Tuesday, March 29, 2016

One last rant

So this is it. Eight years ago I started this blog as a place to rant, to just say what I wanted to say. I could blast people. I could mock people. I could laugh. I could cry. I could be me and not worry about it. But eight years is enough.

Tonight, I sit back and reflect on my life. Five years ago today my mom passed away. Five long years ago. My dad had already passed away and there I was - no parents. It hits you. Hard. 

I look back and have very few regrets. I have, in some way, been like my mom. Stubborn. Opinionated. Myself. I don't care about the people who don't like me. You don't like me? Your loss. I don't care about the people who talk shit about me. You want to talk shit? Go for it. I don't care about the people who are just assholes. Go be an asshole away from me. 

Here I sit, March 29, and after a long day, I realize this: we live in a world with a lot of bad shit because people are so wrapped up in themselves, their phones, their computers, their video games, their whatever, that we stopped caring about each other. 

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country, right JFK? Something like that. How about: ask not what the world can do for you, ask what you can do for the world? Too big? Okay. How about: ask not what Bill/Bob/Susie can do for you, ask what you can do for Bill/Bob/Susie.

You see, I may be naive, I may be dumb, I may be an idiot, but I really think a lot of our problems can be solved if we simply learned to help each other. Wake up each day and do something good for someone else. Try to find something that you can do to help someone else. A smile? A hug? Maybe a cup of coffee? 

I know, as I sit here tonight, that my mom taught me to help other people. For that, I am grateful to her, even more on this night. So, no more ranting. No more blasting. No more mocking. Just trying to make the world a better place - one day at a time. Join me, won't you? 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Don't ever question me

I am pissed. I have been pissed for a few days. I have to remove some facts to protect the guilty - or the idiots - or the morons. So, I will get it off my chest now.

A couple of days ago I had a call from an attorney about an issue. The attorney was calling me as a witness. He did not know what I did for a living. When I asked very basic questions, I mean questions that a first year law student would know the answers to, he gave me the wrong answers. For example, did you know you can be sued for negligence? Negligence means you did something below the standard of care. That is a fancy way for saying you made a mistake and someone got hurt. Negligence does not require you to intend to hurt someone. In fact, by definition, it is not intentional. Think of a car crash. It is a car accident, not a car intentional.

Anyway, after he was done lying to me, I asked if he knew what I did for a living. He told me no. So I told him what I did. He asked what kind of attorney I was. I told him I am the kind who sues people for a living. I wasn't rude about it. I wasn't a jackass about it. I was just matter of fact. What do I do? I sue people. Seriously. I sue people. Not everyone, but people who deserve it.

At that point, he decided I was going to be hostile. Well, long before that he decided he was going to be a jackass. Yes, a jackass. He was a huge jackass. How do I know? Rule #1: never trust anyone who uses their middle name. They start the relationship off by lying to you. Yes, they are lying about their name. Liar, liar pants on fire. Tell me what your first name is if you want this to work.

Anyway, he was calling me about an issue with my kid. Fine. I told him I was protective of my kid. He asked if I cared more about my kid than other kids. Um, how do I put this without sounding like an asshole? Yes. I do. I care about my kids. I love them. And, if you hurt my kid, we have an issue, whether it is physically, emotionally, mentally or some other way.

So he continues with this about how I don't care about other people. I am a jerk, clearly. I mean, any parent who cares about their own kid clearly is an asswipe or a douchebag. What kind of piece of crap human would care about their own kid more than other kids? We should clearly not let those people be parents.

At this point, I am pissed. Like, pissed beyond belief. I stop him and explain to him, politely but firmly, that I am the PTO co-President, mock trial advisor, wrestling coach, 20+ year soccer coach, and I go to the worst schools, not the bad schools, but the worst of the worst and talk to the kids about being successful. But, yes, you are right you piece of crap that I don't care about other people's kids. I volunteer all of this because I am a shitbag. Yes, a human shitbag. That is me.

Look, I do a lot wrong. I get it. I am not perfect. In fact, I am pretty fucking far from perfect. I am mean. I make people cry. I can be biting in my sarcasm. I can just be a complete fucking ass. I have made mistakes, some bigger than others. I am not a role model. I am not even a good person half the time. Do not look up to me. I am fine with it.

