Monday, August 31, 2009

the great tomato heist

So, I have been growing tomatoes, loads and loads of tomatoes. The goal was salsa. I was hoping to have some mild, some hot, some grilled pineapple, but what I really wanted was some yellow/orange salsa. My obsession with orange began some time ago. I cannot pinpoint exactly when, but more than 25 years ago I had an awesome pair of orange pumps with a matching purse. I know that sounds strange, but it is my only pair of pumps and my only matching purse... ever... really. I now live in the land of sensible shoes. And Keens doesn't make an orange men's sandal, or I would own it. Anyway... I love orangish yellowish tomatoes. I bought a plant. I watered it. And last week I saw the tomatoes just starting to turn from green into beautiful little orange tomatoes. 

Now before you are bored with my story and lose interest with my obsession with orange, here's what happened. I cut onions, peppers, garlic. I have the jars ready. It's salsa day. I go to the plant in the back yard, and it's as if the tomatoes were all called home by Jesus. Not a single tomato on the plant. How did that happen. The gate's locked. Hmmmm I settle for red tomatoes and make my salsa. 

As I head out later in the day, a man comes by on his bike. What do I see but his basket loaded with yellow tomatoes. My yellow/orange tomatoes. Not kidding. He asks me if I want to buy them. Of course, stunned, I just said, "Hey dude, look at the house. This is where you stole them." Before I finished my sentence he was off. 

Sometimes I think God just gives me a little bit of irony and a big chuckle. And today, God gave me a bit of a sanity check. I would have wondered for a long time where all of those tomatoes had gone. Silly me. Silly inner city jacked up neighborhood. Silly two-wheeled tomato-stealing loony. Oh well... just another day in the 'hood. Next year the orange tomatoes are planted across town at my mom's! 

Friday, August 28, 2009

the homework link

It's back to school time around the United States. I see little kids with backpacks and lunch boxes wandering to the school bus. I also see high school kids with no books, no bag, daddy's nice car, and hoochie wear making an appearance, ready to use social networking to pass their school time. Somewhere in those 12 or more years, there are students who lose sight of the goal. Kids might graduate, but they have less knowledge than ever, fewer analytical skills, and very little problem-solving abilities. 


Schools are funded by different methods in different parts of the country. In Ohio, schools are primarily funded through state funds per pupil collected in a variety of taxes. Schools are secondarily funded through property taxes voted on at the district level. With over 600 public school districts in Ohio, the funding formulas are each uniquely based on property values, and thus the perceptions of residents of the quality of education. A house in a district with an excellent rating can cost multiples more than the same house in a poor or continuous improvement district. Even given the 1997 Ohio Supreme Court School Funding Decision known as the DeRolph Decision, the state of Ohio has yet to fix the school funding issue. Twelve years of funding schools unconstitutionally with the express knowledge that it is wrong. 


If you use rent-to-own stores or check cashing locations, the state of Ohio wants to regulate how much money can be charged to you for these services. People assume that the poor or lower class are being taken advantage of. That is just not the case. The chronic poor are poor for a reason. Some things in life are ruled by limiting factors. Much like a reagent in chemical reaction, a limiting factor affects the rate of the chemical reaction. A limiting factor can be food shortages or water shortages in an ecosystem. Just like the size of your stomach limits the amount of food you can eat at one sitting, the amount of education your absorb and utilize is a huge limiting factor to the quality of success and survival in society. If you learn the minimum, and your primary educational objective was to warm a seat and barely graduate, it severely limits future opportunities. You need not excel in formal education, but an attitude of life-long learning is key. And unfortunately, if your parents have imposed the limiting factor of apathy to their child's education, it continues for multiple generations. Dumb + dumb = more and more dumb.


There are people in our society who will never manage their money. They are impulsive, perhaps gambling or unable to self-soothe while they wait for a purchase. There is a segment of our society who will not plan, will not pay back loans, will have poor credit, and will seem to be taken advantage of. A closer look would show that some Americans are indulgent, both complaining that they cannot afford health care while spending hundreds of dollars a month on cigarettes, alcohol, cell phones, cable TV, and flat-screen televisions. It seems to me that if the previous list of daily cushies are more important than health care, then we cannot also listen to the "poor me" complaints. You have shown what is most important to you with your wallet. I have owned a house for more than 20 years in an inner city neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. I see pimped out, rimmed up tires on SUVs. I see liquor stores and carryouts doing a bangup business with the lotto, cigarettes, and convenience foods. I see clothing, jewelry, and shoes on many young men that is more than my monthly mortgage. I see satellite dishes and brand new furniture on the porches. And I see set outs from evictions, beggars on the corners, children roaming unsupervised, and tremendous lines in the emergency rooms. This dichotomy of poor choices and rich toys leaves a chronic shortage for necessities such as rent, baby-sitters, and medical insurance. 


Where does the entitlement mentality come from? It starts in school where students are entitled to be passed from grade-to-grade with little effort. It begins when a child is told that the minimum is sufficient and that dropping out of school at 16 is just another life choice. To paraphrase one of my favorite radio talk show hosts, Mike McConnell, on 700 WLW, if you didn't do your homework in school, you probably didn't learn to plan ahead, you probably didn't learn to save, and you probably will continue your impulsive decisions with money. No amount of nanny state policies can make up for lack of education. If you do not do your homework, we all pay. We all paid for your education. And we are all disappointed what we received for our money. We complain when an $8 movie is bad, why not the same outrage at the takers who are dragging us down. And we continue to pay by paying for the jails, the criminal courts, the fatherless children, the teachers you ignore, the social workers, the free clinics, the medicare, welfare, housing, and health programs. If you just did your homework over all of those years, maybe you could fend for yourself a bit better. 


Kids, do not fall into the minimalist trap. Do your assignments. Develop life-long learning. Expect more from yourself.