Brian and Anne

Getting back in touch

I have been feeling very isolated and out of touch with old friends, so I’m looking at attending ConFusion, Balticon, and The 2020 NASFiC in Columbus this year.

This is still a stretch for our finances though, so if you are interested in rooming together for any of those events, please let me know.

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Brian and Anne

December Drive for school supplies

One of the most challenging things about being a substitute teacher in the York City School District is that I pretty much have to provide school supplies just like regular teachers, only I have to carry them in with me every day.

Please consider helping out with my school supply wish list:

https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/KLWMH05WZUID?ref_=wl_share

Another challenge is dealing with the disparity in supplies between the suburban districts and the city. York City’s student population is majority poor and transient — last year 60 % of the kids who finished the year in the school district did not start the year in that school. They do not have PTOs to run wellness drives and most parents cannot afford to send in the pencils, pens, dry erase markers, binders, kleenex, wet wipes, etc. that the suburban parents send a list of in with their students. many students don’t even have backpacks or pencil cases.

in Suburban Middle School, one social studies classroom has ten chess sets and lots of other board games. in the City, the middle schoolers I sub for most often share a single chess set, four Uno decks, and two decks of regular playing cards between multiple classrooms.

In Dallastown, every math class starts with problems on a personal dry erase board or on their computers. in the city, the kids don’t have their own computers, and the classroom might have the boards but be completely out of dry erase markers. This dramatically affects my ability as a substitute both to teach and to manage the classroom.

I have made this list based on two years of experience subbing in both inner city and suburban districts. please help.

Please help.

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Brian and Anne

seriously considering a Patreon or something, but it's not like I have a base of followers

So...

For four years, now, I've been doing essentially a loose systems study of York, PA. I have studied the history, volunteered in the city and county, swapped data and talked initiatives with a lot of officials and grassroots activists, and worked as a robotics team coach and a substitute teacher to really get an up close look at a school district that is clearly failing most of the people involved in it, including the teachers. I have triggered some initiatives, been part of some, and some have failed, some have succeeded, and many have just... happened and been mildly successful but so far not had a big impact.

A lot of the time, the difference between an idea being really successful and an idea not really going anyplace appears to be whether or not there is money to make it happen.

And in this city, there is not much money. In the county, (especially the suburbs right outside the city limits) there is a lot more money. But the county as a whole is still one of the less wealthy and more troubled counties in PA.

So I have been studying how to write grants. I'm not really crazy about the grant funding system as a whole, though, because clearly there have been a bunch of helpful initiatives in the city that were grant-funded and sure they were great for the period of the grant, but then they just *ended*. This is actually a problem with public funding in general - the funding is unstable. My sister has been mostly working for public entities like cities, so I have seen pretty close second-hand how de-stablising it can be not knowing if your job will be funded next year.

Anyway, in all of this volunteer work, I have been pretty quietly in the background. Building relationships, finding out what different groups are doing, considering how new information systems could help. And I've attended terrific talks and discussions, taken copious notes, meant to write up a summary or reaction for wider distribution, and just not had the time.

I'm trying to decide right now if I should pursue, like, academic or magazine publication of these things, or just blog about them. I'd like to have a circle of readers I can discuss them with who are interested in things like institutionalized patterns of injustice, intersectionality of challenges, and the various systems involved, like health care, mental health care, food production and distribution, banks, the justice system, the educational system(s), social work, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, the environment, government, and the many dozens of mostly non-profit non-governmental organizations that are already trying to engage with these complex problems.

I also need some income, and am just enough disabled by my chronic health issues that taking a full time job is not in the cards.

So I was thinking about creating a Patreon to see if other people would be willing to support my work - support me as a tremendously underpaid substitute teacher, support my ability to travel even regionally to connect with others, and support my spending time to write grants that will hopefully give us some of the wherewithal to try some of the solutions this community has already suggested. And one of the things I can offer my supporters is to write up for them those inside-look summaries or workshops and meetings that reflect my growing understanding of the various challenges that lie before us.

Thoughts?

