Friday, December 03, 2010

Firefly (Complete Series) on Blu-Ray for $25

It's on Amazon right now. Don't wait.

Friday, November 19, 2010


What does it say about us as a nation when, on Huffington Post, a story about what Sarah Palin said about Michelle Obama garners 5,000 comments in a matter of hours, and the top education story of the week can barely muster 1,000?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat

Okay, seriously, this country needs to get a grip.

Trick or treat times are published in the newspaper and conclude before dark. Before DARK? Are you frakking kidding me?? When I was a kid, there wasn't any point in going out before dark. I still remember getting clotheslined by a guy-wire on a utility pole at a full run because I didn't see it. You didn't see me crying about it. I spit out the blood I coughed up and went on my merry way.

And putting a coat on over a costume is an insult to the costume. If you're such a sissy that you have to wear a coat while you're out raising heck on Halloween night, then you don't deserve any candy. I heard a parent today actually say, "You need to put a coat on. You'll catch cold." Lady, no kid in the history of the universe EVER caught a cold because it was 45 degrees outside. Colds are caused by viruses, not a slight chill in the air. Besides, if you're doing Halloween right, you're tearing around the neighborhood causing mayhem, not politely walking from house to house, begging for candy.

And today (I can't even legitimately say tonight) my daughter was complimented because she said, "Happy Halloween" instead of "Trick or treat." I should have put her in time out. The whole idea of trick or treat is to extort people into giving you something so that you don't play a prank on them. We're raising a bunch of frakking pansies here.

Man, I miss George Carlin.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Well, Now We Know

In this post, I wondered aloud how the new DC Explosion was going to turn out. Now we know: Pretty much like the last one.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I have always, since the first time I stepped into my own classroom, loved my job. I have always looked forward to going to work. I have loved my time with my students. I have appreciated people's comments about my having answered a noble calling. I have accepted, with gratitude, discounts given to me because I am a teacher. It has truly been a great profession.

Until now.

Teachers are under attack from all sides. The issues are aplenty. Tenure, pay structure, unions, accountability, test scores, the length of the school year, curriculum, virtually every facet of public education is being deconstructed by people who have not the first clue how public education actually works.

Today, I'll talk about tenure.

On Oprah Winfrey's recent show with Davis Guggenheim, director of "Waiting for Superman," the hostess uttered these words: "After two years you have a job for life and you can't be fired! Who does that?"

Uh, no, Oprah. That's not what tenure is. But it's not surprising that you think that. I've read it in dozens of places recently, including from your "Warrior Woman," Michelle Rhee. What tenure does is that it guarantees due process rights to teachers so that they can't be fired without cause. Here's a source you might actually want to read.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Year of Hell

It has been more like the 18 months of hell, but who's counting?

When my dad died on Father's Day in 2009, a long cascade of trouble began and we can't quite seem to find our way through it. It seems like everywhere we turn, some new disaster awaits. We've had tax problems, car problems, health problems, work problems, you name it.

As I looked at my blogger account today, I see that I haven't posted since August 9. I'm not surprised. I wouldn't even know where to begin. I don't want to use my blog to complain about the garbage that keeps happening to us. Blogs are meant for others to read and be entertained, and little about our last 18 months has been entertaining.

We are taking our small pleasures where we can find them, mostly through our daughter Sera, but the rest of life's joys seem few and far between right now.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Best Back to School Sale EVER!

Yes, that really is a spiral-bound notebook and a two-pocket folder with Neal Adams' cover for Batman #251 on the front. Got them at Wal-Mart and I'm not ashamed to release my inner nerd over this!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Wild Cards Begins Again!

I am a big fan of the Wild Cards books. I have been since the late 80s when they were originally published. So, here's some great news from the author.

In November, Tor is releasing the Wild Cards books from the beginning with a new version of Volume I that includes three new short stories!

If you've never read a book from this series, and if you like superheroes in any way, here's a great place to jump on!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood (NO SPOILERS)

"Batman: Under the Red Hood" is the latest of DC Comics' direct-to-video animated features and I think it's one of the better ones to date. Note that it is not appropriate for children at all. The level of violence and bloodshed is once again high.

I didn't read most of the source material, so I can't claim to be an expert on the character or the comics, but for all of the faults of the retroactive continuity that leads to the appearance of the Red Hood, the writer of this movie, Judd Winick, avoids all of it and makes it work well.

The first thing I noticed about the movie is the different styles used to animate Batman and Nightwing. There is a scene where the former Dynamic Duo are pursuing the Red Hood on foot in a style reminiscent of Casino Royale's opening parkour chase. Where Batman tends to take direct routes, Nightwing often takes the lead, bouncing acrobatically from structure to structure. This is a nice attention to detail, since Nightwing is a former circus acrobat. Then, when the Red Hood actually makes his escape, Batman uses his memory of the chase and research to uncover the Hood's identity. That's right, Batman does detective work!! That alone is something to be happy about, but the fun doesn't stop there.

Through a series of flashbacks we learn the history of the Red Hood and his true identity and how it relates to Batman. Without giving it away, it is touching, well done, and emotional. Emotion in a Batman movie is generally limited to rage, so this is a refreshing touch that humanizes a character who for about the last 20 years has desperately lacked humanity.

There are some slick moments and some nice fight scenes, which I have come to expect from the DC direct-to-video movies, but this one had actual story beats that went beyond the typical large-scale earth-shattering superhero events. The interconnectivity of the characters and the concept of family play large roles and that, to me, makes this movie a winner.

