Even I wouldn’t have gone here, Cincinnati

April 22, 2017

With the exception of White Sox fans and Cardinals fans, I think no team’s fans have a visceral hatred for the Cub than the Cincinnati Reds.  I’m not sure why.


It might have been the time that Cincinnati Reds broadcasting legend Marty Brennaman went scorched earth on the fans of the Cub.

It might have started back in 1984 when Ron Cey’s foul ball was called a three-run home run (and then it wasn’t … I’d say it was the one time Mario Soto almost killed an umpire, but that would be a lot of times).

It might have been the time Kyle Farnsworth tried to hit a bunting Paul Wilson (that was back in naught-three)…

It might have been the time Aroldis Chapman started throwing at some Cub in 2014 …

Heck, in 2008, the Reds’ farm team, the Dayton Dragons got into an actual fight with the Cubs’ farm team, the Peoria Chiefs … the game was stopped for over an hour, and some of the ejections had to be rescinded just to finish the game.  Had the fight lasted longer, Don King would have bought up the rights to broadcast it …

But the Reds went to new lows (or highs, depending on one’s perspective), by trolling some of the Cub fans who showed up in Cincinnati for Friday night’s game.





Isn’t it all worth the lives of just a few kids?

April 14, 2017

The Chicago Tribune published an article about students at the prestigious Naperville North High School posting a petition demanding a change to the school’s culture which aggressively pushes all students to take AP classes, and pushing the narrative that this is, for the most part, the one true path for all.

For those in education, this shouldn’t come as something surprising.  For most of the past ten years, there has been a major push from so-called “reformers” to get more and more and more kids into college prep curricula, so that 100% of our students can be college ready.  One of my few and biggest bones with the Obama administration is over this … instead of undoing a bad system created in the Bush administration (NCLB), he really doubled down with Race for the Top, which allowed these “reformers” to cause a lot of damage to education.

This completely ignores the wishes of students and parents who may not want that road, or who may choose that road at a more leisurely pace (college is tough … but there is “MIT/Caltech tough” … there’s “Harvard” tough … there’s “University of Illinois” tough, there’s “Western Illinois University” tough, and “community college” tough.  The reformers have largely created an arbitrary measure of “college ready”, and have not accounted for what a lot of people actually want in their education.

However, there is a more sinister and serious influence that has crept in … and this has a lot more to do with money and other arbitrary measures.

If you have gone house shopping in the recent past, and you have, or were planning on spawning, you become interested in the local schools, and a lot of real estate companies will list the local schools rankings on the U.S. News and World Report lists of toughest and best schools.  You might start by asking what expertise U.S. News and World Report has to rank schools.  The answer is that they have far less expertise than a French tire company has at ranking gourmet restaurants, and that should concern you.

This means that the ability for someone to sell their home and get top dollar is at least partially linked in some cases to that list.  In some communities, this has become a monumentally big deal!  If the school isn’t ranked high enough, then homes don’t get sold, or at least don’t get sold for top dollar.  In our community, we had a person run for the school board solely on the platform of getting our school’s ranking up higher for this reason (they lost, but it became a big issue in the local press).

The U.S. News and World Report lists are based predominantly on a single metric of success, and that metric is the ratio of AP tests taken-per-student.  Anyone with any background in humanity should know that this is highly arbitrary, and not particularly useful at measuring the effectiveness at determining how good a school is, because this data is very easily manipulable.  Schools could very simply start mandating that all students start taking AP classes and take AP tests, and that would artificially raise that metric quickly.  In fact, the school I teach at did that last year, mandating all freshmen take AP History (I forget which one).  Our school went from being ranked somewhere around 200th in the country to the top 75 in the country on that useless tanking.  Are we really that good?  I’m not sure where we should have ranked, but we certainly aren’t that deserving now!  More and more our educational strategy is based around “window dressing” to make administrators and the school look good while covering up some fundamental problems that are getting bigger.  The community may not like this, but has a vested financial interest in seeing this continue.

