Tuesday, March 31, 2009
My wife is a wonderful cook. She has expanded my palate in so many ways. Before I met her I thought there were three kinds of cheeses: American, Swiss, and mozzarella. Before I met her, I had never eaten crawfish, lobster, or lamb. Now I enjoy sumptuous meals that she takes special care to make. She's always looking for new recipes to try. She's even made sacrifices of her own preferences to make things less salty for me, and it is very much appreciated.
She is a good sport. Where our interests have not intersected, she has taken to mine like a fish to water. She knows baseball now. She can explain the infield fly rule. She actually enjoys the outdoors and camping. She went in a raft with me down a river! She'll go to comic book conventions with me and know what she's talking about when I discuss things at them. She plays games with me, which although it's how we met, was not a natural fit with her personality.
Magi is a wonderful mother to our daughter. Even when I do something completely stupid in front of Sera, she covers for me. She never lets Sera think less of me, even when she probably should.
I don't just love my wife, I respect her as well. It took a leap of faith for her to leave her life and family to move here from New Orleans. We met on the Internet, you see, and we had only spent about three weeks together in person over several visits before she moved here to be with me. That was a very brave thing to do, and I'm glad that she took that risk on me. I only hope that I can prove to her every day that it was a risk worth taking.
I love you, Magi. I always will.
Monday, March 30, 2009
On January 1, 1988, I audio recorded one of our Champions sessions. Our superhero group, Aegis, was making a transition from its second generation of characters to its third. I had just joined the group four months previously, and I suddenly found my character the most senior of the team. This game had been weeks in the making, with overlapping subplots coming to a head with an all-out assault on the headquarters of the nefarious Dr. Dread. It was one of the most fun and exciting times I ever spent at the gaming table. I will have to find a time to listen to these great tapes again, if I can block off six uninterrupted hours. We played this one all day!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The camping bug hit me hard last year, and we had bought the rudimentary supplies necessary to go from Meijer, Target, Wal-Mart, and the like, but once we had a night outdoors together under our belts, I knew this was something we were going to do a lot. And so, when we first walked through those twelve-foot doors, I was in heaven. Everything you can imagine that you would need for camping, hunting, and fishing is there under one roof, and at reasonable prices.
On that first trip I bought all of my school clothes for the year, paying $16-20 each for comfortable casual pants that are really tough and durable, along with shirts that have reinforced elbows (I spend a lot of time groveling, so that comes in handy) in a variety of colors. I bought black socks that I swear upon all that is holy make your feet feel as good at the end of the day as they do when you first put them on, even after ten hours on your feet. They cost $11.99 per pair, but are worth every penny. I experimented with one pair, and the next time I went, I bought four more pairs so I would never have to go without them at work.
We bought collapsible air mattress frames that essentially make your air mattress into a queen-sized bed, elevating you some 18 inches off the ground. They collapse into tight travel bags that roll on wheels. These were key to making Magi's experiences camping into something to look forward to instead of something she tolerates just for Sera and me.
They have cookwear and camp chairs and fire rings. I bought a fire ring yesterday and set it up out in the back yard. I bought stuff to make S'mores last night, but it never stopped snowing long enough to go out and make them today.
The really fun thing about Cabela's is that it's more than just a store. It's a museum. They actually have aquaria with live game fish, so that kids and adults alike can see what they look like when they don't have hooks in their mouths or when they're filleted on your plates. They have stuffed examples of all kinds of wild game, from deer to elk to antelope, to elepahants and grizzly bears. They have a restaurant that serves game as well. So, next time you want to try some elk, head on over to Cabela's!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
"As the Question, Renee's chin dimple is still apparent. It's the kind of thing other characters shouldn't notice but will act as a subconscious reminder to
readers that this is Renee'."
This is the sort of thing that used to drive me crazy. This is a mask that obscures the face, including the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. And yet a chin dimple shows through? That makes absolutely, positively no sense whatsoever. And why does there need to be another Question anyway? There's no need for these constant legacy characters showing up. Get your own superhero identities, you slackers!
Friday, March 27, 2009
When I picked her up from daycare today, she was still excited about going to the movies, which I told her about this morning. She remembered that last year we used our Detroit Tigers blanket on the ground, which she related to camping. Magi hasn't been feeling well, but couldn't turn Sera's enthusiasm down when she saw how excited our little girl was. What a trooper!
It may sound corny, but it was one of the most fun nights of my life.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Let me give you an idea of what my day is like. I am up at 4:30 each morning. After a little light reading, I get on my bike and ride for half an hour. After ten minutes of cooling down, I get my shower in, and get my breakfast and whatever I'm having for lunch ready. I say my goodbyes to Magi and Sera as they leave for school, and I get my after school snacks ready for my after school job. We use snacks as a motivator and purchase them out of my own pocket.
