Friday, July 08, 2016

Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas….

Waking up to this morning’s news is just too much….

This week has become the “poster child” for senseless killing by and of the police.

It is difficult to sort through, let alone decipher, what the hell is going on in the US today.

On one hand, the shootings of innocents by the police is an example of how far behind we have come as a society in engaging in a true race relations dialogue. Racism and discrimination exist. It is the foundation for the anger that exists in minority communities as they react to the senseless killing by police officers who seem motivated by both stereotypes (profiling) and fear (profiling) in their reactions in the field.

On the other, there seems to be a group (organized or unorganized, I can’t tell yet) that is willing to take advantage of this racial divide and shoot police officers who are gathered in large numbers to protect protesters. Their goal was to provoke and agitate this racial divide. What disturbs me is they were willing to give their lives up to this agitation. Delusional, they are indeed terrorists. In the next few days, we will discover a bit more about who they are and what their motives were (are).


These are extremely disturbing times in the US. How much killing has to take place before we all drop our prejudices, stereotypes, and “phobias” and begin in a much needed across the board dialogue on the racial divide in our society? As I have said for nearly 20 years, this dialogue MUST TAKE PLACE. Unfortunately, we are not near the first step in this process—TRUST. But it is necessary to have this dialogue.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Letter To My 14-year-old Daughter....

As you settle down with your anger and other emotions from this weekend, I hope you will positively reflect on what has happened and how you can begin taking control of your life.  You realize how you have disappointed me.  We had this conversation in the “Laundry Room” during the Christmas Break.  And you were told by me the consequences of a repeat action on your part.  Just to reiterate, I will not be coming to Houston to attend your play, and I will not allow you to visit our house until you have 1) apologized to me (sincerely, not superficially) and have 2) engaged in a number of counseling sessions to get to the root causes of your behavior. 

After some thought, I don’t intend to cut off all communications with you.  I would like, honestly, to keep some dialogue open with you.  But I don’t intend to make you a part of my household until you complete a good round of therapy. You need to fully understand how irresponsible, and indeed potentially dangerous, your actions were.  It is troubling to me that an intelligent person like yourself would do such a thing, and indeed do it knowing what the potential consequences would be if you were caught.  You let your impulses and desires outweigh your logical and rational self.  We are all guilty of such behavior—no doubt.  The key is knowing when to control the impulses and desires when you realize how your actions will hurt other people.

Let me know how you are doing when you feel comfortable to do so.

I still love you with all my heart.

Dad

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Caitlin's Graduation and the Trip to New Orleans

We just got back from a "quick" trip to and from New Orleans. For a variety of reasons, it was one of the best trips back home I have ever been on. It is funny how the interactions between people, community and us can have an impact on the quality of a trip home.

Graduation was a success, of course. It was great seeing Caitlin graduate. She has worked for over 6 years for that degree, and UNO provided its fair share of roadblocks this year to her achieving her goal. Well, it wasn't UNO's fault--it was the Louisiana State Legislature that threatened to close all public universities if they didn't receive the necessary funding to keep them afloat. Thanks Bobby Jendel for doing such a crappy job handing the states finances....

Spending time in the city, though, with Devin was priceless!

I finally got time to walk the city with Devin the way I used to do with his brothers and sisters when he was their age (10-14). I got to joke around with him in the Quarter. He's getting my sarcastic whit now that he's older. I introduced him to a bit of the history in the Quarter, and his mother and I showed him some of the kindness and generosity we feel for the street musicians and Quarter characters that make the Quarter such a special place. I think he had a wonderful time. It will add to his experience there the next time that we go down there--which, ironically, may be in a few weeks when I take Caitlin back home from her visit up here.

What also added to the quality of this trip was the "lagniappe" moments we had when we ran into various friends from our past. Seeing Blake, Kia, Debbie Davis, and others made our trip. Spending time with them was great. Being able to catch up on what is going on in New Orleans through their eyes helped me refocus quite a bit. For some, the city is going in a positive direction. For others, the city has yet to recover from Katrina in a socially and culturally healthy way and may indeed be moving in the wrong direction culturally. If the city doesn't sink into the water, though, I believe Susan and I will find our way back to the city to live out the last years of our lives. I don't believe there is anywhere else for us, honestly.

The food, of course, was great. We spent one day just doing appetizers at various restaurants. That was an incredible edible adventure! We will do that again.

