Category Archives: Education

Back In The Saddle

I posted the following to LinkedIn two days ago. It was the first time I’ve posted there in approximately two years. I was very apprehensive about sharing some of these personal details on the site, as I’ve always used it strictly for business, but I felt it necessary to explain to my over 1300 connections where I’ve been for the last two years. I’m gratified to be able to say it was more than well received and I am now jumping back into the fray as carefully (and delicately) as possible.


Hey everybody. Well, at least the people who know me and, perhaps, have wondered where I’ve been. Two years ago, my youngest daughter announced she wanted to drop out of school. She was a sophomore in high school at the time.

Needless to say, I dropped everything I was doing and concentrated on helping her deal with the issues that were causing her to feel like giving up was the best course of action. As an older, internationally adopted toddler, she was saddled with some difficult learning issues and has struggled to get through her classes. Fortunately, she has an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which allows her teachers and the school to take those issues into consideration.

She is now a senior and is attending a school that is an independent learning academy. During the pandemic lock-down of our local schools, she thrived working at home. She has a problem with other children and having to work with dozens surrounding her has always been a challenge.

Her new school, coupled with a new medication for depression she started taking (and which seems to be working) has tamped down her anxiety, which means I’m not living moment-to-moment awaiting her next trauma and having to deal with it.

So – I’m just coming up for air after two years of trauma, exacerbated by the pandemic and my having been infected with Covid at the beginning of this year. I am still experiencing some long-haul symptoms, but am doing remarkable well for someone my age, with my comorbidities.

I may not be fully functional until next June, when she graduates (God willing and the creek don’t rise,) but I’m working on it and will be spending more time on LinkedIn as I seek a few clients/gigs. I’m deeply thankful I was in a position to spend as much time as I have with her, but I’m really looking forward to having more time to spend on myself and my continuing desire to be useful to others.


Let’s Keep It Real

Apparently, WordPress’s embed tool for Twitter forces publishing of the previous tweet if your publishing a response to it, hence the reappearance of Brian’s initial tweet from the thread. Having lost the account I created in 2006 last year, I am now approaching 900 followers, which is a few thousand less than I had. Some of those followers were from way back and, frankly, there’s no way I could recall who all of them are. Also, back then I was far more active in implementing social media inside the firewall of the large aerospace company I was then working for, as well as collaborating with an international group of practitioners who were interested in facilitating the same thing where they worked. So I’m gratified that, after a mere two hours my response has been liked by 83 people, retweeted four times, and even elicited a one word response, to wit: “I agree.”

The thread goes on for seven more tweets, the last two wrapping up the point he’s making:

In response to this thread I offered the following:

I do want to reiterate the point. In my opinion, too many people hear Margaret Mead’s quote and apply it to the changes they’re hoping to bring about. They’re not wrong, but I suspect their take on it is a little incomplete. I believe this is Brian’s point. A small group of “thoughtful, committed citizens” with bad intent and nefarious motives can also bring about change, and it won’t be anything near what progressives are working toward. Therefore, let’s keep our eyes on the prize and not delude ourselves, ever!


Life Can Be Tough!

It’s been almost a month since last I posted which, given my desire to be more and more communicative, seems a bit self-defeating. However, there’s a good explanation. Several months ago my youngest daughter began presenting symptoms of an eating disorder. At the same time, I was working to navigate the changes I had to implement to get her transferred to another high school for her senior year.

Since nothing could be done during summer vacation, because the people needed to convene an IEP meeting weren’t available, and the meeting was a prerequisite to getting approval for the transfer, the entire summer felt a bit like a cliff-hanger. I had been told by the Principal of the new school she’ll be attending they would hold a spot for her, but my cynical self wasn’t convinced it would happen.

Fortunately, it did; last Friday. School starts in two days. I also had to help fill out a very long application to a facility that treats eating disorders. She is now on a waiting list, which may be as long as eight weeks; I’m unclear on what’s happening. Her volatility, depression, and anger have taken up just about all the energy I can muster and this next school year my prove to be the toughest yet. She’s transferring from a regular high school to one with independent study, which means it’s more like homeschooling … guess who the teacher will be.

So … my intention is to write a lot more once she’s back in school and I can have some tranquil time to myself. I’m not entirely certain it will happen, but Imma work for it.


