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Educated In The U.S.A.

I grew up and went to school in Texas.

My young dudes have grown up and gone to school in North Carolina. My wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Getting A Bit Fed Up With This, grew up and went to school in Florida.

If the rankings of these respective states is to be believed, and I do, then it’s an astonishing miracle-like happening that any of the young dudes in our family can tie their shoelaces without drooling all over their shoes and forgetting what they’re supposed to be doing halfway through.

Education, in North Carolina, Texas and Florida is, to put it bluntly, being run on the cheap. Don’t believe me?

Here, check out this compelling infographic.

Produced By Best Education Degrees

Florida is the highest ranked of the three and it’s up there in the heady heights of 39th place, which is crappy at the very best.

I realize that not everything comes down to how much money gets spent on education, but it doesn’t help when our state government won’t put out the money to make a better school system. If we paid teachers more money, we could more easily retain the best teachers, those who would actually motivate students to learn and achieve more.

The results speak for themselves, I’m thinking. Money can’t buy you success, but it can sure make it easier for you to get there.

Talk to your state and local representatives today, dudes. Get on their case until they start spending enough to give our kids a real, first-class education.

For those of you interested in the provenance of the data, go ahead and click on the more button just down there.

Continue reading Educated In The U.S.A.

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Burning Fear

It smelled my fear.

I took a step closer, tentatively reaching our my hand toward it. Slowly. Slowly. Closer and closer.

It hissed, steam spraying from a previously hidden vent.

I jerked my hand back, barely controlling the urge to begin sucking on my fingers, dead certain they’d been parboiled by the vicious iron smirking on its board, so eager to take down a neophyte such as me.

I’ve begun to iron my clothing, you see. And, dudes. . . It is scary.

It wasn’t always this way. I mean, what’s the call for ironing when all you have are jeans, unnatural-fabric Hawaiian shirts, t-shirts, and the occasional polo shirt for when you’ve got to dress up?

Which, for the most part, was the entirety of my wardrobe through college and right up until I had to go out and buy a suit to interview at the various newspapers who would consider my application for an internship. So, of course, I went to the one place that was guaranteed to have a great suit: the Sears catalog.

Don’t look at me like that. I was young. And poor. And more than a little bit stupid.

Over the years, as I continued to have to go into work and didn’t win the lottery, I began to accumulate non-jean pants (nothing I’d call trousers, though), button-down dress(ish) shirts and many, many novelty ties (mostly with things like the molecular structure of caffeine, dinosaurs, wildlife and the like) (mostly because I figured if I had to wear a tie, I’d at least have one that would make me smile when I looked down). Things got worse, style wise, when I began staying home to raise the three young dudes, Sarcasmo, Zippy the Monkey Boy, and Hyper Lad.

Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve begun to not only purchase nicer clothing, but actually want to wear them when I didn’t have to do so. I think mostly it was due to my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Seen To Be Believed. She’s a sharp dresser and looks very, very nice most days. I think I got tired of being next to her and shoving into the faces of anyone who glanced our way that I married up in a big way.

I realized the extent of my sartorial change yesterday when I took several shirts and trousers out of the dryer, saw they were wrinkled and immediately began to iron them.

Iron them.


I mean, I didn’t even know how to iron. Anything. I thought about ignoring the wrinkles and putting the clothing away despite them, but just couldn’t do it.

Besides, I thought, how hard could ironing be. You just press a scalding-hot piece of metal that occasionally shoots out jets of steam onto an item of clothing. Eh. Dead simple.

Ironing is easy, was my thought.

Turns out, not so much, dudes.

I was right about one thing. Ironing is easy. Ironing well. . . That’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.

I can’t tell you the number of times I had to start over, resettling the shirt onto the ironing board so I could remove an appallingly large crease that I’d just pressed into the front of the shirt where there should be no crease. Or the times I made the collar stand up sideways.

And let’s really not talk about the number of scalded fingers I’m currently nursing. (It’s a significant non-zero number. Let’s leave it at that.)

Eventually, I had to just take a deep breath, let it out gently and realize that I didn’t have to get it perfect the first time. Or the second. Just take my time. Iron a little bit at a time and realize that no shirt is composed of infinite amounts of fabric. I’d get it right. At some point.

Which I did. Much later than when I started, but I now have clothing I can wear without being completely embarrassed about because of them looking like I’d crumpled them up, washed them and then let them dry while crumpled in a corner.

Someone remind me, please: Why, exactly, did I decide I’d like to dress more nicely again?

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Happy Birthday, Dad!

Okay, I lied.

It seems like I do have something important to say today.

I’m just stopping by for a quick shout out to my dad, my namesake and the big dude who taught me everything he knows — but not everything I know — about how to be a dad. Sometimes he did it by setting an example, and sometimes he did it by showing me what not to do.

Either way, I learned more from that man than I could have from a library full of books.

He taught me that if it was important to his son that he coach in sports, then he took the time off his job to be there for his son and coach whatever sport was in season. Dad coached me in tackle football, baseball, basketball, just about everything I ever wanted to play. When I made the school track team in shot put and discus and the mile relay, it was my dad who took me aside and showed me how to do it all.

He taught me that you didn’t have to go along with the herd, even if you wanted to achieve the same goal as it did. He’s a doctor, but he didn’t undergraduate major in anything science-y. He majored in English because he enjoyed it.

He’s also the man who showed me the value and the warmth of a real Hawaiian shirt with the wooden buttons. My wife, known to me as She Who Must Not Be Allowed Near My Closet With Anything Remotely Sharp, might not like them, but I love my Hawaiian shirt collection.

He’s also the man who brought home the first science fiction/fantasy book I remember reading. It was the middle book in a trilogy, but I was hooked for life. He set me on a path toward some exceedingly strange places, that I’m so very glad I found. He nurtured my love of reading and words and creating with them and I can’t thank him enough.

He’s also the man who helped shape my sense of humor. So, yeah, he’s the one you can blame.

Thanks, Dad, for being such a great mentor, teacher, coach and cheerleader all rolled up into one dad-sized package that kept pushing, prodding and questioning, all the while letting me know I was loved no matter what I did, as long as what I did made me happy.

Happy birthday!

Before I go, though, answer me one question: Who’s on first.

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