Category Archives: rants

The Rat War Rumbles On

We live in a residential area of a Dallas suburb that used to be a large cattle ranch with a couple of mills for grinding grain along a winding tributary of the Trinity River. Our house sits next to a greenbelt park that is the creek where the mill once sat to service the Josey Ranch. We are located on a small hill that would’ve been the bank of the mill pond back then. Hence the swamp fauna that live in our immediate environment.

We are visited yearly by mallard ducks, and sometimes Canadian geese on winter holiday. There are squadrons after squadrons of dragonflies, and the many small insects they search for and prey upon. We have the occasional coyote and families of raccoons residing under the Josey Lane bridge. Frogs and toads and seasonal mayflies… and more than our fair share of mosquitoes.

But by far, the biggest pain in the tuchus are the rats. Especially in the cold of the winter, the heat of the Texas summer, and whenever we get enough rain to wash them out of their nests in the storm drains when the rats move indoors to have sex parties in the attic, squaredances in the walls, and raids on the kitchen, especially the dog’s bowl, for extra snacking and pooping on the floor.

We are not talking about cute rats here. The mice in the Paffooney that leads off this essay are definitely not the ones that caused me to write this anti-rodentia-disgusticas rant. Those mice are actually me and my family portrayed in cartoon form. We are talking about more than fifteen roof rats and one big Norway rat, numbers that reflect only the ones we have slain so far in this pitched battle.

The fight started a couple of years ago when they first moved into the house through a hole in the roof and another one that opened when bricks fell out of the wall above the back patio door, allowing rat access to the insulation and the spaces behind the interior drywall panels. Once they were already inside, I tried to stop them first with rat poison. I had three confirmed kills that way, But then it began to seem that no matter how much poison I set out in poison traps in the attic, their numbers only increased, never diminished. In fact, I discovered they were eating the poison and enjoying it as much as they did the bait. We had created at least two generations of poison-resistant rats. They broke into a sack of poison I had on the patio and ate every morsel of it. Rats started sending me thank-you notes in the mail. (Wait a minute. That sentence may have been an exaggeration for comic effect. The thank-you turds were left in the kitchen, not the mailbox.)

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We really didn’t start making headway until we discovered the right kind of trap. Snap-traps didn’t work. Every rat seems to know how to eat the bait on a snap trap without setting off the snapper. Electrocution box traps didn’t work. They simply ignored the peanut butter bait. We never caught a single rat in those traps.

But sticky traps… like flypaper for rats,,, didn’t work either… until we started placing them in the escape routes the rats used to flee from the family dog. Suddenly the traps began to fill up as Jade, our half-corgi half-rat-terrier, learned to chase them towards the traps. In the last three months, twelve more roof rats, and today’s amazingly large, eighteen-inch-from-nose-to-tail Norway rat makes thirteen caught by sticky trap. Ha-ha, Mortimer! Your days are numbered now. Don’t look at me with those skeptical black rat-eyes. I am winning the Rat War. At least for now.

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Teaching Reading

I was a middle school English teacher. And part of that job is to build reading skills. But that is a challenging thing. Especially if you work for a poor rural school district with limited budgets and very little ability to buy computers and the necessary software. After all, being a reading teacher in the upper grade levels of public schools is HARD. Can you figure out a child’s reading level with teacher-made Cloze tests? Do you know how to tell a book’s reading level just by sampling the concept density, vocabulary load, and sentence lengths in the beginning, middle, and end of a book? Do you know where to find the readability information in the student’s History and Science textbooks? And did you know there is no formula anywhere to cover how you match up kids to books they will actually read and like without becoming a mind-reading trusted friend of every kid in your class?

Seriously. Even if you are a teacher certified to teach reading, they do not teach you these things below the doctorate level in teacher-training schools. I had to teach myself before I could effectively teach them.

The fact is, life-long readers are made by book-reading parents who read to their children a lot before they ever come to school. Those kids get to school and top the lists of readers no matter what reading or literacy test you give them. They benefit from a reading teacher they can talk to about books, but they don’t need them. They know how to teach themselves. And kids who don’t catch fire in their reading ability thanks to an enthusiastic and gifted kindergarten, first, or second-grade teacher are never going to learn to read for fun, or probably ever read anything not assigned by their boss with job-loss consequences ever again after leaving school. Some kids burdened with dyslexia, ADD, or even mental illness of some sort are never going to read at all… without intervention.

And high-stakes State tests that have been all the rage with Republican governments who want to prove teachers make too much money, don’t even measure reading skills and compare results to see how much kids have gained every single year. They don’t want to give teachers credit if they take it upon themselves to actually teach students to read better. That is not what capitalist economies want to measure. They prefer to see how well students conform to norms and standards… to make an obedient working class that doesn’t cost too much because they think for themselves.

