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Grace and learning

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We have been lucky with our kids in that neither has exhibited any major behavior problems at school. Each has received a single principal-visit-level writeup for making a boneheaded decision; Riley got in a bus line tussle with another kid in first grade, last year Dylan and a classmate absentmindedly strolled out of school together several minutes before the final bell rang.

This week, however, Dylan was involved in a pretty serious incident in his class. There is still a lot I don’t fully understand about what happened. I know Dylan says he said something in a joking way to a classmate, who later used it as an insult. When this classmate then got in trouble, he blamed Dylan, saying he learned it from him that morning. Dylan then claimed he’d heard it on a YouTube video.

I’m hugely unhappy that someone may have been saddened or upset as the result of something my child said, and I’m particularly frustrated that he tried to lay the blame elsewhere: while I have no doubt he’s been exposed to all kinds of stupidity via YouTube, that is no excuse.

There is no excuse, here. It was a bad choice, he knew better, full stop. No get out of jail free card for being ten or trying to be edgy or cool or simply parroting some despicable thing some shitlord gaming streamer said. He’s been disciplined, he’s been talked to both angrily and earnestly, he had a productive sit-down with our thoughtful and caring principal (albeit in a somewhat delayed fashion, because the scales of fifth grade justice are as overloaded and stretched thin as every other public school resource).

No one wants to be the parent of a kid who does a bad thing, but here is what is even worse: being the parent of a kid who is shaken to his core by the bad thing he did.

I had a long, weepy talk with him, lying in his bed surrounded by his stuffed animals, his Calvin & Hobbes books, his special blankets. In this little-kid place, talking about such big-kid things. His small freckled face, wet and shining. His regret and fear and shame.

I don’t want to be a bad kid
, he sobbed. I held him, so tightly.

Look at me, I said. Look at me. I have made bad choices. I have made so many bad choices in my life.

Do you think I am a bad person? He shook his head.

And I don’t think you’re a bad person. You made a bad choice. There’s a big difference between a bad choice and a bad person. When we made mistakes, we don’t let them define us. We learn from them.

You believe in me, okay? And I will believe in you.

Somewhere inside of me, I felt something shift. Like the tiniest crack in a heavy ice shelf. Bad choice, bad person. Not the same thing. Not the same. My little boy, not so little, still so little. My heart, filling up and breaking and repairing and beating on and on. My dreams for my children and my worries and my most secret fears and my surrenders.

The landmass of shame, the nearly unbearable lightness of grace.

This was a hard thing but he will be okay, he’ll have a deeper understanding of how words have power and how they can hurt and what it means to be a decent human navigating this tricky world with other humans. It was a fairly awful but maybe ultimately impactful learning experience. For both of us.

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Super Mario and the Meaning of Life

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It's turns out the true meaning of life
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12 days ago
13 days ago
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4 public comments
11 days ago
Be like mario
12 days ago
shoulda just warped there
Bend, Oregon
14 days ago
Mario wins!!!
15 days ago
Be Mario.
Texas, USA

Denali field notes: A hare of another color

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Up until the last few weeks, spotting snowshoe hares before they darted out from the adjacent vegetation was something I considered myself fairly lucky to do.  After all, it’s literally a matter of life and death for them to remain as undetected as possible.  As September came to a close, however, I found myself spotting them more often and from further away than I had previously, and not just from weeks of practice.  Their concealment was being betrayed by the very mechanisms designed to keep them safe.


There aren’t a lot of animals that call Denali home all year long, but those that do need effective strategies for staying alive during the essentially 8 months long winter.  For Denali’s snowshoe hares, one of these strategies is to adapt in an entirely new winter outfit, something only 20 other animals in the northern hemisphere do.1 While in the summer they are a mottled reddish brown, starting around late September the hares grow in their nearly all white coats. The ears are typically the first to change, with the rest of the body following suit shortly thereafter.

