politics, The Good Fight

The Second Amendment and the Freedom from Fear

Peep this here, internet. A nice gentleman at the Stonehenge Corner responded to my post about snowflake syndrome and the second amendment.

His opinion, notably on gun control, runs counter to my own.
Instead of resulting in strife and foul language, we’ve approached one another amicably, with a genuine desire to find out what’s behind all this violence.
I think that we’ve arrived at a satisfactory alternative to guns as the root cause – a cause that I will be delving into in greater detail on my next post. The issue I speak of is fatherlessness. To find out how we arrived at this middle ground, you’ll want to read my original post linked above, his response – which I’ve reblogged here and our commentary on his blog.
Please feel free, nay compelled, to comment with constructive suggestions and opinions – agree or disagree. Be part of a solution. You are but one voice, but together we are an ear-splitting din.

Happy reading!

The Stonehenge Corner


The attack on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkville, Florida, by former student, Nikolas Cruz, has generated much anger, bitterness and arguing. In the nineteen days since the shooting, Florida has banned AR-15 rifles, only to rescind that legislation fifteen minutes later; survivor David Hogg has become a media star and the new face for gun control; and, according to a new survey, the solid majority of people who make up the Left in America, want to ban guns—not just AR-15s but other rifles and handguns as well.

I wrote last time that tragedies like Parkland become the nuclei of what has become the cyclical gun debate between the political divide when other questions, such as fatherlessness, would be more important debates to have. But, as I also admitted, (paraphrasing Samuel Johnson) people do not so much need to be taught new things as reminded of things and…

View original post 1,804 more words

politics, The Good Fight, Uncategorized

Mass Shooter Profiles

As reported LAST WEEK, I’ve started to compile a database of mass shooter profiles.

I didn’t get near as much done as I would’ve liked. All the same, I’m going to publish my labors up to now.

I haven’t collected all the data that I’d like to and, as a result, I haven’t started running basic statistics (frequency tables, etc.) But, there are a few curious trends I’m picking up on.

Firstly, I’m using the top 20 shootings listed HERE as a starting point. Wikipedia has a similar page, but every fact is linked to a more credible reference. During my initial sweep, I didn’t take note of how many guns the shooter had or the category of the weapon(s). I will continue to add –

  1. Gun data
  2. More specific notes about the shooter – including analyzing background. The words “autism”, “Asperger’s”, “loner” and “bullied” are mentioned frequently – I’d like better numbers on that stuff for each shooter
  3. More shootings. I’ve decided to go beyond NCLB, but not rule it out as a key factor in our troubled times.
    1. NCLB era shooters can be isolated from the rest of the shooters to see if they possess some unique characteristic that might point more definitively to issues caused by the parameters of NCLB

A few curious coincidences (curioundences?) I’ve found are –

  1. The prevalence of social development disorders, like autism spectrum disorder mentioned above, and
  2. The desire to enlist or successfully joining a branch of the armed forces.

All that said, here is the table that I’ve labored to produce. Again, it’s not finished, with the way things are going it’ll probably never be finished, unfortunately. If there are any variables you feel should be included, please leave a comment.

Uhh, I dont’ know why, but despite all my effort to get the data into an embedded spreadsheet, it defaults to the bottom. Scroll up a ways to see the content.

Life, politics, Reflections, The Good Fight

No Culture Left Behind

I’ve a third component for my list of agitators resulting in school violence, read about the first two HERE. I’ve pontificated HERE on the dog and pony show that is standardized testing. The third element in this trinity, along with 1. The second amendment(al), and 2. “Snowflake Syndrome” (we’re all part of the same compost heap), is the education system itself.


I’ll start with a picture –

Snap 2018-03-03 at 19.06.44

This image doesn’t reflect the myriad of technological changes in education, which is the point. I wouldn’t be out of line if I say that learning modalities and the tools to cater to those modalities are vastly different. In a manner of speaking, it’s like trying to upload rotary phone firmware (insofar as it has firmware) onto iPhones using a coaxial cable.


