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The Wrong Lesson

My wife is prepping my daughter for home school. She was surprised that my daughter couldn’t identify one U.S. state. “We were supposed to learn last year in social studies,” my daughter said. Apparently, the teacher couldn’t get to it. While I am largely satisfied with what the public school teachers taught my daughter, the incident reminded me of something that happened late in the school year.

One Friday, my daughter asked about Napster. She knows that I have gotten songs from Napster and wanted to know about stealing music. Problem: Her confusion over the original Napster filing-sharing site and Napster 2.0, which sells music or offers it on subscription basis. Her fifth grade teacher was source of the confusion. 

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Icon: Biography or Fiction?

I just finished reading book iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business, which I bought at my local Borders Book store. I just about never buy hardcover books, but this one piqued my interest. After all, Steve Jobs banned all the publisher’s books from Apple retail stores.

I understand why the strong reaction from Apple’s founder. One undercurrent focuses on Steve Jobs’ charisma and claims of his taking claim for others’ work. The theme adds second meaning to the title, as in “I con”. 

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County Fair Adventures

Yesterday, I took my daughter and two friends to the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. But the excitement started even before we left the neighborhood.

So we’re sitting at this green light, with car horns honking and the lead car not budging a centimeter. Last in line, I swung around and drove past the other cars. In situations like this, I just have to look and see who’s driving the offending vehicle. In this case, no one, because the old—and I mean really old—geezer had slumped forward over the steering wheel. 

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Wonderful

School starts soon. Middle school for my eleven year old. For some reason that got me to thinking about Everclear song “Wonderful,” so I just went over to the artist’s Captiol Records website to watch the music video. Life is tough for middle schoolers.

After great angst, we’ve decided to home school my daughter for sixth grade. Local Newport Mill Middle School is nearly walking distance, but other factors make it just too far. For one, there is the adjacent Albert Einstein High School. For another, my wife and I don’t believe that sixth and eighth graders should mix. Development differences are huge, particularly when many eighth graders already are sexually active and eleven year olds are such easy prey. Not a reality I like to admit, but one we as parents can’t ignore. 

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Pop Goes the Housing Bubble

Last summer, my wife, daughter and I scoured the Washington suburb of Bowie for a house to buy. After a month of house hunting, we decided to stay put in our rental house, located in a nicer neighborhood and much closer to downtown Washington (We live off of Connecticut Ave. just three miles from the city).

The decision not to buy came with great angst. Rising real estate prices made the potential equity gains look promising, and we were simply ready to be homeowners. But the math simply didn’t work. When factoring in taxes and insurance, our monthly mortgage would have approached $2,200, compared to our $1,100—starting this month, $1,200—rent. We couldn’t see how our quality of life would be better doubling our monthly housing payment, even factoring in potential equity gains or tax breaks.

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Like Father, Like Son

Yesterday I sat near the water fountain adjacent to the Lakeforest Mall kids play area, while my daughter and two friends romped around nearby. Maybe 10 minutes after I plunked down near the water, a chunky kid, probably nine or 10 years old, ran by and spotted a penny on the carpet. “Is this yours?” he asked. I said, “No”. Up ran another kid, much smaller and no older than six years old. “It’s mine!” He grabbed the coin, threw it in the water and ran up the stairs.

“What a little liar”, I thought, completely taken back. I knew for a fact, the coin didn’t belong to this kid, who clearly had just arrived at the play area. Not just a liar, but he took the coin from a much bigger kid, too. The exchange really bothered me, and I wondered what kind of adult this kid might become. 

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Journalist’s Trust is Inviolate

This week, I saw the movie “Shattered Glass” on cable for the second time in a week. The film unravels the deceptions of Stephen Glass, the former New Republic writer who made up quotes and even whole stories. If I correctly recall, the magazine found problems with 27 of the 41 stories he wrote while working there.

The film got me to thinking a whole lot about ethics, the temptations journalists sometime encounter and dangerous deceptions. When a reporter for CNET News.com I worked out of a home office for four years, which meant only modest supervision. If I had ever wanted to fabricate anything, probably no one would have noticed. I never did, of course, or else you wouldn’t be reading this post.

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The Lost Generation

In a today’s New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof writes about Baby Boomers as the “Greediest Generation.” I couldn’t agree more, although I long have called them the “Lost Generation.”

“When boomer blood raged with hormones, we staged the sexual revolution and popularized the Pill,” he writes. “Now, with those hormones fading, we’ve popularized Viagra.” He warns of how the Boomer population’s looking for handouts as the young has turned to demanding them still as they grow older: “Our slogan has gone from ‘free love’ to ‘free blood pressure medicine.'”

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The Director’s Effect

Last night, I watched “The Butterfly Effect: The Director’s Cut” on DVD. Wow. I had seen the theatrical release, which I regarded as an A-class B movie. But, still, a B movie. The Director’s Cut adds seven minutes and a new ending that work quite well. The movie still operates outside believable reality, but I’m not sure it’s meant to be believable. The movie—well, the Director’s Cut, anyway—works well as pure fantasy.

I often wonder at the forces that shape movies during final production, as the influence of studio chiefs and test audiences come to bear. In this case, their impact was negative. The Director’s Cut adds more depth to the main characters, appropriately drawing out the mother-son relationship before the wicked alternate—and I assume original—ending. And I found the new ending to be much more satisfying and poetic. Were the previous two still births the same fate as Evan’s? 

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An Encouraging Development

A story in today’s New York Times pictures a U.S. soldier unloading bottled water in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The U.S. $350 million aid commitment and rallying of local resources—in this case the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln—is an encouraging improvement over the earlier U.S. “stingy” commitment to aid.

I’m too young to remember the America of World War II; it’s all just history to me. But goodwill went a long way in Europe and Asia, even turning enemies like Germany and Japan into allies following the war.