Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Back In Time

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that if I had the choice to rid the world of one single technology, that it would be cell phones. I am certain we are a less civilized society as a result of current cell phone technology and as much as I am attached to mine, and as useful and convenient as they can be, I think the world is way worse off since they became commonplace.

I wonder if humans will eventually (d)evolve to the point where are heads are pointed downward by default?

How many deaths and life altering injuries need to happen before the boneheads who still text and drive will stop?

Give me a pocket full of dimes and a street corner pay phone any day.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The 95 Theses on Painting

When I was in Chicago at the end of June, I had posted about a visit to The Museum of Contemporary Art. One of the artists whose work I saw was a woman named Molly Zuckerman-Hartung and I mentioned her piece known as "The 95 Theses on Painting". I am finally going to live up to my promise of bringing that great work to you - enjoy:

The 95 Theses on Painting
  1. I am a painter.
  2. I decided to become a painter. No one asked me to do this.
  3.  Becoming a painter is my way of deciphering the codes of visual information and experience that structure capitalism in our time.  
  4. Deciphering the codes also means rethinking the implied values of those codes.
  5.  I was never a doodler. (I never drew idly, playfully, without self-judgment and insecurity, for fun. Even as a small child I broke crayons from pressing too hard, and learned quickly that my artistic efforts would be judged harshly.)
  6.  I was not told I had artistic potential.
  7. I am a 37 year old woman with no children and no intention of having children. The significance of this decision is simply that my investment in the future is necessarily different, less personal. I do not have children, but I do have students. I worry for them. I wonder what kind of a world they are growing up into. What they understand of the world and what they will make of their understanding.
  8.  Painting is an activity that takes place within quotidian time, and has the ability to expand and transform clock time beyond the everyday, toward the eternal.
  9.  This movement toward the eternal has been critiqued as Romantic, but is as realist and banal as keeping one’s hands in warm dishwater on a sunny afternoon. The decision to space out – to get lost in a moment is an always available decision.
  10.  My paintings do not have value because they are in the museum. They have value because they are in dialogue with and a continuation of other paintings.
  11. This dialogue involves careful looking at and questioning of paintings in museums, in studios, in galleries, in homes, and response in my own work, sometimes pictured as thrashing, flailing argument, sometimes illustrative, sometimes critically dialectical and sometimes dreamily intuitive.
  12. I believe in painting as a meaningful act.
  13. I believe in painting as a desperate, stupid, time-wasting act involving huge, crippling ambition and necessary and near-constant failure. This too is meaningful.
  14. To fail interestingly one must understand the stakes of one’s endeavor and try to achieve something against certain odds.
  15. The stakes of painting are both universal and personal.
  16. The history of painting is parallel to, and provides a bodily, always-contemporary narrative of the history of civilization.
  17. To make paintings one must take seriously the triumph and tragedy of civilization.
  18. The continuation of civilization belongs to anyone who has the courage to imagine herself an implicated participant in its history.
  19. To make an important painting one must posit oneself as a person of consequence.
  20. A person of consequence tries to understand the possible effects of her actions.
  21. I know what I do, but I do not know what what I do, does.
  22. One of the tragedies of civilization is that we have believed and continue to believe that one is born into the position of being a person of consequence.
  23. Understanding the unruly effects of one’s actions as an individual enmeshed in a complex global situation is impossible and thus one must constantly reconcile oneself to the ruinous effects of most human endeavor.
  24. I am aware that most of my action is harmful. (Richard Rorty’s definition of a liberal is someone who tried to do the least harm.)
  25. Most human endeavors are enacted with the arrogance of a false person of consequence who believes that they do right.
  26. A painter knows that to do no harm is impossible. (This knowledge is arrived at through the consistent experience of preparing a pure, white surface and muddying it, messing it up, adding and subtracting in a process of working out the drives to destroy and create, and the shame of these drives.)
  27. A painter knows that civilization is untenable.
  28. To stand up and assert oneself as a person of consequence is to assert a distrust in universal human values, (in ambivalent favor of the individual perspective) and the simultaneous necessity of continuing to teach and perform universal values as well as their critique in the hope of future generations finding better resolutions to impossible questions.
  29.  I often don’t know if I am whispering but should be yelling or vice versa. This is a painting problem.
  30. Painting reminds me of my actual size.
  31. For all of the above reasons, painting can be an avant-garde act.
  32. In the past the avant-garde has tried to keep up with technological “progress” in an effort to critique it.
  33. Today, the avant-garde has trouble locating itself or its purpose.
  34. I believe the painter, contending with gravity, materiality, action and history, is best equipped to articulate the goals of the avant-garde.
  35. The problem of attention is addressed by painting.
  36. The problem of containment is located within painting.
  37. The problem of time is felt in painting.
  38. When I stand before a painting and am able to bring my whole self to the experience, I feel the arrested time, which is felt as my own death.
  39. This is different from the experience of photography, which is also arrested time, but stopped by a mechanical or digital device.
  40. The effort of the painter to stop time with her own hands, in the face of history, hurts more, but the pain is empowering, not debilitating.