This transformation is mediated by changes in the photoperiod that affect melanin production.  Although the full explanation is quite complex, the core mechanism is that the shorter day length increases the hormone melatonin, which suppress the melanin producing hormone prolactin.1

While this strategy is good one for long winters blanketed in snow, changes in snow regimes are making this transition more precarious.  Camouflage mismatch–which is generally considered when more than 60% of the coat is different from the surrounding environment–can result either from winter coats that have come in too early, before the snow arrives, or because the snow pack lingers inconsistently.  This year, the lower elevations of the park have yet to see so much as a flake of snow, though you wouldn’t know that by looking at the hares.  As I have already experienced, such mismatch makes hares considerably easier to detect, a big problem for basically everyone’s favorite winter meal.2


Although hares can adjust the timing of their molts to a small extent, it’s won’t be enough to keep them in sync with the more dramatic shifts climate change has in store for the future.  This is especially problematic because hares don’t seem to be very aware of their mismatch and attempt to compensate behaviorally by say, hiding behind vegetation or choosing resting spots that more closely match their color.3 Other animals, particularly birds, seem better at this.  Rock ptarmigan for example will actually dirty themselves to more closely match patchy snow.4


Given the immense selection pressure on these animals to match their environment and the high variation in the traits responsible for such color changes, it’s possible that hares will be able to keep pace with an already changing arctic landscape, but we don’t know for sure.  The alternative will be to add hares to the growing list of once common animals that now require invasive management strategies to stay afloat in the anthroproscene.


Literature cited

1. Zimova M, Hackländer K, Good JM, Melo-Ferreira J, Alves PC, Mills SL. (2018). Function and underlying mechanisms of seasonal colour moulting in mammals and birds: what keeps them changing in a warming world? Biol. Rev. 93: 1478 – 1498.1478 doi: 10.1111/brv.12405

2. Pedersen S, Odden M, Pedersen HC. (2017). Climate change induced molting mismatch? Mountain hare abundance reduced by duration of snow cover and predator abundance. Ecosphere 8: 01722

3. Zimova M, Mills SL, Lukacs PM, Mitchell MS. (2014). Snowshoe hares display limited phenotypic plasticity to mismatch in seasonal camouflage. Proc. R. Soc. B DOI:

4. Montgomerie R, Lyon B, Holder K. (2001) Dirty ptarmigan: behavioral modification of conspicuous male plumage, Behavioral Ecology 12: 429–438.

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29 days ago
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Win a $5000 Savings Bond!


To a kid, it was Chicago’s own“Field of dreams”.

 It was a miniature version of a big league ballpark just like Comiskey or Wrigley Field. It was complete with lights for night games, a public address system, grandstands seating over 2400 northside fans, concessions, an electric outfield scoreboard, an announcer’s booth and more.

It was Thillen’s Stadium at 6404 North Kedzie Avenue, the generous gift of Mel G. Thillens I1914-1993) and his company, the Thillens Armored Car Check Cashing Company.truck

facility-stadiumdevonkedzie It was a place where some 17,000 kids could play Little League baseball every year at no cost.


And the deal was, if you could hit the sign of armored truck on top of the outfield scoreboard, you would win the $5000 savings bond. Three talented little leaguers did just that, hitting a baseball 300 feet. The place made kids feel that they were big league players at Wrigley or Comiskey.

 Back in 1938, it was just a vacant lot. Mel Thillens  thought that youngsters needed a place to play ball. He spent over $6 million building the stadium where Jack Brickhouse, the WGN announcer, televised the Monday night games. ct-spt-0725-jack-brickhouse-day-cubs-20140725It was where the centerfield camera was invented, to better see the batter. That broadcast technique soon became standard in all major league games to this day. But wait, there’s more! North Siders could watch Eddie Feigner , the King and his Court play 16 inch softball and win most every game. There were celebrity baseball games where stars like Minnie Minoso, Michael Jordan, and others would raise money for charity. There was the Chicago Bandits fast pitch softball league.

extralargeIf you drove down Devon Avenue, you could not miss the place. Out in front was a huge rotating baseball emblazoned with the words “Thillens”,  it in itself had an interesting history. It was once the world globe spinning on a pole high above Boys World clothing store farther east on Devon Avenue at Maplewood Ave. The Stadium reportedly cost $100,000 per season to operate but was always offered rent free.thillens

