Wednesday, November 30, 2005

On Education: Making Do With What You've Got

TRP's recent blogging on the state of our public educational system has been intriguing, uplifting, and depressing. At the end of the day, I don't have much to add to this discussion of education policy. But I think at this point in the proceedings it might be helpful to remind ourselves that there are many bright spots in the educational firmament. I offer these two from the Washington, D.C. area:

The Capitol Hill Computer Corner is the brainchild of "Chad Anthony and Sam Hampton, who transformed a former liquor store and open-air drug market ... where single-beer sales and late-night shootings have been replaced by young people teaching computer skills to old folks and kids alike."

The Rocket Corps of Richard Montgomery High School, "a dynamic collection of kids from every background who, thanks to corps creator Julie Good, have proven that students achieve more themselves when they help other kids with their studies. Each year, Good attracts kids who want to learn how to be teachers, trains them and puts them to work tutoring struggling middle school students. The result is inspiring at every level."

Both of these examples were provided by WaPo columnist Marc Fisher, whose great descriptions I borrowed for this post.

Until I read this column, I had not heard of these programs. And that suggests to me that there are probably other endeavors out there that are going unnoticed amidst the light and heat of policy debates. Both of these great programs reinforce a grand idea that I learned in graduate school from an otherwise insufferable professor:

"Within structure, there is freedom."

I believe that the status quo should be challenged at every opportunity, I also firmly believe that you can use the status quo to your advantage if you apply a bit of creativity and elbow grease. The results can be just as astounding.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving 05

Turkey Comprises Most of the 'Exit, pursued by a bear' Readership Area

I heart Google Images!

It goes without saying that I'm very thankful that my family is still together. I'm also thankful for my wonderful friends and readers of this blog. So please give your loved ones an extra hug and have a great holiday!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I'm a Cut-N-Run Guy

Someone care to explain to me why we are in Iraq?

From the article (emphasis mine):

Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a "legitimate right" of resistance.

I don't know about you, but I am against using our troops as target practice. Bring them home now.

I May Convert

A friend pointed me to this speech given by Rabbi Eric Yoffie at the recent Houston Biennial of the Union of Reform Judaism. It's kinda long, but Part V really got my juices going. Particularly this passage:

We are particularly offended by the suggestion that the opposite of the Religious Right is the voice of atheism. We are appalled when “people of faith” is used in such a way that it excludes us, as well as most Jews, Catholics, and Muslims. What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God and that anyone who disagrees with you is not a person of faith?

So we ask our neighbors on the Religious Right to take note: We are religious Jews, gathered in Houston to study, pray, and commit ourselves to God. And yes, we are generally liberal in our politics. But our liberalism flows directly from our religious commitments.

And we worry that you don’t understand what this means, or what it means for anyone to be a liberal religious believer.

What it means is this: that we bring a measure of humility to our religious belief. We study religious texts day and night, but we have no direct lines to heaven and we aren’t always sure that we know God’s will.

It means believing that religion involves concern for the poor and the needy, and giving a fair shake to all. When people talk about God and yet ignore justice, it just feels downright wrong to us. When they cloak themselves in religion and forget mercy, it strikes us as blasphemy.

It means that “family values” require providing health care to every child and that God cares about the 12 million children without health insurance.

It means valuing a child with diabetes over a frozen embryo in a fertility clinic, and seeing the teaching of science as a primary social good.

And it means reserving the right for each person to prayerfully make decisions for herself about when she dies.

It also means believing in legal protection for gay couples. We understand those who believe that the Bible opposes gay marriage, even though we read that text in a very different way. But we cannot understand why any two people who make a lifelong commitment to each other should be denied legal guarantees that protect them and their children and benefit the broader society. We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations. And today, we cannot feel anything but rage when we hear about gay men and women, some on the front lines, being hounded out of our armed services. Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry.

Now that's one of the best statements of faith I've ever read. More, please.

Friday, November 18, 2005

In Light of Today's News...

... I'd like to make a formal request to all stadium owners/operators:


Thank you.

UPDATE -- 11/21/2005

From today's WaPo:
British glam rocker Gary Glitter was taken into custody by Vietnamese police in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday while trying to board a plane to Bangkok, the Associated Press reported. Police launched an investigation Friday into allegations that the aging rocker had participated in lewd acts with a minor. Glitter, 61, whose real name is Paul Francis Gadd, had been living in a rented house in southern Vietnam since March. He was convicted in Britain in 1999 of possessing child pornography and served half of a four-month jail sentence. The singer, who rose to fame with a glam rock act in the 1970s, is perhaps most known for "Rock and Roll (Part 2)," which is often played at sporting events.