But do not ever, ever question my commitment to making sure our kids, not my kids, but OUR kids are going to do better in this life than I have done. Do not ever think I don't give to our kids. Every single fucking day I do something for someone else's kids, whether it is tying a shoe or volunteering or talking to them or simply making sure that they have what they need to be successful. Yes, you can skewer me for a lot. But if you ever try to make me look like the piece of shit you are, we will have an issue and I am sure that I will come out on top.

So, dear douchebag: remember there is always someone out there who is smarter than you. I know there is someone out there smarter than me. You, however, scum, are not smarter than me and if you push me too much, you will not like the result. I assure you of that.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Fish Hopper - a disaster

Don't say I didn't warn you if you go to this place. This will be a bit less PC than I can post on Yelp or Tripadvisor. 

Could we give zero stars in reviews for places that suck and not in the good way? That would be a better option until this place gets new management. And by new management, I mean fire the two dildos who I had to deal with. They couldn't manage their way out of a paper bag. 

However, before I rant too much, here are the positives:

1. Daniel, our server, was amazing. This guy should be at Mortons or Ruth's Chris or some other 5 star restaurant. He gets it. He knows how to take care of a table. The meal started off horribly (more on that later) but he did a great job getting it back on track. The guy is simply a genius.
2. Along with Daniel, Christian was great. He is one of the managers. This guy should be in charge. He is funny, smart, personable and understands customers. He may have one of the best senses of humor in the restaurant business. 
3. The food was great. The chef knows what he is doing. Every one of our meals was good. Why this guy is cooking at this POC is beyond me! 

Sadly, the good, even as good as Christian and Daniel were, was outweighed by the idiocy, the morons, and the complete lack of caring. I could have taken the best service in the world and the best food in the world, and the two dicks running this place would ruin that. 

Sad and what makes it worse is that this is apparently a family company with two guys who could not have been bigger douches if they tried. I always want to see a family succeed. I like family businesses. But you can't put an asshole in charge and expect to succeed. 

Before I rip into these two clowns, let me relate the story.

Two months ago, my mother in law made a reservation for my father in laws 70th birthday. She stopped in and checked it out. Then she called. There were 11 of us. She was told she had to deal with catering. Then catering told her to deal with the restaurant since catering only deals with 15 or more. So she called back. She made a reservation for 11 with a request that we have a table near the window. After all, the window views are part of the deal.

On Friday night, my mother in law called to confirm the reservation. She was told that they may not have a table for 11 (how that is possible, I have no idea) but that they would get us two tables close to each other. No one was ecstatic with this, but fine. We get it. Saturday night is busy. 

So, we get there and they tell us that they have no table. And, well, they don't really have two tables close to each other. After some discussion, we agree to take the two tables. They seat my in laws at a table for 6 with half the party. Right next to them is another table. But, apparently we can't have that one. They sit the other 5 of us halfway across the freaking restaurant. We were so far away, I couldn't see them without standing up. Seriously, I had to stand up to see them! I am not the world's tallest guy, but it may have been a Tiger Woods chip shot at the AT&T Pro Am to reach their table from our table! 

As we are walking past their table to our table, we notice a round table set for 6 that is clean and empty. It is 2 tables away from theirs. Its shorter than a late 70s MG to get from one table to the other. How hard can this be? But, they keep us going and going like the Energizer bunny. 

So, maybe they had a party of 6 for that table, even though we were sat at a table for 6? I don't know. But not 5 minutes later, they sit 5 people at that empty table. Well, that is when the worst customer service ever started. 

First, we have Steven. Steven thinks he is smarter than he is. He is a cocky guy who wants the world to be impressed that he is one of several managers at a small restaurant in Monterey. No one is really impressed by him. I think Steven thinks he has some idea what he is doing because someone called him a manager. I don't think Walmart would take him as a clerk, let alone a manager. If you are going to be cocky, you should at least be able to back it up for more than 5 minutes before you have to turn me over to your general manager. Let's just say that a McDonald's manager would have been more impressive than Steven.