That is to say, the content is outdated and the transmission medium is incompatible with the hardware.


What should we do? Give the kids more tests and give the teachers guns!


I think it’s time for some fun facts about standardized testing –


Listen, I don’t have access to fancy databases like I did in college. I know what I’m looking for, but JSTOR or Ebsco Google Scholar is not. That being the case, the information contained here is a curious mix of stuff I go looking for and what Google allows me to have. In this case, I would’ve liked an article from a longitudinal research study based on data from a tidy sample of a few thousand students from all grades across the country (notably high schoolers and people who were in HS during the NCLB transition from 2003-2007). I actually did find something like this, but I found myself more concerned with figuring out how NCLB SOOO left children behind.


Allow me to digress briefly – among educators, NCLB is a four letter word (… you know what I mean).


Briefly, it turned teachers into robot bureaucrat prostitutes (hereafter referred to as “robureaucrutes”) whose primary functions are to submit a form for just about everything that happens in the classroom or during school hours and turn their tricks (teach) to tests whose validity and reliability are questioned to this very day. In exchange, they are given a pittance.


By its title, we are to conclude that no child will be “left behind”. There isn’t a “No robureaucrutes (Teachers) Left Behind” bill.


Indeed, I am one of those lost souls, but that is a horse of a different color – I will digress no more.


In fact, I’m at a good place to relate it to our troubled times. If NCLB can be said to have one lasting impact on public education, it’s unrest. Students are nervous that, despite high grades, they’ll perform poorly on the state exam, and potentially get held back, or denied entry into a desired academic program – be it college or maybe a HS AP class.


Meanwhile, the robureaucrutes are scared they’ll lose their jobs if their students’ scores don’t cut the mustard.


That’s okay, these rigorous assessments hold every child to a high, transparent achievement standard, right?


If by “rigorous” you mean hard on minority groups, the answer is yes. We know this because, in many cases, test scores have stagnated and the achievement gap has widened.


For example, according to THIS ARTICLE, math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP (a standardized assessment of student achievement in a variety of subjects – scores are reported by demographic group, race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status), shows both a widening achievement gap between minority students and white student and diminishing returns in both math and reading in grades four and eight.


Much time and resources go into teaching strategies that target minority students.


But all the shooters have been white dudes, right? I can only speculate that white students feel marginalized by an increased emphasis on closing the achievement gap.


Another theory – school staff are so busy with minority groups that they don’t notice the warning signs.




More to the point, I am pointing out that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Assuming this is true, we can expect school officials to start scrutinizing the metrics of their white male students, to the detriment of minority groups.


Thus the cycle of extinguishing the fires of the American public education system continues.


What about the tests themselves? THIS ARTICLE says students spend 20-25 hours each school year taking a test. This amounts to “about 2.3 percent of classroom time for the average eighth grader.”


This may not sound like a lot until you consider the hours upon hours of test prep. Put another way, teachers are forced to forgo more useful skills – say, coming up with a simple monthly budget or reading and writing cursive to have more time to “teach to the test”.


Concerning the former, the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) contains a “financial literacy” component that purports to measure –

knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and risks, and the skills, motivation and confidence to apply such knowledge and understanding in order to make effective decisions across a range of financial contexts, to improve the financial well-being of individuals and society, and to enable participation in economic life.

I tell you what, dear readers, in my ~12 years in education, this is the finest example of educationese I’ve come across – it lithely straddles the hair thin line between ingenuously vague and technically obnoxious. It’s verbose – pregnant with buzzwords (“effective”, “knowledge”, “skills”, etc.) to show the reader how important it is, but it doesn’t state any concrete or measurable parameters. Fear not, dear reader, I’ve waded through the mire of needlessly grandiose *ahem* verbiage contained in the PISA supporting documentation to give you a clearer idea of what 22% (roughly one in five) of our nation’s youth don’t understand.

