Friday, November 30, 2012

Guest Post on Doom and Gloom

Maria, the Silver Fox, is – as used to be said in the old days of television – experiencing technical difficulties!  Therefore, her post on this week’s LBC topic:

Doom and Gloom – Be Gone

The subject for this week’s loose bloggers consortium is Doom and Gloom.   Since I have complained to everyone who would listen, that I was simply could not get into a holiday mood, Thanksgiving was preceded by my mood of doom and gloom.  Then Thanksgiving arrived and I found the day peaceful and exciting, and frankly, fun-filled.  Somewhere, sometime long ago in some anthropology or sociology course, I was told that every country has a winter celebration that makes the long nights easier and less depressing.  Well, this is hardly true for my friends down under, but I hope they are enjoying their sunshine and warmth while we back here in the Northern Hemisphere are gearing up for holidays that repress the doom and the gloom  

Perhaps in growing really older, I have found my pattern for  winter doom and gloom.   I am beginning to think of it as sledding.  I drag my heavy sled of doom and gloom up the hill the weeks before Thanksgiving.  I grumble and complain and whine.  Thanksgiving then is like a plateau.  It is that moment at the top of the hill when one looks around at all the beauty and says, “Wow”.  From there it is an exciting down-hill ride, with that sled accelerating ever faster.  The wind in my face, the runners on the sled imprinting both straight and parallel designs on the snow-white mountain make the very idea of doom and gloom vanish. 

Okay, between Turkey Day and Christmas, there are always those little bumps, my sled is likely to tip slightly to the right, slightly to the left, and occasionally needs a push to start again.  For me, Christmas is the safe arrival at the base of the mountain.  It is  finding a chalet with colorful lights, caroling music, and the best hot chocolate ever.   It is the welcoming home time for family and the time to share good times with friends.  For some folks the festivities go on to welcome in the New Year, but I’m one for hanging the sled back up in the darkness of the garage storage area long before New Years Eve secure in my knowledge that the days will grow longer, the snow on the  mountain will melt, and the love of family and friends would see me through the the rest of the cold and dark months.

Thinking back to my teaching days, I remember my winter holiday whining started with the first faculty meeting where we set a school calendar date for the Holiday Program each year.  I sounded like a cross between Scrooge and the Grinch.  The idea of another year, another program, oh doom and gloom!   Then returning from Thanksgiving break, I would find myself at that mountain top ready to  take the plunge down the slope only this time with thirty some little elves,  marching toy soldiers, or snowmen tagging along for the ride.  From then until the day of the program, I was making costumes and scenery, running rehearsals, and playing director.  In my mind, I rivaled Alfred Hitchcock. The slide down the hill to performance time was exhilarating.  The pride and joy of watching my students perform, heart warming.  On reaching home, I basked in the glory of their success and spent hours typing a sentimental letter of thanks to my students for their outstanding work and their thespian ability.  I also made a promise to my self  to hold onto the magic and remember not to whine next September.

If you are feeling the pangs of winter’s doom and gloom, I pray they will not last long and that your own slide down the hill to the winter holidays will be smooth and easy.  Packages to wrap, house to decorate, meals to plan.  I am off to Wal-Mart to maneuver my sled  through the crowd, to the cashier, and out the door.  A! little bump maybe on my ride, but  OUT OF THE WAY Mr. Doom and Mr. Gloom.  my sled is leaving the hill-top and gaining speed.  Happy Holidays Everyone.   

Curious about what others have written about doom and gloom.  I know I am.  Loose Bloggers Consortium posts can be found on the right hand side of my blog under Writers Consortium.  This should make for some very interesting reading.

Doom and gloom

This topic was brought to us by Padmini.  From another it would concern me.  From Padmini, no concern.

My mother’s brother died last night.  It is sad to say goodbye, but this world is the world of the living.  We will meet the dead in oh so many forms as we move on, but while we are alive, our mission is not complete.

So, tonight, rather than spend time working on a very worthy topic from a very worthy individual, I conversed with the living.  I spent hours on the phone talking with my mother about everything under the sun.

