Monday, April 30, 2018

The Elementary School Salsa Incident

Recently my wife laid down the law and more or less forbid me from doing the milk and bread purchase runs at the really expensive and ultra trendy grocery store in our area. While the milk and bread are only slightly more expensive, what really sends her into orbit powered on female frustration is throw in a few other items, like the fancy beer I like or any of a couple of dozen other common foods and the final checkout tally can get excessive. And just to keep the peace, and because she was correct on her assessment about the prices being out of the ordinary, I agreed to avoid the place.

The trouble though is that some days I just can't stomach the idea of walking through the cathedral-like Walmart just to buy milk, bread, and maybe one or two other items. Call it a form of simple snobbery or the fact that the ultra trendy grocery store has better customer service, a couple of days ago I defied my lovely spouse and defiantly walked into that forbidden den of upper middle class tastes.

It took me no more than ten minutes to grab two gallons of milk, a couple of loafs of bread, and spend a couple of moments staring longingly at the incredible beer selection before I made it to the manned checkout. Similar excursions into Walmart take almost double the time since it's so much larger and you have to dodge Mary Lou and Joe Sixpack hustling to restock shelves under the watchful eyes of nervous, penny pinching management.

That particular morning at the expensive and trendy grocery store I was in luck. Ahead of me at the checkout was an attractive thirty-something suburban housewife who had recently finished her workout at the equally trendy gym/yoga center just a few doors down. How do I know this blonde lady with the tussled hair and firm booty had just finished some form of workout? Well, because she was still wearing her clingy exercise outfit which made it clear her membership to that facility was not going unused.

Besides her appealing outfit what I noticed most about this lady was the urgency in her purchase and the conversation she was having with the checkout person. See, after catching just a few statements I understood that one of her kids was having an elementary school party and she had to rush home and make something from scratch. Given the near panicked tone of her voice, if this poor stressed out denizen of suburbia wasn't already on anxiety medication, she was surely just a couple of years away from a permanent prescription. Instead I will now relate how I was once forced into a similar situation but for the most part said screw it and still came out looking good in front of all the mindless middle class drones.

Years ago when my daughter was in the third grade my wife and I got a message from her teacher saying that the class was having a party for some reason I have long forgotten. What the teacher wanted the parents to do was supply either food and/or party supplies for the event. Now the problem with this type of school event is that things have evolved beyond simple cookies, cupcakes, and juice boxes. Middle class suburban existence has bred literally millions of people who think they are unrecognized culinary wizards who make a point of supplying these types of events with fancy foods that take time and more than a little bit of talent to prepare. This puts those of us still in the cookie and juice box frame of mind at a huge disadvantage.. While I fully support public school teachers and understand they have a damn near impossible job, many of us outside the education field are stressed for time and energy ourselves.

This is where my wife returns to the story. She is a tax attorney and prone to exceedingly busy stretches of time at work. She also happens to be one of those people who loves to play in the kitchen and the upcoming event in our daughter's class was just the excuse she needed to get all culinary. One of the food items the teacher wanted was "fresh salsa" and my wife having her own personal recipe was overwhelmed with the desire to show it off. The trouble was that something happened at work the day before the event forcing her to lay the responsibility for supplying the class with her special salsa on me.

Truthfully, the recipe wasn't all that complicated, except for the fact that it would require me hand chopping a lot of the ingredients, which I wasn't in the mood to even begin. And to be completely honest, I felt homemade salsa for third graders was ridiculous, everyone going the homemade route was doing it to impress the parents who would be attending the party, not the kids.

After thinking about the situation for awhile I came up with a plan and made the required run to the grocery store to pick up the needed fresh ingredients. I also bought a couple of jars of some no-name brand salsa. Understand my wife's salsa doesn't look like any store brand since she doesn't totally chop up the tomatoes giving it an extra-chunky appearance. So, all I did was carve up the tomatoes to about the same size and along with throwing in a few of the fresh ingredients mixed in the two jars of the no-name brand and stuck it in the refrigerator for the next day.

Since the bottom had fallen out of some project at my wife's work she wasn't suppose to make it to the party. The word she had passed to me was that nothing would return to normal until the proverbial fan was taken apart and the poop cleaned from the blades. But thirty minutes into the party she walks in the door and heads straight to the big bowl that supposedly contained her special homemade salsa.

