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I'm just...I've been having a bad few days anyway, and tonight Destiny presents me with a envelope from the Be Excited About Reading people, with a booklet inside.

The booklet wants me to order magazines, along with filling out names and addresses of family members for them to solicit magazine orders from (a one-time deal).

The problem comes here: Des insisted that the forms were homework, "very special homework," on par with her math assignments. In her mind it actually exceeded the importance of math because there are prizes if she got the forms filled out extra-good, while math only resulted in an amusing stamp on the paperwork.

I explained that it wasn't homework, and that I disapproved of the whole process, and told her I wouldn't be filling out the forms. Destiny began to cry, and she insisted that her teacher would be angry that it was not completed.

When I was in school, I participated in fundraisers, too. I couldn't tell you what I was raising money FOR, but I can tell you that one year I got a Wierd Al record, another year I got a free magazine subscription for myself, and other years I remember selling magazines but have no recollection of why or what I got in return.

According to the blue sheet of paper which accompanied the envelope, these magazine sales go to benefit the Valley Reading Council and the Young Authors' Conference. I'd provide website links, but neither seem to be online. There also was something about the school getting money. All of this was slipped in here and there, amongst the instructions for properly completing the forms and returning the packet to school. One entire paragraph was devoted to the breakdown of prize awards (if you fill out over seven, you get your name in a drawing for a stuffed dog!)

I'm certain this is all above-board, and I'm a happy supporter of the arts and education, as much as I can. I know Destiny's teacher probably could care less as to whether this envelope was returned or not, and I satisfied Destiny by telling her I'll buy her a prize to replace the one she'll forfeit by my inaction (and my prize will probably have more value than the slinky she'd get from the fundraiser.) I might discuss this with her tomorrow, because as I read this note, it appears that a small prize is still awarded for simply returning the envelope, regardless of completed forms.

What gets me riled up is how the end is hardly justified by the means. For such young students, there's no possible way they could understand what this envelope is for. I'd love to support reading programs, but I can't bring myself to help out via a program which grossly misrepresents itself to six and seven year olds. You get toys for filling out forms? That's a lesson that hardly belongs in a first grade classroom.

When I was very young, maybe second grade, there was a contest for reading books. I didn't take it too seriously, but I did read quite a few (I was reading novels at that time, so while I read Treasure Island my peers were reading short books with large print). On library day, we sat at the small tables in the open area between the stacks, and our numbers were read off. When your name was called, you could go choose a prize from the area corresponding to the number of books finished. I got to pick out an eraser -- not just any eraser, though. It was around two inches long, and it was in the shape of a hyper-scifi spaceship, with fins and windows all over it. I never used it to erase anything, because it was too damn cool. Now THAT is a contest for young kids to participate in.

Besides this fundraiser, every couple weeks a Scholastic Books order form follows Destiny home. You know how I feel about those. Right after Christmas Break, Destiny brought home an envelope, addressed to me. Inside was a form saying that for $13.50, Destiny could be part of a special book club. I almost didn't sign up for it, because it was yet another thing asking for money for the school. My mom was visiting and she said something, nothing important, but it made me take a second look. I did my research, and found that this, the Junior Great Books program, was a widely reknowned and well-tested program which encourages critical thinking and discussion of literature. My heart sank, because I almost refused to let Destiny be involved. It's crap like this magazine sale that makes me doubt anything that comes from the school with a dollar sign on it.

So, in the end, I wrote a note, containing most of my sentiment above, and sealed it in the magazine order envelope along with everything else. I also plan to discuss it with Destiny's teacher at the upcoming conferences, emphasizing the fact that Destiny thought she'd be angry if the magazine orders were not completed properly. It makes me sad, though -- feeling like the bad guy for opposing something which intends to make money. I want the school to have all the money they need to educate the children, but I can't support this as a means for doing it.

Viola -- new Backwash column, loosely connected to an earlier column. The stories might cross one day.

"I haven't had mexican in a while..."

Jason winced. "I know I asked you what you'd like to do for lunch, but I can't do mexican. We went out that one time and I got really sick, and I just can't eat mexican any more."

"That's ok..."

"The weird thing is I go to Taco Bell at least once a week."

"That's a little different," I replied. "Taco Bell is plastic mexican, not real mexican."

Roxy, in the next cubicle, had been listening to our conversation, and called Jason over to make her lunch suggestion.

"Hey, Roxy," I called, "'Plastic Mexican' would be a great band name, huh? 'Hellooooo Fargoooo, we're Plastic Mexican and we're here to ROCK!"

Jason continued, in his best Brett Michaels impersonation. "I gotta tell you something, Fargo! I've partied all around this great nation of ours, and those bigger cities could learn a thing or two from you!" After which he bounced off his "stage" and out of Roxy's office.


click for current conditions

Twenty below -- you ever been that cold? I originally planned to take a thermometer outside and post a video of it's rapid descent off the scale, but I feared I'd damage it (the thermometer's lower limit was zero). With the wind, the radio said the windchill is minus forty or fifty. Greetings from scenic North Dakota!

Earlier today, I had to call a TV station in Rhode Island for information on a couple insurance applications they submitted. The woman I spoke to was very nice, joked about it being monday, and was pleasantly helpful.

After I got off the phone, all I could think was how she sounded like the stereotypical Jewish mother. She wasn't so bad, just the lightest accent and a forward way of phrasing. But, she made me think, "Oy, such questions for a Monday!"

Then again, she probably got off the phone and turned to the woman beside her (who I also heard through the phone, and sounded much the same) and said, "I just talked to a guy from Fargo, and he was all, 'Yah, I need dem dere salaries for some of yer employees, don'cha know!'"

Daily Condition:

in mp3 player: various rip slyme tunes

my condition: Woohoo - big money! My first post-raise paycheck of the year arrived today.

I posted a new article in my Backwash column a couple days ago.

New Year's Resolutions don't work for me since my objectives don't really fit calendar timelines. This year, just due to coincidence, my Resolution is to officially get my writing published somewhere, whether magazine, newspaper, collection of short stories, or in a novel. I asked for a current copy of the Writer's Guide To Book Editors, Publishers, Literary Agents for Christmas, and (of course) my parents got me one. If you've seen these, they're around two inches thick - and I read the whole thing over my New Year's vacation. Pages are marked, things are hilighted, in hopes of finding the right combination of publisher's wants, agent's interests, and my own talents.

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I forgot to do this: Merry Christmas, all! If I have your mailing address, it's likely that you got this from us on a hand-made CDROM in the mail with a Christmas card. Also, if you missed last years', here you go. What will the next year bring? Time will only tell...

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