Jordan Grant: MacGyver with a heart

His T-Shirt says, “I void warranties.”  He rebuilds computers and donates them to needy families.  An Eagle Scout who joined the National Guard in high school, he spent a year serving in Baghdad.  He once hotwired his cellphone into a moden for his computer in the middle of the Mojave Desert to win a $100 bet. He’s a dishonest used car dealer’s worest enemy. He’s featured  in Popular Mechanics. And he’s about to become a father.  He’s the most interesting man in the world–or at the very least, my nephew of the week.

Check it out, from the Columbia Tribune:

A Columbia man whose hobby is rebuilding computers and giving them away to people who could not otherwise afford them is being featured in the August issue of Popular Mechanics magazine as a “Hometown Hero.”

Jordan Grant is an Army veteran who did a one-year tour in Iraq and who now is employed at Carfax. He has been donating refurbished computers through

Starting in 2009, Grant — who graduated from Hickman High School and the University of Missouri — began to pick up parts from the website and build computers at his home as a hobby. Then, he began to offer up his computers on, and he said so far there have been about two dozen takers.

To read the full article, click here.

Slaughterhouse-Five banned in horrible Missouri town

(Photo courtesy of

I think of it as Armpit, but it’s actually Republic, Missouri. Which makes everyone there a Republican. Just sayin’.  Censorship always pisses me off, but especially this.

In The Huffington Post, Lucas Kavner writes:

The school board in Republic, Mo., voted 4-0 to eliminate Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” from the high school curriculum and library, respectively, after a local man led an effort to deem the novels inappropriate.

Wesley Scroggins, a business professor at Missouri State University, who also pioneered a movement to reshape middle school sex-education classes in Republic’s schools, wrote in a column last year that Vonnegut’s classic contained enough profanity to “make a sailor blush,” and warned that “Twenty Boy Summer” was similarly dangerous.

“In this book,” Scroggins wrote, “drunken teens also end up on the beach, where they use their condoms to have sex.”

Of the members of the school board who voted on the issue last Monday, according to UPI, only one — Melissa Duvall — had actually read either of the books in question.

* * *

Those ignorant toads.

When I was in high school (in Missouri) back in the 1970s, teachers wanted me to read all sorts of books I don’t even remember, except for Lord of the Flies, which sucked. As did its author, who once attempted to rape a girl and who also, when a teacher, staged fights among his students — no doubt to improve the verisimilitude of his hellish story. Not that it should have been banned, mind you. I just think it should have been written as a jailhouse novel.  A generation later, my kids had to read Lord of the Flies. They said it still sucked.

It will probably suck forever. The mark of great literature.

But while I was supposed to be reading such stuff, I was actually ripping through Kurt Vonnegut’s novels. Every one I could find.  And then, when I read them all, I started reading literary criticism about his work. None of this for credit, but just because I wanted to. When Kurt Vonnegut appeared on the The Daily Show not long before his death, Jon Stewart thanked him for making his life “bearable” as an adolescent.  I feel exactly the same way.  Check out the clip of that apppearance.

Vonnegut is an important writer, and Slaughterhouse-Five is rightly judged one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

I went on to become a writer. I don’t write like he did, but Kurt Vonnegut’s work is one of the primary reasons I chose this path. (The idea that a smartass could make a living being a smartass was a tremendous motivation to a class clown who could spell.)  So the idea that a high school would ban such an influential writer’s most famous work is an act of sacrilege to me. (Yes, I know that’s ironic, since Vonnegut was essentially an atheist.)

High school is a time for young people to move toward adulthood. Trying to retard their progress by banning books like Slaughterhouse-Five and Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer does no one any good.  One of the things about this story that really bothers me (and just about all of it does) is that a college professor was the one pushing the ban.

I’m putting the world on notice: I’m boycotting Republic, Missouri. Just as soon as I find out where it is. Actually, it’s near Springfield (in Christian County, no less), what we used to call “the buckle on the Bible Belt. (Then I moved to Macon, Georgia, which really IS the buckle on the Bible Belt.)

To visit the official Vonnegut website, which is reacting to this outrage, click here.   To see Sarah Ockler’s response, click here.

Hat tip to Kristina Grant, advocate of free speech (you have no idea).








Lemonade sellers survive police crackdown, resurface at amusement park

From the Associated Press:

Three Georgia girls whose lemonade stand got a sour reception by their hometown police are reopening their summer business on Jekyll Island.

