Monday, November 22, 2010

Big-Tent Party?

Those conservatives sure know how to appeal to the broadest possible base, don't they?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Robert Ehrlich Was Right. Once.

You may recall the Headmaster's surprise at discovering he lived in "Lorton Country". Since the Headmaster's O'Mehrlich sign mysteriously disappeared from the East Grounds in the middle of the night, he felt the need to continue his contribution to the neighborhood sign wars.

This may be the only known case where Robert Ehrlich was right.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Done and done.

The Academy is happy to report that it is actually possible for the Headmaster to finish a project. Today he completed the stone planter box on the east entry. The Headmistress is pleased indeed.

Recall the demolition process on the old battleship gray sandstone planter box...

And here then, is the completed project...

While the Headmaster never likes to give away his building secrets, we did manage to record some of the construction process. Enjoy...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sign Wars

A political sign goes up in a neighborhood. And then the very next day, another. And then, overnight, it's as though those two signs had gotten together and got BIZZEEEE!

Fortunately for the Academy, our little neighborhood has been spared. Until yesterday when the Ehrlich bunch started a fight. Then the O'Malley crowd got into it. Now, the signs are springing up everywhere.

Today, the Headmaster took the matter into his own hands and created a sign that would make any Unitarian proud.

Let's hope this calms things down a bit.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Lorton Country Has "Qualities"

Today the Headmaster was surprised to learn that he lives in "Lorton Country". Kyle Lorton is the "fiscally responsible" "family guy" who "has ethics". (Picture Chris Farley doing Bennett Brauer here) Sure, Lorton may not be "camera friendly", and he may not "wear clothes that fit". Yeah, he may "lack hygenics". And he doesn't "own a toothbrush" or "let his scabs heal". But dammit, he "can win!"

Seriously, is that the best they can say about this aspiring state senator - that he's a "family guy"? We're not sure what that means, beyond the fact that he likely "has family". The Headmaster also has family, but we don't recommend voting for him anytime soon. And can we define "fiscally responsible"? How about: "I'll fund the things I want to fund, and not the stupid things THEY want to fund". Sure, the Headmaster would love to fund a Ferrari in the driveway and think himself positively responsible for doing it. But the Headmistress might beg to differ.


And don't even get us going about "has ethics"! It's like having a friend set you up on a blind date -- "Really, you'll like her - she has looks!"

Ah, but now we see from whence this tepid endorsement springs. Probably from the bottom of a growler of Fordham Copperhead Ale.

We thoroughly enjoyed the following excerpt on Mr. Lorton's official website:

"I will not compromise on principle, but... I will work with anyone who will work with me."

Sounds like a nice way of phrasing the Headmaster's motto: "My way or the highway."

Monday, August 23, 2010

How Much Will You Take For The Unused Lithium?

The Headmaster has always maintained that yardsales are a perfect venue for witnessing the absolute worst in human behavior. They make even homeschooling listservs look like models of order and decency by comparison. This is why he avoids them like the plague. That is, until this weekend when the Academy joined an alliance of regional schools to conduct a yardsale to benefit school children in Haiti. Now if you think yardsale rats will run you down looking for the bargain of the century, wait 'til you tell them that all proceeds will benefit a third-world country struggling to recover from the disaster of the century. Oh yeah baby, it's on. It is so totally and completely on.

You might not normally connect Juicy Couture dresses for toddlers with questionable judgment, but when, in the context of helping impoverished kids obtain badly-needed school supplies, a discriminating shopper offers $1 for a $90 dress worn only once for the opening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince at Regal Snowden Square 14 Theaters - well, one must draw a line somewhere.

The worst of the worst are the "early birds", which is a euphemism for (kids, if you're reading this, cover your ears) "professional asshole". These are yardsale rats who seem to find joy in haggling with you over a nickel. See, they're gonna need that nickel to defer the cost of listing fees when they resell your gently-used possessions through Craigslist at 2000% markup.

