Puffy Poodle Doodle Doodle

 

Germaine was in a state. She could not find Puffy Poodle Doodle Doodle’s winter coat. “Walter, I knew I had it but after I sent it out to be dry cleaned I don’t know where Cecilia put it and she took today as her weekly day. Of all the days!”

“It’s cold out there, Doodle could freeze to death,” said Walter turning the page of the New York Times. He wasn’t nearly as interested in the little puff ball as was his wife but he never let on; best to keep peace in the family. His wife could get into one of her “states” without much prompting.

It was cold too. January 15 and it was eight degrees! It had been 55 yesterday and then the temperature plummeted overnight. Oh, well, that was New York City weather. Up one day, down the next. It’s the price you paid for living in the greatest city in the world, thought Walter.

“I found it!” shouted Germaine just as the doorman called up, “A Ms. Livingston, ma’am.”

“Yes, yes, Maurice, send her right up.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Ms. Livingston was a college kid who walked dogs to earn some money. For Doodle, it was an alone walk for which Walter paid quintuple so that Doodle did not have to rub fur with other dogs. Germaine had insisted on that, “I do not want our wonderful Doodle with those other dogs, touching them and smelling their pee-pee and poo-poo.”

Germaine put on Doodle’s coat—a faux-fur over Doodle’s own thick fur.

Just for the record, Germaine did not work but she did attend daily lunches, symposia and club activities and she was well-known in philanthropic circles, “Those poor, poor Afroid-Americans and Lantinos all the way up-town; you have to feel sorry for them and all those drugs that they can’t stop taking. A little money can’t hurt them can it?” And that is what she gave, a little money.

All the women had dogs and some had dogs and cats. Germaine did not like cats. “They stare at you. They are not nice.” Germaine’s dog was the cutest and most obedient. She kept that to herself; she didn’t want the other women to feel inferior, although they must have felt inferior every time they saw Doodle and how well he behaved.

Outside Ms. Livingston walked Doodle. She wondered why this little dog that had so much fur needed a winter coat. Her dog walking clients had many odd habits but Germaine was in a league of her own.

Of course, Germaine was stereotypical too, a rich husband, ladies’ lunches, clubs, meetings, charity; living in a building of apartments with price tags of $10 million or more. Ms. Livingston doubted she would ever be rich, not when she was a philosophy major. Dog walking might be her future as well as her present, but after all, she did have a very special connection with dogs.

And this poor dog, sad too; it didn’t look happy in its faux-fur coat.

They were crossing the street near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The icy wind was whipping down the avenue. Ms. Livingston took another look at Doodle. She crouched down and cradled its manicured face in her hands. “What’s the matter?” she asked sweetly.

Little bundled-up Doodle gazed deeply in Ms. Livingston’s eyes. “I used to be a wolf,” he said sadly. “Now look at me.”

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

Five Incorrect Craps Beliefs

Craps is a wonderful game where the player has a great chance to beat the house.  Craps is simultaneously a horrible game where monstrous house edges eat away at a player’s bankroll until it exists no more.

How can the same game be both glorious and forbidding? Because craps has so many different bets, some few which are good but most which are bad, that many craps players, not understanding or appreciating the math of the game and its impact on their bankrolls, will jump into the deep end of Lady Luck’s pool without a life jacket. None of the following are advantage bets:

Stupid Craps Strategy # 1: See a Number bet that Number!

Unfortunately unwary craps players, sadly adhering to foolish schemes such as numbers predictably getting hot promulgated by craps know-nothings, will go up against edges in the double figures. Such Everest-like edges are as great as or greater than slot-machine edges!

So why do craps players, many of whom are bright in their non-casino lives, make such foolish bets as the one-roll Horn bet (the numbers 2, 3, 11, and 12) after seeing a Horn number appear? One answer has to do with how the house edge actually works. In the short run play of the game certain streaks will happen that can blind the player. One or several Horn numbers might have just hit and the player thinks, “This is a streak that will continue!”

The player in this case is absolutely wrong. The streak might continue or it might not continue. In a random game there is no predictability, only probability. The Horn numbers have six ways of being made, which is about 17 percent of the time. In the long run that 17 percent give or take a fraction will be how often that Horn appears. And the house will take a nice fat cut when the Horn actually does appear. How much of a cut? Well, 12.5 percent. So if you bet $100 on the Horn every time a Horn number has just appeared you can expect to lose $12.50.

But players see a “winning hit or a winning streak” and have no idea that the house is grinding them down slowly but surely. The best way to think of gambling edges is to realize that every time you make that Horn bet you are losing 12.5 percent of your bet – whether you win the bet or lose the bet! The house edge works on the total amount wagered, not this or that win or loss.

So a player buying into this stupid strategy will lose. If he bets a Horn every time he sees a Horn, given a craps game with 120 decisions per hour, our bettor will see a Horn number appear 20 times and then bet on half of them. If our bettor dumps $10 on those 10 Horns his expected loss is $12.50 per hour. That’s too heavy a loss indeed.

