Monday, March 30, 2009

Running again at 42

Twenty years ago I ran five miles a day four or five days a week. I didn't do this because I loved running. I hated it actually. I did, however, love the feeling I got after I ran. I also realized that, given that at the time I ate like a bird (which is to say I ate roughly my body weight in food each day) I had to do something to burn off what I was eating. Life was good. I was trim and could play racquetball for hours. We'd play six games at a time which would take us the better part of three hours. We thought nothing of it.

Now I find myself twenty years older and much slower. Oh, and might I add just a wee bit bigger. Okay, a lot bigger. Ruddy huge actually. Over the last five years especially my body has rebelled and the couch has become my closest and dearest friend. Last year I divorced my couch ending a long and dysfunctional relationship that left me sluggish, weak and tired. Leaving the couch was not easy and to make matters worse it still resides in my living room. We still see each other every now and again and my wife and children remain cordial but we still sense the couches sadness. I can't say as I don't feel for it but life moves on and my family realizes that to maintain a relationship with the couch just isn't healthy. I feel for the couch. I do but we must move on to a healthier life style. It's not as if I am kicking it to the curb. We've really just grown apart.

What makes things worse is I am sure my couch has noticed the time I've been spending with my treadmill. I try to be discreet and run only in the early morning when the house is relatively quiet. I turn the news on in an effort to placate the couch and let it live on in a delusion that nothing's changed. I imagine it sits there watching the morning news trying not to hear the treadmill in the other room. I am feeling that euphoria I had twenty years ago and it feels great. Every day I run farther and faster and look forward to the day when I am up to five miles again. It's never too late to do the right thing. Perhaps this is my mid-life crisis.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fairness and Equality

What's interesting is that every time I attend a meeting at our kids' school I end up with a topic to write about on this blog. The teachers in this meeting were debating the charter bylaws wherein they are mandated to restrict their fund raising efforts to the pursuit of grants and these monies are to be shared with all students in the school equally. Sounds warm and fuzzy; doesn't it.
Well not so fast! What this means is that as there are two classes for each grade if one class receives special funding for a certain event they would not be able to attend that event unless the other class was able to go as well. The parents kept referring to this as "fairness". I heard a lot of "that wouldn't be fair". I don't believe people really think about fairness at all.
Equality is defined by Webster's Dictionary as "a state of being equal" or "an equation with equal properties".
Fairness on the other hand is defined as "being just, reasonable, unbiased or impartial".
Is it "fair" to deny one student or class because of inequality? Karl Marx once said "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need". Is this then the de facto working paradigm within our school system? Is it fair to take from those who are able to produce only to give to those who have the greatest need? What about the needs of those who worked so hard to produce? Where are they rewarded for their travails? The teacher is responsible for the instruction of his or her students. The teacher should be able to receive gifts of funds from any source regardless of the intent behind the gift and should have the freedom to use this gift according to their judgment for the betterment of their class. Now, to answer my own question stated earlier: It is fair to allow one class to receive a gift of money and then to use that money to go on a field trip even though the other fifth grade class will not be able to go as well. This is "fair" but it is not equal. Equality at the expense of others is not fair.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pound of Flesh

Recently while driving to work I had the honor of meeting one of Washington State's finest after he pulled me out of the flow of traffic so we could "chat". Evidently I was speeding while moving along with the flow of traffic. He asked me if I knew how fast I was going and I said "sure I do. I was going as fast as everyone else was." To this he responded that I was speeding and after checking to see if I was not actually a known terrorist he gave me my golden ticket (which was actually green) and magnanimously let me off with a measly "five-mile-over" ticket. After licking his boots and thanking him obsequiously for his kind generosity I entered back into traffic and continued on my way to work.
So, two weeks later when I look at the ticket and am ready to pay I find that this small time infraction is going to cost me $95.00! Holy what? $95.00!!!! I wonder what I would have to pay if his magnificence had opted to site me for something faster. So, I go online to the district court's web site and begrudgingly make my payment. A few days later I get a letter from the department of licensing saying my driving privilege will be suspended in April if I fail to pay the fine. Must be a mistake right? So I call the district court and wait. And wait. And wait some more. After a half hour on the phone a very cheerful customer service lady asks me how she might be of assistance. I tell her my story thinking the letter must have somehow been sent in error and she informs me that I need to pay an additional $51.00 as I failed to pay the original amount within the prescribed window. So, I comment about my pound of flesh they must extract and silently wonder when the Washington state patrol became the 21st century tax collectors and my local government became the Cosa nostra.