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...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eight is Not Enough - Get The Whole Flat

If you think decorating is hard, landscaping is harder. It's like decorating with biology. How many Ralph Lauren paint chips did you have to go through before you selected that nice Soho Loft Buff for your living room walls, with Toulumme accents in satin finish? Imagine if you first had to send a wall sample off to your local county extension for testing, then determine if your color palette was compatible with the wall's Ph. Then you had to ensure the wall was receiving a suitable amount of sunlight or it would quickly fade to Country Kitchen Powder Blue, which, while bad enough, when paired with a Toulumme accent might give off bacterial toxins. Then it turns out your wall requires an hour of work each day to keep it looking good. And just when you thought you had it right, you wake up one spring morning to discover your living room is stripped down to the bare drywall. Soho Loft is an ANNUAL? Doh!

There isn't enough feng-shui in the world to save your butt in that situation. Better just call Martha Stewart and have her send over a botanist. With samples.

When landscaping is done right, it REALLY looks good - prudent use of clustering, contrast, staggered bloom timing, layering and hedges (as in, mutual funds - you're gonna have to call your broker if you're thinking of doing any serious landscaping).

But landscaping is rarely done right, because it's usually done by economically- and phylogenically-challenged homeowners like the Headmaster. Most DIY landscaping falls into two main categories. The first is what the Headmaster calls Smurf Gardening, where each spring the homeowner travels to Home Depot to purchase some weed whacker string and returns with a half-dozen plants (celosia, dusty miller and marigolds are favorites) which are placed randomly around an entryway or at the base of a large tree. Sometimes a gazing ball is installed to enhance the viewing experience.

The solution to this is simple clustering. Never purchase less than a dozen of any annual flowering plant. In fact, go crazy and just get the flat. They don't reproduce, so what you buy is what you get. Unlike perennials, which WILL reproduce and therefore a single plant can propagate itself to create a cluster after a few years. So to recap - it's all about clustering. Well, adding a sexy smurfette won't hurt either.

The second category is more of a Covert Operation, where the only conceivable purpose of the landscaping is to obscure whatever is going on inside the house. Let's say your hobby is putting on some white leg warmers and acting out your favorite episodes of Eight Is Enough. Stapling the J.C. Penney curtains tightly together isn't fool-proof, so you'll want to plant some Taxus Yew right up against the house and just let it go. Or if you want to get fancy try Rhododendron, but we recommend laying low until it has time to get all "leggy".

There are variations to these methods. Here are some of the most common...

The White Flag
Don't even get the Headmaster going about Leyland Cypress. With few exceptions, they're basically the landscaping equivalent of sweatpants - you plant a row of these and you're telling the world "I gave up, don't bother me". The only thing worse than planting rows of Leyland Cypress is planting them around a gargantuan Pinezilla. And here's the real trouble with Leyland Cypress - eventually a stiff breeze will come in and blow a few of them over. And then what have you got? Male-pattern Cypress. Better break out the sweat pants.

If trees had traveling sideshows, this pine tree would get top billing. Here, the homeowner appears to have grown a freakshow goldmine, combining The Gentle Giant with The Three-Legged Boy. The only thing worse than having a Pinezilla in your yard is framing it with rows of Leyland Cypress - like little sideshow barkers. "Ladies and Gentlemen, step right this way..."

Christmas in April
Here, you plant only azaleas - bunches and bunches of azaleas. For one glorious week in April you have the best-decorated house on the block. The only thing that could possibly be better is if you could hook them up to a solid-state relay and get them to blink to the tune of "June Is Bustin Out All Over". But then, suddenly it all just shuts down and goes brown overnight. You leave the decorations up all year anyway.

