Teachers Unions

Does the Chicago Teachers Unions care about education?  Or poor kids?  Look at the facts.  The Teachers Union wants a tight lid on competition.  Fight charter schools.  Fight reform.  Fight getting rid of bad teachers.  Keep lousy schools lousy.  Raise unfunded pension deficits.  Deny opportunity for educational choice.  Demand fewer school days.  Shorter hours to work.  Yet demand more money.  More benefits.   Read the newspapers.  This ain’t fake news, people.  I have to wonder why.  Why do they do it?   I see no moral explanation. 

Poor parents beg – clamor – for good schools for their children.  They sign up in droves for a chance at a charter school.  Most teachers unions respond to the poor with a snarled four letter word.  And a finger.  Talk about building a wall . . . . .

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a reformation in teachers unions.  A reformation in attitude — where education comes first.  Children come first.  The poor are not denied.  Giving opportunity to all kids to reach their highest potential.  I don’t rule it out.  But this is a change that will have to come from within.            


Gus Edwards

I went to the veterinarian to pick up my daughter’s dog who had been boarded for a few days. I walked in and said “I’m here to pick up Gus.” The young woman looked at me “last name?”

It was then I realized that dogs have last names that must be trotted out on special occasion. If you asked me if I had a dog, I’d say “yes.” If you asked me her name, I’d say “Daisy.” And that would be it.  If I responded that my dog’s name was “Daisy Petersen,” you’d probably look at me, roll your eyes and start edging away. . . . .

At the veterinarian though – it’s customary for dogs, cats, gerbils and the occasional fish to have last names. “I’m here to pick up my hamster – “Butterscotch Petersen.” And the receptionist would nod and check the records.  And send a note to the back room to bring out “Butterscotch Petersen.”  No rolled eyes.  No edging away.  Just a $184.00 hotel bill for Butterscotch Petersen.  


I am as constant as the northern star – of whose true-fixed and resting quality – there is no fellow in the firmament.”  (Shakespeare – Julius Caesar III i 65)

Polaris.  The North Star.  Probably the most important celestial guidepost in the galaxy (at least if you’re on earth).  As mentioned on July 26, 2011, I taught astronomy merit badge at Camp Napowan – a Boy Scout camp in Wild Rose, WI.  For late night “star hikes,” the first point of interest – and discussion – was always Polaris. 

Why Polaris?  First – it never moves.  Day or night – winter or summer –  when you are in the Northern Hemisphere – Polaris will always be in the same spot.  Every star and galaxy revolves around Polaris (at least from our perspective here on earth).  Second, the degree of altitude above the horizon gives you near perfect north latitude.  Chicago is 42 degrees north latitude.  Polaris is 42 degrees above the horizon.  Fort Worth is 33 degrees north latitude.  Polaris is 33 degrees above the horizon.  And so on.  Finally, when you draw a straight line from Polaris to the ground, you have true North.  True North varies from magnetic North by a few miles to a few degrees depending on where you are.  This variance is called “declination.”   

To find Polaris – one need only find the Big Dipper (Ursa Major).  Go to the two vertical stars at the far end of the dipper and draw a straight line up.  Five times the distance between those stars (Merak and Dubhe).  Polaris (a bright 2d magnitude star) is the tail star of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor). 

 Polaris sits 433 light years from earth.  It is a “double star” (or “multiple” star) consisting of several stars which appear to be one.  Just think – if you could transport yourself to Polaris and look back on earth with a powerful telescope, you would see the earth — as it was in the year 1584 . . . . .  


Threat Level

The first time someone threatens to kill you – it gets your attention. The second and third times it does, but not as much.   In my other life, I dealt with bad people.  Bad crime.  Pretty intense stuff.  A few of the bad guys I dealt with took the enthusiasm I showed for my job personally.  When that happened, they were likely to lash out. 

Threats were rare.  But they happened.  The first time for me was Robert A.  A North Shore white scumbag punk who had a string of armed robberies.  He had cases all over.  So, I followed him.  From courthouse to courthouse.  Courtroom to courtroom.  Informing the judges of all the other cases.  And what a bad guy he was.  So Robert A. remained in custody – ultimately going down for the count.  After perhaps half a dozen of these expeditions, as he was being led away – he screamed at me.  Lunging.  Held back by court bailiffs.  He described in detail what he planned to do to me – and my family – when he got out. 

Our usual protocol was to report such threats to the Chief of the Criminal Division.  He would ask us to fill out a 3″ x 5″ card detailing the case, the parties and the threat.  That way – if one morning I was found floating in the Sag Canal, investigators could thumb through the file cards and have a heads up on where to start (“Lemme see. . . . Petersen . . . here he is . . . . Petersen was threatened by . . . . . . “).    

Thank you notes

I had a first.   I got a “thank you” note.  For a “thank you” note. . . . .

In my post of September 26, 2011, I opined that the written word was disappearing.  And I referenced my own push back to that trend.   I commented that the written word must live – despite new generations that care not about such custom.  I often host a young law students to lunch.  At most, I get an email “thanks for the lunch.”  Most often – I get zip.

We were invited to dinner with some old friends.  Upon arriving home, I dashed off a quick letter – with my customary art work – thanking them for a wonderful evening, dinner and friendship.  I thought that was it.  But I just received a note – thanking me for my handwritten “thank you” note.  Wow!  I have received handwritten thank you notes for contributions and miscellany.   I often save them.  But a “thank you” for a “thank you“?  A first. 

