Archive for March 2009

Jailed For Disciplining Your Own Kids?

March 31, 2009


A Pineville man was arrested Friday afternoon after witnesses told Rapides Parish sheriff’s deputies that he hit his 5-year-old son with a belt.

Michael Joseph Tassin, 50, of 34 Alvin Drive, Pineville, was charged with second-degree cruelty to a juvenile in connection with the incident.

When deputies arrived at the Alvin Drive home around 1 p.m. Friday, Tassin said he was just disciplining his son. Deputies noted welts on the back of the 5-year-old boy’s legs from his knees to his buttocks. The child didn’t require medical attention.

Tassin was booked into the Rapides Parish Jail.

Probably by virtue of their profession, most of the cops I’ve known in my life are serious “spare the rod, spoil the child” types. I can’t imagine any of them arresting a parent for taking a belt to their own kid. So I’m sure there has to be more to this situation. Unfortunately, that quote is the entire story from the paper.

If this is the whole story, it looks ridiculous.

I’ve never hit my kids. Have no plans to do so. And if I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t do it with a belt. On the other hand, my reluctance has nothing to do with hoity toity moralizing about the evils of spanking. I got my ass whupped many times – belts, paddles, wooden spoons, whatever my Mom could grab – and it did me no harm, though it left marks every time, even when it was just a hand. There’s a thousand people who could give the same testimony for every one real case of discipline turning into abuse. So though I don’t beat my kids, I have no problem with anyone else beating theirs.

Even if you think it’s wrong, is it so wrong that jail is the proper response? The kid has a dad who beat him with a belt. O.K., that might be bad. Now, though, the kid has a dad who beat him with a belt and who is also in jail. That’s an improvement? A parent who uses the time honored tradition of belt whipping is so bad that it’s better for the child not to have that parent? Sure, the parent probably isn’t gone for good, but he’s got to spend money to defend himself and win or lose now every time he tries to get a job, guess what his employer will find? And guess who suffers from the dad’s newfound financial problems? Like I said, maybe there’s more to this, but as the facts stand, I think this child would be much better off if the law had stayed away.


In Which I Begin My Complaints About Testing

March 30, 2009

This one isn’t about the tests; it’s about how my school prepares for them.

Knowing how much emphasis everyone from the feds on down places on these things, you might conclude we use every possible pre-test second to study for them. Not so. At least not at my school. We start them Wednesday. Nevertheless, we lost an entire day of instruction Friday to school pictures, an awards ceremony and a basketball game. Yes. A basketball game during school hours. Three days prior to the BIG TESTS. Today, we lost the last part of the day to a LEAP test pep rally. You read that right, too. Only a non-teaching education professional could thing that’s a good idea. Tomorrow, instead of last minute review, we will have something called an “Academic Olympics.” I say “something” because – despite repeated requests for information – I have absolutely no idea what we are doing. For those counting at home, that’s most of the last three days prior to the tests wasted on non-academic silliness.

Part of me wants to say big deal. By this point the students have already determined for themselves who is going to pass the tests and who won’t. For the most part, that’s accurate. However, there are a few on the border who could go either way. And every question counts. I had a great three day intensive review planned. I’ve no doubt it could have helped at least a few students get the one or two more questions they needed in order to make it to the promised land. Alas, I lost it all to goofy do your best rah-rah cheerleading.

What will happen now? I don’t know. Not only have they missed valuable instruction, but all the disruptions and chaos has their little minds focused on everything except learning. When I take my own kids to the park, it takes us half an hour to walk the block over there. Why? Because every time they take a step, they see something they have to go inspect: A stick, some bugs, a flower, the neighbor’s cat, whatever. And after every distraction, I have to re-focus them on the trip. Middle schoolers are no different. They lose attention even in the best of circumstances. I’m not saying all this wasted time and distractions will make a huge difference, but I bet it makes a significant one. At the least, it’s a pain in the ass with no benefits.

My Big Weekend Project

March 29, 2009

When we bought our house, it had a do it yourself flagstone patio in the back. Problem was the stones were anything but level, making it nearly impossible to set a chair or table in them. You also had to step down three stairs from the house to the patio, which made it feel like you were sitting in a hole as you looked over the back yard. Finally, the layout was bad, angling from the house to the driveway and thereby making the yard feel like a huge driveway.

So, last summer I tore them all out and paid a guy to put in a deck. My intention ever since has been to put the stones around the outside of the deck, sort of mirroring its shape and making a nice transition to the yard, as well as providing a nice area to grill. This weekend I finally got started.

I didn’t do much, just framing the patio area with landscape timbers. But still, it feels like a huge step. I guess it’s finally, after months of thinking, turning my ideas into reality that makes it seem like an accomplishment. It might also be my lack of carpentry skills that make this feel like such a big deal. You know, in the same way it’s a big deal when my two and a half year old daughter says her ABC’s or counts to fifteen. That’s only significant because she’s two and a half, just like – in a sense – me finishing my patio is a bigger accomplishment than anything the guys on This Old House might do.

