Lessons That Can’t Be Measured: Redux!

Author’s Note: I wrote the following screed back in May of 2012 on my personal Facebook Page. Besides my writing and photojournalism work, I am an 8th grade Science teacher. For the last two days, I have been teaching my students what factors are responsible for formation of the wind. After reading the textbook, me lecturing to them with visual aids and two videos (one even an animated cartoon), many of the students are still struggling to understand this simple concept. At the end of the day, I was thinking about how the length of attention spans, cognitive abilities and academic skills of the kids I teach today compares to kids I taught ten years ago. It was during this reflective moment I remembered writing the following:

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I was recently looking for a certain picture on an old hard drive and came across a folder of pictures from one of my favorite moments I experienced as a teacher. In 2008, several teachers, parent chaperones and I took approximately 60 eight grade students to Washington DC during Spring Break.
It was a difficult task to raise the money, but the kids came through. With a few donations from the local business community and teachers, we were able to make a trip possible that literally changed kids lives.
The most memorable event for me from that trip was our tour of Arlington National Cemetery. During this tour, we split into groups. With myself and our group of kids were two other teachers, my friends Mike, who was the orchestra director and Dean, a fellow science teacher and coach. As we walked towards the public viewing gallery, we saw a funeral in the distance on a hill for a naval officer that I later found out had been recently been killed in Iraq.
As we sat the kids down in the gallery bleachers, my first instinct as a teacher was to watch for the cell phones and iPods to come out and the kids to start “geeking”. However, they were totally transfixed by the lone sentinel as he walked his 21 steps, paused for 21 seconds, then turning and walking back to the point he started, repeating this lonely march until the white gloved relief commander came out to announce the Changing of the Guard Ceremony.
The kids were focused upon the retiring sentinel and relief commander as they performed the carefully choreographed weapon inspection ritual. Soon the relieving sentinel appeared and all three converged in the center of the black mat where the retiring sentinel delivered the orders to his relief…”Post and orders, remain as directed.” The relieving sentinel answered…”orders acknowledged.” Then, the relief sentinel began his shift guarding The Tomb, a vigil the Army has stood on a 24 hour a day basis since 1937.
We had remained in the gallery to watch a special wreath dedication ceremony. As we waited for the proceedings to begin, the sad, melodic strains of The Naval Hymn came from the funeral ceremony on the hill. The melancholy melody causing a definite reaction in myself and the other two chaperones, as well as the kids. However, this was just a prelude of what happened next. As the ceremony participants placed the wreath, a lone trumpeter began to play taps to honor The Unknowns. As his trumpet sounded the familiar mournful lamentation, another trumpet from high upon the hill began playing the same somber tune. The two trumpeters, one playing, the other echoing the call. A chorus of condolences to all who had fallen in defense of our great nation.
My two fellow chaperones and I tried to put up a stoic front for the kids, but Oakley and RayBan shades hid the real truth of how that doleful duet truly affected us. One look at the kids and we knew…they too had experienced an event that would be with them for the rest of their lives.
Upon our return, there were noticeable changes in some of the students who spent their Spring Break visiting the nation’s capital. One of my students that was applying minimal effort in his studies ended up being commended on his Science and Social Studies TAKS test. Another student, who was unsure of himself went on to become a leader in his high school’s NJROTC unit. Several others former students that went on that trip have told me it was one of the highlights of their school experience.
One week from now, these kids will be graduating from high school and will take their first steps into the adult world. Some will be attending college, some beginning a career, while others will be pondering which direction to take on the road of life. I hope that myself and my fellow teachers gave them enough “life lessons” to be successful in whatever they may choose to do with their lives.
Some lessons that teachers provide can’t be measured with standardized testing or other forms of assessment. The most important tests for these young people lie ahead on their individual journeys. May all who I was privileged to teach pass these test with flying colors!

