Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#239 In which our hero receives an unexpected letter regarding education and proposing a fun vacation destination.

We received a follow-up letter from the Christian school we toured a couple of weeks ago. We actually got it just two days later, meaning the principal must have written it that night or the next morning. Usually I’d assume it was boilerplate copy… but it’s clear that this letter was written specifically for us. It follows, with my commentary.
Thank you very much for coming last evening despite the bad weather. I admit your concerns abut creationism and evolution are the reverse of what we normally receive, but they are just as important as the others.
I’ll give this guy points for getting right to the matter at hand. I find it encouraging that our “concerns” about evolution (ie., your school teaches that it is a pack of lies) are the opposite of what people are usually worried about. Meaning that the typical parent is worried that evolution might be taught to their children. They actually fret that their children might be exposed to a well-established scientific theory. This just reinforces that fact that I don’t want my kids in this school. I mean, I don’t worry that my kids will be exposed to creationism or the verses in Genesis.

And does it strike you as a little passive-aggressive when he writes that our concerns are “just as important”? Like he’s saying, “Y’know, most people I told to understand the truth… but don’t worry, your misguided beliefs are just as valid. Sure they are.”
I agree that without God in the equation evolution is a viable answer.
I’m a little put off by this. We’re not atheists, and at no point did we express that God has no part to play in evolution. We weren’t advocating taking God out of the equation. And without flying into a rant, I have to comment that this is the kind of thing that annoys me most about fundamentalists: it’s all or nothing. You believe in God the way I believe in God or you are wrong.
Both creationists and evolutionists begin with same basic presuppositions that will support their case. Creationists begin with a literal belief of the Genesis account. Evolutionist begin without the supernatural being involved. While creationists differ on how God actually did the creating, especially how long ago and the time involved, they give him credit.

My problem with rejecting the Genesis account is how do we decide what part of the Bible we accept and what part we do not. Who decides what is symbolic and what is literal? There are accepted guidelines for these decisions in secular literature, and these rules of interpretation apply for Scripture also.
Oh boy.

He’s already made it clear that he believes the story of Genesis is to be taken literally--that is, the universe was created by God in six days. No more, no less. He knows this because it is written in the Bible. Then, in the paragraph above, he states that there are “accepted guidelines” for what passages in the Bible are to be taken literally (such as Genesis 2:2 “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”) and what are NOT to be taken literally (such as, presumably, Leviticus 4:2-6 “2. … When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands 3. … He must bring to the Lord a young bull without defect 4. … and slaughter it before the Lord. 5 Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull's blood and carry it into the Tent of Meeting. 6. He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the Lord, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary.”)
I want you to be comfortable with what we teach here. We do not require students or parents to believe as we do in many areas.
“Just the important ones.”
We serve over 40 different churches. We do stand on personal salvation through belief in Jesus’ death, burial and literal resurrection as payment for our sins. If you decide we are the best school for your family I would be glad to sit down with you and your husband to discuss this issue and others.
That would be an interesting meeting. We figure the best way to start it would be by explaining exactly what my wife does for a living. “As an embryologist, I help infertile couples have the baby of their dreams. Including lesbian couples.” I wonder if they’d still be so welcoming after that bombshell.
If you ever travel through Cincinnati I would recommend the Creation Museum. It is done by scientists, not just Christians. I have heard excellent reports on it.
Hol-lee crap. I realize that he’s making an attempt to use “science” to sway our decision, but man, he picked just about the most pathetic example he could. This “museum” has been thoroughly ridiculed by the scientific community as garbage. And it’s not hard to see why. A quick search about its contents revels that, among other things, it displays humans and dinosaurs living side-by-side, including displays which show: dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden; a Triceratops wearing a saddle; and a stegosaurus aboard Noah’s ark.

I would LOVE to go to see this train wreak in person, but certainly not for the reason that this guy thinks.
I realize your decision is a year away, but I want you to know I value your concerns.
I doubt that.

So, he’s done all due diligence in trying to secure two new fee-paying students and perhaps save the soul of their heathen parents. But, I’m afraid the search must continue.


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#238 In which our hero visits a school and has a very illuminating conversation with said school’s principal.

The Scientist and I took the girls to an open house last week. Since Lily is four (and a genius) we need to start thinking about where we’re going to send her to Kindergarten. We’re not real keen on sending her to public school, mostly because we’ve heard that the public schools around us aren’t the greatest. The high school is actually pretty good, but the lower grades appear to be basically day cares where the teachers spend most of their time wrangling children and not so much time actually teaching them anything.