Bruce Greenwood does the voice for Batman in this movie, and he's pretty good, though no Kevin Conroy. To be fair, though, I can't imagine why anyone would ever hire anyone but Kevin Conroy to provide the voice of Batman. John DiMaggio does a pretty good Joker, part Mark Hamill and part Heath Ledger (if you can imagine that) but the guy who stole the show for me was Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing. He simply nails the part as the not-so-dark knight.

The special features on this disc include two documentaries, which are so-so, and an animated short featuring Jonah Hex. I'd be willing to bet that this Jonah Hex was 10 times better than the live-action movie. It left out the horse-mounted Gatling guns and the occult and told a straight Western tale that I really enjoyed.

Also included were four episodes of Batman the Animated Series, but they were in standard definition and the picture quality was actually worse that that on the DVDs that I already own.

I recommend this disc!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Astro City--A Movie!

W00t! My favorite comic book of all time is going to be made into a movie!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Neal Adams

Neal Adams now has a blog.

I've been a fan of Neal Adams since I was a kid and didn't know who he was. He did the cover to the first comic book I can clearly remember, Batman #203. He did the covers to several comics that are burned into my memory from childhood, and stayed with me even after my stepfather literally burned all of my comic books. Neal drew this iconic image that you see at left, which has been recreated from a full-page splash in Batman #251.
Back then, though, I couldn't tell the difference between Neal Adams and Irv Novick. I just knew that Batman suddenly didn't look like Adam West. He had long ears, an impossibly long cape, and didn't drive a fancy Batmobile anymore. He was visually responsible for what is now my favorite era of Batman.

Adams also drew a treasury book that I absolutley adored in Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. I don't care how stupid the story seems. I have read my copy dog-eared. My brother, sister, and I recorded an audio version of it when I was in junior high. I had a tape recorder and we had assigned parts to read. I wish I still had a copy of that tape! This glorious book is being recolored and about to be re-released in hardcover form. I can hardly wait.

Last week saw the release of Batman: Odyssey, written and drawn by Adams. The writing is a bit muddled, but it is a beautifully drawn book. I'll stick with it just because I would buy drying paint if it were painted by Neal Adams.
I got to meet Adams when my wife arranged a special treat for me in 2005. While we were visiting her sister Jessica and Jessica's husband, Jeremy Cook, in San Francisco, I knew that Jeremy would be going to Comic-Con International in San Diego in the middle of our visit. What I didn't know is that Magi (happy birthday, by the way, Sweetie!) had conspired with them so that I would fly with Jeremy to Los Angeles, where we would rent a car and drive the rest of the way down to San Diego. It was fun for me, because at the time, Jeremy was working at Industrial Light & Magic, and was a big-time digital matte artist. Do you remember the ship encased in ice at the end of "The Day After Tomorrow?" Yeah, Jeremy digitally painted that. But when we walked in, he was impressed because I was on a first-name basis with a lot of comic book artists who actually recognized me, a nobody! But on that trip, I got to meet a number of artists who never frequent the midwest shows that I normally attended. I got to meet Brent Anderson (Astro City), Chris Claremont (X-Men), Steve Rude (Nexus), and my artistic hero, Neal Adams! It was the best surprise I have ever received, and I don't think it can be topped.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Delusions of Grandeur...Not so Much.

C-3PO, in Empire: "Artoo, you don't know how to fix a hyperdrive."

Uh, Threepio? Do you know what R2-D2's primary function is? You know, besides delivering secret plans? He's an astrodroid. He fixes spaceships.

Seriously, did George Lucas even look at the scripts he commissioned?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Almost There...

Wow, am I tired.

Whenever my will to blog disappears, I know I'm at a point where I need a break. Between teaching summer school, working on my book project, and writing curriculum for next year, I've been too busy to really consider this vacation. I really felt it the past two days. Now, I'm looking ahead. A final exam tomorrow, a quick portfolio review of student work, and off we go.

I'm going to try to pack the car tonight in the hopes of leaving as soon as I can get home on Thursday for Mesick and five days of luxuriating at a nice campsite on the Manistee River. Today, I'm getting my hair cut, picking up some reading material to supplement the Doc Savage books I didn't finish on spring break, and packing up. I have made my list, checked it twice, and I think I have planned pretty well. I already picked up dry foods this past weekend, along with new batteries for the ceiling fan and the air pump. All that's left to do is put it in the minivan. We also have to pay a few bills today, pick up our computers from the repair shop, and book Theresa's plane ticket for her visit in August, but that shouldn't take very long.

If that doesn't all get done tomorrow, that's no big deal. We can make our trip more leisurely on Friday morning. I can stop at G&D Party Store in Cadillac for a sandwich for lunch and set up the tent in broad daylight instead.

All I know is that I want to sit by water and relax.

Friday, June 04, 2010

To the Batmobile!

Neal Adams is drawing Batman again! I have something in pop culture to live for now that Lost has ended!

Go here if you are on Facebook.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Congratulations, Dana

My friend and colleague, Dana Homo, is retiring this year. Here's the speech I gave yesterday to honor him:

"When I came to Pierre Moran in 1997, I was placed into the ultimate middle school teaching situation. Dana Homo, Dave Walker, Laura Bultemeier and I were a team. We were in a block system then, and we were block 8B. It was amazingly successful, and in no small part it was thanks to Dana’s leadership. It was the only time that it was ever appropriate to call Dana a blockhead.

"Dana is by far the smartest person I know. He exemplifies the idea of lifelong learning. His mastery of the language is second to none and the sheer number of books he has read is beyond compare.

