Three mini-posts

I did, unfortunately, end up watching most of the “debate” last night, giving up at about the 2/3 mark when it became clear that the Beast was not going to stroke out or have a heart attack while I was watching. It was every bit as horrible and depressing as everyone says it was; there simply should not be further debates while this person is in office. There’s no goddamn point. There have been some rumblings that the rules are going to change from the debate commission, but if they’ve provided any specifics I’ve not seen them yet. Basically unless the moderator has the power to cut microphones there’s no further point in entertaining the exercise any longer.

We missed the sadly predictable moment where he refused to condemn white supremacy. Which … no one should have been surprised. White supremacists, the Klan, and the Nazis are clearly his people, and there has been no reasonable doubt about that for quite some time. He’s not going to condemn them because he’s one of them. That’s all there is to it. And yes, you are a bad person if you continue to support him. It’s not up for debate.

I think it is still the case that I own every album-length release Public Enemy has put out, including their live album. I generally find out about them by accident now, though, and while it’s kind of depressing it’s been true for a while that the band’s best days are behind them. The fact that they continue to mine the well of songs from Yo! Bum Rush the Show and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back after all these years is … well, it’s a choice, is what it is, and true to form this release has three or four different tracks that pull material from those two albums, plus a remake of Fight the Power with a bunch of new verses by non-PE rappers.

That said … I think I”m on my seventh or eighth listen already, and I just discovered it on Tuesday, so they’re doing something right. I mean, it’s PE. It’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav, despite the fact that Flav has been kicked out of the band at least seven or eight times by now. I’m enjoying it.

I got an email from Human Resources this afternoon, late enough in the day (no doubt on purpose) that there was no real point in asking for any clarification, informing me that my request for a length-of-the-pandemic e-learning job had been approved. (I assume it’s length of the pandemic. How long this job is slated to last was not mentioned, and honestly I can’t criticize them for not knowing.)

This rather portentous paragraph was in the message:

As we begin to start school back next week,  please be aware that your grade level, subject, or building designation could change based on the demand for eLearning in the school corporation.   We will continue to modify based on student attendance, eLearning requests, and building needs. 

Now, next week is the last week of the quarter, so my assumption is that I still have my current job next week. But I literally have no idea what they will have me doing the week after that. None at all. I mean, I’ll probably still end up teaching math in my current building, because seniority, but I have no idea.

And, I suspect, neither do they.

The pandemic started in March, y’all.

So that’s fun.

on weariness

Before I say anything else, let’s all agree to take a minute and just appreciate black-and-white cinematography.

Also, leaving the O in the title of this post uncapitalized was originally a typo, and then I stared at it for a second and decided to keep it.

Back in July I submitted paperwork to my district regarding my desire to teach from home. This included a doctor’s note informing them that I had high blood pressure and was a fatty-fat, both of which are additional risk factors for Covid-19. On top of that, I have never once made it through a school year without using 90% of my sick days at least and more than once have run out of them by the end of the year; I was already out of sick days for the year in March when all hell broke loose and school got cancelled for the rest of the year. Not one time in my life have I made it through the first month of school without getting sick.

And then we went virtual-only until at least October 5, which is rapidly approaching, and the school board is voting on Monday about the reopening plan they’ve been presented with. It is unclear to me whether approving the plan, which at least in broad strokes I approve of– it’s basically a hybrid model like many other districts have adopted, and in general I approve of hybrid models although there are some quibbly bits here and there– is the same thing as directing us to return to school. I’m not going to post any graphs today but the short version is that basically every important metric has gotten worse than it was when they cancelled us until October 5, so the only reasonable thing to do (and, frankly, the easiest thing to do, believe it or not) is to continue to keep everyone at home.

Yesterday I got an email from my boss outlining how he sees my job responsibilities working out if the students return to school and I continue to work from home. And I don’t get he impression that he’s pissed at me about it or anything, to be clear. The email ended with “Let me know if you have any questions,” and my first thought was I don’t even know where to start.

I took a brief shopping trip today to buy a couple more work-appropriate polo shirts, because some of my favorites are starting to show their age. And while I was in the store I had to listen to a conversation between the store clerk and someone whose husband was waiting in the car because he didn’t want to put a mask on, and I think I aged five years during the conversation. Everyone was being very polite and understanding; it wasn’t one of those Hey, let me make you famous on the internet sorts of situations, but … Christ.

