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Down at Georgetown having lunch before tests…

Georgetown Hospital

If you ever have to do something at Georgetown University Hospital, let me recommend a wonderful on-campus restaurant, Empire and Company, a great classic buffet with a side pizza parlor.

We arrived an hour and a half early leaving time for my wife, daughter and me to have lunch and discuss this afternoon’s tests and what we are required to bring with us. I’ll do a blood test just before we go over and see if I need any insulin before the tests.

I’d like to thank all of you e-mailers and commentators and friends for contacting me and wishing me well and praying for me (can you believe it, an old, publicly avowed atheist like me?). I probably won’t be back to this until much later tonite or tomorrow morning, my last day at home this week. I’ll be back with a report on what’s going on.

Meanwhile, General Petraeus may be off the news and we can get back on to the economy.

Our first view of what’s coming with the storm…

Elly’s job at Hagerstown Community College is off for two days as HCC has announced closing due to the approach of Sandy.

The rain has already started here this morning and we are soon expecting the wind.

Hope you are all keeping an eye out if you are in the storm track and please take care of yourselves. here’s a chance that we’ll lose power and the blog will be down, but as long as I can I’ll keep it up.


My radio show is short and earlier today…

Shepherd University is loaded with alumni this weekend and there is a home football game which is covered on WSHC starting at 11 AM. That means that my show, Talk To Me, is only 1 hour long and starts at 10 AM.

I’m putting my short list of songs on my playlist now and that will keep me from blog posting until I’m back home after 10 AM.

If you want to listen at 10, but are outside of the fifty mile or so tuning radius for 89.7, you can listen live on the WSHC  web site: When you get there, click on “Listen Live”.

What is the potential of the youth vote in the election?


It’s a pretty substantial 20%… the question is will they show up? Here’s the demographics:

Here in the Shepherd University area where we see an awful lot of the youth category daily, we are curious as to how involved students are getting in the campaigns. From what I see it is minimal at best.

How is it where you are? Does it look like we will surpass the 2008 election or fall below it’s total of young voters? We’ll have to wait and see.


How do we deal with American illiteracy?

Perhaps you are disturbed, as I am, that there are large numbers of Americans appearing in this political season who cannot interpret either the needs of the nation or the words of various experts in how to fill those needs. It is very apparent in the repetition by average Americans of things they hear from sources like Fox News, or even CNN and MSNBC, without evaluating whether they are true.

This has a lot to do with literacy, defined by as “the ability to read, write, compute, and use technology at a level that enables an individual to reach his or her full potential as a parent, employee, and community member.” The statistics?

  • 63 million adults — 29 percent of the country’s adult population —over age 16 don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at the eighth grade level.
  • An additional 30 million 14 percent of the country’s adult population — can only read at a fifth grade level or lower.
  • Forty-three percent of adults with the lowest literacy rates in the United States live in poverty.
  • The United States ranks fifth on adult literacy skills when compared to other industrialized nations.
  • In the U.S., 63 million adults — 29 percent of the country’s adult population —over age 16 don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at the eighth grade level.
  • An additional 30 million 14 percent of the country’s adult population — can only read at a fifth grade level or lower.
  • Forty-three percent of adults with the lowest literacy rates in the United States live in poverty.
  • The United States ranks fifth on adult literacy skills when compared to other industrialized nations.
  • Adult low literacy can be connected to almost every socio-economic issue in the United States.
  • Low health literacy costs between $106 billion and $236 billion each year in the U.S.
  • Seventy-seven million Americans have only a 2-in-3 chance of correctly reading an over-the-counter drug label or understanding their child’s vaccination chart.
  • Low literacy’s effects cost the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.

Got the idea? How do you think the result of these statistics show up during the election season? Take a look:

This is not something that can be corrected in the short term… mores the pity. It requires long-term support of education and the increased employment of teachers. It mandates aiming the majority of our youth to college education as opposed to the military. It means encouraging reading and writing on continuing upgraded levels.