Then we have Adam MacDonald. Adam apparently thinks that he can talk around issues without ever explaining to the customer that he may have been wrong. Adam told me that when they have a party of 11, they have to have two different waiters help the party. Under this thinking, any reservation for 11 or more would have to be sat in two separate areas of the restaurant. Why would you do this? And why wouldn't you tell people this when they make the reservation? It is simple courtesy. 

Adam is not comfortable enough talking to guests to do it out in public. So, instead of talking to me in front of the hostess stand, he brings me to a back room by the kitchen. It felt a little like a New Jersey mobster scene. In all of my years, I have never had a manager, let alone a GENERAL MANAGER (as his name tag makes so very clear) refuse to talk to me in public. 

Then, when this is pointed out to Adam, he tells me that I don't understand how his restaurant runs. That is what everyone wants to hear. The GM is smarter than the customer, even if the GM looks like he is a balding 15 year old. Apparently, customers in shorts are not smart enough to understand how to cook and serve food. 

I explained to Adam that there was this open round table they could have sat us at. He tells me that is not possible since the people sitting at the round table asked for a round table and he has to honor all requests. Um, we made a reservation and requested one table for 11. When you told us that wasn't possible, we then requested two tables close together. How come our requests were ignored and you honored theirs? Adam goes back to his favorite answer: I am just not simply smart enough to understand how it works. 

(Mind you, I grew up in a family where my dad ran businesses, where he had friends who ran businesses and where some of those friends ran very successful restaurants that served tourists.) 

Back to the story. Adam then explains that there is simply nothing he could do and we should have known this before. It is our fault for making the reservation. It is our fault that there is not one table big enough for 11. (Of course, he ignores the fact that there were two parties that night bigger than ours that had long tables put together.) It is our fault that he needs 2 servers to wait on a big table. (Of course, Daniel had our table and the round table that the other people sat at.) It is our fault that we simply aren't smart enough to understand this. 

I then asked him for his boss. I figured a general manager must report to someone. But, apparently, Adam is the HMFIC. He told me he doesnt have a boss. It must be cool to be a manager and not have anyone to report to. I wish that was my job when I worked for someone else. He basically acts like he is the head douchebag when he is just a lowly douchebag.

He reports to no one. He told me I could call HR if I wanted to file a complaint. Now, I get calling HR if there is harassment. I could understand calling HR if I was an employee. But can someone explain to me what HR has to do with a customer who is upset? 

As an aside, Mr. Shake, the actual owner, may be upset to learn that Adam thinks he is in charge. 

Let's just say that Adam has absolutely no idea how to interact with customers. I think his training came at a facility where he had no interactions with the public. Maybe he worked at a prison where the customer was always wrong. Maybe he has some experience in the grooming industry where he could ignore the dogs. Maybe he worked as a debt collector. But somewhere he missed that the customer is always right, or at least, you should make them feel that way.

So while Daniel and Christian were great, and while the food was very good, they get a one star rating because Adam and Steven couldn't figure out how to spell customer service, let alone give it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tip of the Hat to Sacramento Republic

I am fortunate. I get it. I grew up in the late 70s/early 80s in New Jersey. We lived in an area where you could watch some great sports. The Yankees were in 4 World Series and the Mets won the World Series in 1986. The 76ers won two NBA titles and made it to a 3rd championship series. The Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Islanders won 4 in a row and 4 out of 5, the Flyers made it a couple. The New York Arrows won the MISL championship (even though we grew up as fans of the Philadelphia Fever). And then there was the best collection of players in a sport - ever. The New York Cosmos won 4 NASL championships and lost a 5th.

It is simply not an argument that the Cosmos had the greatest collection of players at any time. Pele. Beckenbauer. Chinaglia. Roth. Carlos Alberto. Bogie. Chinapoo. Rick Davis.  Messing. And that is without thinking about it too hard! Simply no better collection of stars on one team in any sport ever.

So growing up, it was pretty easy. I went to Yankees games at Yankee Stadium. I went to Phillies games at the Vet. I went to Mets games at Shea Stadium. Flyers and 76er games at the Spectrum. Rangers were at MSG with the Knicks and the Isles played at Nassau Coliseum. Of course, the Cosmos were at Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands. Every where I looked, it was winner-winner-chicken dinner.

