Saturday, January 30, 2021

Chuck Brodsky, the Holocaust, Civil Rights, and Songs of Hope and Inspiration

If you are reading this, it is probably because we are Facebook friends and I personally asked you to come here. It's also very likely you are a teacher and we met because of our involvement with the Internet and school change. 

I have invited you here to meet Chuck Brodsky, who I met about 20 years ago. I'm hoping he can touch and enrich you life and possibly the lives of your students, the way he has mine. I know his songs, stories, and insights into the human condition will touch your hearts and I'm hoping they might fit in your classroom or curriculum.

I hope you will take the time to explore the links here and figure out ways to use his gift to reach the hearts and minds of your students in creative and powerful ways that can't be done with the simple written word alone.

I first met Chuck around the turn of the century shortly after Pandora launched and I set up a folk channel. The first song I heard was, Radio, the story of a football coach, in Anderson, South Carolina, and a kid they called Radio. That prompted me to buy the CD and after listening to it, the possibilities for use in the classroom excited me. One thing led to another. I went to see him perform, spoke with him after the show, and began planning a cross-curricular project for the students in our high school, but I digress. Here's Chuck singing Radio.

We are in the middle of a pandemic (stated Captain Obvious), and teachers are scrambling to create engaging online lessons. Musicians, such as Chuck, who make their living performing live are in much the same boat. To make ends meet, Chuck is doing Facebook and YouTube live concerts, the concerts are free and Chuck asks that you tip as you see fit. He also has all of his songs available to download, and I've been introducing him to educators who can tap into the richness of his songs and stories. 

I'm willing to bet that many, if not most of you will become Chuck Brodsky fans, and I hope you will use his songs in your classes. If you do you can support him in many ways.  Simply paying $1 to download one of his songs from Band Camp  would help, but I'm betting some of you have the wheels turning about a Zoom concert.

You could spend the next week listening to his songs just to figure out which ones might suit your curriculum, but I know you don't have that kind of time.  However, I do, and I know half of his songs by heart. There are at least two dozen songs that would overlap in a number of places and cover topics such as the holocaust, civil rights, values, immigration and more, including the division in our country today.

I've put together a short description of at least two-dozen songs on the topics listed above, along with links to them. If you are interested saving yourself hours of work locating the right songs for you and getting a copy of the list, or have any questions about the education potential, feel free to email me at

Oh, and by the way, if you are thinking about songs that will excite your class about song writing or poetry, there a few dozen more that would fit the bill.  

If there is a silver lining in this Covid-19 cloud, it is that you have an opportunity to bring a world class talent into your classroom via Zoom at a school budget price. If you're interested in having Chuck work with you students, you can contact him directly at

Stay safe! Stay healthy! Stay sane!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A Christmas Surprise

Here's a huge shout out to my son-in-law, Paul Kerstein, for taking the lead on making this Christmas special for Jill. It was a year and a half in the making. In early 2019, Paul and I were talking about my father-in-law, Jack Saylor, and his service in the submarine service during WWII. I didn't know much. 

Jack died less than three years after we were married. He never talked about his service to his family and of course I never asked him in the short time I knew him. The only story he ever shared with Jill was one of sinking a Japanese transport and what transpired after it sunk. Suffice it to say, they didn't take prisoners on the high seas, and like so many others, the man who left for war was not the man who came home and never would be again.

USS Lapon

All I really knew was the name of the submarine he served on, the information on his service card, and a few other details I could find in the public record. As we talked, Paul mentioned a flag display he had made for his uncle. I had the flag from Jack's casket in the basement and the plan was hatched (no pun intended). We used to fly it regularly when we lived in NJ, but was stained and faded on one side. I had it professionally cleaned, but Paul had to fold it 7 different ways to display it at its best.

Awards can only be secured by a blood relative. It was obvious I couldn't get Jill to sign the documents without letting the cat out of the bag, but my daughter could. That's when Paul took the lead. With Ranyde's access as a relative, Paul was able to dig into military records and found out things neither Jill nor I had any inkling of.  

Jack rose to the rank of Seaman 1st class, and worked in the torpedo room of the USS Lapon in four campaigns from 1942-1945. The Lapon was one of 214 US submarines that sunk 1264 enemy ships. Only 35 sank more than the Lapon.

Text messages went back and forth over the months, mostly me answering questions, doing progress checks, and discussing the best display case and how to get it. The about a year went by waiting for the government to come through with the items you see on display.  The last items arrived about a week before Christmas!


