Friday, March 28, 2008

Those Darn Kids!

"Kids are so much smarter these days than they used to be"

Really? That phrase sure is bandied about a lot, but statistics show that, if anything, today's generation of youth is the dumbest in modern history.

Statistics recently released by the Clark County School District showed massive failures in math tests performed by students in the district. I'm sure that if it were English, Geography, History, or Science, results would be the same. What does this say? Simple. Most kids are really dumb.

Now, rest assured, we'll get reasons for the failures. The District's resources are poor. Teachers don't make enough money. Parents need to get more involved. And blah, and blah and blah. Money has nothing to do with intelligence. I can hand you $100, and that won't improve your intellect one whit. Heck, odds are you'll do something dumb with that money. The impetus to learn lies squarely on the shoulders of those darn kids we always make excuses for.

You have to want to learn. There are plenty of subjects that I knew I would never use if I got a job in my chosen field, but I applied myself anyway and did fairly well. I wasn't the valedictorian, but I was in the top 25 percent of my class. I was more afraid of looking stupid to the other kids than anything else. I could do a mean frog dissection knowing full well that I'd never need to know what I was learning at the time.

Time to quit wringing our hands and wondering how we can stem the tide of low test scores. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, "My Rottweiler is Smarter Than Your Honor Student". I don't doubt that, considering how low the bar seems to be now.

I know I would be remiss if I didn't say that yes, there are plenty of good, hard working kids out there. There ya go. But for the most part, today's kids are as dumb as a toadstool and there's no sign of an uptick anytime soon. But if I want a recap of what happened on "American Idol" this week, I'm sure there'd be no shortage of young minds ready to give me the whole rundown.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

70 Degrees

No one is happy.

I'm not generalizing here. No one is happy. Not a single person. At least that's the conclusion I've come to these past few months. If I go out to lunch, undoubtedly the people at the table next to me are complaining about jobs or family. I read the paper every day. The op/ed pieces are rife with misery, This sucks, that sucks, we're in recession, our leaders are crooks, etc. Misery is everywhere. There's even a "misery index" that measures the country's mood (it's quite high, by the way. No surprise). My friends seem more unhappy than happy. My wife, though happy with me, seems unhappy about every other aspect of her life. And don't think that that doesn't start rubbing off on me.

It's the absolute peak of irony that in an age where technology has us to the point where we can do almost whatever we want whenever we want to, and it's still not good enough. I've never heard so many nostalgic for the "good old days". Sure, I think about when I first came west and lived down in Kingman, Arizona. My wage: $5.50 and hour. My first paycheck was something like $300. My lunches and dinners were either Buddig meat sandwiches or Michealina's frozen pastas (.99 apiece!). A big splurge was driving down to Laughlin and gambling $10, hoping to turn it into.......$20! There are times where I look back wistfully (yeah, wistfully!) on those times, but realize that if I could magically transport myself back to that time and place, I'd be dying to get back to the present.

Why are we so unhappy? When we see a person walking down the street with a smile on their face, we're more likely to think that that same person has a screw loose. Happiness is meant with resentment. Happiness breeds guilt. How can I be happy when halfway around the world there are entire countries that are starving? How can I be happy when we have troops fighting to protect a freedom in some God-forsaken place, fighting a war that will never, ever end (you don't defeat terrorism. You only win battle by battle)? Are we cursed because we live in the greatest country that ever was and truly don't know that hardships mean more that just the cable going out?

The next time you go to a store, no doubt the clerk will ask how you're doing. I'm sure your response will be "fine", or "good", or at worst, "ok". Ask the clerk in return, and you'll most likely get the same answer back. Ask them if they mean what they say. I'm guessing they don't, and more often than not, you're just as likely to be telling a little white lie as well.

As it stands currently, I'm sitting at home on a beautiful 70 degree day, watching a pre-season baseball game. I made a pretty darn good sandwich for lunch. I took my dog to the park and he made some new friends. Sounds pretty good. I talked with my wife, whom I love dearly. She's having a good day. No drama. The house is quiet, the neighborhood tranquil, and an afternoon of more of the same awaits.

So why am I unhappy? Why are all of us?

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Pleasant Valley Monday

In the last three months or so, I've lost my job, my Mom has been diagnosed with lymphoma (prognosis is excellent) and Brett Favre retired. At least my colonoscopy was performed at the one place in southern Nevada that hasn't been shut down by the health district. Not yet.

It's a very quiet Monday morning here at the house. Pumpkin just left for work, Maverick is laying at my feet, knowing that he's just moments away from walking around the neighborhood. Coffee's up. Newspaper is ready to be devoured.

I slept horribly last night, a lot of tossing and turning. I've had fewer "down in the dumps" mood swings as of late, but last night I was just plagued by all sorts of self doubts. Pumpkin and I have started seriously exploring the possibility of moving back to Wisconsin. The weather that they've had there this winter should, if anything, push me far far away from going back, but it's actually done the opposite. It doesn't hurt that I can find twice the house for half the price. I'm now not just concerned with getting a new job, but also with a possible move halfway across the country. I'm pretty much taking on two of the most stressful scenarios head-on.

Stocks are down. Again. Oh well. Just look at it this way: stocks are on sale. When my favorite pairs of jeans are half off, I stock up. When stocks are down, you write a check. Simple, simple stuff. I keep hearing the economic "experts" fearing that we may be in the throes of a recession. Beautiful. If history is any indicator (and it usually is), periods of recession- which usually last anywhere from nine months to two years- are followed by times of great economic prosperity. Fear a recession? I don't understand why we're not welcoming it with open arms.

Alright, a rottweiler with a wish to go for a walk can only be denied for so long. Time to brave the elements.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Sorry for the delay. I promise more postings this week. Whether they're dealing with radio or not remains to be seen.

Sunday morning. The absolute best time of the week. It's nice and quiet in the house. Pumpkin's asleep. Maverick is circling me, looking to go for a walk. I've already been out on the back patio, fetching furniture and pillows that had blown away in last night's windstorm. Thankfully, there's no Packer game to get nervous about this day.

I've been fighting a bit of a funk this week. Mentally, not physically. Tomorrow marks three months since I was dismissed. Three months. It feels like it was much, much longer ago. I'm still finding things to do to keep busy, but even that routine (going to the gym, seeing a movie, taking Maverick to the park) has gotten, well, routine. A friend of mine suggested taking some road trips, to Laughlin, Mesquite, Pahrump, San Diego. I told him that while it's not a bad idea, the LAST thing that I need is more time by myself. That's the only thing I have in great abundance right now.

Being alone on a Sunday morning sure feels different from being alone on a Tuesday afternoon.