Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Flat Tire

I'm depressed about many things at the moment: the state of Louisiana's recovery, the lack of political leadership, our public education system, and the Saints are 0-3 and we don't have Notre Dame on our schedule. But the biggest bummer at the moment is that my bicycle chained to a pole outside has a flat tire. I have several meetings all around town today from noon until 8PM, and I really needed the bike. Usually Therese bicycles on Tuesday and I use her car, but this morning Therese was unable to bike. So I'm going to try to run the bike home at 1:30, repair the tire, and then try to be on time for a 2 PM meeting near Bayou St. John, and then be at Notre Dame seminary for class by 3:30. On days like today I really hate meetings.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Katrina Car

There's a car often parked near our house that is pimped out with Katrina related religious art. For example, on the door panels there are two angels praying over a hurricane.
On the front hood there is a map of Louisiana, a hurricane, and the statement that "God Answers Prayers.
There are other statements like "Big Easy," "504," and of course "Katrina." I wonder if this car, a Mercury Grand Marquis, and its spiritual driver are single handedly saving New Orleans. Is it just a coincidence that Tropical Depression 10, forecasted by many to hit New Orleans perhaps as a hurricane, fizzled out and went ashore in Florida? Keep up the good work Katrina car. Our fate is in your hands.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Jena 6

Many of my students were not in class today, as they were marching in protest to what has happened to six African American students in Jena Louisiana. Three full buses left Xavier in the middle of the night to drive to Jena. Their protest is getting much deserved publicity, it's even being covered by the BBC. I'm proud of my students who made the effort to go to the protest, and I hope some good comes out of it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Some Swab Be Bike Stealing, Arrrrggghhhh!

It be Talk Like a Pirate Day, and shiver me timbers, Kalypso's bike was stolen from me porch last night. Arrrggghhh! But all hope is not lost matees, fer we be digging up treasure in the form of a $45K historic restoration grant.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What Would Make Me Happy

With my Saints and Huskers football teams being so awful this year, and with the depression that goes along with discovering that we really don't have $150,000 from the Road Home due to high upcoming taxes, what would it take to make me happy?

The answer: K-Ville Action Figures. Only 8 hours left until the big premiere that is going to play a HUGE role in the recovery of our city. We need an html sarcasm tag, by the way. We already saw the pilot, and agreed that it wasn't as bad as we thought it would be. Look for our house, Kalypso washing at the end, and Gil playing football in the distance.

Road Home Funds Put Us in 33% Tax Bracket

Back in 2005 we claimed a casualty loss for our damaged home on our tax return. The IRS has decided that since we did that, the $150,000 we received from the Road Home will be taxable income. My wife and I are in education, and typically we earn salaries that put us in the 15-20% range. Now with the Road Home funds we'll be in the 33% bracket. If our insurance company would have paid us instead of the Road Home, this wouldn't be a problem. Also, in hindsight we should not have taken the casualty loss, as it is going to cost us dearly in the 2007 tax return. Senatory Landrieu and U.S. Representative Jindal introduced legislation to exempt the grants from taxes, but the chance of these bills passing is slim to none. I again feel that if Katrina hit New York or Idaho these so-called "duplication of fees", like the Stafford Act taking away my SBA loan, would be waived. So all of these funds that would have gone in to rebuilding New Orleans will now be used for improving streets in Oregon and paying Haliburton to feed troops in Iraq.

Read more in "IRS has bad news on Road Home" by David Hammer in today's Times-Picayune.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

College Bricks

Today I spent most of the day cleaning mortar off of bricks. We had our two chimneys taken down as part of the efforts to straighten our house. It was a very difficult decision, but we were advised that it would be hard to straighten our racked house without removing the chimneys. So Abry Brothers, as a first step, took out the bricks and put them in a pile in our backyard.
We're told these are St. Joe bricks, from a famous company in Slidell. I'm told they can't make the bricks like we have anymore, as the fires produce too much polution. But 100 years ago when these were made, the fires were a lower temperature and "dirtier," so it caused some very interesting colors in the bricks. We cleaned off the mortar of more than 1000 today and put them in a pile, we're hoping to use them later on our patio. There are many more left in the pile for tomorrow and the upcoming weekends. Then later today, speaking of bricks, I watched Notre Dame continue to look worse than my highschool team. They are 0-3, and haven't scored a touchdown all season. But my mind is really on Nebraska, who is playing the number one ranked USC Trojans in about a half hour. If the Huskers win, then their program is back on top as one of the premier college programs in the country. Plus as lagniappe, if the Huskers win than Lousiana State will be number one. Go Huskers!
I later went back and made the text of "if" bigger, because that turned out to be a mighty big if.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Abry Brothers