But a good teacher teaches kids to read or read better. They do it in spite of the huge challenge. There are ways to do it.

Pictured in this post are four books that I have read aloud to my classes. And walked them through the stories with word banks, guided-reading worksheets, focused discussions about theme-setting-character and whatnot. I tricked them into caring about what happens to the main characters because you learn to care about them as people (meaning both the characters and the student readers who invest themselves in those characters.)

I have used these books to make students laugh, as when Mr. Sir is shooting at yellow-spotted lizards in Holes. And I have made them cry, as when the family learns how Tom was killed in the Battle of Shiloh in the book Across Five Aprils. And I have horrified them when it is revealed what happens to old people and defective babies in The Giver. You can literally make students love good books if you are willing to share them hard enough.

I have never tried to get students to read books literally naked as my Paffooney might be suggesting. I don’t think the school boards I have worked for would’ve liked that very much. But it is a triumph of teaching when you can get them to figuratively immerse themselves in books to that degree.

But teaching reading is something all schools need to be doing. And I have to tell you, they are not doing nearly enough anywhere in Texas. And maybe not in the rest of the United States either.. Now that I can teach no more… I am left despairing. But not because of lack of belief in kids and good books.

This book of mine is in a free-book promotion this weekend.

Click on the link, get a copy for free.

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Filed under Paffooney, rants, reading, teaching

Evaluating the Moment

After running a second free-book promotion on Snow Babies, things look as bleak as ever for my publishing goals. It started well. Seven books ordered on the first day tied the best I had ever done on a give-away. But the second day saw a new record set with only one additional order. The three days after that… nothing. I can’t even give my books away for free. If you are reading this today and want to help, click on the link above. You understand e-books. You would be helping me out even if you never read it.

But, I have no illusions. My book is good enough to make a splash if people read it, but nobody will for a variety of reasons. People who knew me growing up in Iowa would be happy to read and support me if the message could get through. But my contact with them is limited by Facebook and its algorithms. Facebook will connect any political post to those on my friends-list who will argue with me and call me a socialist libtard cuck, but even family members don’t get notified of any post that is even remotely like an ad for one of my books. I try to post that kind of thing on friends’ pages, or direct message them, and Facebook steps in to call me a spammer. It is entirely a matter of me trying to advertise without paying any ad money to the greedy bahstidds of Facebook’s data-collection empire. (And yes, I know I misspelled the word about illegitimate birthings.)

My book ads fell on mostly deaf ears (or, rather, blind eyes) on Twitter as well. The #WritingCommunity is supportive, but they are all writers like me, dedicated to getting their own books read and loved. I know that many of them see a free-book ad like mine and think, “Ah, one more hack novelist’s hack novel that takes forever to read, and if I read it, they will never read mine in return.” I know they generally think this because I have slogged through some poorly written Indie novels and left a positive review, and got not even a thank you in return. Of course, nobody there actually knows anybody else. And, like me, they can’t afford to spend money on other people’s books. Although, like me also, they do now and again find books they can’t resist and spend money they can’t afford on those. Those authors won’t read my books either though. (Except for Ted. Ted Bun reads and loves my books as often as I read and love his.)

I will continue to slog through. I will continue to write and read what others wrote. I will continue to labor at this marketing-waste-of-time-formality thing. And I will continue to be depressed about the results. Besides, how else am I to proceed? Great writers are supposed to die alone in poverty and addiction, with no friends and no money. How can I pass up a reward like that?

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The Problem with Republicans

The biggest problem with Republicans is that really they’re Trumplickans.

They want to take us back in time to the “Good ol’ days” when men were men and women knew their place and minorities didn’t have a place… Yeah, um, the Southern United States of the ’30’s and the ’40’s. Jim Crow days. The “Man is the king of his castle” days. The days when no matter what crime or evil things they had done during the week, one hour sitting (and possibly sleeping) in a church pew on Sunday made it all better.

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The second biggest problem is that, one way or another, all the positive points of the GOP have left the party one way or another. Eisenhower Republicans are no more. John McCain is no more. Most of the Republicans with any integrity left have simply picked up their toys and gone home to let the rest of us play rigged games with the Trumplickans.

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They do whatever Trumpy tells ’em, no matter how bad it is for most of us and most of our families. Healthcare? Education? Infrastructure? Can’t afford those. They have other priorities for taxpayer money.

And it really is, “All about the money”.

And their only concern with law is when we break a law that gives them profits. No oversight, except over Democrats. No investigation, except into Democrats. Nobody is guilty of anything, except for Hillary… and maybe Obama.