Stupid Strategy # 2: Place Bets are Better Than Come Bets!

After the shooter has established his point and the player wishes to get up on other numbers, there are two ways to do this – he can make Come bets, where he puts his wager in the Come box and waits for the number to be established by the shooter’s subsequent throw or he can simply Place the number directly.

Many wacky gaming “authorities” believe that Place bets are better than Come bets because you can go up on whatever numbers you like, whereas the Come bet’s destination is solely in the hands of the shooter. Unfortunately the Place bets have such high house edges that selective betting does not overcome the low house edge of the Come bets.

Let’s see how this works.

A Come bet has a house edge of 1.41 percent. The Placing of the 6 or 8 has a house edge of 1.52 percent. The Come bet will lose a $10 player 14 cents each and every time he makes it. However, the player who places the 6 or 8 must place these numbers in multiples of six dollars. Thus, a $12 Place bet will lose the player 18 cents.

From there it gets worse. The placement of the 5 and 9 comes in with a four percent house edge. Our $10 Place bettor will lose 40 cents on each of these numbers. The placement of the 4 and 10 comes in with a whopping house edge of 6.67 percent so our player now loses about 67 cents for such placements.

Would you rather lose 14 cents or would you rather lose 18 cents, or 40 cents, or 67 cents?

In a random game, Place betting is far worse than Come betting; which is the end of the story.

What about the idea that you can take down your Place bets and that makes them superior? Sounds good but I have never seen a player take down his or her bets enough times to make Place betting superior to Pass and Come betting.

Stupid Strategy #3: Bet with the House and Beat the Game!

 There are some misguided players who believe that they can actually beat a random game of craps by betting the “don’t” or Darkside of the game. Here a player is betting that the shooter won’t make his point or number and will seven out – in which case the Darkside player wins.

Unfortunately, you cannot beat craps by betting the Darkside either. The very first placement of the Don’t Pass or Don’t Come brings the house edge hammering on your head because you will lose this first placement eight times and win it only three times. While the Don’t Pass and Don’t Come are actually good bets, the stupid notion is that somehow these bets are making you play on the casino’s side, guaranteeing a win.

Not so – the casino doesn’t need you as a partner, doesn’t want you as a partner, but prefers to take your Darkside money too.

Stupid Strategy #4: Increase Bets When the Table Gets Hot!

 Let me put this in flaming terms: The table never gets hot. Now in icy terms: The table also never gets cold. The table is just a table. Random shooters who have just hit 100 numbers without the appearance of a 7 have a 17 percent chance of hitting that 7 on the very next roll. They also had a 17 percent chance of hitting that 7 on the first roll, the second roll, the 40th roll, and the 73rd roll and with every other number up and down the line.

Every time you increase your bet because of what you just saw a random shooter do is simply losing you more money. If you had a Place bet of the 6 for $12 and you increased that bet to $24 because a 6 just hit a couple of times, the casino is going to extract 36 cents from that $24.

One more time: It is the total amount you bet that the house edge works on – whether you win or lose the bet is irrelevant! Therefore, increasing your bets into a random shooter will just lose you more money in the long run.

Stupid Strategy #5: In the Short Run All Bets are the Same!

 No, they aren’t. The following bets will give you a much lower chance of winning on any given session: the Any 7 (16.67 percent house edge), the 2 or 12 (13.89 percent), the Horn (12.5 percent), the 3 or 11 (11.11 percent house edge), Hard 10 or Hard 4 (11.11 percent), Any Craps (11.11 percent), Hard 6 and Hard 8 (9.09 percent) and on down the line it goes.

If you want to be a smart craps player then limit yourself to the good house edge bets like the Pass and Come or Don’t Pass and Don’t Come. Take the maximum in odds behind these bets and you will be giving the house a tough game – and giving yourself a decent chance of coming home a winner.

Even in the short run, bad is bad and good is good. Keep that in mind the next time you think of making a stupid craps bet.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

 

 

 

 

The World Outside My Windows

 

My office is in the back of my house. It faces my neighbor next door (to my left) and the neighbor behind me. I live in a corner property so I do not have a neighbor to my right.

My office is three fourths windows so I have a great view of these two houses’ backyards, as well as my own, and also of my deck and side yard and yards in the distance. I have to say that working here is delightful as I can look up from my computer and see massive trees, innumerable bushes, and various fences.

Still, the highlight of my day is when I see the various birds and animals that frequent our properties.

I have three totally squirrel-proof bird feeders (called Sky Cafés) in my backyard. In all seasons these feeders attract hundreds of birds and dozens of different types too. I have my binoculars next to me!

Here are just some birds I’ve seen (when she can my wife, the Beautiful AP watches the birds with me – I charge a small fee for that):

Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Mourning Doves, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Tufted Tit Mice, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, House Finches, House Sparrows, Starlings, Goldfinches, Wrens, Song Sparrows (other Sparrows too), Robins, Grackles, Crows, Purple Finches, Mockingbirds, the occasional Gull and New York’s ubiquitous Pigeons. We still haven’t seen a Hummingbird.