Lily’s birthday is in November, which means we have to deal with that weird thing where she just misses the deadline to enroll. However, being that she really is a pretty smart kid, we thought that she might be able to test into a program and start school this fall. However, we’ve since learned that most schools are putting rules into place that actually prohibit them from taking kids who aren’t five years old by the deadline, no exceptions.

This, as it turns out, is a good thing. Because the open house did not go well.

Here’s the thing: considering the non-stellar reputation of public schools in our area, we want to send the girls to a private school. There are two private schools quite near us that are fan-fucking-tastic, but well out of our price range. So we’ve been looking at other schools, notably private religious schools. Now, it’s not that we really need our kids to have a healthy helping of God with their studies, we just want them to have the best education we can afford. And most private religious schools we’ve looked at have small class sizes (ie., great teacher/student ratios), good resources (ie., lots of computers in every classroom) and are actually affordable for us (ie., we don’t have to choose between education or electricity). And we’re not opposed to a religious atmosphere, so in theory we don’t have a problem with a Christian school.

Except for one thing.

Being that The Scientist is, well, a scientist, and I share her beliefs in a largely rational world, we’re both concerned about how science is taught in school. Evolution is the hot button of course.

A little rant here.

I think evolution takes an unfair amount of heat in the science vs. religious war. It is, I’ll admit, the one issue in which both sides seem to have a pretty decent (if rudimentary) understanding of the difference in view points--science (“The universe was created in the wake of the Big Bang, and Earth in particular formed over billions of years”) and religion (“The universe and Earth and everything therein were created by God over the course of seven days”).

I get the vibe that people think that if we could just agree to disagree on this one point, then we would get along just fine. But, to me, it’s more than that. It’s not just that I believe that the universe is billions of years old, it’s not that I believe that all life has common ancestors in our far, far history… it’s that I look at the world in a certain way. I believe that the world can be figured out, if you look carefully enough. I don’t believe anything “is because it is.” There are answers out there, you just have to know enough to ask the right questions. And while I believe that you can rely heavily on books to find your answers, you don’t have to be limited to one book in particular.

Anyway, back to school.

We went to this particular Christian Academy because it was recommended to us by our day care provider. She had heard good things about it, so we figured we’d give it a test drive.

It was a cold and icy night, so we were one of only half a dozen families who showed up. The teachers are generally there for these kind of things, but the administration had sent them home because of the weather. We were greeted at the door by the principal.

It quickly became apparent that the principal considered himself a funny guy. But, sadly, we was not.

While I appreciate a sense of humor, I’m not looking for a stand-up comedian to education my kids. And I only wanted to get a feel for the school; not necessarily be entertained while I was touring the facilities. But, immediately upon entering the place, he introduced himself and told us, “We sent the teachers home because of the weather, so you’re stuck with the administration!” Okay by me. “Let me show you around. Usually you only get the nickel tour, but since I’m the principal, I’ll give you the twenty-five cent tour!” Oh, I get it, you’re being funny. Ha-ha.

But whatever, I don’t need this guy to be my new best friend, I just need a competent school to fill my kid’s heads with some quality learnin’. And the school is nice. Small, but nice. They have a nice gym, and a computer in every classroom, and a computer lab with 20 or so Macs. The facility is clean and colorful, and the kids’ artwork is proudly hung in the hallways.

We end up in the Kindergarten room and while the teacher isn’t there, for whatever reason the teacher’s aid is. We chat with her and learn a little about how the school runs (they teach reading with the phonics system, they have a religious ceremony every Friday morning, the students get two warnings before they are sent to the principals office, etc., etc.) It all sounds reasonable. Then, we finally get around to the Hot Topic.

The aide doesn’t know much about how upper level science is taught, but she does know that they cover evolution. Okay, good. She recommends that we speak to a particular teacher, because he teaches 5th grade science. It turns out that the 5th grade science teacher and the principal and one and the same.

Oh boy.

So we track him down and ask him some pointed questions. He tells us that yes, he does teach evolution. Good. Then he teaches his students the problems with evolution. Not good.

“The biggest problem,” he tells us, is that evolution doesn’t have a starting point. They claim that lower forms evolve into higher forms, but it’s got to start somewhere. And that somewhere, in my teaching, is God.”

Now, it’s neither the time nor place to get into it with this guy. I hold my tongue; clearly we have radically different views on the topic. The Scientist tries to talk it out with him, explaining how when she went to school she was taught evolution in science class, and creationism in religion class. And how she thought these theories could live side-by-side. The principal tells us how he’s a literal interpretationist and, even though he doesn’t come right out and say it as such, it’s pretty clear that he has no room in his life whatsoever for evolution.