I was also fortunate that my dad and his friends knew a lot of people. A lot of people. I sat close to the floor for the 76ers. I went to a player meet and greet with a friend in NYC and the friend's dad got us autographs from all of the stars. I met several Cosmos, including Pele and Werner Roth, my soccer hero growing up. It was a special time - and sadly one I didn't realize was special at the time.

Last night I went to the Sacramento Republic FC game. I have been a handful of times. And let me tell you - these people simply get it. When we arrive, there is music. There are food trucks. There are souvenirs for everyone from the babies to the granddads (and grandma's too!). There is a crowd ready to cheer on their team. But it is so much more.

Tell me what other sports team has the owner walking around mingling with the fans. And while he could cop the "I own this team and you don't attitude," he simply doesn't. I refer to him as Mr. Smith, but plenty of fans call him Warren. And he responds to that! I know we are less formal these days and my clients call me by my first name and not Mr. too. I also don't own the most successful soccer team in Sacramento! I even saw him doing some manual labor pre-game to make sure everything goes off without a hitch!

Next I see Fred Matthes, VP of Ticket sales, moving chairs and making sure everything runs smoothly. He talks to everyone from the VIPs to the season ticket holders to people who bought tickets just for the 1 game. Of course, he is assisted by a great group of people including Megan Springmeir, who might be the best Corporate Account Executive in the country. Seriously. She understands how to deal with people.

I could go on and on about these people. Brent Sasaki walked around and was talking to people, answering some questions about things like why the clock stops at 45 minutes to talking to sponsors. They were all so approachable.

But beyond the personnel, there are the players. I remember the glory days of sports. You could sit at Giants Stadium after a game and get autographs. You could hang out by the players entrance and get autographs. An autograph as a kid was a huge deal. Somewhere along the way, this changed. I blame idiots who try to monetize sports memorabilia.  Anyway, it changed and it was no longer possible to get autographs.

But at every game I go to, the players are signing autographs. After the game, they walk up to the stands and thank the fans. They sign shirts for the kids, they sign balls and programs and anything else. They do it with a smile and a few nice words to the kids.

Now, to you and I, this may not be a big deal. But to a 5 year old or a 10 year old or a 12 year old, this is a huge deal. The kids look up to these guys. They are "heroes" although I hate to use that word. But the kids want to be like these guys. They see the players as role models, especially ones who want to grow up to play professional sports. So the attitude and friendliness of the players makes all the difference in the world to the kids.

And notice that in all of this, I never mentioned the quality of the play. It is excellent. It is, by far, some of the best soccer you can see. I don't care if you call it "minor league" or "lower division." These guys can play. And play well. But, despite being the league champs, they come out to play their hardest every game. Every single time. Its just such a joy to watch.

I get professional sports. I have seen it when it was accessible. I have seen it when the best of the best play together, but also make sure the kids get that experience that you can only get from sports. Sac Republic gives that experience still.

So there you go. A big tip of the hat to Sac Republic. Warren Smith has assembled a fantastic group of people and they know what they are doing. If you have not been to a game yet and you are a soccer fan, make sure you go. If you have not been to a game yet and you are not a soccer fan, make sure you go. It is such a tremendous experience for your entire family. Congrats to everyone at Sac Republic!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

My little girl is growing up

Every night is bath night for my baby. She loves her baths. She gets clean. She gets to play. She gets good mommy time. She loves her baths.

This weekend, she decided, at the ripe old age of 5, it is time to take a shower. Every night she wants a shower before bed. She looks at me tonight and says "I am a big girl now, daddy." She is so proud of herself.

It was some weird combination of Butterfly Kisses (see this from 2 year's ago: http://randomrants08.blogspot.com/2013/06/butterfly-kisses.html) and Cats in the Cradle.

I grew up listening to Cats in the Cradle. My child arrived just the other day.............I remember her being born. I remember holding her. I remember her sleeping next to me. My little girl. My baby. My sweet angel.

