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on the law

Before Reacting to Gun Decision, Read It

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The Supreme Court ruled last Thursday in District of Columbia v. Heller that the District of Columbia’s almost de facto ban on handgun ownership violates the Second Amendment. While some liberal commentators have expressed abhorrence toward this ruling, I think it is important to actually discuss what the ruling said. In that vein, we must first look to what Mr. Heller was suing over. [Read more →]


Math Education

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The AP reports that the math skills of American students would be better if elementary school teachers had math skills to begin with. Now before we delve into this topic, let me state for the record that I am a high school physics teacher. From my position, it would be easy to blame the poor math skills of my students on their math teachers. I have students who can’t math their way out of a paper bag, and I take a lot of time every year to teach basic algebra (solve for x) to students who should have those skills before walking in my door. I sometimes resent that my time to teach my own subject is eaten up with mathematical remediation — and not just for a few individuals, but for a large percentage of even the honors students. There isn’t even an argument regarding whether my students lack sufficient math skills. But it isn’t their fault. I am not being facetious when I say that. The fact is that somebody along the way failed to teach them. [Read more →]

reflections & recollections by Scott Stein

A knife to set things right

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An older brother’s job is to protect his younger brother or sister. That’s what I’d always been told by my parents, and that’s what I’d seen. My older brother protected me. [Read more →]

all workmoney

The customer who’s never wrong

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We all have our horror stories about lousy customer service. My most recent was when my husband and I were standing in line at an office supply store. The clerk was yapping into her cell phone while scanning our purchases. Without so much as a word or a glance in our direction, she managed to bag our items, take our money, and hand us our receipt. Her name tag identified her as the assistant manager. [Read more →]

ends & oddFred's dreams


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June 6, 2008
I dream I am in a combination university/world’s fair and I need a bathroom. Steven Feinberg from elementary school gets there before I do, so Gail encourages me to try the medieval bathroom. There is a steep cobblestone ramp [Read more →]

diatribesfamily & parenting

Bad Mommy — The first installment in a series of many

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When I have it in abundance there is no moderation. I’m an addict. I drink one, then another, and another until it is gone within a few hours. I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of money I have spent on it over the years. Now it seems my children have inherited my addiction. We buy by the case. Multiple cases, actually — in three or four different flavors. [Read more →]

art & entertainmentends & odd

What’s So Funny?

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I’ve recently learned through the magic of the internet that that staple of physical comedy in the modern era, the blow to the male groin, has reached its apotheosis in a YouTube favorite called Kicked in the Nuts.  If you have not watched this bit of entertainment, the segments feature a wiry man sporting a bright orange wig — reminiscent of Carrot Top or the McDonald’s clown — who sneaks up on unsuspecting victims and kicks them in the groin. [Read more →]

ends & odd

Reflections of a Time Traveler

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Once a week, my family dresses in pioneer clothes, and steps into time — full skirts, long sleeves, aprons, pantaloons, bonnets, and boots. Our invention for time traveling is an air-conditioned car. Once I drive through the gates, we’ve arrived in the 1800’s. [Read more →]

on the lawpolitics & government

UN Tomfoolery

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UN Classifies rape a ‘war tactic’

A recent BBC News article outlined how the UN Security Council had voted unanimously to classify rape as a weapon of war.

Does that sound odd to anyone else? I guess it would make more sense if they had, instead, classified it as a war crime, but to classify it as a weapon of war?

I can only assume that the UN is using the Security Council as an attempt to add weight to their stance that ‘someone’ should do something about the epidemic of rape in the DR Congo. Since simple censure and vocal condemnation has not stopped the wholesale rape of women in Africa, by co-opting the Security Council and declaring rape as the moral and legal equivalent of an act of war, the Security Council can send in troops under the guise of peacekeeping.

While I would never belittle the horror of the act of rape, it is a criminal act akin to murder and should be dealt with as such. Not only does this open the door to adding other criminal acts to the new list of weapons of war, it actually adds legitimacy to the use of rape as a tool of war. I think most people would agree that the very idea is abhorrent.

I suppose the next step is to declare AIDS as a weapon of Mass Destruction so that the UN can levy greater funding from the more affluent member nations to effect social change by force of arms.

To mis-use a phrase made popular by the new Indiana Jones movie, the UN has ‘nuked the fridge‘. The UN has long been working towards complete irrelevance and this latest act has done nothing to stop the downward spiral.

politics & government

Borders at Home and Abroad

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I’ve recently returned from a tour of Europe, and was fascinated by the lack of border security. Of course, there are 24 countries in continental Europe (part of the Schengen Agreement) that have abolished formal border controls. Many of the countries I visited were in this Schengen zone; however, the United Kingdom and Switzerland are not. So on my trip, I crossed “hard” borders four times and my passport was checked at only one of them. Crossing into France from the UK, the bus was “waived” through immigration. Leaving the European Union and entering Switzerland, the bus driver merely paid a toll and we kept on driving. Re-entering the EU in Austria was much the same. It was not until we got back to the UK that a passport check occurred. [Read more →]

books & writing

Idol Worship

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In graduate school I went through phases. I had my Cormac McCarthy phase, my Don DeLillo phase, my Tim O’Brien phase. Like a young athlete emulating his heroes, I paid homage to mine by copying their prosaic technique, voice, and style. McCarthy’s sweeping vision, and long, stark, near-Biblical sentences; DeLillo’s twisting language and genius sensibility; O’Brien’s subtle potency, the conveyance of confusion, tragedy, and strange beauty in war. Story after story I tried to incorporate these traits and elements into my own work, until my advisor told me, “You’re not Cormac McCarthy. Or DeLillo. Or Tim O’Brien. Just be you.”

