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hunter's Journal
hunter's Journal
August 29, 2013

My middle and high school experience was "Lord of the Flies."

My head would have been on a post.

I quit high school. Quitting high school was one of the best decisions I've ever made. One of my few friends didn't make it. He killed himself. I was called "queerbait" since middle school and I was constantly harassed by bullies. One of my siblings also quit high school. Oddly it's the two of us who quit high school who graduated from world-class universities. Our high school graduate siblings have two year associate or technical school degrees and ordinary middle class lives. On paper, anyways..

I graduated from university and thought I could change the world by going back to teach Welcome Back Kotter style in an urban public school.

I put my science degree to work as a science teacher. Television is a fantasy. That was the most hellish job I've ever had. I still don't know how people do it. I had after-school conferences with parents, foster parents, and juvenile probation officers that would make any feeling person weep. I had kids who were sexually abused. I had kids who were hungry. I had kids who were in gangs. I had kids who couldn't read or write. I had kids who never did any work, nothing at all, lights on but nobody home, they wouldn't even bother to fill in random bubbles on a scantron test. Ten points just to write your name. And they wouldn't. Yet my principal said I couldn't flunk them. The most satisfying thing in the universe is igniting a spark of interest in a kid like that, but with forty kids in a classroom the most important job is keeping the peace. I learned how to be an authoritarian and I didn't like it. I'd see substitute teachers signing out of our school, holding back tears, never to return again. There were days I felt like that. I'd sweep the floors of my classroom, fuss with the bulletin boards, write out my lesson plans, anything I could do until I stopped shaking and sweating and was calm enough to drive home safely.

My sister-in-law has been teaching thread-bare science and health in public schools for nearly thirty years. She is a saint. They expect her to do labs. Her lab budget is less than two dollars per student per semester and she has no help, no teaching assistants, nothing. With lab equipment that was already old and obsolete when she started teaching. She buys stuff with her own money, not just science stuff, but terrifyingly basic things like tampons and maxi-pads, spare clothes, and grocery store gift cards.

My kids went to our local public schools. They got free lunches because everyone gets free lunches. It would cost more to account for the kids who don't qualify for free lunches and breakfasts than it's worth.

But we didn't send them to public high school. I couldn't sleep with that. My own kids are not the reactive squeaky skinny autistic spectrum kid I was so they probably would have done well anywhere, but I'll confess, we don't live in a place with excellent high schools. We sent our kids to a Catholic high school. Sure, it turned them into heretics like many of the people in our family but they did very well and were accepted to excellent colleges with good scholarships.

Our oldest kid has graduated and is now teaching... My wife and I met as urban public school science teachers so maybe it's in the genes.

But where's the money gene? We don't have it. Altruism doesn't pay in this society.

August 27, 2013

I can't say that. My dad and my father-in-law both got GI benifits.

My father-in-law escaped life as a Mexican "anchor baby" farmworker by joining the military. They used him as a guinea pig in nuclear tests. He got to witness a nuclear explosion up close. See the flash through the back of your head!

But afterwards the Navy paid for his university education.

My dad joined the military too so he could live up to the expectations of his family. His dad was an officer in WWII. My dad got some GI benefits for college, as an art major. He's still an artist.

Both my dad and my father-in-law missed "getting shot at" service in Korea by the skin-of-their-teeth. Random chance. My father-in-law probably got the worse deal but he lucked out by having radioactive fallout resistant genes. He also got to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some of the guys he was with in the trenches, the guys he marched across ground-zeros with, the guys digging in the ruins of Nagasaki, they were not so lucky -- killed by cancer.

I live near a public high school. I see the kids in ROTC often, just this morning I saw them in uniform, in the parking lot, working out with toy guns. They are all the kids of immigrants, documented or not, looking for a better life just like my father-in-law was. I can't help but support them. They want what anyone wants. The "American Dream."

I used to work for a general contractor (retired and sober now) who is a prominent "Veterans for Peace" guy. He saw horrible things in Viet Nam. Really, really horrible things. Bad idea to drink with him after work. You will not sleep.

My brother's godson saw horrible things in Iraq. His job was to scrape up bodies, brains, guts, everything, into body bags. He will never be right in this world. The nightmares will never go away. He still drinks.

But they all joined the military looking for something better.

I don't know what this says about our society, but it isn't good.

August 27, 2013

Plan for viewing platform at top of Forth Rail Bridge



This bridge, and the Golden Gate Bridge, have been my favorites since I was a little kid.
August 22, 2013

Cheap fusion would be among the worst things that ever happened to earth.

Imagine industrial populations growing and spreading without limit.

Humans would consume what's left of the natural world, turning everything into more humans and more garbage.

If I discovered how to make an H-bomb out of ordinary hardware store materials I wouldn't tell anyone. If I built a working fusion power plant, Tony Stark style, I still wouldn't tell anyone.

Our species is a three year old playing with matches and we've lit the house on fire.

