Carving Pumpkins A Growth Activity?

When I was a kid carving pumpkins was almost a right of passage. Picture the kitchen with me! It has a yellow Formica covered table with chrome legs and matching plastic seats on the metal framed chairs . Linoleum on the floor, a hulking refrigerator that was mostly insulation, coils and motor, and small gas stove all this accessorized by painted cabinets and linoleum counter tops with metal edges. No TV and No dishwasher and always a window over the kitchen sink. A door leading outside to an enclosed back porch and probably another door into the single garage. kitchen table

Pumpkin carving was a part of Halloween and 50 years ago Halloween belonged to the kids. A pumpkin was selected. usually at the grocery store, I always looked for one with a good slightly flat side to make carving easier, we bought at the grocery store because we didn’t have pumpkin patches, corn mazes and businesses that survived by exploiting Halloween.

Pumpkins were carved on the back porch, in the garage or in my case on that yellow Formica kitchen table covered with lots of layers of newspapers. The tools consisted of a large spoon and a “Sharp “knife. There were no cute purchased patterns to follow you drew your own pattern or you just started carving and you had two choices! You either made a fierce pumpkin or a friendly pumpkin. They were not pieces of art nor were they painted of partially carved to let light through. Fierce pumpkins had pointed teeth and a frown while happy ones had square teeth and a smile, eye shape optional for both but sometimes evil pumpkins had slanting eyebrows carved in. happy


But for a kid the key thing is you got to use a sharp knife and you learned on your own that if you didn’t angle the top the lid would fall in. You learned that in order to make a pumpkin you had to get your hands dirty and slimy getting all the goo and seeds out of the inside. You learned that sometimes the price of creating something came with some pain when you were a little too aggressive with the knife. Often times the kind of pumpkin you were making changed mid-stream because it’s hard to erase mistakes you make on a pumpkin although sometimes you could stick missing parts back on with toothpicks.

And even better when you were done you got to play with fire. Pumpkins were powered by warm flickering candles not a cold sterile battery powered LED. Candles could burn you when you tried to light them from the top of the pumpkin and I guess many of us learned that heat rises from that.

Candles also warmed the pumpkin and gave it an unusual smell not necessarily bad but certainly unique. No matter good or bad, like burning leaves it was a smell forever associated with fall in my mind.

Fire, Sharp knives, Candy Halloween was kid Heaven in the 50s. Please don’t buy a pattern from the store for your kid’s pumpkin, hand the kid a pencil and a spoon and a knife, advise but don’t control what they do, let them make Halloween their own again. Trust them to do their own work, let them do their own work, let them get dirty and even cut a finger or slightly burn themselves lighting a candle, in the long run it will be good for them.

Incidentally I heard that old lady Sloan three blocks over was going to be giving out popcorn balls again this year so let your kids go, follow at a distance if you must but let them go and grow. Halloween should belong to the kids. ( I’m not talking about letting three year olds or costumed dogs do it on their own because in my opinion both should be on a leash)

Oh and lest I forget let your kids have the experience of picking up a rotting pumpkin two weeks later and having to throw it away, the soft noxious mass probably frozen a couple of times carefully taken to the garbage to avoid leakeage, That is unless some teenage hood has already disposed of it in the center of the street which provides the opportunity for another life lesson.

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Elbert Hubbard Not Just for Historians

Elbert Hubbard is a little known American writer who died in 1915 but his writings still provide a window on modern America. Here are some selected Hubbard quotes that I feel provide instruction for living even today.

Old Age: Do not take life too seriously you will never get out of it alive.

Genius: One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men, no machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.

Understanding: He who does not understand your silence probably does not understand your words

Success: What I aspired to be and was not comforts me.

Principal: To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.

Freedom: Responsibility is the price of freedom.

Heaven: God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.

America: The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home and these are ignorance, superstition and incompetence.

Politics: Never explain – your friends don’t need it and you enemies will not believe you anyway. And If you can’t answer a man’s arguments all is not lost: you can still call him vile names

Reality: Every man is a damn fool for at least 5 minutes every day; wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit.

Memories: A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.

Friendship: In order to have friends you must be one.

Application: A man is not paid for having a head and hands but for using them.

Failure: The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it: so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it.

Change: The world is moving so fast today that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.

Injustice: Reversing the treatment of the man you have wronged is better than asking his forgiveness

Education: The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without the teacher.

Character: Many a man’s reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.

Political Correctness: The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge and an idea that is not dangerous is unworthy to be called and idea at all.