Keep It To Yourself, Please

Recently, I came across an article on Axios.com with the title “America is losing its religion.” In the article, the author (Bryan Walsh) opens by saying, “New surveys show Americans’ membership in communities of worship has declined sharply in recent years, with less than 50% of the country belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque.” He goes on to list the Gallup poll results he rests his premise on and concludes with the following thought: “But conventional religion’s power is on the wane, and it might take a miracle for that to change.”

I can’t say I’m bothered in the slightest about this trend. Being an atheist, I have a somewhat dim view of organized religion, especially when it’s used to deny rights to others based on some cockamamie interpretation of words that were uttered thousands of years ago, when life, economics, and society in general were much different than they are now.

On the other hand, I understand, and empathize with, the desire for community that religious observance brings to those who practice, but belief in a supreme intelligence/being that literally created us and watches over us is, IMO, patently absurd. I find acknowledging and appreciating how physics, chemistry, and cosmology (in other words, science) explain where we came from far more compelling and beautiful than anything to be found in any religious text I’ve read. And to be clear, my general attitude toward religion is, “what you believe is none of my business … until you start telling me or others we are required to believe as you do or we’re damned.”

So … here’s the deal. If attending services at a “house of worship” is your cup of tea, and you attend with others who share your beliefs or your faith (however you define those) I say “zei gezunt,” which is Yiddish for “be well” or, as I tend to think of it, and somewhat more ironically “more power to you.” Just keep it to yourself. Don’t bring it to the commons. Enjoy it for you and those who you consider part of your fellowship, but don’t for one minute suppose you can tell others this is the ONLY way. Do that and you will richly deserve to be shunned by others who don’t feel as you do.

PS – You can read the article, which contains a bit more detail than I’m including, here.


We’re Entitled To Defend Ourselves

I have, in the past, asked when it would be time to consider acting out against polluters, climate change deniers and, especially, so-called governmental leaders as acts of self-defense. After all, increasingly severe weather events are killing large groups of people who currently have no say in how we deal with the climate crisis, which I believe is very real and abundantly documented.

So I’ve wondered just how long we’re going to sit back and allow our leaders and businesses to ignore what is patently obvious, ensuring more and more of us will be sickened, impoverished, and killed because of their greed and intransigence.

You might want to take 10 minutes of your time and listen to what Chris has to say here. It seems to me we have only about three paths to implement the changes that are necessary. Massive participation in the electoral process to fundamentally change our leadership, massive civil disobedience to disrupt the status quo, or massive violence to overthrow the government and install new leadership. I would prefer one of the first two (and, like Chris, I’m fairly convinced the second of the two has the best chance of making real, fundamental, transformative change) but I’m not opposed to the latter on ethical grounds. I do, however, think violence will end up hurting those who are the most susceptible to oppression and suppression and, therefore, am not terribly sanguine about such a direction.

I’m thinking this is something that will deeply impact all of use far sooner than we’ve been led to believe, and action is imperative. What do you think?


White History Month’s Greatest Hits

I’m not normally fond of using WordPress’s “Press This” function, because it only pulls a few words into my blog from the original post. It’s good because it means anyone wishing to read the article can see it in its entirety as originally published, but it also means I might have to copy some words over to make the post a little more intelligible and to provide some needed context.

Nevertheless, this article is one I consider extremely important . . . for white people to read. As I commented when posting it to Twitter and Facebook: “We may not have invented racism, but we sure as hell have benefited from it these last 3 or 4 centuries. It’s up to us to end it. That’s the real “White Man’s Burden!”

Check this article out. You might want to read more at The Root as well.

After a grueling 28 days of watching corporations, institutions and random white people pretend to care about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and that other Black guy with the big part in his afro (I think it’s Booker T. Douglass), we now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Source: White History Month’s Greatest Hits


TJ’s 5-Tab Browser

A friend of mine posted an interesting picture the other day. She’s a librarian and often posts items of interest regarding libraries, books, reading, and education in general. It was of a 300-year-old library tool that enabled a researcher to have seven books open at once. She also commented, “Now they’re all just browser tabs,” referring to how we do research nowadays using multiple tabs on whatever browser we happen to be using, whether it’s Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera, etc. Below is the photo from her post.