And speaking of my children, here they are supervising:


And here’s two shots of the project:



Next weekend I’ll fill in the patio area with landscape fabric, rocks, and river sand. The weekend after that I’ll lay the stones. Every weekend after that I’ll simply enjoy my new patio.

I’m Still Here

March 29, 2009

Sorry for not posting last week. I had a head cold and felt like crap. Plus, even without the cold, it was a truly horrendous week. Lots of last-minute-before-statewide-tests garbage at work, plus rain, plus no rides equals a really bad five days.

The next two weeks promise to be equally awful at work, filled as they are with testing and all the silliness (pep rallies, academic olympics, meetings, meetings, meetings) associated with them. But I won’t let it keep me from posting. Be forewarned, though: I will be doing a lot of pissing and moaning for the next fortnight.

The Difference Between Cyclists And Motorists

March 23, 2009

There’s plenty. But for this post I’m only concerned about road surfaces.

Saturday was the first Saturday of spring, and not just according to the calender. It also felt like spring: Skies were blue, trees had leaves, flowers blooming, temps perfect, light coating of green on everything. I also did one of my favorite routes on Saturday, heading north to Dixie then going west to Moorningsport before turning south and returning home. Yet, despite the perfect conditions and great route, what made this a truly stupendous ride was a discovery I made with about twelve miles to go.

I was on Old Moorningsport Road, crossing US 71 when I saw the “Road Work Ahead” signs. At first, thinking like a motorist, I cussed to myself. Then I remembered seeing that section of road lined with survey flags the last few times I’d ridden it. After seeing those, I’d checked the LaDOT website, hoping against hope, but had seen no projects for that area. But now these signs? Could it be? Yes! It was true: New Pavement!

My excitement over the new blacktop is a major difference between being a cyclist and being a motorist.

Last fall, the state repaved about a three mile stretch of my commute to work. All I did was complain about it. The road wasn’t that bad. They took too long. They didn’t need to shut down a lane while doing it. When it was done? I felt no difference. To me, it was nothing but an inconvenience.

When I saw that new surface on Saturday, though, it turned a good ride into an awesome ride. That stretch of road (Old Mooringsport from 71 to Grimmett Drive) had been teeth-rattling bumpy. You had to bunny hop over some bumps. All that bouncing and shaking isn’t just uncomfortable, it slows you down. I know I feel slower on a bad road. I’m sure there’s some physics to support my experience. I mean, every second your tire is bouncing off the road is one less second it’s pushing you forward. But other than the bad surface, Old Mooringsport is a nice low traffic road. It also connects to several great rides north of town. So we ride it all the time and just deal with the potholes, cracks, and bumps. For the foreseeable future, thanks to the great new surface, we no longer have to endure anything. This is now a sweet stretch of road.

There you go. Ride your bike. You’ll not only be in better health, have less stress and live longer, you’ll appreciate all kinds of mundane things, like road surfaces.

Happy Birthday Shreveport

March 20, 2009

I had no idea, until reading this article, that today was the city’s 170th birthday.

The Difference Between Mom And Dad

March 18, 2009

I didn’t use the plural because I don’t want to generalize beyond my own household. For us, though, two events in the last two weeks really emphasized something I already knew: This Dad and this Mom are very different.

The first was a week or so ago. My two and a half year old son had caught a stomach bug and woke up in the middle of the night screaming with puke all over himself. I know this because his Mother told me about it the next morning; I slept right through it all.

That isn’t the part that distinguishes us. No. The truly amazing thing is that after cleaning him and his bed up, she put him to sleep in the guest bed and laid down right next to him. There was no reason to believe he was done throwing up. He could have spewed again at any second. If so, it would have soaked both of them. Why would she risk this? She didn’t want him to be scared if he woke up barfing again. What would I have done? Stripped him to his diaper, covered his bed with a tarp, laid him on top and said “I’ll be back if you get sick again, otherwise, see you in the morning.”

The second event occurred yesterday at the park. Mom had to work late, so Dad put the kids in the jogger and went for a run, rewarding them for being good during the run with a trip to the park at the end. All was grand until poor Malcolm’s feet slipped out from under him while he was running on the equipment. He did not fall hard; there were no scrapes or cuts. Still, he’s sort of sensitive and immediately began wailing. I picked him up and he kept saying “I fall on my bottom. Daddy, kiss it.” Now, if he’d hit his arm, or a leg, or his head, I’d kiss it and make it better with no problem. But I told him, “Sorry, son, I’m not kissing your butt.” I just gave him a pat, told him he wasn’t hurt and to man up, and then put him back down to play. He whimpered some but was soon distracted by all the fun stuff.

Later, back at the house, when I related this story to my Mommy, she was just as stunned as I was about the butt kissing part. Only where I thought no-one would be sappy enough to do such a thing, she was amazed anyone could be hard hearted enough not to do it: “Poor Mac-Mac, his bottom hurt and he needed you to make it better.” O.K., one, kissing it would not have made any difference. Two, even if it would, the slight amount of displeasure he was feeling did not justify such radical procedures. Her response? Looking at Malcolm she says “Poor baby, Mommy would have made it better.” How do you argue with that?