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The kids I taught in 2008 were exceptional. Almost all of the approximately sixty kids we took on this trip were either recent immigrants or first generation American citizens of Hispanic origins. Many of the students in this group were English Language Learner (ELL) students. For those not familiar with that educational term, it means that English was not their native language. After graduation from high school, many went to college, or started vocational careers. Some now have families of their own and at least one that I am aware of lost a tragic battle to cancer and had her story cut short at a way too early an age!

After revisiting the past, and really thinking about the comparison of my current crop of students to those I taught ten years ago, it is my opinion that there is indeed a marked difference between the two. The students of today are not as functionally capable as those I taught ten years prior. The exposure to constant digital stimulation and total immersion in the culture of excess consumption, coupled with the beliefs and values  received via both the small and large screen, has had a detrimental effect on the youth of America.

Maybe my thoughts on this subject sound like the same sentiment teachers and parents had regarding my generation, but my generation sent men and women to space and built the basis for our modern technological civilization. What will the members of this up and coming generation contribute to the American experience besides daily Instagram selfies and the culture of “entitlement”?

I will have more to say on this in a future post!

 

The Trump Phenomenon – Part One – The Campaign

In late 2015, I like many other Americans learned that Donald Trump had announced that he was running for President and my first thought was…”this has to be a self promotion angle”! I had been a “closet” Trump watcher since I read his book “The Art of The Deal”  in 1987. For several years, I just followed along with the rest of the country when Mr. Trump hit the news cycle from time to time. However, Mr. Trump came back into the forefront of my interest in 2003 with the television show, “The Apprentice.”

The reality show genre was created in 2000 with the premiere of the show Survivor. The show quickly became boring and formulaic in the following year, However, in 2003, the producers of that show came up with “The Apprentice” with Mr. Trump as the host. I watched the show every week, pulling for Bill Rancic to ultimately land the coveted prize, a job as a Trump Organization project manager. During the show’s later iteration, The Celebrity Apprentice, it became even more enjoyable, with the charity donation angle involved. My wife and I watched the show religiously and tuned in every week to watch which celebrity was going to get booted off the show with that familiar phrase that Mr. Trump made famous…”you’re fired”!

However, when Trump announced he was running for President, I was skeptical that it was a genuine, in-it-to-win-it effort and not just another of his famous efforts at “self promotion”.  Then, on January 31st, 2016, I saw my first Trump campaign sign and the now famous slogan, “Make America Great Again”!

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I then followed the Trump campaign, along with the other candidates in the Republican field via the Internet and television news for a few months. However, I decided to cover a Trump Rally to investigate for myself if there was substance to the Trump campaign effort and if he was attracting supporters.

I covered the Trump For President/MAGA Rally in the Woodlands, Texas on June 17th, 2016.  I arrived in the area around 2pm, five hours before the scheduled start of the rally. I had already verified that they anticipated a capacity crowd of approximately 1000 people in the hall. I figured that with the early start I might stand a fair chance of getting in to the rally…boy, was I wrong!!!

 

By the time I had arrived in the vicinity of the Marriott Waterside, the site of the rally, there were by my estimate, somewhere between 2000-3000 people already in attendance. It was really a strange sight seeing people this fired up about a presidential candidate and willing to stand in line for hours to get a chance to see Mr. Trump. I wondered at the time, if crowds of this size were lining up to see either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders at their campaign rallies.

Since it was pretty much a lost cause to attempt to get into the venue, I started documenting the crowd, moving among them and getting a feel for WHO WERE these members of this multitude of voters here to see ‘The Donald”!

There we several reoccurring themes that were common among these people. Primarily, the most prevalent among them was their disillusionment with the ineffective action of both the Republican and Democratic parties to fulfill their legislative responsibility and their inability to put partisan politics aside to start solving the country’s problems. Furthermore, their was a general mistrust of politicians and bureaucrats in general, with many people expressing their sentiments that a good number of congressmen and senators seemed to have forgotten that they should serve the voters interest first and foremost!