This homeowner purchased "Wildflower Garden In A Can". Actually, he purchased a signature-series George Foreman Grill, which came with "Wildflower Garden In A Can". He spent a total of three and a half minutes designing and planting his flower bed, and then simply followed the directions on the can: "open and sprinkle the seeds around liberally". Because the flowers weren't compatible with his USDA Zone, most died. For those that survived, he had a difficult time differentiating weeds from flowers. But then they sprouted just enough flower-like seed pods to keep him satisfied. Now he thinks he's got a genuine wildflower bed, when in fact it is simply an exceptional collection of annual grassy weeds mixed with invasive yarrows. HEY DUDE! If you were shopping for a pet and QVC threw in "Wild Monkeys In A Can", would you open it?! The Academy has no sympathy for you.

The Monolith
Originally inspired by famous architect Tom Brady and his firm "The Brady Bunch, AIA", this technique requires an artistic eye. It also requires a great deal of patience - a sweater vest will help. Basically you plant rows of hedges along the perimeter of the house, wait ten years then trim them into all sorts of fantastical and whimsical shapes, like rectangles, circles and um... well that's pretty much it. It helps if you remove the front entrance to your home so there is nothing to break up the monotony.

The Squatter
Shoot, uh cain't cut 'er down, she's just always been thar." You have no idea how that big ugly conifer got into your front lawn, it's just always been there. So you mow around it. This look is greatly enhanced when you can grow a bunch of weeds around the bush, and then start cutting around the weeds, so the whole thing begins to look like some sort of boreal biome. This method of landscaping - if you can call it that - is like standing in front of the mirror with your razor in hand, staring at a big zit. You realize you're just going to have to go around that sucker.

The Mystery Package
Ok, you don't know what the hell it is, but you're gonna leave it there just in case it's sump'n. Here, the owner hasn't really bought into it - he's still on the fence. He's hoping the telephone pole is obscuring his indecision. Better to just bite the bullet and mulch a nice big circle around that bad boy. Hell, put a low-voltage spotlight on it. When you're loud and proud, being wrong just don't matter any more.

The Blob
A meteorite falls on your lawn, depositing a large green conifer-like creature. Some local teenagers witness the blob eating an off-leash poodle. They try to warn the police, but nobody believes them. Meanwhile, the blob just keeps getting bigger and bigger. This particular specimen is so large it appears to have its own address.

The Veggie
The Academy has nothing against vegetarians. They're going to save the world with all their great ideas. Ideas like planting acorn squash as ground cover for the walkway. In fact, with a simple pair of heavy-duty Wellington boots, you can convert these into "Steppables" - ground cover you can walk on. Of course, in late summer your guests will have to navigate around masses of rotting vegetation, but that's no biggie - just bring 'em in the back door! Better tell them to watch out for the Blob though. Local legend has it that it eats poodles, and your veggie friends certainly wouldn't want to see that. Plus, poodles are just so darned cute it'd be tough to resist the ensuing "Save The Poodles" campaign.

The Refuge
You can't remember who put that sign up on your property. Maybe the telephone company put it up. Maybe that weed put the sign up. Either way, you're taking no chances - that humongous weed is officially protected. The last thing you want is to be caught cutting it down by some Prius-driving veggie who plants acorn squash on his front walkway. It's a slippery slope from there to a trillion-dollar unfunded mandate.

The Double-Entendre
Ok, you know what? We're not even going there. Just trim the damn thing already.

The Academy's landscaping borrows on all these methods, but leans heavily toward the Covert Operation. Except the previous owners weren't doing anything nearly as interesting as acting out Dick Van Patten sitcoms - they simply wanted to hide the "decorating" they'd done. And by "decorating", we mean "covering every surface with McHale's Navy Battleship Gray semi-gloss". Dudes, did you get a deal at Sunny's Surplus? Seriously, EVERYTHING? When the Headmaster first moved in he had an overwhelming urge to jump overboard. In retrospect, perhaps abandoning ship might have been the better course.