Here’s the gist – “financial literacy” as defined on the PISA includes an understanding of –

  • Insurance policies
  • Pensions
  • Budgeting for “household goods and personal items”
  • Bank accounts
  • Inflation
  • Interest
  • Accessing financial information
  • How to calculate a percentage
  • Currency conversion

There is quite a bit more, find it HERE if you’d like some stimulating reading while on the toilet or some such situation.

It is long time for me to get to the point. In short, the focus on testing has pulled the rug out from under the culture of our education system. Education doesn’t serve students anymore, it serves itself. The result has been the neglect of students who feel lost. They’re given little direction beyond always having a #2 pencil and filling in the right bubble – this is not a life skill. Imagine your outlook on life if you suddenly discover that the “real world” is a place where you have to manage your own money, but you have no money because “bubbling with extreme care and meticulous detail” is not counted as a worthy skill.

While writing this, quite a few ideas poured into my skull related to this issue. Firstly, are testing companies, like ETS and Pearson, pulling strings at the US DoE? Seems to me that a company that has made a name for itself through standardized testing would go to great lengths to make sure the government continues to mandate tests.


Also, I’ve posted a few times about peddling the English language like so many products at your local convenience store (HERE and HERE if you’re still on the toilet or like to read great writing). I teach English to Chinese kids online. In a recent conversation with an older (age 16), nearly fluent student (fludent?) the issue of school shootings came up. He likes to talk about lofty, philosophical stuff so he perked right up. I asked him, with an education system far more strict and intrusive than ours, why weren’t they having trouble with guns. He thought about it, and he answered it jokingly, but it was more profound than he realized. He joked that they do shoot each other with guns…water guns.


Then I jested that I hope he didn’t melt, as per Isaac Asimov’s “Rain, Rain Go Away” and that led to a discussion about how the commoners of today are the sugar people and the government is rain… it was way philosophical.


The profundity comes from the idea that he would find humor in the very idea of someone shooting up a school in China. I’m not suggesting that education is without dysfunction in China, but that is another horse of a new hue…


For a third time, I’ve wandered away from my thesis – “trigression” to be sure.


I’ve produced a flow chart summarizing my stance –


As I was producing this graphic, I investigated mass shootings and found that many are not in a school. However, most were perpetrated by a white male who was school age when NCLB took hold – this is a broad generalization I know – I think I’ll look at the shooters themselves next time to get an idea of their school lives.





The Good Fight

The Second Amendment and “Snowflake Syndrome”

I’ve been somehow involved in education for about 13 years. At this point, I’m subbing – mostly at the local HS, sometimes at the local middle school where my education career started. I’ve a daughter in public school.


With all the school shootings, am I scared for myself, my daughter, and the students I’ve come to know? Yes.


I don’t espouse the idea that violent video games/movies, etc. are responsible; seems to me that this belittles the issue – like avoiding a cancer screening because the abdominal pain is “just indigestion.”


I do think that, like a stubborn virus or infection, the cause is a gnarled lattice of factors fit for Dr. House.


Submitted for your review, internet, I’ve identified two components that I believe to contribute to our troubled times –


  1. The second amendment/right to keep and bear arms –

Let me start by saying that the right itself is not the issue. The issue is the narrow-minded, no compromise mentality of its proponents


Does your right to keep and bear arms supersede my right to peace of mind from knowing that my daughter, her friends, student I’ve come to love in my own way, and my own person are safe as we go about our daily lives? Another way to say this might be my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


Listen, we don’t have an amendment that specifically says “The right to attend school without fear of being massacred by a confused guy with an assault rifle.” BUT, we do have one that “Protects rights not enumerated in the Constitution.” (amendment #9)


This is a gross oversimplification of that amendment, but we can no longer imply safety and security for ourselves individually in this once great nation (still waiting for you to “make it great again”, comrade president – dead school children and unchecked bigotry do not a great country make).


Anyway, as “The right to attend school without fear of being massacred by a confused guy with an assault rifle” is not “enumerated” and we’ve become perverted enough as a nation to think that the right to own a shiny piece of metal that makes lots of noise and puts holes in things is more important than the life of someone’s child, perhaps it’d be appropriate to “enumerate” this right or invoke the ninth?