The display includes the Lapon patch, his stripes, and all the pins, ribbons and medals for which he qualified. The sub you see in the display box is a 1/350 EXACT replica of the Lapon, painstakingly and lovingly crafted by Paul. 

When Paul sent me the last text with the picture of the final product, I told him Jill always said he was the best son-in-law in the world, but after this it would be the galaxy.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Truth, Lies, Rumors, and Rumbles

The sacrifices and hardships endured by those who choose to serve are something most of us will never understand, but all of us should honor and cherish them. In keeping with my pledge to give thoughtful posts, I'll refrain from editorializing and offer this post in the hope it will help someone in some small way.

Today, on Facebook, Mess Wright said,  "My dad was a Vietnam vet who had some issues as a result. I got to grow up dealing with that. One brother served in combat in Kosovo and is totally traumatized from that. Another brother killed himself in his driveway after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump calling dead vets losers is not surprising but it’s just one more way he beats up decent people who have served the USA in ways his accidental presidency never has and never will. I’ll never understand those of you who still support him, and I never will. I want you all out of my life for now and forever." 


Her story, like many others, brought to mind my Uncle Harold. He was a WWII vet, but didn't speak about it much. One day, when I was about 12, I asked him what he did in the Army.  I didn't go into detail, but he told me of being stationed in Germany and of an anonymous poem pinned on the barracks bulletin board and the impact it made on him.

I sat transfixed as he recited it. It made such an impression on me, I asked him to write it down, and I memorized it that same day. Over the past 60+ years, the more I learned about the war, the more I realized, how much that poem said about his time overseas.  I have shared it with others hundreds of times and recited it in my mind thousands of times, but one time will live forever in my memory.

Back in the mid-90s, our teachers and administrators were in a battle with a board of education who ran the school district much like the country is current administration is running the country.  They had two agendas, neither of which had students in mind. In their efforts to implement them, the district suffered considerably. One was to get rid of the superintendent and the other was to cut spending as much as they could.  They started on the later as soon as they had the majority.  Sometime later, the superintendent resigned for the good of the district.  

The new superintendent, while not a puppet, was powerless to fight their decisions. Lies, backroom deals, cronyism, bullying, firings, transfers, and control of local media were their tools. If a teacher or administrator opposed them, they were called to task, fired, or transferred. After a year or more of this, I decided to use the internet to get the truth out, because I felt it was a tool that could make a difference. I created Truth, Lies, Rumors, and Rumbles.

Over a 6 month period, my battle became public as newspapers began getting wind of it a teacher taking on the board on the web. The battle was no longer local as my website won a Point 5% award in the education category and the Electronic Freedom Foundation offered legal help. I thanked the EFF and told them I would let them know if I needed any.  

I had a habit of fighting city hall, and as they say, this wasn't my first rodeo. More importantly, I had the advice of one of the top attorneys in the country, who just happened to be my first cousin. Before I began, I contacted him, told him I was going to take on the board, and knew they would come after my job at some point.  He told me exactly what to do and as things turned out, his advice was golden. 
When they eventually did come after me, it was a surprise attack. It happened one night at a televised board meeting. The meeting was almost over.  They had just come out of a non-public session. After getting up to make a comment, they attacked me. I couldn't believe what they were doing, because it violated state law, our contract, and more, which you will soon see. As it was happening, I couldn't believe it, but then as looked at the table and realized the board attorney who was a regular fixture at EVERY meeting, wasn't there to stop them as he had in other instances when they were getting ready to cross a line. I later found out as they came out of non-public, the board president told him he could go home, because there was only 5 minutes left in the meeting.  As it turned out, those 5 minutes were arguably the most important 5 minutes in the meeting. It became the next episode of As the Board Churns.

It was at that point I decided to get the state teacher association's legal department involved. Our first and only meeting was held on the morning of the next board meeting. After I filled the attorney in on what had transpired over the past 5 months, he asked if I had any documentation. I could hear it in his tone and see it in his body language, he had heard it before.  I knew he wasn't expecting the three ring binder filled with about 250 pages of notes, letters, newspaper clipping, and more.  His eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas.

As we continued, I asked what our next step should be, because the next board meeting was that night (Tuesday). He told me I had two choices.
1) I could sit in the audience and say nothing, and if they took any action against me, he would file in federal court by Thursday for violating my civil rights.  2) I could go in front of the board and say whatever I like, and if they took any action against me, he would file in federal court by Thursday for violating my civil rights.  I opted for number 2.