"Dana has been an innovator. His ideas led our block to use the middle school concept to its full advantage. We created interdisciplinary units that involved all four core teachers at the same time. Under Dana’s guidance, our students hunted mammoths and wrote about the experience. He spent hours setting up game tables with prehistoric settings and painted figures that the students then used to simulate a hunt. Using a game system that he devised, our students were part of Pickett’s Charge, both on the Union side as well as the Confederate side. He engaged students and inspired generations of them. I don’t mean that figuratively. He was teaching his third generation of some Elkhart families this year.

"I wouldn’t trade those eight years we were teamed for anything. It was the most rewarding experience of my career. I will forever remember them as the good old days and will probably regale younger teachers for a long time of those days just as Dana always regaled us with tales of the Halcyon Days of Brookdale. I think that I know more about those times now than anyone else who never worked there. He knew he was part of something special when he worked there, and I am thankful that he shared that experience…over and over again.

"What most people don’t realize about Dana is how much he did behind the scenes for Pierre Moran. He served on numerous committees and quite often was the most vocal advocate of not only Pierre Moran’s students but also its staff. He saved us many, many times from unreasonable people trying to do unreasonable things. One of the benefits of his long experience was his ability to recognize old concepts dressed up in new clothes. He would often deconstruct new terminology and buzzwords before the author of the latest educational fad had time to explain it to those of us who hadn’t seen it before. He kept presenters honest with tough questions and preserved the integrity of Pierre Moran’s educational programs.

"I know many of you will miss Dana. I won’t. Because I’ll still see him. We’ll still make our trips to Detroit to see ball games and we’ll still eat at great restaurants together and we’ll still meet in his pole barn to play games together. I only wish I could have granted his one request about my speaking about him today. He asked me to keep it short. Sorry, Dana. This is the best I could do and you deserve no less."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lessons Learned from "Lost" (SPOILERS THIS TIME)

Spoilers follow.

No matter how many people you murder for hire or revenge, no matter how many people you torture (even if it’s for asthma medicine), no matter what dark forces you serve who are trying to destroy the world, you still get to go to heaven.

If you are a doctor who violates the Hippocratic oath, deliberately killing a patient, cut open a dural sack to blackmail people into saving your friends, even if you become a drug addict after ratting out your father for the same offense, and order the torture of an innocent man, you still get to go to heaven.

If you steal a woman’s child, raising her as your own and then allow her to die to save yourself—even if you bring a woman to an island so that you can claim ownership of her—if you constantly lie, cheat, even murder an entire village of people (not to mention the island’s protector) to advance your own interests, you still get to go to heaven.

You can blow up your stepfather’s house, killing him, get your husband killed while fleeing the police, rob a bank just to get a pair of plastic wings, and you still get to go to heaven.

You can con people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, strangle a bound man, shoot another for revenge, have a child out of wedlock, rob dead bodies to keep their items for barter, and shoot a polar bear, and you still get to go to heaven.

What did you have to do to go to hell on “Lost?”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


No spoilers! Feel free to read if you've never seen "Lost."

I wasn’t watching “Lost” when it started in 2004. It was still baseball season. And while the Tigers weren’t in the race, I was just getting back into baseball after a long absence and I couldn’t get enough. My wife kept telling me about this great new show, and while it sounded interesting, I couldn’t tear myself away from the Tigers. So, I missed the first few episodes and figured that I’d just have to watch it later. When they started rerunning the show on Saturdays, I was still watching baseball but it started to occur to me that the show must be pretty good. Then, in December, when baseball was long over they started showing the first season over again on Wednesday nights. I was hooked.

I’m not going to try to convert anyone into becoming a fan of this show. Like my reaction to “Watchmen” last year, I loved it and I don’t really care who else does or doesn’t. I don’t care what the ratings were, how many people watched the finale Sunday night, or what anyone else thinks about it. For me, “Lost” was the ultimate TV experience. Like “Twin Peaks” before it, “Lost” kept you guessing. It was non-formulaic. The one thing I hate about TV series is how they repeat the same formula, over and over again. I don’t understand how anyone likes “Law & Order,” “NCIS,” all of the “CSI” shows, or even “House,” although the latter has been surprising lately. I like shows such as “Hill Street Blues” and “The Wire,” which were episodic, yet told a very long story with ongoing subplots, like televised novels.

“Lost” was the ultimate water cooler show. Scenes and events were open to interpretation. Where the show looked initially to be just another version of “Cast Away,” (the producers did use the Tom Hanks movie as inspiration), that notion was quickly dispelled in the first two hours when Sawyer killed a polar bear. But when the pilot of the crashed plane was yanked bodily from the cockpit (which was suspended high in a tree) by some unseen monster and slaughtered, it was abundantly clear that the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 were not on a typical tropical island.

People who weren’t familiar with the show have asked me over the years, “Isn’t that the show about the plane crash?” I always responded sarcastically and said something like, “Yeah, and the Star Wars trilogy is about two robots that crash in the desert.” It’s hard to describe the show, though, to someone who hasn’t experienced it. The first season was primarily about survival on the island, but it’s so much more I don’t know where to begin. The show is about survival, yes. But it’s more about faith. It’s about destiny. It’s about redemption. It’s about purpose, greed, leadership, guilt, love, hate, fear, revenge, compassion, perseverance, jealousy, protection. It’s about people.

“Lost” was a great show partially because of storytelling techniques. When we first meet the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 they have already crashed. We see how they act under the worst conditions imaginable. Through flashbacks, though, each character in turn is fleshed out, their motivations examined, their previous interactions with the world and even the other characters revealed. Through the looking glass into the past, the viewer finds that each character has his or her own flaws, and more than a few secrets.

