Category Archives: Education

I Can’t Even…

As I enter the twilight of my junior college career–getting ready to embark on my final push towards my bachelor’s degree at an as yet undetermined university–I find myself paralyzed. Dumbstruck not by the variety of academic choices that lie in front of me, not by the awesome responsibility of choosing just HOW much debt I intent to incur over the next seven years (2 years BA, 5 yrs PhD program), and not by the use of the Oxford comma (see what I did there?).

No, indeed since November 8th of 2016 I’ve been awed…metaphorically frozen by the, and I use this word judiciously–“reality”–of just who has been sworn in as President of the United States. I guess, like any victim of trauma, I’ve used self-delusion as a defense mechanism. But tonight, while doing laundry during a break from studying The Iliad, I heard an NPR announcer say the phrase: “President Trump.” Obviously, I’ve heard this before, but for some reason, tonight, it hurt. It was surreal. A moment of panic set in and I literally wondered if I had either died, or was suffering from some form of parallel universe awareness. This simply can’t be…

Today, the director of the FBI stated, in no uncertain terms (Don, this means NOT fake news), that the administration of the sitting President of the United States is under criminal investigation for his alleged campaign ties to a foreign government. The Russians. As a child of the cold war, this chills me to the bone. But perhaps the most chilling “reality” is the seeming lethargy with which this news has been greeted by my fellow countrymen.

Let’s review: the republican nominee, and eventual electoral college victor, our now sitting President, is the subject of a criminal (read: treason) investigation for alleged collusion with the Russians to, among other things, affect the outcome of the presidential election.

I’m not going to parse this with anyone, nor do I intend to build a case against him. I believe the investigation alone speaks volumes.

What I do demand is an immediate, and serious examination of the evidence to begin articles of impeachment of this man, and, pending the outcome of the FBI’s (and hopefully a special prosecutor’s) investigation, a constitutional evaluation of the propriety of the last election by our Supreme Court. The buck has never stopped “here” with Trump and it’s pretty clear that the dysfunction has metastasized within his government. I’m calling for the Court, again pending satisfactory evidence of duplicity and criminal wrongdoing, to call for another election.

There is simply too much at stake to allow this narcissistic, impending indicted criminal to continue to govern. Consider the ACA and the wide-ranging effect Trump’s Federal Judge appointee’s can have on our country for decades to come. We can all see the writing on the wall here…let’s quit pussy-footing around the issue and stop calling this man our lawfully elected “President.” Bill Gates visited Trump today to discuss “the internet” today. I was outraged. It’s time for people of conscience to let the emperor know his fat ass is naked for all the world to see.  Government leaders and those in power need to stop entitling this man and his corrupt machine. Call a spade a damn spade.

“President Trump”…I can’t even.

 


A “Coarse” Correction…

Well it’s certainly not the outcome I’d hoped for. Nor expected. In fact, in my wildest dreams I didn’t think this clown would be elected president. I thought we were better than that…actually I still do (see below). Before I get to the heart of the matter though, I have to say, I’m not ENTIRELY surprised. Since the advent of “hate” style politics championed by Ronald Reagan, through the advent of Faux News and the unbridled partisan vitriol of Karl Rove and the like, we have seen a burgeoning class of disaffected, generally poorly educated, voters that feel as if the system needs to change. I agree. It does. But electing a misogynistic, racist, sexual predator with absolutely no qualifications did not seem to be the way to do it…or was it?

I am very angry at those that voted for this change. By voting for the candidate of the KKK you have effectively endorsed the antithesis of every principle that our nation was founded on. I am most sad today for those young men and woman who so bravely sacrificed their lives…that today a reality show clown will be their commander-in-chief.

But despite all this there are silver linings. The majority voted against this hatred. And although the electoral college will elect Trump, perhaps the next four years is our wake up call. If it is not…if it does inspire you to take action and correct this mess we find ourselves in…well then, we deserve this.

I for one plan to take action. I will NOT let this country go down in flames unchallenged. I have often disagreed with Michael Moore, but his insight on this election, and specifically the pathos that carried Trump to victory is startling.