As I said in that post of 5-1/2 years ago — if you want to make an impression, send a real letter.  With real handwriting.  Posted in a real envelope.  With a real stamp.  You may get thanked for it.  


Pax vobiscum.  As-salamu AlaikumShalom.  Shanti.  Aloha.  Peace be with you. . . .

It’s interesting how most faith traditions include a blessing to others — extending peace.  And asking for peace in return.   In my church, there is a time when we share the peace.  Peace – be with you.  And also with you.  

The Prince of Peace has been around for 3,000 years (Isaiah 9:6).  Plato encouraged moderation and a sense of limits that bring peace.   There is a Nobel Peace Prize.  There’s a peace symbol.  The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was to end the war of all wars.  There’s a Peace Corps and the United Nations has “peacekeeping” missions.   

With all the peace being promoted around the world, you would think that peace would be bubbling over.  But no.  Families suffer discord.  As do school boards.  City councils.  Communities.  Counties.  States.  Washington D.C.  Other countries.  The world.   Pain.  Anger.  Hatred.  Violence.  Discord.  Just how serious are we about being peaceful?  Seems like everyone wants peace.  But nobody wants to give it.  Peace is like a bridge.  It’s always been under construction.  But it hasn’t been completed in several millennium.  

So – what’s the answer?  That’s the 64 dollar question.  Perhaps peace begins at home.  Or in the workplace.  We need peace in the political arena.  That’s for sure.  I believe charity of heart can help.  Along with an understanding that good people can have differing views on different subjects.  Not sure that’ll work though.  

Peace be with you.   

Picking up Nails. . . .

When I walk from my house to the train station in the morning, I walk in the street.  Every day.  I like the street.  There’s little traffic and while conscientious folks hoof on the sidewalk with a 48 inch path, I have my own white carpet boulevard – 20 feet wide.  I walk against traffic.  Near the curb.  And as I walk, I keep my eyes peeled.  I’ve found coins, bills, wallets, watches, cell phones, jewelry, a diamond ring (yep).  And nails.

Life for me started in the cramped attic of a Chicago brownstone on Byron Street.  Watching for pennies (and nails in the street) was inspired by my parents (see post of August 2, 2012).  So I still pick up the pennies.  And I still pick up nails.  Whenever.  Wherever.  On my walk to the train station – or downtown.  Or on vacation.  I stoop over and pick ’em up.  The file cabinet in my office at home sports a few of the more exceptional specimens (including a 9 inch monster).  

Why do I still pick up nails?  Maybe it’s my upbringing (we can’t escape some things).  Maybe it’s the Boy Scout in me.   I don’t want you, your child or my daughter.  To drive over one of those sharpies and have a (potentially big) problem.  Over the years, I’ve picked up hundreds of nails.  And pitched them in the garbage.  And displayed a few on my file cabinet.    

We are told that small things we do can make a big difference.  I know that everyone who reads these words – does small things.  Big things.  And more.  Picking up nails doesn’t sound like a big thing.  But who knows? 

The Greasy Spoon

When I was a kid, we rarely went out for dinner.  But when we did, my folks would take me to different places – mainly burger joints.  One night – I was maybe 7 years old – we went to a place on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.   I don’t remember much about the place or the food.  But I remember – keenly – my father’s reaction.   “Man – this is really a greasy spoon.”  Greasy spoon.  I looked around on the table.  No spoons.  I thought – Wow!  That is a cool term. 

The next time we went out for dinner to one of the regular sit down burger joints, the waitress came over and took our order.  I looked up at her and asked – quite seriously – “is this a greasy spoon?”   I don’t recall the waitress’s reaction but I remember my father laughing and trying to wriggle out of my inquiry. 

The “greasy spoon” comment probably pales to the time when my father’s boss – Mr. Lovell – came to the house for dinner.  And I said quite innocently “gosh – we oughta have company more often.  This food is really good!”


A Winter Tip

Happy New Year!!  (A valuable winter tip from post of December 15, 2013)

My friend Al reminded me that in cold weather, it’s a good idea to check car tires since the cold will contract air pressure and tires can flatten out. I did and sure enough – my front two tires were low. Really low. It was night. Cold. So I went to a gas station where they have one of those air pumps where you have to pop for 75 cents. I unscrewed the valve caps, had my air gauge at the ready and dropped 3 quarters. The machine kicked in and I applied the hose to the tire valve. Nothing happened. Everything was frozen.

Now this is not an issue that I’ve dealt with before so I shivered my way into the gas station where a lone clerk sat behind a thick glass partition.  I explained the problem. “Valve’s frozen,” he said. Hoookayyy. . . “Stick the hose up your exhaust while the motor’s running and . . . . [he grabbed a lighter from the shelf and passed it under the window] warm your tire valves if they’re frozen.” “Bring back the lighter,” he said.

I went out and slid the hose a couple feet up the exhaust. And let it sit for a few minutes. And warm. I lit the lighter and warmed the tire valves. After a couple minutes, I took a breath, dropped in another 75 cents and applied the hose to the tire valve. “PFFFFTT.” It worked like a charm. Whew! The tire inflated and I brought the lighter back. I thanked the clerk (offered him a tip – he declined). “I used to drive a semi” he said. “Used to happen all the time. It’s one of those little tricks you learn.”

Now you all know the trick. 🙂