Over time, “Lost” became a show that Magi and I watched together. We found ourselves having conversation after conversation after each show about the mythology surrounding the island and the interactions of the characters. Then, when that wasn’t enough, we started watching it together. We’d have conversations during the commercials. Sometimes the commercials came so abruptly that we were upset by the interruption, but other times we appreciated the chance to reflect together on what had just occurred. I don’t know how many times we both said, when an episode ended, that it was the best show ever. It was dozens of times, at least. We often found performances that we thought should earn Emmy awards. Josh Holloway, who played Sawyer, had a number of scenes last season that should have made him a shoo-in. Sadly, when any kind of science fiction or fantasy element is added to a show, your Emmy chances drop like a hot potato, and “Lost” has its share of those. Actors of the highest quality are often relegated to other science fiction shows of decidedly lesser quality when their shows go off the air. I hope that doesn’t happen with these people. They deserve better.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the music, here. It’s so important to the pure emotion of the story. Michael Giacchino, whom I’ve mentioned before, is one of the real stars of the show. His Academy Award-winning score for “Up” is really a spinoff of his work on “Lost.” The montage that introduced us to Carl Fredrickson is indicative of his previous work on this show. Often, the directors would just shoot a montage of the interactions of the cast of characters with Giacchino’s score over it to close an episode. There was no need for dialogue. And in the series finale Sunday night, his Oscar win was shown to be entirely justified.

If the music wasn’t beautiful enough, the setting of “Lost” certainly was. Filmed almost entirely in Hawaii, we were treated week after week to lush, gorgeous scenery that I had not fully appreciated until I saw it in high definition. I typically watched the first several seasons in standard definition, often on my 20” television in my basement office. With Netflix streaming the show in HD to our newer television, we are gaining a new appreciation for the way this show was meant to be seen. We always noticed that the credits were half on the screen and half off, when we watched those first seasons. “Lost” was working ahead of its time, with the full intention of being seen on higher-quality screens, much like “Firefly” was, three years previously. Sometimes we need to be dragged kicking and screaming into a new, more enjoyable experience. I can hardly wait until the series is released on Blu-Ray in August. I have never purchased “Lost” on DVD, so I won’t feel cheated for having waited.

Another amazing quality of the show was the fan following. Like Star Trek before it, “Lost” has a cult following. Scads of websites exist in support of the show, cross-referencing character appearances, settings, objects, and events. There are blogs aplenty about it. People comment on Doc Jensen’s blog by the thousands. I have to wonder now what Star Trek would have been like in the 60s if the Internet had existed! I bet it would have looked a lot like this.

I do marvel, though, at the way some of the reviews of the finale have been written. I don’t know how many times I have read something to the effect of, “I haven’t watched ‘Lost’ since the first season but the finale stunk.” People who have hated the show since the beginning have decided to pop by different websites to express their sympathy or disgust for those of us who have watched it for six years. I’m not sure of their motivation for doing so, and I never quite understand the loathing that geeks like us seem to attract, but there’s one thing of which I am sure. These snobs could really learn some lessons in humanity from actually watching the show. The messages sent and the lessons taught therein could benefit them far more than they have benefitted those of us who have seen it through. They shouldn’t feel sorry for us. It is we who should feel sorry for them. On those people, the irony is lost.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Insane Heat Vision Eyes, Redux

Here we go again, only this time, it's part of the new Earth One graphic novel series: "Set in an all-new continuity re-imagining DC's top heroes, Earth One is a new wave of original, stand-alone graphic novels produced by the top writers and artists in the industry."

It seems to me instead of being a model of what humanity aspires to be, Superman is becoming even more of an alien whose appearance is intended to either intimidate or look cool. Take your pick.

Here are some more:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Crossover Hell

I’m not especially fond of the company crossover event in comics these days. I still remember when I was in college, and I discovered that you didn’t have to be a complete nerd to read them. There were even girls who read them! Those were the heady days of the Secret Wars, when the status quo was being upset. For too many years, the Marvel universe was incredibly stable and no one really changed. I remember the excited conversations people were having. “There’s a new guy in the Iron Man suit! And the Hulk broke his leg! And Spider-Man is –gasp—getting a new costume!”

Then we had the Crisis, which crossed over through every DC book. Then Secret Wars II, which crossed over through every Marvel book. And then it just started getting ridiculous. Every so often, there’s a new “event” that is intended to start new books and shake things up. Whatever happened to simply putting together a title that has ongoing stories that someone can enjoy without having to be involved in every facet of these so-called universes? It’s not even that anymore. Now, every subset of the comic book company gets its own crossover, too.

I had really enjoyed this new run of Detective Comics featuring Batwoman, including the backup feature with the new version of the Question. I liked the creative teams and was enjoying the stories immensely. And then, I was removed from the story for a crossover event. Oh, look. Batman's coming back. No one could have predicted that! I stopped buying the title. I was reading and enjoying Batgirl with my daughter. And then, the crossover story came in, interrupting the flow. I stopped buying that title, too. Adventure Comics, with both Superboy and the Legion? Same deal. I don’t know exactly how many times this has happened recently, but I know I don’t like it. I’m not even going to start buying the Flash, even though I enjoy Francis Manapul’s art, because I know the same thing is going to happen.

I am down to buying Invincible and Astro City. One big reason I buy both of those titles is that I know I’m getting the whole story and it won’t be interrupted by some artificially created stunt that derails it. I don’t care about the return of Bruce Wayne. That ship sailed when they brought Jason Todd back to life because Superboy punched a wall. I don’t want to know about the Care Bear Lanterns. I don’t care about a civil war in the Marvel universe if I’m enjoying a Fantastic Four story.

