About Me

My photo

I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Have Bought a "Gothic" style Chess Set

Sometime back in the 60s, my parents bought a "Gothic Chess Set" that I enjoyed playing with against my brothers. Recently, I discovered something about the set and its designer.
Peter Ganine Chess Set
The set was designed by Peter Ganine who was born in Russia but came to America after living in what is now the Republic of the Congo.
The bishop
His designs are quite attractive and priced well within family budgets.

One of his sets was used for the Star Trek series "Three-Dimensional" chess games.
Scene from the 1960s "Star Trek" television show
I was recently able to purchase a Ganine set on eBay.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Health Care Reform Passage is an "Ugly Victory" But It Is Still An Historical One

For many of us whose politics run to liberal or progressive, the health reform bill is a disappointment since we all knew it could be much better. However, we have debated the right that all Americans have to good health care for more than 5 decades. This is the first time anyone has done anything meaningful about it. We should feel proud of what we have managed to do and take new resolution to improve upon it. I agree with Erza Klein's Washington Post article on the significance of this victory in Congress.
It's been a long time since the legislative system did anything this big, and people have forgotten how awful the victories are. But these are the victories, and if they feel bad to many, they will do good for more. As that comes clearer and clearer, this bill will come to feel more and more like the historic advance it actually is.
Erza Klein,"Winning Ugly But Winning"

10 Commandments at the Oklahoma State Capitol

It has been announced that a moument of the 10 Commandments will be placed on the north lawn of the Oklahoma state capitol grounds. Presumably, this version of the commandments will still have the prohibition against making "graven images."

More Snow Pics

Merry Christmas

Blizzard conditions on the Southern Plains

Looking out my front door
We're pretty well snowed in here. The airport reports 11 inches plus of snow.

Cat and I are safely at home with each other. Hope you are able to enjoy your Christmas wherever you are!

Merry Christmas!

"Life" Lesson

Watching the Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life is a Christmas tradition for many people. The film teaches an eternal lesson we would all be better off to heed.

When the monied interests in our community have free reign, life pretty much turns into suck.
Mr. Potter, the face of unfettered capitalism in the film

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oklahoma Centennial High School NHS Food Drive

The Oklahoma Centennial High School National Honor Society held their first food drive this December. They collected over 500 food donations which were sent to the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Sunday Worship Leader Remarks

Each Sunday at the 10:45am service, one lay person serves as "Worship Leader." One of the duties of the Worship Leader is to give some brief remarks prior to the offering. This is called the "Prayers of the People," and it gives lay members an opportunity to talk about whatever is on their minds. Here is the text of my remarks:

Typically, we celebrate December 25th as the birth date of Jesus. Many scholars suggest that Jesus likely was born in late March or early April, the time shepherds “abide” in the fields to help ewes giving birth.

I was born in March. Perhaps Jesus and I share a common birth date. Had this date been used for Christmas I would have greatly dismayed as a child. We all pitied the kid whose birthday came near enough to Christmas to get combination birthday-Christmas gifts.

We are not sure how December 25 became the date celebrating Jesus’ nativity. Perhaps it was an attempt to convert a popular pagan celebration. Perhaps to was due to the fact that 4 days after winter solstice the daylight hours begin to get noticeably longer. Some have suggested that the fact that date is 9 months after the Jewish Passover celebration had something to do with the choice.

I think there is something to this last idea. After all, putting Christmas in March or Christmas in April would mean that we would celebrate his birth at the same time we honor his death. This way, the church now gets two big days to pack the pews.

Seriously, I think it noteworthy that we celebrate the birth of Jesus at a time when all seems dead in our world. And we honor his death at the time when the world is starting to come alive. I think this is another paradox of our faith that we have been noting throughout this Advent season. God is always acting in ways contrary to our expectations: giving us grace where grace is not deserved, extending hope when all seems hopeless.

So let us live within God’s grace that gives life all that is dead within us. And let us live in hope as we work to bring life to a dying world.

And let us display this hope we have in a very practical way by making out our pledge cards and placing them in the offering plate. May the ushers come and receive our hopeful pledges and offerings at this time.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We have some time off for now.

Cat and I have a couple of weeks rest from school. One of the very best things about both being in the teaching profession is that we get to spend holidays together.

Right now we are preparing for a December 21st "Solstice Party" with some friends. Cat is doing holiday baking. I have been putting up some decorations.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

OKC Public Schools Amends Its Bullying Policy

The Oklahoma City Public Schools voted last night to add "Sexual Orientation" to its anti-bullying policy. My friend Joe Quigley has fought a long battle to extend protection to GLBT students in our district. I am glad to see his work pay off finally.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Been awhile since I last posted

Don't know really why I haven't posted since August when Cat and I took our vacation out west. School and life are my only excuses. I'm going to try to keep at it. There has been much going on. I've had a pretty good year at Centennial so far, but things are still very difficult as far as getting through to the students. I haven't made any progress in my National Board Certification process. I have about reached the "do or die" stage with that.

I've got some vacation time coming up so I hope I can get on track with several things going on in my life.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Scenes from Our Vacation

Cat and I have been traveling the west on our way to a family reunion in Yellowstone National Park.

