Category Archives: politics

Twig Book Challenge Wrap-Up and a New Adventure

Well, I did it. I forgot to post about it, but I did complete the book challenge.

My last two categories were “A book over 500 pages” and “A book over 100 years old.”

I used these categories as an opportunity to transition into my new adventure: starting this year, I am now a full time writer. Not the novel-writing kind of writer, but the “multiple commercial, journalistic, and creative projects at once” kind.

Quitting my steady paycheck to pursue a lifelong dream would have been a very bold Millennial generation kind of thing to do, if my job hadn’t been a dream job. I was paid to travel. Comfortably. More than comfortably. Luxuriously.

But, I have a calling. It’s become fairly clear. And that calling is to write.

Because Lewis and I are both firm believer that funding is an essential part of creative endeavors, I’m freelancing for my supper. In addition to bringing in pretty decent money, commercial projects give me daily writing exercise.

I’ve also taken on a more official role at The Rivard Report. Business cards and all. As their education writer, I’ll be sitting in on a lot of board meetings, yes, but also exploring what might be one of the great social justice issues of our generation: educational outcomes. So, in addition to stimulating conversation, it helps me sleep at night knowing that if the world ends before I publish a book, I haven’t wasted my time.

Which brings me to the big creative project that pushed me over the edge into full-time writerhood.

First stop on the Olmsted Trail: Library of Congress.

                                              First stop on the Olmsted Trail: Library of Congress.

For the next four months I’ll be following the trail of Frederick Law Olmsted’s journey across Texas, documenting the changing fates of the places he visited. Conveniently, his home base was San Antonio. So it will be a series of smaller journeys following his timeline, rather than one epic road trip.

(You can follow the trip on select social media sites: #olmstedintexas, and expect regular blog posts starting…soon)

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post. In preparation I read the following books, among many others, as a point of transition:

  1. Over 500 pages: Rough Country: How Texas Became the Most Powerful Bible Belt State, by Robert Wuthnow- basically, if you want to understand why your friends from other states assume you like Ted Cruz, but don’t assume you like Julian Castro…this is the history for you. Why people assume more of Texas looks like Dallas (fundamentalist Bible belt and big business) than like San Antonio (Catholic Southwest and not-as-big-business).  Technically, the prose in the book ended at 480 pages. But they were dense pages and I read a lot of the reference material and footnotes, so I’m giving myself this one.
  2. Written over 100 years ago: Journey to Texas 1833 , by Detlef Dunt – Olmsted actually refers to this widely publicized account of a German immigrant to Texas while it was under Mexican rule. He basically says, “Who was paying this guy?” The author (Dunt is probably a pen name) gives a pretty encouraging account of what he found on arrival in Texas, which upon reading Olmsted and Wuthnow, I’m tempted to agree was something of an advertisement for others to follow his lead and come to Texas, which was then a very rough country.

 

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Twig Book Challenge: Third Quarter

This year our local bookshop is conducting a reading challenge. Now that Moira goes to bed at 7:30pm, I thought, well, why not! Reading is quiet, portable, and doesn’t require me to get into a “mode” the way that writing does. As January revealed, I like a structured challenge, and I have been enjoying the Twig’s reading challenge since January 2. I’ll be reporting on my progress periodically. This quarter’s reads have reviews in this post, previous quarters’ reviews are on the previous Twig posts.

AND I still need a 500 word page turner to close her out! (if you’ve already recommended, please remind me, as social media tends to bury these things) Continue reading

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Another blogger writes about racism and where it begins

So every blogger on in America is telling us how to respond to the shootings in Charleston. Everyone is trying to say the one profound thing that’s going to send an arrow straight to the heart of racism and explode it.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because, like many have said, we need to talk about it. We, the white folks (who seem to all have blogs), need to talk about it. We also need to listen to our black, brown, and everything else friends. To fall back on my grad school vocabulary: it’s time for everyone to interrogate whiteness.

So this blog post does not contain the one nugget that’s going to change racism. Continue reading

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Friday Night Rant: Social Media is not killing us

Sometimes there are socially vogue rants that make me want to move to Siberia. Hating on social media is one of them.

I’m just as annoyed as the next guy by the constant dinging of my phone (so I turned off my push notifications), the 19 Facebook notifications that have nothing to do with me, and the rivers of unfiltered troll vomit on Nextdoor.

HOWEVER, I find it more tiresome when people whine about social media, and talk about how stupid it is. How over it they are. Everytime I hear that I think, “it’s okay, old man, we know you’re overwhelmed by what the kids are up to these days.” Or “yes, I know, little girl, you’re cooler than God.”

Use it, don’t use it. I don’t really care. But if you use it, own it.