All we need to do is realize that we are screwing our kids over big time in pushing this process on them.  I want our schools to be tough on kids, but I also want to give kids what they need … and arbitrarily tough isn’t the solution to that.  If you read that article, you will see that the Naperville North petition was fueled by the second student suicide related to stress in the past year.

Is this the price we want for high rankings on a useless scale in order to sell the house for a few grand more?  Sadly, we are in a void of leadership that will do anything about this.

I get honored for mostly not screwing up too badly …

April 9, 2017

I need to start off on a really terrible note, by informing those out there not in the know, that my old, old friend Beth (she’s not old, we’ve just known each other for a long time), lost her father this past week. He died four months to the day that she lost her mom.  Everyone goes through this differently, and I would never tell anyone “I know exactly how it feels” because I can’t, but I feel enough empathy for people who go through this to get a knot in my stomach when things like this happen.  Please keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

On slightly better news, my brother-in-law was elected by the good people of Willow Springs to be a Trustee and will sit on the Village Board.  This was his second attempt to get elected, and despite some really under-the-belt tactics by his opponents, he and his ticket made their point and won the day thanks to a large voter turnout.  This means I am now closely related to a genuine Cook County politician.  I’ve never felt closer to prison in my life … and many of you know my brother.

The week capped off for me down in Bloomington-Normal where the state scholastic bowl coaches association awarded me an award for being around and helping out.  I didn’t want this award.  I’ve not been very big into them for a long time.  I think they knew this so they made a very splashy public announcement about it before they told me figuring I wouldn’t want to make more of a fuss by turning it down then.  They were right.  I decided to make the best of it by turning my speech into a list of thank yous to people who I owed, and to yell at the assembled players to tell them to step up and do their part to continue improving the activity and competition.

It also helps to remind me that when people get awards and get speeches about all of the wonderful things they accomplished, they never talk about the things you screwed up.  I’ve been terrible at organizing tournaments … only one of the roughly five I ever hosted ever managed to run close to on time and without a major catastrophe occurring.  There was no mention of the times I made middle schoolers cry while officiating their tournaments (four times).  No mention of the terrible, horrible questions I’ve written that likely caused more than a few players to blow a gasket.  I think I have destroyed most of them.  No mention of the times I should have been more forceful to get something done, and didn’t, and the times I should have been more subtle to get things done and wasn’t.

Things like that put success in perspective.

One of the things I did have some hand in bringing about was ending a threatened limitation to our players playing at national tournaments, a privilege enjoyed in most other states.  This did help expose our players to top notch competition, and helped to improve our top teams, which in turn helped improve some of our other teams.  It helped immensely to punctuate this point that as we were meeting and giving speeches, the collegiate nationals were taking place, in which a number of former Illinois high school players were having exceptional tournaments, helping to guide their teams to top finishes, all while three of our best high school teams were competing in Texas at a pre-nationals tournament, and taking three of the top five places.

I can’t claim a lot of credit … but I will claim a small slice of the cake for helping that to happen.

Time to renew …

April 2, 2017

It has been an awful, awful several months.  It seems like everything is broken.  They can’t get the right movie announced at the Oscars … the US electoral system is seriously screwed up, the education systems are an absolute mess … and the Cub reigns as the World Series champions.


Damn it!!

For those that don’t know, that is the sign located across from Cubs Park that keeps track of the years since the last division, league, and World Series titles … and for the first time ever it reads zeroes across the board.

The White Sox are in rebuilding mode.  On the good hand, the Sox are finally building a farm system for the first time since the 1950s.  However, this means that the Sox will not be threatening for much of anything.  All of the forecasts have the Sox finishing 4th or 5th in the division (of five teams).  Hopefully, this bodes well for the Sox a few years down the road … but that year will not be this year.

