Tag Archives: college

Mr Mold Man: A Blast of Spores from the Past, the Mad Doctor Dundi at Work

I love the comic strip Over the Hedge. I have a remarkable affinity for RJ Raccoon, the brilliant yet twisted genius of the strip. I think that it is because he embodies so much of what makes me…well…makes me me.

This week RJ has been confronting his old refrigerator nemesis Mr Mold Guy.  RJ’s experience has caused me to do some soul searching and refrigerator emptying here at the Island Hermitage.

I don’t know about you but I am a fan of food and I like to buy food and sometimes I forget that I have bought food. Thus there are times when I am rooting about the fridge that I find some delicacy that I either forgot that I bought or pushed that I had buried under something else. I find that the back of the vegetable crisper is a haven for such lost food and that it becomes a rather transformative space where food loses its innocence and becomes evil incarnate.

Tonight I was making a grilled chicken pita sandwich and getting ready to fill it with lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pepperocini peppers, kalameta olives and kosher dill pickles when I came across a big red onion that I had forgotten. I love red onions, but this fellow had been in the fridge a bit too long. I really don’t know how long because I can’t remember when I bought it.  However it had to be a very long time because I know that it takes a really, really long time for Mr Onion Man to transform himself into Mr Mold Man.  Onions are not like tomatoes or strawberries which can make rapid transformations from their natural state to spore producers known as Mr Mold Man.

Now be assured that I have found items that are designed by scientists to be mold resistant in my fridge that have stood the test of time and then some. I can say that I have never been able to get Cheez-its to mold, or Twinkies. However given adequate time and the right environment even most of these chemically engineered gastronomical delights can fall victim to the dreaded transformation into Mr Mold Man. In fact at times I have even encouraged them to do so leaving them out in order to see just how they would be transformed.

When I was in junior high school I picked up the nickname “The Mad Doctor Dundi” because of what I would do to the cafeteria food left over from all of my friends serving trays. Lets’ just say that the food at Stockton Junior High School back in the early 1970s was not very good and there were always things left on our trays.

The menu always had elements of the most important food groups: Mystery Meat, Greasy Gravy, boiled Corn or Green Beans fresh from a No. 10 can and of course desert, my favorite the ever popular “orange pudding” which I believe was simply corn starch, sugar and orange food dye blended into a delightful gelatinous goo perfect for mixing other leftovers in.

My experiments continued into college where in my junior year at California State University Northridge I lived at the private dorm called the Northridge Campus Residence. My room-mate Gary and I were the odd couple. He was rather fastidious in his upkeep of the apartment while I was a bit more of a slob than I am now. Post Iraq I don’t do as well with clutter but I cannot be called a model of neatness but then as Gary can attest to I was really really messy.

We lived on the apartment side of the residence and had a kitchenette. This meant that we could supplement the rations provided by the dorm cafeteria which was far better than junior high school but still institutional food slopped on a tray. In fact it was very similar to the cafeteria in the movie Animal House but I digress….

Anyway as I was saying we had a kitchenette. We didn’t keep a lot of food but there was a time that I bought some White Bread, I even think it might have been Wonder Bread. Back then to keep the bread out of the way I would keep it on top of the fridge. This was one of those forlorn food items that got forgotten. Several weeks after I bought it I noticed that it had a small mold colony growing on it.

I probably should have throw it away, but that would have been a crime against science. As a historian and theologian I revere science, and I needed to conduct an experiment. The experiment was twofold. First was to see what would happen to Mr Wonder Bread and secondly and perhaps the more important part of the experiment, to see how long it would take for Gary to notice or take action. So I left it there and I can’t remember just how long it took but the mild mannered loaf of highly enriched and preserved Wonder Bread began a new life as Mr Mold Man.

Day after day I would check on Mr Mold Man and watch in fascination as he transformed inside that hermetically sealed plastic bag. I think that Gary had forgotten that the bread was there so Mr Wonder Bread continued his transformation into Mr Mold Man eventually becoming a completely green gelatinous mass inside the bag. One day, I think it was a Saturday Gary was cleaning and noticed my experiment. I cannot remember what he said but I do remember the complete disgust as he lifted the evil being’s remains off of the fridge and dropped it unceremoniously in the trash receptacle.