And if anybody finds out the truth, well, they simply Barr the door.

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The State of the Onion

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Yep, the state of the onion is stinky.  The great onion that is our world is hyuge.  And it tastes like an onion.  Especially if you eat it from the inside out.  Mmm… I love onions. I want to eat them all myself, every onion in this garden.  But if I am going to do that, I am going to need the support of all sides.  Yes, there is blame to go around on many sides.  But I need their support to get rid of all the dietary restrictions illegally placed upon our garden by the last onion-master-in-chief.  That illegitimate onion-master was not even raised in this garden.  He seems to think that everyone has a right to clean, pesticide-free soil to plant their roots in.  But all garden vegetables are not created equal.  Tomatoes are poisonous.  They all have radical religious beliefs that makes them hate our onion-ness.  They are therefore terrorists, believe me.  They are trying to sneak across the southern border of the garden and take over the onion-growing space that good, conservative, right-thinking onions have and need more of.  They are trying to spread their poison in our garden.  They want to replace our onion laws with their own stinky Tomatillo Law.  And corn.  The Corn Party tries to defeat every item on the onion agenda.  When we pass a law that all corn voters need to be stripped of their kernels before they can be allowed to vote, they selfishly vote against that law.  Government in this onion garden cannot work if they continue to do that.  And we need a wall to keep illegal jalapenos from crossing the garden’s southern border.  They are not the best vegetables, I guarantee you.  They are onion-eaters and foul mixed vegetables.  And promises were made to spring onions that were brought into this garden as seeds and now are crying that they deserve not to be uprooted and thrown into distant gardens where they don’t even speak the proper vegetable languages to get by.  I know this garden loves those onions.  I love those onions too.  I want to eat them too.  They are very nutritious.  But their protections are now gone.  I leave it up to the Corn and Onions of Congress to build that wall, and if they do, I will let the spring onions stay.

And now you can heap praises on me for the state of our economy.  Yes, I take credit for all the fertilizer I have created by speaking tons of bull manure every single day.  The quality of my manure is fabulous… simply fabulous, believe me.  It is the finest manure any garden has ever received.  And I, Donald J. Onioneater, am the finest onion-master you have ever seen.  No onion-master before me has done as well, except maybe for Abraham Limabean.  He was pretty great.  Although I don’t really know why.  Maybe I should have said Andrew Jackfruit instead.  So the state of the onion is stinky.  And let’s all work together now to MAKE THE GARDEN GREAT AGAIN!

 

 

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Filed under angry rant, goofy thoughts, humor, immigration, irony, metaphor, politics, rants, satire

Another Brick in the Wall

I sincerely hope I never appeared in any way to be like the teacher in the video of Pink Floyd’s rock opera The Wall.  That teacher represents everything wrong about education and everything that looms over us as a coming darkness if the conservative privatization movement continues to move forward with their evil sausage-factory plans.

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In the video you see the teacher making fun of a student for writing poetry instead of participating in the rote recitation about math that the class is engaged in.  The school is portrayed as a factory that puts masks on the students, makes them march in a line, and eventually pitch forward, face first into the sausage grinder.

The song was written by Pink Floyd’s bassist, Roger Waters. It was written in the long ago 70’s as a protest against rigid education systems in general, and British boarding schools in particular.  But old problems can come back to haunt us.

Here’s the evil being protested.  Schools should never be used to suppress creative thinking and enforce conformity.  While it is true corporate America is hot for education that treats educating students like baking bricks, with attention to precise shapes and uniform size and color, that is not how kids learn.  They have to be treasured for what they are, unique individuals, no two alike, and all possessed of varied strengths, skills, and talents.  The idea of education is to help them add to what they are born with, use what they are born with, and fit into the jigsaw puzzle of working with and getting along with others.  We cannot teach them by pressing them into molds with standardized high-stakes tests, or taking their individual faces away by always trudging through the same low level thinking skills year after year just because a textbook written in conservative Texas says so.  Learning in the classroom needs to be through guided discussions, activities, and interactions.  Not through filling in all the blanks on a worksheet.

My own children, for the most part, have been cheated by the public education system in Texas.  They are bright kids, but have humongous school troubles stalking them like monsters, boredom, disengagement, and feeling like the young poet betrayed by the teacher in the video.  While I always, in my teaching, fought to creatively present learning opportunities, I found good teaching to be a rare thing in Texas.  It was sometimes actively discouraged.  And it is getting rarer.  The people who think teaching English means diagramming sentences and circling the adverbs are winning the battle for young minds.  I am left at a point of futility where the only thing I can do about the brick-making is write rants like this one about it.