And honestly, I don’t care what the man’s person beliefs are… but I do have an issue with him teaching evolution simply to discredit it. And to his credit, he is honest with us, and says that if we’re looking for a school that teaches the age of the Earth to be millions of years old, that this is probably not the school for us. Fair enough.

We have the vibe that maybe we should just keep looking, and we start heading for the doors. But right about then they announce that there’s going to be an assembly of sorts to further discuss things about the school. Plus, there are cookies and punch. So we decide to stick around.

And I’m soooo glad we did.

The administrator, a nice enough fellow, despite his simpleton grin, welcomes the parents and thanks us for braving the weather to learn more about their school. He reinforces that this is a Christian school, and as such, there are a couple things they require, including that at least one of the parents much be a born-again Christian and that each child must have and know their own Bible by age four.

He explains some of the things that happen in the school, including the Friday morning service. Each grade must memorize a Bible verse and recite it, as a class, during the service every week. This seems innocuous enough, until he tells us what some of the verses are. They memorize one verse for every letter of the alphabet, such as “A is for absolute sin, which tarnishes us all;” “B is for the blood of Christ that washes away our sins;” and so on.

This is a little doom and gloom for me. How about, “A is for Adam, whom God made in His image” or something a little more cheery like that? The administrator wraps up his spiel. Then, the principal gets up to talk to us.

And wow, does he have some stuff to say.

He starts by re-enforcing that this is a Christian school, and that our children are going to learn good values and morals along with their education. And how this is more important than ever in today’s world. “You can’t even turn on the TV any more without seeing an inappropriate, non-biblical relationship any more,” he tells us. “In fact, just last night I was watching one of those home makeover shows--and you’d think those would be safe, right?--and the people they were building a house for were a couple of lesbians. And one of them was pregnant!”

He’s clearly shocked by this, and he spits out “lesbian” with the same distaste that one might say “pedophile.” And they were pregnant, too? God forbid (literally)! And then, amazingly, the very next words out of his mouth are this:

“Not that we judge anyone here.”

And I’m thinking, holy shit, are you joking? That is exactly what you’re doing. You’re judging people, and you are find them lacking on a daily basis. I’m tempted to just get up and leave at this point, but I don’t want to be rude and make a scene. So I sit and bite my tongue.

He goes on for awhile longer, and the stuff he says about religion affect me as much as his dismissal of evolution. His faith sounds a little scary, a little oppressive. I mean, I don’t need my kids to learn that the Bible is all sunflowers and unicorns, but I don’t want them to think that God is an angry, punishing force. And that’s exactly what I walked away with: God is watching you, don’t screw up or you’ll regret it.

The open house wraps up and we beat a hasty retreat out of there. This is clearly not the place for us, or our children. In the car ride home The Scientist and I have to consider if we’ve made a huge mistake in even thinking about sending our kids to a religious school. Are they all like this? Would they just be better off in public school? Can we, in good conscious, send our children to a school that teaches them something so radically different than what we think and believe?

The answer to all of these questions is we don’t know. So we’re back in research mode, looking around for new solutions. We’re resolute that we’ll find someplace that works. How can we even be sure that there is a good school out there that will meet their needs and our needs?

I guess we have faith.


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#237 In which our hero thinks big thoughts.

I’ve been thinking about my career quick a bit lately. Not surprising, being that next month is my two year anniversary at this agency. Assuming I manage to avoid being fired for the next 30 days, this will be the longest I’ve worked at any agency since moving to Cleveland.

I try not to be negative about it, but in my career, I have cause. In the six years I’ve been in Cleveland, I’ve worked at five agencies. That’s probably higher than the norm, but not terribly unusual in my field. Economy goes down, advertisers cut budgets, agencies go down, agencies cut people… it’s a vicious circle and I’ve been on the bent-over end of it several times.

Here’s the first time.

Here’s the second time (The Scientist was eight months pregnant for this one).

Here’s the third time (Macey was two months old for this one).

And being that the economy appears to be heading to another recession, this looms large in my mind. Except, I don’t really expect to get fired any time soon. I’ve probably just jinxed myself by typing that, but I feel like I’m in a really good place at this agency. In my two years here I’ve proven myself, stepped up to any challenge thrown my way. I’ve been rewarded with high profile assignments, and made the main writer on several big name clients. I even started a recycling program that has been so successful that the entire building participates in it, not just our agency.