To this day one of the biggest differences between my wife and me is that she wants to fit in with the overall suburban hive mind. Where as I literally dream of the day when we can move to a place where individuality is not thought of as a mental illness. Needless to say, she knows me and my general disdain for those we live among. For that reason her beeline to the salsa was to find out what kind of stunt I pulled on the unsuspecting proles. The first problem she had was that the salsa was a hit, most of it was already gone leaving just a couple of ounces from which she could decided what nefarious ploy I had attempted.

By that time the only way she could decided was by tasting it herself. So after grabbing a couple of chips and dipping them into the bowl it was clear from the look on her face that she knew I had pulled a fast one and gone store bought. Personally, I was trying not to laugh as the metaphorical dark, foreboding clouds began to gather above her head. I was in trouble and once home it was a certainty I was going to get a full verbal artillery barrage. It didn't matter that the damn bowl was almost empty, I had committed a culinary sacrilege akin to plagiarizing a college term paper.

What saved my sorry butt was not just the teacher commenting that she loved the salsa but two of the other mothers, both full fledged suburban witches, demanding to have the recipe. Something my lovely wife adamantly refused saying it was a family secret. See those two suburban witches were the queen bees of that third grade class besides being well off stay-at-home moms who loved to whine about their tough daily schedule. Which according to them consisted of morning tennis lessons with an absolute brute of an instructor, the inability to find a decent decorator for their new home remodeling project, and whether of not they should skip buying a new car that year because the next their favorite model was getting redesigned.

What drove my wife crazy though was how the two seemed to look down on the working moms associated with the class. That's probably the reason why my wife suddenly forgot about my little trick. Once home nothing was ever mentioned about me pulling a fast one with the salsa. But I know my wife took a nice chunk of satisfaction with the idea that the two uppity witches couldn't tell homemade salsa from cheap store bought stuff.  

Personally, I'll call that one a huge win for me.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Totally Improbable Events – A Pleasant Trip to the DMV

While my wife was away on her recent business trip, the task of taking our daughter to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or simply the DMV, so she could get her learners permit fell to me. After much discussion between my daughter and myself, it was decided that we would make the attempt on a late Tuesday afternoon. The day of the week and time said to be its least crowded. Given this was the DMV, places that I'm sure serve as gateways to Hell, I wasn't optimistic in the least.

Yes, you might be able to imagine the utter exhilarating thrill that coursed up and down my spine that Tuesday as I picked her up from school. For those with a sarcasm detection handicap that last sentence was soaked with it. Be that as it may, I was quite surprised as we pulled into the DMV parking lot to discover it was remarkably empty, relatively speaking. Once inside the building, I was further surprised to discover that instead being struck with claustrophobia from it being packed with disgruntled and loud suburbanites, it was so quiet and empty I could actually hear the soft music being played over the sound system mounted in the ceiling.

Now I'm not sure how other states and even other countries organize their versions of the DMV. But here in South Carolina some bright boy or girl came up with the idea a few years back of having a receptionist at the entrance to help maneuver the customers in the proper direction. Feeling old now, but I remember back in the 1980's of having to immediately stand in line for an extended period of time after entering the DMV only to be given a form, told to fill it out, then stand in line again. God help the poor soul who screwed up their form somehow or was even given the wrong one at the beginning.

The glorious DMV receptionist now ascertains what the customer needs, gives them the proper form along with a numbered ticket, and directs them to one of the seriously uncomfortable chairs. Yeah, while somethings have improved, those chairs are probably surplus from the Spanish Inquisition or some other horrific period in history. Truthfully, don't hate me when I write that since South Carolina isn't know for innovation or making things more comfortable, except for rich white folks, with the adoption of the DMV receptionist we've probably exhausted our supply of good ideas for a couple of decades.

While the DMV wasn't crowded, my daughter and I did have to stand in line for about five minutes as the receptionist dwelt with two people ahead of us. Getting back to the idea that such places are actually gateways to Hell, it was crystal clear the receptionist was completely disgusted with humanity in general. A middle aged African-American lady, as the next person stepped up to her desk, a slightly raised podium actually, she would wait for them to state the nature of their visit. From there, she would silently stare at them for about two or three seconds with a detached look the same way a biologist might a new strain of slime or fungus. A callous thought you might be thinking? Well since at this DMV office we're talking about most of the customers being middle class suburban white folks with a huge pretentious streak and massive sense of entitlement, I felt the same way.