That night, as I stepped up to the podium, I saw the board attorney say something to the president. I began about a 10 minute speech that refuted everything they said during their attack on me, and then gave them a bit of their own medicine.  If looks could kill, I would have been struck dead on the spot. At one point, the VP was getting ready to say something when the attorney to put his hand his shoulder and just nodded his head, no  . It was obvious the attorney had updated them on how badly they had screwed up in the 5 minutes he was not at the previous meeting, because they never said a word.  I really don't remember what I said in the speech, or how I made the transition to the poem, but I can still see their faces every time I recite it.

I have hoped. I have planned. I have striven.
To the will I have added the deed;
All that is in me I've given
In the hope that I would succeed.

I have dared and reached only disaster,
I have battled and broken my lance;
I am struck by a pitiless master
That the weak and the timid call Chance.

I am old. I am bent. I've been cheated
Of all that youth urged me to win;
But name me not with the defeated,
For tomorrow, again I begin.

Shortly after that, I reached out to LM_NET, the Internet's largest mailing list of librarians, to try to find out who wrote the poem. They came through in flying colors.  The poem was titled, Unsubdued, and was written by S.E. Kiser. The version above, is how my uncle remembered it. The S.E. Kiser version had only a few words different, but the changes provide a powerful picture in to the mind of the GI who posted it on the bulletin board, but that's another discussion.

Things came to a head with the board as we approached the April elections. Three of the members' terms were expiring.  Two of them had decided not to run, but the president was up for re-election. On TLR&R, I said that on the day after the election, if the president was re-elected, I would take that as a message from the public, and would resign my teaching position. In his campaign literature, the board president said he was elected to the board by one of the largest margins in township history, and trusted that the voters would return him to the board.  When the results came in he was defeated by one of the largest margins ever.

The truth is a powerful thing!

Friday, August 28, 2020

A Stroke of Luck

On Tuesday, 8/25 @ 2:15, Jill was scheduled to have a lumbar ablation.  It was the second in a series of shots to deal with back pain. The first was two weeks ago.

At about 12:00 she was getting nauseous and had a migraine, neither of which were alarming, because  she gets migraines and she wasn't allowed to eat 8 hours prior to the procedure and nothing to drink for 4 hours prior. Because she doesn't get up until between 9 and 10 and her last food was about 5 pm the previous day. All she had in her was a cup of coffee. So we attributed the nauseousness to that not sitting well. 

As time got closer to the procedure she began to get the dry heaves.  At this point it was about 12:20 and I wanted to call the doctor and let him know.  She wouldn't let me call.  By 1:15 she was not improving. I took her temperature and blood pressure.  There was no fever, but her blood pressure was 212/113. I over rode her objection and called.

On the call I mentioned the migraine and nausea, but neglected to mention the blood pressure. The nurse spoke to the Dr. and said, they could give her something for the nausea and to give her a little juice or something to get a bit of sugar in her. She has a sip or two of water and a sip of Coke which did nothing to settle the stomach. 

At 1:35 we headed out the office.  During the ride she got worse, continued with dry heaves, and became disoriented. There were a few times she said things and got words wrong. I think the word that was in her mind came out of her mouth as something entirely different.

As soon as we got into the office I asked the nurse to have the doctor check her out right away, because I was concerned something else was wrong. While there were no physical/classical signs of stroke, that was my concern. The doctor suggested taking her to the ER, which I did.

The doctor called ahead and when I arrived at the ER, they were waiting and took us right back into a room where the neurologist was already waiting via video conference. While the nurses were attaching wires, probes, and cannulas, The doctor began questioning her; name, age, where she was, and other similar question. They showed her pictures of common objects to identify.  Most objects were recognized, but others like a glove and a key, she wasn't able to name. There was a scene with a few people in it and she wasn't able to describe what was happening in the scene.

Thankfully, the CT scan didn't show any bleeding.  That ruled out bleeding stroke.  It could still be a TIA or an Ischemic Stroke.  Once the tests were done, the doctor said what was happening could possibly be a result of the migraine, but knowing Jill and her her history, I told the doctor I knew more than likely, the migraine and disorientation was the result of a TIA or Stroke.

Since we got to the ER within 3 hours of the event, Jill could be given clot busting medication. He explained the treatment and the associated risks. They administered the drugs and you could almost see the confusion leaving her mind.  

