Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Fall 2020

 I've been teaching now for 22+ years, and students never fail to astonish me. I've often thought that teaching is in part like falling in love many times a week. Students are generally nicer than I was at the time. They're generally more inquisitive than was I. They're more kind. And they're so full of potential. I get caught up in their lives for these brief 75 minute sessions, and then, four months later, they disappear from my life.

With very few exceptions, I teach first and second year courses. I hope to plant something that will help them get through the next few years and maybe leave a permanent mark. By the time students graduate, though, they've probably long forgotten about me, and I never get to see them progress. It's tough.

There have been a few times when I've run into old students, but not many of them. I remember running into one in the parking lot who had me four years before. He was becoming a teacher and doing his in-field work. He saw me and wanted to thank me for talking about stuff none of his other teachers mentioned. I was flattered and floored. I hope he's still doing okay, and I really, really wish I could remember his name.

This semester has been one for the books. My student have had to deal with an election from hell, with a global pandemic which seems to be without end, with the turmoil of the Black Lives Matter protests. This week, I gave them an extra credit assignment which simply asked them to tell me how they are doing. I just finished grading class three's responses, and my heart hurts for so many of them. Anxiety, depression, illness...more of them are affected than not. And I'm now only a face they see on their screens. I wish I could do so much more for them. I ache for them, really. 

If you know any young people, be nice to them. They are working through stuff farther than have any of us.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

how to fix politics

Before we get going: obligatory buried in work/no time/sorry for not blogging/I will do better/album coming soon statement.

If I were to tell you the current political landscape is a mess, I would be telling you nothing that my nine year old doesn't already know. And if I were to expand on my personal politics (which, as I age, get more and more radical), I would probably only be helping to establish/adding to my FBI file. Besides, I'm still buried in work, so I will stick to something simpler: how to fix everything.

This morning, I ran across a pretty cool video on ranked voting:

It's hard for me to disagree with anything in this video, but it did inspire me to sketch out a plan for improving our sucky world of politics and elections. Some of these do require a non-contagious world to work, but we could filter them in one by one.Ready?

  • Automatic vote registration. You turn 18, you are registered. It's gotta be easier for people to participate [source].
  • Election day becomes a national holiday, and businesses that do not close are required to give employees a few hours off when the polls are open [source].
  • A playground with supervision attached to every polling place. Having to look after the kids should not be an excuse. 
  • Fail to vote? Then you are three times as likely to be called for jury duty.
  • Early voting is mandated across the board. Everyone should have at least a month to vote [source].
  • No questions absentee ballots. So far, no one has come up with any real evidence of organized voter fraud [source] [source] except maybe for the Republican Party in California putting up fake ballot drop-off boxes [source]. Note: it probably won't help them.
  • Ranked voting. Having more than two parties is in everyone's interest [source]. We are not a binary society, so there's no reason our politics should be binary.
  • Codify into law the common sense realization that corporations are not people [source].
  • Term limits are pretty silly. If someone is doing a bad job, they will be voted out if elections are fair and equitable, and if people really have choice [source]. Saying, "you can only do two terms" is like saying, "sorry, we don't want people with experience."
  • Electoral college? Sorry, you are too antiquated and stupid to survive. Nobody really liked you in the first place [source].
  • A fair, codified order of succession. I was actually shocked to hear there's actually debate on if we have this. Specifically, if both the president and vice president were incapacitated, it's not clear whether the Speaker of the House can actually head the executive branch [source] [source]. There is the Presidential Succession Law, but there is debate on whether that's actually constitutional [source]. 
You see that in all of this, I have resisted the urge to be silly. THAT is how screwed up politics currently are.

(ps: did you know that if a source is behind a paywall, you can probably open it up in your broswer's incognito mode?)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

the hang

After experiencing some of the standard hijinks at the pharmacy yesterday (We don't have your prescription! We have it but at the other location! We only have three pills, so you'll have to come back!), I decided to flip around on my MP3s on the ride home. Somehow, I landed on this song:

Way back when, I used to be the guitarist for Black Swamp Rats, and we were fairly regular fixtures of the local scene. We played repeatedly with a few bands, and one of them was Mennonite Death Race from Mansfield, Ohio. I don't know how we hooked up with them. They must've been friends of someone in the band.

First gig we played together, I (and the rest of my band) were blown away. They sounded so unlike anything I had ever heard, and the performances were overflowing with passion. I went to say hi to them after their set and ended up sitting with them for the rest of the time I wasn't actually on stage. In fact, I think they had to kick us out when the bar closed.

After that first gig, we played many shows together. We hit a number of places in our area, traveled out to Mansfield for a show on their turf, and played a Columbus gig later on. The bands, in other words, really bonded. One of my biggest sorrows of Black Swamp Rats breaking up was that I never got to hang out with Mennonite Death Race again.

Flash forward 8-9 years, and I haven't played a show in so long, it's not funny...certainly not since the COVID lockdown started. Some of my local venues are booking bands again, but as much as I need to play again, I have not submitted my name as a possible artist to anyone.