I feel like I jumped to the end of the song tonight. I've long since retired...........except I have not retired. She hasn't moved away. She has just grown up. She has gotten big. She is her own person. Smart, cute, funny, hard working. She is confident and independent.

And no matter how hard I try to keep her little, to keep her small, to keep her my baby, she grows up. She grows and grows. She gets more independent. She will always be my baby, but now she is my growing up little girl.

Not matter how hard I try, she will continue to grow up. And no matter how hard I try, she will go from my baby to my little girl to my big girl to an adult.

As Simon and Garfunkel said, preserve your memories, they're all that's left you.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why soccer matters to me

I am going to share a story from about 35 years ago. Pay attention. It's important.

In the 1970s, the most famous sports team in the world was the New York Cosmos. Don't argue the point. It is simply a fact. You may not like that the most famous sports team was a soccer team, but it was. They made the Yankees look like the freaking Florida Marlins. They sold out Giants Stadium for every game. They were rock stars. Pele. Beckenbauer. Messing. The best soccer team ever assembled. They played in the NASL, an up and coming soccer league that folded in the 1980s.

Part of the charm of that generation was that athletes were accessible. I remember going to shows and having baseball cards signed. I remember getting things signed at Yankee Stadium or Shea Stadium. I was up close with Dr. J in Philadelphia. The Cosmos, as part of their marketing, ran soccer camps.

One guy, Werner Roth, was the captain of the Cosmos in the late 1970s. Think Derek Jeter before Jeter was even born. Captain of the Cosmos was like President. You could do anything you wanted to do. Roth retired, but he opened soccer camps in the NY/NJ area. He was what Kennedy would have been upon leaving office if Lee Harvey Oswald didn't shoot him (alone, without help, and no conspiracy).

Roth ran camps for kids who were 8 and up. 8 is apparently the magic number. If you are 8, you can learn more than at 7 or 6. 8 year olds get it, I guess. Well, Roth heard of this kid who was 6. He could play a little. He really wanted to go to Roth's camp, called the Werner Roth Soccer Camp. The kid had been a fan since he was born. He went to all of the Cosmos games. He knew the players. All he wanted for Christmas (or Hannukah) was to go to the camp. Roth agreed to take the kid.

It was a week long camp. The players learned to dribble, pass, shoot. They were shorts that were entirely too short. They had t-shirts that were so big they looked like dresses. The 6 year old had the problem of shorts that were too big mixed with a shirt that was ridiculously big. But it didn't matter. They played soccer in the morning. They played soccer in the afternoon. They watched soccer at night.

At the end of the camp, Roth put on a clinic for the kids. He showed off some skills. When he was done, he called up the 6 year old. The shy, nervous kid went up there. The entire camp watched as Roth and this kid stood there. Roth set up two goals. He gave the kid the ball. They played. 1 v 1. This 6 year old kid and the retired captain of the most famous sports team in the world, the guy who was captain on teams with Pele, Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Chinaglia. The kid shot. He missed. Roth missed wide. The kid shot. Roth slid and blocked it. The game went back and forth. Finally, the kid scores and wins 1-0. The camp cheered.

For the next few years, the kid went back to the camp. Every camp ended the same way: Roth v. the kid. The kid was undefeated, winning every match 1-0. Roth would come to the kid's house and talk. They watched Victory together. They had dinner. Roth became friends with the family. As with all things, the camp ended, the kid moved on.

Fast forward 25 years. The kid tracks down Roth. Roth and the kid are on the phone. The kid asks Roth why he let him win. Roth says "I saw the love of the game. I knew that playing would bring it out in you. I let you win so that it would develop that love."

Fast forward 10 years. The kid has a family. He is grown up. He still plays soccer. He still loves soccer. He still recalls playing with Roth all of those years ago. Now the kid has his own kids. His kids get the chance to have dinner with a soccer player. They eat. They talk. They go to the street and kick the ball around. The player teaches the kids how to curve the ball. He encourages them. He shows his love for the game. The kids glow. They spend days talking about it. They ask when they can do it again.

