Cursive. That archaic mode of recording one’s thoughts.

I have been spending some small bit of my spare time trying to remember how cursive handwriting works. I had abandoned it shortly after graduating high school. This was due both to my block letters being vastly more legible, and the increasing uselessness of handwriting in everyday life. I do remember, as a younger sibling wanting to learn cursive to be like my older sister and her friends. That squiggly, contiguous form of penmanship that they were learning made them seem so much more like adults who seemed to have this ability to pay for nearly anything by simply swiping a pen across the checkbook. This was of course before the prevalence of debit cards which opened up a whole new series of wondrous mysteries where purchasing options were concerned1. It seemed so fancy and beautiful. I was so fascinated by it that I got scolded once or twice by a teacher for drawing lines between my print letters to connect them.

When I had finally reached the age that it was deemed reasonable to be enlightened by the public education system as to the eldritch secrets of what I was assured to be the defacto way of writing2  I soon discovered the hand cramping agony of each loop and arc. My mind numbed at the similarities of lowercase L and B, the capitals T and F had the same issue, and the letter X was basically a V with a line through it. And what the hell was the going on with Z? My technique was awful and my teachers went to great efforts to point this out. My L’s didn’t have enough loop, and my T’s had too much (which is to say any). The little hooks of the letters O, V, and B left me at a loss as to how to start the next letter3, did I just start them at mid stroke or did I bring the pen down to the bottom of the line and start there, either answer seemed wrong at some point or other. I never remembered to dot my i’s or cross my t’s and when I did it was because I had broken the rules and not waited until I had completed the whole word. When I tried to write more neatly I wasn’t able to finish assignments in time and was marked off for having my papers uncompleted. Continued years of physical and psychological anguish over the subject did not improve matters. The introduction of a typewritten requirement to my reports and essays helped to greatly advance my self-worth.

Why then, am I revisiting this ancient horror?

I wouldn’t trouble myself, believe me I am not a masochist. It seems there is no plan to teach it at my daughter’s school. Now, I really don’t think it is all that important. Quite frankly it seems that most of the people who I’ve spoken to who are upset about the removal of cursive from the curriculum are people who still hold a grudge about having to learn it when they were young4. But anyway, my wife has mentioned in passing that she thinks we should teach her ourselves. Which I feel ultimately means I am going to end up trying to show her how it’s done And if that’s is the case, well I should have at least something resembling proficiency in the task.

I’d like to think that the price of keeping art and music in her school is the loss of cursive I am perfectly fine with that. Sadly that’s not the case. Art and Music will consistently be on the chopping block, because just like cursive it isn’t part of the standardized tests. The schools are beholden to these damn tests in order to maintain funding and resources, and so more funding and time is funneled to teaching towards the tests. That’s a negative feedback loop that is draining all of the actual education out of schools. We aren’t losing cursive to laziness, we’re losing it to bureaucracy.

Anyway, that’s What I’ve been thinking about over the past week. How about you?

Happy Monday5


  1. I really do long for those days when I was a child and had no need for the petty adult realities of personal finance 
  2.  Apparently they didn’t discuss the matter with my Mechanical Drawing instructor who just a year later would spend weeks teaching us the importance of perfectly drawn block capitals. 
  3.  If, while in grade school, I had been asked to write the word “bovine” there would have been an… incident. 
  4.  And damn it, if I had to shovel coal when we were kids then this lazy, good for nuthin’ generation should have to shovel coal too, by gum. 
  5. Wow it’s been almost a year since I typed those two words. And I still love me some footnotes. 

What I want for her

Last week I posted a review of the Daredevil series on Netflix. There I wrote that my only real problem with the show was with that female characters, and how they seem to serve as little more than incidental plot devices. There two things I’d like to address from that article.

One, I need to practice being more critical of media simply so that I learn to express my opinions more concisely. Seriously, looking back at it that article it seems like it was written by an adolescent spider monkey. It was basically the critical equivalent of just declaring, “I feel ways about stuff.” (Which is basically what I’m doing here. But, hey that’s what blogs are for right?)

Secondly, that stuff I feel ways about is women’s roles in fiction. Well women’s roles in general. To be completely honest I don’t know if I  care about this because I’ve grown more mature and can see a bigger picture or, did I decide to care about gender equality as a result of raising my daughter.