It's 6am. You stand in your driveway before a pile of "stuff-that-was-destined-for-this-yardsale-the-moment-you-impulsively-bought-it", sipping coffee and contemplating your setup strategy. It's the quiet before the storm. Suddenly you see them drive by and hit the brakes, followed by the urgent whining of the transmission as they back their utility van over your carefully placed orange parking cones. They pause to size you up. Slowly they emerge and walk up as if skulking into an adult bookstore. You can see it in their hollow eyes - lost souls with no conscience to speak of. "Hey, mind if I look around?" they say without looking up. "Sure. Hey, mind if I poke you in that hollow eye with this distinctive, hand-forged fireplace poker from Woodland Direct in lovely vintage finish that is sure to complement any decor?"

Ah well, it's just "stuff". If you go into it with the expectation that you are going to get rid of a lot of unwanted merchandise and maybe make a dollar or two, you won't be disappointed. Alternatively, you could just take a heavy dose of lithium two hours prior. Then, afterward, take all your proceeds and go buy some more silly-bands.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Will and Grace

At first glance, this sign appears to be a simple and funny play on words related to the recent heat spell. But it is actually using those words as metaphor for the tension between the concepts of free will and grace. According to the Merriam-Webster Abridged, Grace is defined as "unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification".

It works like this: an all-knowing, all-powerful and infallible God creates mankind, but makes them imperfect through the concept of "free will". Then, by dangling the carrot of eternal happiness he requires them to control their free will in order to strive for moral perfection. Knowing they would fall short, he then provides "Grace" to allow them an opportunity to get the carrot anyway.

Sounds logical (if not a little whacked) until you start actually thinking about it. See you can't think about it without poking into a few hopelessly knotted tangles like Jesus Christ and Predestination. According to Predestination, this grace-giving God knows who will get the carrot (i.e. the "Elect") and who will not get the carrot (i.e. the "Reprobates"). Which begs a few obvious questions:

- why is Grace given to get the carrot and given to not get the carrot?
- if Grace is given and the Elect are known, then why sacrifice Jesus Christ?
- why answer the prayers of the "doomed" reprobates?
- why bother bringing the reprobates into the world in the first place?
- if He intervenes to help me upgrade to first class, doesn't that mean I'm Elect?

Catholicism: Predestination is God's decree of the happiness of the Elect. God's infallible foreknowledge (and thus predestination also) includes free will. God's foreknowledge cannot force upon man unavoidable coercion, for the simple reason that foreknowledge is nothing more than the eternal vision of what happens in the future. God foresees the free activity of a man precisely as that individual is willing to shape it - predestination is not predetermination of the human will.

In other words, moral decisions based on your free will determine whether you get the carrot, and God knows what decisions you will make. But let's keep going...

Election is a consequence of God's foreknowledge. By definition, the Elect are those whom God infallibly foresees will be saved (Rom 8:28-30). By this definition, it is impossible for the Elect to be lost, precisely because God foreknows who will not be lost. But since election depends on God's infallible foreknowledge, we simply have no way of knowing whether or not we are in that category -- God knows with certainty His Elect, but we do not. The Elect are predestined in the sense that God knows them, and enables them by grace, to be saved.

So let's see if we have this straight. God knows already if you're saved (Rom 8:28-30). He knew it when you were born. He knew it BEFORE you were born. So why does God bring us here when he knows we won't get the carrot, unless it is for the sheer amusement of watching us try to raise kids or take tours of the Spy Museum? If you're beginning to feel like the control group in some sort of cosmic experiment, you're not alone. It may be that your entire purpose on earth is to highlight (through your failure) the success of the carrot-holding elect.