All in all, a great trip back home. I miss New Orleans.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

End of Semester Blues

I can feel it...  Those end of semester blues....

My students have it, and I have it....

This has been an "interesting" semester. I thought I had a good Intro to Sociology course. Students seemed engaged (the 25% that usually are) and they even asked questions every once in a while. No doubt, I had a more-than-normal amount of stagglers and hanger-ons in this class. I am honestly disappointed when I experience students who I know are "paying" for the course but never participate or show up. They are wasting both time and money, and I don't think they know what they're in for once (if) they graduate.

My upper-level courses were equally interesting. I have learned that at a "traditional" school if you don't have an attendance policy students will not show up for class unless they have to. For upper-level work, I've never been one to administer weekly quizzes, midterms or finals. I'd rather they spend time in weekly discussions and working on research projects. I like to think this prepares them for graduate school.  But it seems that next semester I'll have to include both a midterm and final exam in the upper level courses to check and see what the students are actually learning in the class. I hate doing that, but it is what it is.

One more week! Just hang in there--you got one more week!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tennessee IS Very Conservative

It's "different" than Texas, for sure. Texas has strong pockets of progressives and liberals. Austin comes to mind, but so too Houston.

Tennessee has "probably" Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis (go figure--major urban regions). But Tennessee is predominantly rural, and this solidifies its extremely conservative "christian" value base.

It's annoying to no end....

As much as I appreciate Tech, I am amazed every so often at how "conservative" my students are. I'm in the middle of grading papers on a current topic and I am saddened by how opposed they seem to be to gay marriage. It would be difficult to live here in Rural Tennessee if you were outwardly gay. Hard to believe that in 2016 America, but it seems to be the reality up here.

And it's not just gay marriage that my students seem to oppose. They seem to oppose marijuana legalization, the "soft" punishment prisoners receive, sex before marriage, and others that will come up over the next 50 papers or so. I can only imagine what goes through their minds in my classes as I challenge all of these issues.

I'm going to go back and grade my papers. I think I need a drink!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Ride (Full Analysis)

During Spring Break I set out on my "annual" long Spring ride. I am lucky in that I can take the time off to go on this ride and that Susan supports me while I'm away. I couldn't do these things without her support. I'm very lucky.

I rode over 2400 miles over the 10 day period. The worst parts of the ride were the rides in the rain. I guess hydro-planing twice at high speeds would mess with anyone's mind. Luckily, I know my bike and myself well enough to get out of those situations safely. But the thought never left my mind on what Susan would do to me if I got killed on some lonely highway way the hell out in the Texas Panhandle!

Another part that I didn't like were the "last" few days "rushing" to get from point A to point B. I've done 11-hour rides before, but I believe my limit is 9 hours. Its funny how that extra two hours can really wear you out. But by the last day, the prospect of riding 6 hours home in the rain had pretty much taken out all the "fun" in riding.

But I digress....

The overall ride experience was great.

It was great to hang out for 1.5 days in New Orleans with my step-daughter Caitlin. To spend all day Saturday with her on the bike was glorious. Plus it was a picture-perfect day in New Orleans. We covered most of the city, did the things we wanted to do, ate some great food, saw mutual friends, drank some good drinks, and had a day for the memory-books. That part of the trip made me really miss New Orleans. I swear to god--I will be living back in New Orleans before I die.

Houston was wonderful. Hanging out with my daughter Cece was the highlight on that day. We don't get to spend much time together, and I cherish these times when I can talk to her on a personal level and give what little advice I can when she needs it. She has been so successful academically--she will do fine as she graduates this Spring.

Which makes me say--I'm extremely proud of both of my daughters as they graduate this Spring. Cece and Caitlin have done such a good job in school. They took different paths, but they have both made it.  Love them both.

Next stop was Killeen, with a side stop in Caldwell, TX. Stopped first to say hello to Cyndi and Jimmy Dan. They've been some rough times over the past year with all the Waco bullshit. But I got some inside scoop from Jimmy Dan on what went down. I guess I learned a bit about Waco justice too that sets it apart from the rest of the country. Waco definitely has a history of frontier justice with a system of judges and attorneys that are family related for over 100 years. Waco makes its own rules, and for the most part they have gotten away with their form of justice forever. It looks like they will get away with it again this time too.