I think it is important to have strong women role models in books, and other media because our imaginations shape so much of our world view. I see so many female characters that are either simply there to be damsels in distress, sex kittens, or nagging harpies. Stronger roles tend towards emotionally inaccessible bitches. That’s just not reflective of the women I know, but it is reflective of how men I know talk about women. That’s not what I want my daughter think of as normal or okay.

I’ve known about inequality all of my life, in one way or another. It, after all, would be hard to get through even elementary social studies classes, without having some idea that the society we live in has been shaped by wealthy white men. I’ve always thought it was wrong, but I really never bothered to say anything or do anything about it.  One of the benefits of growing up as a white male is that you can opt to have a sort of indignant ambivalence towards some of the social issues. I mean you can say that MRA guys are asshats but you’re not the one who really has to deal with them. Same thing goes for pay equality or reproductive rights; you might have a sympathetic opinion that you’re willing to share but, at the end of the day it’s not like you’re the one with an immediate interest in the fight. Even this article isn’t really saying much. It sure as hell isn’t going to change anything.

I guess what I really want is for my daughter to grow up in world where the promise I keep making to her can be kept. You know the one about her having the opportunity to be whatever she wants. I want her to be inspired by people, artists and writers that care about the messages they send. I want her to live her life ad define herself, not to have her life defined by assumptions based on gender.

Yes, there’s a chance I am reacting to things in an exaggerated way about this. I may not be reacting enough. There’s a real good chance I have no idea what I’m talking about, because here I am, that guy trying to understand and discuss women’s issues. I am definitely rambling on.

It is, however what I’ve been thinking about this past week.

Happy Monday

Clean Reader, Lazy Mind

Recently I posted a piece of fiction in response to a writing challenge posted over at Terribleminds, a blog hosted by Chuck Wendig. The particular challenge was spurred by an objection to a new app called Clean Reader. The point of this app is to scrub profanity from e-books, thus allowing people to read books they might otherwise find offensive. Had it not been for this challenge I probably never would heard it. Now Mr. Wendig’s, as it happens, has a  problem with the app, as do other authors. I feel their concerns are understandable. I did a small amount of research myself and decided to do something I don’t normally do, in a somewhat serious manner.

Express my opinion.

I am not going to scream about censorship. I am not going to worry you about authorial consent. I am not even going to explain in-depth the obvious point that; if you do not like the language a writer uses, guess what, you don’t like the writing they produce.

I just want to say that, I feel, this app was born of laziness and fosters ignorance. Especially where children are concerned.

The masterminds behinds this idea were parents of a child who apparently was having a frowny-face-day because she read a book at school that had some bad words in it. They wanted their daughter, who was apparently a capable reader to be able to seek out books that were challenging but, not have to read profanity. As a result they got someone to develop their little brain child. Their way of phrasing this can be found on the apps FAQ page.

Did they discuss with their child the fact that swear words are in fact part of human language? Did they explain to their child the appropriate usage of language? Did they sit down a talk about what is and is not appropriate reading material for their child? Did they make an attempt to reaffirm the values they wished their child to believe in and uphold?

Nope, apparently they decided it would be better to invent a friendly robot to shield their beloved lust spawn, and keep it clean and ignorant of the nuances of human interaction. Why? Well probably because it was easier than, I don’t know, maybe being a parent. Also probably because they figured they could make a couple of bucks by helping to limit the access to choice to the youth of other overprotective parents trying to raise good little mindless, whiny, dullards in this immoral society that lets children have access to such dangerous things as words and books and ideas.

Now I am sure their hearts are in the right place. Granted, as I say that I am picturing a small, engraved wooden box, a chalked circle, and several candles that must never, under any circumstances, be extinguished. Their might possibly be several contracts drawn up in blood. I have a vivid imagination though.

In a way I can relate though. I have a daughter, who I love very much. She is a fairly advanced reader for her age and we make an effort to get her to read more complex material. Now, I have seen the library at her school, I have no worries about the content available to her there. At the public library we walk with her and talk about her selections. There will come an age where this is neither welcomed nor necessary, as I do intend to raise her to be a thoughtful and independent young woman. I have to admit I will be a little sad when that day comes, but I don’t fear for her encountering some awful, filthy disgusting language. One, because I don’t believe such a thing exists, and two because she already has heard and knows a few swear words because they are so available in society.