The problem was that I didn’t know who I was. [Read more →]



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I spent most of last week traveling to attend a biker get-together. Nothing unusual in that, except that this group, and by extension the meet itself, was the product of relationships developed online.

The hours I spent on the road gave me, as it always does, a lot of time to ponder my belly button. The topic that got the most mileage was the changing nature of friendships in my life. [Read more →]

books & writingtechnology

Making connections

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This afternoon I went to the Bucks County Historical Society to do some genealogy research for a writing project I’m working on. When I called the BCHS yesterday to find out their hours I was excited to find out that it’s housed not just in Doylestown, which I knew, but right inside the Mercer Museum.

The Mercer Museum, if you’ve never been to it, is awesome. It’s a feat of Victorian geekery. At the turn of the 20th century crackpot collector Henry Mercer had the idea to compile as many handmade (not machine-made) objects as he could since, as he saw it, these things were on their way out. He assembled his huge collection inside a cement castle (!), with all the various objects of old-school interest divided into separate little warrens that wind around the perimeter of the building and up to the top. There’s tin smithing, whaling, the healing arts; on the top-most level is a gallows. Yikes. [Read more →]

animalsFred's dreams


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July 15, 2006
I dream it is the morning after a festival, the house is in disarray, and servants are cleaning up. I see leftover cookies and candy all around, and I announce that I would appreciate it if people would consume this stuff quickly or dispose of it because I will eat it all. Then, Daniel comes upstairs and apparently, the eggs have hatched. He has white, translucent baby chicks that hover above his hands. Another creature appears; [Read more →]

diatribeshis & hers

“So you’re pregnant — but what does that have to do with me?”

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My wife is 8 months pregnant and she looks it. We live in New York City, with over 8 million people, but big belly and all she somehow becomes invisible when we walk on the street or take a bus or ride the subway. I become invisible too, even though I’m usually the only 6’2, 235 lb. Chinese man within a 100 foot radius. (Of course there might be another giant Chinese guy 101 or 102 feet away, but that’s too far for me to see.)

But this isn’t about me — this is about my wife, and how blind people are to pregnant women; and even worse, when people actually do see a pregnant woman, how rude they can consciously and purposefully be. [Read more →]

books & writingtechnology

SWF looking for good reference librarian

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I am a librarian’s daughter. My sister and I were raised between the stacks. Our mother left it up to us to either be bored or learn to read. We read. My sister was inclined toward smut. But the trashy romance genre was not for me; I was enthralled by non-fiction. History — real people, real events.

Most of the information that I have stored over the years has become disjointed and most was always completely useless to anyone else. But sometimes it amazes me the little jewels I have retained. I’m not bragging. It is a disease. I am obsessive about needing all the facts. Something will pique my interest and I feel obligated to exhaust every resource.

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art & entertainmentbooks & writing

Dead Trees Part I

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I make zines. I’m a writer, and making zines is a big part of my writing life. At this point it’s a big part of, just, my life-life. A sizable percentage of the people I consider good friends are folks I’ve met at zine fests, by trading zines with them through the mail, or in online ziney gathering spots. 

I’ve been interested to notice — and thought it would be interesting to note, here on the world wide web — that on occasion over the last several years a person who isn’t involved with zines will ask me or my fellow zinesters, rhetorically, musingly: “I guess blogs have kind of killed zines then, right?” 

This annoys me. [

animalscreative writing

Kangaroo Court

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 “Don’t give us that cock-and-bull story,” the prosecutor said. “We can wait till the cows come home. Let’s talk turkey.”

“You’re trying to throw me to the lions,” the accused said.

“You’re in the doghouse all right, but I’m giving you a chance to keep the wolf from your door.”

“It’s a fine kettle of fish I’m in.”

The prosecutor was impatient. “Just grab the bull by the horns.” [Read more →]

his & herspolitics & government

Why I Didn’t Settle

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I’m a feminist. Let’s just get it over with. I had an ERA button as a kid, I idolized Pat Schroeder, I signed petitions, and I got into arguments with lots of smart men and liked them anyway. Because I’m a feminist, I wanted to go after the Taliban long before 9-11, and these days I want to go after those assholes in Utah raising baby sex slaves just as much.

But, I didn’t want Hillary.

She did not set off a big spark of luv in my Anita Hill believin’ heart for a few reasons, but the main one is I believe we can do better.

The war. Gay marriage. The war. The stupid summer gas tax silliness. The war. What’s that Bosnia crap all about? Oh, and the war.

We can do better. Pat Schroeder and Arianna Huffington may not think so. Janeane Garofalo may not think so.

I think so and and my 76 year old “postfeminist” mother thought so.  I looked for more backup and found another hero of mine, a brilliant political thinker and feminist who said back in 2006, “I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.” She was right then and she’s still right. Don’t settle.


art & entertainmentFred's dreams


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May 21, 2008

I dream I am watching a play with my wife, Gail, and my sister-in-law Helaine. A cute dog is a character in the play, and I notice that the tip of his nose moves in and out somewhat when he talks. I wasn’t aware that dogs’ noses did that, although I was aware that dogs’ penises [Read more →]

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