You see, the game, like the ball, is a circle. Soccer comes to us as youth. It teaches us skills we use in life. We play alone. We play in small groups. We play on teams, in parks, at the beach. We play in the parking lot. We play on the street. The passion develops, it builds. The passion becomes us. We move on in life, but we never forget those lessons of scoring when we were 6, of playing as a team, of sharing our snacks. We have kids and we teach these to our kids. We pass on the game. We use the game to connect to our kids. But, the game also connects our kids to the world. Our kids are taught the game. Our kids develop that passion because they see it in us.

The game, like the ball, is passed between people.The kid's dad taught him the game. Roth brought out the passion in the kid. The kid taught his kids. Those kids learn the passion from the player. The circle continues..............

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Science fairs are a waste of time

A modified version of my email to the school district

I am writing to you about our district science fair. Simply put, this was a waste of time.

Let me back up. I am a very involved parent in the district. I have kids at two campuses and have volunteered at both schools. I have coached in the district two different sports at two different levels. I never turn down an opportunity to help our kids, whether its volunteering at the school or helping at the district office. But, I am now 0 for 2 in getting any feedback on the district science fair and why we bother with it. Maybe it is some Ed Code requirement. Maybe someone thinks it’s a good idea. I don’t know. But, it is a waste of time and resources.

My son and I came home from this year’s science fair. He entered an invention. His invention was simple: all natural, tear free baby shampoo. It was freaking brilliant, if I do say so myself. I know a thing or two about baby shampoo and this was genius. It is not earth shattering, isn’t going to change how the world works, and is not “fancy.” My kid isn't Elon Musk. I get it. But this was good! However, it is something that hasn’t been done in the approximately 40 years since Johnson and Johnson developed “No More Tears.”

At the school level, inventions are not judged. I don’t know why, and couldn’t get an explanation from the district science resource teacher. But, my wife and I volunteered to judge the school science fair. We were given a rubric and graded 40 or so projects, between the two of us. At no time did I translate the rubric to mean “It must use these words or else.” Apparently, I was wrong. I thought kids could use some creativity in figuring out what to write and didn't need us to shove words down their throat!

At the district level, inventions are judged. However, those scores are never given out. Never. Not once. Even if you ask for them. Seriously, how the fuck do you grade something and not tell someone the grade? I don’t know why or how. I have received an explanation, but it must be wrong for a school district. The explanation is that we don’t do it because we don’t want kids to feel bad. I will address this more later. I don't want idiots to feel bad so I guess I shouldn't tell them that they are idiots.

When I asked how my son did, I was told he did not place. Great. He wasn’t upset. I wasn’t upset. But, how did he do? What could he do better next year? How could he improve? After all, his project was seen by a lot of people prior to going to the district and the consensus was that it was a) very cool, b) innovative and c) impressive for a 5th grader. In fact, a patent attorney for Johnson & Johnson was impressed by it. Seriously, when a patent attorney tells you he likes a product that is based on a product for which he knows the patent, you take that as a sign of a good product!

The judges remain anonymous. Their scoring is a bit like figure skating in the 1990s Olympics – hidden. Trying to figure out why he didn’t do well, or if he did well, was a bit like trying to figure out why Qatar is hosting the 2022 World Cup. It is a good question, but impossible to answer. Maybe we should move the science fair to December? (Like 4 people laughed at that, but it is funny. Trust me.)

So, I asked the district science resource teacher. His response was that they don’t give out scores because kids could do well at the school level, but not as well at the district level. They don’t want the kids to feel bad. Isn’t that what school teaches? For example, when I coached middle school wrestling this year, I had kids who were really good for being in 7th grade. Maybe he or she was the best wrestler at the school at 102 lbs, for example. We would go to a local tournament. Instead of being the best, my wrestler took 3rd place. We expand the pool of participants and the ability level to be the best goes up. As my wrestler made it to the county tournament, maybe he took 5th place. Again, the bigger the pool, the higher the competition, the better you have to do. It isn't freaking rocket science. You may be the smartest kid in your class, but you aren't the smartest kid in the school!

Isn’t the science fair the same thing, but for science? My son may have had the best project at Sims. As he goes to the district, it may be that his 90 is only an 85 when compared to other kids at other schools. And, at the next level, maybe isn’t that good, but rather an 80? Are we now afraid of telling kids that it gets harder the bigger the pool of competitors?