Years ago we saw an owl way up in a towering tree about three hundred feet in the distance. It was there for several weeks and then disappeared. It is conceivable that it was a Great Horned Owl, the number one aerial predator. At the time we saw it, I had no idea of the various owls. I have since learned that there are lots and lots of owls. This guy (gal) was pretty big.

Right now at the snow-capped feeders (it has snowed three times this week with a fourth slated for tomorrow night – I’ve fallen out of love with snow) are a brilliant red , his plainer Mrs. Cardinal, a bunch of Mourning Doves, a slew of various types of Sparrows, a Blue Jay sitting on a fence looking at the feeder and, I imagine, figuring out which one he wants. When he lands on a feeder most of the other birds head for the air. Blue Jays are fierce birds.

And there are animals too. Yes, the squirrels are everywhere, up and down the trees, racing along the fences, burying nuts (and whatever else they bury) and even mating (really fast coitus). The squirrels come in different sizes, from young ones to big, fat older ones.

The food from the feeder will fall to the ground and the squirrels and birds will chow down on that. We have grey squirrels, black squirrels (these are beautiful!), and rust-colored squirrels (these are somewhat rare) and, one sighting only, of a white squirrel. I wonder if the white one was an albino.

We have lizards (little ones that live under the deck) and chipmunks.

We have possums (they come out at night); a family of raccoons (these mostly come out at night to devour the acorns – I did see one during the day climbing way up a tree); mice (annoying little things that occasionally show up in my house in the fall), and cats – both domestic and feral.

Now those cats can be a problem. They are truly hunters. The feral ones are sleek, fast and sneaky; the domestic ones are fatter, attempt to be sneaky, and sit out in the sun in full view of all the birds. I never see the sleek feral ones lounging in the sun. They may do that – I am guessing they do – but in private areas where no one can see them.

The only bird I saw killed by one of the feral cats was a Blue Jay that was on the ground munching away at the fallen seeds. He let his guard down. The feral cat was behind a bush coldly eyeing his prey, still as a statue, and then zoom! The cat leapt on the bird and tore it apart, feathers flying in the air and onto the ground. All the birds at the feeder, and the birds and squirrels under the feeders, flew or fled fast. None wanted to mess with the cat.

A word to the concerned: Feral and domestic cats kill over a billion birds a year. If you have a cat, keep it indoors. The feral cats have to be neutered (those females!) so their numbers decrease. And do not under any circumstances leave food out for the mob of cats that will descend on it. If you do, you are a willing participant in the slaughter of birds.

Over the years cats have replaced cats. The same ones will come around for a while and then new ones take their place. This holds for both domestic cats and the feral ones. Do they die? Go to other hunting grounds? Maybe both. Occasionally I will see a dead cat smeared on the road.

My office gives me a front-row seat for suburban nature. It can be beautiful and ugly just as is nature in the raw.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!, I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

GUPGATE: Uncovering Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

 

I have a confession to make; a confession about an awful activity I watched that, although done without malice and intent on my part, makes me a part of the sexual harassment and abuse epidemic being revealed at all levels of our society. I am sorry; from my heart I am so truly sorry.

I did not engage in these activities knowingly but innocently. That I swear. I never wanted any of the females hurt. But I did watch it all. That I did, willingly. I did not try to stop the males; I just watched…with fascination.

It happened in my home office where 15 females were subjected to unspeakable sexual crimes against them—I never raised a finger to help. I kept the lid closed on this situation.

You see, I have three male guppies that for some time now have not had a female in their 20-gallon tank; three lonely males, two magnificent colorful fancy males and one plain one without much in the way of colors or fins. He was the low-life in the crowd.

I was concerned that this arrangement of the males was unnatural. I asked Weh Yah, a Middle Eastern acquaintance of mine and fish expert, what I should do. He said, “It is not good for a male to be alone.”

He told me that in order to make them happy each needed about five females. In this way they would not torture any one or two weak ones. His advice was for me to buy 15 females in total so each male had his full fill. He said guppies exist within a strict polyguppoly social structure.

So I bought 15 females and after acclimatizing their water with my tank’s water I released them from their plastic bags. It was a horror show.

The three males went berserk trying to copulate with the females, especially the plain male, who seemed out of his mind with lust. They would rub against the females and chase the shy ones throughout the tank. Most of the females sped in and out of the various decorative structures to avoid the brutal attention of the males. A few of them were shaking in terror, especially when the low-life was after them.

The males showed that they were the bosses of the tank and the females just had to take what the males were doing to them. The females had no one to turn to. It was, I admit, so, so very unfair.

It is now three weeks later. All 15 females are pregnant. Does the female’s condition stop the males? Absolutely not. The males, especially the low-life, are still going after them maniacally.

I am not an advocate of such disgusting behavior. Polyguppoly should be outlawed. I have now stopped believing in Weh Yah’s advice. It is fishism at its worst.

Read Frank’s book Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! Available on Amazon.com, kindle, e-books, Barnes and Noble and at other bookstores.