Part of owning social media is understanding how it works. So lets break it down: Continue reading

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Golden Birthday Challenge: Day 1

This year is my golden birthday. I’ll be 31 on January 31. My friend Cacc challenged me to make something of it by doing something new (to me) every day of January. So I will have done 31 new things by the time I turn 31 on the 31st.

Being that I have a 9 month old and every day is totally unpredictable, I’m staying away from weighty things, and I may have to blog a few at a time. If I make it to the 31st blogging every day then I’m buying myself a pony. I swear. That’s how certain I am that it’s not going to happen. But I’ll try, because who doesn’t want a pony on their 31st birthday.

So, here goes.

New thing for Jan 1: Watch a swearing in ceremony for a local judge…who happens to be related to me.

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I am very proud of Tommy Stolhandske. He’s the most fair person I know, which is a pretty great quality in a judge. He’s had a huge year, adding a daughter, who herself is a force of determination, and winning his seat on the bench shortly thereafter.

Voting for a Republican is a big deal in our house…but we could do so with no reservations, knowing that he brings a commitment to the law and its practical, wise dispensation.

The swearing-in was a family affair, with the generations of Stolhandske politicians, attorneys, and campaigners all playing a role. It’s always an adventure to go to the courthouse, and this time, there was cake and gifted gavels.

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Moira Brings the News: Veterans Affairs

Anyone who watches Jon Stewart knows that the Veterans Affairs department is deeply mired in a beurocratic malaise that is only getting deeper.

Now they’ve fired Eric Shinseki, but analysts and law makers seem to agree that the long wait times covered up by lying and cheating is likely to continue. Our veterans are no closer to getting the kind of timely and thorough health care they deserve.

For astute analysis of this complex issue, we turn to Moira Sage, who brings a fresh set of eyes to the matter.

Moira, tell us what legislation and policy you would put in place to ensure that our veterans are taken care of when they return from defending our country overseas?

Veterans affairs

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Moira Brings the News: Secretary Castro

San Antonio’s Mayor Julián Castro is moving on up. We’re sad to see him go, as he has been a voice for progress in the city, ushering in the decade of downtown, SA202o, and other forward-thinking initiatives like Pre-K4SA.

Castro has been tapped for a position on President Obama’s cabinet as Housing and Urban Development Secretary. We’ll know he’ll do a fantastic job, and we hope to see him on another ballot someday so that we can, again cast our vote for him.

In the meantime, over to our junior correspondent, Moira Sage, who has some thoughts for the Mayor, as he joins Obama’s cabinet:

Moira - May 4 100

Moira Brings the News

Sex, drugs, and perjury. Congress is back in session.

NPR reports on John Boehner’s rough Monday as the House reconvened amid a dust cloud of scandal kicked up by various GOP Representatives.

Rep. Michael Grimm got busted for perjury (and 19 other things), and morally “boo!”‘ed for his hypocrisy on immigration.

Rep. McAllister got caught smoochin’ with the staff.

And it’s not too soon to forget that Rep. Trey Radel got busted for trying to buy cocaine. Apparently while on duty as a Congressman.

And now to Moira Sage, for her comments on the news…

Moira, in light of yet another round of scandals and misconduct, what’s your prognosis for the upcoming legislative session?

Moira Sage 299

“Sometimes It’s Best to Lie”: Poetry for the Young Realist

Dear World,

Please please please don’t take this little poem too seriously…I really really really don’t intend to start a conversation on how it’s never best to lie, how you would tell the truth even if it hurt someone in the short term, the exact nature of a lie, etc. It’s just some late night musings on the times when you realize that, “yes, the whole polite world expects me NOT to say exactly what I’m thinking at this moment.”

Of course, if you are now wondering if you are the extended family, neighbor, or friend who was lied to, the answer is most certainly, “of course not.”

Sincerely,

Bekah

Sometimes It’s Best to Lie

I.

You’ve always learned to tell the truth,

And surly you must try.

But sometimes to be kind or couth

You have to tell a lie.

Don’t ever lie to save your skin.

Don’t lie to hurt another.

A lie is not the way to win,

It’s a way to love your brother.

II.

When your sibling’s choice couture

Be it dress or tie

Makes them look like furniture

Sometimes it’s best to lie,

elephants

III.

When dear granny’s getting old

And she forgets your size

Her gifts may smell of cats and mold.

You’ll have to tell some lies.

hedgehogs

IV.

When your host has burnt the beef

Or undercooked the pie

There’s no need to cause him grief.

Just tell a gracious lie.

dogs

V.

When your buddy’s lost a game

You know how hard he tried

The brutal truth would cause him shame

You’ll be glad you lied.

pigs

VI.

