My commencement speech (that no one asked for)

imageTo the Class of 2017, faculty members, parents, dignitaries, mis-informed wedding crashers, and Visa/MasterCard representatives who have gathered here today:

I am honored to have the opportunity to address this group of graduating seniors and impart the wisdom I have gained since my own graduation from high school nearly 150 years ago.

Standing before you today, I see the anticipation on your faces as each of you comes to realize what sharing my wisdom with you means: Possibly the shortest commencement speech in school history.

Before long, you will step forward and receive the culmination of 12 — possibly 14 — years of education. You will shake hands with some of those who have helped guide you to this milestone. And unless your last name begins with a “Z,” you will return to your seat as the rest your classmates step forward to receive their diplomas. That’s when you will silently think to yourself, “I really shouldn’t have had that second bottle of Mountain Dew.”  Continue reading

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The biggest thing about democracy is that it starts small

imageBefore putting the final touches on today’s edition of Siuslaw News, we did something we haven’t done in eight years. At the bottom of our Opinion page is a small section with the heading “Where to Write.” In it are the addresses of our representatives at the county, state and federal levels.

At the top of this list is our nation’s President, which has now been updated to reflect today’s inauguration of Donald J. Trump.

The peaceful transition of government has now officially been achieved for the 45th time since George Washington took the first — and very same — Oath of Office some 227 years ago. At the time, Washington remarked it wasn’t his inauguration that was important but the second inauguration that would be the most significant. He recognized one of the first and most important tests of Democracy would be the peaceful transition of power — something that had never been achieved in human history in such a way or on as grand a scale.

Eight years later, when Washington handed over the presidency to the newly-elected John Adams in 1797, it was more than a notion; it was a reality. But more importantly, it was an example of how a nation of people could participate in a process of discussion, debate and even disagreement but still emerge unified as Americans thanks to a shared belief in our nation’s Constitution and what it represents.  Continue reading

My kids know I don’t have a clue, geographically speaking

imageDuring my mini book tour to Watsonville, Calif., a few weeks ago, it became apparent that even as a 49-year-old I still have the directional sense of a standard windsock.

If not for the GPS system in the rental car, I would probably be outside of Reno looking for an on-ramp to Sacramento right now.

It’s a disorder many famous historical figures also suffered from, including Christopher Columbus, who discovered America completely by accident while looking for — if memory of sixth-grade history serves me — a faster trade route to WalMart.

I’m the kind of person who must enter and leave somewhere the same exact way in order to keep from getting lost, even if it means walking backwards out of a public facility, such as the men’s room at Safeco Field. I’ve actually had nightmares about being a contestant on The Amazing Race. In it, I am partnered with my friend David, who spent six years in the Marines and therefore still refers to distances as “clicks” — a unit of measure based on kilometers and the use of a special clicking device. Were I trying to find my way out of enemy territory, this device would be about as useful to me as, say…

A Superball.  Continue reading

My commencement address (assuming I ever give one)

imageTo the Class of 2016, faculty members, parents, dignitaries, mis-informed wedding crashers, and Visa/MasterCard representatives who have gathered here today:

I am honored to have the opportunity to address this group of graduating seniors and impart the wisdom I have gained since my own graduation from high school nearly 150 years ago.

Standing before you today, I see the anticipation on your faces as each of you comes to realize what sharing my wisdom with you means: Possibly the shortest commencement speech in school history.

Before long, you will step forward and receive the culmination of 12 — possibly 14 — years of education. You will shake hands with some of those who have helped guide you to this milestone. And unless your last name begins with a “Z,” you will return to your seat as the rest your classmates step forward to receive their diplomas. That’s when you will silently think to yourself, “I really shouldn’t have had that second bottle of Mountain Dew.”  Continue reading

My intuition tells me our family will be drowning in tuition

imageAs parents, my wife and I have been very honest with our three teenagers about the level of financial support they can expect from us for college. To do this, I used my annual donation to our local public broadcasting station as an example.

“You know how they have different levels of supporters? And how the more money you contribute, the nicer the gift they send you as a show of their appreciation for your support — like a T-shirt or really nice backpack, or if you’re a gold-level member an entire season of your favorite PBS show in a special limited edition boxed set on Blu-Ray?”

Our kids nodded.

“As a gift, we received a refrigerator magnet for a show that was canceled three years ago.”

Blank stares from our kids.

“So yeah, the only free-ride scholarship you’re going to get from us will have already been spent on food and your unlimited texting and data plans.”  Continue reading

Outlook for the future of education? It looks just… Pee Chee

Education Secretary Arnie Duncan promises no child's will get left behind when it comes to getting a Pee Chee folder.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan promises no child will get left behind when it comes to getting a Pee Chee folder.

When I was a kid, our school supply list consisted of a Star Wars notebook and a Pee Chee folder. The notebook helped us organize our assignments; the Pee-Chee folder was used for entertaining ourselves during class by drawing thought balloons for the athletes on the cover.

