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Julia

First Day of School – 2007

Julia just graduated from high school. It was strangely anti-climactic. She put on her graduation regalia and headed out the door to meet a small group of classmates in Group 11 at the Alameda Theatre where they were ushered in, socially-distanced, and took the stage, one-by-one, to pick up a diploma and say a few words into a camera for a video that will be spliced together for family and friends. No pomp, just circumstance.

The Class of 2020 has been through a series of unique events as they made their way through the public school system here in Alameda. They grew up learning how to adapt.

Her class was the first seriously impacted at the local elementary school as overflow from the lottery system in San Francisco drove parents to the East Bay. In 2007 it was no longer sufficient to say you lived in the neighborhood to send your kids to the local school. For the first time, you had to get in line and spend the night in order to guarantee one of the coveted spots for your child in the kindergarten.

As Julia made her way to Lincoln Middle School, her class ended up being one of the last that took the trip out East to visit Washington DC as part of the Close-Up program. Julia took band where she played violin and was part of the color guard team with the marching band that took a trip to Disneyland where they marched down Main Street.

Julia playing violin

In high school, Julia’s interests turned to sports where she ramped up her passion for soccer. She had been playing club soccer for a couple of years and made the varsity team her freshman year. She also dug into leadership at the school where she served on the Spirit Committee and helped organize several school-wide events including a fund-raiser which raised thousands for families suffering after the fires in Paradise, California. She called the program Pennies for Paradise.

Julia played defense all four years

Alameda High School went through a number of physical upgrades while she attended. Seismic fences surrounded the old school building as the structure was deemed unsound. Over the four years Julia was there, major improvements were made and by her senior year, they finished with the classic structure you see in the photo below.

Julia in front of the newly renovated AHS – 2020
Julia was interviewed on the local radio station this morning.

She took an interest in Psychology to the point where she convinced enough classmates to join her and put together an AP Psychology course. This interest served to focus her college search which brought her to Clark University which is known for its Psychology Department.

So Julia starts at Clark University in Massachusetts next year. Izumi and I sat in on a Q&A session and learned a little about the school’s plans to get started in the Fall. They will do everything they can to get everyone together for in-person instruction but are also planning on an extended Winter Break (Nov 20 – Feb 15) during which courses will be taught remotely should there be a second outbreak of the Coronavirus.

Izumi and I have been touched with the school’s inclusive approach. Their admissions package included not only the usual information and schwag for Julia but also a nice letter from the president, welcoming us to the community.

Clark University welcome letter

I think she’ll be in good hands. Congratulations Julia, I’m so excited to see what you do next!

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Tyler’s Graduation

Tyler’s first day of school

(cross-posted from Facebook)

Indulge me in a bit of wistful sappiness on the day of Tyler’s graduation from high school. Two photos, one taken on the first day of kindergarten and another graduating from high school. In between,  the Surly you Know letter his 7th grade teacher had each parent write (thx, Ms. Moody !) for safekeeping.


Surely You Know
for Tyler Kennedy

Surely you know what it’s like to be the parent of a seventh grader. It means cajoling, prodding, poking, tickling, then finally pleading to wake the boy from his slumber. Each morning.

It’s the sudden realization that the young boy with the easy smile and laugh is growing into a man. It means that the clock is ticking and that, before long, he will be out the door, asking for the car keys.

Surely you know that the questions that he asks no longer have black or white answers, that you now need to teach nuance, perspective, and circumstance.

Surely you know that seventh grade has lots and lots of homework. That you can no longer be spontaneous with family events and must first check with the your busy scholar.

Surely you know that homework these days is now done on a computer and that resources such as the internet are required to complete assignments. This being the case, you would then know that one of the hardest things to teach your seventh grader is how to focus on their assignments, that Minecraft, YouTube, or the latest distraction of the month needs to stay off the screen until they are done.

Surely you know it means backing off and trusting that he’ll manage his own schedule, his own free time, and his own free will. It means that you need to take your hand off the stick and trust that the lessons you’ve taught him will guide him. As you did when teaching him to walk, it means letting him stumble, and sometimes fall. But always looking from afar.

Surely you know that being the parent of a seventh grader means that it’s time to begin to let go. That you can no longer tell him what to do, that he needs to start telling that to himself.

You know, surely.

Tyler’s last day of school

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The best thing on the Internet today

I’ve already shared this multiple times today but am adding it here so I can refer back when needed.

Media coverage was thick and fast as it was a slow news day in Trumpland and everyone was looking for a bit of comic relief on a Friday after a busy week. Taiwan-based expat Ben Thompson has the best scene-by-scene breakdown.

It had me in tears.

UPDATE: Here’s an interview with the analyst Robert Kelly and his wife Kim Jung-A on the chaos that lead to the “comedy of errors”  and how their life changed when the video received 84 million views

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Loss of Innocence

Yesterday, my 10 year-old daughter, discovered that the Tooth Fairy no longer exists. I was packing to return home from our vacation and was about to stow some bandages in my toilet bag when she caught a glimpse of her note and tooth that she had left for T.F. under her pillow several days ago. It was a real shock for her.