When great-auntie buys you junk

That makes you wonder, “Why???”

Don’t act like an ungrateful punk

Just suck it up and lie.

skunk

VII.

When sharing cold hard facts of life

It’s easy to be jaded.

But when your thoughts could stir up strife

They may be better shaded.

Though few would outright tell you this,

They would say be polite

But manners, tact, and thoughtfulness

Are knowing when to lie.

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Gym-nation Politics

Recently I switched gyms. Such a good move. My new gym, a YMCA, is clean, friendly, and well air-conditioned. Everything my old gym was not (which is why location after location appears to be closing, like slow-moving corporate gangrene).

Really, the cleanliness of this particular YMCA is remarkable. It smells clean. I think it could have something to do with the fact that there is a spray bottle and microfiber towel on EVERY SINGLE weight machine, and most of the ellipticals. Several are lined up on the wall behind the treadmills. Those spray bottles are everywhere.

And it’s a good thing, because there’s a lot of DNA, bacteria, and yuck on those machines. I’ve seen people sneeze into their hand and go right back to their pull-ups. Or just sneeze straight onto the elliptical!  Skin cells, sweat, mucous. It’s a forensic nightmare (fortunately there are not many crimes happening at the Y).

Those spray bottles have a big job. And there seems to be a sort of social contract at work about how to not become the origin of the plague.

So I began to notice how people used the spray bottles as well, and thought that this might reflect something of our broader outlook on personal vs. communal responsibility. Could how you use the spray bottle and microfiber towel say something about how you vote?

Those who clean the machine before they workout, but not after

These are the libertarians of the gym nation. They believe that that it’s up to each weight lifter to make sure that his machine is sanitized. If you get sick because Joe licked the chest press for some reason, well it’s not Joe’s fault, it’s yours. Should’ve pre-cleaned.

In society these are the people who believe that it’s up to parent alone to educate their kids, that hard work will necessarily pay off, and that there shouldn’t be a public version of anything that can be privatized. They would like to pay for their gym membership with gold doubloons.

Those who clean the machine after they workout, but not before

These are the bleeding heart liberals of the gym-nation. They have put their full faith in the social contract, believing that everyone will abide by the big posted sign that says: Clean the machine when you are done. The believe that even that meathead checking himself out in the mirror between sets has their best interest at heart.  And so they do their duty, and trust that no matter what strain of flu is going around, that we will all survive by taking care of each other. (Or maybe they are just rule followers.)

These are the ones who dutifully put their kids in inner city schools, believing that the reasons those schools are failing is because all the concerned parents pulled their kids out. They pay their taxes without looking for loopholes. They participate in Park Clean-Up for parks in other neighborhoods, and they vote yes to public programming and environmental efforts every time.

(Full disclosure: I’m one of these people at the gym, and for the most part in public life too…verdict still out on the public school thing.)

Those who clean the machine before and after

These are the “trust but verify” types.  They’re doing their part to prevent the global pandemic, but they are also doing their part not to get any of Joe’s mucous on their hands. These people often came from gyms where the machines were visibly dirty, or they have used the keyboard at a public library.

In civic life, these are the wealthy/middle class liberals. Their kids are in private school…even though they vote for public Pre-K programs. They have private insurance, even though they believe in Obamacare (or some variant thereof). I had a British friend tell me that while he believed that the NHS was vital to civilized life in Britian, he used a private practitioner. These are the ones who live in the suburbs and work/volunteer/donate in the city.

(It has been noted that many conservatives would fall into this category via church and volunteer activities. There’s more than one way to take care of others!)

Those who do not clean the machine at all

I really wish there was some sort of monitor to make sure these people were chased down and required to go back and clean the equipment. When we all die from some beefed-up superstrain of the flu in coming years, I’m pretty sure it’s origin will be on the freeweights at an American gym. Not only are they germs…they are fit germs.

The only time I habitually did not clean my workout machine was when I was stuck in a contract with the worst gym on the planet. The machines were constantly breaking, the management was apathetic, and the cleaning supplies were never ever available. They had one spray bottle and one roll of paper towels that was never anywhere to be found. It was a failed-state gym-nation, and I, like many people in a failed state, turned to anarchy.

These people in society are the criminals and freeloaders. They are not taking care of themselves or others. Some of them are just slime, while others are operating as best they can in a society that they feel has failed them. Some of them need to be locked up, and others need to be helped to find their place in society.

The point in all of this is that we have differing views of our obligations to ourselves and others, and those views might manifest themselves in more than just our ballots. The point is also that we should all wash our hands after we work out, regardless of our spray bottle habits.

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