As the event’s kickoff time approached, it became apparent that I stood no chance of making it into the hall, however it was clear to me, that people saw something in this Trump campaign effort, or maybe a better description was…people “sensed” something about the Trump campaign. At least, many people had a good time waiting in line and discussing their problems with the body politic of America.

One side note: There were several vendors present selling Trump merchandise and making money hand over fist. Well, at least Mr. Trump was already generating jobs and he hadn’t even been nominated yet!

 

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As the campaign progressed into the televised debates, I was still not on the Trump train. In interest of full disclosure, I am a person with libertarian political views and was backing Senator Rand Paul for the Republican nomination. His Dad, Congressman Ron Paul was my representative and was probably the most honorable and principled person to serve in the U.S. Congress since I became of voting age and his son was following his Dad’s example. As the debates progressed, I saw that Mr. Trump was not the “usual” candidate and approach the debates more with a “street brawler” attitude than the standard way a presidential candidate usually conducted themselves. During the campaign itself, I thought this was just Donald Trump making each debate an episode of “The Apprentice”, with him playing both roles as contestant and show host. His unorthodox way of engaging the debate moderators and news media covering his campaign in all out “flame wars” of rhetoric seemed to be antagonistic, unnecessary and counter productive. However in hindsight, it served to focus almost all the attention of the press on Trump during the news cycle and pretty much minimized the chance that any one of the large field of Republican challengers would get equal attention during the primary. Was this his strategy all along, or did it happen to just play out that way? Whichever, it was, it surely contributed to whittling down the members of the pack seeking Republican primary votes, and more important, raising campaign funds.

Well, Mr. Trump won the primary vote and got his chance to duke it out with Hillary Clinton in the series of Presidential debates. Watching the debates was like watching Godzilla vs. King Kong, a battle of epic proportions! Despite both candidates discussing their views on the issues, Trump kept running the narrative of “Crooked Hillary” and seek to paint her as a corrupt politico that was a Creature from “The Swamp”.  At times during the last debate, the look from Hillary Clinton seemed to say Trump was a potential candidate for the mythical(?) Clinton Death List! Even though I still had my reservations about Donald Trump, seeing him get under the skin of that vile woman was some of the best television programming I had seen in a long time…and commercial free to boot!

Then, Election Day arrived. I was considering not voting during this election. The last time I voted in a Presidential election was in 2008. I was really unable to vote for either Obama or McCain because of their position on many of the issues. There really wasn’t much of a choice between the two, so I decided to “call an audible”. Let’s just say that there was at least one write-in vote in Galveston County, Texas that year for Jimmy Buffett for President of The United States! (Author’s Note: I know that I have and will probably receive “grief” from many for this action, but I would have rather lived on the beach in Magaritaville, than in the type of America those two envisioned!)

However, I felt that I needed to make a disclosure.  I had considered voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, but the flashbacks to 1992 and my Perot vote helping unleash “The Clinton Menace” on America, prevented me from pulling the lever (or, pushing the button) for the third-party choice. So, since I was in agreement with Mr. Trump on a few of his key issues and was he able to win the Republican nomination, despite the GOP establishment fighting him the during the entire process, I was just about there, but one last fact made me…no COMPELLED ME to vote and give Mr. Trump the chance to become The President. That fact was that George W. Bush and a long list of bought and paid for RINO’s publicly endorsed the Deep State candidate , traitor Hillary Clinton! That was all the motivation I needed to vote Trump!

So that night, my wife and I watched the election returns. This election had much riding on it, both for myself and the country as a whole! As the polls started closing across the time zones of America, I watched the news media coverage on several networks. Of course, all of the network talking heads, save Fox News already were  writing the headlines and making the travel plans for anchors and crew for a Clinton Inauguration.

But then, the winds started to change and the election results started coming in for Trump in the battleground states and a few that Clinton was supposed to win! Then it happened, Trump started pulling ahead in electoral votes, as the popular vote seesawed back and forth. The look of surprise and confusion of the MSM news anchors was priceless as the election returns looked more and more like Donald John Trump might just become the 45th President! Well, at least I knew I would be staying up late for this “nail biter” of a finish, When it was all over, the world witnessed Mr. Trump emerge victorious over Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party! What made Trump’s win even more phenomenal was the tactics of utilizing social media, targeting identified groups of supporters and those willing to cross party lines…some of these tactics Barack Obama used in his election campaigns!

