Dumb or Stupid?

Yesterday, my buddy Josh sent me this editorial about ignorance, and I’m excited about becoming slightly less ignorant of ignorance. (Maybe it really is bliss?) In any case, it relates to a couple of points…

A personal quote: “I may be dumb, but I ain’t stupid!”

Thus have I often begun a discussion with students about the distinction. I say that “dumb” is however smart you aren’t. It could be an IQ thing, it could be however “rasa” your “tabula” is gonna stay, it’s the cards your dealt, it’s your field to sow (dry and rocky dirt, or dark, rich tilth).

Stupid on the other hand is doing something against your own self-interest. It’s when you should have known better, it’s worse than dumb, it can be temporary insanity. For several epic examples of this, read Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly.” Sadly, crowdsourced stupidity is often disastrous.

Another great take is Neil Postman’s “The Educationist as Pain Killer.” Simply, if doctors study disease and lawyers study injustice, shouldn’t teachers study stupidity? Shouldn’t we teach kids how not to be stupid or do stupid things? Truth or consequences? We spend a lot of time on truth, or various versions of it, when perhaps we should be spending more on consequences, because that’s where those stupid chickens come home to roost.

Stupidology however, is not the same as agnotology (the study of ignorance). Ignorance is about unawareness, what you don’t know, and hopefully what you should be curious about. Stupid is usually about actions, not what you think (or don’t think), but what you do (or shouldn’t have done). However, that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t act, it doesn’t mean one should avoid making mistakes. A mistake is an opportunity to learn. Fail forward and use stupidity to get smart, to diminish dumbness, and to not be stupid…?!

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid. ~Benjamin Franklin

To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered. ~Voltaire

Give me a smart idiot over a stupid genius any day. ~Samuel Goldwyn

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. ~Bertrand Russell

An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise. ~Victor Hugo

How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid? It must be education that does it. ~Alexandre Dumas

Archival Meanderings, Pt. 4

I’ve had many great colleagues and this rambling rant was the by-product of conversations with one back in 1997. (I’m a little rough on ol’ LAUSD and since then I’ve come to learn that such a juggernaut is by definition a government of laws and not of men, and it was a place where I was able to be creative and hopefully productive.)

“High School is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.” -Kurt Vonnegut

“Songs of Missions and of Statements”

“A teacher who arouses a feeling in us for one good action, one good poem, accomplishes more than the teacher who fills our heads with interminable lists of natural objects.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My faculty cafeteria morning break brother Tony Perone and I, whilst once again kickin’ around this or that topic of daily abbreviated, tho’ recurrent, conversation, connected the opening of the movie “Jerry Maguire” and his writing of a ‘mission statement’ with our on-going over-stuffed box of issues regarding school, education, our jobs teaching.  We resolved to trade at the beginning of the next school year “mission statements” about our jobs, our rants and raves, our objectives and responsibilities, as teachers.  Having procrastinated, that is ruminated upon, this little homework assignment until this, the end of summer – Labor Day weekend, I have finally sat down to vent.  Here goes:

“The more I read, the more I meditate; and the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” -Voltaire

Difficult it is to start, to deal with the singularity of beginning, to find the one opening sentence for a topic so vast, and so long contemplated by me, as the education of the young.  I am also contemplating the first day of school next week, a day I dread and cherish as the beginning of a kind of journey.  As much as I enjoyed last June’s merciful end to the 96-97 school year, so do I relish the drama and rich potential of the first day of class for this next 97-98 year.  As I think Plato said, “the beginning is the most important part of the work,” or someone else’s line, “as we begin so shall we go.”  So, speaking of ancient Greeks, I might as well start with Socrates.