Slowly the Headmaster is weeding the landscaping down to the bare essentials and then building it back up with some method to the madness. Mostly though, he wants all the new architectural features of the Academy - especially the new windows - to be exposed. When he installs a whole flat of gazing balls on the north grounds, he wants to stand proudly in the front window admiring his leg warmers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Incremental Build

In software development, the old waterfall method reigned for decades. Under this method, a product is developed as a single, monolithic structure where no single piece stands on its own, but rather all the parts make up the whole which is delivered as a turn-key system at the end of a project. As waterfall projects go, the Headmaster worked a few of Niagara proportion back in the day.

The waterfall method went out of fashion largely because of the significant risk associated with waiting until the end to see what you got.

Program Manager: "Boss, that big program we were developing won't work."

Boss: "WHAT?!"

Program Manager: "We lost twelve man-years of time."

SLAP (the boss slaps him across the cheek)

Program Manager: "..and forty million dollars."

SLAP (the boss slaps him across the other cheek)

Program Manager: "..and... the Vorpel Sword."


Exeunt, stage right. Enter, Incremental Build. This is where the product is decomposed into smaller, more granular working parts, each of which may stand on its own to provide a service to the other working parts. Because the parts are smaller, you get to see them in action sooner. Some of the parts may be bundled together to provide a working prototype for certain functions. Some parts may be discarded altogether or redesigned. In the end, the parts are bundled into a final product. "You're saying it doesn't work after spending three days and 4 thousand dollars? Hm.. Whatever. I need a pig here!"

The Headmaster likes to think of the Academy as simply a working prototype, where all the parts are under development but in the end they'll all come together in a glorious crowning achievement, presented with much pageantry to a very pleased Headmistress. Hey, it could happen!

Here is how the typical project starts - a process the Headmaster likes to call "spontaneous decomposition" (and although the phrase hints of instant destruction, the reader should rather visualize the Academy slowly decomposing over time). The Headmaster pours himself a cup of coffee and steps out onto the front patio to survey his realm. His proud smile fades as a critical eye falls on a large, outdated stone planter - sedimentary stone painted battleship gray, with white highlights over the mortar joints. He recoils in horror: Sedimentary stone - OMG! Hm... something must be done.

Setting his coffee down, he picks up a pry bar and begins dismantling the planter, completely unaware of the spectacle created by a barefoot, pry-bar wielding man in boxer shorts, hacking madly at a perfectly good stone planter. Four hours later, all the landscaping in the front has been cut down, the planter is gone, and the Headmaster's coffee is as cold as two tons of sedimentary stone sitting in a pile of rubble on the front lawn.

"Won't the Headmistress be pleased", says the Headmaster, "when she finds that the stone planter has been decomposed into a base foundation of concrete block! All that ugly, 500 million year-old, quarried Paleozoic rock to be replaced with Pre-cambrian fieldstone, deposited onto North American fields by receding glaciers. Fieldstone baby!"

We believe it's more likely that she'll be concerned with the glacial pace at which the Headmaster will deposit those fieldstones onto the block foundation. He's already moved on to the next prototype.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Schools Without Walls

Oooh, yummy - a rainy Saturday morning. Isn't it great to wake up to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof? It puts one in the mood for the tallying of walls. Seriously, the Headmaster got out of bed this morning and promptly counted the number of finished walls at the Academy. Clearly the Headmaster operates on a higher plane, but it may be that his right dharma eye has veered slightly off course.

At this point, the astute reader will ask what, exactly, constitutes a finished wall? Perhaps the most concise definition will simply be one that don't need no more fixin'. But by that definition, in some parts of Howard County studs and insulation will do nicely, whereas in Clarksville we'd need to factor in Vivienne Westwood wallpaper procured by our trophy wife.

Therefore, a slightly more narrow definition is wanted. Let us propose then, for purposes of rainy Saturday morning tallies, that a finished wall is defined as a plane in space that a) projects a smooth surface to the eye across the entire plane; b) provides for a smooth transition to adjoining planes; c) is 100% covered with a continuous coat of paint in one color; d) is bordered top and bottom with appropriate molding; and e) supports no artwork from Ikea.