Religion: Christianity ( and other religions my addition) supplies a Hell for the people you disagree with and a heaven for your friends.

Attitude: We awaken in others the same attitude of we hold toward them.

Science and Religion: The church saves sinners but science seeks to stop their manufacture

The Media: Editor is defined as a person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff and to see that the chaff is printed.

Truth: Genius may have its limits but stupidity is not thus handicapped

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An afternoon at the DMV.

You know your afternoon isn’t going to be a good one when first of all you get to visit the DMV and secondly the line to get a number to get in a different line has a sign that says 15 minute wait. Well I got in and out in a little over an hour and a half so it is not the worst I have ever seen at the DMV and in general the people were friendly if not overly motivated.
I was there because for the second time in a year I have lost my billfold something that previous to this year had not happened since around 1980. My first loss this year left my billfold at the bottom of West Battle Lake and in retrospect it was sort of comforting to know where my draft card (yes I still carried it with the four leaf clover my wife put in with it hoping to avoid a trip to SE Asia in the mid 60’s, credit cards, pilots license ( I haven’t flown since probably 1975 but it was special to me) and of course my driver’s license were because they were probably pretty safe under 30 feet of water. This time I have no real idea where my billfold is but I am pretty sure that as soon as I cancel and replace everything somehow it will show up.
But, back to my story of the DMV. It is an incredible people watching place. Black, white, brown, rich, poor they all come together at the DMV.
First there was Pauline who was there to take her driver’s test again after failing because as she put it , “ I learned from the last test that you needed to stop behind the white lines even if you couldn’t see what was coming down the street from there.” A nice friendly little old lady who arrived at the first 15 minute line only 10 minutes before her driving test was scheduled. Iowa nice got her moved to the front of the line when she kept asking if anyone knew if she needed to be in the line. Later I heard her name called and watched her but she didn’t move finally I pointed her out to the testing officer and he went over to her and asked her if she was ready for her test? She said, “You’re not Brian, he was so nice the last time, isn’t Brian here today?” The testing guy put her at ease and talked to her saying that he was replacing Brian today but he was nice too.. When they came back in I noticed that she got her new license.
Then there was the black kid that was clutching his paperwork and learners permit while barely able to contain himself every time a number was called… Freedom was obviously calling. His mom watch him with barely concealed amusement. And when he got his license her smile behind him was nearly as big as his was as he walked out looking at his license instead of his cell phone.
Speaking of Cell phones the sign at the door that said, “Please turn of your phones” was apparently totally in effective as that seemed to be the main occupation of the people In the waiting room. I would guess a sign that said , “ turn off your phones or get a new number might have been more effective.
There was a women in a full burqa I wanted to see what they did for a picture but left before her number was called so will never know.
There with twin girls there with their permits waiting to get their licenses and a father who looked less than enthused in fact downright nervous as they brushed each others hair for the pictures.
The blonde lady who was taking her motorcycle driving test who I notice left in tears with her husband walking behind talking quietly.
The truck driver who had been hired and driving for two years on the wrong kind of license.
Charles who was 80, which I only know, as apparently being hard of hearing also causes one to talk exceedingly loudly, Charles who just couldn’t seem to understand the instructions to look for the blinking light in the peripheral vision tester and was at the counter asking questions for over 20 minutes.
I counted 7 people who turned their numbers back in and left. Disturbingly I watched the initial sign in desk as they handed them back out to late comers who then got ahead of me in line.
Truly a place of heartbreak and joy, frustration and success, “DMV the reality show,” coming to a TV station near you soon! Although I was a little disappointed when I discovered that they were not handing out participation ribbons at the exit door.

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Parent-Teacher-Torture oh I mean Conferences

October is the month for school conferences in the United States. As a Teachosaur I don’t like conferences for the most part. For two simple reasons; One. If I needed to talk to that parent I should have already done so as that need does not occur on a schedule and two the parents you don’t need to talk to are the ones who show up.

Sometimes valuable information and ideas come out of conferences but most times you are either looking at a parent who came filled with pride to hear how wonderful their child is or conversely filled with anxiety because they think it will be just one more time they have to hear how bad their child is doing and hear it in a gymnasium surrounded by strangers. It is no wonder that some parents arrive at conferences pre-lubricated.

I have never been one to believe that the parent is the most important variable in the relationship between a student and a teacher. School is not home, I don’t have to love you and you don’t have to love me for education to work, respect each other yes, love each other no. I believe that every time a teacher calls home it weakens that respect relationship and also the teacher in the eyes of the student and the parent. It says to the student and their parents that we can’t handle our educational problems we need help. Not to mention the fact that in some schools I have taught in you had to be careful in talking to any parent because when the kid came to school the next day you might find yourself in your “ mandatory reporter” role. Remember there is a reason why the kid is what they are and that reason is that the apple does not often fall too far from the tree.

