Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Hubris Run Amok

 I know I'm a bad person. I know I have a wicked side. I know I have the capacity to take others' suffering lightly, if I feel the suffering to be a matter of hubris. I've got a cold streak. I don't suffer fools.

Years and years ago, when Mr. J and I first moved to Haterfield, one of his journalist colleagues dropped by to say hello. At that time dear Decibel the Parrot was just a young stripling, but he had already learned how to shred skin on fingers with his big ol' beak.

Mr. J's colleague asked me, "Does your bird bite?"

"Oh yes," I replied.

Not even lying, the dude walked over to the cage and stuck his finger in. Decibel lived up to his reputation and bit the guy to the quick.

I could not help but laugh at that fellow. Hubris! It's a bitch.

Well, readers, that bitch hubris is having a whopper of a romp these days, and the Internet is a perfect park for a romp.

Here for your perusal is a website, Sorry, Antivaxxer. On this site, an enterprising hubris hunter has compiled a list of names and photos of people who loudly spurned the COVID vaccine and then succumbed to the disease.

My friends, you are entitled to your bodily autonomy, and you have the right to refuse a vaccine. But if you openly ridicule the vaccine and the people who take it, and then you get the illness and die of it, you sadly deserve a heaping helping of derision.

I feel sorry for people who quietly decide not to take the COVID vaccine, and then get the illness. But I have no qualms about "Sorry, Antivaxxer." Some book I might have read somewhere says, "As you sow, so shall you reap." And if you sow disinformation, if you make light of a deadly illness, if you belittle people who don't think the way you do, well then. Your reap may be done by the Grim Reaper.

Again, just to be clear, I do have sympathy for people who contract severe COVID after avoiding the vaccine. But my sympathy ends abruptly for the vocal, sarcastic anti-vaxxers who loudly seek to convince people not to protect themselves.

You've got to wonder, too, about the people who ingest medication used to de-worm horses in an effort to prevent or treat COVID. What are people thinking? I don't use Gamma Cat's flea medicine to treat my earaches.

Okay, it's not very Christian of me to lack sympathy for certain people. But hey! I'm not a Christian! I don't have to feel sorry for those who wallow in hubris and then inherit the wind. What a relief!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Pandemic Teaching Nightmares

 Today I took a half sick day. I went out to lunch and then to the swimming pool. I also called my doctor and got an appointment.

I left early because I was having a panic attack.

Since school began on September 7, five of my students have gone out on quarantine (after one tested positive for COVID). I can't get these teenagers to wear their masks properly unless I am looking straight at them.

School started on September 7, and on September 13 we started district-wide standardized testing. This is done through an expensive online platform that the district purchased a subscription to. The test took 3 full days and part of a fourth. I looked at the junior-level test. It was excruciatingly hard.

Today, September 21 (full moon), we had a practice for another standardized test, this one run by the state of New Jersey. Can you believe we spent 75 minutes practicing how to take a standardized test?

The real standardized test is scheduled for three days next week.

I had a panic attack because I always do when I have to administer a state standardized test. I'm so afraid I'm going to do something that ruins the students' scores that I'm much more likely to actually do it. The expensive testing platform programs are confusing to use.

So I asked my administration not to assign me the job of running the practice test, and they went ahead and assigned me anyway. There is literally no one in the school administration who worked on the last state test in the spring of 2019. Not one administrator who remembered that I have difficulties doing this.

Well, y'all will be proud of me, because I schooled the entire administration today. I melted down and was openly flustered and upset. When an administrator came in to help me create a new password (I just made a new one two days ago), I made the password HellonEarth1! and made sure the admin saw it.

The irony is that the whole practice was a fiasco school-wide, and my class got going first by some strange mystery.

When the practice test was winding to a close, one of the administrators came to apologize to me. But she wasn't among the ones I asked to assign me a benign testing duty. My guess is that she drew the short straw. But it only made me feel worse when someone apologized to me for something she didn't know about.

If I could comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, I would shut down all the Big School corporations that create and administer standardized tests. You can't believe how many there are. And how much money they make. And how bad they make kids feel about themselves. And how stressed they make the teachers who have to run the testing.

Pearson, Linkit, Kaplan, and all companies that "gather data": go suck a cactus. I'll bet your CEOs go hob-nobbing at Davos every year. I'll bet they would taste good if slow-cooked with some root vegetables.