Perhaps the most sad White Sox news will be that this will be the first time in six years that a guy with a White Sox cap won’t be in office in Washington.  Instead, the current resident of 1600 Penn may become the first president since Jimmy Carter to not throw out a first pitch at a Washington Nationals or Baltimore Orioles game while president.  Given the close association with Cubs ownership and the Trump campaign, you figure he would throw out the first pitch for the Cub … but apparently he is staying under cover these days.  As a baseball fan, I am glad he is not sullying the national pastime with his presence.

That all said, it is a day of renewal and rebirth … glorious baseball is finally back!

Why the most defining film of our time … is from 1975

March 30, 2017

We live in a senseless time.  Our nation is ruled by no-talents who wallow with pride in their lack of knowledge and skill at what they do.  Anyone who might know what they are doing are counseled about how useless they are, and how much they must serve those who know jack shit, while yet more shit is piled on them to prevent them from getting too revolutionary.

This is why I think this is the defining film of our era, despite being 42 years early.


I’m a star!  They’ll let me!  I can do anything!


I would like to argue that Jaws is a story or parable of our times.  In keeping with our times, allow me to spout my bullshit theory.


The film has a very simple score … just a couple of repeated notes … indicative of a society where funding for the arts has been drained to pay for an already bloated military.


The film opens with the establishment of immediate, clear and present danger.  A woman is viciously slaughtered while out enjoying her God given right to swim nude, with a great white shark taking the place of a couple of gun toting FRWEASPs  (who of course oggled her the whole way through their sniper scope before shooting the sinner for her transgressions).


Enter Martin Brody, police chief of Amity Island.  The Chief is a good man who wants to do a good job, but is frankly scared (why would someone afraid of the water ever take a job on the island … as the chief puts it … “it’s only an island if you look at it from the water”).  Poor logic, but the man is honest in his convictions.  They find the poor girl’s remains, and the police immediately files a “person eaten by a shark report” and sets off to close the beaches.


This is supposed to be in late June, but the death certificate says poor Chrissy Watkins was eaten on December 4.  Just more alternative facts!


Then the real villains appear … the business owners and the politicians (unlike today, they are depicted as separate people, but if this film were made today, it would just be the mayor who owns the hotel, failing casino, and golf course on the island).  The poorly dressed mayor, gently reminds the newly hired chief that doing this will completely damage the economy which is based on suckers from the mainland coming to sunbathe and swim.  The chief gets the message from the politicians and business owners and changes the report to “run over by boat”.


Seriously, who else other than a failed land developer dresses in such poor taste.

The next day, as one might suspect, the shark returns and kills a boy.  The mother senses a false flag operation, and offers a reward for the shark’s body.  This attracts every cast member and fan of Duck Dynasty and Swamp People to show up (at one point, one of the fishermen actually asks how $8,000 splits four ways … so you know this isn’t the PBS crowd).  They go hunting for their terrorist shark, and instead bag an innocent shark that kind of looked like the other shark.


They all look alike, how can you tell?  Besides, if this shark was innocent, it wouldn’t have tried swimming away.


Needing a dose of sanity, the heroic elitist scientist is called in.  The scientist realizes it is the wrong shark, and he and the chief go hunting for the real beast at night on the scientist’s fully decked out yacht (probably bought from government grant money wasted on churning out global warming papers, despite admitting he just comes from a rich white privileged family).  They strike out, but the scientist does find a tooth indicative of a massive predator, but drops it after seeing the head of a local fisherman who somehow got eaten by the shark inside his boat without a shark sized hole in the boat (this shark must be far more flexible than any shark in history).When the scientist and chief try to build a case based on science, the mayor simply refuses to believe it.  There is money to be made by his friends in the business community … and goes ahead with the summer celebration plans …


The damn college kids believe in freedom of speech until they disagree with it.  Then it is vandalism and riots.


… but not before building a wall …. of boats … armed with heavy weapons out in the bay to protect the swimmers and keep out illegal sharks.


Who cares how many boats.  Send the bill to Mexico!