I am aware that modern educational theory involves constant and even ubiquitous parental involvement in school. I personally feel that is a cop out of responsibility for the educational system and students. Yes parents need to be informed of any serious issues but Johnny failing to walk in the halls is not a serious issue, even if repeated over and over again it is a problem in the school and the school and student should solve it.

With my love of conferences sort of explained it is time for some of my personal conference experience/ questions?

How would you handle a conference where a parent tells you that her husband is now sleeping with the mother of another student in your class but her daughter does not know?

What would you do when a child shows up at the assigned time and asks you to have a conference with his father but because he is not allowed on school property could I meet him across the street under the street light ( I did go across the street and later found that he also was not even allowed to be out in his yard when the school bus came to pick up his children)

How would you react when a women with greasy hair wearing a very dirty cowboy shirt tells you things are looking up for their family because she has a new job selling cosmetics and then when she smiles you realize she only has three teeth?

How would you handle a parent who tells you that she feels her son would either make a good street racer or sniper/assassin?

What about a parent who refuses to talk to you at all because your science room has a snake in it and thus it must be daemonic.

How would you handle a parent who asks about music lessons because her husband wants him take wrestling and if he is going to wrestle he is also going to play the clarinet. ( this student ended up missing school on every hunting opening day so I think I know who won eventually)

How would you respond to a parent whose first words are , “ You are oppressing the natural instincts of my son.”

And perhaps the most disturbing, parents who will believe that you are lying to them to hurt them or their children.

Well glad I’m not teaching all day today and then sitting in a gym until 8 at night with several hundred other people who would rather be watching the world series, Survivor or a football game. Good Luck All.

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Does The U.S. Need A Twelve Step Program?

Is the U.S. Enabling Socialism Everywhere But Here

Is it possible that the huge U.S. Defense Budget and the involvement of the U.S. militarily in wide flung areas overseas is enabling socialism in those countries who rely and depend upon the U.S. to defend them militarily. I.e. is the military budget of the United states subsidizing the defense of, for example all of the NATO countries, allowing them to use what would otherwise be military/defense funds to provide services to their citizens that are not available in the United States. And then vice-versa can the United States ever adequately provide those services at home without other countries picking up their share of the load to defend their own borders let alone against such a diverse perceived threat as ISIS/Al Quaeda? What would the European Countries do if the U.S. Unilaterally pulled all of its forces out of NATO? What would happen to their political and economic systems?

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Things I Am No Longer Shocked By but Probably Should Be!

Lying Politicians

Failure to take personal responsibility

Forced Political or self serving apologies

The firing of individuals because “someone has to go” to appease the public

The shoes people wear or don’t wear

Swearing without awareness of your surroundings

Kids carrying more stuff home in one day from school than I did in a whole year

Winning simply because you showed up

Death threats against a punter who in attempting to do his job loses a college football game

Fantasy football gambling where nearly everyone loses and is incidentally primarily owned by pro football team owners who have found a sure fire way to win.

Peoples lack of awareness that the internet and to a certain extent e-mails are forever

That a has-been basketball player with way too much money to spend, who overdoses in a brothel is front page news

That people continue to be famous for being famous or infamous

The lack of awareness of the difference between a million, a billion, and a trillion ( a million seconds is about 4 months a trillion seconds is around 32000 years.)

that nobody has noticed that bullying initiatives in our schools are doomed to long term failure because bullies do not cease to exist outside of school buildings

That People do not understand that if is foolish to argue with, attack or pretend to attack a person holding a gun

Privacy no longer exists in any meaningful way

Nobody seems to see that the news and reality TV, intentionally or not, tend to legitimize bad behavior.

Testing, curriculum restrictions, and worthless trainings do not make better teachers they make better technicians. Technicians work on non-living things!

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War and Fatal Attraction- Drones and Death

Considering the Drone Attack on the Hospital:

War is Hell
Friendly fire is never accurately depicted or understood
Fatal mistakes are made
Apologies are never enough
Reparations are never enough
It is easy to bomb the wrong thing from 10,000 miles away.
The smells and horrors of death are rarely or never seen by drone pilots or their commanders
The more we take the humans out of war the more inhumane it will become.

I keep thinking of Hamlet’s soliloquy where it seems to me he covers everything about living and death

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry, [
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remembered.[4]

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