Chicago Teachers Union

[On September 12, 2012, I posted on the Chicago Teachers Union.  It’s time for a repeat]

They are outside my window at work.  Across the street from my building.  It’s hard to talk on the phone because of the banging on drums, the yelling, car horns, the loudspeakers, the chanting and the noise.  It’s difficult to get from point A to point B because the demonstrators in their red shirts have locked arms and forced streets to be closed.  Public transportation is disrupted.   There is a sense of entitlement that it’s okay to interrupt everyone else’s day.  And they care not about the 350,000 Chicago school children and their parents who suffer.           

Chicago teachers are the highest paid in the nation and they work among the shortest hours in the world.  Elementary school teachers have 5-3/4 hour days and work 170 days a year (both stats are less than the national average).  While at the mountaintop of compensation and the basement of hours worked, they want more.  And less.  Chicago teachers are on strike.  They are demanding a 16% increase in pay (how many private sector workers get this?) and push back on the need for more school hours and teacher accountability.    The unions want to control the schools.  Hiring.  Firing. Expectations.   Oppose charter schools.  Oppose magnet schools.  No performance standards (as is found in every other occupation).  More money.  Less work.   Protection of the worst teachers.   And it’s all for “the children.”  Right. 

We spend the most money on public school education and we get dismal results.  Our children are losing.  Every day, they are falling behind the rest of the world.  We desperately need to educate our children.   We need great teachers.  Yet the Chicago Teacher’s Union is blocking the door.   And does not care.  Maybe an “Arab spring” on dealing with teachers unions is what it will take.

Live to Eat? Or Eat to Live

Speaking of cookies. . . .

Socrates once counseled “thou should eat to live – not live to eat.”  As I have gotten older, I’ve become more careful about what I ingest into my body. I love movie theater popcorn, potato chips, corn curls, Baby Ruths, Oreos, Chuckles (yes Chuckles) and Sun Chips.  However, truth be told, you can probably count on one hand the times in the last year I have partaken of all of these.  Combined.  Well, maybe two hands.  The point is — despite my elan for such culinary temptations, I pay them no — or little — mind.  I mean what’s the big deal with dieting?  Just have discipline.   When I bring something back to my desk for lunch while at work (which happens 3 or 4 days a week), it is always sans chips.  My sandwich is always a cappella.   I am strong.   Invincible.  During the day. . . .  

My downfall comes if I call home and Donna asks “Wanna go out for dinner?”  Sure.  My dinner will usually be staid.  Serious.  Perhaps a beet salad.  Salmon and vegetables.  But after plates are cleared, I begin to sweat. . . . . The server sashays over and smiles.  My heart races.   They ask in that enticing – come hither – way “Would you like dessertWe have chocolate gooey globs smothered with tubby tubs and whipped cream.  A la mode.  Covered with chocolate and caramel sauce.  With cookies on the side.”   My trembling hands, glazed look and perspiring brow tell the story.  Make mine a double.   

These cookies aren’t very good. . . .

Each year, Donna and I host a Christmas Eve celebration for family. It’s always a smorgasbord dinner, exchange of gifts and a special appearance by Santa Claus. It is a relaxing and happy time.

A few days after one of those special days, I was grazing in the pantry — looking for goodies. I happened upon a neat plastic bag, festooned with ribbons and bows.  Inside were cookies made by one of my cousins. Hmmmm . . . .  Well, it didn’t take long for me to rip open the bag and shovel a cookie into my mouth. Chomp chomp chomp . . . .  Hmmmm . . . . The cookie was not very good.  I had another. Hoping to glean some nuance of sweetness. Or chocolate. But it was no go.

At that moment, Donna walked into the kitchen and saw me with the bag. I said “these cookies are not very good.” She looked at me like I was an idiot.  Arms akimbo, she shook her head. And offered “Scott. . . . those cookies are for Daisy.Hmmmm. . . no wonder.  I took another bite and then handed the rest to Daisy who sat at my feet.  Wagging her tail.   Maybe if I had put peanut butter on them . . . . 

The Library

[A repeat from May 22, 2016]   In my post of February 10, 2013, I talked about a visit to Boca Grande, Florida. Wonderful. Memorable time.    And I alluded to the Boca Grande Public Library. 