  41. Feeling one’s own death is the beginning of developing a sense of the consequences of one’s actions.
  42. Painting at its best is utterly demanding, cruel, and hopeful.
  43. A painting asserts its own criteria for success or failure. The painting itself tells you how it wishes to be judged.
  44. Paintings ask for judgment. This is their gift. How do they do this?
  45. They sit completely still.
  46. Even when they attempt to ingratiate themselves, by trendy color or shiny surfaces, they carry the awareness of how short-lived their charms will be.
  47. Janus-faced, paintings look backward and forward in perplexed, stony silence.
  48. At times painting is passionately committed to its history, and sometimes, nostalgically resigned to its pastness, but always, painting looks backward.
  49. Often painting is anticipatory, excitable, and enthusiastically bad, while being as present and happy to be here as a preteen at a slumber party, but always, painting looks forward.
  50. Though strongly held positions may appear arrogant, dogmatic and single-minded, to adopt and substantiate a critical attitude is in fact the most humble of gestures since such positions pre-suppose their own negation.
  51. Painting is a strongly held position.
  52. The purpose of holding a strong position is to offer open invitation to dissenting critical thought.
  53. The painter’s goal with respect to the future is to stay relevant without becoming absorbed.
  54. This means keeping pace with (dirtying oneself on) the organizing forces of capitalism (social, economic) without giving into them. Ie not just being a symptom, but exercising discipline, moderation, restrained investment sometimes, and decadence, porosity, and the wild flail other times.
  55. In painting, one has a conversation with oneself that is in some ways the same as the conversation with the world. The difference is similar to the distinction between speech and writing.
  56. In speech, one cannot take something back.
  57. In writing, one changes one’s mind privately, and presents a reasoned argument publicly.
  58. In painting, the difference is that the accumulated evidence of changing one’s mind is allowed to remain as build-up, as density, or sedimentation.
  59. This sedimentation is what I am calling human.
  60. In relationships with others, this sedimentation is often heavy, angry, resentful. Things said and taken back reside in memory and are not easily discharged.
  61. In a painting practice, this long conversation with the self (which is a conversation with all the others encountered in one’s life, and internalized,) is manifest, present in time and space as a whole, as an alternate body: the body of work.
  62. The body of work is evidence of the work of living.
  63. The work of living is different from making a living, which is obligatory, and a strange euphemism for the giving up of part of one’s life to the activity of paying for that life.
  64. Painting is a paradoxically elite activity precisely because when fully engaged as a critical, lifelong practice, the painter gives up all of her life to this practice.
  65. All work, including washing dishes, sewing clothing, devising advertising campaigns and building IPhones can be meaningful, but capitalism has chosen to segregate these practices into a hierarchy of value.
  66. Work typically done by women, with the hands, is not valued.
  67. Work done in factories, with machines and hands, now mainly in China, is not valued.
  68. Work done in the home, such as washing dishes or raising children is not valued.
  69. Work done on the farm, with machines and hands, is not valued.
  70. We do not value work because we do not value ourselves. And we regard the objects made and lived with as depressed, depleted mirrors of our sorry self-hatred.
  71. We then make up new/old categories such as artisanal, and make cocktails, handbags and nouveau cuisine for the wealthy as a compensatory gesture.
  72. This does not compensate. Some people have lifestyle and many exist in poverty to support that lifestyle.
  73. The dream of abstract painting in the 20th century was a dream of whole people, whose senses weren’t fragmented, whose vision was complete, who made paintings with their hearts and minds and bodies in harmony.
  74. This dream is still a dream, not yet a reality, and ever-receding.
  75. This dream is foolish and necessary, and the wholeness of its vision is what makes it foolish, and the wholeness of its vision is what makes it necessary.
  76. Keeping a foolish dream alive makes one a fool.
  77. Society has always needed fools: the fool is both self-electing and made from without, by the society.
  78. The fool bears the shame of society’s fears. The fool is a scapegoat.
  79. The painter today is a fool.
  80. The painter today becomes familiar with shame. The hot flush of shame, the constriction of muscles, the desperate need to hide. The painter accepts these feelings and holds them, and smiles warmly.
  81. The painter gives a gift that is unwanted and even hated.
  82. The gift the painter gives is the very human meaning of engaging in a useless and unjustifiable activity.
  83. It is simply this. There is no justification for what I do.
  84. I’ll say it again. I do nothing useful to justify my existence, and yet I believe I deserve to exist. All life deserves this unjustified blessing.
  85. Painting is an utterly useless activity.
  86. And yet, painting gives my life meaning.
  87. Painting is the language of form and space that reminds me that I am made of the same stuff as the world.
  88. I am hard and soft, gentle and dense and dispersed, bright and sharp, contrasting and undulating, acidic and toxic and soothing. As is the world.
  89. I paint to step away from myself and realize that I am one with myself.
  90. I paint to step away from the world and realize that I am one with the world.
  91. I paint to forget everything I know.
  92. I paint to remember again, everything I dismembered, and to become a member of something new, which was there all along.
  93. I choose, each time as though for the first time, to think and teach and write and love as a painter.
  94. The movement through the 95 theses is an agonistic, difficult process I go through again and again, mostly forgetting that there is relief and containment at the end.
  95. Painters make better lovers.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Podcast: Only God Knows Why-The Legend of Johnny Kool (Part 2 of 3)

