Friday, October 31, 2008

Is the Election Over Yet?

I will be so glad when this election is over. One of my students just called me "Mr. McCain..." twice!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ten Years Ago...

Ten years ago today I met the woman of my dreams. After an online friendship of a year and a half, I flew from Indiana to New Orleans and met my future wife. It was my first time in New Orleans, and stepping off the plane, I was greeted with an absolute wall of heat and humidity. It was stifling, but all I could think about was that I might sweat through my shirt before I met her.

As I approached the gathered crowd of people awaiting passengers, I searched for her face, which I had only seen in a few photographs. Hers was easy to find; it was the face that was smiling the most. We hugged, formally introduced ourselves, and went off in search of luggage.

Our first dinner was at a restaurant whose name I can never remember, save that it starts with "C." It was Copeland's (I asked the other day). We sat at the table, talking about stuff that we had written to each other, basking in the glow of the restaurant lights. We already knew that we shared many interests, but had wondered if there would be personal chemistry when we met face to face. It was a question very quickly answered wth a resounding "Yes." We held hands the whole time that we waited for our food to arrive, overjoyed with finding one another.

I never remember the name of the restaurant (it was the only time we ever ate there together), but I sure remember what I ate: Shrimp Creole! It was the first time I'd had a Creole dish and it was amazing. But what was more amazing was that we, a couple who had only known each other online, found each other to be exactly what we had said we were. We had both heard horror stories about people meeting someone online, only to be disappointed or even worse, swindled after meeting in person. I think we would probably both have been crushed had we turned out to be someone other than who we claimed to be.

I stayed with her the whole weekend, touring New Orleans, visiting her at work, eating wonderful meals, drinking cafe au lait and eating beignets at Cafe Du Monde. I even cooked breakfast for her, because it's the meal I feel most comfortable making. My Mexican Fiesta Omelet was done just right. And since they don't have Big Boys in New Orleans, it was the first time she had eaten one. We visited the Riverwalk Mall, and saw the cutest kitten jumping in and out of a concrete planter, filled with enough plants to make it look like a jungle compared to her small frame.

When we parted at the airport, we were both crying in the rain. No, I'm not kidding. It was like a scene from a movie. As we sat in her car, she took off a small ring that she wore and put it on one of my fingers as a keepsake. On the plane, I tried to keep my emotions in check, and the only way to do it successfully was to start planning a return trip for Christmas vacation. I drew a calendar on a notebook page and started counting the days.

I love you, Magi, and thank you for making it so that I don't have to count days anymore.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SHIELD Existed in 1957?

I always thought Nick Fury was an agent of SHIELD starting in 1965. Turns out I'm wrong, according to this Reuters story:

"In a written account, Torres described how he scrambled
his F-86 D Sabre jet in calm weather from the Royal Air Force base at Manston,
Kent in May 1957.

'I was only a lieutenant and very much aware of the
gravity of the situation. I felt very much like a one-legged man in an
ass-kicking contest,' he said.

'The order came to fire a salvo of rockets at the UFO. The
authentication was valid and I selected 24 rockets.

'I had a lock-on that had the proportions of a flying
aircraft carrier,' he added. 'The larger the airplane, the easier the lock-on.
This blip almost locked itself.'

At the last moment, the object disappeared
from the radar screen and the high-speed chase was called off.

He returned to base and was debriefed the next day by an
unnamed man who 'looked like a well-dressed IBM salesman.'

'He threatened me with a national security breach if I
breathed a word about it to anyone,' he said."

I wonder if he wore an eyepatch and smoked a cigar...

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Death of Teaching

I witnessed the death of teaching today.

At an in-service (a meeting where the administration pulls us out of the classroom to improve instruction), we were told that in order to comply with No Child Left Behind we, as a citywide department, will be using curriculum mapping to guide instruction. For those of you not fully versed in educationese, that means that what we do for every single day of a school year will be mapped out in advance.

If a student is taking Algebra I, which was the topic du jour, he or she will be able to walk from one classroom to the next, knowing exactly what to expect to see taught that day, throughout the entirety of our school corporation. It won't matter that some of us have the most advanced students in our school taking Algebra I in eighth grade, or that at the same time, high school teachers who are teaching the same course are dealing with those who barely passed regular eighth grade math the year before. The methods, examples, activities, and strategies will all be predetermined by a task force that was organized last year. I, as an instructor, will be a human automaton, not only following this curriculum to the letter, but reporting on my compliance each day using an online template where I will check off each item that I use in class each day.

This is my worst professional fear realized. My ability to make up imaginitive activities or worksheets is no longer welcome. My choice to take advantage of teachable moments, where a topic involving mathematics comes up in the news and I can spend time talking about it with my classes, is gone. My skill at analyzing student weaknesses is no longer required; it won't matter whether my class needs an additional day to comprehend a concept. I guess I don't have to worry if my kids struggle with the dreaded train problems for three days as I had to deal with last week; after one day it will be time to move on to the next topic whether they understand it or not. The task force clearly knows best what my students will have trouble with from year to year and how long it will take.