Let me be clear – I’m not saying take away all guns. I’m simply saying that we need to have a more rigorous process for acquiring a gun and to prohibit the sale of assault rifles to civilians.


To accomplish that, we need to compromise.


HERE,  the blogger from Engineering, Parenthood, and a Solid Attempt at Adult Status

provides several compelling reasons why civilians don’t need automatic weapons.


Ok, I feel like I’m digressing. Shootings are merely one symptom of a much deeper problem. Getting back to the virus/infection analogy. There’s a school of thought that says that society functions like an organism. A dysfunction occurs when some part of that organism fails to perform properly and throws the whole system into chaos.


So, what social organ is dysfunctional? It would be tacky of me to raise this point and not offer my explanation, so here goes –




In my opinion, our country suffers from an affliction that I will call “snowflake syndrome.” We have become accustomed to praise and recognition of our achievements, no matter how small, we are surrounded by stuff we want but can’t afford and a social media juggernaut that has evolved beyond our control.


This paints a picture of a world of material success and social acceptance – for most Americans, is that the case? The individual has taken over. Instead of “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”, it’s “ask what my country can do for me, then sue for more”


Listen, internet – my education is in sociology. Indeed, in my case the old phrase “if your only tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail” rings true. When I hear of a mass shooting or other such atrocity, I instantly look for information about the suspect’s race, gender, socioeconomic background, affiliations, etc.


Such information can be compared to ingredients in a recipe – each of us is a dish made with slightly different ingredients and preparation instructions. Time in the oven could be family makeup, oven temperature could be schooling experience (public/private, and so on), an extra teaspoon of salt might be an abusive dad.

You will, as many have, say this is far too simple for a creature as complex as a human.

Such a “flavor” prediction is far from possible at this time precisely because of its complexity. Is it possible? Given rigorous application, yes I think so.


“But wait, I’m a special and unique snowflake!” cries the millennial. In a way, that is what the school shooters are saying with their actions. Gloominess and despair that was once reserved for suicide have become a license to commit atrocities in order to take center stage in a nation obsessed with being a unique individual.

We are not a nation of ~327 million people, we are collection of ~327 million egos that happen to live on the same patch of earth.


Based on the demographic data from 2016 found HERE), that number includes a hair over 200 million white people. To each individual white person living in the US I say, you are not special.


Almost 60 million of that population is Hispanic or Latino. To each individual Hispanic or Latino person living in the US I say, you are not special.


African Americans are more than 42 million strong. To each individual African American living in the US I say, you are not special.


Even the American Indian/Alaska native population sports a shade over four million. While this certainly makes you more unique I still must say to each individual American Indian/Alaska native living in the US, you are not special.


I hear the refrain of a lonely white person in Hawaii “surely I am unique among all these copper-colored people!”  . To you I say “nay! You are but one white bird in a flock of 266,400!

“What of me? A female in the far flung land of Alaska.” To you I say “don’t despair madam! You share that frozen chunk of earth with 350,499 other members of that whimsical gender!”


It gets better, dear reader. Take heart, foreign-born male of two or more races located in Payne county, OK, seek and ye shall find 71 other souls in circumstances as unique as yours.


I could continue on like this – “I’m a white woman with red hair living in Waldo county, and I’m so frustrated that I can’t fit a whole hand into a Pringles can.” I don’t know if you will find other redheads living in Waldo county vexed by the same predicament. Believe it or don’t, a community over 900,000 strong shares your frustration. Find it HERE. You’re welcome.


Some of you are asking “where’s Waldo… county?” It’s in Maine. The county seat is the city of Belfast.