They moved her to the ICU for 24-48 hours to watch for any change or adverse affects of the treatment. By the time she was settled into ICU, it was 6:30 and past visiting hours. I headed home.  We spoke on the phone later and there were no signs of any speech or memory problems, except there is no memory of the vomiting, dry heaves, the trip to the first Dr. and the time in the emergency room.

They only allow one visitor a day for 2 hours. So we spoke on the phone a few times during the day and I visited during the late afternoon. She was in good spirits and was her old self.  She made sure I brought her makeup kit something to wear besides the hospital gown. She wanted a shower and she wanted to go home, but that was not to be.  Her blood pressure was still too high and they had more monitoring to do, including an MRI that would be performed the next day. 

That brings us to Thursday. The MRI was scheduled for the morning, but I visited from 12-2 and she still didn't have it, but they decided she was captive for another day, because her blood pressure is still too high. It's bounce around the 188/90 level.  They put her on a cardiac diet and are trying to bring it down.  It's 5:00 now and I just got off the phone with her and still no MRI.  I suspect they may hold off until tomorrow morning.

It is now 3:00 PM on Friday and Jill is home.  They took the MRI this morning and it was clear. We are home and she is in good spirits with no apparent impairment.  She has a follow up with her primary care physician next week and a neurologist in about 3 weeks.

Fate, coincidence, or divine intervention, she was very lucky. As I wrote, she was on the way to another doctor when things really started going south. What is lucky is that the appointment we were going to had been changed twice. If it had been the original time, she would have had the stroke either during or right after the procedure. If it had been the second date, she would have had the stroke the day after the ablation. As turned out, it was a stroke of luck.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Teaching About Fake News

Since 1995, I've been saying the most critical thing we should be teaching students, is information literacy. Specifically, the ability to locate, evaluate, and use online information for problem solving. It has been 25 years of banging my head against a wall, while shouting into the wind, while swimming upstream, with one hand tied behind my back.  Yet, I keep trying, because it is the key to understanding how to handle Fake News.

I've written tens of thousand of words on the subject, most of them have probably been on Facebook.  While looking back on some of my work, I came across the Internet Library, a series of 7 books for middle school libraries back in 1998.

The problem with writing so much is you forget half of the things you wrote. It wasn't until I dug out the volume on Locating and Evaluating Information on the Internet, that I realized I had written about misinformation and the 1996 presidential campaign! Except for a half dozen links that have broken over the past two decades, everything I wrote then could have just as well been written yesterday!

If you are a teacher or parent struggling with how to teach your kids about the whole "Fake News" problem, I would like to introduce you to Web, my computer sidekick. Here, he's helping me tell a story that actually took place during the 1996 presidential election. If you click on the link below, you can download three chapters from the book and use it with your kids or your class.

Note: The books are out of print, but I retain the copyright and am making some content available for free. You can probably find some on Amazon or other sites, but I do not profit from those sales. Use should be for education. No modification or commercial use, please. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Covid Journal 7 - The Dr. Erickson Interview

 Someone just posted a link to this article and said, "Read this article. It’s the most important piece of journalism in many months." I read it, but my opinion was considerably different than that of the poster.

It references the video of a press conference conducted by Dr. Dan Erickson and Dr. Artin Massihi. They run an urgent care center in Kern County, California

The video was taken down from YouTube because it violated community standards, which is a debate for another day. If you want to watch it, you can view it here.

I responded with as follows.

Let me start by saying I am not a sheeple. During my 40 years of teaching, I've held many different positions in math, science and technology. If anyone asked me what I taught, my answer was the same. I taught critical thinking. I gave extra credit to any student who caught me in an error. I encouraged them to check anything and everything they see and hear.

I read the article and I watched the Erichson video 3 times. I was tempted to created a point by point rebuttal, because when you pause to digest what they are saying, it's what they are not saying that tells a big part of the story. Then I thought, why should I spend 4-6 hours putting together a 2 hour video that no one would watch? I'll just spend an hour writing this reply and hope that at least one person reads it.

I'll just focus on single point on which they hinge their entire argument. If you accept it, at face value, I urge you to reexamine the sheeple comment.

First, I'll cut to my conclusion. Is covid as bad as we first thought? I don't think so, but I have no idea how bad it really is. I do know it is not as rosy optimistic as the picture they are painting. Are we ready to open? No.

The first time I watched the video, I had to stop it when they said there was a .003% chance of dying if you get covid. That is 100x lower than the lowest estimate I have seen anywhere.  
So I started running my own calculations using the exact same method they used, which happens to be basic 7th grade math. That itself is a huge red flag. I remember my college genetics final. It was a single question that was 2 hours worth of calculations using calculus. What scientist worth their degree would do calculations of a situations that complex while ignoring all of the variables?