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos should be pleased with themselves.  The sausage factories in our schools are turning out sausages.  Sausages don’t think for themselves.  Sausages are easy to control.  And when the time comes, some corporate fat cat will eat them and become fatter (hopefully only in the metaphorical sense).  And I am guessing here, but I’ll bet sausages make up most of the Republican voting public.

 

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The Price We Pay

It is becoming obvious that the American experiment with democracy is now over… In fact, it has been over for quite a while.  We can no longer even claim that this is actually a Republic in the sense that the Roman government began as a Republic.  The current emperor, Emperor Bumpkin Pumpkinhead, has no clothes.  The oligarchs own the government, and we are headed down serious paths of fascism and chaos and potential civil war.  We have the Devil to pay for our economic sins, and many of us will be swallowed whole before the end of it.

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I have known since the 1980’s that Reagan’s supply-side theory of trickle-down economics, more aptly titled Voodoo Economics, was a monumentally bad idea.  If you let the rich folks get richer and capable of buying absolutely anything, they will sooner or later buy the government and rewrite the rules to allow them to do anything they want.  That is the system we have right now.  Anything the idle rich want… That’s the reason we are saddled with Trump right now, the fattest jockey that ever broke a horse’s back.  And some of the rich folks who want anything and everything they can afford are truly demented and psychotic, backed up by years of getting their way even in putrid, evil ways.

The reason that the Republican government is so hot to cut taxes for the wealthy is to continue the wealth-redistribution program of the Reagan years.  Apparently the anointed few deserve all the rewards the economy has to give even though they do little besides horde their money and buy politicians who will continue to help them rake more in.  Meanwhile the rest of us continue to slave for them doing all the work under oppressive debt burdens that keep us under control.

24294271_844430295763808_6294495221275275142_n Of course, “Why should anyone believe me of all people?” is definitely the question.  I am only a retired school teacher who spent a career finding and verifying information, followed by a simple and clearly-defined presentation of the information to be learned.  I have revealed myself in this blog to have the letter “L” on my forehead for “liberal” which translate into Republicanese as “loser”.   And that’s where we will stay if we don’t fight back.

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So, how do we fight back?  For one thing, we have to vote.  Current policies and beliefs of the administration do not reflect the will of the people.  The general consensus about health care and taxes is not even considered by the Bozos in charge of the circus.  And we probably won’t win in the coming elections, because, through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and outright cheating the Republican right always gets its own way.   But that should stir us to further action… doing things like I am doing here, using my innate ability to use hyperbole and doofy jokery to spread the word and stir up outrage.  Better than angry fascist propaganda, right?

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Haven’t we, by now, had enough of what Ronnie Raygun wanted?  Isn’t it time we considered what we want?  …What we need?

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Filed under angry rant, cartoons, feeling sorry for myself, grumpiness, humor, insight, pessimism, politics, rants

Und So Weiter…

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Page Publishing finally has my novel in page design.  I am hoping to actually seeing a physical book in print, though I am no longer in any way confident that such a thing will actually happen.  The more time that passes, the more I find out about Page being a scammer-type publisher.  The mistakes they made in my work in editing were apparently on purpose.  Now that I have threatened to sue them, I am hoping they will no longer try to sabotage my book to the point they can extort money out of me to fix it.  I think if I had more control over the publishing process, the book might actually sell.  So my resolve is to hereafter do only the cheapest possible self-publishing.

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My art, my writing, and my life is basically organic, growing and changing in dynamic and unpredictable ways.  That is the biggest drag on living in this mechanized, grinding-wheels-for-profit world.  I don’t fit into their neat and perfectly stackable boxes of officially sanctioned society.  They have to chop the leaves and branches off my tree of creativity to make me fit.  I am thoroughly tired of saw blades and wood-choppers of the metaphorical kind.

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My swimming pool is now a grassless space for reading in the sunshine.  I hope to grow flowers there.  There need to be more flowers in this life.

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My work is more real to me now than reality is.  I intend to spend as much of my remaining time on Earth creating things, making the world of my mind tangible and viewable to others.

I finished a novel on my Tuesday blog posts.  I am debating what to plug in there next.  I discovered that the scammers at Publish America are being sued in a second class-action suit by authors.  I might be able to score some money, even though I never paid them for anything.  They have had the rights to my novel Aeroquest bound up in their publishing agreement since 2007.  But my contract is long over.  I can use that novel on Tuesdays with ample rewriting.