Can you imagine working your whole life (or even one day) toward some fuzzy promise to "get paid" in the end if you do a "good job"? There's no one around to provide a clear definition of "good job", and so you have no way of knowing where you stand at any given point. Heck, you don't even know what the "pay" is! Maybe the Muslims have it right after all - hew as closely as possible to a strictly literal interpretation of ancient holy texts, and you've given it your best shot. And you know exactly what you get in the end. Sure, you have to live your whole life in the Dark Ages, but you'll get 72 virgins while the rest of the world strives for some lousy carrot.

According to most religious doctrines, homosexuality is like an express lane for Hell - forget HIV, gays are all going to Hell HOV. The Apostle Paul mentions homosexuality as a sin which keeps man from the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). Remember that 90's show Will and Grace? The name succinctly sums up the tension between free will and grace, which cannot be more aptly demonstrated than in a show about a heterosexual-turned-homosexual man. Was Will exercising his God-given ability to choose, while Grace's role (ever optimistic, if not somewhat unwitting) was to "save" him? Was the show demonstrating that the concepts of grace and free will are inextricably linked, such that grace and salvation will always be available to us, in spite of the temptations of free will? Or was the show simply a vehicle to get Megan Mullaly's boobs into our living rooms? (Thank you Lord)

We can't seem to make sense of it all. Through prayer, we seek guidance and assistance from God to "show us the way" - to make the right moral decisions. And yet, He already knows what decisions we will make, and through that knowledge He knows whether we're destined for Hell or Eternity. In fact, His intervention would be the undoing of predetermination, which would make Him... fallible. We ask Him for help in all kinds of issues - help with our finances, help with our relationships, help getting five minutes alone with Megan Mullaly - and yet for all we know our name isn't even on the VIP list. So what's the point again? Some faiths believe that since the Elect are predetermined, Christ died only for the elect. Doh! Can you imagine? They were already good to go! Dammit!

As it turns out, this church sign had nothing whatsoever to do with any of these concepts. See, we told you this AC thing was going to catch on!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cut, Print, Check the Gate. Moving on.

If you can imagine buying tickets to see Luscious Jackson in concert, and then after arriving being handed a microphone and informed that it's karaoke, you have some idea what it was like today when the Headmaster escorted the students on a "tour" of the Spy Museum in Washington DC, near Chinatown.

From the Spy Museum website:

"Think of it as a live action adventure in the second oldest profession on earth. Only you’re the spy. This one-hour adrenaline-fueled interactive experience is no exhibit. It’s simple, really. You have to locate a missing nuclear trigger before it ends up in the wrong hands. No pressure. Just crack a few safes, decode some messages, interrogate a suspect double agent."

See, this isn't a tour. This is acting without even being paid scale. This is why the Headmaster avoids Murder Mystery Dinner Theater and Japanese Steakhouses at all costs. When he dines out, he wishes to be served, and prefers not to be part of the "entertainment". Imagine going to a fine restaurant where the chef navigates a serving cart to within three meters of your table, then asks you to open wide while he flips your meal into your mouth one bite at a time with great fanfare. Grilled scallops soar through the air in slow-motion as you wait with mouth agape like a hooked fish. Diners four tables away have instant access to your complete dental history, and they wince at the site. "Ooooh, gosh... he should have flossed". Yeah, all the onion volcanoes in the world won't make up for that experience.

Anyway, after some preliminary play acting, the Headmaster's tour group of a half-dozen parents with kids were herded into a themed room representing the lobby of a third-world hotel. Here they were given an initial briefing of their mission and asked to select code names for themselves. The Headmaster quickly set upon "Cupcake" as first choice, and "Twinkles" as second, but as it turns out those names were already taken by the time it came 'round to him. So he froze for a moment, then just blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Steve Shapero!" he said, whereupon Cupcake, Twinkles and Excalibur all shot him a look of utter disdain as if to say "You stupid noob, you're endangering the entire mission".

"Sorry," says the Headmaster sheepishly. Then, almost pleadingly, "The website said there'd be no pressure!"