This is the second of three parts discovering the music and concept behind a mix CD that I made for my brother John back in the year 2000.

You can go to the podcast site by clicking here. At the podcast site you can listen, download the episode or subscribe via iTunes.

If you prefer, you can listen to the episode right here:

Haiku from a Parking Lot

I was meeting my friend and former colleague Wayne for dinner last night and I arrived a little early. While waiting, I was listening to some podcasts in the car and was observing the clouds and the sky in general thinking a lot about the weather and how it affects mood, brain chemistry and how sometimes it reflects emotion and thoughts. Sometimes weather can be inspiring, even when it's not good weather. We know that at some point, the weather will be good again and this gives us reason to be hopeful and that often, patience and hope are rewarded.

Anyway, I grabbed a piece of scrap paper and a pen and this came to me first:

haunted by the blues
thinking about me and you
you are my sunshine

After I wrote that, I took my pen from the page and looked back out the window and there was a flurry of dark clouds rolling past that seemed to mean business. Funny how we sometimes allow the weather to dictate how we live our life. Obviously there are extreme weather conditions that require us to take very specific actions - which of course does say something about weather.

When I saw these clouds rolling by, all I could really think about was the sunshine. Where was the sunshine? I knew that somewhere behind those clouds, the sun is still in it's place. The light of the sun may not be visible, but it doesn't mean it's gone. I placed the pen to paper and wrote the following:

staring at dark clouds
the sunshine hides behind them
let me see the light

When I read this one, it seemed too obvious but after a little thought, I can see behind the words. I can see many possibilities where these words can find interpretation. I happen to seen that there is an important relationship, for me personally that is, between these two poems and after reading them both several times, it's clear to me where my inner thoughts and hopes are revealed in these words.

What I always hope sharing my words will do for those of you who take the time to read them is that you will find something meaningful in them for yourself. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Not Much, But Something

  • On the 5am news, they were talking Tornado warnings - oh, my
  • That kind of extreme weather talk was in and out throughout the day
  • There was an orientation for new Nursing instructors today that I was asked to present information on the Blackboard Learning Management System but the director failed to coordinate time properly - I hate that kind of poor organization and disrespect for my time
  • I attended a training session for a product called "Collaborate", used to facilitate webinar like environments
  • My friend Andy bought me lunch as a thanks for fixing his home computer
  • I had the best time with my daughter as we spent hours laughing and just being silly
  • It's 11pm, no severe weather here (so far), further west and NY, still potential
  • Having dinner tomorrow with a friend and former colleague, Wayne then seeing my friends "The Road Dawgs" perform
  • My daughter and I decided on breakfast for dinner so I made a Jarlsberg omelet - yummy
  • That's about all I have for you today!
  • Oh, part 2 of "Only God Knows Why: The Legend of Johnny Kool" will be available on Saturday

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Daughter O'Mine

Yesterday was my daughter's 14th birthday. I picked her up after I got off work and she arrived at my house to find a new practice amp for her bass and a new pair of headphones. So we played around with her bass a bit hearing it make actual sound for the first time. She needs to get signed up for lessons at some point but the timing of this summer hasn't been right. Regardless, we had some fun being silly.

We watched some TV together with plans to go to "Angry Ham's Garage" for dinner. She decided to live it up and ordered a NY Strip steak (we shared some calamari for an appetizer) and I was sure to mention to the server that it was her birthday. When the main course was done, out came server and a few others with a candle-lit piece of cake and a bit of a sing-along. If you look at the photo, you can see the woman in the green shirt in the background joining in (as did a number of others).
Here's a picture of the awesome piece of cake they brought her:
Next stop, high school in September.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Yesterday I took my daughter to the Van's Warped Tour 2012 in Hartford, Ct. About a week ago, a mother of one of the kids at church asked if she got a ticket for her son, could he tag along with us. Allen's dad and grandmother have been sick and she wanted to give him a break from all of that and a nice day out so I said of course he could come along.

This picture is Allan, Victoria and part of my head (darn front camera know I am talking smack about it and now it being vengeful).
The setup involved many booths, which were tents, all lined up outside the actual amphitheater and interspersed, were about half a dozen stages along with two stages inside the amphitheater. I had one big rule that I told the kids up front, NO SODA or any other drinks except water, and, lots of water. I wanted to protect them from dehydration and soda's and other drinks are chemically designed, via the addition of sodium, to dehydrate the body and increase the desire to drink more of it. In fact, so is Aquafina and several other bottled "so-called" waters. I told them that on the way home, if they really wanted something other than water to drink, we could stop for one - they were both fine with this rule because they understood what I had explained to them and knew I made the rule to protect them.

After the commute, parking and walk from the parking lot, we got inside around 10:45, grabbed a schedule then I let the kids plot out which bands they wanted to see. It was smooth sailing for a while and we all did a good job of staying hydrated and pacing ourselves in the heat. However, I noticed that quite a few people were falling victim and Vickie's face was reddening; as was mine.

We broke for lunch at one point then continued to meander at just before one of the bands that the kids were super jazzed about seeing, we had found some shade trees behind the stage and took a short sit-down in the shade break; where this photo of Vickie and me was taken.

We continued to drift and as the day got later, more and more of the bands they were super excited about seeing were playing. The one my daughter was most jazzed about, "Falling in Reverse", was not scheduled to go on until 7:40 and the deeper into the day we got, the more difficult it was getting to stay around. Around 3pm, we were watching this godawful band "Blood on the Dance Floor", a vile, disgusting, gross band with shitty music and zero morals (I know this sounds stuffy, believe me that I am very open minded, fun-loving and liberal - when I say this band is grotesque, I mean it with the utmost sincerity) and about half way through there set, I felt myself getting sick; I believe from heat exhaustion. I had a really bad headache kicking in, I was nauseous, and started feeling a bit dizzy.

As we began walking away, I actually fell from the dizziness and I told the kids, we needed to go get another water fill-up and that I hated to disappoint them, but there was no way after about 7 hours in the baking sun, that I could wait around 3 more hours for their band to start their set then another hour for them to play - I knew that I would not make it and it was just a health issue. I told them I would take them to a restaurant for dinner and I promised my daughter that if they came around our neck of the words to play a show, I would take her.

They were disappointed but also understanding and off we went. I told the kids that we would drive out of the local town for about 20 minutes, then pull off the road and check Yelp for nearby restaurants; this is what led us to Yukon Jack's Hilltop Grill.

The restaurant was kind of crazy but adequate. The kids were over not seeing their band and were yapping endlessly about everything while we all waited for some kind of burgers and they insisted their Coke's tasted "Root Beer-ish". Before heading back home, we found this odd thing on the grounds and Victoria wanted her photo taken:
And that was our day.