Old-Fashioned Browser

Seeing it instantly reminded me of a tool I had seen over a decade earlier when I had the opportunity to visit a vendor in Charlottesville, Virginia, the owners of which I had become friends with. I was on my way back home from a conference in Maryland and stopped to visit with them for a couple of days. Inasmuch as Thomas Jefferson’s mansion and slave plantation, Monticello, was nearby, I felt obliged to check it out. It was in Jefferson’s library that I saw the item this tool had reminded me of. It was another type of research tool (depicted below) that served the same purpose. Also, I remembered it specifically because, at the time, I thought the same thing my friend did; this was the 18th/19th century equivalent of having five (Jefferson’s wasn’t quite as lavish as the one above) browser tabs open simultaneously.

TJ’s Monticello Five-Tab Browser

I also had the pleasure of visiting the University of Virginia, which had been founded in 1819 by Jefferson. Seven years later, Edgar Allan Poe attended the University where, apparently, he had to raise money for tuition by gambling because his father hadn’t sent him to school with enough money to get my. Below are a few more pictures from my visits in Charlottesville.

Fully-Mustachioed Rick Apres-Visit
Jefferson’s Burial Plot Marker
I Think This Is The Entrance To The University Of Virginia
Edgar Allan Poe’s Dorm Room, Which Is Sealed. This Photo Was Taken Through A Window On The Other Side Of The Room. Can You Say, “Nevermore“?

My Battle With COVID-19

On Christmas Eve, not quite three weeks ago, I felt I was becoming ill. I initiated an e-visit with Kaiser, and was able to get tested the following Monday. The following day, results showed I was positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus best known as COVID-19. I had to quarantine (meaning stay in my bedroom the entire time) for ten days. During that time I got pretty sick … almost going to the ER on (I believe) the 30th. I attempted to share my experience, as best I could given how sick I was, with my friends on Facebook. What follows is a concatenation of each of my posts as I struggled to ride this illness out. I’m happy to report, with the exception of some residual weakness and light-headedness, I seem to have recovered. Given my age and numerous comorbidities (especially COPD) I expected to become far sicker than I did, and am both relieved and grateful I seem to have recovered rather quickly. I have contacted my doctor and requested a follow-up visit to determine if the virus has caused any damage to my heart or lungs. I will follow up when I have something to report.

Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

12/24 at 14:37:

Out of an abundance of caution, I initiated an e-visit with Kaiser to determine if I’ve got COVID. I don’t have any of the worst symptoms, but I definitely have some of them. I’m scheduled for a test this coming Monday.

12/28 at 09:48:

Getting my COVID-19 test in the parking lot.

12/29 at 09:12:

Well … Now if someone asks if I personally know anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19, I can answer “Yes.”

Me!

So … the illness I really didn’t want to test my immune system and my overall health on finally got me. Now I have to isolate for 10 days. I think I’ve already been through the worst over the weekend.

I’m taking MucinexDM once every 12 hours, an occasional Aleve, and vitamin C. I can’t taste a damned thing and I wasn’t terribly hungry for the past four or five days; I’ve lost eight pounds in the last six days.

I’m feeling good today. No fever this morning and SpO2 is staying around 95%. No congestion, hardly a cough.

I know this thing can offer some surprises, so I’m monitoring myself carefully, but it looks like I won’t suffer as much as I thought I might, which is a pleasant surprise. Still, being cautious seems prudent.

12/29 at 20:08:

Have I mentioned I feel like shit. I have a mid-grade fever and I’m sweating under the blanket, but I get the chills if I get out. Typing this is difficult. Stomach is sour and SpO2 has dropped as low as 91%. I’m dizzy, weak, tire easily, and can’t take a deep breath without bronchial pain.

Other than that, I’m feeling just peachy.

12/30 at 10:02:

Sitrep:

As of this morning, I am feeling better. No fever, but that’s how yesterday started. SpO2 is 96. I think the low reading I got yesterday was an anomaly. I have never felt as though I was having trouble getting enough oxygen. Still taking MucinexDM every 12 hours, which seems to be working quite well as a cough suppressant and expectorant. Also taking vitamin C. Still hurts to take too deep a breath, but doesn’t cause spasmodic coughing. Kaiser and many, many people have sent me lots of instructions, many of which I will choose to ignore, because that’s the kind of asshole I am. Haven’t left the bedroom.