Some pictures from where we have been.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My favorite version of "Little Boxes"

This is my favorite version of the folk standard "Little Boxes," which has become well known to the followers of the Showtime series "Weeds." At just over a minute, it has the distinction of being one of the shortest songs ever to get into the Top 40.

Ironic, isn't it?

Hitler Finds Out that Palin has Resigned

Well, there goes the 4th Reich
This might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found it amusing.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day: "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
Marie Curie"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Boot to the Head

People smoking in bed,
People voting Republican,
Give them a boot to the head.

Classic comedy sketch "Boot to the Head" done with "World of Warcraft" characters.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Obama Rides High as Pessimism Wanes

from Teagan Goodard's Political Wire
A new Ipsos/McClatchy poll finds President Obama's approval ratings remain high with 64% of Americans saying that they approve of the job he is doing as President and fully 40% say that they strongly approve of his performance.

Key finding: A majority of Americans -- 52% -- now feel that the country is headed in the right direction while 42% worries that things are off on the wrong track.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Dog Frequently Stops to Read Her P-Mail

Reality Check
Our dog Tooter

The Far Right Reponds with Violence

James von Brunn (Associated Press Photo
I have been afraid that the far right would respond to Pres. Obama's election with violence. I guess my fears have been realized. This is the handwritten note FBI investigators found in the car James von Brunn drove to the US Holocaust Museum where he allegedly gunned down a security officer:
"You want my weapons -- this is how you'll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do. Jews captured America's money. Jews control the mass media."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Rock Cafe in Stroud

Cat and I traveled up to Tulsa to see family. Along the way, we stopped the Rock Cafe, an icon of Route 66 in Stroud, Oklahoma.

Not long ago, the cafe burned to all but the exterior walls. The owner vowed to reopen the cafe by rebuilding everything within the walls. She did a fine job of it.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

My Next Summer Reading Project

Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America by Adam Cohen
I am reading about FDR, the Great Depression, and his Cabinet's response to it during the time that has been dubbed "The Hundred Days."

Reading this so far has made me more and more convinced that those who try to claim the Roosevelt's actions did little to help those suffering from the Depression are delusional. They rank up there with people who try to deny the Holocaust.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I Begin My Summer Reading

The Kings of New York
This is the first book I've completed of my summer reading. It's about the chess team from Edward R. Murrow High School in NYC. They have won several national championships in scholastic chess. Mainly, though the story is about the boys on the chess team as they wrestle with life and adolescents.

Friday, June 05, 2009

I Begin My Year As A National Board Teacher Certification Candidate

Morrison Hall on the SEOSU campus where most of the workshops were held.
This workshop was for those seeking National Board certification in Adolescents and Young Adult Language Arts. It was taught by Jonetta Jonte and Claudia Swisher
Many of the classrooms were very crowded.
I am learning about the Family Involvement element in my portfolio.
On Wednesday and Thursday, I attended the National Board for Teacher Certification (NBCT) workshop on the campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma.

I was one of over 400 teacher candidate who attended. The workshop is required of all those who received the $2500 scholarship which pays for our candidate year. The scholarship is made possible through funding provided by the Oklahoma legislature through the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation's program entitled Education Leadership Oklahoma.

This was quite a heady experience. Two days of classes and seminars preparing us for the NBTC's requirement to become nationally certified educators. It was a little like trying to take a drink from a firehose. So much to digest.

I particulary appreciated once again meeting and working with Jonetta Jonte of Southeast High School in Oklahoma City and Claudia Swisher from Norman North High School. Jonetta and I taught at John Marshall together. Claudia is a fellow Oklahoma Writing Project alum.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

School's Out!

School's Out!
School's Out!
Teacher Let the Fools Out!

Tomorrow, I will be in Durant, Oklahoma to begin my National Board for Teacher Certification process. I will starting blogging about the process there if I can find a way to do it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So When Did Empathy Become a BAD Thing?

Some conservatives have been critizing the idea that Pres. Obama considers empathy to be a good quality for a Supreme Court justice to have. I find that rather revealing of the present mindset of conservatism, especially when considered in the light of this quote from a "compassionate conservative" of a few years ago:
"I have followed this man's career for some time," said President George H.W. Bush of Clarence Thomas in July 1991. "He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pres. Obama Nominates Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court

I believe that we have an historic opportunity to take a step towards realizing "justice for all" in this country through Judge Sotomayor's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Tribute to "Rosie the Riveter"

Howard Miller's famous portrait of "Rosie the Riveter"
(This Sunday, I was Worship Leader at Mayflower Church. The Worship Leader delivers a short talk on any subject s/he chooses.)
This Memorial Day weekend, I would like to pay tribute to the women of World War II who answered the call to go to work in place of the soldiers who had gone off to war, the women who have been represented by the iconic figure: Rosie the Riveter.

Rosie first existed as a character in a song by big band leader Kay Kaiser. Later a real woman, Rose Monroe, who worked in an aircraft plant in Michigan, was featured in a promotional film about the war effort at home. Of course, the most famous depiction of Rosie is the poster created by Howard Miller showing Rosie flexing her strong right arm under the caption “We Can Do It.”