Football Guy: (Getting tackled) “Oh sure — run the old L-42 play, THAT always works…”
Tennis Girl: “If my skirt gets any shorter, I’ll be playing Olympic volleyball…”

You get the idea.

Just about everyone remembers this folder because, like Al Sharpton’s hair gel, it has remained virtually unchanged since 1964. What has changed, however, is the growing list of items parents must provide throughout the school year. This comes in addition to rudimentary things, such as clothing, snacks and a recent urine sample. The reason is simple: The government is tired of wasteful spending, particularly in the educational system, where a special task force has discovered that schools routinely get bilked into spending thousands of dollars on paper alone.

“And, shockingly, most of this paper has turned out to be blank,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Continue reading

Remember when the school supply list was just a Pee Chee?

[Still looking for that pair of No. 2 red-handled safety scissors required for Mrs. Flunkum’s eighth-grade algebraic lit. class? You’re not alone. As government spending on education has gotten smaller, school supply lists have grown to the size of a Nasa space mission checklist. Never mind that Nasa doesn’t actually go into space anymore. The point is, this week’s Wednesday Rewind doesn’t require a protractor…]

Education Secretary Arnie Duncan promises no child's will get left behind when it comes to getting a Pee Chee folder.

Education Secretary Arnie Duncan promises no child will get left behind when it comes to getting a Pee Chee folder.

When I was a kid, our school supply list consisted of a Star Wars notebook and a Pee Chee folder. The notebook helped us organize our assignments; the Pee-Chee folder was used for entertaining ourselves during class by drawing thought balloons for the athletes on the cover.

Football Guy: (Getting tackled) “Oh sure — run the old L-42 play, THAT always works…”
Tennis Girl: “If my skirt gets any shorter, I’ll be playing Olympic volleyball…”

You get the idea.

Just about everyone remembers this folder because, like Al Sharpton’s hair gel, it has remained virtually unchanged since 1964. What has changed, however, is the growing list of items parents must provide throughout the school year. This comes in addition to rudimentary things, such as clothing, snacks and a recent urine sample. The reason is simple: The government is tired of wasteful spending, particularly in the educational system, where a special task force has discovered that schools routinely get bilked into spending thousands of dollars on paper alone.

“And, shockingly, most of this paper has turned out to be blank,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Continue reading

Outlook for future of education looks just… Pee Chee

Education Secretary Arnie Duncan promises no child's will get left behind when it comes to getting a Pee Chee folder.

Education Secretary Arnie Duncan promises no child will get left behind when it comes to getting a Pee Chee folder.

When I was a kid, our school supply list consisted of a Star Wars notebook and a Pee Chee folder. The notebook helped us organize our assignments; the Pee-Chee folder was used for entertaining ourselves during class by drawing thought balloons for the athletes on the cover.

Football Guy: (Getting tackled) “Oh sure — run the old L-42 play, THAT always works…”
Tennis Girl: “If my skirt gets any shorter, I’ll be playing Olympic volleyball…”

You get the idea.

Just about everyone remembers this folder because, like Al Sharpton’s hair gel, it has remained virtually unchanged since 1964. What has changed, however, is the growing list of items parents must provide throughout the school year. This comes in addition to rudimentary things, such as clothing, snacks and a recent urine sample. The reason is simple: The government is tired of wasteful spending, particularly in the educational system, where a special task force has discovered that schools routinely get bilked into spending thousands of dollars on paper alone.

“And, shockingly, most of this paper has turned out to be blank,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Continue reading

Dear graduates: Your bedroom may already be a patio

image To this year’s graduates:
As you cross the stage to receive your diploma, remember that you’re crossing a brand new threshold in your young life. That’s because, in most cases, your parents have already arranged for the contents of your room to be hauled onto the front lawn and sold, probably during the graduation ceremony itself.

Or maybe even AT the graduation ceremony itself:

“Before we call our next graduate, I’d like to turn your attention to the roller blades I’m wearing. They, along with other items belonging to Billy Schlependorf, will be available for purchase after the ceremony in the courtyard…”

That’s right. By the time you get home, you’ll be lucky if you’re room still has the same light switch. I know this may sound harsh, but it is something that parents do out of LOVE. It’s about your parents helping you make that important transition into independence, even if it means turning your bedroom into patio space between the new hot tub and gazebo. Continue reading

It’s time once again to visit … The Door

image It’s Tuesday! That special day each week when we gather together and gaze upon The Door (of Shame, Blame and Brilliance), marveling at newspaper clippings that journalists here at the Siuslaw News have been taping to The Door since the 1970s. Which brings me to a new feature I am contemplating called The Fridge, in which we marvel at food products in our break room refrigerator left by those same journalists 40 years ago.

However, today is an especially exciting edition of The Door because TODAY we are adding something! That’s right — You will be among the first to see the latest addition to this journalistic shrine. As always, before we begin, we must repeat those sacred words that have been a part of The Door’s historic ritual since I first made them up a few months ago. So please join hands and, in a monotone voice similar to any character played by Keanu Reeves, repeat these words after me:

The Door is our beacon, drawing us into the jagged rocks of journalism. Continue reading