Do I have to get on my knees and beg? It's a terrible song! Just cut it out!

It's Just a Game, Folks

One of the brighter spots for the Redskins this year has been Running Back Clinton Portis. Even in last week's loss to Tampa Bay, he broke off 144 yards of rushing and had one TD. But that's on the field. Off the field he has provided some very lighthearted moments with his Thursday press conferences. Perhaps costume parades might be a better description of these events. Well, take a look:

Dr. I Don't Know

The first character he unveiled was "Dr. I Don't Know." You can see that the costume is somewhat rudimentary, but it is harbinger of things to come...

Jerome from D.C.

Here is my favorite incarnation, "Jerome from D.C." Notice how the cape makes a nice statement while complimenting the mask.

Sheriff Gonna Getcha

"Sheriff Gonna Getcha" is my Sweetie's favorite character. The Led Zeppelin t-shirt contrasts nicely with the oddball eyeglasses.


And yesterday, Clinton introduced "Dollarbill." Now this wig is the best of the bunch, but I'm not a big fan of the shades. Even though I do think the jacket is very cool.

Now I love football, but I'm so glad that Clinton Portis has a sense of humor about it. Too many people take these games way too seriously.

(You can probably guess what I think of the NFL fining Portis $20K for wearing different socks during a game two weeks ago.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

One Step Back

Dad's back in the hospital. He had surgery this morning to take care of an obstruction in his small intestine. Came through just fine and he's in the ICU recovering. I don't think we're back to Square 1®, but it felt like that's where we were headed last night.


Everyone's keepin' their chins up. Good mojo is always appreciated, however.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tale of the Tape

I've been talking around my weight loss for the past several months. Maybe it's about time that I actually talk about it. Oh, and my losses to date? 36.5 lbs.

The Who

Well, that would be me. Because of the wonder of genetics, I inherited broad shoulders and wide hips. And that helps when most of your weight is deposited between those two points. One of the folks who was not fooled by this anatomical illusion was my Doctor, natch. For several years now he's been on my case to lose a bit of tonnage. And like most lazy Americans I did absolutely nothing about it.

The Why

  • First and foremost, Dad got very sick. Now his sickness had nothing to do with his weight, but the fact that he went downhill so fast was very alarming. "Could that happen to me?" I wondered. "Yep," said my guilty conscience.
  • At the funeral of a dear friend and fellow actor this summer, I ran into a man who I had worked with on several shows. Ed is a retired Brigadier General of the U.S. Army. He commanded troops in Vietnam and is no stranger to telling people what to do. This makes him a very good Director, but sometimes he can come across as a bit blunt. My Sweetie had never met him before this day, and so was completely taken aback by what he said to me after we exchanged pleasantries: "Gosh Tom, you need to lose some weight!" It had been several years since I last saw Ed, so his assessment of my physique was like a bucketful of cold water in my face. He then told the story of another actor who had put on much weight and dropped dead of a heart attack as a result. "Don't end up like that, Tom," he implored. As we walked back to the car, my Sweetie was fuming. "He has a lot of nerve to say that!" "Well, he's right, Sweetie."
  • When the director called me to offer me the role of Lindbergh in "Hauptmann", she did so hesitantly. Now I'm used to being cast (or not) because of my looks, it's a fact of life in the acting biz. But the following aside still felt like a left hook: "And I wouldn't mind if you lost a few pounds."

The How

Ok, I got the message! But where to start? And what to do? All my previous attempts at weight loss were coupled with some sort of exercise program, usually a strict one. But my Dad's health situation precluded any kind of regular exercise schedule, so I made a decision: I'll work on the food first, then exercise later. So all of my weight loss has been through dieting alone.

I didn't deprive myself of any particular type of food, but I did limit my intake. And how did I do that? With a wonderful program for my Palm Treo called Diet & Exercise Assistant. It tracks your intake in a very easy way and you can customize it nine ways to Sunday. I set myself up with a 40/40/20 (protein, carbohydrates, fat) ratio and then tried to stick with that plan. Believe me, I rarely hit all the targets, but I did keep myself honest about the amounts various nutrients I was getting in my diet. And that leads to...