Tomorrow, my "little" girl turns 14. Happy Birthday Victoria - Daddy Loves You!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Podcast: Only God Knows Why-The Legend of Johnny Kool (Part 1 of 3)

This is the first of three parts discovering the music and concept behind a mix CD that I made for my brother John back in the year 2000.

You can go to the podcast site by clicking here. At the podcast site you can listen, download the episode or subscribe via iTunes.

If you prefer, you can listen to the episode right here:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Straight From the Horse's Mouth

This is my dear friend Joy, one of my early blog friends. Joy posted this on her blog, "I'm having open-heart surgery July 31 at Vanderbilt. It's for a genetic condition (hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy) and mitral valve replacement. Was told a long time ago that I have a heart murmur which has now gone from mild to moderate to severe and explains why I've been feeling progressively worse for a while now. Shortness of breath, fatigue, and other symptoms have increased to the point of having to rest after a shower most days. I'm looking forward to feeling better but would like to fast forward through the next several months." I must ask all of you to send good thoughts her way and please, feel free to offer her well wishes here in the comments section. Joy was a teacher for 35+ years and is one cool lady! Big hugs to ya mamma - I know oyu're gonna come through this fine.
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I visited with Grace this evening. You may recall a few days ago when I spoke of dear Grace who suffered a stroke. Thanks to all of you who have kept her in your thoughts and for touching base with me either on Facebook, email or phone.  It's a tough thing to recover from for anybody and even more at the age of 87 but Grace is a strong, independant woman - I feel like she can make huge progress.
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This is Pomplamoose:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Boy they Call Ryan and Other Tidbits

This adorable boy is Ryan; he is the son of my friends Michael and Jennifer and every time I see that face, it brings a smile to mine. I showed this to my daughter who also just fell in love with this face and decided she wanted to draw him.

Six minutes after deciding she wanted to draw him, she says, "tada" and this is what she showed me:
Not sure how she can do this as I can't draw a stick figure and her mother isn't artistically inclined either. Super cool!
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I received a delightful email indicating that my paycheck will reflect a raise (something us state employees haven't seen much of lately). All together, it works out to about 4.25% or so - I like that!

I seem to have bad banana timing (most of the time). Every time I need to get bananas (which is often), I have a hard time finding ripe ones. I know, your going to tell me to get unripe ones and realign my timing - tried, failed.

To shake things up a bit, I added broccoli to my "green smoothies" this week - interesting effect.

Got about half way through on part 2 of "The Legend of Johnny Kool" podcast series - Part 1 just may be released before the end of the weekend.

Wide Awake in Dreamland

I walked into the room expecting to literally drop after a very long and hectic day. I wanted to drift off to dream about you while the physical me rested.

Imagine my surprise when i walked into my room and you were right there, waiting, needing to say the things you needed to say and hoping to hear what was in my heart, and mind.

We talked until daybreak, then we fell into each others arms and slept until our bodies discovered each other and we made love until our bodies and hearts had become a part of each other.

We are comforted in knowing that despite the challenges before us, we have what we need in each other and the most important people in our lives.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Quick Update(s)

  • Today was a fairly busy day and that suited me just fine.
  • I ordered my daughters birthday gift (her birthday is July 24th), hopefully it will get here in time.
  • I have part 1 of 3 for the next music podcast series "in the can", work on part 2 to commence no later than this weekend. I'll release part one when part 2 is in the can.
  • What's the deal with all the sneaker spam on Facebook? So odd?
  • Wanna see some pictures?
These T-Shirts were everywhere in NOLA:
They are passionate about their football down there!

This is Sal Khan, the founder of "Khan Academy"

This is fried alligator. No, it doesn't taste like chicken! In fact, it's flavor is pretty non-descript and it's texture is very light (I expected gamey and tough).
I washed this down with a delightful local brew (whose name escapes me).

Monday, July 16, 2012


It was back to work at the office after being away at a conference for a week. Any time back to the office after being away is filled with voice mails, Emails, phone calls and catching up - this day was no different and by 9:00 am, I was already involved in a number of different things and my mind was scrambling when i received a call from my friend (and colleague) Linda.

You may recall Linda, a while back i was the officiant at her and her husband's wedding. Linda called yo let me know that her 87 year old mother, Grace, had suffered a stroke. Clearly it didn't really register in that moment because i hung up the phone and the day went on.

This evening, I was sitting in my couch and had all of a sudden become overwhelmed with emotion and began weeping uncontrollably; it had finally sunk in what had happened. A little later, I spoke to Linda and got a more thorough update an Grace's condition.

Linda's family has been an extension of my own family. I've spent quite a few Thanksgiving holiday's with these people so this hit me.

Of course I've offered to help where I can be of help but really, this is a matter of medicine and fate. If you are reading this, please send good thoughts, prayers, whatever Grace's (and her family's) way - this is going to be a difficult time for all of them.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Haiku Coma (poetry from 40,000 feet)

I was in a headphone trance on the flight back. JetBlue has the nice little TV screen with TV and music channels to occupy (distract) the brain cells while napping, sipping on a beverage or snacking - doing anything to neglect the discomfort of being trapped with dozens of other people in a tubular sardine can at 40,000 feet in the air.

There was a point in the flight where I pulled off the headphones, reached for my bag, grabbed a pen and whatever I had that resembled paper (the back of my boarding pass from the flight into New Orleans) and started thinking, tapping writing and then some cyclical version of that until I was through (I just seemed to know when that time was).

Next thing I knew, I had eight haiku poems written and today, I share them here with you (in the order in which they were written):

High above the clouds
alone with my thoughts of you
I wish you were here

In the Big Easy
haunted by the mystery
What are you thinking?

Sun breaks through the clouds
do you feel the same as I?
Can you feel the warmth?