I get to my school usually by 6:45-6:50 depending on traffic, and check my email and google reader blogs while I eat breakfast, which is nearly always a cup of vanilla yogurt with about a dozen red seedless grapes, and topped with a third of a cup of granola. At 7:15 I go to the front of the school for morning bus duty. This morning I helped to break up a fight, only after I mistook one of my colleagues for a fighting student and lifted him up by his hoodie. When I saw that the "kid" that I had picked up had a hold of two other kids, I realized my mistake. Oops. You'll probably see that on YouTube tonight. Kids were whipping out their cell phones when the fight broke out.
At 7:30, I'm back in the building to check my mailbox and head back to my room to prepare for classes. Today I didn't get to prepare for classes, since we had to spend our prep time learning about reading strategies. Yes, I know I'm a math teacher. I especially enjoyed the unit we did on poetry. It was completely applicable to nothing I need to do in the classroom.
After two and a half periods of teaching kids about dividing exponential expressions and the meaning of zero and negative exponents, it's time for lunch. I have 30 minutes to go to the bathroom, and either prepare or fetch my lunch and eat it. Today I had salad from the cafeteria, the one thing they make that isn't packed with so much sodium that it would raise my blood pressure 50 points. When fourth period resumed 30 minutes later, the kids worked on their assignment and I checked my email again.
We had shortened periods today to fit in what we call Success Period, a 75-minute period designed to give students the opportunity to participate in club activities. If, like me, you don't sponsor a club you get 25+ unmotivated kids to supervise in your classroom, and they tend not to be the most enthusiastic students.
When school is dismissed at 3:00, I bolt out the door to make the 15-minute trip across town to my afterschool job at Memorial High School. I switch out my lunch cooler for my snack cooler and with luck, one of my students is waiting for me with the door nearest my classroom open. They don't trust teachers with keys to their school, and especially guest teachers like me. The other math teacher in the program had an appointment after school today, so I got to teach her students as well as my own. When these students are released at 5:25, I am out the door and home by 5:35.
I have just enough time to go to the bathroom and fire up the grill to cook the pork steaks that Magi has prepared for dinner. While the pork is cooking, Sera and I play outside on her swings. Ten minutes later, we eat dinner and I check my home email on my Blackberry. After dinner, it's time to put Sera to bed. After she's in bed at 8:00, I get a few minutes to relax, respond to any emails I've received, check Facebook, and make my Wordscraper (Facebook's Scrabble) move in the game Magi and I have going.
Then I write my blog post and go to bed. See why I'm wearing down?
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
These were the words that rang through our locker room before baseball games when I was in high school. They were burned into our minds by the Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer third baseman and right fielder as they sat in the broadcast booth for the television broadcasts of the Tigers of our youths. I would imitate Kell and my friend Ken would do the voice for Al Kaline and we'd run through the lineups as we knew them. We'd easily slip into the patter of the veteran voices, and do play-by-play.
"He hit it like a shot." That was one of my favorite descriptions that George Kell would use, the emphasis solidly on the last word.
George Kell was known long before I was born as the guy who beat out Ted Williams for the batting crown of 1949 in a race so close that the statisticians had to take it out to the fourth decimal place, .3429 to .3427. I only knew him as a broadcaster, but I listened to his voice more than probably any other in my turbulent childhood. There's something to be said about being there every day to provide comfort. I'll miss him.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Keep your eye on the ball, kids. Mark down the amount and look more deeply into the spending. You'll have plenty of opportunity for righteous rage (on camera, of course) to impress your constituents when you solve the problem!
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett announced today that
the state would end the practice of letting schools cancel class because of weather or for teacher training days without
making them up at the end of the year.
This caused an uproar in the comments section of the web version of the article, with people lashing out with such gems as:
If we are going to keep up in this Global Economy; year round school should have
been installed long before now. The ISTA would whine and grip; but most of us
work 12 months a year and are given raises based on performance (ie ISTEP
scores) not TENURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I love that one. The uninformed public thinks that we're getting paid year round because we can elect to receive our checks spread out over a calendar year. Another fun one:
PLease dont let me hear anycrybabies out there about this 180 out of 365?
Less than half of the year .!
Never mind that that's what we are contracted and paid for; don't let a little arithmetic get in the way of your rant. When a teacher or two calmly explained the way paycheck distribution actually works, they were accused of complaining or crying. When the first attack is launched and someone explains why the entire premise of the attack is a mistake, I really don't think that's crying.