Bottom line. This sucks, but I don’t think it’s going to kill me. Then again, this virus has proven to be treacherous and I have waaay too many comorbidities to let my guard down. Stay safe y’all. At least try … that’s what I did.

12/31 at 17:31:

The battle continues. My normal temperature is 97.6. This morning it was 98.7. Since then it’s been as high as 102.5 and everywhere in-between. Currently, it’s 101.1.

Linda went out and got me some vitamin D, Zinc, & NAC, all of which are said to be efficacious in combating this fucking virus.

Happy God damned New Year, reprobates.

01/01 at 12:21:

Happy New Year everybody. Well, these last few days have been trying and difficult, to say the least. I can finally taste again; not completely but it’s getting there. I no longer have to pay as close attention to my breathing as I have for the last couple days, as my bronchial tubes are opening up and taking deep breaths is far easier than it’s been up ’til now.

I still have another five full days before I can even leave the bedroom really, at least without wearing a mask and worrying about what I touch. I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s daylight, not an oncoming train. I’m very grateful.

Temperature continues to be normal. Still dizzy and weak, but a bit more aware. Onward and upward.

01/01 at 15:47:

Man! This virus doesn’t give up. Temp is back to 102.3° F.

01/02 at 10:26:

OK – Health update. I can’t recall the last time I had the flu, or anything for that matter, that caused me to have a fever, so I’m not sure if what’s been happening to me is the normal progression of dealing with a virus. As noted over the past few days, I wake up feeling reasonably well, with no fever, and by mid-afternoon I’m burning up.

Last night it got up to 102.5, the highest it’s been since last weekend. I feel as though my fever broke last night. I finally had to take my t-shirt off. It was soaking wet. I put another one on and it was pretty soaked by 9pm, so I took it off as well and, for the first time since this started, I was comfortable sleeping without a t-shirt, which is how I normally sleep.

I had taken two Aleve, since my fever seemed to be climbing and within about an hour it was down to 98.3, which is still nearly a degree above my normal temperature of 97.6, but a good sign.

So . . . the signs are all good, but I’ve heard too many stories of people seeming to be on the mend then, boom, they’re in the hospital being intubated. No victory lap for me yet. Eight more days of quarantine. Hopefully, by next weekend I’ll be chomping at the bit to leave the bedroom. I haven’t really cared this past week.

ADDENDUM – I should add my breathing has improved considerably. I can take pretty deep breaths without pain or the need to cough and I have no congestion at all. I almost didn’t take a MucinexDM this morning, but decided not to tempt fate.

01/02 at 15:58:

Yesterday at almost exactly the same time, my temperature was 102.3. Just now it was 99.1. I would call that an improvement. So there.

01/03 at 19:12:

FYI – No news is good news.

01/04 at 13:14:

Update: While I believe I’m pretty much out-of-the-woods wrt the possibility of being hospitalized, recovery is clearly going to take some time. I just took a shower for the first time in a week and I almost couldn’t finish. I had to stop and rest halfway thru drying myself. This virus really takes a lot out of you. I can only imagine how much more difficult it might be for people who are really overweight. I feel so much better being clean (I was too sick to care for a week) but I’m beat from the effort.

Be careful out there, folks. There’s a far-too-large contingent of obstinate assholes out there whose selfishness is making it harder to avoid becoming infected.

01/09 at 12:51:

While it may be effective, I’m here to report that being infected with COVID-19 is far from an optimum weight loss strategy. I just dropped to a weight I haven’t seen since high school … and I’m 73. Think I need to eat something, stat.


Is There A Doctor In The House?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I suspect just about everyone is aware of the flap over an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal regarding our soon-to-be First Lady’s credentials. Written by Joseph Epstein, it’s entitled “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” and subtitled “Jill Biden should think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic.”