I think one time when this was handled particularly well was when Walt Simonson was writing and drawing Thor. The casket of ancient winters had been shattered and the world was plunged into ice. Even in other titles, the characters were saying stuff like, “Hey, how about that? The world is covered in ice and snow. Oh, well, back to work.” That’s how a crossover should happen. Notice can be taken of a larger event because the characters do exist in a shared universe, but it doesn’t have to be a worldwide catastrophe involving every character who has their own comic book title.

I’m really curious about the new Legion of Superheroes title that Paul Levitz will be writing. I’ve always liked the Legion. One of the nice things about the Legion, for the most part, is that they can be left alone outside the normal continuity of the DC universe. They exist in the future. To them, these earth-shattering events have already happened. But I can almost guarantee that when the next event happens, someone’s going to get sucked back through time. I hope that’s not the case.

DC, can you give me one title that I can read without it being involved in the latest character-killing, dead-raising, rape-and-dismemberment fest? Please?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

It's Been Awhile...

It's been awhile since I did a full character sketch. As I draw more, hopefully I'll get back to at least the level I reached in the 90s!

Happy Mother's Day

To my wonderful wife, Magi. We couldn't ask for more happiness as a family.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Catching Up

Iron Man 2 comes out tomorrow. Can’t wait!

Ernie Harwell passed away. I heard his voice probably more than any other in my childhood. I’ll have to do a longer post about this soon.

Teachers remain under attack. National Teacher Appreciation Day came and went and I didn’t hear one person say anything about it. When I mentioned it at our faculty meeting on Tuesday our principal said, “Was that today?”

There are 18 days of school left with students. Then I have four days off (including the weekend) before summer school begins. Darned lazy part-time teachers!

May 4th has unofficially become National Star Wars Day. “May the 4th be With You…” Get it? How has it taken this long for someone to come up with that?

Speaking of Star Wars, I think I’m going to wait and have Sera watch it when it comes out on Blu-Ray (now that it’s been announced) and we have a bigger TV. And, we’ll watch it at night. I want her to get as close to the theater experience as possible. I just hope we are given the choice of watching the original version. Han shot first (and last)!!

I’m still not reading much in the way of comics. I’m still reading Invincible, Astro City, and that’s about it for regular comics.

Speaking of comics, I read the first 50 or so issues of Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” in bookstores over the past few months in a huge compendium. I normally don’t go in for zombie stuff, but his name was enough to get me to start. And once I started, I didn’t want to put it down. AMC is making a TV series out of it. Good stuff.

I’m drawing again. I don’t have a lot of time for it right now, but in a few weeks, I’ll be back at it. I got a new graphics tablet to replace the one I gave to my niece over a year ago, and I really want to learn how to use it well. She has inspired me.

I wish I could use the font that I set up as my default in Microsoft Word as my font on the blog. It’s CCComicrazy from Comicraft.

Rumor has it that through a grant, every secondary math teacher in our system is getting an interactive whiteboard next year to improve math instruction. I’m very excited about this. I’ve been using a document camera/LCD projector for a few years now to improve my instruction, and the whiteboard will allow me to do animations, show videos to get realistic data to analyze, and better capture the attention of my videogame-oriented students. I’ve been reading blogs written by young teachers who are doing some really cool stuff in the classroom and I will never be too old to learn from them. I don’t want to be one of those teachers who quits because technology and new techniques pass them by.

Facebook is great. I have reconnected with so many people I haven’t had contact with in years! I communicate with old school friends (some of whom are grandparents!), some of my old teachers, former and current colleagues, and people who post on the Tigers message board.

Economics have forced us to cut way back on everything. We now look at our expenditures much more critically. For example, going to the movies, just for the three of us, is a $35 experience if we get popcorn and snacks. We can buy the Blu-Ray of a movie for $20-$25 when it comes out and watch it as many times as we want.

Speaking of not going to the movies, I have no interest in the Jonah Hex movie. The character was retconned into a supernatural figure a few years ago, and that aspect never appealed to me.

That's all I can think of for now. Hopefully I'll get a sketch or two done this weekend and can have something to show off.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Bad Blogger!

I was reminded by one of my colleagues today that I hadn't posted anything in a while. She was right, and I will do better. It's just that Facebook is so much easier and I have a much wider audience. I'm working on something that I'll have posted here soon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Transportation Upgrade

Wow. Look how she's grown.

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's About Time!

Soon, we'll have the flying car.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Captain Tea Party

I wonder if Marvel will now be justified in showing a Tea Party crowd scene in one of their Captain America comics. Look what this guy wore to the Tea Party gathering in Washington today!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


We got off to a rocky start last week, but I sure am glad it happened. On the Thursday before vacation was to begin, it was unseasonably warm. I turned on the air conditioning in the minivan, and all I got in return was hot air. We took the van in, and it turned out to be a disconnected hose, which apparently was a common problem with our model. Fortunately, the dealership was able to locate a part for it, but unfortunately they couldn't get the part or fix the van until Friday. We just couldn't go to Alabama without air conditioning. We've been stuck in hot traffic there too many times.