And Moore provides his own call to action. One that I personally plan on implementing. Now:

Morning After To-Do List:
1. Take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people. They have failed us miserably.
2. Fire all pundits, predictors, pollsters and anyone else in the media who had a narrative they wouldn’t let go of and refused to listen to or acknowledge what was really going on. Those same bloviators will now tell us we must “heal the divide” and “come together.” They will pull more hooey like that out of their ass in the days to come. Turn them off.
3. Any Democratic member of Congress who didn’t wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin.
4. Everyone must stop saying they are “stunned” and “shocked”. What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren’t paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. YEARS of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew. Along came a TV star they liked whose plan was to destroy both parties and tell them all “You’re fired!” Trump’s victory is no surprise. He was never a joke. Treating him as one only strengthened him. He is both a creature and a creation of the media and the media will never own that.
5. You must say this sentence to everyone you meet today: “HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!” The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don’t. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump. The only reason he’s president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we’ll continue to have presidents we didn’t elect and didn’t want. You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there’s climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, they don’t want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the “liberal” position. We just lack the liberal leadership to make that happen (see: #1 above).

Let’s try to get this all done by noon today.
— Michael Moore

Thank you Mr. Moore…let’s get on this folks…before this “coarse” correction becomes a way of life.


A Brief Detour to the Other Side of my Brain…

 

So the dearth of posts here recently can be explained by something other than my general lethargy or reticence to engage.

For the last year-and-a-half, my academic career (community college) has taken me from one side of my brain to the other.

I originally re-enrolled at the community college that I took my first class in 1979. Yes kids, you heard that right…1979. It was an Emergency Medical Technician class I took as a senior in high school. That class led to a 26 year career as a first responder (EMT, Paramedic, Fire Captain).

When life intervened in 1999 and my world turned upside down as the result of my step-son’s car accident…all the best laid plans I had flew out the door before I realized they were missing. Without rehashing the last two decades (artfully hidden elsewhere in this blog), in the spring of 2013 I decided that a degree in Addiction Studies would afford me a stable career in a field I believed deeply in.

Well, two things happened: when I began my coursework, I also found a job in the field and was quickly disillusioned at the profit-making nature of the business; but more importantly, while taking my basic coursework for the AS, I found a passion for learning again. Not to say that as I younger student that I craved knowledge (far from it), but I found that as an adult with some life experience under my belt, that what I was learning about politics, world history, literature, and mathematics simply enthralled me.

Yet again, I steered a course change and decided to obtain a BA in English at UCLA (other fantasy universities include Berkeley and Georgetown).

Based upon by GPA, I was accepted into my colleges Honors Transfer Program for UCLA, and for the past three semesters I’ve been slogging through Math and Spanish courses. I dreaded Math and looked forward to Spanish. Both expectations were misguided.

It turns out that in order to attain fluency in a language, immersion and more than three semesters of the language is required. So after 3 semesters I can read and conjugate verbs like a boss but am panic stricken if I actually have to form real sentences in my head. Still, I managed to get A’s all three semesters.

Math was the surprise. I have always suffered from profound math anxiety, and frankly was dreading these classes. What I found was a real “duh” moment. If you put in the work, study, ask questions, seek outside help, that math is actually pretty stimulating. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments in Logarithms where I was sure the nuclear anxiety would take me out, but I persisted on and moved onto Honors Statistics last semester; another class that 4 years ago I would never have even had the courage to attempt.  I’ve received A’s in all 3 math classes the last 3 semesters. No one is more shocked than me…

So here I am…finished with the core work to get into university and back to my true love…general knowledge. This semester is going to be very challenging as I have three Honors classes: Physical Anthropology, Cinema, and English (persuasive writing). It also means a boat-load of research papers and familiarity with MLA/APA that I haven’t used in the last year-and-a-half.

So, of course the panic has set in…but it’s a panic that has enabled me to maintain (fingers desperately crossed) a 4.0 GPA during my time here. I didn’t set out to do this by any means; it has simply been a by-product of my thirst for knowledge and has now become self-perpetuating.

Three more semesters to go and I’m hoping to report my entrance into UCLA (or CAL or Georgetown or, as my life seems to arc, somewhere else I haven’t planned) as a junior.

Until then, my brain has shifted back to the other side, the non-math/language side and I’m hoping to crank out some more Conversations with the Moon…

 


Skool Daze….

I’ve ruefully neglected this blog for the last several months.

I just finished 2.5 years at a community college (no really, I took my last final less than an hour ago) while in pursuit of a transfer to UCLA and the ever popular Bachelor of Arts in English.

To date (today), I’ve managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Um…pretty sure that ends this week when grades are released.