On the first point I’d like to clarify that words, are in no way offensive, it is intent and usage that gives words their weight. Language is not vulgar or crude, that distinction belongs solely to people. What I find more offensive than the speaking of any epitaph is the notion that somehow the decay of moral society has anything to do with the utterance of some, to be honest, quite hazily defined list of words and phrases.

Secondly, when my daughter began to experiment in the use of profanity I took her aside and explained to her that she shouldn’t use certain words, or phrases in public because they might offend some people. I told her this with the full intention of that under my careful tutelage she will one day know exactly when it is both appropriate and necessary to properly offend those people.

Those who know me in my personal life have probably witnessed my frequent and creative uses of various expletives; those who have read the content of my space here know I don’t often go in for gratuitous uses of profanity in my limited experience as a writer. I do use it but, in correct doses. Partially because I don’t feel it warranted to convey my ideas and, partially because, unlike face to face communication, the written word offers me use of commas and other punctuation to help direct readers minds where I would like them to go.

I am a parent, an involved parent, who wants their child to be educated and to read challenging books. Challenging books, as it happens, contain words and ideas that might be uncomfortable, that provoke thoughtful discussion, and will allow her to reach her own (eventually) mature and informed conclusions. Simply eliminating words from view, changing what has been written, or otherwise sanitizing text  is, in my opinion, counterproductive to that goal.

Worse, it is lazy parenting, and it is possible you will wind up raising ignorant, easily pacified adults.

But, that’s just my opinion; and it’s what I’ve been thinking about this past week.

Happy Monday!

Piano Lesson

5007302545_91a2e38c2d_zDressed in her new bedazzled flip-flops, jean shorts and, what is becoming her signature, black t-shirt that proclaims she is BREAKING ALL THE RULES, my daughter bursts into the studio. There sitting quietly in front of one of the keyboards, almost leaning on her father, is another little girl.

Sh head looking down, hands folded in her lap. She is wearing a simple pair of sandals, a dark ruffled skirt, and plain blue top. My daughter smiles at her and bounces over to another Casio and hops up into her own seat, still vibrating with excitement.

When it was time for introductions my daughter quickly blurted out “Kate!” almost before the instructor finished the question.

The other little girl looked to her dad before whispering, “emma.”

My wife and I took seats at the edge of the room.

While she was distracted for a moment,  Emma’s father inched his chair a little bit further away from her.

This being the first class the instructor asks about what kind of music they like. Kate’s hand shoots up and she begins to rattle off the name of every kind she’s ever heard of. From rock, to jazz, to marching band, and even ignoring that ballet is actually a dance. When asked about her favorite musicians and songs, she cheerfully mentions Katie Perry.

When it’s Emma’s turn she just looks fearfully towards her father fo guidance. When gently prompted she looks down and just shakes her head “no” in response to almost any question. I think the only reason she eventually gives a positive answer because she’s afraid the questions won’t stop otherwise.

As the session goes on Emma looks more and more worried as her dad moves in small increments farther away. I look at my own little girl, smiling and giggling, enjoying  each time she’s called on to give an opinion, even if she is making up her answers as she goes. I think how despite her tendency towards outburst, her penchant for interrupting people when they’re having a conversation, I am so lucky that she isn’t socially anxious or stricken with paralytic  shyness.

Finally after the instructor has written down all the answers he needed from both girls he tells them to switch the synthesizers on. He gives them a few minutes of free play on the keys. This is the first time we see Emma relax and smile. Both girls giggle their way through the rest of the lesson, letting them come to an even field as the enjoy just listening to the music they make.

I think they will make a great pair.

Image: Musical Keyboard by, Natesh Ramasamy (CC BY-2.0)

Re: Spotting a potential problem

“No good can come of this.”

The Brain, from Pinky and The Brain


Last week I was at work and in a rare idle moment, I checked the internet on my phone. The first thing I encountered was a link to an article about a product that was approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Have you heard of Palcohol? It’s an interesting product, it’s powdered alcohol. Just add water and poof, instant margarita.



a margarita, photo By John Sullivan, courtesy of P.D.