How irresponsible is it to ignore date from other places around the county? Those figures are there to use. Why ignore them? Any 7th grader can do the calculations the way they did and come up with considerably different results than they did, but once again their method of calculation is seriously flawed.

They were basing their figures on Kern county figures and extrapolating for then entire state, and then for the entire nation. Do you know how ludicrous that is?

They said, in Kern county they have tested 5,213. What they didn't say is that represented just 0.6% of Kern county. There is no mention of the demographics of the population or the test sample. The entire state of California has tested only 0.7% of the state.

So I started pulling statistics from around the country and the world to see how things compared. Needless to say, every one showed higher death rates than their calculations, keeping in mind, that is using their method.

Am I right? I can't say for sure, but you will have to prove me wrong to get any credit at all, let alone extra credit. If you prove me wrong, I'll be happy to change my opinion.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Covid Journal 3 - Who Will You Kill Today?

Note: This is being published out of order, because I started it on April 8, but didn't finish until today.

I've just about had it with people who compare coronavirus to the flu! Ignorance is NOT bliss. Ignorance can kill.

In response to a Facebook question about going back to work and social distancing, I just posted a graph of the growth of Covid 19 cases in NH. I asked if it looked like it was a good idea to get back to work.

Within moments there was a reply that said, "Thank you art. So why don’t we shut down the state when we have 8,000 flu cases?" Then he added, "We’ve had 24+ flu related deaths this year."

After counting to 10, I took a few breath's and said, "In all the years, we've have the flu going around, have we ever had to social distance to slow its spread? Of course not, but this IS NOT THE FLU!!!
Its epidemiology is different, it's more deadly, and because it is so contagious, unchecked it would have crashed our health system.

Do you remember last year during the flu season, when NY was piling bodies in refrigerator trucks and burying people in mass graves? NO? Well, neither do I. 

If we did for Covid 19 what we do for the normal flu, the number of cases and the number of deaths would DWARF the worst flu statistics, and I don't even want to start on the shape the economy is in. 

The fact is we are peaking shortly. If we keep doing it right, we will start on the down side, but what goes down can go right back up." 

Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine chimed in and said, "Insufficient Data...The testing, both detecting presence, and those that have it, and may be immune...we don't have the data yet. The finger-prick test that could detect forensic presence (present but defeated), if rolled out enmasse, COULD give us the necessary information. but we're finding out where this virus was 10 days ago...not where it is now.."

I have no idea whether our message got through, but my question in the title, is aimed at people who don't get it. Consider John Doe, who is a symptomatic, and is not taking precautions. 

My mother is 98 years old and living in an assisted living facility in NJ. Early on, they began taking precautions. They were cleaning, social distancing, no activities, no visitors, and other precautions.  Despite their efforts, two residents tests positive. The facility went on a tighter lock down and everyone was restricted to their rooms. Then two staff members tested positive, followed by another resident. Since then the number as grown. 

During the lock down, my mother fell and couldn't get up. Even though she had the alert necklace, so does everyone else in the facility. She was on the floor with a broken hip for about a half hour before anyone got to her. The worst thing was, she was able to call my sister who also was not able to get through to alert the facility to her problem. 

My sister was 30 minutes away and couldn't get in even if she was there. She was eventually able to make contact and get staff on the phone. They found her on the floor in pain. From the position of her leg, the suspected a broken hip, but they had to wait for a doctor to do anything. It took about 30 minutes for the doctor to tell them to take her to the hospital. The preferred hospital where she had been treated a number of times, had no beds and she had to be taken to a less desirable hospital? 

24 hours earlier, she was a completely independent. Now she is confused a 98 year-old, in terrible pain. She needed a hip replacement and was extremely high risk just for the operation. She is on Plavix and has only one kidney. 

She is from hearty stock and came through the surgery the operation fine.  She is now in rehab now, but in a few weeks will be going back to assisted living. Both the rehab center and the assisted living facilities have positive Covid patients. 

There is an up side to this story (at least so far). They were going to put her into a rehab center that might have been her death sentence. It had 82 confirmed cases and 14 deaths! My sister was able to do the leg work and got her into the facility we had suggested which has only 7 cases on 0 deaths. Someone was looking out for her, because when she called, they had just one bed available.

When we open up, there will be more case and more deaths than if we sheltered in place. Of course, we have to open up some time, but it needs to be based on science.