Cute and Unafraid

 

I am having trouble with the Beautiful AP and this has been going on for the past 32 years, 25 of which we’ve been married.

I am not ashamed to admit it. I cannot handle her. I cannot get her to be obedient. Even at the first of our weddings (we married each other three times, one wedding of which we were our own ministers) I wanted her to say, “Love, honor and obey.” She wouldn’t. Instead she changed “obey” to “cherish.”

When she heads for work she says things like, “Now, Scobe, I want you to put the laundry in the dryer and when it is dry I want you to put it in the basket and bring it to the bedroom. Make sure you do the dishes in the dishwasher and put them away. Also, bring in the recycling bins. Make sure your spot in the living room is neat and clean. And…”

“You know I am writing all day,” I whine.

“You can take a few minutes off to do a few little things,” she says and heads out to her beloved library job.

But she is not in charge of everything in our house. We have two parrots, Augustus and Mr. Squeaky. They control her. From the moment we all wake up at 5 AM to the moment they go to sleep (Augustus at 4 PM, Mr. Squeaky at 8 PM), the Beautiful AP is the servant of those damn birds—and the master of me!

How is that possible? She cleans their cages every single day; feeds them in the morning; hugs and coos to them when we all watch television together; kisses them; sings to them and puts up with all sorts of crap (literally) every day.

For decades I have pondered one of life’s fundamental questions: how do I make her my servant? Then I had a brilliant idea; I’d ask the birds for the secret of their success. Obviously, they must be doing something right.

“Guys,” I said to them. “Please give me your secret for becoming the master of the Beautiful AP.”

Of course, I know my parrots cannot talk but I can read their faces. All parrot owners will attest that while the bird’s face doesn’t change, it expresses so, so much. Yes, parrot owners know what the bird is saying. I know what Augustus and Mr. Squeaky are saying to me.

I posed my burning question to the birds. Augustus tilted his head. He is so cute when he does that. You see. I am cute when I do this, right? I can melt people’s hearts when I tilt my head and look at them with my head to the side. So AP sees this and she is in love with me.

I jumped in: “Cute? Got it. But how is it you can control her?

Augustus again titled his beautiful head. It’s simple. I let her know that I am in charge. You know that I am called the “stealth pooper” in our home. But there is nothing stealth about it. I poop wherever I want; on furniture, draperies, that nice 65-inch television where I aim it so the poop drips right down the screen. I poop on AP’s shoulder and even on her head. This lets her know I am the boss. I am cute but I am unafraid to stake my ground. That is my power.

Cute, but unafraid. Hmmm.

I have to say, there might have been a time in my life when I was cute but those days are long, long gone. Now I look in a mirror; a horrifying sight looks back at me.

I turned to Mr. Squeaky, but before I could ask him his secret, he tilted his head and said, Cute, but unafraid. What more do you need?

I mulled this over. Cuteness allows you control. I thought of infants, with diapers full of stinking poop and urine, and the mother changing the kid. “Oogie, oogie, baby is so cute!” As she wipes the kid’s awfully smelling butt clean. “Ooohhh, you smell so bad, you beautiful child.” The child giggles. Mom is in paroxysms of love.

Sometime during the day the infant will vomit on the mother. “Is my little oogie, oogie, throwing up on me? Oh, let it all out my pretty little one.”

Squeaky tilted his head, Now think of humans who are not so cute as a baby doing the exact same thing. They are not in control; they are despised.

So, I thought of really, really old people; those who poop and pee in their pants or in their adult diapers and how their health aids feel about cleaning them up.

The old person’s wrinkled and sagging face is not cute like the baby’s face. Lack of cuteness forces them to pay the aid to take care of them. My parrots pay no one. We treat them to everything!

Finally, I asked Squeaky, “What do you do to show superiority?”

Mr. Squeaky tilted his head (he is so cute!). Do you see that sharp point at the end of my beak? Everyone sees that point. I can hurt you if I want to. I am cute and dangerous. Being unafraid is important; it means you have power. Fear is weakness. Unafraid is power.

I learned my lesson.

I am not cute. If I tilt my head the only thing that happens is my jowls fall down in the tilted direction. I certainly cannot poop on my wife’s head as she comes back from work. I can’t bite her. Unfortunately, I am not unafraid.

So, excuse me, I have to do the laundry now before she gets home.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

 

Students Are Sharks

 

Students are sharks, no doubt about that. When they scent blood in the water, many will unite and attack. The object of that attack will be the teacher.

I saw some teachers destroyed by students when I was in high school. Even in Catholic schools, teachers were fair game if you could rip them to shreds and not get in trouble (or too much trouble). Few teachers wanted anyone in the school to know that their students swarmed them, sometimes daily, and made them tremble in the face of disdain or vicious attacks. Many teachers would just hold it all in and not share their torment with others. Some of these teachers broke down and quit the profession. That was a true victory for the sharks.

It didn’t matter if the teacher was a nice person; if he showed some fear, or lost his temper and yelled, or trembled; he was dead meat. As a student, I never joined the sharks in their blood-letting. It was too easy; a weak teacher, belittled, and getting his ass chewed; I didn’t want anything to do with that. But you only needed a few students to set up the shark attack. Three or four and the class could be thrown into chaos.