Hardest school year since my second, so far. So glad I didn't spend my life in this profession.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Culturally Appropriate

 I spend too much time on Facebook. Click "Like" if you do too.

One of the reasons I spend so much time there is that there are so many pages with topics that are vitally interesting to me. How can I resist a Facebook page called The Turkey Vulture Society? It's candy to me, I tell you. Candy.

I also follow a page called "For the Love of Crows." Because, you know, if you can't be with a vulture you love, love the crow you're with.

Yesterday a young woman posted on "For the Love of Crows" that crows are her "spirit animal." It didn't take two second for a sniffy person to comment that "spirit animal" is a cultural appropriation that shouldn't be used. The concept of spirit animals is Native American, and we white Europeans have no right to it.

I have been as guilty as anyone in this. For years I called vultures my "spirit animal," my "totem," and on and on. I call them Sacred Thunderbirds, the Native American description, because it's so much lovelier than "buzzard," which is the European descriptor.

From now on I'll call them buzzards. I really don't have any right to appropriate Native American concepts.

Well, this whole cultural appropriation thing got me to thinking. What am I entitled to in my white, European traditions? Where is my cultural touchstone?


I believe that dressing up in costumes and dancing is probably more ancient to the human condition than any other invention. But the idea of dressing up in a costume (either nicer than your usual clothing or cross-dressing or both) and dancing at the beginning of the year is indisputably a product of the British Isles.

Being a Two Street Stomper is my culturally appropriate activity.

Which is swell, because today I went to a parade! The weather was impeccable, the crowds were friendly and appreciative, and we gave them a good show. It was so nice to see my Stompers fam again after 18 long months.

The moral of this brief sermon is:

*Don't call it a "spirit animal" or a "Sacred Thunderbird." Call it a buzzard, but venerate it just as much.

*Being a Mummer is a culturally appropriate activity for me. OH yeah! Two Street Fired Up!

Anyone who has gotten this far in this post: Thank you for your offers to help me with my disagreeable co-teacher! His initials are BD. Can't even believe I'm having this issue, never having had it before. But there's a first time for everything. I'm stuck with the boy, hoping I can teach him something. But not highly confident.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Wow, I Need My Working Wand!

 On day four of my first week of work, I was told that a kid sitting near my desk had tested positive for COVID. Five students were sent home to quarantine, but I got to stay because I am vaccinated.

I was prepared for this. My guess is the whole school will shut down before Christmas. But in the meantime, I have need for my working wand.

Those of you who have been following my meandering life will know that I have two magic wands: a ceremonial wand and a working wand. The working wand, though it is charged with magic, just looks like a stick. It's quite portable. Comes in handy.

There are so many reasons for taking a wand to work that I can hardly list them all in a single post. I've never faced anything like this autumn. Not even last autumn, when I sat in an empty classroom, fearing my colleagues and their lax habits.

All the students (who aren't in quarantine) have returned to class. They are required to wear masks. Which, being teenagers, they try to finesse. They must put their phones away while in class. Which, being teenagers, they try to finesse. They have to wear uniforms and ID cards. Which, being teenagers ... never mind. You get it.

I teach 9th grade. But this year I am teaching kids who missed 8th grade. I don't know if you can remember back to those awful middle school years, but you will no doubt recall that there's some maturity that happens in 8th grade. It didn't happen. The kids are immature and squirrely. Some of them, when told gently to put their phones away, shut down and put their heads on their desks.

But I saved the worst for last.

I always get at least one inclusion class. For those of you not up on your teacher lingo, an inclusion class contains students who need special, individual support for a variety of reasons. Inclusion classes are co-taught with a Special Ed teacher. I have worked with many such teachers, always in a spirit of collegiality.

This year I need my wand.

I am saddled with a loutish young man probably still in his twenties. Do I need to say more if I tell you he got full-blown COVID last winter from hanging out in a bar with his buddies? Well, sadly, there's more. The chump is chock-a-block with toxic masculinity. Let's put aside that he complains about other teachers he has worked with. He is poison to my students.

After he snarled at the class most of last week (earning their hatred right out of the gate, trust me), I told him I would handle the discipline. Not ten minutes later, he got in the face of a stripling girl of 14 and dressed her down for something I had just handled. The girl wound up shaking and crying.