Even after seven years it always seems so surreal when I see something and the first thing I think is, This concerns me as a parent. Now this isn’t just the prudish paranoia of an admitted alcoholic, so bear with me.

Of course given, the spectrum of people who work at restaurants, when I announced this to my coworkers the first question asked was “Can you snort it?” The answer to this was broadly yes, but the company has taken a precaution to make this unfeasible.

“We have seen comments about goofballs wanting to snort it. Don’t do it! It is not a responsible or smart way to use the product. To take precautions against this action, we’ve added volume to the powder so it would take more than a half of a cup of powder to get the equivalent of one drink up your nose. You would feel a lot of pain for very little gain. Just use it the right way.” -Palcohol website

Well thank goodness for sane thinking, however, I am not sure if anyone here has ever attended a keg party; this is the type of thing that seems like the makings of a wager between a couple of overly enthusiastic attendees of such an event that maybe are around the age of twenty something, give or take. This wasn’t the cause for my concern though.

A friend of mine had commented on the link about teenagers not needing better way of smuggling alcohol. Wait, but, teenagers aren’t allowed to buy alcohol. Having been a teenager I do recall it being no great feat to obtain it regardless of legality. Now with this product, instead of carrying bulky cans and bottles in backpacks and purses they can have little envelopes of powder tucked into wallets or socks or just pockets. A bottle of water at a movie theater may be a bit pricey but, now it may seem worth it to some. Still, this isn’t what worried me about this.

No, the thing that troubled me was: If you can add it with water, or your favorite mixer, can you add it to some unsuspecting persons already alcoholic drink. Could you make it so someone doesn’t know how much they’ve really had to drink?  It would seem to be an ideal, legal to obtain way of making a cocktail more potent. Could this product become the next big date rape drug? Alcohol is already pretty big in this department already, does it need to be worse. This is what worries me as a parent. Now I know my daughter has a long way to go before she might be in this potential situation, but as a father this was my knee jerk reaction.

I am in no way saying that Lipsmark, the company that owns Palcohol should be denied the ability to market or distribute it. As a long time worker the food and beverage industry I can see potential uses for this product. Smaller restaurants that would want to offer cocktails but don’t have the space or budget to install a full bar could easily benefit from it. It would also be useful, as their website says was part of the inspiration for its creation, to people going camping or partaking in other activities where packing extra weight and volume would be problematic. Ultimately I have no problems with people of legal age enjoying whatever they fancy in an appropriate environment.

I just thought I would point out the problems that might come up, and things that we parents might want to know about when children leave the house on their own. It is up to us, as always to talk to our kids and let them know about the dangers of not just drugs and alcohol abuse, but the ways that others might put them to abusive uses towards them.

As of the writing of this article Palcohol has lost its approval with the  Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau due to a labeling discrepancy and, is being resubmitted to the agency. Even with this approval the company would still have other legal obstacles to overcome before it could be sold.

Anyway that’s just something I’ve been thinking about this past week.

Happy Monday.

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A Long Walk, a Good Talk, Ice Cream, and a Giant Fish

This past Sunday the clocks needed to be set forward for Daylight Saving Time, my daughter asked me to take her to the park, and my wife asked for the third time this week if I would mow the back yard. These are sure signs that spring is trying to poke its head out from under the blanket of winter weather.

Well my phone is my primary time-keeper, so it sorted itself out, and I had no desire to spend any part of the day walking behind a noisy machine that spewes exhaust fumes and grass clippings at me on my first weekend day off in close to a year; so, a father/ daughter day at the park seemed about my speed. This also provided me with a convenient excuse not to venture to the urgent care place to investigate this respiratory illness that has been causing me some discomfort for nearly two weeks now.

The local park is a wonderful affair with a large well maintained, and rather cool looking playground and jungle gym.


Once we arrived my role in the afternoons activities was reduced to that of pusher of the swing and I watched as my daughter chased after children her own age and showed off to the younger ones and tried to coax the shy ones out of their shells. While I love watching my little extrovert at work I couldn’t help feeling ignored and left out. I tried to strike up conversation with some of the other parents but most were too busy hovering a few feet away from their kids in case, heaven forfend, they fall, or try to go down the slide backwards.