As expenses mounted, the Chicago Cubs baseball organization donated several million dollars to renovate it. It was reopened in 2006 for a time as “Cubs Field at  Thillens”. The park and the iconic ball was taken over by the Chicago Park District and both treasures slowly fell into a state of disrepair. 1565702_58Ph0-CY-PzqZ05cbNVbCVmzc2XOxLsqzjjNIIQS9EQAt the request of the Thillen’s Foundation who had so generously financed the park for over 60 years, all the Thillen’s signage was removed on June 13 2013. Under Chicago Park District ownership it was renamed “the Stadium at Devon and Kedzie” thilllens1



RSE32983Mel G. Thillens died on December 20, 1993 and was buried in Montrose Cemetery on Pulaski Avenue, only 2 ½ miles from the wonderful Stadium that he built.

I want to think that on a warm summer’s night he can still hear the crack of the bat or  the crowd cheering on the little leaguers who benefited from his generosity.

Thank you Mel!


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theconcealedweapon: Some people are commenting by saying that...

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Some people are commenting by saying that when an employee is fired, it’s because the employee did something wrong.

But the same is true when someone quits. Usually an employee quits because their boss did something wrong. For example, if the boss doesn’t pay a living wage, then the boss has been doing something wrong for literally every second that the employee was there.

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36 days ago
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fuck it until you make it

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gather round, folks, that i may pass down the tale of Fuck-It Jonn, because that dude is just the GREATEST FUCKING CONMAN in the WORLD, and he WASN’T EVEN TRYING. he absolutely fucking STUMBLED ON ACCIDENT into THE SCAM THAT WOULD DEFINE HIS ENTIRE LIFE. the lie that transformed his ENTIRE EXISTENCE out of SHEER RANDOM BULLSHIT.

and his sole motivation was to EAT FINGER FOOD.


in the Wayback Days™ before i was born, the people who would later become my parents had this friend named… yeah, let’s say jonn. i’d rather not say his real name. bitches not snitches, and all that.

so. france in the late 80s. jonn and my parents had just finished school and all found jobs in computer engineering. (not that they STUDIED computer engineering, mind you. no, they were all studying how to become fish farmers or some shit. but those were simpler times, when knowing how to turn the fucking screen on got you a comfortable salary at the ripe old age of 24 years old.)

except that jonn, who was a chill hippie kind of dude, was bored to death by his desk job. so bored that he decided to just up and quit. “fuck it”, was basically jonn’s motto. fuck it, he’d find something better! fuck it, and things would work out! EXCEPT (as you may have guessed) THEY DIDN’T. for months and months he didn’t find another job. and so he ended up depressed, struggling, and eating dinner at my future-parents’ tiny apartment, three times a week, so he wouldn’t literally starve.

time went by. jonn was still unemployed. so before his resources hit rock bottom, jonn did the only logical, reasonable thing. what’s that, you ask? begged for his old job back? went back to school? crawled home to his parents? ha ha! obviously you do not share jonn’s ADVENTUROUS AND ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT. and also you lack his BIZARRE LOGIC AND PLAIN WEIRD APPROACH TO LIFE.

what jonn did was: say “fuck it” (again) and leave for thailand.

because you see, thailand was cheap by french standards. so cheap that even a penniless dude on unemployment could live there for weeks on end, spending much less than he would have in france, as long as he didn’t mind roughing it. and jonn didn’t mind! “fuck it”, he’d said. and by god, he would stand by his words!

so jonn gamely scrounged up the money for the plane ticket and then… yeah. basically bummed it out in thailand. for two months. seeing the sights. sleeping on the street. making new friends.

and one of these news friends turned out to be very adept at FORGING PAPERS.

huh, jonn said to himself (probably high at the time) this sounds not at all shifty and more like a ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY; what could POSSIBLY GO WRONG. my new thai best friend is even offering me a FAMILY DISCOUNT. for fake papers. fuck it! let’s have some!

as far as i can tell, jonn… didn’t even need fake papers?? like, he was literally just trying not to pass up on an opportunity here. so he smoked some more weed (i can only assume) and got A BRILLIANT IDEA. fake ID card? LAME. fake driver’s licence? HACKNEYED. fake medical degree? PEDESTRIAN. no! jonn got himself a fake press card.