My most recent job was as the Business Manager for a Machine Learning (AI) Software Development firm, the co-founder of which had a PhD in computer science. When last I spoke with her, which was at least a year ago, she was not using her title, which she feared was seen as somewhat presumptuous. I’m not sure how she feels about it now, and I’m inclined to agree with those who see this op/ed piece as misogynistic and hollow. Frankly, I have often wondered if I could use the honorific “Dr.” in front of my name because I have earned a Juris Doctorate (JD) when I graduated Law School in 1976. However, I’ve never done so because the amount of schooling, and the quality of work, required for the degree don’t match up to that of a PhD or EdD. Actually, I tend to agree with those who suggest calling oneself “Dr.” when in possession of a law degree is ridiculous and pedantic.

It’s been discussed at great length by now, torn apart and analyzed by people far better at it than I, but I’d like to bring up what I think is an ancillary issue to that of the rank sexism and hypocrisy that exists wrt men and their seeming inability to accept women as their equals. What I’m referring to, which affects both men and women, regardless of race, creed, or color (though there are differences in degree and approach) is the depth of anti-intellectualism that has come to seemingly dominate our public life.

Just look at how many people are not only comfortable with, but are absolutely adamant about, ignoring science, facts, and reality-based analysis/synthesis. The number of people who believe most scientists are only doing what they do for the money is astounding. It’s likely one of, if not the, main reasons we’re doing so poorly in handling the pandemic here in the States.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Hardly! I recall deciding in the third grade (that would have been around 1955) I didn’t want to be seen by everybody as an egghead, which changed the trajectory of my life . . . and probably not in the best way it could have. I remember feeling at the time that I wouldn’t have any friends if I continued on the path of academic excellence I had been on. Part of me wishes I hadn’t made that choice, though my life turned out pretty well regardless. It’s just that, in retrospect, the decision was made because of the negative view most people I knew seemed to have about being too intelligent; or, at least, being willing to use that intelligence in a positive way.

I believe this is one of the reasons the United States is in the bind it’s in right now. We’re just coming off of a four-year bender with the sleaziest and dumbest President in our nation’s history. He came to power as the result of years of anti-intellectual posturing and reality TV-informed ignorance. I am thankful I have never watched one reality TV show, especially not The Apprentice or Celebrity Apprentice. It’s clear Donald Chrump managed to suck a large portion of the nation into believing he was a highly successful businessman when, in fact, he’s a serial fuck-up who managed to burn through tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars given to him by his father.

These past four years of the worst “leadership” of my lifetime has been brought to us by our nation’s well-developed sense of anti-intellectualism. This does not bode well for maintaining our position as a preeminent nation of entrepreneurs and innovators. Our quality of life in the United States is what it is in large part because of our scientific accomplishments. It amazes me so many people don’t recognize the value that science has added to our lives, be it at work, home, or play. Virtually every aspect of our lives is enhanced by science and the products and enhancements it brings to us on a heretofore regular basis. I fear we’re going to lose that edge. Perhaps we already have. More the pity.


How To Be A Patriot

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It seems to me that anyone who really cares about their country, who is a genuine patriot, has to care for everyone. Life is NOT a zero-sum game, where the gains enjoyed by others are a loss to you and yours. No, life and human society are highly complex, interdependent systems where every part has a role to play, and when we don’t provide optimal conditions for the health and well-being of some of the parts, the whole body suffers. Would you want your car’s engine to go without one of its spark plugs? While it would still get you to where you were going, it wouldn’t do it as efficiently, nor as effectively. In the end, it would almost certainly cost more to deal with the results of an imbalance in the engine than it would to ensure all its components were kept in good working order.

Yet many approach life as though they are living on an island. It’s difficult to fathom the level of insensitivity, blindness to reality, and the callous lack of empathy it takes to turn one’s back on people who may not directly affect your life in a way you can feel immediately, but who nevertheless impact the organizations and institutions you deal with all the time.

For instance, by not ensuring all children receive healthcare, adequate nutrition, and early education, we ensure our up and coming workforce will be less prepared than they otherwise could be for the kinds of jobs that will be available in the near future. The net result is we not only handicap those children, we also handicap their families, their friends, and the entire nation. By guaranteeing they need more help for far longer than might otherwise be the case, we add to both their burden and ours.

We hobble ourselves with mistaken, outdated, unsupportable notions that give far more importance to diversity as a bad thing; as something that takes away from our sense of worth, of self. Instead of understanding, celebrating, and taking advantage of all the ways in which we complement and enhance each other, too many of us turn those virtues into imaginary vices and use them to divide and separate us. What a pity.


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