No one is really debating that snow days should be made up. The real argument is that the half days that teachers are in front of students while they spend the other half learning new teaching techniques at the behest of the school system, or coming back in the evening to meet with parents should somehow be unpaid time because we are salaried. Some citizens even went on to complain that most professionals do their company-mandated training on their own time. I would find that really hard to believe, given how often my wife was flown to various destinations during the workweek to attend conventions and conferences in her previous career as a food buyer.
This article was followed up in recent days by even more articles and vitriolic comments about teachers. Check out www.indystar.com and search for Bennett. You'll see them all.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I knew it wouldn't take long before I found the most useful application of my new phone!
Monday, March 16, 2009
Recently, the movie studios have been discussing making the Superman franchise darker based on the financial success of Dark Knight. With the theatrical release of Watchmen, I was seeing the future of superhero movies going in a bad direction, just like comics had 22 years before, following Dark Knight and Watchmen. There was actually a rumor that Marvel was considering a darker Fantastic Four, for goodness sake! So, it's actually a relief seeing Watchmen fall a little flat at the box office. Maybe, just maybe, we won't see history repeat itself!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
We've needed these for a long time with our traveling. Last summer when we went out west we didn't have internet access for a week and that was tough! With these cool phones, not only do we have unlimited internet and email access, but we have portable navigation systems and music/video players as well as 3.2 megapixel cameras. Expect a more detailed review after we get them fully charged and actually have a chance to read the directions!
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I am putting a fire pit in our back yard this weekend and going to see Watchmen again if I can manage it.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
A student was signing a lunch detention form because she was not wearing her identification. She stopped halfway through the signature and said, "How do you spell [Smith]?"
[Smith] is her last name. I wish I were kidding because she wasn't.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
"Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence
in teaching with extra pay, even though it can make a difference in the
I have no problem with the basic concept of merit pay; but what I want to know is how "excellence in teaching" is going to be measured. We are currently evaluating our schools based on a high-stakes annual test which is scored based solely on whether the student is at grade level in the subject area. There is no attention paid to where the student was when he or she arrived in a teacher's classroom or how much they learned in that teacher's classroom. If there is a test at the beginning and a test at the end of the year, and the progress made is a measure used to determine "excellence," I have no problem. So why do I think that is never going to happen?
Some of the issues of merit pay address the fact that some teachers will cheat or teach to the test. That's true. This is opinion is modeled by the current fiasco in the business world. There will be Bernard Madoffs in education, or perhaps Arthur Andersens in education as well, gaming the system and profiting from illegal behavior and deceptive accounting. Competition works in the business world, but is it really the model we want to use to teach our students?
I also wonder about how this is going to affect the urban school students. I recently received a flyer from our local school system boasting of our quality schools with their ISTEP scores broadly plastered across it. I know what my school district looks like. It's mostly affluent, with two parents at home. My wife and I, as two teachers are probably in the lowest quartile in annual income. Is it really the school that's of high quality? My daughter, who's almost three, knows her alphabet and can count to 20. We read to her every night. Is the school system really that great, or do the kids who go there have parents who take an active role in their children's learning? I polled my own students a few weeks ago, and discovered that my daughter owns more books than the combined library of any one of my classes. Which teachers are going to rush in to work in schools like mine, which need excellent teachers even more than the school district where I live?
If you want to fix public education, here's my idea: Close down all the public schools. Privatize them completely. Let's see how many art teachers and band directors people really want to pony up for. Let's find out how important special education is to the populus in general and see if they agree that it's worth all the money that is sunk into it. Let's hear whether they agree or not that they personally need to spend millions of dollars on facilities so that one in ten kids can play football. Let the market decide where the money should really be spent. I'm betting that someone wants to pay me to teach their kids math and I'm betting that my wife's computer and business classes will be full. What's that? It won't be fair to the poor kids, whose parents can't afford us?
There's nothing new about that.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Sunday, March 08, 2009
My daughter's favorite book of the moment is Pinkalicious. It's about a little girl who make pink cupcakes with pink frosting with her mom on a rainy day and she eats so many of them that she turns pink. It's a charming little book, and I read it to her virtually every night. Magi went to Indianapolis this morning with her business club from school for three days, so I prepared a special treat for Sera. This morning we made strawberry cupcakes with cherry frosting. Sounds disgusting, I know, but she was totally into it and it was the only way to make completely pink cupcakes that I could find. After she had eaten three of them as well as a grilled cheese sandwich, we watched the Wiggles and she took her nap.
