December 2015



Though it’s probably unwise to admit this publicly with so many years of carpooling still ahead of me, here it is: I’m a below-average driver. It’s something I came to terms with years ago. I don’t really like driving, and also I’m not very good at it. While learning to drive last year, my daughter was quick to confirm my self-evaluation. Now that she’s licensed I have officially dropped to third on the list of family drivers.



orange walk

You like to think you would have been on the right side of history on the painfully obvious moral questions of the ages. You’d help hide Jews in Nazi Germany; you’d actively rebel against the horrors of slavery. You certainly wouldn’t tut tut about how awful it all is, then go back to raising your family amid such injustice and danger, securing your own comfort and achievements without much thought to others’ suffering.



state per student

The PHS Parents’ Club held its December meeting at Mulberry’s Home on “Giving Tuesday,” and it was an opportune time to feel thankful about the focus of all of our Parents’ Clubs. As Principal Daniels pointed out, we’re not in the position of other Bay Area districts forced to talk about escalating violence on campus, or an emotionally stifling, pressure-cooker academic atmosphere. Instead, we discussed professional development for the World Language department and the ongoing evolution of the math curriculum.



Like that sad, neglected dish of creamed onions we feel compelled to make every year, this column has become a Thanksgiving tradition I can’t shake. I didn’t submit it last year and got some grief from folks on the trot that they missed it, so I decided to give it a record fourth airing. When you bow your head this year before your feast, please join me in giving thanks to the professional turkey ‘stimulators’ who have made your entrée possible.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  A common Mulberry’s Thanksgiving question (second only to “where’s your bathroom?” post-Turkey Trot) is whether we’ll be selling turkeys this year. We’d love to. We’ve looked into it, too, but realized that the logistics aren’t on our side. Turkeys are enormous. There’s space for approximately 4 ½ turkeys in our walk-in. So you see, we couldn’t have much of a program.



Have you heard the term ‘slackivism’? Coined in the era of Stop Kony and #BringBackOurGirls, it’s a negative-leaning term used to describe political or philanthropic actions some suspect provide more comfort and utility to the giver than to the intended recipient. It encompasses everything from temporarily filtering your Facebook profile photo to demonstrate your solidarity with marriage equality or Paris, to those websites my mom finds where you can click to send a daily bowl of rice to an impoverished child.

But here’s the thing. As Nicholas Kristof famously pointed out, armchair slactivism is a whole lot better than armchair apathy. And some of the initiatives dubbed ‘feel good’ by the cynics have produced tangible results on the exact issue they were intended to impact.



Charlie Brown

For most families, listening to an older relative opine on the good old days is as much a part of Thanksgiving as pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. This year, NPR’s StoryCorps has seized upon what’s already happening to unveil an audaciously ambitious goal: to preserve the voices and stories of an entire generation of Americans over one holiday weekend. And we can all help.

If you’re not already a fan of Story Corps, some day when you have a few minutes, visit their webpage and browse through the stories of ordinary peoples’ lives, dreams, and experiences. From the mother who hugged her son’s murderer, to the 85-year-old lox slicer, to the man who tracked down the third grade teacher who comforted him 50 years earlier at his mother’s funeral, it’s a far more satisfying procrastination break than Facebook. Or even, dare I say it, Amy Schumer videos.


ducks underwater

At boot camp this Monday, it was clearly a banner day for the ducks. We campers spent the whole rainy morning watching them frolic in Lake Merritt. But even if they were the species most visibly enjoying the downpour, I daresay every creature on earth was pretty damn happy about it.

The sight of the delighted ducks reminded me of an insightful college list from this season. But first – do we all agree that the list thing has gotten completely out of control? It used to be that US News & World Report (does it still even exist as a magazine?) had the lock on the ridiculous rankings. Their longstanding, tyrannical “Best of” list is the one all the cool kids try to climb, despite the fact that it might as well be calculated by multiplying the number of volumes in the library by the liters of frozen yogurt dispensed at the main campus café, divided by the difference in membership between the marching band and the intercollegiate croquet team. Or something equally meaningless to true educational quality.