Moving on… if you’re like me, then you can’t abide standing idle watching your hot pocket spin as its bombarded with microwaves. That’s 90 seconds that you could’ve spent cleaning out your belly button or throwing away expired cans of pinto beans. Look no further than the Facebook group entitled “Accomplishing something before the microwave reaches :00” I tell you what, I’ve since joined this thriving (1 million +) association of go getters, and I’m wracked with anticipation to learn the nuggets of wisdom that are surely waiting for me.


HERE is a short list of groups that cater to very particular interests. You can bet that if there is a group established for the sole purpose of spending Sunday mornings cleaning public toilets in Japan for the fun of it, you’ll find something out there that offers an opportunity for you to rub elbows with like-minded individuals who are as “unique” as you are.


It is my first instinct to apologize to anyone I’ve offended with my words here. However, the persons inclined to be offended by my message are the ones who most need to hear it. That said, let me offer some consolation – you are very, very special; as special as everyone else on this plot of earth with its imaginary borders and it’s constitutional government.

Reflections, Topic not about Brain Injury, writing

Bashing Through the Prose, In 100 Days…

I recently tried an accelerated writing program offered by thewritepractice.com. The program is designed to help the aspiring writer complete the first draft of a novel in 100 days. It is aptly named “The 100 Day Book” program, the brainchild of Joe Bunting (not to be confused with the “100 Novels in a Day” program from Bo Junting).

Full disclosure – I didn’t finish a first draft, but I’m still pleased with the overall experience. To finish a draft would’ve been great, but I did come away with several valuable lessons.

First and foremost, I learned that I am what Kurt Vonnegut refers to as a “basher”, as opposed to a “swooper”. Hard as I try, I can’t churn out 800 to 1,000 words a day. The basher

“goes one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before going on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”

The swooper

“write[s] a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work.”

Teh Basher
“Hey Joe, where you going with that hammer in your hand?”

I did have a few breakout sessions where I produced 1,000 words, so I can swoop, but for the most part, I bash. All the same, no matter what your approach, this program provides sage advice, deadlines and a support forum for other aspiring writers to hold you accountable and provide feedback on your writing.

Perhaps the most useful feature of the program is the daily email tips to spark the flame of goodly writing inside the budding writer. Notable examples –

“Today, have a character do something. It can be as small as eating a cookie or as dramatic as drawing a gun on someone. Whatever they do, use it to show us who that character is and make them stick in our minds.”


“Open up your book to something you wrote a few days or weeks ago. Glance over it and take a few minutes to laugh. Then, once you’re feeling good about writing again, jump back to today’s scenes and keep writing!”

Uno mas,

“Challenge yourself to write something deliberately bad today. What’s the worst sentence you can imagine? Write it down, and then keep writing.”


This last tip is especially meaningful for me. As were all the messages concerning what a pissant perfectionism can be. That was what held me back – the unquenchable desire to be perfect.

Many of the daily emails harped on the myth of perfection. Applying the practice tips from these messages were tools that allowed me to write 1,000 words in one day a few times.

I saved all the emails and plan to revisit them as I do my own thing.

BONUS! A cute lady with a squirrelly last name sends you weekly emails with your progress and other words of encouragement. Perhaps most impressive of all is that both cute, squirrelly last name girl and the Joe himself always responded to my questions and concerns with a genuine, not canned response, and in a timely manner.

And Joe is a good sport, I’d message him on Facebook, starting with “Hey Joe, I heard you shot your lady down” or “Hey Joe, where you gonna run to now?” and he played right along.

I was way short on the word count, but that’s because I need to get over this idea that my writing must be perfect as soon it’s written. I’m happy with every single word that I wrote – wish there were more…

I suppose that’d be a complaint – the program didn’t write a book for me. Writing a book is frickin hard, but this program breaks it into manageable tasks, making the process a more… manageable task.

Another perk was weekly author interviews. I attended a few, and it always got me thinking about my own writing process, but while sitting there listening I was jonesin to write, so I skipped some. Looking back on it, I wish I would’ve sat attentively through all of them, that’s part of the experience that I paid for.