It also requires a massive reduction in the influence of current television programming, something that is the least likely to happen anytime soon.



Why should average guys and girls avoid Tennessee?

In Tennessee, the Republican controlled legislature has introduced bills that discriminate against homosexuals, a bill that allows the teaching of creationism in science class (which has since become law), and bills that restrict abortion.

That, however, was not enough. Republicans are now going even further by introducing language in a sex education bill that would define kissing and holding hands as the gateways to sexual activity (the bill also says sex education teachers cannot discuss contraception.)

According to WMC-TV:

“Tennessee senators approved an update to the state’s abstinence-based sex education law that includes warnings against ‘gateway sexual activity.’ In a new family life instructions bill, holding hands and kissing could be considered gateways to sex.”

When the Beatles sing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” they will be proposing illegal activity. When the Crystals sing “Then He Kissed Me” they are really singing “He initiated Sexual Activity.

What on earth is wrong with these people… didn’t they learn ANYTHING from the Scopes Trial?

Quote with a quote for the Afternoon….


Why College Costs So Much… by Doctor Cleveland

Mitt Romney recently told an aspiring college student that if he had trouble affording college, he should just shop around for the best price, which proves that Romney has no idea how college prices work:

  “Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a   little lower price where you can get a good education. And hopefully you’ll find that.”

Romney also made sure to point out that the student should get no government assistance of any kind to go to college, which proves that Romney has no idea how America‘s post-war prosperity worked.

See, college is so much like the business world that Romney claims to represent. Kids just have to shop around to get into the one they want. And if they want one that costs less, there will be no shrinking of the educational value.

The government, apparently, gets no value out of investing in an educated populace, so why should it participate in subsidizing education?

The public colleges and universities  enroll three out of every four American college students and have been faced with skyrocketing tuition increases due to the cutting of state funds. When I went to college in the sixties, state and federal funding paid the majority of tuition support for middle class students. Today, however, at some flagship schools, the state’s percentage of the budget is now sometimes 10% or lower.  And, if the Romney gets his way, it will be much less.

The rest of the Cleveland article (and its subsequent Part II) will take further view on the subject.

Zappa on the Music Business… a lecture:

On the 23rd of April 1975, Frank Zappa Lectured at the Gifford Auditorium, Syracuse University, along with George Duke and Captain Beefhart, about the Music Business and Music in general.

Fortunately it was recorded:

And here’s a song for the morning…

Can’t Afford No Shoes also from 1975 (from the last album made as the Mothers of Invention: One Size Fits All):

Another program on Civics and Social Education

While driving to Martinsburg today I was listening to the Midday Show on Maryland Public Radio and the discussion was on Civics and how it is taught in schools. Essentially the same topic Elly and I went to hear Richard Dreyfus speak about the other night.

This program focused more on the teaching of Social Studies in grade and high schools and how it is rapidly disappearing as we turn our education programs into nothing but verbal and math tests do to the badly named “No Child Left Behind Act” that Bush left us with.

Among the statistics covered today, from a very large National survey of students:

• 30% do not know the three branches of our government

• no children questioned knew the number of Supreme Court Judges

• a large percentage said Iraq caused the fall of the twin towers.

There are indications that kids don’t read newspapers… don’t watch the news… and even if they did, they have no backup knowledge to interpret it. The odds of them become active voters is very low (they also come from families with a 30% or so national rating of being voters).

Some school boards are trying to solve this problem with tying social information with English reading. Other programs to reinstate Social Studies in schools have some state support in places. Since this was Maryland Public Radio, they focused on Maryland’s state competition in civics and social studies which some school districts participate in (one school in Howard County achieving the highest score in the country based on all state tests.)

A caller to the show, a Turkish born man who had become an American Citizen, spoke of the hundred questions his group had to know the answers to (only a random half dozen were given on the test, but not knowing which half dozen made him learn the whole list). Needless to say, many of these would not be in the knowledge banks of many contemporary school children… or their parents.