We went out to Lunker's for dinner a while after when she got up from her nap. Sera was fascinated by the aquariums that line the outside of the restaurant area. She loved the camping equipment section, and had to check out a collapsible chair and matching table that I'm pretty sure I will end up buying before all is said and done. It will give her a play area at the campgrounds we visit. I had the cod tonight, and although cod is a mild fish, there was a POUND of it on my plate so it was great! Sera had the Rainbow Trout Treasures, little pieces of rainbow trout (obviously) shaped like sharks, whales, and yes, even trout! She liked it, especially the fries that came with it. She is a huge fan of French fries. And you can't go wrong with a kid's meal when it comes with a scoop of ice cream. We're going to be going back again and again. I may just have to learn to fish.
When we got back from dinner, we discovered that our dog Shadow had eaten the rest of the cupcakes. I hope the furry son of a bitch* turns pink.
*I can call him that because he's a dog.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
"Watchmen" is a tremendous film. I confess that I have a bit of bias, having read the graphic novel (without hyperbole) at least 50 times. In my own defense, however, that bias is not always a good thing. It helped me to really dislike "The Dark Knight," even though my favorite comic book character is Batman. My familiarity with the source material actually enriched the experience of seeing this film.
This morning, my friends Eric and Rob and I set out from South Bend to Indianapolis to see the film we've been waiting 26 years to see. Why drive three hours to the south end of Indianapolis? Because that's where the IMAX theater is, and this film deserves no less. Zack Snyder made me the film I've been waiting for. It was faithful to the comic, as much as one could expect and still bring in typical American moviegoers outside of the comic's already established fanbase. There were changes to be sure, but there were so many details taken directly from the comic that the respect for the material Snyder has was more than evident. The majority of the best lines were delivered verbatim from the comic. There was only one line that made me cringe. The Comedian, confronting Moloch in the latter's apartement, calls the aging former villain, "my archenemy." I'm now convinced that "archenemy" is a word that should never be spoken aloud. Rorschach's noirish narration, taken from his journal, is surprisingly convincing given the background of the character, as seen through flashbacks. None of the other characters would have been able to deliver those lines believably. But once you share in Rorschach's nightmarish childhood, you can see almost empathize with his sociopathy. This wasn't the case in "Sin City." I actually remember laughing at some of Frank Miller's noir-inspired monologues with the cartoonish Marv providing the narration.
I have heard and read many times that this story should have been made into a 12-part HBO miniseries because of the length of the story. That's nonsense. Comic book storytelling and pacing do not express time uniformly at one hour per issue. The first several pages of issue #12 of Watchmen, for example are simply full page splashes that show one extended scene of destruction that would take at most 30 seconds to convey on screen. That's one advantage that comics have as a medium: Time perception is variable because our imaginations fill in the spaces between panels. Video has to do that through the cutting of scenes along with the use of dissolves and wipes, which is much less variable.
One disadvantage of the comics medium that was put to full use in this movie was the sound. In the IMAX theater, the Owlship's jets felt real. The rush of air created by Dr. Manhanttan's teleportation was simulated by the movement of the air created by the theater's powerful speakers. Each blow in the excellent and extremely violent fight scenes were shared viscerally by the audience because we could actually feel a slight impact when an arm or a nose was broken. Alan Moore has said that he designed this story to take advantage of the unique way that only comics can convey one. Zack Snyder's film exercises the same muscles cinematically. I never really fully imagined Rorschach's mask blots moving, but when I saw it on the screen it made him seem five times as creepy, and for Rorschach that's very appropriate. And by the way, Jackie Earle Haley was nominated for a best supporting Oscar in 2007. The Academy needs to get over their comic book movie bias (Heath Ledger's posthumous award notwithstanding) and give it to him this time. He made Rorschach come to life.
Another interesting aspect of having sound in this very familiar story is hearing for the first time the pronunciation of some of the words that I had only seen in print. Moloch, for example, was pronounced "MAH luck." I had thought it would be pronounced "MOE lock." At one point I got worried when a reporter interviewing Adrian Veidt (pronounced "vite," by the way) called him "ozzy man DAY us." For the rest of the film, however, Ozymandias was pronounced the way I always thought it would be, "ozzy MAN dee us." My only regret is that they didn't tackle the Silk Specter's last name, "Juspeczyk." All we got was the pseudonym, "Jupiter." And at last, now we know that Rorschach's signature "Hurm" is pronounced like a short grunt instead sounding like the familiar form of Herman.