Killeen--hard to believe I miss that place so much. I don't miss the place per-se--I miss my friends there. And the stop in Killeen was for a funeral of two friends who were killed on their bike by a careless car driver.

What the funeral did do was bring together a large group of the biker community, many of whom I call close friends and brothers, and did give me a great chance to say hello to many people I would not have had the chance to see under normal conditions.

I am now into four days on the road with about 1200 miles under my belt. I am happy for the two day respite once I land in Killeen. Once I leave Killeen for Amarillo, it's going to be nothing but long rides along beautiful but barren landscapes. Welcome to the Panhandle of Texas!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

This Hurts...

It hurts more than I can describe....

I just lost a brother and his wife today. A car crossed the road and ran them over head-on.

A cage ran over a bike...

Without knowing anything, I can only assume that the cager was either drunk or fell asleep at the wheel.

It doesn't matter. My friends are dead. And they leave behind an 8-year old daughter. 

Orphaned....

These were two incredible people. Incredible people. They did much for the local biker community. And they are now gone....

Gone....

You never know what's coming for you. 

I can't believe this....  Fuck....

Friday, February 26, 2016

Last Night's Republican "Debate" (sic)

Well, it finally happened. As some headlines note today, it took nine months, but opponents to Donald Trump have finally attacked him. Where's the substance of his policies? Where does he really stand on significant conservative issues? How does he propose to honestly fund all the things he plans to implement? How is he going to implement these proposals?

His answer: "I'll make American great again!"

And that was basically it!

NOTE: He still has full control and momentum to be the Republican Presidential nominee. But, there is no doubt, the luster and aura of his candidacy lost lots of its shine last night at the debate.

Trump can count on a solid 30-35% Republican voter support all the way to the convention. His supporters didn't hear (or don't want to hear) the things exposed about Trump last night. As commentators noted, no Republican candidate TO DATE has done a good job on opposition research on Trump. Starting to dig around now, with Super Tuesday only days away, is really too little, too late.

But he has been exposed. The emperor is wearing less clothes today than he did yesterday.

I'm chuckling at this whole process. Perhaps this is what finally destroys the Republican Party.

I can only hope!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Planning the Spring Break Ride

On a shoestring....

I'll be heading out in one week for New Orleans and then most of Texas for Spring Break. I don't believe I'll be staying in a hotel more than three days on the trip, and those rooms are covered anyway.

I'm looking forward to some New Orleans food, music, and fellowship. It will be great to see my daughter Cece in Houston. She has a wonderful place that I've not seen yet. I've got to spend some time with a Boozefighter brother who went down right before Christmas--he hasn't fully gain consciousness yet, but its important to me to show support for him when I get out there.

Heading to Killeen and Temple will be fun. It's been over a year since I've been back there. So many friends, so little time.

Then, it's on to Borger where I have to go to a court hearing about the guardianship of my cousin.

A nice bike ride. Hoping the weather will hold up for most of the trip. I know the temperatures will be wonderful. It will definitely be a great trip.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Mardi Gras in Exile--Again....

We spend another year away from home on this most special of days--Mardi Gras....

I'm getting tired of this....

I know we can't go home for a long time. We have a familial obligation up here in Tennessee and we will follow through with that. Susan's family was there for us when we evacuated from the Storm ten years ago and we will be here for them now.

But for the past two weeks, I've done nothing but miss home and wish that I was back in New Orleans.

It's hard to believe that we haven't been home for a Mardi Gras since 2007. Nine years! Nine fuckin' years!!!

There is no doubt that next year we will be back home for Mardi Gras. The planning and saving takes place now.

At least I know I have one year to make my costume!

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Vanguard of the Revolution--The Black Panthers

I took some of my students last night to see a special screening of "Vanguard of the Revolution--The Black Panthers." http://theblackpanthers.com/home/ It was a good documentary, and given the questions and responses from my students it was a part of America's Civil Rights movement that they knew nothing about.

It is due to be presented on PBS on February 16 I believe.

That being said....

It clearly was meant for a "mainstream" audience....

The moderators at last night's event underscored that we only saw a 70-minute highlight of the total 2-hour documentary. OK--I can accept that. But what I saw really "sugar-coated" the history of the Panthers. 

The foundation of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, CA was Maoist Communism. Pure and simple.

I fully support that foundation.