I have three points I would like to make about Socrates:

First, that he was killed for corrupting the youth (a thought which reminds me of the title of one of my favorite books on education, “Teaching as a Subversive Activity” by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner), he is the martyr teacher we all should be.  But this subversion, this corruption, this martyrdom is not directed so much at the students as at their environment, the system, the status quo.  As Socrates questioned, so too does every generation of youth question the authority of the preceding generations.  This is as it should be, and we, as teachers, like Socrates, should side with the youth – we should be their advocate.  We should not pontificate nor indoctrinate; rather than giving answers, we should help with the questions.

Second, and speaking of which, that the Socratic Method of questions and answers has been the most meaningful way of teaching and learning for thousands of years, and thus puts to rout all the gobbledygook edubabble on pedagogical methodologies.  Of course, the simplicity of the Socratic Method is unacceptable to curriculum developers and textbook manufacturers, and it challenges the need for administrators and edubusiness parasites who do not contribute to the dialogue of learning – but that rant can wait.  On another course, the simplicity of the Socratic Method is deceptive.  While conducting a discussion involving a series of questions and answers seems basic, the mind set of pupil, as well as the topic and purpose of instruction needs to be known by the instructor.   Unlike Plato, my use of this technique does not mean I believe in a priori  knowledge, but neither is that kid who just sauntered into your room a tabula rasa.  To, in the words of Emerson, “respect the pupil,” the teacher should know the pupil, perhaps as much as s/he knows the subject in order to effectively conduct a Socratic dialogue.  It is a flow, a dance, a game that succeeds only when the Socratic Irony is truly ironic, that is when the teacher knows the subject and the nature of the pupils, and thus flows, moves from question and answer to question and answer – to knowledge and understanding and insight.

Third, that the Socratic Method can be not just the means of learning, but proof of learning.  The instructor’s questions are not simply to stimulate thinking, but to ascertain that the pupil can think.  Thus, I will try to articulate my policies with regard to the use of the Socratic Method in class.  In the past, I have given a reading assignment and then, when the piece was to have been read, conducted a question and answer session.  Too often, much to my consternation, students would be too shy or simply too inarticulate to respond, or worse, it would become evident that they had not done the reading.  This year, Socratic Dialogues will be graded like an almost daily oral exam.  I have always given points for “class participation,” which is essentially the same thing, but for a very important reason I will be giving greater and more specific emphasis to the value of oral evaluations.  The reason is that, thanks to the computer age in which we live, written work, unless done in class with cheating-prevention measures in place, is of dubious value.  Between the internet and the ease of duplicitous duplication, typed assignments cannot be trusted.  Much written work can be copied.  Thus, it is those “mouths of babes” one must listen to in order to insure the purity of the thought and reading done.  Further, the dynamics in a classroom during a good discussion make for some of the most exciting moments in teaching and learning.  It may take some tough grading at first to make sure the reading gets done, but the gain will be worth the pain.  For more thoughts and ideas on the Socratic Method see “The Paper Chase,” starring John Houseman, Timothy Bottoms, and Lindsay Wagner…

“Too much rigidity on the part of teachers should be followed by a brisk spirit of insubordination on the part of the taught.” -Agnes Repplier

Having kicked this snowball off the top with regard to method, let me digress to a rant.  As Mark Twain once politely stated, “In the beginning God made idiots.  This was for practice.  Then he made School Boards.”  However, here my spleen spurts also upon the Ivory Tower – Schools of Education.  We can consider the corollary to George Bernard Shaw’s dictum that “Those who can do, those who can’t teach,” with “Those who can’t teach, teach teachers.”  And alas, these morbid sentiments leave us with an unattributable quotation, “successful teachers are effective in spite of the psychological theories they suffer under.”  It seems that “The System,” the educational bureaucracy that ostensibly guides us, is often tragically out of touch and corrupt.

I recall the distinction, while getting my Masters degree in Education at UCLA, I saw between the “trenches” of being a sub in the public high schools of LA, and the utter BS-schlock being silver-spoon-fed to the graduate students at the university.  Never did we step in a real K-12 classroom, never did the theories we studied help me in doing my real world job, never did the quantitative measures of educational research have anything to do with the qualitative problems of teenagers and the teachers trying to impart some knowledge.  I could go on, but it doesn’t serve the statement.