See, this is why the Headmaster would rather not be part of any "interactive" experience. That is, unless he's touring a museum for the OLDEST profession in the world.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to Lose a Caterpillar in 10 Days

While working on the stone wall today, the Headmaster was visited by a Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar. She crawled on over along the rock ledge, then raised her head up to inspect the Headmaster. At first glance, the caterpillar's head appeared to have a bit of the Red Queen about it. Bulbous. Then it suddenly dawned on the Headmaster that the eyes weren't eyes at all. According to Batesian Mimicry, certain insects evolve the features of other insects (or even vertebrates) in order to appear more dangerous to predators.

Upon further reflection, however, it may be that these features are not designed to scare off predators at all. Viewed from a different perspective, perhaps with a few Emilio Pucci accessories thrown in, these eyes scream out "I'm looking for commitment". Makes us wonder how the species survives at all, given a physical feature literally designed to scare the bejeezus out of all the male caterpillars.

Cut scene. Camera pans in on Ms. Caterpillar's steady boyfriend, on a tour of wine country with his college buddy. "Look, if these chicks want to drink Merlot, we're drinking Merlot." His buddy yells back "I am NOT drinking #*%&ing Merlot!"

Anyway, after several minutes of inspection, the caterpillar walked off and left the Headmaster to his business. A wise decision on her part.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Belly on up

Regular readers (yes, we're talking about you three) know that the Academy broke ground this spring on the new James M. Chandler Septic System on the north grounds. Part of this project involved eliminating a section of fence in order to get the big equipment onto the grounds. This breach in force protection didn't go unnoticed. The deer have begun spreading picnic blankets out by the pool each morning, raising the age-old question - what to feed the unexpected guest? Ever-aspiring to be a better host, the Headmaster invested a small fortune installing an all-you-can-eat salad bar. Going for an English-Garden look, he framed the vegetable garden with hostas, black-eyed-susans, heather and more. This has become the Academy's "loss-leader" - tempting the deer in and then selling them on the good stuff like tomatoes and basil. The response has been overwhelming, and we're happy to report that we've nearly moved our entire inventory.


While mowing the lawn this past week, the Headmaster discovered that the deer are not the only ones bellying up to the bar. The back fields were nearly blanketed with the most curious caterpillars. Euchaetes Egle, to be exact - or, simply the Milkweed Caterpillar. Remember milkweeds? As a kid, the headmaster used to find them, crack them open and blow the seed spores all over the yard. This no doubt endeared him to the local Eu. Egle population, if not to his dad.

Between the Eu. Egle, the tent caterpillars, the slugs and the local deer, the only green thing left at the Academy is the grass. Now all the Headmaster needs is a herd of goats to completely eliminate all yardwork.

"Be-e-e-e-lly on up boys, I'll be hanging out at the pool with the deer. I hear they have cucumber sandwiches with fresh basil."

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hey Beer Man, Two Over Here!

Heat Index 105. Ok, so it’s hot. But we're not buying into this whole “global warming” thing because we just checked and it’s -40 on the summit of Mount Everest right now. Talk to us when the Sherpa are wearing Bermuda shorts and selling lift tickets.

Meanwhile, the Headmaster will be spending more and more time down at the local church, where they’ve taken to enticing the masses with promises of thermal comfort. Wouldn’t you think that climate control is simply the cost of entry in the church business? Can you imagine a sign in the middle of winter -- “COME ON IN. WE’VE GOT HEAT!”

But as we all know from Marketing 101, it doesn’t take much to create an artificial demand for any given commodity. This AC thing could catch on, and soon every church will be advertising it. That’s when they’ll start looking for “differentiators”.




Down at the Unitarian they’ll be all like “ENERGY STAR AC with R410A – CERTIFIED GREEN!” Just watch the parking lot fill up with Priuses.

Sigh. Makes us long for the good old days. “We’ve Got JC”.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dear God:

As church signs go, this one ain't bad. The Headmaster is amused by the double-entrendre of the expression, and even of specific words within the expression. Very clever.

