Other Stuff

Dad Blog Comments

Blog Categories

Dad Blog Archives

Best of the Blog

Drivers Ed

Calfgrit15 just finished up his 30 hours of drivers ed at high school. The schedule is a bit different than when I took it back in the 80s. I remember taking the class one hour a day for about a month, during the regular school day — I think it was during the PE/Health class time. But nowadays, (at least in this area), the class is after school, for three hours a day over two weeks. Although it is held in a high school classroom, it’s not offered as part of the regular school curriculum — we parents have to enroll the student on our own.

Another difference is what is presented in the class. I remember learning the rules of the road in the classroom, and then going driving with the instructor all in the same month. Now, though, the 30 hours he just completed were all classroom instruction, (no actual driving, yet). The instructor and a state trooper extensively covered the dangers of driving — especially texting while driving. They won’t actually hit the road in a vehicle for another month or two (or more).

The dangers of texting and driving were a very prominent aspect of the instruction. It’s a really big deal, I understand.

At the end of the two weeks, we parents were invited in for an hour. The instructor reiterated her plea against texting and driving, even showing us a YouTube video:

The instructor explained how our kids are watching us drive. As homework, she told them to observe their parents, and then she had them write down some bad habits they witnessed. She picked up a stack of papers and one-by-one, she read the bad habits the students had written down about us. Every single paper included texting. Wow. (I assumed she cherry picked the papers with that specific problem to make her point on the prevalence of texting and driving.) There were one or two other bad things, also, like speeding or putting on makeup. I wondered what bad habit Calfgrit15 caught me doing. Probably not coming to a full stop at stop signs, or maybe not keeping both hands on the steering wheel at all times — I know I sometimes do both those things.

I never intentionally speed, and I never text while driving, (and I very rarely apply makeup while driving). I’ve never been a speeder — my mother even thinks I drive slow (the speed limit!). And even if I was so asinine as to want to text while driving, I can’t read anything that small without my reading glasses on (which I don’t wear while driving). At the worst, if I must know what a text says while driving, (very, very rarely), I just ask Siri to speak it for me.

When Calfgrit15 is in the car with me, he doesn’t seem to be paying any attention to my driving. He’s either looking at his phone, reading a book (something he can do but I can’t while riding in a car), or talking to me about video games. He has shown no interest at all in driving, even when I keep offering to take him to an empty parking lot to let him practice a little. He’s driven once around a parking lot one time out of the dozen times I’ve offered. So I was interested to know what and when he actually observed about my driving.

As we were leaving the parent/class meeting, I asked Calfgrit15 what bad habit he saw me doing. “I didn’t really pay attention,” he said.

“Did you fill out the homework paper?” I asked. “What did you write down for my bad habit?”

“Yeah,” he said, “I just filled in something generic, like texting.”


“You said I text while driving? Oh my god.” I held up my hands in exasperation. “The way she preached against that, I’d be less embarrassed if you told her I shoot a gun at other drivers.”

I wondered, and I hope, those homework papers were anonymous. My son officially told a drivers ed teacher, (and maybe a state trooper?), that I regularly text while driving. O. M. G. !


Dad T-Shirts

Teaching Online Safety Versus Online Bullying

I’ve mentioned how I’m playing Clash of Clans with my sons. Since that post, we’ve quit that clan and created our own. I’m the clan leader, and both my boys are co-leaders. They have personally invited all their friends to join us, so we have almost 20 clan members. Running this clan with my sons is giving me an example for lessons in diplomacy.

There are four levels of membership in a CoC clan: Leader, Co-leader, Elder, Member.

The Leader can change some clan technical settings, and has authority to accept new members and kick anyone from co-leader on down.

Co-leaders can also change some technical settings, and can accept new members and kick Elders and Members.

Elders can accept new members and kick Members.

Members cannot accept or kick anyone.

I’ve given all the friends Elder rank in the clan so they can accept other friends. But some keep asking to be made co-leaders. I ask them why they want to be a co-leader and they don’t answer. Then they ask my sons to make them co-leader. My sons then ask me if they can make that friend a co-leader, and I ask why, they pass along the question, and again, the friend gives no answer.

There really isn’t a reason for anyone to be co-leader other than to be able to kick out an Elder, (as all the friends are). My sons, as co-leaders, have this ability, but they know not to do it without checking with me first. My boys live with me, so if there’s any problem, they can bring it to my attention immediately. Their friends, if made co-leaders, could kick other friends without checking with me. I’ve seen how sometimes the least little thing can make boys mad with each other. (Apparently it’s not just girls who create drama.) So I’m hesitant to give anyone else the ability to kick a friend.

Then someone accepted a join request from someone no one knows in the real world. I specifically wanted to restrict clan membership to only real world friends, and friends of friends. There’s a lot of chatting within the clan when the kids are playing, so I want to make sure everyone is safe from trolls and predators. Well, this guy got in somehow, and it was a couple of days before I found out that no one actually knew him, and no one remembers letting him in.