(Note: we could go on and on about the definition of "appropriate molding" with discussion of proportionality and muted highlight colors, but that's a topic for another day - in the meantime do please try to contain your excitement)

So, how many walls in the Academy fit that proper definition? Exactly four, as it turns out. And we ditched all our Ikea artwork long ago after seeing it featured in the cult-status film "The Room", but that's a sordid tale that is best left untold.

When expressed as a fraction comprised of percent-complete over time, and then contemplated under the weight of seemingly endless rain (when will it STOP ALREADY!?), these results might have the effect of inducing paralyzing depression. But that's before we account for the fact that those four walls do not technically belong to the Academy in the strictest sense - they belong to a tenant who rents them (here, we'll use the term "rent" in the most liberal sense). So it appears that Browns Bridge Academy has taken the homeschool concept of "schools without walls" very literally, since in fact the only way to express the quantity of finished walls at the Academy is by using a number that is a whole number but not a natural number.

{pause for effect...}

Haha! Hahaha.. ha.. aha... aha.... ahhh, homeschool humor. That's a good one.

Er, where were we? Oh yes, our poor Headmaster. He is back in bed, with the covers pulled up over his head, and we think it may take something stronger than Naproxen to coax him out...

Monday, July 05, 2010

Sit Down and Shut Up ©®™

The Headmaster is presently reading a book entitled "Sit Down and Shut Up". This, coincidentally, is the name of the Headmaster's trademarked homeschooling lecture methodology. The Headmaster is currently suing for the rights. The book, according to its subtitle, contains "Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye." Now if you're anything like the Headmaster, you've had it up to here with punk rock commentaries on the right dharma eye, but maybe this one is exceptional. We'll see. It may all depend on how the lawsuit goes.

You know it's the dog days when you wake up in the morning with a stack of fresh clean tee-shirts, and then you can't find a single clean one for bedtime. That nice neat stack of folded cotton sits in a damp, stinking heap on the floor of the laundry room. If they made a scratch-n-sniff card for it, the only conceivable name would be "Wrestling Holds - Worst Case Scenario".

Welcome to summa' baby.

The local church has recently taken advantage of the heat wave to warn passersby that it could be worse, with a certain implied message that it most definitely will be worse in the Headmaster's case. Hm.. how'd they hear about THAT?

Seriously, churches peddling gloom and doom - haven't they heard that it's all changed now? It's all supposed to be hip and cool and kumbaya. Church signs are supposed to advertise hip-hop socials and all-night sleepovers with Dirty Dancing marathons. How are you going to lure impressionable young minds with stories of the devil? I mean, here's some anti-establishment dude with a fu-manchu who bucked authority and got sent to his room where he spends his days stewing and thinking about revenge.. Ohhhhhh.....

Last month a neighbor of the Academy left for a six-month tour in Iraq. The Headmaster offered to maintain his lawn while he is away. After all, the Academy does Support The Troops©®™. The Headmaster recalls the awkward final words at this neighbor's going-away party. By way of saying goodbye, the Headmaster stated that he'd take good care of Mr. Neighbor's lawn, to which the Missus Neighbor giggled at the obvious metaphor. After a nervous laugh and suspicious glance, Mr. Neighbor parted with a handshake that can only be described as menacing.

Well, with that handshake firmly implanted in his mind, the Headmaster certainly has been earnest in his lawn care - and there is no metaphor stated or implied. But it's official that in his earnest pursuit of lawn perfection, the Headmaster has contracted Lyme Disease. Since Mr. Neighbor maintains some sort of bizarre firewood/dead brush mausoleum under some trees in his yard, the Headmaster is pretty sure he contracted the disease while cutting the neighbor's lawn. Doesn't this qualify for some kind of military medal? Purple heart, green clovers, yellow moons - something? I mean, the Headmaster is fighting ticks over here so the neighbor doesn't have to fight them over there.