This sign leads the Headmaster to ponder the whole concept of prayer, and of communication with God in general. There is no accounting for it. Well, at least, there is no accounting for it unless you're using the accounting methods of Enron. Which reminds us that Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling once reflected from his jail cell that "We were doing God's work". Hm... How'd he know he was doing God's work, without having had some communication with God? Probably email.

To: God
Date: Wednesday, August 8, 2001 10:06 pm
Subject: Ongoing Operations

God - we're employing questionable accounting methods in order to continue fleecing investors out of billions. Do you want us to proceed with this work?

Jeffrey Skilling, CEO Enron

From: Mail Delivery Subsystem
Date: Wednesday, August 8, 2001 10:06 pm
Subject: Returned mail: see transcript for details

----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----
(reason: 550 Host unknown)

To: God
Date: Wednesday, August 8, 2001 10:07 pm
Subject: Fwd: Ongoing Operations

I'm taking that as a "Yes".

Jeffrey Skilling, CEO Enron

But wait, following the collapse of the highly-leveraged derivatives market and subsequent taxpayer bailouts didn't Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein also claim he was doing God's work? Taken at face value, that perspective seems entirely whacked, but then I suppose one might argue that literally everything we do - whether good or bad - is God's work. Sitting on the toilet this morning, leafing through the Headmistress's Soma Intimates Catalog, I was doing "God's Work". And who could argue that the woman modeling the Brianna Lace Thong with Unlined Lace Cami Bra wasn't doing God's work?

[crickets chirping]

I thought so. But I digress...

Where were we? Ah yes, accounting. How do we account for a personal God who answers prayers and communicates with his creations? Here we have a person living in utter misery, praying for food or medicine for her children. It never comes. Why has she been ignored? Is it because she is bad? Is her faith lacking? And here we have another person living in relative luxury, praying for a winning lottery ticket so he can quit his job. After all the excitement of hitting the numbers, this new millionaire states "God has answered my prayers!" Hm... Could it be that God is having difficulty sorting his "Inbox"? Maybe the suffering mother's message got lost between advertisements for discount Viagra and Russian brides. Maybe our "personal" God needs a personal Assistant.

These thoughts run through the Headmaster's mind anytime he is tempted to "pray". How can one pray for anything, knowing the suffering that exists throughout the world? What could I possibly pray for, other than to end all suffering? But then, how do I plead with God to end that which He himself created? In fact, how can I ask God anything, unless it's to determine why there is such suffering in the first place, and why the prayers of the suffering should be ignored while prayers of the clearly advantaged are answered?

A person I know prays constantly. He literally prays for hours each morning. Whenever there is occasion for prayer, like at a funeral for example, he is always called upon to step in with prayer. He claims to have a "personal" relationship with God. I remember once he went to the airport to catch his flight home, but when he got there he realized he'd missed his flight - he thought his ticket was for Monday when it was actually for Sunday. After changing his tickets, he waited for hours for the next flight. They ended up bumping him to first class and he got to wait in the first-class lounge. He told us that it was God's intention for him to miss his flight, so that he could fly home first class. Hm... So God intercedes on behalf of our travel arrangements, even while millions suffer unspeakable living conditions?

The Headmaster just can't work it all out. Is God toying with us? Let us pray for answers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

They've Gun' Plumb Crazy...

First, the Academy wishes to go on record as squarely for gun rights. We happen to believe that the right to own guns is a critical part of any democracy. When only the government has guns, democracy is in trouble.

And now, on with our regularly scheduled program...