Regarding the public school bureaucracy I work for, the LAUSD, a few tidbits only.  I recall when the Chief Financial Officer of the district, having gotten busted for doing something terribly wrong, was suspended for five days – only?!  Consider the six figure salaries, provided by taxpayers, to administrators who never see children.  What do they do?  I don’t know.  If 450 N. Grand Ave. (LAUSD’s HQ) blew up tomorrow, it would not affect the day to day workings of my school in the least.  Of course, I may not know what I’m talking about.  Perhaps they do vastly important and difficult things that allow me to do my job – but I have no sense of that in the slightest.  I could go on, but it doesn’t serve the statement.

So, the statement regarding my mission is that one is a teacher in spite of the loathsome realities of school districts and schools of education.  Know your subject, learn about your students, then create – create in the void.

“Erudition, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.” -Ambrose Bierce

Before I go on to the important stuff, one more rant.  This one is more generic and involves, to invoke Sartre, the hell of other people:  parents, the people that make TV, and alas, fellow faculty.

Parents are, I suppose, necessary to continue the influx of clients, but it is fair, I’m sad to say, to put much of the burden of responsibility for the decline of public education, beyond that borne by the bureaucracies and the decline of civilization in general, on them.  Of course, my last caveat provides ample vindication, except as the word responsibility applies to families.  Is “single parent family” an oxymoron? Yes.  In that scenario did someone abdicate a sacred responsibility? Yes.  It takes two to make a child and two to raise a child.  Fill in litany of reasons here.  While the fornicating imbeciles whose unholy offspring populate our campuses are undoubtedly unaware, human infants require more care and nurturing than equine, bovine, canine, and feline offspring.  This care and nurturing involves an acuity of perception, an awareness and sensitivity, which seems to be circling the drain of humanity.  To quote Keanu Reeves (relish irony here) in “Parenthood,” “Ya gotta have a license to drive, ya gotta have a license to fish, but any … asshole can be a father.”  Well, you get my point.  Actually, I only want them to buy their kids textbooks (using the child’s allowance of course), and kick the collective butt of the people who make TV.

Faculty are, I suppose, necessary for me to be one of them, so I should tread lightly here.  But I look around the cafeteria on the first day of the year and I think the bureaucrats and professors of education don’t look so bad, at least they don’t dress so bad.  Furthermore, they make hard working schmucks, like I fancy myself to be, not look so bad.  In the cesspool of mediocrity, I’m proud to say I’m a strong swimmer.  Ah well, upwards and sideways.  And the mission statement resulting from all this is again: labor in love – in spite of indifference.  (Could that read “Make an indifference in your students’ lives”?!)

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.” -Oscar Wilde

So let me get to the main point of what was to have been a more clearly articulated list of mission statements, rather than the foregoing drivel-whine.  This bit might also be dubbed my hidden curriculum.  While I am allegedly an English teacher, I am also an ecologist, an environmentalist, a naturalist.  So, while in the coming school year I also intend to be the kinder and gentler Mr. Vail, to educate souls as well as cerebra, to aspire to the higher intellectual fire, I also intend to send a message of love for nature.