I’m 54 years young, work full-time and have been carrying just under a full-time schedule in school. This year, in order to satisfy the requirements of the Honors Transfer Program I’m in, I needed to take Elementary and Intermediate Algebra (all the basic Algebra leading into Stats, Calc, etc.) as well as Spanish I and II.

Two distinct languages to learn. Two VERY hard classes for me. Although I’m an English major, I triaged my time and concentrated primarily on Algebra. I’ve always suffered from major math anxiety, but through a ton of hard work, have actually learned to enjoy math this year.

Well right up until last Saturday when I had to take my final that would release me to UC level math (I need to take Honors Stats next Fall)…

Thank God I walked into that exam with a 96% because after the first problem, all the formulas in my head magically disappeared behind a veil of clinical panic.

I simply couldn’t remember simple formulas after I saw a problem I specifically decided NOT to study for…certain it wouldn’t be on the final.

I could go on and on about my anxiety and depression after the test, but suffice it to say I pulled my head out of my ass and put things in perspective.

What I did learn is my ego has carried my through this 4.0 journey and as with all things pride, I needed a knock upside the head. Time to quit relying on my ability to “see” the answer during these tests and actually put in more hard work than I have been willing to exert.

At the end of the day, if I do that, I will excel. If I don’t, I’ll continue to ride this tenuous GPA right into the ground.

So hello blog world. I’m back for at least the summer on a semi-regular basis to hone my writing and try desperately to forget logarithms and rational equations…

Goodbye 4.0…hello humility.


Why Truth Matters

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Stop what you’re doing right now and tell me which way is north.

Not sure? OK, grab your smartphone and access your compass app…this should do it.

What does this have to do with truth? The question: “Which way is north” refers to a baseline or default direction from which we measure the other elements/directions within that world.

In other words, within our socio-political world, the abrogation of truth has led to a warping of our moral compass…a dangerous precedent.

Without a frame of reference, the short shrift we increasingly give truth is denigrating our ability to hold ourselves, our society, and our leaders accountable to the truth; to that element of our existence that allows us to judge right and wrong. To that precious commodity that allows us, as a society, to call out those who would harm us and declare “this is wrong”.

When we play fast and loose with the truth, we lose the moral high-ground.

Case in point:  the political assassination of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.

It doesn’t take an individual with a degree in international relations, criminology, or Soviet history to surmise that Putin is holding the metaphorical (if not literal) smoking gun.

In another era, our government, our media, our so-called political “leaders” could, in good faith, call out the modern day Russian Czar Putin on this travesty of justice. While Putin is many things (among them sociopathic) he is not stupid. He must realize the American government, media, and Congress don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to claiming the moral high-ground. In fact, he’s already spun the assassination as the work of American agents.

Sigh.

Let’s take our government first. Yes, we’ve never been fortunate to have a completely transparent government, but as the heroic revelations of Edward Snowden have illuminated, our government is actively and aggressively lying to the folks that empower and employ them…you and me.

And what of the media? The fifth estate formerly occupied by luminaries such as Murrow and Cronkite…

Those luminaries have been replaced by America’s most trusted news source, Fox News.

If this doesn’t cause you concern, stop reading now and return to whichever reality show of the moment or televised pursuit you are watching and please increase your cholesterol intake. If it does concern you, take heart. When was the last time those individuals who are truly curious, consumers of real news, watched network news anyway. I’m encouraged by the fact that there is a large portion of the country that was not included in this poll. At least I desperately, if not naively, cling to this hope.

And finally, what of our most precious representatives in Congress? You know, those individuals whose very existence is based upon their ability to accept corporate donations and spew whatever soundbite adds to those campaign contributions. Still not with me? These are the folks who are currently walking the razor’s edge of treason by undermining the constitution and the executive branch with respect to the Iranian nuclear enrichment talks. Fine upstanding individuals who wouldn’t know a moral compass if it hit them in their fat coffers.

Those who live in glass houses simply can’t throw stones and we are quickly becoming the inhabitants of the largest glass mansion in the (and I use this word cautiously) “civilized” world.

 


Mid-Term Malaise…or How I Found Courage in the Gallows of Boredom

No, this post isn’t about the midterm elections this week, although I do have a whopper brewing in my head vis-a-vis my utter disappointment with the incumbent president’s performance.

This is about the space I find myself currently in.

Sheer boredom. Malaise. Mind numbing…nothingness.

I’m just slightly halfway through my fall semester at college. I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I’m slogging through core class requirements as I muddle my way towards my final two years at UCLA.

I worked 88 hours the last two weeks while studying for two exams in my Spanish and Algebra class respectively.