What I Have Learned

While the weight loss has been great, the knowledge I have gained about my body and how it processes food has been the real prize in this journey. Among the things I've learned:

  • I need a big breakfast, one that includes a nice dose of protein (eggs, soy, lean meat). The old carbo-heavy breakfast I used to have just doesn't cut it.
  • My mood greatly affects my metabolism. How much, you ask? Well, consult this snapshot of my progress I made a few weeks ago:

A Tale of the Tape

  • I've worked out a very simple ratio that I use to evaluate food items: if you can get at least 1 gram of protein per 10 calories of a serving, then it's cleared for consumption. That has saved me from making many a bad food choice.

The What's Next

Um, that would be exercise! I'm pretty sure that come Springtime I'll be pedalling around in something shiny and fast and fun, but I am examining other options. But I am encouraged by my recent losses, and look forward to a few more.

Undisclosed Location, eh?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Maybe I'll Come Down

I'm back from Boulder. And things are fine. Stable, even. Dad? He's home, and doing well. The floors? Done, and looking quite spectacular. Me? Well...

I'm cool.

I'm cool.

Friday, November 04, 2005

What GWB Has to Offer

I saw "A History of Violence" the other evening. It's a very powerful movie, probably the best that Mr. Cronenberg has made (and that's saying something from the man who brought you "Dead Ringers"). There's a simplicity to this movie that is really haunting. And yes, there is violence. But it's not gratuitous. You see the before, the during, and the after. And the after is where the film really hits you. You see how violence is nothing more than poison, pure and simple. Yes, sometimes it can be necessary when you have no other option. But it is a poison.

Yesterday, I was pondering a discussion that folks were having about our current President. Considering that is approval ratings are hitting historic lows, it may be a good time to ask why this President was so popular for so long. And, considering his popularity (particularly post-September 11), why so many people are changing their minds. And last night, the answer hit me.

First, I'd like to say that I was wrong. I suspect most people don't care about "leadership" in the same way that I do. And since most people only see the President on TV for a few minutes an evening, there is scant opportunity to evaluate those qualities.

But I do think that they care about something else: getting even.

There is a scene in "A History of Violence" that disturbed me greatly. I am going to spoil it for you, but it won't damage your experience with the film (if you choose to go see it). The protagonist's teenage son is being picked on by the school bully. And then he gets even. Explosively. Violently. In public. The ferocity that this seemingly gentle teenager exhibits is nothing short of terrifying. And it was particularly terrifying to me because I saw myself up on that screen. I was that kid once. But I never got the chance to attack my tormenters and shove them to the ground and beat on them until the blood and snot ran out of their noses in equal amounts. I never got the chance to stand over their bleeding bodies and taunt them the way they taunted me ("How do you like that you fuckin' faggot!?! C'mon motherfucker! Get up and take it like a man you pussy!!!"). I never got the chance to make them feel as bad as they made me feel.

And when the scene shifts back to home, we see the teenager trying to shrug off his suspension from school and failing. He knows, you see. He has learned that violence is poison. And now he is poisoned. Now he is changed. And he doesn't like what he has become.

I think that's what GWB sold to America: the chance to get even with the bully they never got even with in school. For a while, people bought it gladly and fervently. Because who doesn't want to get even with the bully? And now, five years later, it seems that many people don't like what they (and their country) have become.

Do I think this marks some great change in the political landscape? I dunno. But there is something in the wind, isn't there? I can almost taste the tang of buyer's remorse and regret.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

What happened to the beauty I had inside of me?

Neon heart, dayglow eyes...
I'm pretty blue today. And I can't figure out why. I've got no reason, hell, I've got plenty of reasons against feeling this way:

  • Dad's coming home tomorrow. Tomorrow. There was a time not too long ago when we didn't think he'd be coming home at all.
  • My trip out here to Boulder has been both relaxing and productive. The project I'm about to embark upon may do great things for my career. And looking at the Flatirons every morning upon waking is a great way to wake up.
  • My first teleworking column was published this week. Click the "Way we Work" link.

And yet, I'm still blue. Maybe I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe seeing "A History of Violence" last night was a bad idea (although a really good movie). Maybe TRP's frustrations with education are rubbing off on me. I dunno.

Maybe I just can't wait to get home.

City lit by fireflies...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Greetings from Boulder!

Not much to report at the moment. Except an observation that the local bunny population seems to be centered around my hotel. This little guy was waiting for me by my rental car yesterday.

That's MISTER Rabbit to you, pal!

More observations later.