I’ve chatted with him a couple of times within the game, and I’ve learned that he’s a new player, and he’s an adult. I can see all the chat logs, and I regularly monitor what goes on. He has not been at all inappropriate with anyone. In fact, he doesn’t chat much at all. There have been a couple of chat mentions to kick him from the clan because no one knows him, and he has said that he’d accept being kicked if that is what everyone decides.

I discussed the decision with my sons. On one hand, he isn’t a real world friend, or a friend of a friend, and shouldn’t have been accepted to the clan in the first place. But he’s not done anything wrong, and has actually been helpful by donating troops to other people — in fact, he has donated more troops than anyone else in the clan, including me. (Donating troops to others costs in-game resources, and is generally considered a very nice thing to do for others.)

So to kick him would seem pretty rude, but to keep him is a weak spot in the ring of safety I’ve created for the boys in this online game world. During the discussion with my boys, I was torn between teaching them to not fully trust people you don’t know online, and teaching them to not wield power over others without reason. We talked about trusting and about being a bully, and we decided to let the unknown guy stay so long as he hadn’t done anything wrong. But we’d keep an eye on him. Mostly it would be me keeping an eye out, because I’m the one who monitors all the chat logs.

An ironic twist to all this is that all the friends often quit and rejoin the clan. Someone will quit the clan, go join either some other friend’s clan or some random clan, and then a day later, (or sometimes an hour later), they’ll come back to rejoin ours. It doesn’t actually hurt us in any way, but it is a bit annoying to me. If the unknown guy were to quit our clan, we could simply ignore his rejoin request and not have to kick him and I wouldn’t worry about having a stranger among us online. But he’s been one of the most reliable people in our group.


Dad T-Shirts

My Dad Was a Good Samaritan

My dad passed away almost exactly three years ago. Although we went through tons of paperwork and old family memorabilia during the first year after his death, I still have some boxes of . . . stuff . . . to be gone through. I was doing this over the weekend. In one box, among old documents and photos, I came across this 45 year old letter:

[Click to open larger image for easier reading.]
Thank You Letter

That $5 bill was still paperclipped to the letter.


Dad T-Shirts

The Price of University Text Books

While on vacation a few weeks ago, the wife and I visited our alma mater — University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Classes are in session, so we got to see the whole campus full of “kids” and activity. There was even a hippie playing guitar on the steps in front of the library. Classic.

The core of the campus is essentially just as we remember it from when we studied there in the early 90s, but it has grown out quite a bit. There are lots of new buildings. If I remember correctly, there were around 5,000 students during our days, but we learned there are almost 15,000 now. It doesn’t really feel more crowded, but then, there’s more area for everyone to spread out over now.

There are bicycles everywhere, and skateboards, in addition to the normal walkers. When Wifegrit and I were students there, we lived in [separate] apartments just off campus, within walking distance. We walked onto, off of, and all around campus to get to our classes. We walked all over again, during this visit. We went to our old buildings and peaked into some of our old classrooms. I remember the buildings being much bigger than how they seem now. I know that’s a feeling most people have when visiting places of their childhood, but this is a college — I’m the same size now that I was then. It shouldn’t feel any different in size. Odd.

Walking across the campus and through the buildings, I felt strangely young and old at the same time. There were moments I forgot I was about 25 years older than everyone around us. I felt like we were just a college couple walking around. But then my mood would change, and I could feel the quarter century of life experiences I’ve had since these kids’ ages. I saw a few college couples around, and could see how they acted very different compared to us with our 20+ years together. Young people still in the getting-to-know-each-other phase of their relationships, versus us as a mature couple very much used to and comfortable with each other. Everything I saw while on campus just made me smile.

One interesting place we visited while on campus was the university book store. Although it’s in a different location than it used to be, it looked very much like I remember it.

University Book Store

But I did find something crazy different: the book prices. Holy shit books are ridiculously expensive! I remember books were expensive when I had to buy them — like $20-$50 each. Wifegrit had some books for her nursing classes that cost $100 or more, but they were notoriously expensive. Now, though:

University Book Prices

University Book Prices

University Book Prices

Those first two examples above are from my degree, (English); $183 for a new book? And the junior year biology book: $279?! You can buy a TV for the price of these books. And note that the BIO book is just one of three needed for that class. I bought used books back in my day, when they were available, (and they weren’t always available), but even the used price is insane.

I just checked Amazon.com for these books:

  • Technical Communications (new) = $113
  • Functional Anatomy of the Vertebrates (new) = $172

When I was going for a Computer Science degree, one of my professors literally wrote the class text book. He taught the class almost verbatim by the book — you could follow along with his every word in lecture, from the book. Had I known that at the time I had to purchase his book, I would have saved my money.

I would love to know how much money the text book publishing industry makes each year with their mandatory purchases from a captive audience that lines up to spend borrowed money on their education.

University Book Store


Dad T-Shirts

next page »