I can’t stop thinking about some insight I got from a co-worker years ago. The only way to get a substantial raise, he told me, is to go to another agency.

And in my decade of experience, I’ve found that to be absolutely true. If you get a regular raise (which in my experience has NOT happened more than it has happened) it’s always cost of living, never any more. Regardless of stellar job performance evaluations, it’s always the absolute minimal that an employer can get away with.

And I get this. It’s management’s job to keep costs low, and salary is the #1 cost to an ad agency. I don’t begrudge them, really. But I do want to be rewarded for doing good work. And most of my career, the reward for good work was not being fired. It’s really hard to shake that lingering fear that I could once again be called into Human Resources and told to close the door.

But, being respected (to my face, at least) and liked at this agency has given me the confidence to ask around, poke at some people and see what are my chances of actually making some more money.

And answer is slim to none.

I gently asked my boss today where she saw me going in the future; what promotions might exist. She said that while she didn’t know if a promotion to associate creative director (the next rung on the ladder in my department) would happen this year or over the next couple years (translated, that means it will NOT happen) she definitely saw me in the position of being the “lead” on more major clients and maybe even a “creative manager.” There are two roles which entail more responsibility and more work… but no more money.

This bums me out.

So the big question is: should I start looking around again? I have my resume up on and all the appropriate job sites, of course, but I haven’t actively sent out resumes in two years. Not since I got this job.

The big problem is that I love this job, and this agency. The client list is good, my co-workers are nice and talented, management is hands-off for the most part. It’s a fun place to work.

But if I want a big bump in pay, I think I’m going to have to jump ship. But I kinda don’t want to. Even if I ended up at a place as enjoyable as this, there’s no guarantee that I wouldn’t be laid off the next month when the economy shits the bed. So I’m wrestling with the concept of how much money is enough money to roll the dice again.

The entire concept frightens me, and I’ve generally shied away from things that frighten me. But, I also think that the only way to gain great rewards is to take great chances.

I dunno.


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The lovely Miss Kate recently sent me more pictures from the pants party, and I've been meaning to post them.

Yes, your honor, there were minors at my party. Is that a problem?

"Friends" share an embrace. Great kilt, by the way.

Birthday helmet provided by A. & B. Hotness provided by my wife's pants.

OMG! It's a liger!

Not as hot as I'd like to imagine.

Probably most telling is that I have no memory of that last photo being taken. Miss Kate tells me "it was late in the party." Ah, that would explain it.

Thanks again to everyone who came to my suprise birthday/fancy pants party. You're all invited back next year.


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Helpful hint of the day: if a telemarketer calls you with a survey, and you want to get off the phone but don’t want to be rude, tell them you work in advertising. Call I got last night:
TELEMARKETER: Hello sir, I’m {didn’t catch it} with {didn't care} and I’d like to ask you a few brief questions.
ME: Okay.
TM: Is there anyone in the household between the ages of 30 and 34?*
ME: Actually, no.
TM: Is there a male between the ages of 34 and 42?
ME: Yes, I am.
TM: Great! First, do you or anyone in your household work in any of the following professions? Advertising or--
ME: Yes.
TM: Advertising?
ME: Yes.
TM: Um, what is it you do?
ME: I’m a writer.
TM: Oh, do you have anything to do with radio advertising?
ME: Sure. In fact, I wrote some radio scripts just today.
TM: Oh. Um, I think that might disqualify you from the survey.
ME: It usually does.
TM: Let me just check… {moment later} Yeah, I’m afraid that disqualifies you from the survey.
ME: No problem.
Now, unlike most people, I want to take these surveys, because I’m often using the info on the other side. I’m always curious about how the questions are phrased, if they are leading or misleading, and what order they are presented in. Phone surveys are notoriously unreliable, because there’s nothing stopping the recipient from lying outrageously.

And, depending on how clever you are with the questions, you can really get just about any result you want. Typically, on the surveys where they allow me to participate, I have a really good idea by the end of who’s sponsoring the research and/or what product(s) they are gathering information for. It’s fun. Well, for me, maybe.

I guess I could lie myself, and tell them I’m a bricklayer or whatever. But then I’d just be giving some poor copywriter down the road bad info.

* WTF? This is the first time that I’ve been aged out of a survey. For a long time I’ve been in that golden zone, the male aged 18-35 that all marketers want to target. I’m going to be royally pissed if I get bumped up to the next age range, and find myself lumped with 40-65-year-olds.


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