A new perspective
a chance to feel, to be loved
take that chance with me

After I wrote the fifth one, which mentions winter, I got the idea to cover all four season; this was the only premeditation involved in writing any of these, the rest simply flowed from the source of inspiration.

Dreaming of winter
finding warmth close to my heart
finding warmth in you

It's springtime again
spring hopes eternal once more
may hope become real

The Summer sun shines
the warmth fills my heart with love
my love is for you

Autumn of my years
don't let this fall be the same
let love find a way

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Deconstruction of a Van Dyke

I shaved my facial hair this morning (moments after awakening to add the element of danger), taking it down in stages, photographing each stage and creating this ridiculous short for all of you. How cool am I?

Here I Am

I flew back from New Orleans yesterday. The travel was relatively uneventful; I arrived home at around 8 pm or around there and tried to get in touch with my daughter, who was not reachable by phone or text so I just left a message or two and did a little unpacking and a little relaxing.

I took a shower, then watched a little TV and at some point, crashed on the couch only to wake up mangled around 4 am then went to my bed, then woke up again around 7:30. I just kind of muddled around for a few hours, did laundry, and then eventually realized I had to work out, so I hit the gym and did what had to be done.

Anyway, I've spent two of the last three weeks away from home, never did that before but the time in Chicago was great and even though I worked in New Orleans, I spent some time exploring regional food and was able to visit with an old friend that I've known for just under 40 years.

I've got some pictures, perhaps some stories to go with a few of them and even some poetry to share with you over the next few days, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Revelation Unexpected

I'm at a conference put on every year by a company who focuses on software and services for education, primarily elearning. I've come to this conference six times and at each, have made valuable connections for work and gathered lots of great information.

I've been teaching community college students both in a classroom and online for about 14 years and have worked both as a teacher and academic support with a broad diversity of students in terms of age, socioeconomic status, culture, and with a wide range of learning and/or physical disabilities. I've studied and been involved in the movement toward universal course design that addresses all learners. I am not ignorant to the needs and challenges of various populations.

Today, however, all of it became a little surreal after witnessing something that stopped me in my tracks, made me take stock of what I think I understand, made me realize more than ever how important me doing the work I do with some sense of passion is and made me better understand that which I didn't know that I didn't understand.

I went to a session at the conference titled, '100% Online Faculty Training" and the basic premise is to increase the number of faculty certified to teach online by offering the required training completely online; this is of major interest to me and my colleagues back at home. I sat and waited for the session to begin, the doors closed behind me, the room got quiet, the first of the speakers got up front and started signing (American Sign Language) then, there was a voice. A minute or so in, the other speaker gets up, begins to sign and again, that same voice.

Both presenters were deaf and the voice was that of an interpreter orating the speakers sign language. I have many times seen interpreters sign a speech so that deaf attendees can partake and have even had interpreters in classes I have taught to accommodate deaf students but this was the complete opposite, I had never seen or thought of it and was totally blown away.

Perhaps it's me that's over thinking this or that's far more naive that I care to believe. I get it, it makes perfect sense, I had just never put the pieces together because I thought I had no reason to. However, witnessing this offered me insight as to the challenges of someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and how while with determination and availability of resources, can choose to overcome those challenges and succeed but more eye-opening was how I feel like I take something that seems as simple as the ability to hear for granted.

On a grander scale, I hope this will help to to realize such things without having to stumble across them, that I will be more grateful for all that I am able to do and that I do my part as a person and as an educator to ensure that all people have the same opportunity to learn and succeed.

The Lond Resounding "P" and the Silent, But Deadly, You Know What

Disclaimer: What you are about to read is a work of fiction based on a true story (you can guess if you wish as to what parts are true; make a game of it) and may be deemed as gross. If bathroom related humor isn't your thing, you might want to skip this - it is kind of gross, but I think it's funny (in a juvenile silly way).

There was some point during the conference at the convention center, where I realized I had to go to the bathroom and I didn't realize just how bad I had to go until I realized I had to go, then began to search for the nearest men's room. There wasn't any time to be picky, I walked in, made a right, saw a row of stalls and picked one. This event involved standing, I had to freaking pee and at this point, I was in pain. In short time, my business commenced and the relief was almost instantaneous.

When my head began to clear, it occurred to me that this stream of consciousness has been going for an impossibly long time. In fact, so much time had appeared to pass that I began to question the physical size of my bladder and how it could have accumulated such...well, you know.

I suspect that it seemed way (and I mean way) longer than it actually was but it definitely was way (and I mean way) longer than the norm and then, I received confirmation as to just how long it had been going when someone in an adjacent stall, who was seated for his duties, began to applaud and yelped, "nice job son, that's the longest constant stream I've heard in these parts in some time, perhaps ever."


Shocked, embarrassed in some odd way, and mortified but most of all, curious and I responded, "you some kind of official scorekeeper you creepy fuck, you?" "Lighten up, it's just a little bathroom humor - get it? Bathroom humor!" He jets back. "Oh brother!" I sigh and then fortunately, finish my business then off to wash my hands and get out of there hoping I could mange to do so before that crazy bastard gets out of his stall then the image of his freaky face would haunt me for the duration of my stay (and who knows how far beyond). Just as I was reaching to flush, he utters, "by the way, sorry for that." "I replied, I'd like to forget it ever happened." Then, I impulsively added, "Please stay put for the next 96 or so seconds." Almost immediately I could not believe what I was saying nor what had taken place in the last minute or so. He replied, "I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about..." before he finished, it hit me. Apparently a bomb of sort had been released from his body and without warning (that's the silent part), the entire rest room permeated in a rancid disgust.