I look at this job description, and it’s manageable, and more importantly it’s reasonable– I should be clear here that I really like my principal and have since the second I met him– but it just makes me tired. And I’m falling into this trap, where I’m bored, and I’m tired, and so I’m sort of shrugging at basically every single health decision I’ve ever made, and shrugging at my wife and my son and my father and my father-in-law, and thinking fuck it, let’s go back.

(Oh, and one place where the plan really does stick in my craw is that it’s going to require another adult to be in my room managing things, presumably while I instruct my kids from home via Google Meet or maybe from the big-screen in the room like some sort of older, fatter Max Headroom bullshit. I don’t like the idea that I’m directly inconveniencing other people with this, which … there’s an argument to be made that I shouldn’t care, but still.)

My son is also home. He doesn’t have to be, and for various reasons I’m not going to get into his school is able to do some things with social distancing and masking that simply aren’t possible in any school I’ve ever worked in. And my days, generally, are spent with me in my office either instructing or (more often, honestly) just shooting the shit with my students, and keeping half an ear on him in the background. Every so often he forgets that he doesn’t actually have to scream for the people on the other end of the computer to hear him (a lesson he has never learned) and my kids will actually comment on what he’s doing. And every time his teacher says something even mildly cross to him, and every time I hear him leave the room to go to the bathroom or whatever, or hear a sound from his room that is likely not produced by a 9-year-old diligently working on his schoolwork, I go into this hideous mindfuck where I want to redirect him and help his teacher but I don’t want to leave my job to go do her job and also does it really matter if he left for a second and maybe she doesn’t want me shoving my face into her business.

(I told this story, right? I mildly corrected one of my students when his mom was within earshot and she blew up at him. I had to put him on mute to keep the other kids from hearing his mom. Not what I wanted. I don’t know if his teacher wants me charging into the room to Fix Shit every time he needs to be told to put something down or watch what she’s doing.)

He hasn’t seen another kid since March. I kind of feel like he should see other children. He’s kind of going feral.

(Also, I love my son, and I hope I don’t actually need to put that disclaimer there, but I have not been out of earshot from him for more than an hour or two at any point since March, and … yeah.)

I have not been to work since March. I can think of maybe three face-to-face, non-transactional conversations I have had with an adult who was not a relative by blood or marriage since March.

But if any of that was reasonable, then surely right now when shit has only gotten worse since this all started, it is still the right thing to do to continue to keep this shit up, right? We shut shit down when there weren’t any cases of Covid-19 in Indiana. Now we have a thousand a day. And that number only continues to go up.

And I see all these other people out there not wearing masks and doing whatever the fuck they want, and shit, maybe I’m the crazy motherfucker here. And I’m a data nerd and a numbers guy and I know full well that the millionth person to die from this will probably die this weekend and that shit is only getting worse precisely because of the type of thinking I’m engaged in right now and fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

I’m fucking tired.

How to Homeschool your Children during a Crisis Situation: a Comprehensive Guide for Non-Educators

I was talking with one of my oldest friends the other day, and as one might expect the conversation turned to what my district was planning to do when school opens back up in … uh, less than a month.

“Nobody knows!” I said. “There’s no plan.”

Which, okay, is a slight exaggeration; it is fairer to say that the plan that they do have is grossly inadequate in every measurable way. But it’s a plan! It’s a plan that’s going to fail miserably, but it’s a plan!

She lives in another state, and like most of my long-term friends she is a college professor. (I am very much the uneducated rube among my closest friends, believe it or not.) So she is already trying to figure out how to manage her own classes in the best way she can, and she commented that she just didn’t know what the hell she was going to do if all three of her kids were home with her all the time. While she’s lucky in that she can work from home, that doesn’t mean that she can work from home and take on schooling responsibilities for three kids, who are all at inconveniently different grades and levels of responsibility.

I figure she’s not the only one.

I am here to help.


It’s a working title.

Here is how to homeschool your kids until such time as it is safe to send them back to school:

  1. Make sure they read every day. At least a couple of hours. I don’t care what they read. Game guides. Comic books. Nonfiction. Chapter books. Newspapers. Age-appropriateness is probably a good thing; if you have a library nearby, and it’s still open, take ’em a couple of times a month and get a big pile of books. When you have time, ask them about what they read.
  2. Maybe– maybe— go on the internet, I recommend— find some math work from under the grade they are in right now, because you are making sure they’re keeping up basic skills, not reinventing the wheel– and make them do a couple of pages of math a day. Focus on basic operations, fractions, decimals, percentages, things like that. Story problems are good. Yes, I know you hated story problems as a kid. Make ’em do some math once in a while that doesn’t immediately tell them every step to do, is what I’m saying.

