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  • fate of the nation

    I often complain about the sorry state of today's education, based on my own sad experiences in American public schools and the experiences of my children. I used to think that the bigger problems had their roots in the 1970s when the inner-city populations began increasing dramatically, causing a need to shift funding from rural to urban, creating a balance between the two although most ended up inadequately funded.

    Now I know it's worse than I thought. Randall Monroe of XKCD.com recently addressed a point-of-order that had tickled my brain in high school but never solidified as a proper horror: President John F Kennedy's lack of geography knowledge. I realize nearly all successful politicians hire speechwriters, but if I were in their shoes, I would do a little fact-checking prior to opening my fat gob and sticking a foot in.

    If a man that dumb can become president of the United States of America, either there's hope for my kids, or ours is a sorry nation indeed.

    Starvin' Marvin

    So we have had satellite television since 2000, with the same company. Our relationship has had its ups and downs, but generally has been better than most commercial ventures. There has been one point of contention, however, that once again is an incredibly painful thorn in my side. No, I'm not talking about loss of signal during bad weather.

    When we first signed up with Satellite X, they offered an array of music-only channels by the company MusicChoice. It had a lineup that had something to please everyone, including this one channel that played ambient music (rainfall plus quiet instrumental, etc) that was great for getting rowdy babies to settle down. After about 4 years of subscription, they switched to Sirius/XM radio. The lineup changed although not dramatically; we lost our beloved ambient channel but gained an awesome heavy metal channel, which made me most happy.

    Once again, Satellite X has changed their music brand to something I've never heard of. Ambient music is still gone, head-banging heavy metal is also gone. In its place however, is a channel of "radio-friendly metal" which only scratches the surface of the MA-rated music I listen to. They have also expanded the Spanish-language music lineup. Really?

    In a time when people are looking to cut back, we have kept our full-service satellite television package, which runs more than $100 per month for 3 televisions. Add to that the $80 per month we spend on home telephone and the last truly unlimited internet package in the world, and that's a lot of money falling out of my wallet when I'm unhappy. Complaining to my satellite provider only adds to my ire. Apparently, they've done extensive market research that indicated change was for the better.

    The local cable provider can offer me a "bundle" with capped internet, home phone, and expanded television for $80 per month for the first year. Adding movie channels to bring us up to the same level of television options would only add $30 per month to the bill.

    It's the capped internet that has stayed my hand. I need more information, useful data from people who have used Comcast brand cable service. Finding those people are harder than I expected. We have gamers here, and "lag" is a four-letter word in this house.

    Reality Show

    Stop me if you've heard this one: A teenager walks up to her mom and says, "I'll let you take me driving if you take me to Walmart."

    Yup. I got blackmailed into a driving lesson. Granted, she planned on using her own money, and she already knew what she wanted before she even mentioned it. Nonetheless, it was just weird. Days of moaning on about not wanting to and all of a sudden, it's she who's bribing me.

    Nonetheless... Now that is one odd word. According to Etymonline, it popped into our lexicon around 1847, as the phrase 'none the less;' and then contracted into one word from around 1930. My guess is that the Great Depression made those extra spaces too expensive.

    And finally, we anticipate being debt free (except for mortgage and braces; one never escapes those bills!) by March of 2011, just in time if Eric retires. But maybe he won't retire. Maybe he'll take an assignment overseas. Or maybe he'll star in an off-Broadway Spanish-language adaptation of "The Hills Have Eyes."

    Life is full of variety and opportunity.

    I used to be apathetic, but now I just don't care.

    So I've got this teenager. We used to say that she 'operated using Plan 9 From Outer Space.' It was a joke, because she was different from 'normals:' the kids represented by TV shows and neighborhood gatherings. Whatever it was that the average kid found interesting, my kid wasn't paying attention.

    Right now, I'm thinking the joke is on me.

    This kid has not spent her teen years dreaming of the day she'll get her license, of what she wants to be when she grows up, of getting the hell out of Dodge and making it on her own.

    Recently, I read an article about the consequences of micro-manager 'helicopter parents,' who planned out every waking minutiae of their kids' lives, overprotecting them and turning them into indecisive wimps who can't cope in the workforce. I look at myself and say, "But-but-but... If I don't do this--she'll NEVER LEAVE!!"

    A successful parent is one who has raised a child who is confident enough to try spreading her wings but humble enough to ask for assistance when they falter. I really thought I was headed in that direction. After all, without any push from me, she campaigned to be president of an art club at school, taking on responsibilities such as meeting planning, crowd control, and recruitment.

    But now, my hope for the future is wavering. I had to trick her into the DMV to get her learner's permit. How many kids do you know are more excited about getting braces than learning to drive? We talked about going to college. She said, and I quote: "Whatever, Mom. Just sign me up for some stuff, and I'll do it."

    Some. Stuff.

    Oy. Perhaps I should sign her up for "Creative Welding" and "Animal Husbandry." She did say "some stuff," after all.