I ran out of there without washing my hands because I was just overwhelmed with horror. As I exited, I went to the next men's room on the other side of the wall (thank heaven's for architectural symmetry) and washed my hands, taking long, deep slow breaths on the way. I gathered myself, then resumed my conference itinerary.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


My old neighbor from Brooklyn has lived in New Orleans for a number of years and I had the privilege of making my first trip down here last November to attend her wedding. Last evening, her and I had the chance to hang out and catch up on stuff over dinner at a place called "Jacques-Imo's". I wasn't overly fussy about where we ate but did want something regional and preferably, off the beaten path; someplace a local might go to but a tourist could easily miss

Jacques-Imo's delivered in a big way. This is a super cool can't miss destination, despite it not being anywhere near where you would be were you visiting NOLA as a tourist, it's worth the cab ride or whatever means to get there. The vibe is funky, artsy, and just, well, different. The food, was spectacular.

This is a little something called "Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheescake" (yes, I said alligator sausage):

None of the photos will do any of these amazing dishes justice as they were shot with an iPhone in a dark restaurant but they are something.

The second appetizer is a southern classic, "Fried Green Tomatoes":
We shared the apps so as to sample two of them. Here is my entree, "Smothered Chicken with Biscuits":
And the sides totally blew me away, I couldn't have picked better ones to complement my entree. Here are Corn Maquechoux and Mixed Southern Greens:

If you find yourself in NOLA, get yourself to this place but be prepared to wait up to two or more hours on a busy night. Fortunately, Monday night of this week was not that busy and only about a 20 minute wait for us and they don't take reservations except for parties of 5 or more, so buddy up!

This morning, Tuesday, I hit the gym at 5:30 and got a nice workout in and right now I am chilling for a little while. Conference action begins this afternoon at around 1:00 for me - catch y'all later.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Airport Shit/Check In from Nola

I love being places but rarely do I enjoy getting there; it’s even worse since the advent of the TSA. I once told a story here of a time while traveling where I forgot the whole shoes off thing and wore my boat shoes without socks to the airport and as a result was brought to a point of near paralysis at the thought of having to actually be barefoot on the floor of the airport. While this is sadly not an over dramatization, I question if there is something wrong with me as even to this day, people seem to have no problem at all just flip-flopping it and barefooting through security as if the floors were made from some industrial germ-free surface.
I don’t consider myself a major germophobe but the whole barefoot thing for me is tough, not just at the airport, any public place. Am I totally nuts? Should I seek some sort of cure? Perhaps I should try not to focus on other feet passing through the checkpoint and simply be sure to be with socks at airports?
As an aside, but related to airports, don’t you think that there should be a sign before the TSA checkpoint that makes you aware of all food/drink/things you can purchase available beyond the checkpoint? I was rattled a bit when I got to the airport a ridiculous two hours early, passed through TSA, and found there was only a mini-Hudson News stand and a crappy coffee shack that only had an ages old decanter of no longer even lukewarm coffee.
I got this dark idea while waiting in the airport that I like to refer to as “Travel Coma”. Haven’t quite developed it yet but it would be a service that people can be placed into a coma like state through the entire travel process and revived at the destination. I know this is super silly but my imagination ran wild for a bit.
As I write this, it’s Monday evening and I am sitting in my hotel in New Orleans. Conference business begins tomorrow afternoon so tonight I will be having dinner with an old friend from Brooklyn that grew up right across the alley way (which may not make sense to some people, so just make believe I said across the street and your distance perception should be close). The only other time I’ve been to New Orleans was last November to attend her wedding.

Curious as A Cat - Meme of the Day

I found this short meme floating about on a blog called "Curious as a Cat" as I was directed there from "The Daily Meme" site.

Would you rather have one free trip to space or free international travel for life?

This one is easy for me, I would take free international travel for life. There's an odd allure to travel to space but I just don't feel like the experience would be as fulfilling as knowing I can go everywhere in the world I have thought about. Among the places on my wish list: Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Amsterdam, Ireland, England, Greece, Fiji.

What's your middle name? Do you like it?

I o not have a middle name. I don't know why, perhaps it wasn't as trendy in the mid 1960's when I was born or my parents didn't think that far ahead.
Name a time when you got into big trouble with your parents.

This was during the wild and crazy party years and was a time when I got drunker than ever before (and since). I was probably around 21ish when it happened and it's almost embarrassing to recall, but it happened. I was hanging out on the corner with my friends Dave and Mike.

We had Southern Comfort (it was the last time I ever touched that stuff) mixed with Coca-Cola. Mike was taking it very easy that night but Dave and I were putting it away pretty good. It was odd because it seemed like we were pretty deep in and while I recall a pretty good buzz, perhaps a little tilt beyond, but not as bad as I thought - this is dangerous to a young idiot (which was me on that night).

Some time after, Dave began to get way less coherent, which I recall made me laugh really hard. Then, Dave started chucking with reckless abandon and I laughed harder. Mike looked at me and said, you might want to ease up on the laughter, you're not far behind. Almost on cue, I too began to chuck something fierce (and it was the very last time I ever vomited - more than a quarter of a century ago); whole strands of spaghetti were shooting out of my mouth and dare I say it, my nose - it was grotesque.

Mike told me to stay put as he lifted Dave and assisted him to his front door, a good block away. I was out like a light when Mike returned to fetch me, lifted me from the ground then dragged me up the block to my house (which was right next to his). He pretty much literally dropped me at my doorstep then rang the bell. I don't recall what happened after that but here's the story I got the next day...my dad told me he carried me up to my room and when he asked for my key (I kept my room door locked) I gave him my watch (which rightfully pissed him off). I guess he found the key and dropped me on my bed. I came down the next morning joining everyone else at the table and it was not pretty.

Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.

Part of my brain sees balloons and part of it sees jelly beans. I love balloons, I always have. They always evoke a festive spirit to me and jelly beans, come on, it was the one thing about Ronald Reagan I respected (his love for jelly beans).