Guest speakers and field experiences are things of the past. So is the thought of interdisciplinary units, crossing curricula with science, language arts, or social studies. Want to co-teach the metric system with the science teacher in your team? Sorry, no time. We're doing the order of operations today and evaluating expressions tomorrow. Is your beloved family member in the hospital for four days? You'd better leave detailed substitute plans. Not that it should be a problem to have a substitute. With this cookie cutter operation, anyone could do this job. The question is, who's going to want to?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why You Shouldn't See a Batman/Superman Crossover Movie

This is hilarious:

I never would have thought to cast Christopher Walken as Commissioner Gordon.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Enough. Already.

As I wrote about here, I hate these slogans that seem to be one-word sentences, even though they're not. This ATM actually has two of them plastered all over it. I would expect more from Teachers Credit Union.

I guess I should be thankful that they at least capitalized the words.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I Voted Today!

We voted early today, since we had the day off. I know, why do we need a day off? I would have preferred working today and getting out of school one day earlier, but it's not up to me. I try to avoid politics on my blog. You never change anyone's mind and the controversy that it brings gets one labeled. I'm okay with that today. Label me however you want.

It was a simple choice for me based on the things I care about. The one I can talk intelligently about is education.

Being a teacher, I want No Child Left Behind revised and fully funded. McCain said he wants a spending freeze on everything except for defense and entitlement programs. Well, there you go. Our schools would continue to run at NCLB-forced deficits until the financial crisis stabilizes, further restricting our ability to operate our existing programs. In a recent NPR interview, McCain spokesperson Lisa Graham Keegan said that the Senator wants to take teacher professional development money and give it instead to principals to dole out as incentives based on the test scores of students. This would create more drones teaching to tests than we already have due to the pressure brought to bear in the school system.

He also promotes the Troops to Teachers program, so that military personnel with college degrees "can go right to teaching and not have to take these examinations which -- or have the certification that some are required in some states." Yeah, he might want to read No Child Left Behind, which forbids that sort of thing. He only voted for it, after all.

McCain and Obama both support charter schools, which by the way, don't perform any better than public schools, but McCain wants vouchers so that our budgets can be even more strained. Charter schools boast smaller class sizes and autonomy from the ordinary bureaucracies that govern schools. I would think that if everyone had that, the public schools would be more successful as well.

But at least Obama doesn't want it to come out of the public school budget.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I only use LOL when something actually makes me laugh out loud.

Here was a blog comment on some still shots promoting the new Brave and the Bold cartoon, premiering November 14 on Cartoon Network (one seen at left):

"The Ugly American Says: Batman looks so ANGRY in those shots. It’s like somebody killed his parents or something."

I've Been Tagged

Well, I haven't posted anything substantial in about forever, so I guess it's fair that I've been tagged by my wife. Now I have to write something.

According to the rules, I am to share seven random and/or weird facts about myself. This might be a challenge. Only seven?

1. I wear size 14 W shoes. My feet have actually grown two full sizes and an additional one in width since I turned 25. I think that counts as a secondary mutation, but I'll have to check with Grant Morrison.

2. I have freakishly fast hands and feet that are equally as slow. I hardly ever drop anything that I don't catch before it hits the ground. Usually things don't even get a foot away from my hands before I catch them. But my feet? It's like being grounded in concrete. If I drop something like a knife that I don't want to catch with my hands and my feet are in the way? I'll be headed to the emergency room soon thereafter. My slow feet are why I never played college basketball. I could shoot, pass, rebound, and block shots, but I couldn't cut off the baseline on defense.

3. I earned a brown belt in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate. In a past life, when I lived in Michigan City and worked in Gary, I felt the need to learn self-defense in spite of being a big guy. I was awarded Most Dedicated Student in my dojo in 1994. If I'd stayed there, I would have had my black belt in about another year and a half.

4. I hate football. I might be the only red-blooded American male who does, but I don't care. There has never been a home run called back because of a holding penalty. I hate TV time outs, instant replay refereeing, and Notre Dame.

5. I love the metric system. I love it so much that I wrote a paper on it for a grad course that the professor said was publishable. Anyone who doesn't prefer the metric system needs to be able to tell me how many furlongs are in a mile and how many ounces are in a gallon. No, you don't get time to think about it; the answer should be given instantly.

6. I've had a constant ringing in my ears for about two years. 99% of the time I'm able to ignore it, but sometimes it just drives me crazy. It sounds like a watch alarm going off, but with a solid tone that's on all the time. There doesn't seem to be any reason for it. I didn't spend my youth going to loud concerts or listening to headphones with the volume all the way up.

7. I know the decimal equivalent of any fraction with single digits in the numerator and denominator. And yes, that includes all the sevenths. 1/7 = 0.142857... and 2/7 = 0.285714... and 3/7 = 0.428571... Have you noticed that they all repeat the same six-digit sequence? The sequence just starts in a different place! 4/7 = 0.587142... and 5/7 is 0.714285... and 6/7 = 0.857142... So once you memorize 142857, you can say very quickly what any fraction over seven would be just by figuring out what the first numeral in the quotient is. The rules wanted random and weird stuff, and it doesn't get much more random than that!