In closing, I’d say this program would benefit any budding writer. You may not finish a book, but you’ll be writing and you’ll gain an understanding of the logistics involved in writing a book. In the end, if my ho-hum attitude toward interviews is any indicator, you get out what you put in.

baclofen pump

Doctor Pillow…Talk

The universe has spoken to me once again (for previous occurrences describing words descending upon me from the totality of existence, read HERE and HERE). I’ve experienced a singularity of my present and the experiences HERE chronicled.

You see, I got a comment on the above linked post from a woman whose husband has sustained a brain injury and is contemplating having a Baclofen pump “installed” (for a compendium of my posts concerning the Baclofen pump, direct the graphical representation of your mouse (i.e. “cursor”) HERE and apply pressure to the left button on said mouse). It is to these good people, that I dedicate this entry.

Listen, the battery on my pump was near death, so I had to have the whole pump replaced.

This I did, or rather had done, two days ago. There are a few remarkable occurrences that I would like to relate to you, dear reader.

1.          This first point is not particularly remarkable compared to the other two, but deserves to be mentioned – the procedure was performed by the fabulous Dr. Deborah Fisher. She does surgery, pump refills, Botox injections and pain management, all with a very cool South African accent. She is, without a doubt, one of the good ones and one of my favorite people.

2.          The name of the anesthesiologist was, I sh*t you not, Dr. Pillow. Put another way, the man whose responsibility it was to put me to sleep was named “Dr. Pillow”. Dr. Pillow had an assistant named Rip Van Blanket*…twas the darnedest thing that team Pillow/Blanket should manage my sleepy time…

Syringe Doc Pillow Head

3.          True to their names, the Pillow/Blanket duo had me so stupefied that, when I woke up in the recovery room, I could swear I was in a staging area, awaiting the procedure. I was nearly set off when this blue flaming nurse asked me if I wanted something to drink, I had to check myself because I was indignant that this guy was trying to thwart this procedure that I worked so hard to set up by offering me a drink minutes before it was to be performed.

The hoops I had to jump through to get this operation scheduled is a saga worthy of its own post. Moreover, my recovery from this procedure has been much smoother than when I got the first pump. For next time, I’ll give a full summary/timeline of the major events associated with the pump.

That the words on this website have reached but a few people is reason enough to keep it up.






*This name is total bullsh*t, his real name was “Todd” or “Bill” or some other such name common to a suburban, middle class white male. He didn’t say his last name, so for purposes of this blog let’s say his last name was “Valium”.

brain injury, cavernoma blog, Reflections

Excavation of the Psyche or a Haircut?

Hello, internet!

As an aspiring writer, I find myself looking for connections and metaphors in the profane dribble of everyday life. Is their actually something there? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. As WI Thomas once said and I’ve since parroted roughly 16,852 times, “What we perceive to be real is real in its consequences” – that’s more of an approximation of what he said, but the profundity of the message is retained. I come to you today, the internet, with such a scenario.

Recently, thanks to the influence of time and human physiology, my hair reached critical volume, taking on dense, yet small objects as satellites (batteries, nails, die cast cars and planes, etc.). Therefore, I sought a haircut.


The details of the cut itself are unimportant. Suffice it to say that it was my stylist was a very pleasant woman named…uhh, I forgot. She and I discussed the bleak conditions of public education opportunity in our proximity.


The important thing here is this –

Picture 46

That is the scar from when a dark wizard tried to ki…wait that wasn’t me… this scar is from September of 2009 when a guy sawed into my skull and removed a lesion from my brainstem.


Here I am, nearly nine years later still going on about it.


That’s what that scar is. A timeline. Along its path are regrets – missed opportunities, divorce, unfulfilled professional and personal goals. But, here and there is found a ray of hope – a daughter with boundless virtue, an unwritten future taking shape before my eyes, greater understanding of myself and what it is to be human than I ever thought possible.


I think I’ve arrived at the significance – Nothing is what it seems. My stylist thought she was just giving me a haircut when she was actually exposing an artifact of a life never dreamed of, but very real. You might say she’s an archaeologist of the soul.