Here’s to food and and here’s to science!

Peace

Padre Steve+

AKA “The Mad Doctor Dundi”

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Filed under Just for fun, purely humorous

National Teacher’s Day: Let’s Actually Start Valuing Our Teachers Again

What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state, than that of the man who instructs the rising generation.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

Today is National Teacher’s Day and not a moment too soon. However most people probably don’t know or care that it is. Teachers are not valued highly in our society. They used to be but not anymore. Ask a teacher how they feel about classroom conditions, support from the elected officials on school boards that use their office to attack the institutions that they have been elected to serve. Ask any teacher about the effects of the “No Child Left Behind” on their ability to teach and be able to reach out to students that learn differently from the rote memory exercises needed to pass a standardized test.

Higher education likewise is being gutted the formerly amazing California State University System, and the California Junior College system which I attended is being decimated. Professors have not competitive wages in years, programs are being cut while tuition is increased. I attended San Joaquin Delta College and paid $5 a semester plus books. I averaged $200 a year at Cal State Northridge. Programs were amazing, class sizes good, professors and instructors, excellent. That system and many others are in crisis.

You see teachers, especially those in Public Schools have for the last 30 years or so, ever since Howard Jarvis’s Proposition 13 passed in California and gutted educational spending the target of right wing pundits, politicians and preachers. They are blamed by some people for almost every ill in the educational system. If teachers complain or take their case to the media they are made the villain. In most States they don’t make a lot of money for all the education, training and certifications that they are required to have to teach.  They have few protections and those that they do have, mainly in the protections that they gained through their participation in organized labor are being stripped away in state after state.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s and 1970s my dad was in the Navy. It was a turbulent time for our family. Due my dad’s transfers as well as a school boundary change in one district I ended up attending six different elementary schools in three states, three schools in three states in 4th grade alone. During that time our lives were in a constant state of flux and as a grade school student it was my teachers that helped me get through that time. Because of the transfers I didn’t get to have the opportunity to remain in a community long enough to get established until Junior High School. I was always “the new kid in town.” Not that that is bad or that I have any bad memories of that childhood. I found the new places, people and schools to be a grand adventure. In fact when my dad retired from the Navy I was not happy. I wanted him to stay in because I liked the adventure.

I remember every one of my elementary school teachers names, save one in 4th grade where were we not at the school long. There was the strict Kindergarten teacher, Mrs Brandenburg who made sure that she write with my right hand.  To this day my handwriting is illegible but who cares now when I type everything. Then there was my 1st Grade Teacher at Oak Harbor Elementary School, Mrs Christian. She was a sweetheart her husband was an airline pilot and in 1st grade, probably because of my handwriting I was tested for some learning difficulties. I guess that there was nothing wrong because that didn’t last long. In Second Grade I had Mrs Jackson. Then in 3rd grade a new school was opened and I attended Olympic View Elementary School.  My 3rd Grade Teacher was Mrs King.  It was in 3rd grade that I really began my adventure in reading. I devoured every book in the biography and history section that I could find in the Library, especially those dealing with military and political leaders, sports figures (especially baseball players) and military history.

I began 4th Grade at Olympic View but my dad was transferred to a travel intensive assignment in Long Beach California in the fall of 1968. I had my first male teacher at Olympic View, Mr Alguire who I really liked. We moved to Long Beach and it was a difficult move. there were a number of deaths and serious illnesses in the extended family and I attended Robert E Lee Elementary in Long Beach for just a few weeks before my dad had my mom, brother and I go live with my Grandparents in Huntington West Virginia. We arrived there in early December and I found that I was out of my element. My teacher at Miller Elementary was Mrs Gates. She was very tough and I was hammered with more homework than I had ever seen. I was also the “new kid” and since we had just moved from Long Beach a “city slicker” and was challenged to a fight in my first week. It was a draw. However Mrs Gates was a great teacher and I continued to read, write well but illegibly and learn to speak in front of the class.