After watching Mr. Trump upsetting Hillary’s apple cart, I KNEW I HAD TO ATTEND the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of The United States!!!

NEXT: The Trump Phenomenon – Part Two – The Inauguration

 

 

Putting Humpty Back Together Again!

In 2007, I migrated this blog from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress site at GoDaddy.com, where I had more flexibility at the time and could run multiple websites. I had planned to start an online publication and run a personal photography site, in that pre-Instagram era.

However, my day job as an 8th grade Science teacher kept requiring a greater investment in time and personal commitment and I was never able to write on my blog on a regular basis. During the past fifteen years of my life since leaving the business world, I have had a distinguished career as a professional educator and the students I have taught have always excelled when it came to standardized testing, consistently beating the state averages. However, that is just numbers that were invented by politicians and bureaucrats to justify monkeying around with the education system in this country. The true metric that I have measured my effectiveness as an educator by has been the success of my my students, some who are now doctors, lawyers, engineers and many others who are productive, tax paying citizens of our country who are now raising families of their own.

During this time, I had developed my photographic skills to a level where I was able to pursue a side gig as a photojournalist & photographer. However, writing has always been an interest, so this blog is where I will merge my freelance photojournalistic projects along with my writing and investigative journalism efforts. I am still trying to decide what this new project will eventually look like, or develop into.

However, I still have to see if it will be possible to re-constitute my content since leaving GoDaddy’s hosting service. I have my backup files from my self-hosted site, but am having trouble getting WordPress.com to recognize the files during my import attempts.

However, it all boils down to fact that it is GoDaddy who is to blame, because of their lack of security! My self-hosted site was always beset many scumbags from all over the world trying to compromise my site from all corners of the planet, including sometimes clowns from Washington, DC! I did all that was possible within my skill set to lock down my site and keep intruders out, including two-step encryption access to my CPanel login screen into my Linux server. It seemed to do the trick for awhile, then I started having problems logging in to GoDaddy itself. According to the “not so very helpful” technical support, I should not have had any difficulties logging in to either the GoDaddy website, or my server.  However, despite trying to log into GoDaddy with or without my VPN running and from various locations, I was always immediately locked out of logging onto their website:

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Then, after I found a way to get back onto GoDaddy’s webpage and access my server, I reconstituted the site and began to work on content. However, I started having one particular IP address constantly trying to login as an administrator to my WordPress site. It happened several times, but my site limited the number of attempts to logon and locks out those IP addresses that go past a certain number of login attempts and notifies me via email of the intrusion attempt.

GD_Intruder

When I finally decided to check out this persistent pain-in-the-ass, the IP address went back to someone INSIDE GoDaddy themselves. Well, back to the lame ass, script reading technical support goons at GoDaddy I went. I was bounced around for over an hour after informing them that someone inside GoDaddy was trying to access my WordPress site. Every time I pressed him to trace that IP address and turn the offender over to their internal security, I got put on hold so the script reading functionary could call someone else for assistance on what to do next. I was finally given a “bogus” email address at GoDaddy to file a complaint and my marathon no-help-at-all session came to an end!

Then, I will be damned if the intrusion attempts didn’t continue from THE EXACT SAME GoDaddy IP address! So I ran one one last backup of my WordPress site, cancelled my hosting plan and decided to look for another, more secure hosting option.

I logged on to WordPress.com to see if my old content still existed online under my account and it still did.  I saw that WordPress.com (Automattic, Inc.) had made large improvements in the level of services offered since I left their platform. Since I am more interested in content creation than being a web master & IT security specialist, I upgraded my free site and now…I’M BACK!