My son, who is older, was different. He likes to figures stuff out for himself. My wife and I knew he no longer believed but weren’t sure when he stopped believing. He was a good sport about it though and kept Julia in the dark for the past few years, playing along, saying nothing. Today I finally asked him when he was clued in. He looked up from an episode of MythBusters and said he figured it out when he lost a tooth but decided not to tell us. He put the tooth under the pillow and nothing happend the next morning, the tooth was still there. Eliminating the variables, he put it together.

As fat tears rolled down Julia’s cheeks, between sniffles, I could feel her ache of losing something magical, something bigger than herself, someone with whom she could keep secrets. With the fall of the Tooth Fairy, others soon would follow. She tugged at this loose spiritual thread and asked me point blank about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and so on. Knowing it was time to come clean, I lay down the cards for her. By mid-morning, not only had the Tooth Fairy ceased to exist but all the other childhood myths lay shattered in pieces.

I wonder how this will change her over the next year. She’s about to go into 5th grade, the last grade before she goes on to Middle School. Many of her classmates have been telling her that Santa and the others do not exist but she’s been resisting them, choosing to have faith. Now, with that dream broken, she’ll be on the other side of the fence. Those who know the existentialist truth of a world without the Tooth Fairy.

A father worries, what will become of that innocent smile?

Photo by CC Marks

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It’s Elementary

via @jarnovayrynen

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Caine’s Arcade

Caine’s Arcade is a charming short film about a 9-year old boy who built a homemade  arcade out of cardboard boxes at his dad’s used auto part store in East LA and how a community rallied to show him some love.

One day, by chance, I walked into Smart Parts Auto looking for a used door handle for my ’96 Corolla. What I found was an elaborate handmade cardboard arcade manned by a young boy who asked if I would like to play. I asked Caine how it worked and he told me that for $1 I could get two turns, or for $2 I could get a Fun Pass with 500 turns. I got the Fun Pass.

Nirvan Mullick

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Julia on Violin

She’s been wanting to play for years.

A new way to play the ukulele

and now she’s now learning to pluck the strings.

Julia on Violin

Yesterday, Julia received certification from the Royal College of Music.

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Old School Playground

Back when I was a lad life on the playground was a little more . . . tenuous.

Everything in the playground was more dangerous. And they were different and unique, seemingly put together by the neighborhood handymen who in a burst of creative energy one Saturday morning emptied their garages of old tires, 2×4s, and chains and just nailed it all together.

1000 Awesome Things

There was little adult supervision during recess. A skinned knee or elbow taught you the limits of safe. Broken bones marked the less graceful or too-brave-for-their-own-good. Kids would devise new, often alarming, uses for the playground structures. This was time before product testing and lawsuits.

Behold the Witch’s Hat. This was a device at my elementary school in Connecticut. The people that made this thing thought the children (imagine boys in sky blue shorts with suspenders and girls in red gingham dresses) would hang onto the bar in a neat circle and playfully skip around like merry little Dick and Janes.

The reality was more edgy. 6th graders would offer to give the younger kids “high rides” lining up a few unsuspecting subjects and invite them to hang on to one end while they would then jam the other right up next to the pole, lifting five or more kids up off the ground. As they began to spin you around it was a thrill for the first minute or so, wind in your hair, legs dangling out from under you as you whirled round and round. Once you realized this ride wasn’t going to stop, an icy determination to hang on for dear life took over.

Suspended a good 10 or 15 feet off the ground (which, if memory recalls, was rough asphalt), the bigger kids would spin the ring around the pole, faster and faster, while keeping you, now terrified, high up off the ground. Sweaty palms start to loose grip as your legs swing out almost horizontal from the centrifugal force.

One by one your classmates would fly off, thrown into other playground equipment or even the fence, bodies crumple to the pavement like rag dolls. Seeing the image of the rusted device above I can still hear the screams. It was the stuff of prison yards. I survived my high ride and learned lessons about grit, determination, the frailty of life and the cruelty of mankind.

Now everything on the playground has rounded corners and is covered in plastic. The ground is a sea of vulcanized rubber. It’s a kinder, gentler world of helicopter parents and the safety council. Maybe, as Bill Cosby says, the grown-ups were trying to bump us off.

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Sibling Rivalry 2009

A Nokia colleague of mine here in Finland had a charming update to an age old scenario. In this scene, the older sister, who is 13, is saying she has a crush on a boy in her school. It’s a boy in her school and the younger sister is dying to know who it is.

Younger sister creates a website which is all sparkly with animation and mood music and has an embedded form in it. Fill in the name of the person you love and this site will tell you if it’s a true match. It’s a trap of course. There’s a mailto: embedded into the Submit button. Anything typed into the box will be emailed to the younger sister’s email account.

The younger sister is ten.

Older sister runs across the form, can’t resist temptation and types in boy’s name and clicks on button. As soon as she does, old sis realizes what’s happening! She’s furious!

Old sis tries to logging into Young sis’ email account to delete the email. It takes her a few tries but she gets it. It’s easy to guess. She deletes the email with her beau’s name, disaster averted!

Old sis saunters into the living room, tells Young sis that she wasn’t fooled by her amateur prank – says that her password was easy to guess and she deleted the email anyway.

Young sis winks back at Old sis. Says she figured that would happen. That’s why she added a .forward file to her account that forwards any email sent to her email address to another secret account she created just for that purpose.

Hair pulling ensues!

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Up and to the Right

Up and to the Right

It was windy today so we flew a kite. More photos here.