Extrication from the playground was made possible by the promise of ice cream. a dirty trick I know, but  jealousy got the best of me and, I wanted be able to actually talk with the daughter I barely see. A half mile walk was a pleasant way to recap the playtime and speculate on our ice cream choices, I even received an unsolicited “I love you dad” and a huge smile.

Over our dishes of frozen sugar we discussed the relative merits of vanilla chocolate chip, versus strawberry, and it was agreed that the chocolate chip was the clear winner. The remaining discussion ranged from what was the best part about school to the impending birthday she had coming up in just a few days with, including few direct statements about what she would like.

When presented with the option of taking the direct or scenic route home my girl chose the longer of the two, the way she hadn’t seen before. The extra time was filled with sudden interest in when I was a boy and where I grew up.

I told her some about the small town where I spent my childhood and the schools I went to. How, like her, recess was my favorite class. It led to discussion about how even though she had two aunts that lived up north only one of them was my sister. It took two tries for her to get her head wrapped around the fact that her other aunt was my sister’s wife. In the end she simply accepted this, even though it was outside of her realm of what was typically expected.

An awkward moment came when she asked about my parents. Honesty made explain that they has died. The conversation included the fact that my father died of cancer caused by smoking.

I quit about two years ago, my wife has not. So when Kate pointed this out I just told her that I would like her mom to stop smoking, she just wasn’t ready to do it yet, and left it at that. My daughter asked me is she was going to smoke when she was older, and I said that she didn’t have to, and I rather that she didn’t because it was really bad for her. She thought about it for a moment, with a serious look on and finally agreed.

The seriousness of the moment was broken when she realized, with an excited gasp, that our long meandering journey had taken us all the way back to the other side of the park. The sun was going down and most of the other kids had gone home, but we stopped and played some more anyway.


It was early evening before we set off home to a dinner of take out from our favorite taqueria. As we strolled I was satisfied in the knowledge that, time would march on despite the pointless lunacy of mucking about with clocks, that I had properly shirked my landscaping duties, and that for one glorious rare afternoon I got to spend a few hours just being a dad.

Just one thing still puzzles me and it has been bothering me for a long time…

Why a fish?

Why a  giant fish?

What’s His Name’s Birthday

Our daughter got invited to the neighbor boy’s birthday party and so, as custom dictates we were in the position of figuring out what would be an appropriate gift for a nine-year-old boy who we know practically nothing about. In fact until we moved in next door three months ago the existence of this entire family was really a matter of hearsay as far as I was concerned, but I digress.

Procrastination and general disinterest ensured that we would be doing our gift shopping at the last minute. Suggestions from his mother indicated that his interests included video games and “sciencey” type books. Since, as I mentioned, we really don’t know this child or his family very well we opted for the noncommittal, free form present of a gift card, of a modest sum, from a bookstore. You remember those right, buildings from which you could purchase printed material from before internet retailers took over. Kind of like a newsstand but with a little more heavy lifting involved. At any rate the procurement of the card was quick and painless but it then occurred to me that we needed to get a card as well.

The selection of birthday cards presents one with entirely too many options at this point. The array of choices includes, but are not limited to; birthday, her birthday, granddaughter,daughter, friend, from a group, his birthday, grandson, son, kid’s birthday the list really goes on ad nauseam. Yet, for all of these options there did not seem to be a single card under the description of, “Birthday of random child who you know nothing about but somehow found yourself attending their party anyway.” Not a single god damned card fit quite so aptly, so I just got one with some dinosaurs and shit on it.

The party was held at a nearby pizza buffet joint that, being accustomed to hosting children’s birthdays, was quite adept at squeezing money out of parents through the use of games that take non-refundable tokens and issue tickets that can be traded in for prizes that just a little more than disappointing for the kids when they realize that in order to achieve enough points to get anything interesting they’re going to have to tap into their college funds. If your my kid then this amount probably still wouldn’t suffice. Having grown up close to the Jersey shore I was very familiar with this scam and even almost waxed nostalgic when I saw that their particular grift included Skee Ball, a game that despite never achieving mastery at I was quite fond of as a child. The food at this venue was, by technical definition pizza, in that it was a round dough covered in sauce, cheese (allegedly), and other toppings, served in triangular sections. I do however reserve the right to call bullshit on the blatantly uninspired bit of pandering that was offered as a mac and cheese pizza. I would like to point out that if after trying a single pepperoni slice at your establishment my six-year-old declines seconds, you’re probably doing it wrong.

