjective emergency. No time for amazing, shocking, or unbelievable. Maybe just trying to describe jockey Calvin Borel's emotional state was enough to do the trick.
Let's face it, Derby 2009 was always a wide open affair. The winner may have been originally purchased for $9500. but he was sold again after winning 2 year-old honors in Canada for $400,000. 3 year-olds are always works in progress and with 20 horses going a mile and a quarter carrying 126 lbs. for the first time, you get the picture. Throw in 150,000 screaming people, half of whom are inebriated, and 50-1 looks better all the time. No I didn't pick Mine That Bird. I went with Pioneer of the Nile who finished second. But I did cash a 50-1 ticket. I bet the Oaks-Derby double. Given that Rachel Alexandra, the impressive winner of the Oaks was a "mortal lock" to win the Oaks (she cruised by 21 lengths) I figured it'd be fun and potentially profitable to bet a $1 double with Rachel A to the entire Derby field. With the late scratch of I Want Revenge t became a $19 investment. I gladly paid that price to be able to sit back and watch the Derby knowing whoever won I'd have the winner. I'd have settled for the favorite or even a 10 or 20-1 shot. But 50-1 is the best case scenario.
This time I did it right. I wish I felt that "Bird" was Triple Crown potential, but he probably won't even run in the Preakness. If he stays sound, I think Pioneer will get one of the jewels this year. Maybe even be runner-up in all three.
But for now, in my mind, it's all about Rachel Alexandra. I'm in love.