Sunday, July 08, 2012

This is a Complete Work of Fiction

NOTE: This is an unrefined first (and last) draft of something that literally crept into my head at church today.

This was a particularly oppressive day and there are a few elderly folks who are too stubborn to stay home, so they find their way to church and struggle to make it through the service. This one older man, Tom, was not looking so great as he struggled to find his way through the door and to a seat. Tom was leaning heavily on his walker and taking labored breaths as beads of sweat poured off his forehead much faster than he could manage to reach into his back pocket, grab his handkerchief and wipe off.

Several people immediately approached him, some telling him how silly he was to leave his air conditioned room at the assisted living facility where he lives and some, expressing their concern and asking how they could be of help. One young child found his way to the parish hall kitchen and retrieved a cold bottle of water for Tom, which made him smile.

After a few moments, Tom settled into his seat, wiped the sweat off his forehead, drank some water and seemed to find a place of comfort and peace as he began his quiet prayer ritual before the service begins. Everyone that was tending to Tom, who was sitting on the opposite end of the same pew as I, had gone back to where they were sitting and prepared for the start of service just minutes away.
There was that usual moment of silence as the organ prelude ended prompting everyone to stand, then the organ sounded again as the procession began and everyone began to sing.  Once the song ended and the priest began the service, Tom made a bellowing sound then collapsed. As if some instinct I didn’t know I had took over my body, in an instant I shouted to the crowd, “Folks, please stay put or make your way out to the parish hall. Brad, I need your assistance here (Brad was sitting about a dozen rows back and works for a living as an Emergency medical professional. Joan, who was sitting right behind me stood by as well, I handed her my phone and she called 911.

The wardens of the church very efficiently took charge of crowd control and getting everyone out of the sanctuary safely and before long, a team of paramedics were on hand and shortly thereafter, Tom was in an ambulance and on his way.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I woke up in the middle of the night unfamiliar with my surroundings. After clearing the cobwebs, I realized I was in the hospital. I uncontrollably yelled, “Help!” Then fumbled for the call button and pressed it uncontrollably until a nurse appeared and snatched the call button from me, asked me to calm down in a voice that wasn’t exactly comforting and then said something about checking my vitals.

While attempting to take my blood pressure, her voice and tone relaxed, she said, “please, sir, I will tell you anything you want to know but let me first take your blood pressure; it will be alright, I promise.” I took a deep breath, a very deep breath and held it for a few seconds before releasing it slowly. The nurse got her blood pressure reading, added it to my chart at the foot of the bed then just as she was about to start talking, the Senior Warden from church, my friend Dave appeared and asked, “so how the heck are you show off!”
I almost yelled at him, “Dave, what the heck is going on? Why am I in the hospital? How did I get here?” Dave told me that “if I shut up for a few minutes” her would tell me everything so I hushed and he spoke, “Tom was coming into church and not looking so good, so you found your way to help him. You were discussing with him how you had decided to walk the six miles to church today figuring you could get in your workout outdoors before the heat hit, but were unpleasantly surprised how the heat kicked in way earlier than anyone, especially the weather folks, expected. You were boasting to him how you had gotten through the six mile trek, without water but how proud you were of yourself for bringing a spare shirt. Then, you dropped like a ton of bricks and Brad and Joan got 911 on the horn and treated you with their expertise until they took you here. Don’t you remember anything?”

Evidently, I fell asleep somewhere mid-story. I awoke sometime later to find a note from Dave with the story he told me written down and an exclamation to stop harassing the nurses. Why did I remember Tom getting sick and me helping him?
I’m still confused but they say that dehydration and heatstroke can do that to you. I’ll have another day here to ponder it all.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Good, The Bad, The Saturday Lowdown

On Thursday, I received a piece of mail that was as special if not more than any other piece of mail I have ever received.

In the grand scheme of things, I was extremely unproductive today.

Yesterday, I made soup using the Vitamix for the first time, a cauliflower soup - came out pretty good.

Next time I bring my car in for service, they are going to try to tell me it's time to change the air filter an in-cabin air filter and attempt to weasel somewhere around $150 out of me for both. Ha! I replaced them myself today for about $30.

I met a 3 month old standard poodle today that was so darn cute and friendly. he came over to me, started to lick my face then hopped up with his paws on my shoulders...so cute.

I must use the eggplant that sits in my fridge tomorrow as it will not last the week while I am away.

Gotta pack tomorrow, which means I also need to launder a few things, which means I am tired right now, whcih means, I should end this here and get to bed, which means, I should say goodbye for now.

Goodbye for now!

Friday, July 06, 2012


You might be a dyslexic if, your friend send you an email asking if you want to go to yoga and you reply, "No, I don't like Hispanic foods."

Here's an overheard from 4th of July during fireworks between a father and son (whose age I peg at around 10-12):
Dad: Which is your favorite of the fireworks?
Son: The one that looks like sperm fertilizing the egg
Dad: Oh! Terrific!

It's all I've got for ya today folks...find a reason to hope and to smile.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

My July Fourth This Year

I had disable the alarm and planned to sleep in. Considering that I normally rise at 5 am, I would say 7:30 is sleeping in though I did get up originally at 7:30, I went to the bathroom then decided to lay back on the bed and next thing, it was 9:00.

I had a relatively quiet morning, a little TV, a little reading, good old fashioned relaxing. I had planned to hit the outdoors for my exercise today and had a 4-5 mile route in my mind. When it was time to get down to business, I got my necessities together: water, iPod, etc., did some stretching, then set Endomondo and was on my way.

Somewhere mid-route, I got this idea to change things up a bit and extend the route, significantly. While I thought at first it would end up in the 6+ mile range, the end result was around 8.5 miles.

