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One of the things I hate about spring is the way that the lawn goes from “It might as well be winter” to tropical rainforest practically overnight. As I’ve no doubt noted, I would not care if it were never cut, but I know my wife would object.

My father-in-law gave us an electrical lawnmower a couple years ago. I resisted it the first season for ecological reasons. I had a reel mower, which is a REAL mower, but I have succumbed, mostly because the grass had suddenly gotten is too long for the reel mower.

The electric mower, moreover, has adjustable heights from one to five. Centimeters above the ground, I guess? The first weekend, I set it at 5, for it would have surely clogged the machine at a lower setting. (Did I ever mention that I wrecked a new gas mower in its second use? And returned it for a full refund.)

The second time, I set it at 4 and was only about 10% done when the Daughter decided that SHE wanted to operate the mower. Far be it for me to reject the assistance. I dealt with branches that had fallen over the winter that needed tending. Unfortunately, the mower batteries died with maybe 5% of the job.

She made it clear that she’s only mowing the lawn because she WANTS to do so. If I were to make it a regular chore, she’d fight it. Now, she didn’t do it EXACTLY as I would have done, but I’m not complaining.

Not incidentally, she is quite strong. I flipped over the picnic table that we had built a few years back, to mow the part of the lawn that had been underneath. But I was having trouble making it upright when I was done because the table was too close to the fence and I couldn’t get leverage. But the teenager didn’t need help to flip it back.

I’d rather be blogging. As someone probably didn’t say, mowing the lawn is to spoil an otherwise enjoyable walk.

Twice on the same day this month, I got messages on the answering machine from 240-970-7264. The details were ominous, but the technology was laughable.

A mechanical voice describes a “criminal investigation from I.R.S… There is a fraud which you are hiding from federal government.” Note the lack of the article “the”, suggesting the person recording is NOT a native American English speaker.

I Googled the number and came across Report the Call attached to that number. One person before me, and at least one subsequently, experienced similar annoyance.

One of them noted, “The robot stated that the IRS had ‘fraud’ investigation underway and I should phone the number immediately.” That’s correct in my case as well. Area code 240 is in Maryland, in suburban DC, BTW.

It seems incredible that anyone would fall for such an obvious hoax, but the IRS indicates that this type of fraud is ongoing, some of it far more threatening than these robocalls.

“Note that the IRS does not:
“Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
“Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
“Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.”

I know some people have been known to call back the number to waste their time, but I’m not returning a call to 240-970-7264 and wasting mine. Now, if YOU want to call, knock yourselves out!

Did you ever have a simple act of kindness give you a lesson?

I’m on a Capital District Transportation Authority local transit bus one evening, going part of the way home up the hill before riding my bike the rest of the way. I had used my Navigator card, which is actually half fare because I’m… older.

A young woman got on the bus, but her Navigator card had insufficient funds. (The voice on the machine sounds REALLY loud to me, possibly, I posit, for maximum embarrassment.)

I had, until that day, another, full-price, card which I kept in case my wife and/or daughter are riding on the bus with me. Unfortunately the Daughter misplaced her school ID during the last week of school, which she also used to pay the CDTA fare; talk about your short-timer’s syndrome.

Ruffling through my wallet, I found a THIRD card. Where did THAT come from? Maybe I got it for free at the 2017 Tulip Festival, when they were first promoting the service. I offered the card to the young woman, with a caveat that I didn’t know if it worked at all.

It did. Hey, I’ve been there, when I’m a little short on cash. A couple blocks later, she came up to me and offered me about 45 cents, as she noted, “This is what I found in my purse.”

Once upon a time, I might have waved off her offer. This time I took it, not because I needed the change, but because I wanted to honor her feelings. She wanted to do that small thing, and it would have been ungracious to reject it.

I think we do that a lot, keep people from maintaining their sense of dignity when they’re on the receiving end of a little kindness, a modicum of charity, under the thought, “They need it more than I.” But when they want to pay it back, or pay it forward, it’s important to let them.

Trust me on this; I’ve been there.

Hairspray Director Gregory Theodore Marsh, Annabelle Duffy , Theatre Ensemble Director Ward Dales

Back on Saturday, May 19, the family went to Proctors Theatre in Schenectady to attend the 2nd Annual High School Musical Theatre Awards for New York’s Capital Region in partnership with The Broadway League.

Albany High School was up for six awards in an event fashioned after Broadway’s Tony Awards®. The evening celebrated “the achievements of the region’s theatre students from 23 area high schools, highlighting the importance of arts and theatre education.”

The AHS March production of “Hairspray” won for best musical, best technical execution and best choreography execution. Moreover, “Albany High junior Annabelle Duffy won best actress for her portrayal of feisty Tracy Turnblad.”