The Headmaster's brother was extremely alarmed to hear of the Lyme Disease diagnosis. This is to be expected from a man who owns three farm tractors, a zero-turn mower and a John Deere trailer to haul it all around in. I mean, if yard work were expressed in terms of manhood, the Headmaster would be Pee-Wee Herman, and his brother would be John Holmes (who is some dude - we hear - who is quite a manhood). Meaning, that if the Headmaster contracted the disease, the only hope for his brother would be to lock up the tractors and practice complete abstinence.

The Headmaster's brother had the most curious visceral reaction to the news, launching into a tirade about the uselessness of ticks. Something along the lines of "Those bahstids have absolutely no purpose - they are of no use to man whatsoever! They sit around just waiting for some poor unsuspecting schmuck to come along, then they jump on and suck his blood like leeches! Bahstids!"

This anthropocentric perspective amuses the Headmaster to no end. Of course, the notion that EVERYTHING on Earth must have some purpose that benefits man is firmly grounded in the biblical worldview. It's as though we expect ticks to provide us with some direct benefit - removing corns from our feet or mixing killer martinis or something - or we discount their right to exist at all. Would it never occur to such people that ticks - like man - have merely been given a shot at life and are simply trying to survive? That's what was so great about the old Far Side cartoons - they presented an alternative "arthropod-centric" worldview, where the poor unsuspecting schmuck who happened to walk by was merely there to benefit ticks. And so the Headmaster is happy to do what he can. Hey, ticks are people too...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Tha' bug life, yo

Some of the Academy's students have been known to play a game called "Flinch", where the object is to do something that makes someone else flinch. We use the word "something" here as a euphemism for "nearly maim and cripple". Intervention is generally required to minimize the carnage.

The Headmaster has recently acquired a disturbing propensity for flinching - a trait that he feels is very unbecoming of someone of his age and stature. (Oh yes, he's got stature. He's got stature coming out of his butt. We mean that figuratively, not literally like those old people you get behind in the grocery checkout who have stature literally escaping loudly from their butts. But the Headmaster chooses to wield his stature discreetly, which pleases the Headmistress. As for tenure, he's still working on that.)

The Headmaster's flinching is not to be confused with his nervous tic. The latter is related to the Academy's dwindling endowment, the former is related to various and sundry creepy-crawlies that inhabit the grounds and jump out to scare the beejeezus out of him.

It is simply amazing that the smallest of creatures can make us flinch. I mean, here the greatest predator on the planet jumps at the sight of a little bitty spider. Flinching must be built into our DNA.

Picture this scene: An idyllic day in the life of cro-magnon family.

Mr. Caveman struts around the cave swinging his club, being all stature-esque and everything. Mrs. Caveman demurs. Mr. Caveman's friend Eddie, parked on the sofa for the last three days, looks on in admiration, not noticing Mr. Caveman at all. And at that moment, when perhaps Mr. Caveman contemplates the meaning of that look of admiration, a little cave spider happens to bite him on the toe. Whereupon Mr. Caveman is dead within three days. Eddie's sense of opportunity is dampened slightly when he realizes that Mrs. Caveman produced twelve homeschooled cave-brats, and she is currently blocking the exit. From this point on, spiders have tended to make men drop their clubs and jump onto countertops screaming like little girls.

The Headmaster was recently bitten by a distant cousin of that early cave-spider, and found himself attached to the bed for days with no conceivable way to get out. The Headmistress, not known for demurishness, ordered him up and to the doctor. Five hundred milligrams of ibuprofen later, the Headmaster was back strutting around the Academy swinging his club, baby!

Tigers developed teeth and claws to survive. Insects developed toxins to survive. Man developed Naproxen. So watch out little spider-hopper-tick-thingy. I am not afraid of you and I will beat your ass.

(note - "I am not afraid of you and I will beat your ass" is the title of the eleventh full-length album by Hoboken-based alt-rock band Yo La Tengo. Hey yo, what do you expect from a Jersey band?)