As is well documented and equally resented, the state of the earth is greatly imperiled.  News about greenhouse effects, pollution, and the concomitant and synergistic effects of these and other perils continues to acid-rain down upon our ‘ignant’ heads.  Fill in litany of reasons here.  Study the newfangled Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History and Culture(s), and the lessons scream, “the times they are achangin’” – for the worse!  But as an English teacher, am I to curl my bookworm-nose into the dusty past and ignore the looming doom – and encourage my students to do the same?!  NO.  I do not share the sentiment of the band R.E.M. as they sing, “Its the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”  I feel like crap and I’m angry.  So what should the “treehuggin’” teacher do?  We could consider Confucius’ notion on this topic, “When nature exceeds culture, we have the rustic.  When culture exceeds nature, we have the pedant.”  But he didn’t come home from a ten day vacation to see his car covered, encrusted, with a thick layer of petrochemicalsootshit fallen from the skies of his personal urban sprawl.  It’s not necessarily the end of the world, but things need to be done NOW, on a grand scale, to prevent that from becoming true.  Even on the small scale however, changes need to be made, and it is here that the teacher with class can do a little something meaningful.  “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  (“As we began, we went!?”)  Of course, there is the danger of sounding like the bleeding-heart-liberal-drone, and again, we must not indoctrinate.  But the facts speak for themselves, and are we not only helping them develop what Hemingway called a “built-in, shock-proof crap detector”?  It is a rich and complex subject as well, naturally interdisciplinary, involving the sciences and the humanities.  I could go on harkening to Henry Thoreau, John Muir, Wendell Berry, Aldo Leopold, Barry Commoner; or to lists of heinous ecological disaster facts, statistics of population, pollution, and lurid combinations of each; but I promised myself not to go past this page.  The mission?  Teach a sustainable, livable, groovable lifestyle.  Give ‘em a practical toolbox of relevant knowledge.

Of course I’m not quite finished.  I’m realizing that my alternative to a list of class rules, which I wrote and have hardly changed since I began teaching in 1984, applies here.  Rather than rules, which I have always believed were made to be broken, I have” expectations.”  As they are for students, they can certainly apply to teachers and administrators as well…


So that you will have the greatest chance to experience success in all your classes, it is important that you know what is expected of you.  I believe that it will help you to adopt these ideas as your own and use them in your other classes as well.

You are expected to have respect.  Respect for yourself, as well as those around you, is necessary to be a functioning and fulfilled adult.  Take pride in yourself and your work.  Do not settle for mediocrity, but be humble.  Do not turn in anything less than your best effort.  Don’t be sloppy.  And don’t forget:  “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you!”  Replace rude, harsh, loud words with kind, considerate, soft-spoken ones; or simply be silent!  Have respect for the people and respect for the planet.

You are expected to be responsible.  It is essential to have the right tools for the job.  Be prepared!  You should have a notebook for this class, and always have a pen/pencil and paper.  Always be ready to take notes.  You should try to be organized and efficient, and of course you are expected to do your homework when it is assigned and arrive in class on time everyday.  And check this:  will you take responsibility for other people too?

You are expected to be curious.  Curiosity is an imperative for meaningful learning.  If you do not really want to know about something, then you will not learn about it.  In order for you to be curious about your classes you need to see how they are meaningful and relevant to you personally.  And the more involved and interested in the world you are, the more relevant and important everything becomes to your life.  Be a sleuth, a detective, an explorer, an adventurer, a thinker!  Be curious.

You are expected to take care of your environment.  Don’t be an obnoxious, knuckle-draggin,’ litter-throwin,’ stinky, skanky, pig-slob!  Throw your trash in the can.  (Recycle it if at all possible.)  Do not write on anything other than your own papers.  And why not make the world a better place by looking out for the negligence of others?

You are expected to try for the best possible grade you can get.  Grading is done by accumulating points, and all work done for this class is worth points.  Strive to receive the maximum possible points available.  Do not skip assignments, and do not sell yourself short!  Also, class participation is essential.  Put in the effort, it will pay off!

Archival Meanderings, Pt. 3

Here are four editorials. The first is about School Gardens from the LA Times back in 2000. The others are about the Big Ideas Fest sponsored by ISKME from the Half Moon Bay Review (2012, 13, 14)…

Archival Meanderings, Pt. 2

Way back in grad school and more recently in job applications I’ve been asked to write my philosophy of education. Oy. Some ideas I’ve had, kept, and believed in since I was a student, others have changed several times this morning. The following is from 2011, and I regret that the namedropping begs explanation, but it can start the conversation here…

I have learned that it is good to come to school with a really big toolbox.  That way you are more likely to have the right tool for the job, and since people are so different, it takes a lot of different tools to help them come to learn.