After we finally got the minivan packed and hit the road, we made a quick side stop at Trader Joe's in Indianapolis. Let me just take this opportunity to say that I love Trader Joe's. They have a lot of food that is considerably lower in sodium than the norm. I can get beef jerky there that I can actually eat, as well as no salt corn chips that are quite tasty. Their microwave popcorn is unbeatable and even good for you. But probably the best thing they make is their organic version of Spaghettio's, called Joe's O's. I eat them for lunch with a chopped up hamburger, or a hot dog, sometimes chicken. Whatever I add, they are great! I also got several boxes of Vanilla Almond granola to add to my breakfast yogurt. That's some good stuff, too.

As we made our way south, we took advantage of McDonald's dollar drinks, because we knew that for speed and ease, Happy Meals were going to be the easiest thing for Sera to eat in the car. But because of something that happened later, we may have to revisit this strategy next time.
We hit some stop and start traffic near Nashville, and drove about 30 miles in one hour. This is not bad compared to what we got on the way back. We finally rolled into Gulf Shores, Alabama at about 6:45 AM local time. We decided to go to our favorite breakfast place, Hazel's Nook. Hazel's has been in Gulf Shores since there has been a Gulf Shores. They have a breakfast buffet that simply is the best breakfast on the planet. They have the usual scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, etc. The main feature of their breakfast, thought, is their scratch-made biscuits. Because sausage gravy is bad for me, I smother mine with strawberries, which are always in season when we get there for spring break. When you can finish your breakfast with a suitable dessert, you have a good breakfast! Refueled, we made our way down Fort Morgan Road and got to the Plantation resort at around 8:30, unpacked, and then crashed.

We got up after a few hours and drove back up to the bay. Magi's sister and her father and stepmother both have bay houses on Mobile Bay, right next to each other. Magi's youngest sister, Jessica, and her two children were already there, and we got to meet our newest nephew, Julian. Here, you see Granddaddy Pedro employing his infamous sleeper hold on the boy. The kids played happily and Sera and Josie really enjoyed the inflatable pool. When we finally got to bed, we did one of our favorite things. No, not that. We opened the sliding glass door so we could hear the waves crashing. There is no more relaxing sound.

The next day, Easter Sunday, we went back out to the bay, and enjoyed a nice ham dinner and some barefoot volleyball. It was very relaxed, but I was starting to get itchy. When I get to the Gulf, I need shrimp!

But first, Magi developed one of her patented cysts. They appear at the most inopportune times and in the most uncomfortable places. We made a trip into town to the local urgent care center to get it looked at, and while Magi waited in the long line, I went out to Billy's Seafood to get some shrimp. Billy's is in Bon Secour, right on the river, and in the picture you can even see the boats. The shrimp you get at Billy's literally comes in off the boats and into their store. It's fresh. They will even steam and season them for you for $1.00 extra per pound. For the price of one decent dinner in town, I got four pounds of jumbo shrimp and a quart of seafood gumbo. I got back to pick Magi up, picked up her antibiotic prescription, and since we were out already we decided to go get some lunch.

Mikee's is usually our first stop in Gulf Shores. No one, and I mean no one makes fried shrimp as well as Mikee's. It is the BEST! Magi had simply a shrimp lunch. I had the all you can eat shrimp, and I did some damage. Then, we got some oysters to go and headed back to the Plantation. By that time, Magi's other sister, Marcia and her kids were there.

We had a pretty good week, but repeated daily trips to the urgent care clinic kind of put a damper on each day. Magi spent a lot of time in pain after having the cyst lanced. At the end of the week, we had a huge family dinner at Villaggio Grille, a restaurant at The Wharf in Orange Beach. We celebrated the birthdays of nephew Ben, and Jessica, and Sera, whose birthday is next Saturday. The cake was called Death By Chocolate Cake, and it was quite tasty. But Sera liked the strawberry accompaniment best!

Our last dinner in Gulf Shores was another family affair at Tacky Jack's 2, which is at the marina near the end of the peninsula near Fort Morgan. I got this nice sunset picture while waiting for our table. We finished the week with shrimp and crab claws and grilled mahi mahi. Thanks to Pedro and Nora for their generosity in not only letting us stay in their condo, but also for some very fine dinners.

Our day yesterday was pretty long. Because Magi is on painkillers, I got to drive the whole way home. And because of the Nashville construction, and the Alabama construction, and the other construction, it took 20 hours to get home. We were sure glad we had the air conditioning fixed before we left! 920 miles in 20 hours, let's see, is an average speed of 46 miles per hour.

I do love our spring breaks in Gulf Shores. Even when adversity strikes, we still find it peaceful and relaxing!

Friday, April 02, 2010


How private could it be?
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Tweeting Vacation

Well, why not try this whole Twitter thing? I'll be tweeting at @ofmasksandmen during my vacation. Oh, and if you try to rob my house, don't forget I have a big dog. If you really want to make him like you, dress up like the UPS guy. I got five stitches a few years ago trying to keep him off the brown shorts.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Today marks my wife's and my 10-year wedding anniversary. Each year, I try to come up with something better than I said the last year. This year, it's about perspective.

My wife is my guide. Whenever I'm not sure of what I should do in a given situation, I try to think about what she would do. Sometimes I don't do what she would do, but I have come to believe that I almost always know what she would do. We've had health scares in the past ten years, the worst being when she developed a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms have killed a lot of people, more than you're probably aware of. They usually get diagnosed post-mortem, so we know we were lucky. And thinking on how I would raise Sera without her, I know that I would be a better father to her because I know how Magi thinks. Even now, my reactions to things that Sera does are tempered because my first thought, as is natural, is how I was treated as a child. And I almost always override my initial instinct before my mouth opens. It would be the same even if she wasn't there. Her presence is that powerful.