When we start getting upset with the Corporate take-over of much of our governing bodies, or worry about Candidates who confuse religious belief with politics or don’t know much about American History, we probably can blame ourselves for becoming less and less civil. Our political parties do not create politicians that discuss their points of view and compromise to benefit the whole population (as they did from George Washington’s government right up to Ronald Reagan’s when everything started fracturing from right to left)… they are not grounded in civility, but in total winning no matter what the cost.

If this doesn’t change, we can look forward to a very dim future and very little to hold our Nation together.


It is, I think, a symptom of ageing that when my quarterly alumni magazine from Northwestern arrives, I immediately turn to the back to see who from my class has died. I know somewhere, other mid-sixty folks are doing the same… perhaps looking to see if I turn up.

I do this before reviewing what my classmates and others have accomplished in the last quarter, before reading the articles (generously spread across subjects like Sports, Foreign Education, Faculty specialties and others) that come deluxely illustrated.

It is a peril of retirement that life is lived more now in the past than in the future (although I may be moving on the near future into a Saturday morning radio show THAT’S ALL MINE on WSHC!) and there is less and less of major consequences to look forward to. Everything is now done for free or as a volunteer and earning a living no longer seems possible.

Anyway…the Northwestern Magazine has now been thoroughly reviewed and no one that I remember has passed on. I’ll have to wait for the Winter issue.

BTW… as I write this, Turner Classic Movies is showing “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman”, easily the worst of the horror cheapies in the 1950s. How were films like this ever made?

Here’s to my Grandson John…

I’m off early this morning as my oldest grandson, John, is having his elementary school graduation AT 8:00 IN THE MORNING! Who has graduations at 8:00 in the morning?

I’m leaving at 7:15 to make sure I get a place to park.

Elly took off at 4:30 this morning to fly to Minneapolis for a  4-day AIGA confernce and she won’t be back until Sunday, leaving me and her friends with her garden maintenance (I drew the back of the house straw… her community garden buddies are taking care of her plants there.) So this is going to be a week of just me and the dogs.

It’s hot out already… hope you have a nice day.

Saturday Morning… Market, Voting, Making Pie

Elly is off at the Hagerstown Community College graduation with the rest of the faculty, leaving me and the dogs behind. The weather is threatening… right now there is an ongoing drizzle, but it is threatening thunderstorms. Even so, after feeding and taking the dogs for their morning walk, I left for the second week of the Morgan’s Grove Market.

Because of threatening weather about half of last week’s vendors didn’t show up… attendance was lower as well, although about half the parking area was filled. In general, the weather was not terrible, so it was a shame that more folks didn’t show up.

The Entertainment, billed as Gregorio and Friends (there were only 2 of them, so I guess some friends were absent), arrived and started playing.

Al Thomas was doing a demonstration of old-fashioned, hand turned wood which he was happy to answer questions about…

After helping Ruth Robertas out at her Four Seasons Bookstore booth for a few minutes so she could go and get a donut (I sold seven lottery tickets for the community garden!), I took off to go and vote in the Governor primary (this was an unusual Saturday election day).

Then I came home to further develop my Vegan Key Lime Pie recipe.

Tonite we’re going to see 1776 at the Apollo Civic Theater in Martinsburg.

Busy Saturday.

I’m very proud of my son…

Elly and I just got back from our afternoon at American University in DC watching the Public History presentations… one, of course, was by our son Bud (who is known by everyone else but his parents as Will). We first joined him for a Vegan lunch at Chef Geoff’s down the block from the University. Pleasant conversation and our usual family stuff.