I have no life.

I have no time to blog/write anything other than vapid responses into the lamest online Spanish software ever created. Software that the instructor admits is inferior and responds to our concerns with “it’s not my problem, it’s your problem”.

Welcome to junior college.

This sucks…

I had an extraordinarily rare day off today that I spent getting a flat fixed, driving to my old college to begin the academic renewal process for an “F” I received 29 years ago in a Poli Sci class; and riding my bike 20 miles. I then spent well over 5 hours grinding through my Spanish exam and homework.

And it hit me.

Courage isn’t what happens when you are facing an immediate threat. Courage is borne out of the little things.

The willingness to persist when giving up would be so much simpler; when you can find a hundred reasons to rationalize your decision.

Courage is faith. Being willing to put one foot in front of the other when you can’t see the finish line. When you’re not even entirely sure where that finish line is and what it will look like.

I walked into the middle of a physical altercation the other day outside my apartment. A fight was in progress and I was in the midst of it before I was even sure what it was. I responded forcefully and decisively and defused the situation. Not because I have courage, but because it was reflexive, muscle memory gained in a previous lifetime.

Courage is simply not giving up when you’re not entirely sure what the outcome will be. But you know you’re doing the right thing, despite the sheer pedestrian nature of the task. And the long hours. And the absence of a social life.

It’s a quality problem to have. As tough as this road is right now, I know how fortunate I am to be on this path.

So to all those erstwhile meek students out there, grinding out those core classes, quietly tolerating those professors who are phoning it in while they collect their checks…I salute you.

In your own redundant ways, you’re displaying a great deal of courage.


Selfies Are Tough With Tears in Your Eyes…

Sean Newport
A little over two years I birthed this blog while I was on leave from work after hip replacement surgery. My first and second posts concerned the reality that my first-born was off to college. She’s now a successful college junior in D.C. I made sure to memorialize our last moments together with a (sort of) selfie of her and I together. Actually, the man taking the picture was my son.

My son. The man that less than a half an hour ago I kissed and embraced very hard as I said goodbye to him. My youngest begins his collegiate journey tomorrow. I meant to take a selfie to continue the tradition but a couple of things happened.

At some point in the evening after our awesome “guys” dinner at a local steak house and our post-feast visit to Starbucks, I needed him to go. Not because I wanted him to go but because the reality was starting to set in. And so were the tears. And the lump in my throat that is still present.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t about me at all…it is. The empty nest just showed up at my door and for the first time in my life, I have no genetic family within driving distance. But it’s so much more…

It’s the sadness of physically parting with my best friend. My son. My little guy who is now bigger than me.

It’s the joy of and excitement shared of watching him embark on what I am absolutely certain will be a wonderful experience at a Division I school and the promise of a bright future as he studies Biology and Pre-Med.

It’s the sadness of seeing the sands of time fall in front of my eyes. Each grain hitting the sand pile like a hammer on marble. It was acutely present tonight.

It’s the joy of accomplishment. My son and daughter are each talented and unique individuals who have set off on their own paths with enthusiasm and discipline. Four eyes on the prize for sure…

It’s the sadness of loss. Of saying goodbye to a man that means more to me than I could ever express in words. To a young man that carries my hopes and dreams for him along with his own.

So…any selfie I took tonight would have been smeared through the eyes of a proud father…

I miss you already buddy. Vaya con dios my son…


How I Spent My Summer Vacation…

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My fourth semester of the “Return to College Tour” starts tomorrow so I thought I’d share a few thoughts regarding the last few months.

When I finished the last semester I posted a blog stating I would use this summer break from school to hone my craft…blog-wise.

Ok, so that didn’t happen. What happened was that I realized life happens. And when life happens, I tend to get sucked into the vortex of drama that daily life can be.  To whit:

I moved back to the City of Los Angeles for the first time in 35 years.

I transferred jobs…to a more high-stress, high-return sales environment. So far so good. The challenge being to not get swept up in the upward shift in income as I will again need to downsize in 2017 when I enroll at UCLA.

And as always, people can be counted on to do the wrong thing. I’m currently mired in a landlord-tenant dispute with my old landlord (I’ll spare you the details, suffice it to say they are sticking me to the tune of several hundred dollars despite the oral assurances of their representative)…so yeah, that’s pretty fun.

And oh yeah, when I moved, as I was pulling in front of my new apartment complex, my nice shiny Penske rental truck saw fit to take the front bumper off a parked car. More fun.