Now to be fair, the receptionist lady looked at me the same way when it was my turn in front of her. Even worse, once I stated that it was my daughter's intention to get her learners permit she asked me if I had her birth certificate and social security card. Quite simply, no, in what had to be one of my biggest brain farts in recent memory, given how obvious those papers would be needed, I had totally not thought to bring them. The look on the receptionist's face was on of utter disdain and I left the DMV that day totally shamed. Given the lateness of the day it wasn't possible to run home, get the documents, and return before it closed. I had to live with my shame until Thursday, when school related circumstances allowed us to return for a second try. Plus, it was my hope that by that time the receptionist would have forgotten about me.

When Thursday afternoon arrived, I picked my daughter up from school and drove back down to the DMV. Yes, I pulled the required documents out of the family filing cabinet and had them ready. Of course my concern that day was the possible crowd we would encounter on our second trip to get her learners permit. I figured that the bureaucratic gods would smite me for my horrendous mistake the previous Tuesday and have the DMV overflowing with the very subspecies of humans both the receptionist and I strongly dislike.

Much to my enjoyment and surprise, the DMV was even less crowded that day. So much that my daughter and I went straight to the receptionist's desk and got the required forms to fill out. In case your wondering, yes, it was the same lady and it was clear from her sardonic facial expression she remembered me from the previous attempt.

The forms I had to fill out for my daughter were fairly innocuous in that I didn't have to overtax the few operational brain cells I had working at that moment. My shift the previous night was a pain and I hadn't slept well that day so my normal intellectual deficit was made worse by the lack of my usual afternoon caffeine intake. So I was more than momentarily taken back when a soft voice caught my attention as I filled out those forms.

“Sir,” the soft voice said, “I believe your number was called.”

I might be beating a dead horse over the idea that all DMV's are gateways to hell, but I was immediately conflicted with the wording of that statement verses the almost angelic nature of the voice. When I looked up and saw what was an extremely attractive women sitting at one of three desks occupying an unused corner of the building, I was more than a little puzzled. Trying not to be sexist here, but this lady's looks and young age made her decidedly out of place compared to every other DMV worker who was middle aged and, frankly, seemed the stereotypical low-level bureaucrat forever in the middle of an existential crisis over past career choices.

“Oh okay,” I said having my daughter move to the chair in front of the lady's desk while I stood next her.

Before encountering the attractive DMV worker, I would have said that it was a physical law of nature akin to gravity or evolution that conversations in such places were short and to the point. The conversation that transpired in front of me between my daughter and the lady was almost surreal in its depth and length. Don't misunderstand me, I was in general left out of the loop in their discussion which was about the intrinsic boring nature or high school, boys, and whether or not they ever matured. Which was something the attractive DMV lady told my daughter was an open question even for someone her age. I couldn't not notice the wistful way the DMV lady said that last part.

No, I don't harbor any illusions that the DMV lady's friendliness was in actuality for my benefit. She was just one of those oddities, a pleasant one, people encounter in situations that would normally be quiet different. Now, don't ask me about the fantasies running around in my head during that time had I been fifteen to twenty years younger, maybe three to four times better looking, and yes, unmarried.

Eventually my daughter's time at the computer which gives the learners permit test came up. While she was in that small room taking the test, I found a chair in the waiting area and tried to not to stare at the lovely DMV lady across the room.

By the time my daughter was done with the test and was in line to have her picture taken I was wondering when everything would go wrong. Like the fictional Mordor, you simply do not walk into the DMV and expect things to proceed easily and quickly. I was half expecting the fire alarm to go off or have some other incident occur that would force us to come back another day and start everything all over again.

Despite my grim certainty that the shit would certainly hit the fan before we could leave, my daughter soon had her crisp new learners permit in her hand. Never one wanting to tempt fate, I got both of us out of their before the bureaucratic gods starting slinging belated lightning bolts my way. By chance as my daughter and I were walking out the door I caught sight of the attractive DMV lady with what looked like a sexy smile on her face waving goodbye to me.