I have more to say in the in the future about GoDaddy, but in the mean time, I still have several domain names that I own which GoDaddy is the registrar for, so I need to find a new home to transfer these to. However, I will soon, as Paul Harvey would say, share “the rest of the story”!

Once again, here I am!

My site was dormant for a few years and I tried to get it going again over the last year on my own hosted site, but the hosting provider’s security sucked and kept they giving excuses for their lack of security and customer service every time I called their customer service and technical support lines.

In fact, for the last week, someone was trying to access my WP site by trying to crack my password and my site kept sending me emails that the culprit was being locked out several times by my site’s security. When I ran that IP address that was being used, it came back to an internal IP address from my web hosting provider!

So, it is too much hassle to be a web master and a content creator at the same time, so therefore, I am going to be using the wordpress.com platform to start writing on again.

Therefore, stay tuned…because I have a lot to share!

 

 

I’m Moving the Blog to a New Site!

I am in the process of moving my blog to a new site and my own server.

WordPress.com is a great site for blogging and is a great value for anyone wishing to operate a blog, however, my goals for the blog can’t be totally accommodated with the functionality available on WordPress.com.

Since I love the WordPress platform, I am going to continue running WordPress software on my own server. This change does have a downside. The provided platform on WordPress.com offers so many features that it was an initial shock when I uploaded the WordPress software and discovered that a few of the features I had become accustomed to, such as the WYSIWYG editor were not there!

I have been in the process of “tweaking ” the new site and now feel that it is stable enough to begin posting there. I still have a few kinks to work out, such as getting YouTube videos to work on the new site and other items that are a “no brainer” here on WordPress.com. Now I must truly wear the hat of Webmaster and earn the title in all its meaning!

So here is the new address for BoilingPot U.S.A.

http://boilingpotusa.com/wordpress/

Please come and visit my blog and feel free to comment.

Thanks,

Your Captain

Death of a Truly American Author

Norman Mailer

Today, I learned that Norman Mailer had passed away.

I just discovered Norman Mailer’s writing recently. In my earlier days, I would have never considered reading his works because of his liberal viewpoints. I grew up in a family that was very conservative…in fact, my earliest political memory was a running verbal battle between two branches of my family about the 1964 Goldwater vs. Johnson Presidential election. My families conservative bent runs so deep, we still have a 1968 Nixon election yard sign in the family artifacts.

However, thanks to events in my life that had to do with politics and the swine from a certain faction of The Republican Party who showed me the true nature of the beast, I know that the true path for us as a people and as a nation exist somewhere between the two extremes of our country’s political discourse. I have writers such as Norman Mailer to thank for that realization.

I haven’t read much of his works, but I intend to read more.

Now Norman and “Papa” Hemingway can spar verbally and physically.

Thanks Mr. Mailer to your contribution to The American experience.

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November!

I have been trying to decide when to start my series of post to tell the story of the beginnings of my look beyond “the veil” of what is seen and peer at “what is”. The Red pill, or the Blue pill…Red for knowledge, Blue for blissful ignorance. The events that steered my life…the currents of fate that move all our lives made my destiny with the Red Pill inevitable.

I started almost a decade ago looking beyond what others see and that which I have seen and experienced intersected with all that is wrong with this country and those who control it…and those scumbags who tried to control and silence me!

A year ago, I saw a movie that re-energized my spirit and spoke to my beliefs of what is transpiring with America.

That movie was “V for Vendetta”.

In the movie, the lead character delivers a pirate TV broadcast to viewers of the government approved channel throughout England. During this message, the words the hero delivered expressed perfectly my sentiments regarding the current state of affairs in our country;

Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

This speech in the movie takes place on November 5th, which is the English holiday Guy Fawkes Day.

Early this morning I noticed on my calender that it was the 5th of November. This needs to be the day I start telling the story…my story, and the effect it has had on me and what my discoveries mean for the country as a whole.

So stay tuned for the first installment in a series of post to this blog entitled “Enter the Looking Glass – Running into The New World Order”.

v for vendetta

“People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people”!

Let Freedom Reign!