That’s it.

That’s the whole curriculum.

Worried about science or social studies? Okay, make some of those books they’re reading be about topics in those departments that they find interesting, and again, asking them about what they read is good. If you’re concerned about them getting some exercise, figure out the safest way to force them to run around once in a while and call that gym class. If they already play an instrument, have them keep practicing that with whatever they have on hand. If they don’t, this is not the time to learn. Call that music class. If they’re artistically inclined, get some books on art and buy some paper to draw on. There’s art class.

My point is, you do not need an expensive fucking curriculum and you also do not need to feel bad about being an inadequate educator when your actual job is keeping the lights on and food on the table (I have enough trouble just remembering to feed my own child, who would only eat once a week if we never made him) and a roof over their heads.

Keep them reading, make them do some math once in a while, and pull in stuff from other subjects that they find interesting. Do not fight with them on anything but the reading. And, again, if it has printed words on it it is reading. Your main focus is to keep their brains from either solidifying into cement inside their skulls or liquefying and dribbling out of their ears. We’re looking for a nice tofu-like brain consistency here, and yes, I just Googled “consistency of the human brain,” and it’s the best thing I’ve done all day.

It’s possible that there are laws wherever you live that regulate homeschooling, but I genuinely doubt anybody’s paying attention to them right now and I’m absolutely certain that if you have to tell the state what curriculum you’re using or some shit like that they aren’t going to come to your house and double-check. If your kid is enrolled in school and is e-learning, and you find the volume of work you’re supposed to keep track of for your kids to be impossible, email their teachers and tell them the deal. Chances are, it’ll be fine. The parents who are worried about it are not the ones we’re worried about.


It will be fine. Your kid will miss some learning and some later teachers will have to clean that up. That’s okay. It will be fine.

It will not keep them out of college. It will not keep them from being able to hold a job later on in life. They’re all gonna miss a good chunk of this year. Once they’re back in school, we’ll take care of it.

Just keep them safe, keep them healthy, keep them fed, and keep their brains at a nice, moist, tofu-like consistency. Everything else is fixable.

In which that’s a bit on point

I had a dream last night.

My dad and I were driving me to college, and for some reason we’d rented an SUV– specifically, a royal blue Ford Escape– in order to get me there. I was driving, and for some reason I was having an immense amount of trouble keeping control of the car– any touch of the accelerator was pushing us back into the seats, tapping the brakes was tossing us into our seatbelts, and I kept trying to make minor corrections to how we were driving and ending up in the wrong lane or nearly off the highway.

At some point, one of those accidental lane changes ended up with us on an offramp and on a new, unknown highway, now definitively going in the wrong direction.

So: I was going back to school, not at all in control of the vehicle I was driving, and going the wrong direction.

My brain does not deal in subtleties.

Let’s be clear about something

I was gonna put this on Twitter, but suddenly I feel like putting it somewhere I can link to it later might be useful.

I have grown excessively tired of the (somehow, surprisingly) large number of people who are claiming that “no one could have predicted” COVID-19. In general, actually, I’m tired of the phrase “no one could have predicted” altogether, which generally means that plenty of people already did predict it and you just weren’t paying attention.

Y’all, damn near any educated person could have predicted this, and most of them have at some point or another. You don’t have to be an epidemiologist or even a doctor to realize that the most dangerous kind of virus for causing a pandemic is the type that 1) has a lengthy period where you are contagious but not symptomatic and 2) has a relatively high mortality rate once the symptomatic period begins. Literally everyone who has ever read The Stand or seen a movie about a disease could have put this together. Fucking Dan Brown predicted it in his last book, and he’s a damn idiot. It’s not that fucking complicated.

Furthermore, if the person currently running our country into the ground is able to fire something called a “pandemic response team” and if there is something called the Center for Disease Control whose budget he is able to cut … what that means is that yeah, people predicted this. There are entire fucking literal organizations composed of people whose actual fucking job was to predict exactly this and to notice it as early as possible when it (inevitably, because viruses evolve, which is also something no educated person is surprised by) does actually happen.

If something terrible were to happen and everyone were to look around and no one could figure out whose job it was to help fix that thing? That might be something that nobody predicted.

This? Everyfuckingbody predicted this was going to happen, sooner or later. Everybody who was paying the slightest bit of attention, at least.

Fucking stop it.

2:55 PM, Saturday April 11: 514,415 confirmed infections and 19,882 Americans dead.