but why??

well, OBVIOUSLY, just so he could get into cultural events for free - conferences, art premieres, etc - and eat all the finger food. that was his grand plan. stroll into press-only events, wave his poorly-made card around, and gorge himself on canapés. no more going hungry! ever! jonn would live off tiny slices of toasted foie gras and flutes of cheap champagne for the rest of his life!

so now jonn, Very Obviously Fake Journalist™, is back in france and he’s DOING THE THING. and guess what? this was before google. before facebook. before linkedin. impersonating a journalist was very easy. if people asked where you worked you just said you were freelance, then steered the conversation to current politics and stealthily devoured the entire buffet while everybody was busy debating.

and so. this is what jonn is doing. his monumentally stupid plan is actually working. this is how he eats. with thai-made fake papers and sheer fucking confidence. and of course people start noticing him eventually! jonn is always fucking there! at all and any events in paris! because, again, THIS IS HOW HE EATS! but it’s always the same people running around in these circles, anyway. so nobody’s surprised to see the same dudes popping up over and over again. jonn blends in! and jonn is very good at making friends. and changing the subject. and eating canapés.

and then ONE DAY

one of jonn’s newfangled journalist friends (a REAL journalist, mind you, who has NO IDEA that jonn isn’t What He Seems) basically goes: “dude i’m so swamped rn. everyone wants everything all at once. fuck. shit. are you swamped too?”

“oh, for sure,” jonn says through a mouthful of his twenty-ninth serving of canapés that night. “not a second to myself”

“god. fuck. tell me about it. shit. i’m just so damn swamped.” Real Journalist shakes his head. “if i could only find someone to cover for me on this one article.”

now, i know i said before that jonn was smoking weed. but i must confess now i said it for humorous effect. i have no idea if jonn’s ever been within five hundred yards of a blunt his whole life. but what you must understand is that jonn is Chill™ on like. a soul-deep level. his whole mind is one long exhale of smoke followed by the words “fuck it”. this is a man who left his job for no reason, lived in thailand on a tourist’s visa for two months, got fake papers there for the lol of it all, and is now living off press-only events in paris. jonn was BORN HIGH.

SO. when RJ asks him: “dude. jonn. you said you were working freelance. i know you’re busy but don’t you think you could maybe cover for me? just this once?”

jonn NATURALLY answers: “fuck it. sure”

then goes to an unemployment center and applies for one of their free one-week classes. on journalism. jonn spends ALL OF ONE WEEK learning How To Write An Article Like A Real Journalist With A Real Press Card. then writes the article. basically bullshitting his way through that thing. half-assing the life out of it. faking his heart out. because why not? FUCK IT.

i have NO IDEA if he actually did a good job or not. but it was in fact good enough for RJ who really must have been truly swamped, and was so truly grateful that he told all of their mutual journalists friends. who were ALL SWAMPED. i’m given to understand it’s the natural state of the journalist in the wild.


not making much money i assume. but still, not bad for a dude who studied journalism for five whole days.

and well, it’s kinda fun! better than moping around at home waiting for the next free canapé press-only premiere. so jonn keeps at it. and eventually it occurs to him that hey! he spent two months in thailand. why not make an article out of that? so he writes himself a lil paper, retelling his Bumtastic Adventures in the Land of Thai People, Cheap Living and Forged Papers (That Last One Having Nothing to Do With Him Personally of Course). and he’s kinda proud of it. so much that he gives it to his journalist friends. can they maybe pass it around? see if anybody would be interested in publishing it? for a modest fee and some more canapés?

and yeah. someone was in fact interested in publishing it. and that someone was:




(french edition.)

so jonn got a REAL press card. got a FULL-TIME JOB at the national geographic. and spent the REST OF HIS WORK LIFE traveling abroad for six months, then going back to paris the rest of the year to write about his wacky journeys. he’s retired now, having published several books full of his articles and photographs. he’s bought a b&b in the french countryside with all his money. and continues to say “fuck it” to any problem that comes his way like the absolute fucking legend he is.

as far as i know, none of his journalist buddies nor his boss ever found out about any of this.

Okay, this needs to be a movie SO bad

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36 days ago
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