She's with me at work, even though we work in separate buildings, a few miles apart. We always exchange emails during the day, and it's a comfort knowing that she's going to be able to answer any question within an hour, at any time. She teaches business at the high school that my middle school feeds, and I know that if I don't do my job correctly, it will make her job harder.

Even when I go out with my friends, we often hang out at Border's in Mishawaka, where Magi worked when she first moved here so long ago. It's impossible to even look at the cafe without thinking of her there, and all the time I spent just hanging out at the bookstore because she was at work while I was not.

Books that I read and music that I listen to will remind me of her, as well. I will always think of my favorite author, Pat Conroy, as her influence. I read Gone with the Wind while shuttling her back and forth to Goshen College while she finished up her teaching requirements. I would listen to a Journey CD that she brought while waiting outside her classroom. One of the songs from that CD became the song that we would dance to at our wedding reception.

It's funny how morbid these thoughts sound when I read them back. It's almost like a eulogy or something. But it's better, I think, to measure the effect that someone has had on your life while they're alive. The problem is that there's no adequate measure for how my wife has changed my life. She makes me a better teacher, a better father, and a better man. I can only hope that someday, I'm good enough to deserve her.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Outside the Box

I am often considered by my colleagues and friends to be well outside the mainstream. I'm okay with that. I like to consider what I do to be thinking outside the box. When I walk into my school's conference room for lunch, I more often than not will be carrying a grilled New York strip steak and a baked potato. Some of my colleagues (the ones who are not my friends) look at me like I'm crazy or a spendthrift ("Who are you, Howard Hughes? Bill Gates?" followed by raucous, yet one-sided laughter), but the economics of my lunch are rather simple.

School lunches are outrageously expensive for what they are and moreover for what they taste like. As a teacher, I'd have to pay $3.25 per day for a school lunch. A couple of weeks ago, I bought an entire New York strip for $3.99 per pound. I had the guy at the meat counter cut it up into eight-ounce steaks, and when I got home I sealed each one up in its own freezer bag at a cost of $0.20 each and dropped it into the freezer. I bought a 10-pound bag of Yukon Gold potatoes for $4.00, which yields me 20 potatoes at a cost of $0.20 each. Throughout the morning, my steak thaws in my lunch bag. At 11:05 I use my garage sale George Foreman grill to cook up my steak while the potato bakes in the microwave. In five minutes, I have a healthily grilled New York strip steak and a plain but tasty baked potato, which costs me a grand total of $2.40.

And the best part of it is, my lunch is always outside the box.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Comic Book Villain Attacks Minority Whip

From the Washington Independent:

"The Richmond Police Department is investigating an act of vandalism at the
Reagan Building, 25 E. Main St., Richmond, Virginia. A first floor window
was struck by a bullet at approximately 1 a.m. on Tuesday, March 23. The
building, which has several tenants including an office used by Congressman Eric
Cantor, was unoccupied at the time.

A Richmond Police detective was assigned to the case.
A preliminary investigation shows that a bullet was fired into the
air and struck the window in a downward direction, landing on the floor about a foot from the window. The round struck with enough force to break the windowpane but did not penetrate the window blinds.
There was no other damage to the room, which is used occasionally for meetings by the congressman.

The Richmond Police Department is sharing information about the
incident with appropriate law enforcement agencies."

The only reasonable explanation is that the bullet was fired by master marksman Deadshot. Who else could have fired a bullet upward into the air, and have it hit its intended target on the downward arc? We can only hope that Batman is on the case.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sugar Camp Days

Each year at Bendix Woods Park in western St. Joseph County, Indiana we have Sugar Camp Days. It's a weekend where there are tours of the sugarbush, complete with lectures and lessons on how European settlers learned from Native Americans how they tapped sugar maples and made maple sugar and syrup. There's a pancake breakfast with all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausages. And the best part of the whole thing is that they use real maple syrup made on site. There are also demonstrations of ice sculpture, as well as making kettle corn in a real cast iron kettle. Guess who liked that?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Can See Clearly Now...

...the train is gone!
I don't know for how long, but the grafitti-covered train that has sat idle behind our house for the better part of a year is now gone. We still miss our treeline, of course, but at least we can look at a wooded area across the tracks without seeing George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fire the Doctors!

Paraphrased from USA Today:

Under President Barack Obama's new plan to reform health care, the USA's lowest 5% of hospitals — about 5,000 — will be required to take drastic steps to improve, including firing their chief administrator and, in some cases, at least half of their doctors, as happened last month at a Rhode Island hospital.

Shocked? Now replace the words "health care," "hospitals," "chief administrator," and "doctors" with "education," "principal," "schools" and "teachers," respectively. Does it sound acceptable now?

If you base the hospitals' performances on survival rates, where do you suppose those lowest 5% are going to be? I would guess that they'd be in the same neighborhoods where the lowest 5% of schools are.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Worrisome Things

"But there is also worrisome things, as I understand in the blueprint." --Former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, commenting on President Obama's new education plan.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The 2010 Academy Awards

Michael Giacchino won for Best Music (original score). That's all I cared about. This guy's music is simply the best. The first ten minutes of "Up" was one of the most beautiful sequences I've ever seen put on film. It made me cry and Giacchino's score was a big part of the emotional impact.

His original score was the best thing about the new Star Trek movie. And his music from "Lost" plays a huge role in conveying the drama in my favorite television show. His soundtrack from "The Incredibles" was the one of the first CD's I put on my iPod. It's evocative of John Barry's James Bond music with some 60s Batman thrown in.

Congratulations, Michael!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Lesson from Mark Twain

"Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog."--Mark Twain

If I Were a Rich Man...