Like certain vice presidential candidates, I am choosing not to follow all the rules and won't be tagging anyone else. But I'm glad I got tagged. It made me write!

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain to Deliver Underdog Speech

When I saw this headline, the first thing I thought was, "When Palin's in trouble I am not slow; So it's hip, hip, hip, and away I go!"

The Pledge. Of Allegiance.

And while I'm in a ranting mood, does anyone realize that the Pledge of Allegiance is one sentence? From kindergarten, we teach our children to say it like they're William Shatner:
"I pledge the flag...of the United States of America..."

I understand that the cadence is important for youngsters to break the pledge up into smaller chunks that they can memorize more easily, but should they still be doing this in 8th grade? It's one sentence, for crying out loud. If we can expect them to memorize the preamble to the Constitution, surely the Pledge of Allegiance isn't out of reach??

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'm Sick Again

I'm getting kind of tired of feeling badly. I've been sick off and on for over three weeks now. It started with Sera, went over to Magi, finally got to me, and then made the rounds again. At least one of us has been sick every day for this whole time. Since I feel this way again, and I just got done watching Andy Rooney on 60 minutes (he's still alive??!), I think I'll rant for a bit.

  • Comic book fans, the actor who played Superman in the 70s and 80s is Christopher Reeve. The guy who played him on TV in the 50s was George Reeves. Obviously there is no relation, since their names are spelled differently!
  • When you are dinner with people, put your frakking cell phone away. We were at dinner last night with a bunch of twentysomethings, and I swear to you, one of them was pulling his cellphone out between bites. I may be getting old, but it was driving me crazy. At least pretend like you want to be with the people with whom you are sharing a meal.
  • When I take the trouble to actually go to a store and I'm at the service counter, you take care of me before you handle a phone that starts ringing while I'm standing there. I took the trouble to actually travel to your store. Ask the phone customer to hold, and take care of me first.
  • Summer vacation, winter recess, Thanksgiving, and spring break are not paid holidays for teachers. One of the same group of twentysomethings last night was complaining about all the time off we teachers get. It's not like we're getting paid for it, Sparky. Believe me, I'd love to get paid vacations or holidays. It just doesn't happen. The salary we receive is based on days actually worked.
  • Two-way stops are not first-come, first-go. There are rules for right-of-way that you may have studied once in driver's training. If I'm turning right and you're turning left in the same direction I intend to go, yield the right-of-way! People treat every intersection like it's a four-way stop. If they slam on their brakes fast enough, they think they can go first.
  • White Sox and Cubs fans do not have any room to talk trash about our respective baseball teams. My Tigers have won the World Series twice in my lifetime. Their teams have a combined one win in the last 90 years. The Tigers have won four in that time. They stunk this year, but it won't always be this way.
  • Speaking of baseball, why does the Gold Glove award take hitting into consideration? Shouldn't the Silver Slugger award take defense into consideration then, too?

That's all I have for now. I think I'll go trim my eyebrows before I start looking like Andy Rooney as well. Seriously, can no one tell that man that it is allowed for him to be able to see from under that brush?

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I was browsing today and ran across this piece (click to enlarge) from Dusty Abell. Dusty must be about my age because I know every character and vehicle on it. How many can you name?

Late addition: By the way, compare Ark II, at left, with the Space Academy's cruiser in the upper right.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Little Humor

A joke I read online in the comments section of a blog today:

"You know why John McCain blew off David Letterman, right? Because he used to be a weatherman."


Monday, October 06, 2008

No More Mammograms

Today in class, I caught a student passing a note. This is a major mistake in my class. For most of you who aren't in the education world, note writing and passing is a prelude to violence. I'm not exaggerating. Most of the interpersonal conflicts and violence in our schools stem from what someone said about someone else and most of that comes from notes that get passed around. Anyway, I made a big fuss about this as I always do. I ranted about how I have said not to do this since the first day of school, and how I shouldn't have to remind anyone every day for seven weeks of what they shouldn't be doing.

The student's argument was that it was not a note. It was a letter. It's a little semantics game that kids like to play when they're caught doing something wrong. I extended my classroom rule to "written correspondence between two or more parties," just to cover myself.

No sooner than I had returned to my trip around the classroom checking on progress, I saw another note being written. I took it away and raised my voice, saying that "I just got done telling you not to do this," when another student said, "Tell him it's not a note. It's a mammogram."

Peals of laughter went through the room. Most of the students and I were beside ourselves. Most of us except for the student who had made the comment, anyway. He had meant to say, "telegram." He still didn't understand what was funny. I explained what a mammogram was, and said, "That's it. No more mammograms in class, either."

Hopefully, they will actually follow this rule.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Parent-Teacher Conferences, Part 2

What I said last year, times infinity to the infinite power.