Why not? Well, I know everyone wants a return to normal, but that just is not wise right now. COVID, rather than going away, seems to be picking up steam. Infection rates are rising. Do I really want to lock myself in a room with strangers for several hours? I haven't even seen most of my friends in over three months. I'm certainly not going to risk my health or anyone else's for a show. And there's no way I can do a set while wearing a mask and face shield. My horrible voice is muffled enough as it is.

The problem, though, is that I miss it. I miss being on stage. I miss performing. I miss having people hear my songs. Most of all? I miss the hang. I miss talking to the bar staff, chatting with my bandmates, meeting the other bands, turning acquaintances into comrades.

The thing is, I don't know if any of it is ever coming back. Will the venues be able to survive if there's another shutdown? Will we ever be free of pandemics again? If things get bad, will we ever want to sit in a crowded bar again?

I don't know. I wish this was something I didn't have to think about, but I can't help wonder if I'm ever going to see my name on a flyer again. I can't help wondering, if life ever does return to normal, if I will have aged out of our music scene.

Right now, there's a hole in my life where shows used to be...and I know I'm not the only one.

Please find a way to support local musicians. Buy our music. Listen to our songs. Hell, at this point, I would be happy with a hug.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

stasis fields

I'm lucky in that, throughout this pandemic, none of my friends or family have become sick. I'm lucky to still have a job. I'm lucky to have my wife, kid, and cat with me. I say this to make clear that I'm aware of my favored position.

But damn, I'm bored.

Very little happens. I mow the yard once a week. I clean house. I cook and do dishes. I record for an hour and a half each night. Rinse and repeat. Over and over.

I miss seeing friends. Hell, I miss seeing anyone other than my fellow grocery store shoppers. I miss having any sense of variety in my day, or in my week, or in my month. 

I really wish I could be sharing some news here, but there's no real news to share. 

If this is ever over? If we ever get to the point where we can hang out again with our friends in person? I just know we're going to be almost exploding for a conversational outlet...then we'll tell our friends how happy we are to see them....and then we'll realize we have utterly nothing to say.

Stasis is boring. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

album 3 update (or why Dell sucks)

The enforced isolation is having a weird affect on my third album. I've been trying to get this album done for a couple of years, but life has had a way of throwing obstacles up in my path. So you think that being not allowed to leave the house bit would mean time to record, right?

Of course things aren't going as smoothly as they should. My wife needs the computer all day for her work, and I still have to teach online after spending some time with the family. Truth is, I average about an hour of recording time a day. The only days I get sustained work time is on the weekends.

So I've been working in a piecemeal procedure, and, in spite of not ever being able to reach that mythical flow state, it actually has been going fairly well. All bass and drums are done. I've been bouncing back and forth between guitars and synths, and I've got over 50% of those done.

An hour here, an hour there is a pattern no professional musician would ever do but and is certainly not how I would ideally like to proceed. In spite of this, the album is actually working out pretty well. I have the time to really think out the arrangements, and I can also really focus on making all the sounds mesh. I'm already happy, and I bet the finished project will exceed my expectations.

Today, though, one of my few days with sustained work time, my computer decided to stop working. It's been giving me grief since I got it, with random freezes and crashes. I haven't even had it for a year, and nary a day goes by without me wanting to throw it against a wall.

What makes this so much annoying is that this is the first time I have ever bought a brand new computer. My last two machines have been refurbished units, and each one lasted about five years. So did I follow my tried and true method?

Of course not. I decided to get a new Dell. My computer guy at the University, upon seeing its specs, said it looked like the machine he was planning to build, but it only cheaper. So I thought I was set.

But no, my brand new Dell started screwing up that first week, and now, this about a year old machine is dead. Moreover, I am going to have to pay emergency repair rates, because my wife requires the desktop for her work. Sigh.

Somewhere, album three is locked in a digital prison, screaming for release. And it's jailor? Dell Computing.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

another update on our future

A conversation in our house:

Me: Did I hear myself blamed for something?

Daughter: Not at all.

Spouse: Well, she did blame you for not being able to get online.

Daughter (sheepishly): Sorry, my good sir.

[General laughter]

Daughter: See, THAT is how you bank some credit.

And now you know what we've all got to look forward to when the future generation takes charge.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

international weirdness

There's a pandemic going on, so you think that any weirdness would be along the illness lines. Maybe the weirdness would be the massive bread shortage at the grocery store. But no...the world is outdoing itself with the strangeness.

Yesterday, I was contacted by someone from the China internet domain registration people. Someone is trying to register the Chinese versions of my domain and wanted to know if I was associated with them. I told him a firm no. Today, I was contacted by someone from the company who's trying to get the domain, and they were telling me that in spite of the domain guy recommending they try a new name, they are going ahead and gonna keep trying to poach my name.

So I wrote to my own domain registration people to see if there was anything I could do. Afterward, I decided to do some research, and I found out the company who wants the Chinese version of themikedubose is...a pharmaceutical company.

Naturally, I do not get this at all. My only hope is that they're going to name the COVID-19 cure after me for some reason. I would be okay with that as long as I get a bit of royalty payment.

This is what my life is like.