I have made peace with the idea of never having money enough again.  Life continues to cost more than I make.  I tried to sign up as an Uber driver for extra cash when I am well enough to drive.  Unfortunately I am only rarely well enough.  And even more unfortunately, my android phone refuses to download either the Uber or the Lyft driver apps.  So I am all signed up, but unable to receive even one driving assignment.  I just read a literary biography of Poe, though, and even though he was a better writer than I am, he lived in abject poverty for the majority of his adult life.  Who am I to do better than he?  For that matter, who is James Patterson?  I don’t claim to better than him, but he is definitely not better than me.  And that dude is a writing millionaire.

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The TV Justice League from my boyhood.

 

That, then, is my “So on and so on…” for today.  Thanks for letting me complain.  If you read this far through my ramble-brambles, you are a noble and worthy reader.  I appreciate you.  And I promise you, it gets better from here on.

 

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Tumbling the Trumpinator

It has gone beyond the realm of credibility.  How can a pumpkin-headed orangutan with a belly full of racial hatred and Islamophobia still be nominally running this country?  Has he not committed enough irredeemable sins to be sent to Hell, directly to Hell, do not pass GO and do not collect $200!?  I think he stole all the “Get out of jail free” cards before the game ever started.

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I have never called this Twitter twit-wit my president.  I never voted for him.  He did not win the popular vote.  He would not have won the electoral college without Republican cheating at voter suppression and Russian influence through email chicanery.  But the terrible things he has done so far have not gotten him removed from office.  Republicans still treat him as if he were a rational adult.  And Fox News is not only putting lipstick on the pig, they are covering him in red, white, and blue frosting and molding him into the shape of an American Eagle.  Why do we put up with these tactics?

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Perhaps other cartoonists and I are the only ones who see him for what he really is.  He’s an ignorant con man put into a position of power by billionaires so they can foist their evil agenda on us and have him rubber-stamp it with faux legitimacy.

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The betrayal of the DACA Dreamers was fifteen straws beyond the last straw for me.  Who is planning to remove him from office immediately?  I want to help.  I don’t believe in solving problems with guns, but I can throw a mean banana cream pie of satire and sarcasm.  I’m actually Hell at pie-whacking faces.   I can attempt to hurt him with rotten tomatoes of jokery and the silly string  of mockery too.  But even the image of this buffoon in cheap clothing with long red ties is immune to the assaults of mere humor.  He never gets the joke, and it is never on him.  It is on us instead.

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He hurts too many good people by taking away things that they need.  He may have damaged the way sick people access health care to the point that many, including me, will die for lack of funds.  He de-values human life by pardoning racist criminals like Arpaio and praising malevolent dictators like Putin.  He puts human life at risk by taunting another irrational man-baby who also has nukes to play chicken with.

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And no effort to remove him from office for crimes which he obviously committed and shows no signs of anything but guilt about will be made by the party now in power.

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So what will you do to bring back our country and our supposed sanity?  Tell me.  I want to hear a plan.  I stand ready with foam rubber whack bats to take the best shots I am capable of to help.  And I am not the only one.  (Truly, I drew none of the cartoons in this post myself.  Good cartoonists are legion in this day and age.)

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Tweedle Beetle Battles Over Swimming Pools

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I worked hard to repair the family pool and get it working again this summer.  I failed.  I am now resigned to having it demolished and already set up the demolition with a local company.  But last night we had to go to the city hall and sit in front of 6 of the 12 people who decide things about unsafe structures on residential properties.  Why?  So they could condemn us as useless bums who are apparently plotting to bring property values down for reasons unknowable.  Yes, we must certainly be evil.  The official ruling was, “If the pool is not demolished in 30 days time, the city will step in and demolish it and charge a tax lien against the property to pay for it.”  This was apparently necessary even though we have made arrangements for the demolition two weeks prior to the hearing.  What fun could the city commissioners have if they didn’t make us sit through the hearing and force us to explain ourselves for this hideous breach of social contract and then make us listen to a decision devoid of reference to any of the things we explained to them?  Their conclusion was, “These losers have done nothing to fix the situation, so let’s threaten and humiliate them!”  I took it fairly well, knowing the outcome was already settled and arranged at home.  My wife, however, launched into them with a rant about being unfair and unresponsive to the needs of homeowners.  Smoke was coming out of her ears as she finished.  They simply wrote us off as losers and went on to the next guy whose pool needs repairs for which he has no money due to recent surgery.  Him they made cry and plead.  Rich white folks and one guy from India make up that board.  Their function seems to be to make us feel miserable and grind us up over the fact that things continue to wear out and our incomes cover less and less of the replacement costs every single year.  No sympathy.  No mercy.  You argue, they just blink at you and pass harsh judgments.  So the pool problem is done with.  Double dips of dubious dog poop on them!

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