When the school year was done we moved back to Long Beach when in a different neighborhood just across the cement lined San Gabriel River from Orange County I attended Hawaiian Gardens Elementary School where I met my friend Chris Brockel who I have managed to stay in contact over the years. That was probably my most fun year in school. I was asked if I wanted to skip 5th grade but I told the principle that I wanted to remain in my 5th Grade Class. My teacher was another gem, Mr Oliver. It was a great school year combined with the fact that my dad was always taking us to California Angeles baseball games.  But dad received orders to the elderly Aircraft Carrier USS Hancock CVA-19 home ported in Alameda California at the end of that school year which made another move necessary and initially thought had ruined my life. heck I had baseball, Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, the Queen Mary and Sea World. I saw my first professional hockey and basketball games and it was a dream life.

Since it was the early 1970s and the Bay Area was in turmoil and I had a great Aunt in Stockton  we moved to Stockton just down the street from her. In Stockton I attended Grover Cleveland Elementary School and had the woman that I think was my best teacher of elementary school Mrs Dietrich. My dad was underway or deployed most of the time between 1971 and 1974 when he retired. That first year was hard and like my other teachers Mrs Dietrich was a rock of stability who encouraged me to learn and think for myself.

I attended Stockton Junior High and Edison High School and there are were teachers at every grade level who I remember fondly. My French Teacher from 7th-9th Grade was Mrs Milhousen who was very patient with me. My history teacher was Mr Silvaggio who my brother would later teach on the same faculty in his first teaching assignment. I remember my Printing Shop and Wood Shop teachers, back then you had to become familiar with trade skills as well as academics. I learned to play the French Horn in band class which was taught by Mr Hull.

At Edison I still remember great teachers like Gloria Nomura, Mr Riley, Mr Oji, all who taught History or Social Studies, Donovan Cummings my Speech teacher, Coaches Charlie Washington, Vick Berg, Duke Pasquini.  There were others but two of the most important were my Naval Junior ROTC instructors LCDR James Breedlove and Senior Chief Petty Officer John Ness.  I could go on and on about teacher.

That continued in college and seminary. I am indebted to the wonderful, gifted and dedicated men and women that were my teachers.  My mom was a teacher’s aid when life settled down in Stockton when dad left the Navy and retired from the school district. Likewise my brother Jeff is a teacher and in administration at an alternative school in the district, his wife is an elementary school teacher.  I now have a BA and three graduate degrees. I am indebted to my teachers and cannot forget them. Teaching is hard. I have taught a couple of undergraduate level Western Civilization classes and the amount of work is enormous.

When I hear the Unholy Trinity of Right Wing Politicians, Pundits and Preachers that beat up public school teachers at every opportunity. School Board members who seem to be more interested in political careers than education and those that hack away at programs that cater to the whole person I am disgusted. When I went to school those things that made me what I am today, the library, the gym classes, athletic programs, the foreign languages, art, music, speech, and things like shop were required. They helped give me an appreciation for the world and for people in general. They helped make me a more rounded person. From what I see now those kind of programs are being decimated and our kids will be poorer for it. This is not the fault of the teachers. They work with the crap being forced on them by politicians in Congress, statehouses and on school boards with ever shrinking resources and always increasing requirements.

We need to actually care about our teachers and educational systems. Policy and budget priorities set by politicians coupled with parents that are either bullies or absentee are the reason our schools are in trouble.

I hate to lecture but teachers matter. Education policy matters. Educational funding matters. If we want to be competitive in the world we need to make education a priority again and start giving teachers some measure of respect and stop using them as a straw man to divert attention from the real causes of our educational crisis.

Today is National Teacher’s Day. Admittedly it is after hours but take some time in the next few days to thank a teacher.  If you don’t have kids, go back and thank one of your own.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under economics and financial policy, laws and legislation, Political Commentary