The greatest challenge ended up being the ability to breath as the humidity was near oppressive, so getting proper oxygen into my system was by far the hardest part of the journey.

I took it literally, a step at a time and had plenty of water to stay hydrated and when all was said and done, I was, and still am, proud of the end result (though I wish I had thought more about the prospect of chafing and taken the proper precautions).

When I arrived home, I had a very large protein rich smoothie and rested briefly before a longer than usual shower and some well-deserved reclining time. A day later, the glutes are a bit sore but overall, good!

later in the evening, I found my way to the sports fields in Newton, MA to see fireworks. I managed to find a parking spot, trekked to the fields then walked around a while to check out the grounds, where they set up a carnival with rides, merchants and food vendors. After strolling a bit, I scoped out a good spot to watch the fireworks and happily, my daughter was able to join me. The fireworks were fun, as usual and when they were over, the long slow walk back to the car, followed by a very slow traffic backup leading to a ride home that was at least two times longer time wise than necessary based on distance alone; I chose not to let it spoil the fun of the fireworks and hanging with my kid.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Work Week

It's a weird week at work. I've of course not been at work for over a week before Monday so I had to get back in the swing of things.

Summer session II classes began on Monday; I am not teaching this session but my "day job" got busier getting students up to speed with their accounts and working with Faculty supporting Academic technology.

With only two days of work in, tomorrow is an off day for the holiday then back to work for two more days before I head to New Orleans next week for the Blackboard World 2012 conference.

No alarm tomorrow, that's a nice treat.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Chicago - Day 6 (Going Home) & Summary

After my morning workout and said goodbye to the employees at the gym where I worked out each morning of the trip and took the short walk around the corner back to the hotel to shower and think about the wind down.

My flight out of O'Hare was scheduled for 6:30pm so I had some time to kill and had to think about checking my bags for a while since check out from the hotel was at noon. Originally, I thought I was going to rent a car and take a day trip - I would have just loaded up the luggage and drove to the airport in that case but the real world got in the way and I had to rethink what to do. The weather was rainy and I really was quite content with what I had seen and done, so I opted to really just take it pretty easy and perhaps, try to walk in the shoes of a local for a few hours.

I had a shower, packed my things then headed down for some oatmeal. I spent a short time in the room journaling and just going back through the past five days and probably every five or ten minutes, stopped to think about how much Monday meant. I officially checked out of the room somewhere between 11 and 12, checked my luggage with the bell man and made my way to the Starbucks on the next block along with my iPad. I spent about an hour or so sipping on a decaf latte, writing and capturing the spirit of this vacation. I also thought ahead a bit as I had a short work week coming up with the July 4th holiday, then off on another trip the following week, this time, primarily for business, to New Orleans.

I left Starbucks and walked East on Diversey and found what appeared to be a quaint grocery store so I went in and walked the aisles. One of the things this stroll through the market confirmed is how expensive the city of Chicago is. There were some grocery items that I buy on a regular basis that were priced 2-3 times higher than I pay in my suburban Massachusetts town; also, gas in the city was around 70-80 cents a gallon more expensive than where I live.

I grabbed a banana and an apple to have with me in my pack for the rest of the day's journey and then grabbed small tray of sushi for my lunch and returned to the hotel lobby to sit back, have my lunch and read the newspaper.

At some point, I don't specifically recall the time, I think around 3pm, I decided to make my way to the airport. The trip to O'Hare would first have me on the #76 bus, leaving from right out front of the hotel to Logan Square where I would get on the blue line right to the airport.

I checked my bag, printed my boarding pass then realized the fabulous luck I've had on this trip had seemed to run out, my flight out was delayed about an hour and fifteen minutes. When I got to the gate, I saw the earlier flight had also been delayed so I inquired about a seat on the earlier flight, I could buy one for a $50 change fee or go on the standby list; I chose the latter. As the attendand was typing my information in, she informed me that since I had already checked the baggage on the later flight, that regardless of which flight I was on, my luggage would be on the later flight - what? Oh well, so much for the luck but I couldn't be upset after the great week I've had. I told the woman that it would be far more depressing to get to my home airport then have to wait for my luggage than to just wait longer here and get home with my luggage and so I requested that I be removed from standby and just waited.

Then, the luck came back, from out of nowhere - an announcement indicated that a change has been made and the delay for my flight would only be five minutes and not the seventy five originally thought...YAY!!! I landed at Boston's Logan Airport nearly ten minutes before the time my flight was scheduled on paper to land had it left on the time printed on my ticket - go figure.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The city of Chicago had been on my vacation radar for many years. The family member I am closest with it my cousin Analisa, you know, Cuzzup! Cuzzup grew up in Glendale Heights, a suburb of Chicago before moving to the desert so there was always some talk of Chicago. Being a baseball fan, Wrigley fiels was always in my list of adventures and of course, the iconic foods of the city, the Italian beef sandwich, the Chicago style hot dog and of course, the deep dish pizza - i went for all of those things and more but the main catalyst was to meet my dear friend Tori in person for the first time. I'm glad I got to do so mny things on my wish list, I truly had so many memorable experiences - I feel so blessed to have had those opportunities and good fortunes. I even had the chance to visit with an old friend that grew up just a couple of block from where I did back in Brooklyn - how do you get better than that?

There are gifts in life that sometimes are very hard to describe. Lots of people pass in ant out of your life and some are good, some not so much and some transform how you think about living and approach the world. I feel so very blessed...I don't even have more words right now...

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Chicago - The Photos

I've compiled most of the photos (including more than the ones in the posts below) I snapped on the Chicago trip in a shared dropbox folder and you can see all of them via this link below:

I'll perhaps briefly talk about day 6, my last day (relatively uneventful) and sum up the trip in tomorrow's post and then, back to regular life and preparation for a trip to New Orleans next week.