Will Tchakirides at Lunch

The Public History presentations by grad students in the Masters and PhD programs. The big advantage for me is that I finally got a sense of what “Public History” really means and what a Public Historian does. The students gave slide shows of their internships at various museums and National Parks and places like the Smithsonian’s gardens. They talked about programs they had created for visitors, participation exercises for children and other adventures (like the award Bud and his partners won at the Public History Conference in Pensacola, FL, last month.

Group Presentation by first year Masters students

The graduating Masters and PhD students did individual, 10 minute presentations.






We, of course, came to see Bud, who didn’t disappoint.

All in all, we had a great afternoon… by the time we got home to two hysterical dogs who were convinced they would never see us again we had a lot of reactions to a fine program to discuss.

Off to DC this morning…

Elly and I are heading off the Washington DC this morning, first to have lunch with our son, Bud, at Chef Geoff’s, then to see him make a presentation at American University where he is a graduate student.

I probably won’t be back to the blog until quite late, but I’ll bring my laptop with me in case I find a WiFi area to check in from.

– Bill

Things have changed a lot since I went to college…

It’s not often that I see controversy in the press about my alma mater, Northwestern University (BS 1968, MA 1969)… so I was surprised when this turned up in the NY Times:

The president of Northwestern University said Thursday that he was “troubled and disappointed” by a psychology professor’s decision to present his students last week with a demonstration outside class that featured a couple engaging in a live sex act using a prop.

The demonstration had been arranged by J. Michael Bailey, whose Human Sexuality class has an enrollment of nearly 600. On Feb. 21, after concluding a lecture at a university auditorium about sexual arousal, Professor Bailey brought onto the stage a man whom he had invited to participate in a discussion of “kinky people,” according to an e-mail the professor later sent to his students that was reprinted by The Daily Northwestern.

Oooweee! The whole article is available in the Education section of the Times HERE. Checking out the coverage in the Daily Northwestern (click on the link in the quote), I find most of the student community supporting Bailey (who has taught a NU for two decades) and a certain number of outsiders who are offended by the whole thing.

I’ll be curious to see what President Shapiro announced investigation comes up
with… welcome to the 21st Century!

Let’s spend 12 minutes from our 21st Century rush to what is worried right now…

I’ve put RSAnimates on my blog before. This is a particularly good one about changing education for the 21st Century by not alienating our children. It was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award.


The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) has been a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress for over 250 years.

To learn more about the RSA, visit:

Quote of the Day

I’m going to avoid anything about the Nobel Prize in this segment today… there’s going to be a lot more talking about it (Obama, as I write this, is getting ready to speak live-on-TV). Instead, I was interested in this:

“The rise of American education was, overwhelmingly, the rise of public education — and for the past 30 years our political scene has been dominated by the view that any and all government spending is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Education, as one of the largest components of public spending, has inevitably suffered.”

– Paul Krugman in a column entitled The Uneducated American

Past 20 years… hmmm… I guess he means starting with Reagan where everything else in our great state dissolution started.

Here’s one for Theatre folks like me… one you probably haven’t seen…

Got this in my morning e-mail from Thomas Cott (who calls his posts “You’ve Cott Mail”… funny, no?). It was from a theatre web blog (which I am adding to my Blogroll) called 99 Seats:
Commentary: Why sports win out over theater — and what we should do about it

$ 943.3 million. $188 million. $1.1 billion. Those three numbers are the 2008 total revenues for the 43 shows on Broadway, the 2008 [ticket] revenue for the New York Yankees and the amount of money New York City contributed to the building of the new Yankee Stadium. If you want to argue that art is unnecessary, then you better be ready to argue that sports are even less necessary. And, yes, many, many people argued that it was a poor use of public funds to build a stadium. But that didn’t stop it. Sports win out because, despite the number of people who don’t like it, who can’t afford to go to the stadium, despite the overpaid players and despicable owners, it’s still perceived as a thing of joy and beauty for the whole city. Theatre can’t shake its rep of being just for the moneyed elites. A sports team is part of the fabric of a city, the spirit of a town. Theatre is a luxury. It’s controversial, a political hot potato, and nothing anyone wants to get caught dead supporting, unless it’s something that’s going to turn a quick profit, or get them in bed with a comely chorine. This is at the root of all of our problems in the theatre. We don’t rate enough for real government support. That’s why I support less non-profit and more for-profit ventures. More theatres eating what they kill, so to speak. More independence from donors and less need for government money.