Today was a milestone in our rebuilding process. After months of waiting, Abry Brothers is finally working on our house. They began today by removing the chimney tops. In the next three months they will straighten our house, raise it three feet, and pour a new foundation. Then afterward, we'll have about 7 months of work for a general contractor. We hope to be in our house in a year.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cleavered Window

At six PM as I sat in the kitchen reading the NOLA blogs, and Therese was in our room doing lesson plans, we heard the sound of broken glass. We looked around and noticed that the window in Kalypso's room was broken.
Then we noticed this cleaver blade on the ground:
We called the police and filed a report. The officer was friendly and came right away. He asked if we would be filing an insurance claim, we laughed. He thought maybe it was a weapon that someone was trying to get rid of, and he took it as evidence. I think it was just some neighborhood kid from one of the many backyards who just threw it. In any case, fixing the window is an unwelcomed addition of "things I have to do." Kalypso was gone when it happened, luckily. We're all cleaning up the glass now.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Saints: A Welcomed Distraction

The Saints open up the NFL regular season in just one hour against the Superbowl champion Indianapolis Colts. Should be plenty of offense. If we win, God help us, there will be plenty of people around here convinced that the season is just a formality for a certain Superbowl victory by the black and gold. I'm expecting a fantastic game by Reggie Bush.
Postgame note: It turned out to be a very ugly second half, with the Colts dominating all aspects of the game and winning 41-10. It was a clinic. Ugh.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Kids and Creeps in Red SUVs

Yesterday around 4 PM my 12-year-old-daughter Kalypso was walking from our damaged home on S. Alexander to our temporary home on S. Hennessey. There was a red SUV parked three doors down from us on S. Hennessey. A bald Caucassian man with a strong accent commented on how attractive Kalypso was, and he asked her age. Knowing that she was 12, he then asked her if she wanted to go with him to get something to eat, and offered her a beer and a good time. Kalypso refused and came home to tell me about it. I angrily went outside to confront this perverted man and to try to get the license plate number. However, he was gone. Anyway, Kalypso and I had some talks about why it is important to not talk to strangers, and what to do in these kinds of situations. We also told all of our neighbors to be on the lookout, as the fact that he was parked there might mean he is working on one of the houses and will be back. But Therese, Kalypso, and myself are pretty shaken up by this. There are certainly some creepy people in the world, and now in our neighborhood.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

No Free Wifi In My N.O.

Just a couple of months after Katrina I happily posted that New Orleans was going to be the first major U.S. city to have free wireless access throughout the city. Earthlink started the process in the CBD and the Frenchquarter, and then expanded uptown, all neighborhoods that did not flood. The mayor thought that by November of 2006 the entire city, including the flooded neighborhoods, would have free wifi. Then by December they had suffered some setbacks, mostly from hardball tactics from Bellsouth and Cox Cable who said this "free" service would steal their customers. I argued that the flooded neighborhoods needed wifi even more than the others, as at the time Bellsouth was estimating it would take more than a year to get phone service. There was also some controversy as the wifi transmitters would double as crime cameras. Earthlink hoped to finance the wifi by offering those who could access their signal two options: they could used the free speed (slightly faster than dialup), or pay to use a much faster speed. Today in the Times-Picayune in an article by Pam Radtke Russell I read that Earthlink has had some financial problems, and they've pulled the plug on New Orleans, and my dream of free wifi is gone for now. Earthlink has said that the business model proved to be "unworkable." Other cities, such as Chicago and San Francisco are also reportedly cancelling earlier plans to provide free wireless access. Radtke Russell reports that there might be a glimmer of hope, as Earthlink contacted the city's technology director Anthony Jones last week to discuss an expansion, but they would need the city or another "entity" to be the "anchor tenant" to pay for the system. Earthlink, my city is broke. I can't imagine a company like Shell would take this on either, as they'd more likely listen to Bellsouth than me.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

"The Charter School Flood" by Tisserand

Michael Tisserand authored this excellent article about charter schools in New Orleans in the current issue of The Nation. Unlike most writings on this controversial topic, I found Tisserand offers a snapshot of our situation without the usual bias. I have seen first-hand how charters have widened the achievement gap, but I've also seen how they can at times with vision and quality boards create really great schools. I found the following quotation of John Ayers to be intriguing:

The charter movement is dominated in the trenches by progressives, even when we've been represented on the national stage by conservatives.

I think that is accurate. I'm currently on a board trying to charter a school. We met today, and the entire board seemed liberal and progressive, as do most people working to improve our schools through charters. Are we being used? Maybe there is a middle ground where some businesses can profit with charter schools, some schools stay public, and ALL children can get a great public education.