The desert offering, in lieu of a traditional birthday cake, was another disheartening insult to the wonder that is pizza. This appeared to be just dough topped with marshmallows and chocolate sauce but my curiosity could not overcome my revulsion to further investigate this amalgam of grease and sugar, though my daughter seemed to almost be reconsidering whether she was still hungry when she saw it. Soon after the tokens were distributed and the children were unleashed to lay waste to the game room.

They were too late. It turned out that almost half of the arcade was out-of-order, leaving the children from two badly scheduled birthday parties and those that came included from the restaurants normal Sunday lunch rush to crowd and shove each other as the jockeyed for position at the remaining machines. The overall effect was like viewing the children from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, if that movie had been filmed in some post apocalyptic boardwalk attraction. Eventually we had to leave as I needed to head to work (note to self: thank my employers) so my daughter cashed in her tickets for a few paltry gewgaws and we thanked what’s his name’s parents and headed home.

The kids had fun, so all in all it was a good party. I am glad that the neighbors think enough of our family to have included us in their son’s birthday, it was a nice and unnecessary, friendly gesture towards the new people in the neighborhood. It is especially nice to their son considering that he is nearly three years older than my daughter and, as I recall, when your ages are in the single digits this is a significant difference.

We were, however, able to evaluate that my wife and I will more than likely not be cashing in the coupon our daughter won for a free pizza party at that particular location.

Please, not her too.

My daughter is starting to show interest in cooking. She likes helping in the kitchen and recently she has begun watching the cooking shows that our PBS station airs on Sunday mornings. At first I really like the idea of this.  She helps mix the pancake batter for breakfast with her mom and later we sit on the couch sometimes talking about what the different chefs were making, It’s great that, at this early age she seems to share a common interest in food with me. It is starting to make me worry though. I also got interested in food at a young age and I suppose it was a near inevitability that I would end up employed in the field. It is, from my observations, a truly shitty field for a woman to go into.

The cooking world is tough for those just entering the field. Even today, cooking is highly dominated by a boys club type of mentality. The back bone of most kitchens are made up of a few lifers that define that kitchen’s practices. These jackasses generally feel that it is their sworn and solemn duty to dish out a healthy dose of abuse towards the slightest misstep in procedure, etiquette, or speech. Women entering into the culinary world are going to be facing a tough time getting employed in some kitchens and when they are hired they seem to get it a little harsher than the guys in the name of not getting any special treatment. Episodes of routine bullying and overt sexual harassment are too often the norm. Just as in a other fields of they typically are passed over for promotion and paid less than their male counterparts. However the pay is usually shite to begin with so, if someone made only seventy percent of what I currently receive my job would not at all be a viable means of supporting a family. Kitchen culture is rife with big, strong and extremely insecure men who are quite fond of exploiting perceived weaknesses, some of whom still count being a woman as a weakness.

Women who do brave and eventually thrive in the business often wind up being “tough broads” that tend to act like one of the guys. They have largely and unfortunately grown to accept the misogynistic behavior of their coworkers as just another part of the job. This includes participating in the demeaning of other women, often in the name of inuring the new chick to the slings and arrows that come as part of the territory.

The worst part, I feel as I glance at my daughter, is that I have been and in some ways am still part of that culture. I know that I make inappropriate, rude and more often than not insensitive statements. I try not to make my snarky comments have anything to do with someones gender or race but, I know I’ve done it. I know it’s wrong, I know I should hold myself to a higher standard but, there you go. I am part of the problem and I am working on that. Having a wife that keeps me in check, and a beautiful daughter who’s future I worry about is a big help.

I know that I am not raising a delicate little flower and we are teaching our daughter to stand up for herself and to be kind to other people. I also know that it will be several years before my darling and innocent little girl enters the work force and even longer before she settles on a career. Right now she is torn between the options of becoming a teacher, or a fire fighter, or a dancer, so I am most likely worrying over nothing, maybe that’s just being a parent.