Monthly Archives: January 2019

Einstein I ain’t

There’s stuff I  don’t know about . I’d like to use my age as an excuse for ignoring much of what I should be learning , or should already know , but I seem to get a corresponding nagging feeling that I should bone up on this or on that so’s I at least know a little bit about it , whatever it is .

I have friends who know a lot about this or about that . Well , some guys ( gender-neutral term in this case ) know this and some guys know that . I wish that I knew some of what they sometimes show they know ; but , on the other hand, I don’t want to begin whole new lines of inquiry . Interplanetary space , for example —- I don’t know a damn thing about planets , black holes , satellite technology , Coma galaxy clusters , …………………………..

In my own defense , though , I recently took a stab at learning something about Irish wool . Original research . I was skeptical about all of the “Irish” woolen garments on sale all over the place in Ireland when I noticed no country-of-origin labels on any of it . You know , where the “Irish wool” was actually woven . I began to visualize sweat shops in Vietnam , Bangladesh , China , sewing sewing sewing to fill quotas . After all , thousands of  tourist shops in Ireland were waiting . The wool probably was actually from Irish sheep , at least , I thought.

No. Wrong . I’d like to share my discoveries with you , but you know this kind of stuff is sensitive information . I can’t share it with just anybody . Let’s just say , for now , that wool from Irish sheep isn’t so superior when it comes to weaving wonderful scarves , socks , and sweaters . And the weaving ? I think all of those old women in the bonnets and shawls you may have seen in the story books sitting at their spinning wheels are mostly myths by now . Maybe look underground for them at Newgrange , or Knowth or Dowth . Oh , maybe that’s going back too far in time . My newly-acquired info goes straight to the CIA , FBI , NSA , NCI , CID , and any other DoD agencies that might want it . America First ! , you know.

I don’t want any of it to slip into the hands of any St. Petersburg trolls or like-minded trouble makers . You know , Cyber-Berkut folk , any pro-Putin youth groups , or the like . Or the Chinese . Or anyone else , for that matter . The Iranians . The Qataris . Or the kid in New Jersey in his mother’s basement. I’d like to pull the wool over their eyes ( so to speak ) so I don’t have to see any pointed and perhaps modified memes on Facebook . I’d say Twitter , too , or any other places , but I avoid those places ( And I avoid any knowledge of those places .  Notice how , like the old American Senators questioning tech execs , I use an opaque term like “places” — because I’m not hip to a more precise description ) .

Anyway , back to the point of this post . There’s a lot of stuff to know and no one knows it all . What was that meme I saw yesterday about Albert Einstein ? Some supposed quote of his about the importance of knowing what he doesn’t know , or knowing that he doesn’t know it ? Yeah , I can dig that ! I’m in the same mental space as Albert. I know a lot of stuff I don’t know .

Well , as far as that goes , I was in the same physical space , too ,  as Einstein — in the dining hall at Cal Tech in Pasadena  —- but I don’t think any of his genius rubbed off on me because of that . No evidence of it , anyhow , as far as I know . I’d like to have asked him , though , about Irish woolen goods  , if he knows anything about that . You never know.


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more random photos

Dan & hotel camel.JPG

chimney sweep

london street children, 1900s (25)img_1486


coffee pot truck sweden

pig head in frank mccourt museum


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more flotsam and jetsam

armor 1917


casey stengel 1914


car in snow 1929

smoking 3 year old

mail carrier sweden


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Did you go to HR ?

Ada and I went over to the school district headquarters , to the Benefits office on the 28th floor. We wanted a statement from Benefits that Ada gets no benefits from her few years of work as a teacher with LAUSD . Another bureaucracy , Social Security, demanded verification of this .stress

It seemed to me that it should be an easy thing to provide a statement to that effect . It’s not like she wanted to claim any benefits , after all.  Ah ! , but I know LAUSD from my decades of working there . Nothing is easy . Passing the Buck is their specialty . If you were to ask seven people at LAUSD headquarters the same question you would get seven different answers , and the seven would change the answers if you were to ask them the next day.

I spent 45 minutes the day before we visited the headquarters on the phone being passed around  from one LAUSD office to another . I had begun with the Benefits Office. The woman who answered the phone would not so much as let me explain what it was I needed , yet she told me I had the wrong office . Insisted.  100% the wrong office , she told me .  That’s after she made me wake Ada up from a nap because she insisted that I was not authorized to speak for my wife . I woke Ada up and she spoke to the woman for a minute or two , got nowhere , and returned the phone to me . And I can’t transfer you to any other office , the woman told me .

I hung up on her at this point and I called a friend of mine who had been Principal of several LAUSD schools . He told me that I should call HR . I called HR . HR transferred me to Employee Relations . A woman there told me not to use the word ” verification ” for what I needed ; otherwise I would have to be transferred to another office . You have to use the right lingo , she said . I asked for the right lingo for my request and she gave me a few pointers .clown band

Employee Relations transferred me back to HR who transferred me to Benefits  . Got nowhere and gave up for the day . Nothing would be managed by phone I realized, so Ada and I went down to LAUSD headquarters the next day to wrestle the beast .

