I rose at 5 a.m. to have breakfast with my parents. My father cooked a fine breakfast of a fried egg, bacon and biscuits, a welcome depature from my usual Raisin Bran. I was glad to see my parents this weekend, and to see that my mother remains strong in outlook and my father remains firm and supportive while they each cope with my mother's illness. I hit the road by 6:10 a.m., and enjoyed the winter's drive home, during which I saw 1 doe deer, 2 hawks, 2 great blue herons, and something furtive in the dark which I think was fox-ish. When I stopped at a rural river bottom town for gas while still in Arkansas, the clerk said, almost under her breath, in an accent rather richer than my own, that it "looks like its going to rain and rain", before she resumed the chorus of "will that be all, sir?" native to courteous counter folk in my polite home state. So it did rain and rain--but not until after I got home.
I arrived home at 11 a.m., and took a long bath, reading bits of "Pickwick Papers" once more. I got an e mail from a software vendor from whom I bought music notation software, offering to send me a cooler generation of the software if I could wait a week. I like the mom and pop nature of on-line software vendors, who do sometimes do kind things that way.
I played on-line chess at freechess.org, where I alleviated in small measure the ratings decline during my experimentation phase, yet my rating is still abysmally low at blitz. It's time for "real" chess tournaments again, though. I will be at full strength, I hope, at a properly slow speed. I saw a flyer for a cool March tournament in Kansas City, where I have in-laws who might provide free lodging and sanguine conversation should I elect to attend.
I watched Clint Stoerner, an Arkansas Razorback, make his pro debut in that odd sport called Arena Football. I listened to the story of a Chicago player who lost a nephew to a health problem this year,
and thought of my own loss of a teen nephew last year.
I bundled up in my winter's coat, a scarf and a baseball cap and went to walk the nearby pocket park in the rain. I loved the red-wing blackbird which flew away soggily as I approached, as an LJ friend mentioned that species just this very weekend. I came home soggy and happy.
I got a nice eBay review for the copy of "Vibrating Electric Fields" from my eBay buyer, which went something like saying it was "great meditation music" and "BUZZZZZZZZZ", which sums up my goal for the work.
Hilary Swank was on 60 Minutes tonight. Although in the acting business, it is important for some actors to seem like the "kid next door", so many things about her were still so much like so many kids with whom I grew up, in Gurdon, Arkansas, that she could have gone to my high school (where everyone would have had a crush on her). I have known so many Hilary Swanks, although the ones I know tend not to have Oscars, but to be school principals and good-deed-doers and small business owners and pebble-sized rocks of rockin' little pebble-sized communities. I think, though, that it's easier to dream big and get somewhere when you come from a place where nobody is there to tell you the real story about your dreams, which is paradoxical, but still somehow true.
By way of contrast, though, 60 Minutes also did a feature on the career schools which rip off students with high tuition and poor job placement. My blood boiled, although I also wanted to reach out to the wronged young Los Angeles women interviewed and tell them of the great public community colleges they could have attended to get genuinely cool jobs, paying tuition of only a few dollars an hour. I'm a huge believer in alternatives to traditional educational delivery, but mercantilist ways for corporations to pry federal loan funds loose from institutions by leading kids on is an incredible indignity. We had a local school in the ITT group close recently, and it was sad to see kids with deep debts and shattered dreams. One woman, 21, said a relative told her to file for bankruptcy, but through my mind raced that frightening thought about student loans not being dischargeable in bankruptcy. The radio played Pink Floyd's song "The Wall", but I don't think it's about fashion design school anyway.
I think, sometimes, that the field of school counseling is the field where would-be saints can do so much good. My mother did school counseling, and I always thought it was worthy work. So many kids need help with the range of possibility, as over and over I learn of kids who had so many choices, but who could only see the one or two narrow horizons known to the people in their immediate circles. I think that a lot of fine school counselors are out there, but so many kids just needed to hear "you may be from a background with modest means, but you have a real run at scholarships" or "you don't need to go to this expensive career school, when this public community college will deliver you this education at a fraction of the price", and even "let's think of practical options besides 'rock star' and 'professional athlete'. I disparage, sometimes, people who live only in daydreams, but I also feel badly that so many folks never had the idea that any dream could come true. So much good to be done in this world--but it's always easier to want to be an attorney or a professor or a doctor than an ordinary school counselor.
That's the funny thing about being 17, though. It's as if you live in the deep pinewoods in which I grew up (and love). But actually, so many kids are in a place much like I live now--wide skies, sunsets and deep clouds and possibilities so much more wide open than anyone could imagine. Someone just needs to light up the sky.
I get so irritated, sometimes, with our local state officials. They spend so much time worrying about whether the textbooks contain "abstinence training" and whether they can somehow subtly slip the theory of evolution out of the science curriculum. But when it comes to funding poor schools, their main concerns are not to raise taxes overall and to ensure that rich counties keep as much money in-county as possible. Everyone is so darn afraid of Robin Hood, that they never wish to fix the problem. I am willing to pay taxes for an educated population, as it is my own theory that the great engine of American success was in part the GI bill and the focus on American education. If I were a school counselor, though, I'd give kids bats and tell them to swing for the fences.
In an unrelated vein, I ask these questions, in an overt attempt to tap the immense brain trust which is my friends list:
1. Does anyone know of a good software application to convert MIDI files to Mp3 or .wav files? I don't need it to be free, but as with so many things, I would not mind if it were not expensive.
2. Has anyone found a chapbook service which does good chapbooks at a reaonable per-copy price? Obviously, I can use Quark or MS Publish, with a little help from those in the know, to format one myself, but I have never purchased either of those softwares and hate to impose on relatives who have them. For this purpose, I am seeking a less elaborate "photocopy" based service, as I intend to create chess graphics for a series of chapbooks and typesetting chess graphics is so much hassle compared to simple copying.
3. I want to write a lot of poetry for submission to magazines. Would anyone like to give me poetry prompts, and the permission to use them without acknowledgment as muses for my own prosaically bad poetry?