Not on my damn watch. Wand up, shields up, time to detox this masculine pest.

I'm not a confrontational person. But little girls aren't going to cry in my classroom. I also bleed Union blue, and this guy is in my bargaining unit, but I'm prepared to go to his supervisor if he doesn't shape the hell up.

You know what I hate? I hate people who project doom. I can't feature someone who could say, "IF YOU HAVE YOUR PHONE OUT, YOU'LL HAVE NOTHING BUT TROUBLE HERE AT THIS SCHOOL, AND YOU DON'T WANT THAT KIND OF TROUBLE."

For the love of fruit flies! It's not like these kids are out drinking with their buddies in a pandemic!

So, as my beloved Yellowdog Grannny says, "Chin up, tits out." And wands out. And spines straight. I'm not only teaching the students, I'm teaching a teacher.

By the way, my room is full of the books you all donated to me. I got a whopping $200 from the school district last spring, but I'm well set, thanks to you. I haven't forgotten.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Labor Day 2021

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm Anne Johnson, a school teacher in the Time of COVID-19. If you can do this job, under these circumstances, without resort to magic, you are a better person than me.

But La Di Dah! I got two shots, and I've got a copper bracelet, and I have hung vulture feathers at my front door! COVID can't touch me!

Well, okay, it can. I just hope that when it does, it flicks me lightly, rather than walloping me with a blunt instrument.

Never mind that. Last Monday was Labor Day! And you know what that means, right? Philadelphia's annual Communist, Socialist, Godless, Corrupt and Overpaid Union Get-Together!

Just kidding with all those adjectives. Big Business wants people to hate unions so that the businessmen can go on being rich on the backs of their workers. And that would be a nope. Public sentiment for unions is actually improving. Hooray!

So, without further sermon, here are some photos I snapped at the AFL-CIO Labor Day Parade in Philadelphia on September 6. Here is the float that got things started.

You see that blue sky? The weather was gorgeous. 

Here is a card-carrying Socialist in the crowd.

The red shirt is a coincidence, because the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (plus that one pesky blogger from New Jersey) also wear red.

My shirt says #redfored, which is our teacher motto.

Every year the union puts up a big banner at Penn's Landing.

And then all the various unions -- identified by their shirts, enjoy the use of Penn's Landing (with free burgers and fries) for four hours. I think these are Boilermakers.

Every union has its own matching t-shirts, often with meaningful slogans on the back.

Here's the Communications Workers of America. That's the union Mr. J belonged to.

This year the AFL-CIO gave out beach towels.  That's what the dude is holding.

And you will never guess who I ran into there. The Monkey Man! He rode to the parade on his bike, with Monkey in tow, and we enjoyed a nice chat by the Delaware River. It's always good to see him!

The sunlight made it hard to get a good shot, but you get the picture.

It was great to get out into the sun with my union brothers and sisters. Needless to say this didn't happen last year. But we're back!

And guess what else is back? The Mummers Parade! In some form. I put down a deposit on a dress.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Malcolm Kenyatta Is Amazing

 Hello there! You may have Googled Malcolm Kenyatta's name and come to my page as a newcomer. If so, welcome aboard! I am a resident of New Jersey, progressive as get-out, and I believe in a future that is epitomized by Malcolm Kenyatta.

Now, my three regulars. I know you have never heard of him, so I'll give you some back story on Malcolm Kenyatta.

My daughter The Fair lives in Center City, Philadelphia. When the pandemic began and her hours were cut, she couldn't get unemployment because there was an unresolved issue with a social security number that she had gotten wrong once, on a long ago job. Fair was so upset, crying, certain she would never get things straightened out, and I told her to call her State Representative. I even looked up his name in the Pennsylvania legislature. His name: Malcolm Kenyatta.

Finally I persuaded Fair to call Malcolm Kenyatta's office, and his staff quickly fixed her issues with Pennsylvania and got her that unemployment pay.

It's kind of sad that no one knows their State Representatives can do such things. People are way too used to the idea that the government doesn't care about them at all, except at election time. But long story short, Representative Kenyatta has an efficient staff, and they are quite helpful.

Then one day I was driving to work, and the local news station played a clip about a State Representative who was giving Republicans some kinda sass in a committee meeting. The clip they played was hysterical. Bunch of old white men telling Malcolm he was out of order, and Malcolm not having it. I thought, "That's the guy who helped Fair! I think I have a new hero!"