Then, the resource teacher went through the rubric with my son and his poster board. He pointed out that my son didn’t list “Materials.” (I bold it as it appears on the rubric.) My son, instead, listed “My formula.” Under his formula, he listed his actual formula. Now, “Materials” is defined as “All items used for the project are listed in specific terms.” My son’s formula lists the ingredients used and the amounts used. Further, he lists them based on the trials he did. By definition, he met this criteria. He listed all items he used in specific terms. But, the issue appears to be that he did not use the term “Materials.” You must be a lemming and use our language, human!

One might think this was just a bad example. However, it was also pointed out that he did not write “Problem or Question” which is supposed to be “[t]he invention clearly identifies and solves a real problem or need.” My son listed “My Goal” and wrote “Why not make a baby shampoo that doesn’t hurt eyes through chemicals but uses natural ingredients?” Now, I fully admit I don’t have a PhD in science. But, I am pretty sure that my son’s goal was a question that identifies a real problem and solves it.

But, there are ten categories on the rubric. So, just two bad examples? No. My son called his “Research or Background” by the name “The Principles.” Yes, he used a synonym. I am not sure, but I think that synonyms are something we want kids to learn how to use. Otherwise, they would call everything a red balloon, and not an orange-red sphere attached to a string. This seems ridiculous.

When I pointed out to the resource teacher that there was no point to a project that gave no feedback, he disagreed with me. I explained to him, gently, that in 24 years of education, I never did an assignment that didn’t have feedback. After all, how are kids supposed to learn? Even in law school, the most draconian of educational facilities, there was feedback. Heck, when we coach sports, we give feedback. “Billy, that was a good attempt at the take down, but next time you need to put your head on the outside of his leg.” Billy hear's something good but also learned what to do next time.

In this case, there is no good or bad. There is simply nothing. The resource teacher told me that he did assignments where he only received a grade. I pointed out to him that a grade was feedback. It may not be detailed, but at least it is feedback. You may not like an 80, but you know you got a B. My son doesn’t know if he got an A, B, C or if he turned in a piece of junk.  Seriously, I don't know if it was A work or Z work. What the hell?

If you are going to score things on a scale of 1 to 100, you should at least give students the numerical score. Maybe, my son did a great job and got a 95 and was beat out by kids who scored 96, 97 and 98. That is very possible. But, maybe my son also scored a 62 and was beat out by kids in the 80s. That is also possible. And, either way, there is value to knowing the result.

Instead, I am left with a kid who is in 5th grade, has competed in two science fairs, and won’t enter any more because he is frustrated by a process that even he understands is unfair. Its not the result that bothers him, but that after doing weeks of work, his only feedback is “Sorry, it is not good enough and we won’t tell you why.” I asked him as we were leaving today what he learned, and he said “Nothing.” I asked again and again and that was his only response. This is a kid who has been on district honor roll, competes in sports, plays in the band and is involved with leadership programs at Sims. I asked him what he learned from the teacher and he said “Nothing.”

I tried talking to the teacher about my concerns. All he did was accuse me of yelling. I assure you I wasn’t yelling. Mr. Pierce knows my yelling and I would have been heard throughout the district office. But, in a room where parents are talking to their kids, you have a large number of people, and you are not allowed to make a point before being interrupted by a teacher, there is a need to be heard. I am sure I wasn’t yelling because no other parent stopped what they were doing to watch or listen. Yet, that was all your teacher could say.

In conclusion, the science fair is simply a waste of resources. If we are going to do this and NOT teach the kids what they did wrong (or what they did right), it has no educational value. Sure, my son learned how to make baby shampoo. But, he could have done that at home, avoided two trips across town to drop off and pick up his project, and spent his time learning other things. He could have worked on something without worrying about a rubric. The district science fair wants rote, boring potatoes powering light bulbs using only the language provided by the district. Quite frankly, it seems the antithesis of everything the district stands for, of its common core goals, and of good education. If we wanted our kids to recite back what we have taught them, we would teach them “just the facts.” I think the district needs to reconsider this waste of time and money.