Many of these tools I found in schools, as a student of learning.  The Socratic Method in it’s various manifestations, the doing of Dewey, and the insights of Skinner, Kohlberg, Vygotsky, Chomsky, et al., are all part of building knowledge.  I have been inspired by the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, George Leonard, Neil Postman, Howard Gardner, and Doug Lemov.  I use the tools of Developmental Stages, Attribution Theory, the Inquiry Method, Problem-Based/Discovery/Experiential Learning, as well as Constructivism and all combinations thereof.  Add a little Elbow grease, and one can really start to get things done!

Some of these tools are not found exclusively in the workshop of education.  In war and sports, competition and cooperation are like a reversible power tool.  The businessperson’s shrewd cost/benefit analysis is a tool, and interest (really important in education) can help or hurt depending on where you are invested.  Real estate, insurance, securities – just the ideas as metaphors are tools for students and teachers.  Transportation and communication are full of tools.  The school bus, oh yeah.  Computers, phones, cameras, xBox, eBooks – you know it! Technology in general, in all its new and exciting manifestations, is an essential tool for learning, exploring, and understanding.

I’ve also found some other, very valuable tools along the road of life.  Patience is a good one.  Tolerance, compassion, and a rollicking sense of humor can get used a lot when working in the heat of a classroom.  Infectious curiosity, trusty respect, and demonstrable integrity can be used to great effect.  And fun can be the lubricant that gets all the parts moving.  If you have got some industrial strength enthusiasm and a big bucket of love, you can definitely get the job done.

Of course, the job won’t be done, and really, the teacher can’t do it.  The teacher can only show students how to use those tools themselves, to empower them to realize their unique potential.  “Wax on, wax off,” “teach the man to fish.”  The students are learning the craft of learning, the trade of knowledge, they are becoming journeymen on the journey of life, and maybe of wisdom.

Archival Meandering, Pt. 1

Motivated by my classroom in the Agriculture Area, in the very late 90’s at North Hollywood High I left the HGM to start the Naturalist Academy (an SSP-funded small learning community for honors-level students focusing on environmental studies). We published a little student journal, The Natural Inquirer, and these were my musings at the time. (I remain drawn to serendipitous juxtapositioning, the ecology of ideas, the connexion of events.)

The Farm Report #1

The harvests are in and the planting continues!  Less than a month into the new school year and we have provided one lucky winner (for guessing the weight) a 67 pound giant pumpkin; and others have experienced dozens of huge zucchinis and other squash, tasty tomatoes, and a variety of eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, and other garden treats.  Parents, students, teachers, administrators, and other NHHS staff have been introduced to this year’s crop of 100% organic veggies, and thanks to some good-natured Naturalist Academy students, our first batch of product has been delivered to one of the local homeless shelters.

In fact, I have oft wondered at the skills of Ishmael, the cook at the Valley Homeless Shelter on Lankershim.  Once upon a time we brought him boxes of radishes.  I said, “sorry its nothing but radishes.”  He said, “Oh, don’t you worry none, we’ll use ‘em.”  And then I began to speculate about the higgledy-piggledy nature of food donations, and what he must concoct out of the random offerings in the shelter’s kitchen.  From our miscellany to countless cans of kidney beans and succotash, Ishmael must be a cassarole connoisseur only pregnant women, insomniacs, and the very hungry can appreciate.  Suddenly, I seem to be having a craving for peanut butter and pickles…

Which reminds me:  You do realize that peanuts are neither peas nor nuts, and pineapples, for that matter, are neither pines nor apples?  Things are not what they seem!  Compassionate conservative, for example, seems as oxymoronic as military intelligence, especially in the wake of the data harvested by the 9/11 commissions.  Reminds one of the Warren Commission and that balderdash about lone gunmen.  Of course you remember Earl was governor of California once upon a time.  And the now governor Arnold once played a pregnant man, with Danny Devito, who was also in the 1977 (year of my high school graduation) Academy Award winning “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which was based on a novel by Ken Kesey, who, with his merry pranksters, were featured in Tom (not Thomas) Wolfe’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”   And Tom’s scintillatingly written first novel, “Bonfire of the Vanities” was turned into a mediocre movie with Bruce Willis, another Republican actor who apparently wants to keep that Bush nut in office.