Dealing with Possible Destruction

As a young teacher, losing control scared the hell out of me. It terrified me. I did not want to show any weakness on any day that would open me up to attack.

In 1969, before I entered my first classroom to teach my very first class, I had nightmares of the students turning against me and making me bleed so much that the front of the room was bathed in red. After teaching for 33 years and being out of the game for the past 16 years – I still have nightmares (which I call schoolmares) about not being in control.

In my teaching career I have strong memories of the teachers who lost control; who would cry, females and males, weeping shamefully, after their sharks’ devoured their soft flesh with delight.

I remember a former Marine, a big, strong guy who could rip a student to pieces in a physical fight, brought to blubbering in the teachers’ lounge. He didn’t last a full year on the job. I remember one teacher who was being observed by our department chairman crying as the lesson unfolded because the students became uncontrollable. He lasted two years before he gave up the job. There were plenty more.

Now some teachers can maintain discipline by being bastards or being scary or being both. Students can be rightfully afraid of strong-willed, mean, unrelenting teachers. And many of these teachers actually taught well. A good teacher is a good teacher even if he is a prick or she is a—(well you can supply an accurate descriptor here).

I didn’t want to be a scary, nasty teacher; that’s not me. I wanted to enjoy the classroom and have a good relationship with my students. I wanted to like my students and I would prefer that they liked me. Admittedly there will always be kids you dislike and, yes, some kids would dislike you. That’s the human condition.

Just prior to entering the classroom at the age of 22, I wondered: How do I circumvent the possibility of ultimately facing a school of ravenous adolescent biters looking to chomp on me?

I recalled both good and bad teachers I had encountered when I was a student. One started the very first lesson on the very first day by saying, “People, people let’s begin.” Nothing happened then but he had unknowingly lumped all his students together into one grouping (“people, people”) and many of those “people” in a relatively short time had formed a school of sharks and ripped this guy apart.

Okay, lesson one, don’t let the students think of themselves as one group. Keep each one thinking of him or herself as an individual. They had to think of the relationship with you as a dual relationship – me and Scobe – between two distinct individuals. If a kid liked you that probably would stop that kid from kicking your ass in class.

So no kid represented a group. No kid was the leader of the classroom. No kid represented his race or religion or ethnicity. The kid was the kid and nothing more. It was the student and me, period. Easy to say but how do I put that into effect?

I would face close to 30 kids per class on that first day. I figured that I’d meet them at the door and try to say something personal to as many of them as I could. The administrators of the schools want you to stand at your door to make sure the kids in the hall are behaving. No, it would be better for me to set up the future conditions in my classroom on that first day at the door.

So I would stand in the doorway those first few days and say silly things. If the kid had a tan I’d say something such as “Well, at least we don’t have to go swimming and have fun anymore now that school has begun.” Or “I’ll bet you can’t wait to do a lot of homework.”

To kids who swaggered and looked tough, I might say, “Okay, you are in charge of protecting the nerds. They need someone like you or they are dead from… ” and I’d wave my hand at the students rushing through the halls to their classes. I think most students, like most adults, think other people are idiots. I’d play on that with the tougher kids.

I’ll admit that what I had to say was never all that clever. I just wanted a word with the kid; that’s all, just a lightning-fast personal word, one-to-one.

In class I could build a one-on-one relationship even if I hadn’t gotten to the kid at the doorway. If some student said something really stupid, I would look at another kid in the class and do a quick eye-roll that only he or she could see. We made a connection at that moment. Then I would tease the kid who said the stupid thing— never nasty, just in fun. A little humor and a quick one-to-one with an individual student during class could go a long way in establishing a personal relationship and a classroom tone.

I also knew never to do the same lines or actions over and over. That could get boring.

Okay, that was one idea to employ, a truly personal relationship.

The Humor Trip

Some teachers don’t have much of a sense of humor in their classrooms. If a student got off a good line at your expense, how should you react? Get angry that a kid would dare say something funny about you, the paragon of education? No. For God’s sake, just laugh. What the hell? I enjoyed teasing my students, so why can’t they tease me? There were only a few times when I really wanted to kill the kid who said something mean to me, but I never let the #$%^&* know that.

Or come back with a funny remark of your own. But never nasty, “Timmy, your mother is a smelly ape!” That achieves nothing.

Okay, so have a sense of humor. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy what you are doing. If you like what you are doing, the kids should like it too. I called that emotional transference.

Classes didn’t have to be dry, dull and deadly. I would do the literature I liked, that I enjoyed, that I could get excited about when I taught it. I would teach writing the way I wanted to teach it.

So this was the plan I put into effect the very first day of my career. Did it work? I think so. In 33 years I never had to throw a student out of my class; or write a disciplinary referral on anyone. I never had to yell at a kid. Don’t get me wrong; there were times when I wanted to walk down the aisle and belt a kid in the nose. No teaching day is perfect even for the best teachers. That is something all teachers know. That’s why most days you see the teachers dragging their asses out of the school building.