I really think that is what a person should do faced with the inevitable.  Face the truth, but don’t cultivate the dreary, don’t stoke the grief.  It will play out in its own time, in each person’s own way.

I salute my uncle and wish him well on his journey.  I embrace my mother, still on this mortal coil.  And, I move on with a deeper appreciation of what it means to be mortal and still alive.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

shackman’s company in the spam folder …

For some reason, my great friend shackman always goes to the spam folder.  Always.  It must be the shifty eyes.

Now, how is a guy to determine when comments go to the spam folder what is a legitimate comment and what is not.  I give for your examination a recent comment – fairly typical actually – in that folder and I leave it to you to determine whether you think it is spam or not:


I mean, it’s just so hard to tell …

Friday, November 23, 2012


This Friday topic is brought to the Consortium by Ramana.  I'm sad to say that I don't know what time the monsoons hit India, but I suspect I will find out today!

In the San Francisco Bay Area, we have a Mediterranean climate which I believe exists in only five places in the world.  Water is very important to us, since that finite potable resource is competed for by the fishing industry, home owners, Central Valley farmers, the Delta, etc.  Our Mediterranean climate in part means that we get that water during our winter months, not the warm months.  The main storehouse is snow in the Sierra Mountain Range and we are just entering what we hope to be a wet winter with lots of snow to melt in the spring and summer, filling our reservoirs.

What controls the difference between wet and dry years?  To a large degree, the Pacific Ocean.  Even more specifically, conditions of the Pacific water warmth called La Niña and El Niño.

Our economy relies on it, our politics rely on it, we all rely on it.  We need rain.  Last year was dry!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving - and what I am personally thankful for

Stopping to consider the bounty of your life at the time of harvest is what Thanksgiving in America is all about.  For our family, it has become kind of a Fossil diaspora, with various Fossils in the Bay Area, Kansas, Napa and San Diego.

Usually, the Lady and I have Thanksgiving at our home and bring in her parents and brother and sister and any family they might have with them.  However, this past few months, all of our kids have been married and our daughter, whom I call Lafawnda on this blog, and her husband, Flash, are hosting our Thanksgiving in San Diego!  This gives them a chance to show us their new apartment:

Now we are getting down to the reality for me of what Thanksgiving always brings to my heart as a blessing: family itself!

It isn't always happy.  When I called my mother today, she had to give me the news that her brother had a massive stroke yesterday and that it doesn't look good.  When you embrace family, you embrace tragedy and loss right along with joy.

The Lady F called her mother in Napa, where she and the Lady F's siblings will have Thanksgiving dinner:

Meanwhile, Lafawnda and Flash used Skype to give holiday wishes to Flash's mom back in the Bay Area:

Then it was time for a nice walk before the sun went down and it was dinner time:

Yes, this is what I'm thankful for this day, people in my family to share life's journey.  What is blessing your day, regardless of where on this blue-green ball you live, whatever your traditions?

Friday, November 16, 2012


This is a topic I suggested for the Loose Blogger Consortium months ago.  We are never quite the same person we were months ago and this may as well be viewed as coming from someone else!  Smile


Family is, for all its mess and money and efforts and trials and tribulations and … well, for all of it, it is a pleasure!  This past 14 months, both of the Lady F and my kids have been married.  They expanded our family and multiplied our love in the process.  When they have kids, that will multiply it all the more!

And, our kids have friends, friends who at times have found themselves in need and have even lived with us for stretches.  Pleasure multiplied.

In this age of rapid reinvention, we have interconnected across the planet by means of the internet and social media.  I have reconnected with shackman after many a year, a reconnection that would never have happened without social media.  I glow with pride watching Elly, the daughter of Grannymar, speak for ideals whose time has come, as I remember our efforts in the 60’s.  The examples are many and continuous.

Through the interconnections with the brother and sisterhood we have developed over time through the LBC and beyond, pleasure and true family multiply exponentially.  Our family has grown to include so many of us who have interconnected and shared, people who will never meet face-to-face in all likelihood, but have met heart-to-heart.