The clerk at Benefits asked immediately : Have you been to HR ?

Yes , I said , I’ve been to HR after talking to Benefits . HR sent me to Employee Relations who sent me back to HR who sent me back to Benefits . We have a very simple request .

I laid it out as simply as I could for the guy . We need a letter from Benefits that states that Ada receives no benefits from LAUSD based on her employment with LAUSD . He said that he’d ask his supervisor and he disappeared into a maze of cubicles . He was nice about it , at least. Things are looking up ! In a couple of minutes he reappeared shaking his head and told us that the supervisor wouldn’t do it .

I asked to talk to the supervisor in person . To my surprise the young man agreed to go back to the supervisor and pass on my request . To my utter astonishment a supervisor came out to talk to us after a few minutes .

No , he couldn’t answer our request , he told us . First of all , he said in true LAUSD method , this office doesn’t have employee records before 2006 due to an overhaul of the computer system . This was meant to shoo us on to whatever LAUSD office might have those records .   But you , I mean the Benefits Office , has access to those records , right ? I pointed out to him and he reluctantly abandoned that particular pass-the buck ploy  . Actually , someone on the phone the day before had tried the same tactic . No , he was stuck with us.

Five minutes into his poo-pooing our ( what seemed like a simple )request , I could see Ada wavering . I held strong . I would talk to this guy calmly but insistently until he got mad and stormed off . Might happen . When the supervisor told us what agency we should go to instead of Benefits I asked him to write us a simple statement on LAUSD letterhead stating briefly that we had come in with a request and that he could not help us .

He kept telling us that the request made no sense . Ada said that she had made the same request of a local library where she had worked and that they had happily agreed to provide us an e-mail in response. He told us  , well, that was a small city library and LAUSD Benefits Office was part of a huge bureaucracy with its own rules and regulations . Oh , like the Social Security Department , I said , who are demanding the information ?

In all candor, it  just doesn’t make sense to me , he said . He repeated that about six times over the fifteen minute conference .

With all due respect , I said ( having never before in my life used that phrase ) you don’t need to make sense of it . Social Security asked for it . We need to show them something .

He agreed , in the end , to send us a brief e-mail saying that former employee Ada was receiving no benefits from the Benefits Office of LAUSD . He sent such an e-mail the next day . It consisted of one sentence . Probably took the guy two minutes to complete our simple request.

What’s the expression about making a mountain out of a molehill ?


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One morning into the Deans’ Office walked a young woman talking broken English to me  like she knew me , like she had business with me . Had I made an appointment with a kid’s mother and forgotten all about it ? I wondered .
(Well , nowadays , that’s what I routinely do ; but in those days I would have been upset with myself for being so negligent and/or forgetful ). Do I have an appointment with you ? , I asked .

No. She was not the mother of the kid but his older sister .   Twenty -five ? A bit older ? He stole my ipod , she told me . Yeah , from their home .old school

And why is this my business ? I thought to myself . But , hey , I’ll try to help her out . I’m the school Dean . I sent a student helper to bring the kid in from his classroom . Make sure he has all his belongings with him , I said .

As we waited the young woman told me her sad tale . The twelve -year old brother had stolen from her . Again . And why is this my problem ? I couldn’t help wondering . But , hey , we’ll see what we can do .

When he came in I looked at him and motioned to the sister . Do you know her ? Yeah , he said . She’s my sister .Bedlam patients (16)

She says you took her ipod.

The little kid launched into a passionate denial . She’s my sister ! She’s family ! , he declared . I would never ……………… He spelled it out at length with a sincerity that would fool most people ; would have melted their hearts .  Poor misunderstood kid ! He almost worked himself into tears . Wow ! Poor guy .

I searched his pockets and his backpack ( as was my right as the school Dean . Probable cause not needed in a school situation , just reasonable cause needed .) I had reasonable cause : his sister was accusing him ; he had stolen from her before ; she had come all the way over to the school to get her ipod back .

Okay .

Nothing in his pockets . Nothing in the backpack . Maybe he had stashed it with a friend or in a secret place . Maybe . Maybe the upset sister was mistaken . Maybe .

I took the kid into my little cubicle office for a minute . Two chairs and my cluttered desk .  Take off your shoes, I told him . He did . No complaints . He was wearing what we used to call loafers . I looked down at his shoes .Poland 2016 art etc 053

What’s that ? I said.

Ipod , he said . It was right there .

Whose is it ? I said .

Hers , he said .

I handed the stolen item to the sister and she left the office . I sent the kid back to class. Another day in the Dean’s Office . Good guess , Dan , I thought to myself . Now on to , perhaps , some school-based problems . miner boy


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