At the end of the day though, I’m loving life. Although the next three semesters of school are core classes for the transfer to UCLA and have nothing to do with writing, I suspect the discipline needed to maintain my GPA will lend itself to actually doing some creative writing, aka my blog. We shall see…

Finally, I’m frankly staying as busy as I can to avoid the sense of impending doom I’m experiencing with the loss of my youngest child to the University of Oregon. My new Duck is also my best friend (he’s the handsome one in the photo above) and I am really sad that I won’t be able to see him as much as I do now. Of course, this is tempered by my immense sense of pride and love I have for him. I am incredibly excited to watch his journey, just as I have marveled at the journey of my now college-junior daughter on the east coast. But there is a special bond between father and son and I’m already hurting…the good kind.

So, much like every other chapter of my life, my best laid plans got waylaid. Life got in the way.

And it’s a good life.

*Note to self: quit making plans. Just do the footwork and let the results take care of themselves…

 


Coming Up for Air

Phew. That was tough. Tougher than I thought.

I work full-time and go to community college carrying just under a full-time unit load. I’m currently in the Honors Transfer Program with an eye towards enrolling at UCLA in the Fall of 2017 as an English Major (an admission I realize is suicide on a blog).

The Spring Semester ended yesterday and I got my ass handed to me. It wasn’t unmanageable but it seriously kicked my butt. 9 units, three core UC/CSU classes.

Poli Sci was the easiest of the three. I’ve been a political wonk/news junkie my entire life so a lot of the material was intuitive. Pretty sure I aced this class. The irony here is that in a former life I was a radio reporter and interviewed my professor 35 years ago when he sat on the local Board of Supervisors. Pretty sure this guy is at least 83 and still pretty darn sharp. Very inspiring.

Intro to Western Civilization was brutal but ultimately, fascinating. I had no idea I would have an interest in Ancient Civilizations, but now I’m hooked. That the teacher was rated on RateMyProfessor.com as one of the hardest history profs was something that eluded me prior to enrolling. She was extremely difficult. Her tests (minus the Final) were all essay. She required a 10 page research paper with 3 original sources. Suffice it to say Rate My Professor is now my first stop before I enroll. I did learn quite a bit in her class but ultimately was frustrated by her lectures. They were schizophrenic and didn’t seem to follow any form of structure that I (or my classmate) could discern. But at the end of the day, she had a passion for history and knew the material. I got an A.

Finally (and here’s the tricky part as this professor follows this blog and I’ve yet to receive my grade), despite the fact that I didn’t use Rate My Professor the last two semesters, I’ve scored big-time in my choice of instructors. My English 101 professor was fantastic and superb at the art of creating cogent research papers.

But this semester, serendipity caught up with me in my choice of English 102 instructors. Dr. Gino Pellegrini received his doctorate in English Lit from Purdue and specializes in multicultural studies. He is brilliant and personally inspiring. He is “that” teacher. The inspirational one. I have had only one other; Mrs. Doi in high school developed a love for English in me that continues today. Dr. Pellegrini nurtured that. His teaching style was engaging and the 3 hour class flew by. And did I mention he was incredibly hard? Early on in the semester I had a come-to-Jesus moment where I realized I was in way over my head and had no business being in his class…I was caught for the fraud that I am. But I persisted and worked hard. He made us write our asses off in class. Although I despised the handwriting, I loved the pressure, the immediacy of collating ideas and doing my best to make sense of them. It was a lot like blogging. For his final, he required a rewritten portfolio of our work and a research paper on an author. I chose my literary inspiration, John le Carre and had a literal blast writing it. I know he’s considered a genre writer, but I hope my paper changed that image. The Final was a 3+ page hand-written essay on Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. I had prepared an outline in my head prior and felt pretty good about what I wrote. What I didn’t expect was the emotion that welled up within me as I wrote the paper. This is an extremely bleak work and as I wrote I suffered for the characters. It was emotionally draining. When was the last time your professor pulled that out of you?

Dr. Pellegrini demanded the best of me and I can’t thank him enough. I needed that. It has given me the inspiration I need to continue on the path I’m on and face even greater literary challenges.

You can check out his blog here.

So for better or worse, I have more time to blog. And I intend to, as the next 3 semesters will be void of any English classes. Maybe it’s time to get rolling on my novel too.

Either way…I hope you all had “that” teacher that inspired you. I’ve been lucky enough to have two in my life…

 

 


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