This is something I’ve been saying for years, and it goes way beyond City governments and expenses. It goes back to the basics of our educational system where schools pour both money and requirements into athletics and put the arts on the First To Cut list. Did your High School or College require you to participate in Theatre? Did they require you to participate in a Sport? You tell me.

I’ve always felt that I’m in a distinct minority… I could care less about the Sunday football game on Television, but I’ll go out of my way for the smallest Community Theatre production. A trip to New York without going to the Theatre is a great waste of time. You see where I’m gong with this.

So if you think the arts are unnecessary, think again. PLEASE!

How smart are American High School students?

Do you want to really have something to worry about in American Education? I saw this on TV this morning and then found this article on the web:

Only one in four Oklahoma public high school students can name the first President of the United States, according to a survey released today.

The survey was commissioned by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs in observance of Constitution Day on Thursday.

Brandon Dutcher is with the conservative think tank and said the group wanted to find out how much civic knowledge Oklahoma high school students know.

The Oklahoma City-based think tank enlisted national research firm, Strategic Vision, to access students’ basic civic knowledge.

“They’re questions taken from the actual exam that you have to take to become a U.S. citizen,” Dutcher said.

A thousand students were given 10 questions drawn from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services item bank. Candidates for U.S. citizenship must answer six questions correctly in order to become citizens.

About 92 percent of the people who take the citizenship test pass on their first try, according to immigration service data. However, Oklahoma students did not fare as well. Only about 3 percent of the students surveyed would have passed the citizenship test.

Dutcher said this is not just a problem in Oklahoma. He said Arizona had similar results, which left him concerned for the entire country.

“Jefferson later said that a nation can’t expect to be ignorant and free,” Dutcher said. “It points to a real serious problem. We’re not going to remain ignorant and free.”

It might also bother you that only 43% of students knew which ocean was on the east coast of the US. And only 27% knew what the two houses of Congress were.

But I’ll bet they all knew who Rush Limbaugh is.

Obama to Students: “When you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.”

I guess that could be the quote of the day, however I sit here watching the President speaking in a High School in Arlington, Va., and there are so many good quotes it would be hard to pick one. As he finishes what has been a 10 minute pep talk to students, the smiles on their faces are indicative of the results. Who knows how many right-wingnuts are now convinced that he has recruited them to Socialism or worse?

C-Span, where I’m watching the end results of the speech without the kind of commentary one would get on Fox or even MSNBC, will be taking calls soon from students around the country to get their feelings on the speech. My guess is that they will be pretty positive.

The Right, however, is wallowing in pig crap and have been all day. Karl Rove on Fox this morning:

…joined in on the emerging right-wing line that the White House changed the text of the back-to-school speech — which they say would have originally been aimed at political indoctrination of schoolchildren — after conservatives objected. And Rove also charged that the whole speech is an improper use of government resources to advance President Obama’s political profile.

This was reported on TPM this morning, and, pf course, there are enough right wingers who will continue to stress that Obama is really “recruiting.”

C-Span ran videos of (Saint) Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush making school speeches… and both of them were unafraid to stress their own political beliefs (Reagan in particular pushed the right to carry arms… and this before a lot of the in-school shooting disasters of the 90s). Obama stressed working hard, staying in school and going to college… the epitome of the leftist agenda.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

Obama gave the students this kind of propaganda as he told the story of American education:

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

See…No wonder so many schools in conservative districts opted not to let students see President Obama speak. No brilliant speeches are acceptable to the Right (so why do MY taxes go to pay for THEIR education?)