Global warming and overpopulation are symptoms of our civilization's immaturity, not problems that can be "solved" with increasingly powerful technologies.

We have all the tools we need today to stabilize our population at sustainable levels, and provide a good standard of living for everyone.

If we want to stop using fossil fuels now, the solution is simple: Stop using fossil fuels!

The difficult part is not finding a "replacement" source of energy, the difficult part is creating a society where we don't need more energy.

I can easily imagine a society where most people have never smelled gasoline, never driven a car, never seen a high voltage power line, yet still live in comfortable leisurely sustainable ways with good shelter, good food, appropriate medical care, and easy access to worldwide communication and transportation networks.

This can be accomplished with existing technologies. From there, who knows where we might go? But in our current society cheap fusion would simply add fuel to the house fire. We'd build more cars, mine more materials (how about those fusion powered tar sand refineries, eh?), and generally make a bigger mess of things than we already have.

August 11, 2013

Anyone can write and I don't think that's a bad thing.

The greater problem today is finding authors I enjoy reading, even from established publishers. Maybe especially from established publishers.

Sometimes it seems I'm as likely to find fiction I enjoy on a fan site as I am on a New York Times best seller list. I've found enjoyable books here on DU, free epubs and amazon books recommended by friends of the authors.

Before computers and word processing my mom was a world-class typist and proofreader. She's also a published author. Writing books was never her day job, which was usually advertising, but she can write.

My mom is a little old retired lady now, living with my dad in one of the world's remote places. Her arthritis has slowed her down a bit, but sometimes she'll work for friends. When I was a kid I remember my mom transcribing audio tapes without much pause. She could turn chicken scratches on a yellow pad into polished manuscripts. People would pay her well for this work but most of the writing she worked with was crap. Crappy Hollywood scripts, crappy autobiographies, crappy pornographic novels, crappy academic papers for crappy academic journals...

Theodore Sturgeon was right.

My personal perspective is that writing ought to be encouraged. As with many arts it's an activity with low environmental impacts. With a generous welfare system, with free education, we will discover those artists who are truly brilliant while keeping the hacks out of trouble.

The problem today is not terrible writers, the creators of crap, the problem today is sorting the gems from the bullshit, and keeping the starving artists out of trouble.

August 6, 2013

The USA was in a big hurry to test the bombs on living cities before the war ended.

That's all there is too it.

Our capacity to produce these things was huge, enough to destroy both Germany and Japan, while scaring the hell out of the Soviets.

But the Nazi war machine collapsed before we could use the bomb there.

The plan to invade the Japanese homeland was a deception from the moment the guys at Los Alamos calculated their plutonium bomb would work. The actual plan was to drop nuclear bombs on Japan until their war machine was extinguished. There were many more bombs in the pipeline, literally tons of plutonium in production.

After Japan surrendered, the plutonium production reactors at Hanford were shut down briefly to rework them for "Cold War" use. Shortcuts and problems that were considered acceptable risks during the war were not so acceptable in times of an uneasy "peace." But once these safety upgrades were made plutonium production resumed.

"The bomb saved American lives" is bullshit myth building.

U.S. leaders knew they had the ultimate weapon and chose not to tip their hand. In 1950 the U.S.A. "retired" 120 (!!!) Mark III "Fat Man" bombs of the sort that was dropped on Nagasaki. The USA had created, during the war, a weapon that would have destroyed both Japan and Germany. In some ways humanity was lucky only one of these plutonium weapons was used in warfare.

I knew a woman who survived the fire bombing of Dresden. She lost her mother, her dad was a German naval officer who survived the war. She'd suffered severe malnutrition as a child. She was my mom's age, but always had health problems. When I think about the horrors of war, I think about her. Like my mom she was just a little girl during the war. Most of those who suffer in war are entirely innocent.

Nobody "deserves" to have fire bombs or atomic bombs dropped on them.

The decision to use the atomic bombs on Japan was disgusting.

August 2, 2013

There's a lot of right wing Christian Fascist rot and corruption in the Air Force...

... my first choice would be to throw the bad apples out and disperse the rest of Air Force among the Navy and Army.

Do you do business with a guys who have "The Fish" in their Yellow Page ads? I don't. It's almost a sure sign they'll try to cheat you if you are not one of them.

Nevertheless all the military services need to do much, much more to halt sexual abuse.

I know a guy whose life in the Air Force was hell because some of his mannerisms were "gay" and he was comfortable with women. The defense of our nation lost something when he was discharged because in a time of catastrophe this extremely intelligent guy would have outperformed a dozen Christian-fascist-rapist morons.

My grandfather was a major in the Army Air Force of World War II. I think the creation of a separate Air Force with nukes was a bad idea.

Too many of these assholes thought it was God who gave them The Bomb.

Profile Information

Name: Hunter
Gender: Male
Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 38,203

About hunter

I'm a very dangerous fellow when I don't know what I'm doing.

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