Liking My Students

Did I like all of my students? Just about. I did have a few that I couldn’t stand and a couple I can honestly say I hated.

People might think it is wrong for me to say I had a couple of students I hated but I did. Why lie? Out of the approximately 6,000 kids I taught, I think hating two of them is pretty good. Some will say the word hate is too strong a word. If it is then feel free to change it to a word that means hate but doesn’t sound like hate. I’ll have a section about these two creeps in the future. You might hate them too.

And one seemingly weird thing, which will probably sound totally idiotic to many of you, but I remember from my little sister and my cousins when they were toddlers that they liked to have the same books read to them over and over; that they liked to eat the same food night after night. I remember an uncle who shaved his beard and his daughter cried as if he had died because she had never seen him clean shaven.

A certain sameness creates calm.

So I dressed basically the exact same way day after day after day. Each year I tended to have a different uniform (after all my uniform would wear out with such extensive use over one school year). I figured it would be easier for the students to basically see the same Scobe day after day. A leopard doesn’t change his spots and my clothes were my spots.

I remember one year when a PBS station was doing a show about my classroom and that year I wore a burgundy sweatshirt every day. So for the show every student wore a burgundy sweatshirt. It was fun to see all of us looking alike. And we did not give in to telling the producer of the show what we were doing. I just taught my regular class and the students were just great. It was a fun day!

The Attention Span Problem

Here is another situation that concerned me, the attention span of students. I found in my elementary and high school days, in college (even in high-level honors programs), in graduate school and in the mind-numbing education courses to which would-be teachers were subjected, that many students could not concentrate for prolonged periods of time. You could see legs beginning to vibrate; faces lost in dream-states, eyes drooping, and big yawns.

I knew you couldn’t teach a kid if that kid couldn’t pay attention. How do you solve that problem?

Over my years of teaching there have been many idiotic attempts by educators to find methods to engage students for prolonged periods of time. One such was called cooperative learning, where you put students in groups and they teach each other. The smart kids did all the work, achieved all the grades for the group, and the lazy kids did nothing, but they still achieved success through their hard-working peers. Of course that nonsense was not around in 1969.

So what did I do? I watched television. The kids I would teach had been brought up with television. So what held their interest for a half-hour or hour-long show? Something did because we had a nation of kids addicted to this form of entertainment. It took me a while but I got it. Commercials!

Every 10 minutes or so, the show was interrupted with a commercial that did two things; it introduced something new, maybe some product or food or cigarette brand and it gave a break from the program that the kid could get back into when the commercial was over.

How could I introduce the commercial aspect into my lessons? Every 10 minutes or so, I would interrupt the lesson and go on a short riff, something funny or unusual. Then I would get back to the lesson but first I’d say something such as, “Wait, wait, I’ve forgotten what we were talking about. Can anyone help me?” Of course, the kids would raise their hands and tell me what I had taught. Okay, that was a sneaky way to do a review and it also gave the kids the idea that I had a pretty poor memory.

The Students I Taught

In my career I taught every type of student—from advanced placement to regents to non-academic. I once had a class comprised of six felons who had taken someone’s life when they were in junior high school. I had some students who were—even at the young high school ages—far smarter than I would ever be. But a kid is a kid, no matter how brilliant. If a kid taught me something by something he said I had no problem saying, “Excellent. I never thought of that.”

I taught kids from all races and many ethnic groups. I treated them all the same—I’d tease, cajole and praise kids if what they had just accomplished was worth it. I was never overly-critical. I was not an easy grader.

My department chairman won a bet against a teacher who said my popularity was based on my giving out high grades. He told the guy to bring his grade book in and he’d compare the grades, especially when we taught the same students. This teacher’s grades were far higher than mine. My chairman won the bet.

So I had my plan and I put it into effect from day one. I might still have schoolmares so long after retiring but I did accomplish what I set out to do—that was, being the best teacher I could be and to never lose control.

Frank Scoblete’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

God’s Wicked Sense of Humor

 

God has a wicked sense of humor. He really does. Adam and Eve eat a fruit (it was probably a fig by the way, not an apple) and they get the death penalty, not just for themselves, but for me and for you and everyone else. That punishment sure is severe. I don’t think we would be allowed to eventually kill everyone on earth because mom and dad screwed up by eating a fig.

Yes, some of the religious persuasion do not see this story quite as I do. They will say that Adam and Eve were punished for their disobedience by eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and that’s why you have to die. Okay, just a second: “Timmy, my son, you disobeyed me and ate Daddy’s orange. For that you die and so does everyone in your second grade class!” Shouldn’t all parents be allowed to do this? After all, I had a part in creating Timmy.

I think it is quite hilarious that God chose Moses to be the liberator of his people when Moses, while being humble as all heck, couldn’t speak a lick. He had to have his traitorous brother Aaron speak for him. So God speaks to Moses and Moses speaks to Aaron and Aaron speaks to Pharaoh. Why not just select someone who was good at public speaking?