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Brian and Anne

Movie comments: The Laundromat

My back was killing me this evening, so I decided to do something fairly rare for me, and just rest and watch something. The fluffy black kitty on my chest might have helped with that decision. Anyway, I have just finished watching The Laundromat, starring Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman, and Meryl Streep. Fascinating and entertaining film, with a very important underlying message: Campaign Finance Reform Cannot Wait. Because the people who make these unjust laws are dependent on financing from the people who are most motivated to hide their wealth in tax havens and preserve their ability to avoid taxes in a plausably legal way that may or may not also have unfair consequences on consumers of "services" (like insurance) of shell companies that are employed in laundering their money. I did not expect the final note of this film to be so serious, based on the trailer. Nor so, well, open ended. A call to action.

But action. is. required.

Sooner rather than later.

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Hmph, Oh?

Not just Fair and Equitable, but also fiscally responsible.

I haven't made a big deal out of it, but the PA Post recently picked up a question I submitted to their "Listening Post" segment. Reporter Ed Mahon spent some time researching whether or not it would be legal for school districts to go ahead and redistribute funds from the state on their own, rather than wait for the Legislature to force them to do it.


The report is here: Could Pa. school districts change funding themselves? A substitute teacher wanted to know


Sadly, one person he referenced about that actual question came back with nothing stronger than "I don't know," whereas my own investigation concluded it is not illegal for school districts to redistribute state educational funding to other school districts.

Sadly, Ed failed to capture one thrust of my argument, which is that, given that many people are trying to pass existing legislation that would apply the Fair Funding formula to all 500 PA school districts, I think it would only be prudent for the districts that are currently deemed "overfunded" accordnig to that formula to go ahead and increase their school property tax millage to go ahead and make up the difference. That way their schools will not suffer a gap in funding.

Then</a>, once they have ensured that alternate source of funds, they can go ahead and start funneling funds to one or more of the chronically underfunded districts, as identified by the "fair funding" formula, which everyone agreed was fair back in 2016, but which is so far only being applied to "new" educational funding from the state, so only some 11 percent or so of state educational funding is disbursed fairly and equitably at the moment.

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Brian and Anne

For Better or For Worse, revisited

I am really enjoying reading For Better or For Worse online the past couple years. Not just because I like the strip, but because the author and illustrator, Lynn Johnston, has been adding comments as we run back through the strips from the very beginning. You can learn where different ideas came from and how they were received at the time. It’s really interesting.

Check it out:

https://fborfw.com/strip_fix/

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Brian and Anne

Starting a new Convention. Or Rather an Omni-Futurist festival. Help!

I live in York PA now and everything around here seems to be some kind of Fest, so we’re calling it York FutureFest.

It will be the first weekend in October, and even if you can’t come, I could use your help.

I’ve been doing this for over twenty years, so I know what needs to be done, but I’m also just one person, and can’t do everything. I have a web team, but none of them are familiar enough with this kind of event to generate content. We are working on a site on http://www.yorkfuturefest.org, and in the meantime I put a skeleton page on the site of the parent non-profit, York XL.

https://www.yorkxl.com/a-million-dreams.html

Early bird memberships are really cheap right now but go up to $40 August 5th.

If you or someone you know can produce a Call for Art and specify artist rules and registration for the web team, I’d really like to have that go out August 1 if not sooner.

If you or someone you know can write press releases, and/or be a press officer, that would also be quite helpful.

I have a couple of copy editors but could also use someone who can translate things into Spanish.


We have a local graphics designer working on a logo for York FutureFest and as soon as we settle on that (probably tomorrow), we could really use a good layout person to make up a flyer and a postcard.

We also really need a treasurer with time available. Part of the reason for this event is that York PA, once the Detroit of the East Coast, is struggling like, well, Detroit.

Most of my friends here are community activists. They are amazing and capable and already doing a lot, so I’m asking if any of my other friends can lend a hand. York XL has a treasurer but not one who has run conventions.

The long list of roles for which we could use experienced smofs is long, so please, if you know people in the region or can travel here in October, please reach out to those friends personally, and then let me know if you or they can help.

I can be reached at yorkfuturefest@gmail.com or by cell at 734. 649. 4534.

Thank you.

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