The Jekyll Island Authority invited the girls from Midway — 14-year-old Kasity Dixon, 12-year-old Tiffany Cassin and 10-year-old Skylar Roberts — to sell their lemonade at Summer Waves Water Park at the island state park. Island officials said the girls planned to be there Sunday.

The offer came after Midway police forced the girls to shut down their lemonade stand earlier this month. Police said the girls needed a business license, a peddler’s permit and a food permit to sell drinks, even in their own yard.

Jekyll Island staff not only invited the girls, but built them a new lemonade stand.

The girls had been trying to sell lemonade to raise money so they could go to the park. I hope they didn’t get suckered into being just another concession–although it would be funny if the park operators told them, “Oh, by the way, you need to rent out lockers, too.”  Or maybe not so funny.

Lawsuit: School strips black valedictorian of honor due to race

Disgusting, if true. And in Little Rock, of all places.

From The Huffington Post

After four years of nearly straight-As, Honors and Advanced Placement classes, 18-year-old Kymberly Wimberly achieved the highest GPA at McGehee Secondary School southeast of Little Rock, Ark., according to a court complaint.

However, instead of awarding the student for her hard work and dedication, the school denied her the valedictorian status because she was black, claims the document filed by Wimberly’s lawyer, John W. Walker.

According to the court document, this is not the first time this has happened in the school’s history.

Reportedly, the the change–naming a white student co-valedictorian–occurred after a news release went out naming Kymberly Wimberly as the sole honoree. Ruh-roh.

Atlanta cheating scandal: Branded! OK, sanctioned.

The Atlanta School Board has been sanctioned by the Georgia Attorney General’s office for violations of the Open Records Act and the Open Meetings Act  for actions surrounding the CRCT cheating scandal. This one year probation, effective immediately, means that board members and key staffers must receive additional training and be ever so careful, lest they wind up in court.

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Among the most serious of the public records violations, investigators said Hall — who left the system June 30 — and former Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine illegally suppressed a report by a testing expert last year that largely confirmed an AJC analysis that suggested test cheating occurred. The district withheld that report  from the media and public.

Among the most serious of the open meetings violations happened in April,when Gov. Nathan Deal summoned the board, Hall and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to the Capitol for a private meeting. It came on the heels of Deal signing legislation giving him the power to remove board members if they did not make sufficient progress by midsummer toward regaining full accreditation.

The meeting was held despite objections from the AJC that the Georgia Open Meetings Act requires such meetings to be open to the public, because a quorum of the board was present. Senate Democratic whip Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, also filed a formal complaint with the attorney general.

Sounds like Governor Deal nees additional training in adhering to the Open Meetings Act, too. Read the full story.

Mom gets new trial in jaywalking death case

Latest update: The judge has thrown out the reckless conduct charge. See story.

Update: After her plight received national publicity, Raquel Nelson receives a sentence of probation and community service–along with a chance to clear her name.

While she was convicted of walking outside a crosswalk after deboardint a Cobb Transit bus with her three children, she pointed out during her trial that the nearest crosswalk was nearly a third of a mile away.  Her four-year-old son was killed when the group was hit by a car driven by Jerry Guy, who was convicted of vehicular homicide and served six months in jail. Ms. Nelson and her younger daughter received minor injuries. Her older daughter was not injured.

Read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article for the details.

Original post: That’s Harsh

A Marietta, Georgia pedestrian has been convicted of killing her own child in a jaywalking incident, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This sad and strange result comes on top of a conviction  for the driver in the incident, who was impaired at the time and also has a history of being a a hit-and-run driver.

The mother, Raquel Nelson, faces up to three years in jail.

The newspaper reports:

Nelson was attempting to cross at the intersection of Austell Road and Austell Circle with her three children when her 4-year-old son was struck by a car, said Savoy. The child later died from his injuries.

Nelson and her younger daughter suffered minor injuries and her older daughter was not injured, according to an article published at the time of the incident.

The man driving the car, Jerry Guy, confessed to having consumed alcohol earlier in the day, taking pain medication and being blind in one eye, Flocks said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year that Guy was charged with hit and run, first degree homicide by vehicle and cruelty to children. Charges were later dropped to just the hit and run charge. He was sentenced to 5 years prison and probation, said the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office.

Court records show that Guy was previously convicted of two-hit-and-runs on the same day, Feb. 17, 1997.

The first hit-and-run also happened on Austell Road, but when Guy fled from that scene he hit another car, seriously injuring that driver and passenger, records show.

Guy pleaded guilty and received a two-year prison sentence, but was out in less than a year, according to the Department of Corrections website.