In the New Testament the joke becomes amazingly weird. God impregnates the Virgin Mary and then she gives birth to, well, God. So God is his own father.

It gets weirder still.

When Jesus (who is God) knows he is about to get the hell kicked out of him by the Romans, he asks God (meaning he asks himself) to take this “cup” (meaning his upcoming torture and death) away from him. But then he says, “Not as I will but as you will.” Wait a minute Jesus is praying to God, who is himself, to take away his upcoming death but then he tells himself that he will listen to himself and have himself horribly tortured and then killed even though he doesn’t want to go through with what he has created for himself.  Huh?

There is also a scene in the New Testament where Jesus says he doesn’t know when the end of the world is coming and that only the Father knows. Wait a minute. Jesus is God and the Father is God, therefore God knows and God doesn’t know? Does that make sense? Yep, someone is pulling our leg and that someone has to be God. “I’ll tell them this and that and let’s see how long they can take it,” says God. “Ha, ha, ha! That’s hilarious,” says God back to himself, slapping his knee.

Even today, we can see God’s wild sense of humor. We are now experiencing horrible mass killings in churches, schools, movie theatres and the like. To prevent this, The First United Methodist Church in Tellico, Tennessee had a gun expert teach a lesson on guns. One 81-year-old parishioner bragged to all the audience that he always carried a gun on him. He postured himself as an expert. “Yup, I know everything there is to know about guns.”

When asked to show the gun, he took it out and accidentally shot himself in the hand and shot his 80-year-old wife in the stomach. Yup.

Then there was this Ohio legislator known for fighting long and hard against the gay community’s agenda, and a few days ago was caught in his office having sex with a man. Oh, and this legislator’s name is (wait for it) Goodman.

You see, God certainly does have a wild sense of humor and trying to make sense out of the Bible certainly isn’t going to enlighten us at all. My wife says we have to wait until we “get to the other side” (meaning snuffing it) to find out what all of this means. Perhaps she’s right, but I prefer to simply enjoy the chaos while I can.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

The Battle of the Birds

 

We have two birds, Augustus, a Quaker parrot of about 22 years and Mister Squeaky, a Green-Cheeked Conure of about six years. Mister Squeaky was named by his original owners and I have often dropped the Mister part. I don’t think Squeaky is quite at the age or stage where he should be called Mister.

Each bird has his own cage. Yes, they are both males since neither has laid an egg although Squeaky has laid every item on top of and inside his cage. He also lays his cage itself, top and inside. Even in the middle of the night you can hear him going-at-it inside his cage. For sure, he is an amazing bird. He is the horniest creature I have ever run across. You can read an article titled “The Four-Hour Erection” on this web site about Squeaky’s sexual proclivities.

These birds are at war. It is not a biting, bloody, rip-into-their-feathery-bodies’ war. It is a property war of attrition; who can gain the most of the other bird’s territory in a day.

Here’s how it goes. Their cages are next to each other. Both birds are out of their cages most of the time. Every other day we put a bath on top of Squeaky’s cage which he uses with delight. He looks somewhat like a drenched ragamuffin when finished with his ablutions. But Augustus, who used to bathe in his French-white CorningWare “tub” in the kitchen, has recently decided that he would take over Squeaky’s bath and CorningWare be damned.

Now we know Augustus has done this because he is a monstrous pooper and leaves his “calling cards” (oh, yes, multiple poops) in Squeaky’s bath water. Squeaky leaves no poop at all.

We used to call Augustus the stealth pooper but there is nothing stealth about him. Everything in the house – chairs, tables, drain-board next to the sink, bed, bathroom, books – in short, everything everywhere in the house is an occasion for him to let it rip, including your shoulder (which usually drips down your back) and on top of your head.

Augustus befouls Squeaky’s bath and he takes his precious time about it. Squeaky might bathe for a couple of minutes but Augustus can be in there up to 10 or 15 minutes. As he does his dirties, he eyes Squeaky. “Take that you little runt!” his expression says. (Even though a parrot’s face never changes, it does. Oh, yes it does. In some mystical way, you know exactly what that face is saying.)

When Squeaky sees the poop floating in his bath’s water, does he get upset? “Hey, you miserable senior citizen, do your dumping somewhere else!” No. Instead, he jumps right onto Augustus’ cage, climbs down the bars, goes inside and eats Augustus’ food. Now, we feed both birds the exact same diet. What’s in Augustus’ cage is also in Squeaky’s cage.

Yesterday each bird was in the other bird’s cage devouring his opponent’s food.

Augustus’ cage is somewhat taller than Squeaky’s. Parrots tend to prefer being at the topmost area of the cage – which I guess is a substitute for a tree – and we felt that since Augustus was the far more senior bird that he should have the taller cage and the advantages that height affords.

Now on top of each of their cages are toys and perches. When Squeaky sees Augustus heading back to home base, Squeaky will swiftly climb to the top of Augustus’ cage and take prime position on the perch. Augustus comes over, eyes Squeaky and gets on the perch too. Thankfully the perch is long enough to accommodate the both of them.