“It's a trap!” I said to myself mimicking the legendary words of Admiral Akbar from the Star Wars movies. Just to play it safe, even though I really need to update my own drivers license to the federally approved version that makes it easy to go on military posts as well as speeding up security processing in airports, I'll just wait.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Nothing is Tiring

Just finished up a week playing Mr. Mom while the wife was away on a business trip. While no metaphorical monkey wrench flew into the proverbial machinery of the normal routine, it was a long tiring week. What I'm trying to say is that I rediscovered that nothing can be quite exhausting.

Nothing mainly consisted of running my daughter to and from school and various activities, which were usually scheduled during rush hour traffic. But it also included keeping the house reasonably clean and straight, the dogs and cats fed and watered, and doing the bare minimum of yard work. Yes, that last one is a standard practice but thrown in with the other chores made it worse.

Long story short, after a week of nothing I need a vacation. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Netflix's Lost In Space - A review

While the original Star Trek series from the 60's is at the core of my utter nerdom, other television shows from that time added to my sad social awkwardness and skewed world view. It goes without saying that Adam West's campy version of the Batman is one of those shows while the other was the totally off the wall Irwin Allen series, Lost In Space.

For those who are unfamiliar, the premise of the original 1960's Lost In Space, is centered around the Robinson family who were being sent to Alpha Centauri to colonize an Earth-like planet orbiting one of the two main stars of that system. Now to nitpick, Allen never stated which of the two main stars that make up that system his fictional pioneers were being sent. That system is made of Alpha Centauri A and the nearby Alpha Centauri B, both good stellar candidates for harboring Earth-like planets if they happen to orbit the Goldilocks Zone of those respective stars. Yes fellow uber-nerds, I know about Alpha Centauri C, or Proxima Centauri. But it's much farther away from the main two stars and just a weak red dwarf with a nasty tendency to emit massive flares that sterilizes the planet we have detected orbiting it. In other words, as real estate goes it can't even be considered a "fixer upper."

Despite Irwin Allen and his writers lack of stellar specificity in the destination of the Robinsons, I'll give them huge points for cracking an encyclopedia and looking up a real place.

Now in my view, the original Lost In Space suffered from a huge problem that ultimately condemned it to ridicule for me. After initially starting out okay, for a 1960's science fiction show, it quickly devolved into a level of campy silliness that would have been over the top for even Adam West. Delving into all the campy particulars would take something approaching an encyclopedia in length, so I'll just say the evil alien carrot-man that threatened the family one episode crossed a line I personally couldn't accept, even at my young age.

The main problem with the show though dealt with the character of Dr. Smith, played by Jonathan Harris, and the family's robot named "Robot", who were in what seemed a constant battle of wits. Dr. Smith was intended to be the villain of the show but quickly became a fan favorite as the character evolved into a bumbling clown with the Robot working to defuse the situations he created while keeping the family safe. Yes, the show has a bit of a cult following, to say the least, but the stories, dialog, costumes, props, and art direction all lacked a certain seriousness which ultimately made it unwatchable for me. Its one redeeming quality was my total infatuation I had with the actress Marta Kristen, who played Judy Robinson on the show.

Like all things kid related, for me the show faded into the background noise of American television culture. I did see the 1990's movie reboot of Lost In Space on VHS at some point but it didn't impress me. The one memorable aspect of the movie was Gary Oldman's portrayal of the Dr. Smith character. The bumbling clown of the television series was replaced with a diabolical character whose only purpose was to cause as much malicious chaos as possible.

Given my disdain for the original series and my indifference to the movie reboot, I was quite surprised with how much I enjoyed the recently released Netflix version of Lost In Space. In fact, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit I binged the entire ten episode series yesterday and will be eagerly awaiting a possible second season.

Yes. Netflix did away with every microgram of campiness and went straight science fiction bringing the show back into the bounds of believability. Instead of the Robinson family boldly going all by themselves out into the void, as they did in the original series and movie reboot, the Netflix version has them part of a much larger colonist group.

The characters in the Netflix series are far more developed and have been adjusted to fit the sensibilities of 2018. The male lead character of the original series and movie reboot, John Robinson, is no longer leader of the family or even the group as a whole. In the Netflix series, he is a Navy SEAL who was estranged from his wife, Maureen, and their three kids due to his military career. The female lead, Maureen Robinson, is a scientist in her own right and in charge of the family unit on the voyage to Alpha Centauri. I somehow missed the part explaining how John and Maureen reconciled enough for him to become part of the colonist group. Toby Stephens, who plays John, and Molly Parker, who plays Maureen worked their characters into three dimensional human beings with their own strengths and weaknesses.