She received an all expenses paid trip to New York City to receive training from working Broadway professionals. Annabelle and a young man from the area participated in the Jimmy Awards, the national stage in which high school performers across the nation acted and sang, on June 25.

At Proctors, our family applauded wildly for AHS and also my young niece’s high school; one of the supporting characters in their The Music Man was nominated, which somehow meant that the niece got to perform in the energetic opening and closing numbers.

Truth is that some of the Albany High School rooting was a bit of chip on the collective shoulders of the city dwellers. On the standardized tests, the urban schools don’t fare nearly as well as the ones in the suburban districts. But as someone wrote on a Facebook listserv:

“What I do know is my children will have experiences like many others won’t. They are exposed to the world thanks to classmates, teachers, and courses not available in many locations… Remember money talks and those districts with most living in poverty are underfunded and inundated with unfunded state mandates.”

Not incidentally:

Grammy-nominated jazz artist Stefon Harris (Albany High School ’91) was named a recipient of a 2018 Doris Duke Artist Award – “one of the most prestigious arts grants in the country – for his continuing contribution to jazz.

“Harris is one of seven performing artists that will receive $250,000 in flexible funding, along with up to an additional $25,000 to encourage contribution to his retirement account.”

For ABC Wednesday

I’m still deciding what to think about the correct responses to injustice.

Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Professor of Theology and President (1998-2008) of the Chicago Theological Seminary wrote Do Not Tolerate the Intolerable: Public Shaming Can Be a Justice Action. “Jesus of Nazareth publicly shamed those leaders he saw were committing injustice in his time, calling them out (Matt. 23:13). Jesus didn’t hesitate to be confrontational. ‘You hypocrites!’ he cried out.”

She points to Professor Gene Sharp, “often called the ‘grandfather of nonviolent direct action,’ who compiled a list of 198 Tactics for The Politics of Nonviolent Action. “Both publicly ‘taunting’ officials and withholding services are on the list.”

I get that. Still, one has to be strategic in this manner. Some of the suggestions from the Sharp list, such as not voting, I’d oppose in the US in 2018, yet would have supported in Russia, when Putin eliminated any real opposition.

Some actor named Hugo noted, and I agree, that actor Robert DeNiro cursing out some guy during the Tonys was a bad strategy. “Sinking ships aren’t saved by succumbing to anger… Progressive change isn’t brought upon society through verbal abuse. Decency and maturity are more effective — a levelheaded, well planned and swift takedown of a demagogue…”

In that manner, I’ve come to understand the owner of the Red Hen restaurant: “Several… employees are gay, which is one of many groups of people targeted by the Trump administration. They were uncomfortable to see the president’s chief propagandist in their midst, so they called the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, who drove in from home…

“They wanted Sanders to leave. Wilkinson did not attempt to publicly embarrass Sanders. She asked her to step out on the patio, where she explained why she wanted her to leave. The reason… why millions of Americans know about what happened… — is that Sanders used her government Twitter account, which has more than 3 million followers, to try to ruin The Red Hen, which seats 26 people.

Sarah Sanders is a bully. Any discussion about her that raises the issue of civility is nothing but an intellectual exercise by people who aren’t worried enough about the harm her boss, the bully in chief, is inflicting on this country. Trump attacked The Red Hen on Twitter, too. Of course he did.

“Civility requires mutual respect. The Red Hen employees apparently understood this. If someone spends her days making clear her disregard for you and her willingness to harm you by parroting her boss’s bigotry, no one should expect you to act as if it doesn’t matter when she’s not talking into a microphone.”

BTW, I had forgotten when a baker turned away Joe Biden and received praise from conservatives.

An article in GQ notes: “Restaurant owners routinely deny service to obnoxious Yelpers, noisy children, and even critical restaurant reviewers—this is the norm. These are not protected classes, which include race, religion, disability, and gender, under anti-discrimination laws. Just as posting a ‘no shirts, no shoes, no service’ sign is not equivalent to Jim Crow-era ‘white-only’ policies—there is a wide chasm between bad behavior and immutable characteristics.”
.
Read this piece from Tucker Fitzgerald, a “straight, white, male. I have a Master of Divinity from a Christian seminary,” who “voted for W both times”. He addresses his own shift in Intolerant Liberals, which should explain to conservatives WHY we protest.

I suppose, at the end of the day, in responding to injustice, as our Congressman Paul Tonko said on July 4, we need to resist, to protest, to protect, and to heal. There will be differences of opinion about what that means. I’m still idealistic enough to hope that it’s done with love in our hearts.

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