But here is the rub. The perch arcs in the middle and that is the highest point on top of the cage. Augustus slowly moves to that point which is where Squeaky at first sits. Squeaky is smaller than Augustus and he slowly moves from that spot.

Squeaky does not give up his hunt for the higher position. He just flies up to the top of the curtains and takes position there. Augustus is not interested in going way up there, not at his advanced age, anyway. After a bath and a meal and getting Squeaky to move, the poor old guy is tired; he then climbs down his cage and goes inside for one of his many daily naps. While he naps, Squeaky comes down and resumes the prime position on top of Augustus’ perch.

This war continues all day. Who will win it? I think because of Augustus’ age, Squeaky has the advantage, but old Augustus will keep fighting to the very end—of the afternoon, that is. Until bedtime. Then without realizing it Augustus adopts the words of Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll think about it tomorrow. For tomorrow is another day.”

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

 

Tax Relief? Hell, no! It’s a Gut Punch!

 

The tax break proposed by the Republicans is nothing more than a gut punch to many of us living in cities or states with high tax burdens.

First of all, why are they fiddling with all the deductions? Leave the deductions alone. To truly change the Federal tax code I propose a tax break that is so simple any legislator can understand it and pass it tomorrow. You can check my percentages at this site:

https://www.skillsyouneed.com/num/percent-change.html

  • Make those folks paying 39 percent, now pay 35 percent. This represents a tax reduction of 10 percent. (Divide 39 into 35, a reduction of 4, and the savings comes to 10 percent.)
  • Make those paying 35 percent now pay 30 percent. This represents a tax reduction of 14 percent.
  • Make those paying 30 percent now pay 25 percent. This represents a reduction of 17 percent.
  • Make those paying 25 percent now pay 20 percent. This represents a reduction of 20 percent.
  • Make those paying 20 percent now pay 15 percent. This represents a reduction of 25 percent.
  • Make those paying 15 percent now pay 10 percent. This represents a reduction of 33 percent.

Why are the Republicans doing it the way they are doing it? They actually don’t want true tax cuts. The Democrats don’t want any tax cuts at all. Both parties pretend they want tax cuts but pretense is the currency of politics.

If you look at the percent reductions I recommend, you will see that the rich have their taxes reduced much, much less than the working poor. Don’t the Democrats want this kind of progressive taxing? Democrats should rejoice at this. However, I have yet to see Democrats rejoice at any tax cuts.

The Republicans shrewdly phrase the reduction in corporate taxes as going from 35 percent to 20 percent. Perhaps that is a simple and clear tax cut for corporations, but the tax-paying citizenry is still enveloped in the smoke and mirrors with tomes of tax codes, loss of deductions, and for some, a higher tax bill made to look like a cut.

Newscasters have been sucked into the politicians’ game-play that this tax process has to be complex and mysterious. Were they to adopt my way of looking at the issue, it would mean very little arguing in interviews and panel discussions—and as we know, argument stimulates ratings.

The Republicans are playing games. The Democrats are playing games.

Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” With all due respect to Dr. Franklin, I say: In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and politics.

Frank’s latest books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

This Man Needs Advice

 

FROM NOT-KING-COLE: Do you have any wild ideas about gambling? I’m looking for a real escape. I mean it, I don’t mean just following the math of the games as you do but something really weird and wacky that is perfect for a night at the casino. Drinks, flirting with waitresses and just going wild; that’s what I am talking about.

I am sure you have heard of wild ways to play. Give me an example.

I have a boring job, a boss I hate, I mean I really hate this guy, and an overall dull day-to-day life. I’m miserable. Help me! Help me! I’m looking at the casino as my escape route. Come on, help a guy out. Give me the best advice you got for me to have some fun in order to put all the other BS in the back for a while.

Maybe with some fun in the casinos I can forget about things for a while.

Sign me Not-King-Cole!

FRANK RESPONDS: Not-King-Cole, you need more than just “wild” gambling advice. You need to fix your life and I don’t mean your betting life. Thinking about gambling is the last thing to do.

I know most workers are not in love with their bosses and some hate them as you do. You can look for another job or you can just accept the fact that your boss is your boss and you hate him but he is not in charge of your inner life. That life is yours and yours alone. Make good use of that. Don’t be the drunken guy at the end of the bar whining and moaning until he passes out. I’ve seen too many of those – lost lives often ranting and raving over things they have no real knowledge of.

So you have a dull life? Read books; watch some good documentaries; take yourself out of yourself for a while. Join a club or society that does some good things. You make your life dull or not dull. No one else does.

You have more free time at home than at work. So that time is precious. Make use of it. Gambling is not a savior for anything; not for anything at all. It is just entertainment, hopefully in a life that has more meaning than just letting it all hang out drinking and flirting with waitresses who will be annoyed at guys who leer at them.

I am not going to give you any gambling advice. You seem to be – based on your short letter – someone who could use gambling in the worst possible way.

Please take care of what really needs to be taken care of. And I wish you the best.

Frank Scoblete’s latest books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.