So there you go. I don’t think these differences make me a bad parent. In fact, when the babies get to their teens, I think they may prefer my parenting style to Mommy’s. For now, though, there’s no one quite like Mom.

Race Problem? What Race Problem?

March 17, 2009

Just a few miles down I-20, in Homer, two white cops shoot and kill an unarmed seventy three year old black man, who was also suffering from cancer. The truly stunning part? The response of the local police chief:

“If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names,” said [Homer Police Chief Russell ]Mills, who is white. “I want them to be afraid every time they see the police that they might get arrested.

To be unduly fair, he says he’s automatically suspicious of young black men. So he might not be a flaming racist, he might have no problem with the black part, it might just be the young thing that gets him mad. Of course, if it was simply the presence of youths on the street, there’d be no need to qualify it by adding “black.” He’d also have the same approach to young people in white neighborhoods, which I seriously doubt is the case. Hence, I think it’s safe to say this guy is a racist p.o.s. And he carries a gun. And he has the power to arrest people.

The truly sad part? In my debate class we’ve been watching the Great Debaters. It’s set in the 1930’s and there is one scene involving a lynching. My students always want to know why the black people who saw the lynching did not go tell the police. I have to explain that back in those days, the cops were probably part of the mob, or at least more sympathetic to the mob than to the victim. Next time I explain it, I’ll have to omit the “back in those days” part.

My New Lawn Mower

March 16, 2009

My previous mower was a basic four horse twenty inch push mower. Nothing special, though it had some sentimental value as one of the first tools we bought after purchasing our first house. Sort of a right of passage; first time buying a lawn mower. Anyway, it recently died, and I decided to go old school for the new one: Scott’s twenty inch classic push reel:

I’m no environmentalist. My attitude towards Earth saving (us saving, really) is no different than anyone else’s: I’ll do what’s green so long as it doesn’t inconvenience me. In other words, I did not buy this because I was trying to reduce my carbon footprint, though it will. I bought it because I thought I would like it better than a gas powered mower. So far, I was right.

Simplicity is the obvious benefit, and it certainly is simple. No need to buy gas, or worry about it going bad over the winter. No filters, no oil, no spark plugs, no nothing. The blades might need to be sharpened once every five years or so. Other than that, nothing.

Then there’s durability. My old mower made it seven years. I can use this one until the day I die.

It’s quiet. You don’t smell like gas when you’re done mowing. You don’t have to worry about rocks and other trash getting shot out from under it and smashing you in the shins. These three factors make the whole mowing experience much more enjoyable than with a gas mower. If my kids are playing in the yard, they can stay there while Daddy mows. If they’re inside taking a nap, I’m not going to wake them when I pass by their window with the mower.

The dog, however, still chases me around the yard barking at the mower.

I also think it’s easier to maneuver than the old mower. You don’t have to lift and turn, you just turn. The bigger wheels also roll over the lawn easier than the gas mower. It’s the lighter of the two, as well, adding to ease of use.

None of this would matter if it didn’t cut well. It does. Exceptionally. Very even and it seems to spread the clipping better than my old mulching mower. Works better in wet stuff, too. Yesterday – after the rain stopped for the first time in three days – I cut the back for the first time in three weeks. That would have taken me an hour with the old mower, because the thick, wet grass would have bogged it down. Then all the clumps of grass on the lawn would have looked like crap afterwards. The push reel just ate it all up, and left a nice even lawn.

Thus far, the only big drawback I can foresee will be in the fall when the leaves are down. I normally use the mower to mulch them, which this one can’t do. So I’ll have to either borrow a gas mower of else rake them all up.

Still, that problem is far outweighed by all the benefits. I really like my new mower.

Co-Mingling St. Paddy’s Day?

March 15, 2009

On the one hand, you can celebrate the holiday by simply turning all the normal every day stuff green. In other words, you still drink Budweiser, but it’s green. On the other hand, you could celebrate using real Irish stuff. Drink Guinness.

I wanted to do the latter, and for the most part we did at our St. Patrick’s day observed dinner last night. Almost all food came from “The Best of Irish Cooking.” For an appetizer, we had roasted mushrooms and shallots with goat’s cheese. Roasted leeks, shallots and mushrooms accompanied dinner, which was a stir fry of bacon, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and all kinds of other stuff. We even had soda bread. No green beer, either. It was Smithwick’s, McSorely’s and Guinness with Irish coffee for dessert. I even played Irish tunes all night, mostly the Dubliners.

Yet, all was not perfect. Two of our company insisted on drinking Daiquiris. And despite my best efforts to convince the cook to make something else, dessert was a cake with key lime custard icing. The drinks, of course, have absolutely nothing to do with St. Patrick’s day and drinking them last night was, I think, a sacrilege. The cake was at least green.

Still, it bugged me. If you want to go the cheesy green beer and U2 type celebration, that’s fine. If you want to go authentica, that’s cool, too. I don’t think one is better than the other. What bugs me is mixing the two. It’s like wearing tennis shoes with a nice suit. Each is fine for its own purpose; they don’t go together. (Unless you’re Dr. Who).