The kids who played Judy, Penny, and Will Robinson were required to stay somewhat close to the overachieving wonder kids in the previous versions of the show. Since we're talking about colonizing another planet, it just wouldn't have been reasonable to think any sane selection committee would have allowed teenage slackers with antisocial attitudes to join the group. 

One aspect of the show I have to bring up because of some internet whining about how Hollywood is being mean to white people is the fact that Judy Robinson in the new version is adopted and a child of mixed race. Somehow having Judy from a different ethnic group is the sole reason a few people do not like the show. Apparently in their stunted, right-wing snowflake view that since Judy was a white girl in the previous versions, she must stay that way.

More butt hurt comments have come from those whining that Maureen Robinson is in charge of the family and not her husband, John. I find it incredible that such views not only still exist but are numerous enough that they can be discerned from the overall human internet static.

What I liked most about the new version of the Lost In Space was that they used reason and science to solve the problems they faced. Believe it or not, a weapon only showed up in two episodes and its use did not solve a single problem, in fact it made things worse. For an American television show, where weapons and their excessive use to solve problems are ubiquitous, I found the new Lost In Space quite refreshing.

The best part of the show in many ways was the new Dr. Smith played by Parker Posey. The original Dr. Smith was a comedic buffoon while the movie reboot Dr. Smith was like a Jame Bond villain, clearly evil but not realistic in many ways. Parker Posey's version is a true sociopath who would embarrass Hannibal Lecter with her ability to lie and manipulate those around her. No, she doesn't eat anyone's liver with a side of fava beans and a nice Chianti. But her reality is so distorted that she readily endangered the lives of both the Robinson family and the colonist group as a whole many times. I will not spoil the backstory as to how she was able to join the colonists headed for Alpha Centauri.

Highest kudos have go to Ignacio Serricchio who plays the character Don West. If there was any comic relief it was him who played his character as part expert engineer, Geordi LaForge from Star Trek: The Next Generation and part rogue scoundrel, Han Solo from Star Wars.

As for the Netflix version of the much loved Robot, all I will say is that they pulled a creative home run with how they handled it. Much of the first season revolves around how the family learns to deal with it.

Yeah, I liked the new Lost In Space a lot which quite frankly surprises me. While they do solve all of their problems using science and reason, there are a number of questionable assumptions and scenarios I ignored in several episodes simply because we're still talking about a television series. All things considered, it's still a highly family friendly show to watch, as long as you do not get bogged down in male chauvinistic crap and low level racism.

Yes, I highly recommend it!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Underappreciated and Underpaid Heroes

The attitude I've kept most of my life about our society was that while I understood setbacks and outright failures happened, the curve of progress was generally upward. Of course, that was before I started reading some history and come to understand that for a multitude of reasons societies sometimes fail and collapse. Strangely enough, from what I can gather these failures are brought about not by decadence and abandonment of traditional family values, like evangelicals whine and rail about. But by a simple failure to adapt to new situations and prepare for the future.

Sure, societal decadence has a part in the collapse of nations and empires but I've come to believe it's more of a symptom than an actual cause. The best example of this indicator is when a leader has unqualified support from the supposed moral and religious pillars of society but has gone through two wives and was banging a porn star just after his third spouse had given birth. The actual details of that situation are far more sleazy and corrupt that I simply want to delve into, but you should get the point.

Just to be fair, I'll throw in President Bubba back in the 90's and him playing doctor with a young woman in the Oval Office with a cigar. While Bubba certainly didn't entertain the support of the self righteous preachers and moralistic proles, he should have had enough self respect for the office, and his eventual legacy to avoid such sophomoric activity. Bubba was a successful and competent administrator, but once you run for public office, especially on a national level, you have no right to any type of private life.

The fuzzy feeling I get about the mindset societies seem to have right before they begin a tailspin straight into dustbin of history is that they believe shit has gotten as good as its going to get, and that things will not change. This breeds a two-part selfish attitude among both the hoi polloi and the well off Elites. The hoi polloi start getting antsy about what they give to society. While not wealthy themselves, they look down upon on poorer groups feeling they are lazy and trying to take advantage to them. The Elites, well their attitude is that they have theirs, and will go to extremes to not only protect what they have but gather more.