Actually, nuts grow on trees for the most part, and bushes, which usually include most shrubs, do well when they are kept trimmed.  (Where’s Edward Scissorhands when we need him?  Who was played by Johnny Depp, who was a Pirate of the Caribbean, based on a Disney ride, who own ABC and refused to release Fahrenheit 911.)  I say, “give peas a chance!”  Actually, we’ll be growing some scarlet runner beans during this late summer season, along with another patch of giant pumpkins, and enough squash for Halliburton to feed all the boys and girls in uniform (as well as the private contractors) in Iraq.  Of course it’s hard to get kids to eat their vegetables.  Bush the 1st is famous for refusing to eat broccoli, which, along with tomatoes, has been found to be down right (or left) anti-carcinogenic.

So, in conclusion young scholars, eat your veggies, but don’t be a conspicuous consumer.

The Farm Report #2

Corn, Beans, and Squash.  Known as the three sisters in Native American agriculture, these three are both companion plants, which grow well together, and they they eat well together, providing a rich variety of nutrients to the non-conspicuous consumer.  And we grow all of these in the Ag Area at No Ho Hi, particularly squash!  (Calabasa in Spanish, which includes pumpkins, and I’ve already mentioned our giant ones.)

I haven’t mentioned my sister, Nancy (I have only one), who knows a heck of a lot more about organic farming than I, as she is the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Coordinator at the the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden program (part of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems).  My point here is that I recommend to all our Naturalist Academy scholars both her program and UC Santa Cruz – one of the most beautiful college campuses anywhere.  Why not be a Banana Slug?

Of course, one doesn’t want to see slugs on one’s corn, beans, squash, n/or bananas.  But if you do, don’t kill them, they are sacred as are all Nature’s creatures, including yourselves!  Certainly, the patron saint of the City by the Bay (which in fact is quite near UCSC) would concur.  On yet another hand however, both my sister and I have been upstaged by our brother who is a doctor, yes, a MD.  However, due to these scholastic endeavors he is still burdened by many a college loan (don’t tell him I told you), and at this time of college applications (scholars, get busy!) I think it wise to consider the financial ramifications of your higher education plans.

Be not like the federal government, do not run annual deficits, and do not accumulate ridiculous debt.  “I owe, I owe, and off to work I go” – should not be your motto – yo?!  Which reminds me of Native Americans, erroneously called “Indians,” but a clear reference to India wherein the venerable religion of Buddhism got its start, and the Four Noble Truths, one of which claims “Desire causes suffering.”  Which hearkens further to Socrates, “To have no wants is divine.” So whether you get into college or not, may you have three sisters (of various professions), but want nothing more (and perhaps less).


In preparing for our big trip (getting the house ready to rent, planning to live out of suitcases), most of the process involves the organization of stuff. In fact, this summer as I’ve discussed this topic with friends, I’ve confessed to having an existential crisis based on stuff.

The stuff situation has been growing for years, but when it became necessary to move my Mom from the family home of 45 years, it went to another level. Then my Aunt Lourene died and her stuff merged with the other stuff. And now this accumulation of stuff confronts various interpretations of the dictum, “you can’t take it with you.”