Now, Huey and Bobby "knew" that the image of black berets, leather jackets and open-carry firearms would "attract" members to the Party. What they did with these new members, both males and females, was incredible. The programs initiated at the community level have been implemented in our society in a variety of ways (Free Breakfast and Lunch programs for the poor, free groceries, legal counseling, etc.). But the essence of the 10-Point Plan and the Party was Maoist Communism.

This philosophy began to be marginalized when Eldridge Cleaver joined the party....

There are a number of choice video snippets in the documentary. I am not going to give any away, other than to say the words of Governor Reagan and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover "floored" my students. Be on the watch for those great public statements.

For me, the key is that in the late-60s/early 70s we, as a society, had the greatest potential in our history to radically reshape our society. The previous opportunity happened after the Great Depression. Just as with that time, the Federal Government did its damned-est to physically eradicate elements of dissension and change within society. What emerged after the Great Depression were the social programs initiated by the Roosevelt Administration. What emerged after the 70s, though, was a movement to reverse the FDR policies. A total shift--a reaction to the growing fear in our society of strong social movements led by minorities and young people.

The documentary is important because it exposes an important part of our social history that many in today's generation know little, if anything, about. 

It is also important for cynics like myself to see how little we have progressed as a society since that time....

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Trump’s Loss

It was wonderful seeing Trump lose in the Iowa caucuses, but it is only a momentary glitch in his accelerating momentum.

If you look at the polls, he has a commanding lead in New Hampshire and South Carolina. He has the momentum to take many (if not all) of the states in the Super Tuesday primaries.

It was certainly great to see him “concede” last night’s election. Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing many more of those concession speeches.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Feast of Snow Days!

Well, not exactly, but....

I've been out of school for two days--Friday and Monday. Devin has been out of school one week (5 school days). During that time we've stayed close to home (actually, limited to staying in the house for two days because of the snow), cooking some pretty good meals and drinking quite a bit on the weekend.

We also played "Cards Against Humanity" with Devin!

And he loved it.

Twisted little fellow that he is!

As I get closer to my birthday, I always think about how important family is. I love my family, and I'm glad we do many things together. If we weren't close, I'm sure we would kill each other during times when we are snowed in.

Now, as I get ready for school today, I know that I've had more than enough time to grade all 155 papers that were due this weekend while also reviewing my lectures.  I'm thankful for taking the time during Winter Break to get as many preps completed as I could so that I wouldn't fall behind like I did last semester.

It is still a good New Year! I'm gonna try to keep it that way!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Welcome to the First Day of Spring Semester

Another Spring Semester begins.

I honestly haven't felt this prepared to start a semester in a long time.

I've spend the last two weeks working very hard preparing for all my courses. I have been on this campus for three semesters so far and am thoroughly enjoying my time here. The students are great, colleagues are collegial, and the campus is beautiful.

This is going to be a great semester--I know it!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Boozefighting Again!

Susan and I had a great time out last night. Karaoke and drinking! But--we are paying the price for it today! It's ALL Good!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Economies of Everyday Life

I had planned on going on the motorcycle to New Orleans for the first week of Mardi Gras, but even with cheap gas and a place to stay, I am having difficulty justifying spending the money for this three day trip. I have mentally developed a budget, but I know I always go over it once I get down there and I don't really need to spend that much money with Susan's layoff just weeks away.

I probably will do the "adult" thing and stay home.

Hey, I'll spend half the money on my birthday ;)

It's All Good!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Last State of the Union

Overall, I was pretty impressed with President Obama's speech. I thought it highlighted the successes of this Presidency, and he shared his "hope" for the future.

I have not been happy with his Presidency. I honestly thought he could have done so much more. He came to office with the best of intentions, but neither he nor I were prepared for the racist onslaught that would dog his administration. That and a weak-back thin-skinned Democrat Congress--HIS Congress did him no favors by watering down and stalling the Affordable Health Care Act. What we have today pales in comparison to what it could be for the American people. Once Congress turned Republican, any initiative he would propose would be lost in the quagmire of partisanship. The Democratic Congress should have had the balls to work for the people--not their feared reelections.

The President truly became himself once he realized that he could act through Executive Action. With Executive Orders, he has been able to assert his progressive agenda with more vigor. True, he cannot run everything through that he wants. But he has definitely laid the foundation for the next Democrat coming to the Presidency.

Again, all-in-all a very good speech, highlighting a very successful Presidency. Thank you for your service Mr. President.