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Monday, July 31, 2006

First day of football practice

My 15-year-old son starts "official" football practice today, which means he's at school from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. hitting dummies, running drills and bonding with his buddies. Last night I packed a 5-lb lunch for him -- two sandwiches, two apple sauces, dozens of grapes, chips and assorted cookies. He's been excited about this all weekend.
I just wish we -- parents, kids, schools -- had this kind of intense and focused commitment to school. Can you imagine requiring kids to hit the books, instead of the dummies, for 10 hours a day?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Selective enforcement by immigration

About a year ago I wrote a story on a young woman who was quite an impressive student and budding leader. Her name is Gabriela Pacheco, and she was entering the presidency of the community college student government association. Under normal circumstances, achieving this milestone is quite a feat. The association represents 1.1 million students. But Gabriela's rise through the ranks of student government was even more impressive because she had arrived here as a 7-year-old and worked hard to get a student visa so she could attend Miami-Dade College. Her teachers loved her. They told me we would one day hear about her.
Well, we have. Today she's in the news again. Immigration rounded up her family and Gabriela, her siblings and her parents face deportation back to Ecuador. The word is that her family was targeted because of her activism. In other words, selective enforcement.
I wouldn't doubt it. Yes, her family overstayed their tourist visas, but they've contributed mightily to this community. The Pacheco case is just one more example of how our immigration system is a mess in dire need of repair.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Miami drivers aren't that bad, really

Drive around the environs of Miami long enough and you'll soon join the chorus that sings a familiar refrain: Miami drivers -- they're the worst!
Well, I'm here to say: Not true. I spent part of my vacation at Jacksonville Beach, which means we drove up the spine of Florida and encountered all kinds of drivers with license plates from around the country but mostly from the Sunshine State. We got cut off. We saw numerous cars blow red lights and roll through stop signs. We witnessed the middle finger and mad weaving in and out of lanes. In short, we saw all kinds of traffic transgressions.
And we weren't in Miami!!! I think this area is not alone in the lack of traffic etiquette.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Miami Vice: Nostalgia and fashion

So you weren't invited to the premiere of Miami Vice. Neither was I. No big deal. I was around during the time of the first Miami Vice, and 1980s Miami was a mixed-up kind of place. Too much crime, too much ethnic strife and plenty of growing pains. In other words, the perfect setting for good drama.
The original TV show hung out our dirty laundry for all to see -- but gee, it was done with so much flair. I suppose the new movie will do the same. Does anybody remember the Miami Vice look that was so popular back then? Crockett and Tubbs made pastel colors and pushed-up suit sleeves all the rage. I have photos of male loved ones to prove it, too. These days, however, that "look" simply appears ridiculous, but it does come in handy. When my sons go around with their shorts halfway down their butts and their boxers showing, I bring out old pictures of past fashion fauxes.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Vacations are never long enough

So I'm back from a hard-earned well-deserved vacation -- if I may say so myself. It was only a week, and I certainly could have used at least twice that much. But I'm also ready to resume routine, if only because I dread those first few days back when I'm desperately trying to catch up. Vacations, I think, would be perfect if there wasn't a before or an after -- a before when you have to leave everything done and more, and an after when you're so overwhelmed that you need a running start to be on the regular track.
Hundreds of emails in my in-box!

Monday, July 17, 2006

World War III?

The escalating violence in the Middle East was the talk of my friends this weekend, and it was scary. The conversations covered a wide range of worries, from recession to the instituting of a military draft here in the U.S. My neighbor's daughter, a kid I've known since she was an itty bitty little thing, is over in Israel on a tour, and despite assurances by the tour operator, her mother is beside herself. Who wouldn't be? Other people we know have a son who was scheduled to start medical school in Tel Aviv next month. Should he go?
I can't imagine any solution to this beyond negotiations for prisoners. But if this doesn't happen, how will we be sucked into the conflict? And can this country handle anything beyond the nightmare in Iraq?
The world my children will inherit seems to grow increasingly volatile, dangerous and complicated. Then again, maybe every generation has had such a concern.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Up, up and away

So gas is inching upwards and it's going to get worse at the pump. Some say people have already started to change their habits -- carpooling, walking, buying more gas-efficient cars.
I don't see it. The parking lot at Publix last night was a canyon of SUVs. There were even two Hummers. (I hate those cars; they're so pretentious and over-the-top.) Nobody walks anywhere in my neighborhood. And as for carpooling, why then is there so much traffic on I-95 and 836 at any hour of the day?
Miami would be the perfect place to live if it weren't for the eternal road congestion.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rain, rain, go away

...and come back another day, when our roof is fixed.
I'm one of the lucky South Floridians who re-roofed in time for hurricane season. It looked good, those spanking new shingles. And every time I drove around and spotted all those blue tarps, I gave myself a mental pat of congratulations.
Well, not so fast. The roof may be new, but we've got leaks everywhere. My kitchen and foyer have three buckets apiece. The roofer, to his credit, came out to check on the problem immediately, but the weather has prevented him from getting anything fixed.
If this is a result of everyday summer storms, what's going to happen during a hurricane?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

On being a woman

In many parts of the world, being a woman is a dangerous matter. I'm thinking rapes, beatings, sexual torture etc. Now there's a story about how young ladies in Africa are having their budding breasts ironed down by a hot stone to make them less attractive. I've read about the mutilation of genitalia, but this is a frightening, sickening first. Any suggestions on how women elsewhere can help their sisters who must suffer such torture?

Monday, July 10, 2006

It takes more than money

A South Florica program is being honored for its innovative way of attracting young adults into the teaching profession. And boy do we ever need more teachers -- tens of thousands in the coming years, according to most estimates. But what so many people miss is that it's not enough to lure them into the profession. Once in the classroom, you have to keep them there, which is a huge undertaking. The problem of education is teacher RETENTION.
I can suggest plenty of ways to keep teachers around, and more money, more respect and better conditions are on top of the list. In Miami-Dade we should also be more careful in how we hand out bonuses. When the School Board agreed to give superintendent Rudy Crew another $45,000 in addition to his sizable salary and perks, every teacher I know (and there are dozens)snickered and complained about the board's targeted generosity. Many of those teachers don't have maps for their social studies classrooms and others work a second job to support a family. Some don't have enough books to give all their students. Most use their own money to buy classroom supplies. To the woman (and man), they were sure that Crew wasn't using his own funds to furnish his office. Talk about double standards.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

We're wasting an opportunity... not counterattacking these children's books that appear favorable to Cuba's communist government. Instead of banning books as the Miami-Dade School Board seems to want to do, let's use them in class along with other material that truly shows what life on the island is really like.
What are we afraid of?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fireworks of another kind

My Fourth of July celebration was fairly typical: family, fireworks and barbecued hamburgers and hotdogs. All five of my children were here, and we celebrated my daughter's and brother-in-law's birthdays. A couple of things were very different, though, and they're probably a sign of the times.
When not eating, everyone was gathered around the TV watching the Italy-GermanyWorld Cup match. It was an incredible game, but I couldn't help wondering: What about America's pastime? What about baseball?
Second thing: If we needed any reminder about the lurking dangers of this brave new world, we need to look no further than North Korea's missile tests -- on U.S. Independence Day.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Devil in your office

Anyone who's worked for any significant amount of time will shudder in recognition watching Meryl Streep work her magic as a mean boss in the movie, The Devil Wears Prada. She should be the first inductee to the Bad Boss Hall of Fame. So should some other people I know.
Don't you wonder how totally inept workers with no people skills get promoted?