Now don’t get me wrong, some of it I’d like to take with me (if I didn’t have to carry it). There’s lots of stuff that has sentimental value, waxes nostalgic, is weirdly artistic, or just not throwaway able (at this time). There’s stuff you think you’ll use again, or is worth money, or you want to go through later, or you think you’ll give to someone sometime. There are collections: of books, records, tapes, albums, photos, files, clothing, jewelry, objets trouvés, and generic memorabilia that just have a general stickiness.

Before you say “hoarder” (altho’ yes, it could be an issue) consider the fact that the storage business has exploded. Americans, having filled their two car garages with bags, boxes, equipment, tools, toys, and stuff (but not cars), now spend hundreds (of millions collectively) per month on storing their stuff in storage units. Google “storage” and you’ll find numerous companies dedicated to warehousing stuff.

I’m proud to say that we will not be paying for storage in some warehouse. That’s because we have a small horse barn that we’ve paid to convert into our own personal storage warehouse. Then there are further regions of our garage that will house stuff thanks to an agreement with the renter (who  is renting the house furnished, thankfully). This, after numerous trips to thrift shops, the transfer station (dump), and giving myriad items to friends and family.

Now, as our family of four prepares to travel around the world with one backpack and one suitcase each, we will lock the barn door, close the garage, hand over our keys, and say goodbye to our stuff.  Someday, a year or more hence, it may be nice to open boxes, rediscover things, have rather than get stuff. But for now, the necessity of simplicity seems strangely liberating.

For more on the this topic, consult George Carlin.

My Dad

A year ago today my Dad died. Evan Parsons Vail had turned 90 the week before. He went for a walk that morning, Mom picked him up, and he was slumped over in the car when they pulled in the driveway. A pretty good death for a very good guy. Here is his obituary in the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

In 1973, when I was 13 years old, he also took a sabbatical and we went to Europe. We settled in Lewes, Sussex and we were all enrolled in school. Eventually we traveled to Scotland, and to France and Switzerland. It was a life changing experience for my brother, sister, and myself, and explains why I want to replicate a similar adventure for my own children. In fact, we went back for the summer two years later and my parents allowed me to spend three days in London, by my-15-year-old-self.

That, and many other family vacations, explains our wanderlust and why my siblings and I have all traveled pretty extensively (and perhaps why we’ve all wandered far from Riverside). But my Dad didn’t. He worked at Riverside City College for over 40 years. In more ways than one, he has put the perspiration in my inspiration. Thanks to both my Mom & Dad for all the great adventures!100_1963.JPG


A great adventure is the genesis of this site. At the end of August, my family will leave our little home in La Honda and go spend one more night in Santa Cruz saying goodbye for a year to my lil’ ol’ Mama. Then on the 1st of September, we fly from SFO to BOS, drive to NYC, check out the WTC, then depart for England on the QM2. We’ll spend the fall semester in Europe and the spring semester in Asia, with some Middle East in the middle, and a little down under at the end. We are on a sabbatical for the 2015-16 school year and we hope to have extraordinary experiences.

Regarding purposes, not only do Mary Lynn and I want to provide a profound experience for our children, we want to have a great adventure for ourselves before decrepitude creeps in, and at the same time try to do some good, make some connections, help some people, and learn new things.  We have goals and we have themes: learning languages, exploring cultures, studying religions, writing books (blogs!), and discovering purposes heretofore unknown.


In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii became states, the Cuban Revolution happened, Barbie dolls and pantyhose were introduced, the microchip was invented, the LA Dodgers won the World Series, average income was just over $5K, stamps cost 4 cents, Frank Lloyd Wright died, and I was born on this day in Riverside, California (it was also a Wednesday).  Less-than-semi-fortunately, that makes me 56 years old.  Fifty-six, a tetranacci, pronic, and Erdos-Woods number, is also the sum of seven consecutive primes, and the age of Steve Jobs when he died almost four years ago.  He accomplished a lot more than I have in 56 years, but I’m hoping to make up for that with some time and effort spent on the betterment of humanity.  Part of that process involves taking my family around the world starting at the end of this month.  Stay tuned!