That wall does as well as you might think … the shark goes right underneath it, and kills again.  This time the mayor decides to give in, and hire a professional.  This professional … a US navy vet with lots of experience (the moderate conservative of the story), joins forces with the scientist and the chief to hunt the shark.  You can tell he is conservative because he is grizzled and sexist … but he is a moderate, because the damn mayor is on his back about parking, and he wants his shack rezoned as part of the deal to kill the shark.


Moderate Republican c. 2017 (pictured)

The scientist and the fisherman don’t get along very well at first, and both largely ignore the moderate who is barely containing his terror.  Eventually, the scientist and fisherman learn to respect each other after comparing scars one drunken evening.  Showing that differences can be overcome … with the help of ethanol!

In the end, the professional fisherman is killed … because he allowed the mayor and business leaders to run things and not insist on doing things the right way in the first place.  The scientist damn near gets killed, but escapes to hide among some rocks at the ocean bottom.  the bravely heroic moderate Martin Brody (he’s a cop, but open minded) finally kills the shark using the tools of liberal science (a SCUBA air tank likely packed with semtex for reasons) and the moderate conservative’s rifle to kill the shark.

Perhaps the moral of the story is that, in the end, the educated and open minded will be the survivors … those that can communicate and understand where both sides of the debate come from. Of course, in the sequel, the mayor and business community get their revenge by firing Martin after he tries to save the island again while the teens try to run away to Europe … so there is that.

Maybe the moral is that until a decent man is elected president, we will all be chum!

This is why I really hate cell phones!

March 18, 2017

If a student asks me my opinion on time travel, I tell them that I don’t believe it will ever happen, though the only thing I can be sure of is that I never get involved in its invention.  When the student asks how I can be so sure, I ask them to pull their cell phone out.  After they produce it, I tell them that this is the evidence, because if I was ever involved in time travel, the first thing I would do is make sure these damned things were never invented.

Cell phones a frickin’ plague on education.  No one is sure how to handle them properly, and what generally happens is a lot of fighting (or no fighting, and cell phones everywhere).

Parents are the biggest pains in the posterior about this.  I would estimate that 60-70% of texts to students are parents … and sometimes those texts are “call me”, which is code for “go to the bathroom and call me”.  It is bad enough that students don’t know how to properly use this technology, something made worse by the fact that relatively few parents know how to use this technology.

Case in point.

This past week, one of my colleagues was walking down the hall and saw a kid sitting at a desk taking a test … and was on his cell phone.  She accosted him, but on a second look, saw that the kid had tears streaming down his face, and was on the verge of hysterics.  Why?

It turns out mom had just texted him that they were taking grandma off of life support.

If you are thinking “what monster would do this”, then I say congratulations, you have not been replaced by a facsimile grown in a large seed pod.  I am often the last person to tell parents how to parent, but if I were a parent, and the family dog was being put to sleep, I wouldn’t text that … let alone that grandma was about to pass after what must have been a deeply emotional decision.  That a parent thought that it was OK to do this shows not only a complete lack of empathy to their offspring, but a complete misuse of technology.

Needless to say we had to escort the kid down to his counselor and call in the team psychologist to help with this.


Parents, please, for the love of God, DO NOT TEXT OR CALL YOUR KIDS DURING THE SCHOOL DAY!  As much as you wouldn’t want a teacher breaking in to one of your meetings to give a mundane reminder, wait until the kid is out of school.  If your kid texts you during the day,don’t respond until the day is over, and then reprimand them for texting during school.  If there is an emergency, call the school, get a hold of the kid’s counselor and have the kid brought down where they can get the news directly, AND have some human support on hand in case things get emotional.

Clearly, mom was having a bad day, but these are the kinds of things, as an adult, you need to think about before you do them.

Are you against Trump and his billionaire supporters?

March 4, 2017

Here is one way to show your disdain for at least one of his billionaire supporter families!

I wholeheartedly approve!

And on sale for the low, low price of $19.08!