The attention paid to the costumes in this movie was clearly meticulous. The Minute Men costumes of the 1940s are as suitably silly as the modern characters' costumes are reflective of our recent times. Yes, Nite Owl's suit borrows elements from previous Batman movie costumes. Yes, Ozymandias' rubber nipples are very much like those in Joel Schumacher's Batman film debacles. Yes, the Comedian's huge shoulder pads harken back to Stallone's "Judge Dredd" suit. Do you sense the connection here? Just as the Watchmen comic deconstructed superhero comics for all time, the Watchmen movie does the same to superhero movies. There's even a little juxtapositive line near the end of the film when Ozymandias says, "I'm not a comic book villain." The corresponding line in the comics is "I'm not a Republic serial villain." It's another parallel that viewers of the movie who are unfamiliar with the graphic novel are going to miss on one level, but I very much appreciate the irony.
The sets were nothing short of brilliant. Nite Owl's dusty lair was perfect. Hollis Mason's garage had a sign outside of it that was the spitting image of the one in the comic; I went back to check a few minutes ago to be sure, and it was indeed spot-on. The Gunga Diner looks like it should. I was really missing the electric cars that move through the streets of the comic's version of Manhattan, but the airships were present, giving the city the sense of otherness that a parallel world requires to set it apart.
I can't speak for the vast majority of people who are going to see this movie without first having studied the graphic novel in detail. I don't even want to try to see things from their perspective at this point. I selfishly devoured this movie and will see it again tomorrow if I am able. I will buy the DVD and Blu-Ray and a Blu-Ray player and an HDTV on which to watch them when it is released for home viewing. I don't care if this film makes money. I don't care if the public likes it or not. I don't want a sequel and I don't want to play a video game that extends the story. I want to sit back, reflect, and enjoy this movie for what it is, and that's a great piece of film that honors the greatest graphic story of all.
Oh, look. It's after midnight. Hurm.
Friday, March 06, 2009
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
I have to say that my Tuesday and Thursday workouts are my favorites because I can watch the best shows recorded on the DVR. Tuesday mornings I get to watch "Big Bang Theory" and "How I Met Your Mother," and Thursdays I get to watch "Lost" from the night before. Looking forward to tomorrow's ride already!
Last time I bought a DC Universe Original Animated Movie, I popped "Justice League the New Frontier" into Sera's DVD player only to watch Hal Jordan blow a North Korean soldier's head apart with his .45, which quickly got turned off to be viewed in private. This time I was a little more cautious, and rightly so. Wonder Woman was a very good animated movie...for me. The first things that happen in the opening scene include a soldier being cut through the torso with a sword, followed by an Amazon being cleaved through the clavicle with an axe, and then a bunch more soldiers take arrows to their chests, necks, shoulders, et al. This all happens bloodlessly, miraculously enough, but it's enough to make me...well, wonder.
Wake up, DC! This is the first screen version of Wonder Woman (outside of Justice League) in 30 years. Shouldn't you be trying to get a whole new generation of girls interested in superheroes and comic books and animation? Then why, oh why did you make a PG-13 animated movie that no child should watch? The first lines of the movie are truly great: Ares says, "You seem as eager to meet me on the battlefield as you once did in the bedroom, Hippolyta," to which the Amazon queen responds, "I only hope you prove more skilled in this arena, Ares." Like I'm going to have my child watch this, you know--ever??
You, as a company are going to make a few dollars from fans like me, but you already have me as an audience. If you think long-term, you want to grow your fanbase and increase your sales. You're not going to do that by releasing a PG-13 animated movie that only appeals to a few of us. If you're really going to go all out, put the blood in and rate it R. Or tone back the beheadings, impalements and slashing violence and make it PG, so that my daughter can watch it before she's a teenager, and just maybe become a fan of Wonder Woman.
The animation, acting, design, and staging were really great in this movie. The color palettes alone were just gorgeous. I loved it, but I think it was a mistake to make it.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
We do the same kind of math geeky thing with Pi Day on March 14. I don't really know why. Doesn't it kind of defeat the purpose of teaching kids that pi is an irrational number by celebrating on 3/14? Most of my 8th graders currently think that pi is 3.14, a terminating decimal anyway, and Pi Day just kind of reinforces that misconception. One of the things our school has done in the past is to make a long chain of decimal places of pi that are posted all the way around the building, surely wasting an entire day by each person contributing one number. By the time they're done the student has drawn a number on a piece of paper, and we have pi approximated to six hundred places. I'm not sure how useful that is to know and I'm not sure which Indiana math standard that applies to, but who am I to stand in the way of fun? Maybe it's a good thing that March 14 falls on a Saturday this year.
Oh, no! That means we'll celebrate on Friday the 13th!
Monday, March 02, 2009
Sunday, March 01, 2009
This would have been cool. I would have enjoyed it much more than the piece of felgercarb that's on now. Don't get me wrong, I loved the reimagined BSG until they jumped the shark when half the main characters were revealed as Cylons.