Here's an unusual development from Texas. I know, it's really WEIRD to think that anything unusual might happen in Texas, but stick with us on this. First, the good news - they have not seceded yet, so we've got that going for us. But ok, so a man fires a handgun at the entrance to the Capitol building in Texas - fortunately no one is hurt. Following the incident, metal detectors are installed at the entrance to prevent people from carrying guns into the building. This creates a bottleneck for people trying to get in. So they set up an "Express Lane" for people who have a permit to carry concealed weapons. Yes, you read that correctly - in the aftermath of the Capitol shooting, the quickest way to get into the Capitol is to have a handgun. People like me who don't own a handgun will have to get into the metal-detector line, behind the 60 kids who just got off the yellow buses without handguns. At least, that's if we ever, you know, get the urge to go to Texas.

Now, we have nothing against Texas, in fact we think it's a great country or continent or whatever it is. It's just that, like with any guest who keeps saying they're leaving but they never do, we feel it may be time to force the secession issue.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reese's Fecal Matter Cups...

...Now in convenient bite-size pieces
for those "On The GO"!

With unemployment hovering near double digits, job market trends continue to buck tradition. According to a 2009 CNN Report, Hunter-Gatherer jobs are the among the top ten emerging careers for 2010. And so there is hope for graduates of the Academy. That's why we encourage their fascination with shows like "Survivorman", where host Les Stroud navigates the globe in search of the perfect destination to spend 5 days and 6 nights. Think Expedia is cheap? Les Stroud can book your accomodations for free! (provided you don't mind eating animal feces on occasion to boost your caloric intake)

The incredible thing about Survivorman is that Mr. Stroud has no crew - he is completely alone in these hellish places. What's more is that he films the ENTIRE show on his own. For anyone who's seen the show, it's a marvel to behold: here's some long-range footage of Les climbing up a mountain, and suddenly you realize he had to climb back down just to retrieve his camera equipment, then climb back up again. It's no wonder he has to eat animal poo just to keep his energy levels up. It's enough to inspire the Headmaster to begin filming his home-improvement exploits. If he only had a video camera...

It is with great fanfare that the Academy announces its 2010 Candy Fundraiser.

But we prefer not to send our students out door-to-door since that would require them to venture outside. It's not that we're averse to forcing them up off their lazy asses seats, but getting them outdoors might require us to go outdoors, and we're busy just now sitting on our seats lazy asses. No, we'd much prefer it if you could just send us the money. This new and innovative fundraising program works like this. Next time you're standing in the checkout line and you reach for a 5-pound Super-Sized Mega Package of Reese's Cups, just picture that long-range footage of poor Mr. Stroud sitting on a rock ledge all by himself eating goat feces, knowing that he'll have to get off his lazy ass interrupt his meal just to go retrieve his camera. Put the candy bar back, and then take whatever outrageous price the store intended to gouge you for it and send it to the Academy.

In the meantime, we'll have to stick with simple still-shots. When you view these before-and-after photos (technically both are "during" photos), consider that the poor Headmaster had to go all the way back and retreive his camera equipment after snapping them.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Completion Backward Principle

Remember Fee Waybill of that 80's band "The Tubes"? Nah, neither do we. But it's an interesting photo nonetheless.

In 1981 The Tubes put out an album called "The Completion Backward Principle", with the Billboard top-ten hit "Talk To Ya Later". This is way before the Headmaster's time, but the title of the album refers to an actual project management technique in which the manager calculates critical path by way of a backward pass through the schedule. The Headmaster's brother used this technique back in the days when he was a Coast Guard officer. We don't recommend it because... well, the Coast Guard used it. (note - the Academy Supports The Troops©®™)

Today the Headmistress was pleased to see that progress has been made on the new fieldstone planter. (fieldstone baby!) The poor Headmaster was faced with a critical problem when it was discovered that the original foundation of the planter was not level. Normally, you start with a level foundation and work your way up from there. But it would have taken a solid week to dig out the foundation and start over, so the Headmaster built the planter box in a kind of back-assward fashion.

Two courses of block were set on top of the sloping foundation, and then a form was built to pour a concrete "leveler" on top of the structure. Hm... "The Completion Backward Principle".

Maybe the Coast Guard had it right after all...