Fast backwards about 32 years. Donna, Lauren and I were in Boca Grande with our dear friends Diane, Dave and Dave Jr.  Dave said “want to go check out the library?”  And we did.  The Johann Fust Community Library.  Nice library.  Lotsa books.  In the back on the far right, there was a cage of sorts.  A fenced area.  And a locked fence door.  I ambled back and peered in.  Oh my socks and shoes

In that cage, on the shelves, I recognized books that were hundreds of years old.  I began to perspire. The librarian Pansy walked over.  “Can I help you?”  “Ummm. . . may I look in there (pointing)?”  “You’re in interested in that?”  Mmmmm. . . sure.   She keyed opened the lock and let me in.  And I drooled. . . . .  Dozens of first editions (e.g. Origin of the Species – 1859) and books dating to the 1500’s.  Without appearing too enthused, I casually asked “what are you going to do with these books?”  Pansy folded her arms, shook her head and said “I just don’t know.”  Now I am not as dumb as I look so I offered – “you . . . ummm . . . want to sell them?”  And she looked at me incredulously “you would want to buy them?”  And I said yes.   And I did.   Suitcases and boxes full of rare books donated years before by Charles Goodspeed of Boston’s famed rare book shop.  All brought home.  And quickly deaccessed.   

It was a memorable “score.”  Like buying the Rock Island Railroad archives (5/15/14) or stumbling upon the mysterious cemetery of books in Lisbon (8/24/14).  I’ve always liked libraries . . . .   

I Need to Invent Something. . . .

[A repeat from October 9, 2014]  In my post of August 16, 2013, I spoke of sitting on a crowded train while a woman sitting next to me called her credit card company, loudly repeated her card number, security code (“noooo, two THREE eight“) and expiration date – and then proceeded to discuss several contested charges (“They Dwell Among Us”).

I also sit on the train while some people blabber so loudly on their cell phones that people in the next car can hear them (“Hi Sweetie Pumpkins Dooty Dooty, I love you sooooo much. What’s for din din Sweetums?”  “Hey Frank.  I got a big deal cookin’ with the Smorgasbord Company.  Nobody knows about this.  Relates to that property on Western Avenue. . . . “).   Let me say this — it’s one thing to talk with your hand over your mouth – and receiver.  And speak quietly.  And quickly.  I’ve done it (“Donna, I’m on the six o’clock.  I get in at six thirty” CLICK).   But there are people who believe it is their public obligation to let everyone on the train know their personal and private business (“Man – I really got wasted last night. . . . “).   YOU HEAR THIS STUFF! 

So how about if we develop a device that will cause someone’s phone to emit a screech.  OR – a device that will remotely hang up a call (“Oh Bambi – I can’t wait to see you in your new . . . . Bambi?  Bambi?).  Ninety-five percent of the people on the trains I ride will cheer.  ZAPPP!!  


Should vaping be banned? San Francisco has banned the sale of e-cigarettes.  Earlier this week, Governor Charles Baker of Massachusetts called for a four month ban on all vaping products.  So have a few other municipalities. The sale of flavored e-cigarettes was discontinued by Juul – the e-cigarette maker – about a year ago. Yet the CDC has posited that e-cigarettes may be as much as 95% safer than combustible cigarettes.  And vaping decreases nicotine addiction.  So what’s the issue?

There have been 7 deaths in America linked to e-cigarettes (perhaps because of unauthorized additives).  Many others have gotten sick.  And some young people are vaping – especially the flavored vaping products.    

I’m not a fan of vaping.  Or smoking.  But the CDC acknowledges 480,000 deaths annually from smoking including 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke.  I can see having strict regulation of vaping (and elimination of “flavors”).  But smoking still seems to be an elephant wandering around the room . . . . .     

No Problem . . . .

Thank you very much.”
No problem.”

What is the deal with this “no problem” business? What ever happened to “you’re welcome“?  The answer?  Probably millennials.

This retort – “no problem” – is actually a British expression.  It is somewhat analogous to the Australian response of “no worries.”  However, “no problem” is deemed less gracious – and more informal – than “you’re welcome.”   I grew up with “thank you” and “you’re welcome.”  Sooooo. . . . I’m not a big fan of “no problem.”  Especially when some folks actually respond with “no problemo.”    

I must confess though that on rare occasion, I have responded – when appropriate – with the Swahili comeback (popularized in “The Lion King”) – “hakuna matata.”  Which means “no worries.”  When I say that, those not in the “know” look at me like I’m a moon rock . . . . .