It is estimated that by 1944 20 million women were working in what had been traditional male trades, a 57% increase over women in the workforce in 1940. In addition, millions more women worked on farms, and all of those at home kept the nation going until the final victory was won.

By answering their country’s call, these women laid the groundwork for many of the gains achieved by the Civil Rights and Feminist movements. Women proved that they could “do a man’s job” and do it well. At the beginning of America’s war effort, employers estimated that women could perform about 29% of the jobs previously done by men. In short order, that estimate rose to 85%.

African-American women also answered the call to work for Victory and proved that the idea of “racial superiority” was a lie. Having black and white women working together for the first time contributed to the breakdown of racial isolation, which helped to lay the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement in the next decade.

Most Rosies left their jobs and went back to their traditional roles as homemakers, told to do so by the same people who before had begged them to come to work, but her work, example, and image have left a permanent mark on the American character. So today, I salute all the Rosies who showed us we “Can Do It,” “Yes We Can.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Apologies? What Apologies?

Michael Steele, chairman of the GOP, has unilaterally declared that era of apologizing for GOP mistakes is "officially over." I'm sorry, Mike, but I don't recall you offering any apologies.

Now, say you're sorry.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I continued to be amazed and pleased by our president.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at Arizona State University. A controversy surrounding the event was the decision by the university NOT to give the president an honorary degree, the given reason being that his "body of work" was not yet complete. Here is how the president responded:
Now, in all seriousness, I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven't yet achieved enough in my life. (Laughter.) First of all, Michelle concurs with that assessment. (Laughter.) She has a long list of things that I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home. But more than that, I come to embrace the notion that I haven't done enough in my life; I heartily concur; I come to affirm that one's title, even a title like President of the United States, says very little about how well one's life has been led -- that no matter how much you've done, or how successful you've been, there's always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve. (Applause.)

How cool is that? Here, something that might be perceived as a slight is turned, the a good deal of humility and good humor, into a major point of his speech.

It has been a very long time since I have come to look forward to a politician's speech.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gov. Henry Vetoes SB 834 (Yeah!!!)

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry vetoed SB 834, by Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville and Rep. Tad Jones, R-Claremore. The bill creates the School District Empowerment Program to be administered by the State Department of Education. The bill requires the department to exempt any school district that participates in the program from all statutory requirements and department rules from which charter schools are exempt, except that the district will continue to be required to enroll all students who are residents of the district.

Henry said in his veto message.
"Senate Bill 834 would essentially turn back the clock on much of that important progress and weaken landmark reforms by allowing school administrators to create their own rules and ignore more rigorous state standards, including, but not limited to, the smaller class size mandates championed by former Gov. Henry Bellmon and Oklahoma voters in the historic passage of House Bill 1017 in 1990. SB 834 would also endanger such worthy programs as full-day kindergarten and alternative education in addition to making optional such critical personnel as school librarians and counselors."

It's the Joe and Michelle Show!

If 'Joe the Plumber' has no other function, his is to be able to teach us what it means to be an utter and total idiot! But, wait don't we also have Michelle Bachman fulfilling that role? Maybe, they should consider a revival of the old fashioned comedy team and take their act on the road?" ----- T. H. Bonham

Gay Marriage Becoming No Big Deal?

from Talking Points Memo:
Earlier in this decade, in the heat of the debate over gay marriage in Massachusetts, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) predicted that once marriages actually started happening, opponents would realize it just wasn't that big a deal (a very big deal of course to those getting married, but not a big deal in terms of the sky falling down or Western Civilization coming to an end) and it would simply fade away as a political issue. And five years on, that's what seems to be happening.

--Josh Marshall

Friday, May 08, 2009

Republican and Democratic Approval Ratings

From Research 2000 via The Daily Kos
PRESIDENT OBAMA 69 (70) 26 (25) -2

PELOSI: 37 (38) 46 (45) -2
REID: 34 (34) 49 (49) -1
McCONNELL: 21 (21) 61 (60) -1
BOEHNER: 16 (16) 63 (62) -1

CONGRESS DEMS: 43 (44) 49 (49) -1
CONGRESS GOPS: 13 (14) 72 (71) -2

DEM PARTY: 53 (54) 41 (40) -2
REP PARTY: 21 (22) 69 (68) -2

Forget about the GOP being the party of the Big Tent. If their approval ratings get any lower, then they will be able to hold their next convention in a pup tent.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive This Saturday

This Saturday is your opportunity to help "Stamp Out Hunger" by participating in the 17th Annual National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive.

With our economy in recession, more Americans find themselves in need of food assistance. Food pantries nationwide report their resources have been stretched to the breaking point and beyond. We all need to step up and help out.

All you need to do is place a sack of non-perishable food by your mail box, and your Letter Carrier will do the rest.

If you want to go a step beyond, consider volunteering at your neighborhood post office to help sort the food donations as they come in. It's an experience you will remember the rest of your life!

Please help this Saturday. Thanks in advance.