That is why you will find pictures of trips our family has taken and invitations to see pictures from those weddings I spoke of.  As Sally Forth told her best friend above, this intimate sharing is only for family.  And you are all invited!

It truly is my pleasure.  That is why you will all be sharing Thanksgiving with us as we visit Lafawnda and Flash in San Diego this next week.  We will be taking you along!

Friday, November 9, 2012

This Will Be My Epitaph

This topic was brought to us by Maria the Silver Fox. I’ve never met Maria, but I’ve got to tell you, she is one of my favorite people from online interactions.  Period.

He was an Old Fossil in his life.

Now what?00

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How to keep your kid from becoming a namby-pamby

We have been discussing corporal punishment and some see it as the cure for allowing a generation to grow up as namby-pambys!

First, what is a namby-pamby?  Here is some explanation derived from

Word History: We are being very literary when we call someone a namby-pamby, a word derived from the name of Ambrose Philips, a little-known 18th-century poet whose verse incurred the sharp ridicule of his contemporaries Alexander Pope and Henry Carey. Their ridicule, inspired by political differences and literary rivalry, had little to do with the quality of Philips's poetry. In poking fun at some children's verse written by Philips, Carey used the nickname Namby Pamby: "So the Nurses get by Heart Namby Pamby's Little Rhimes." Pope then used the name in the 1733 edition of his satirical epic The Dunciad. The first part of Carey's coinage came from Amby, or Ambrose. Pamby repeated the sound and form but added the initial of Philips's name. Such a process of repetition is called reduplication. After being popularized by Pope, namby-pamby went on to be used generally for people or things that are insipid, sentimental, or weak.

It is a real danger that we face, to be honest.  And, ironically, the danger is in overprotecting our children from danger!  Because of the way that danger sells news, it represents the world as dangerous everywhere!  It permeates our culture to the extent that children are never allowed to walk to school with other kids for fear that they will be abducted.  This, even though statistics show that this problem has not really increased over the years, but the reporting of it has!  Understanding this is important to realizing the source of the ailment.

When Lafawnda was a young pup of about 4, she went to a preschool class held by Miss Marty.  Miss Marty believed it was her job to teach children to not be afraid of the world and she was very good at what she taught!

For example, she took them out one day into a hilly area and took them hiking to the top of the hill!  It was a high, steep hill for a 4-year old, but she told them they had to make their way to the bottom.  If need be, they could slide on their butts, but if they really wanted to have fun, they would roll every chance they got!

The first time down, the kids were scared.  They didn’t want to hurt themselves, so they slid on their butts fairly carefully.  Until Miss Marty showed them that she could roll like crazy down that hill and live to tell about it!  Soon, everyone took the plunge and rolled all over the universe.

She had them climb trees, jump off of things.  When they got hurt, they were not coddled – nor were they belittled – but instead were encouraged to get up, dust off, and go at it again.  Part of Lafawnda blossomed!

A couple of weekends ago, our granddaughter was playing soccer when she was whacked pretty good with a kicked ball.  When her mother started to run out onto the field, I told her in no uncertain terms to stop!  This was a very valuable experience for a youngster, to learn to shrug off a little pain and jump back into the game – which she did.  In fact, she played harder than she ever had after that!

And that is the point.  Kids avoid becoming namby-pambys more from confronting the world in an adventurous way than from tolerance of corporal punishment.  Not that a swat on the butt is never called for, because some occasions call for it.  But, that is not the path to boldness for a child in my eyes.  No, the path to boldness is found in adventure and exploration and being taught to tolerate the price of scrapes and bruises that sometimes comes with it.  They quickly learn that the reward far outweighs the risk.  When I was a kid, all of us kept BandAid in business!

Now, I invite you to watch a video from a TED lecture on this topic.  The guy is a lousy lecturer, which is actually one of the things I like about him.  But, he goes for it in ways that will probably  have you laughing.  In part, you will be laughing at how outrageous he is, but you will get the idea!

If you can’t see this, try:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reflections on Corporal Punishment

We have uncovered a very important topic that I feel needs further examination, the topic of corporal punishment.  Here is the classic Old Testament prescription authored by Solomon:

He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes.

Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.

Well, the Old Testament and indeed human history, has seen its stages of development.  Dare I say evolution.  As we well know, this has brought a beautiful peace and discipline to the entire Middle East, the very birthplace of these views.

My father, an excellent and respected educator and principal, one who maintained discipline beautifully his entire career, used corporal punishment in the earlier days of his career.  He had a variety of paddles and as I reached the Middle School years, by mutual agreement, he would try out the stroke, the weight of the paddle and the design of the instrument on me, his football playing son.

Yes, you heard me right.  He would give me swats in the basement and I would report on the results.  The thicker paddles basically warmed from the bottom on up.  The thinner paddles snapped in such a way that it really stung!  The holes in a paddle really didn’t seem to deliver that much extra bang for the buck except in anticipation of what was going to hit you.

Short of midway through his career, he hung the paddles up.  Relegated them to the museum of past educational philosophies.  He told me that he came to the realization that the only time a paddle was used was not really as path correction so much as compensation for educational failure.  In other words, he developed his own New Testament understanding, one that never lost discipline or its focus, but developed greater understanding and appreciation of good development and the development of good.

To give you another example, when I worked with children on a locked ward, we had a guy who was an acknowledged expert and legend on working with the most difficult and troubled children directly.  He called all of us together, the workers at the front of the room and the children sitting before us on chairs so that he could address them.

One of the children, a boy of about 16, decided he would stand.  When this guy asked him to sit like the other kids, the boy said he would prefer to stand.  The man asked him if he had a problem with authority.  The boy smiled and said that yes, he did.  The man then summarily said, “Well, I don’t.  Sit down.” and the boy sat.

Therein lies the key.  Are you thoroughly comfortable as an adult with your moral authority when with a child and willing to express it?  If you are not, the child will know.  If you are, the child will know.

I agree with my father, who spanked me only once as a child, that the rod or the paddle is not the answer.  The answer is knowing right and wrong within yourself with certainty and communicating this to the child with certainty.  If you spank the child, I don’t believe it to be the end of the world.  However, if you do so, I think it well to understand that it is a lesser substitute for personal authority that should be used rarely indeed.  In a measured manner it is better than letting the child transgress without consequence, but still a less than optimal response in most cases.

Next post, I will address the problem of the pendulum in the opposite extreme where nambie-pambies – as one of our respected group scholars puts it – come from.  I will show why I think that corporal punishment is NOT the solution to that need, either.

Friday, November 2, 2012


As with virtually all the topics brought to our Loose Blogger Consortium for Friday writing, this one can be approached from so many angles.  Who knows what Delirious of Life on a Limb had in mind when she brought it up – although, a clue might be in what she writes on it today! – but the beauty of it all is that each topic has no “right” answer or theme.  That is why I encourage you to look at the clickable list on the right of Consortium members and see what they wrote.  After reading my delightful piece, of course.

Dad as Principal

My father was a truly excellent school principal.  One of the hallmarks of his ability was his easy mastery of discipline with his students, something that those who have it make look SOOO easy.  So, what was his secret?

I asked him precisely that one day, “Dad, how do you make it look so easy?”  His answer was straightforward and simple, “Never attach a consequence to an action that you are unwilling or unable to produce.  When kids test you, never fail at this and always deliver the consequence and they accept it as inevitability.  Thereafter, you don’t even need to tell them emphatically.”

Alloyed with this was a marvelous instinct and the capacity to come up with the perfect creative response at the right time.  For example, when coaching a boy in Jr. High who was a star athlete, the boy was not participating in practice.  When Dad asked him why he wasn’t working at it and told him that if he didn’t practice he wouldn’t play, the boy responded, “I‘m not going to practice because I don’t give a $%!+ about practicing.”

Now, this is the point when a lot of educators would go ballistic and try to dominate the boy.  Not Dad.  He just told the boy that he didn’t either, so the boy may as well just go home.  Then he turned and walked away to work with other boys.

Outcome?  The boy decided practice wasn’t so bad after all.  Easy.