What joins the two in an unconscious suicide pack is that neither segment gives a damn about the future. The hoi polloi have their entertaining distractions and convenient scapegoats while the Elites sit atop their ivory mountains convincing themselves that the rest of society should service their needs. This leads to the hoi polloi supporting taxpayer dollars being spent to pay for elaborate new stadiums for billionaires who hobby in professional sports team ownership but bitching about money being wasted fixing roads. The Elites on the other hand start separating themselves from the rest of society.

Nothing typifies this mutual suicide pack more than the abandonment of the American public school system in general and the horrendous treatment of teachers specifically. Both the hoi polloi and the Elites love to wrap themselves in Old Glory and get weepy when that God awful Lee Greenwood song is played for the one or two trillionth time. But when it comes to actually supporting the underpinning of the nation, an educated citizenry able to distinguish facts from partisan bullshit, they equally balk.

Now understand there are certainly well funded islands in the American public school system, these bastion overwhelmingly exist in white middle class suburbs. Think of these as isolated oases dotting a vast underfunded and criminally ignored desert full of schools dominated by Hispanic and African-American kids. Yeah, there are certainly a number of underfunded schools in white rural areas. But lets get serious here and admit we've instituted something along the lines of economic school segregation because far too many don't really see Hispanic and African-American kids as worthy of their attention or money

The recent uprising of underpaid teachers in West Virginia and other states has shed light on the nature of the public school system. Videos of school buildings looking like something from the latest dystopic movie along with books so worn and out of date Bubba is the current president have been recently shown on the nightly news. If anything exceeds my embarrassment at the thing currently living in the White House, it is the horrific nature of the negligence we are responsible for towards public schools.

Like I alluded to earlier, I've seen semi-literate rednecks get mad when anyone dares to suggest taxpayers shouldn't pay for new stadiums for billionaires. To these individuals their favorite professional sports teams have become something more like a tribal affiliation than just the enjoyment of watching the healthy competition. When it is suggested that overworked and over stressed teachers need a significant pay raise these same rednecks get upset, at best saying they picked that career and should live with the consequences of that choice.

At worst, I have personally heard these moronic mouth breathers whine about conspiracies that say public school teachers are secretly indoctrinating kids into beliefs as varied as communism or Islamic fundamentalism. Those types like to home school or send their kids to “Christian-based” academies.

Even worse is the attitude of the people on the Elite spectrum. Many hold the conflicting views that public school teachers are both incompetent fools who couldn't teach a fish to swim and diabolical agents out to brainwash their lily white offspring into accepting all manner of evil liberal ideas. I heard a former governor of New Jersey and a television business journalist with what had to be a massive steel rod rammed up is butt voice such views.

The answer to the problem of failing public schools the Elites cling to like a convert to a new religion is school choice. Like religious types all through history to them the best idea is to burn down the entire system and instead use taxpayer money to fund private institutions of various types. Now I'm clearly on the side of public schools and the embattled teachers that serve them, but I understand incompetence exists in all professions. The problem with the choice folks is that weak public schools are already underfunded, especially the ones they point to as examples supporting their narrow views.

If they get their way and have their taxpayer funded ticket punched instead of a constellation of for-profit private educational centers taking up the slack we'll get an expansion of the issues facing public schools. In other words public schools, the teachers, and even the kids who can't escape to alternatives get screwed even worse. They all are literally being setup to fail.

The short version of my point is that public school teachers are being screwed. They are criminally underpaid, working excessively long and stressful hours, while being hounded by lazy parents who just can't be bothered to take an interest in their kids education. It's no wonder the burnout rate for them is so high. Top it all off, far too many teachers have to work second and third jobs while having to buy the goddamn supplies they need for the kids with their own money. The actual list of atrocities and burdens teachers have to bare doesn't say anything good about the supposed land of the free and home of the brave.

There is one tiny silver lining that might exist in this nightmare. That some future Edward Gibbon might one day walk among the ruins of our taxpayers funded stadiums and chronicle our fall. Maybe allowing his society to avoid the trap we so eagerly and ignorantly walked into. Being snide here, but the reason I know about Gibbon is because of a great teacher.