It was about this time that MSNBC discovered Malcolm Kenyatta, and he started appearing on the various evening shows. That's where I was able to put a face to the name. The odd thing is that now, I can't even remember the issue that got him on national t.v. There are so many that could qualify.

If you want to see him standing up for voting rights, here he is.

Earlier this year, Malcolm Kenyatta announced that he is seeking the position of Senator in the state of Pennsylvania. It didn't take me two seconds to sign up to support his campaign, even though I'm across the river. I'm doing it for my daughters.

Malcolm Kenyatta is young, gay, progressive, and passionate. He reflects the America I would like to see, where people of all races and persuasions have a seat at the table where big decisions are made. I like the way this young man doesn't suffer fools. I flat-out love his platform.

So imagine my surprise and delight, when I went to this year's Philadelphia Labor Day Parade, that I turned around and nearly smacked into Malcolm Kenyatta! I did a little squeee, of course, and before I could say ICANTWAITUNTILYOUARESENATOR, we were hugging for a photograph.

Readers, I do truly want to see this fine man advance in the halls of government. If you live in Pennsylvania, vote for him. If you don't, invoke the help of your deities on his behalf. He is the America we need to see.

More about Labor Day soon!

Friday, September 03, 2021

The News from Texas

 I know you've heard all about it. Texas has a new law that forbids abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Oh, shucks, let's dispense with the formalities. Texas has made abortion illegal, and the Supreme Court has wink wink nod nod approved of it in the middle of the night.

This is a tricky little dodge that the Texas state legislature has passed. It's not the long arm of the law that's gonna enforce the abortion ban, it's ordinary Texans. They can report anyone who is getting an abortion, or anyone who helps in any way. Maybe what we would call a "citizen's arrest." And there's a nice bounty of $10,000 for any tip that leads to prosecution.

The law is so draconian that you practically have to reach back to Stalin and Mao to find precedent. But pish tosh! It's fine with the Supreme Court!

It's fine with me too, mainly because this kind of shit reminds me what a blessing it is to live in New Jersey, the Garden State, may the Gods guard and keep it!

You know why else it's fine? I'm all for this whole citizen cop thing. After all, the Supreme Court has approved, right? So let's get some good out of this.

I am contacting my state legislature. I think they should pass a bill that makes gun ownership against the law, except for active duty military. Any citizen of New Jersey can report a gun owner, or anyone who drives the gun owner to buy a gun, or anyone who operates a firing range, or golly, anyone who sells ammunition and camouflage clothing! I'm really cool with that $10k reporting fee, too. I will be really vigilant about turning in all those criminal gun owners out there.

Tell me how this is differs from the Texas law? Guns kill. Let's get them out of the hands of potential killers. And get paid to do it. Supreme Court will have to help us, because, you know, quid pro quo.

I'll bet I could think of a dozen laws for citizen vigilantes to handle. Take leaf blowers, for instance. What we need is a good stiff law that prevents people from using leaf blowers except for Saturday afternoons in October and November. Pollution! Noise! Where are my citizen crime fighters?

In all seriousness, I truly hope this abortion ban is the tipping point that turns Texas blue. How can a majority of citizens approve of ending abortions? (Legal and safe ones, anyway ... there will never be an end to abortions.) Come on, Texas! Vote the bums out. Start with the guy who flew to Cancun when the whole state was frozen solid and people were dying of hypothermia.

Texas gals, if you can make your way to New Jersey to "visit the historic Stone Pony," you can stay at my house for free. Wink wink, nod nod.

Thursday, September 02, 2021


 The remnants of Hurricane Ida passed through New Jersey last night. A tornado spawned in South Jersey and stayed on the ground through fully half of the state -- about 90 miles. It came within five miles of my house.

We get hurricanes all the time, and they wreak havoc. But this was different. Some areas got 10 inches of rain. Houses were demolished, tornado-style. This was not a typical New Jersey hurricane.

Such weather events used to be quite rare, but this is the second year in a row that we have had a damaging hurricane during season. Both names began with "I."

When I was growing up, I don't think I ever saw a hurricane that began with "I."

I also didn't think I would see Roe v. Wade overturned and Jim Crow voting practices reinstated. America is moving backwards in everything but overall temperature.

Gods help us all.