...I'd have one of these.

But since I'm not, it'll be the superhero team headquarters in the next RPG I run or play in.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

NCLB Not Working? You're Kidding!

This article from NPR tells the story. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch changed her mind about the law, saying exactly what teachers have been saying since the passage of the law: "The basic strategy is measuring and punishing."

Give me accountability. Test them when they come in and test them when they leave. If they don't gain a year's worth of growth, I'll tell you exactly why. If you have data that proves me wrong, fire me. That's accountability I can believe in. But don't come in and think that a kid who can't reliably multiply 8 X 7 in his or her head when entering 8th grade is going to magically be able to graph and manipulate quadratic equations just because you threaten to close my school, transport all the students elsewhere and fire the whole staff. And that's what I've been hearing since 2002. Yes, I'm mad. It's about time someone with a platform was heard on this matter.

Monday, March 01, 2010

No More

“Why you talkin’ shit?”

That’s what one of my students said to me when I reprimanded him for throwing paper at another student. It’s not the worst thing ever said to me in school. It’s not even close. That would be, “Get your goddamned hands off me before I break your fucking glasses.” I had told that particular student to report to the office and he walked the other way. I had audaciously placed my hand on his arm to gently guide him in the right direction. Before I tell you what was done to these students, I want to you think carefully about what would have happened to you when you were in 8th grade if you had spoken to a teacher in that way. Do you have it in mind? Good. The paper thrower was suspended for one day. The would-be glasses breaker was sent to class (not mine) without punishment.

This isn’t a recent development. In my career I have seen things that would make the average person cry. Once, in my first three years of teaching, my colleagues and I were coming back to school from lunch. We were walking from our cars to the front door, when we found a student lying between cars, bleeding profusely from his mouth, his nose, his ears, and his eyes. He had been “beaten into” a gang. At that same school, I often encountered evidence that students had defecated in the stairwell. Students would have to walk through puddles of urine to get to class because someone had relieved themselves in the hallway. I remember a mother coming in to my classroom to find out where her daughter had been after school every day. When she found out that the daughter was taking an after school class to get an extra math credit, the mother punched her daughter in the face. Two students, both innocent bystanders, were shot at graduation because they happened to be seated between two thugs who started shooting at each other on sight. There was one time when an assistant principal’s voice came over the intercom, calling for a student who had been shot to death earlier in the school year to report to the main office. I sometimes joke that I called security once in 1989 to come get an unruly student who refused to leave the classroom. When I left that school in 1997, I was still waiting for the security guard to show up.

This is an example of what teachers face today. These are our clientele. Sure, we have good kids. Sure, we have students who are going to be doctors in our classes. Those kids do well under our tutelage. But some days, we face an uphill battle maintaining discipline and motivating students to take a more active part in their learning. How do you appeal to the hard core banger, the kid with 13’s drawn all over their notebooks? What’s that? You don’t know what that is? Google “Sur 13” and come on back. Aren’t you glad you looked? What can a teacher do to change that kid’s mind about the horrible situation that is his or her life? What can I, an individual who has clearly won the education game, offer this kid when ALL of his peers pressure him to not do well in school? Oh, yes, the pressure is there. It is a violation of protocol to do well—heck, to do anything in class. And yet, I keep hearing about how 51% of my evaluation is going to be based on my students’ test scores. If I lose my job over that, good luck finding someone who wants to replace me. This isn’t a picnic.

In 23 years, I have broken up at least 100 fights. I have been personally attacked and have had to defend myself. I have had my property destroyed, stolen, marked with graffiti, and my car has been vandalized in the school parking lot. Despite this, I have put thousands of dollars of my own money into my classroom, with the purchases of dry-erase boards, markers, computers, document cameras, VCRs, DVD players, LCD projectors, and last but not least, batteries for an insulin pump. No, I do not have diabetes. One of my students did and I didn’t want her to have to report to the nurse and miss class just because her pump needed a new battery, which happened frequently. I have given out my home phone number so that students could call for help if their parents were not able to help them. I have volunteered my time in innumerable committees, such as the school improvement team, the homework committee, the climate committee, the PL221 (look it up) committee. I have coached sports, sponsored events, hosted talent shows. You name it, and I’ve done it to help my students learn and to help my school improve. And I, by the way, am far from unique in my building.

I am sick and tired of the constant teacher bashing I see in the press and on television. You want to assign blame for the failure of students in today’s public schools? Look somewhere else. I’m not having any. Not today and not ever.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

To Infinity...and Beyond!

I would totally see this movie.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More Education Fun from the Indianapolis Star

Another great article with supportive comments on education in the Indianapolis Star. I love my job! Here are some of the highlights from the comments section with my commentary following. I don't have a large platform, but at least I have one from which to pontificate:

"Tell me why class sizes can't be increased. We should start by quadrupling the size of history, geography, and English literature classes. Not only would that save money, it would make them more "college prep"."

Because studies link class size with student performance. College students are assumed to be well-motivated already.

“What the 'educators' really meant by what they said- ‘If you force us to make more cuts, we (the Educators) will hurt the kids’.I think their threat is serious, and disgusting.”

No, what they meant was that when you cut payroll and jobs, class sizes go up. It's really not that complicated, but if the malicious teacher conspiracy theory works for you, go for it. Why is "educators" in quotes, anyway? Are you quoting from somewhere?

"We set up a system such that 'educators' are created by sending them to school to learn the process of teaching (we're still banning people from teaching who focus on the subject matter)."

No one has banned anyone from teaching anymore than I've been banned from practicing medicine. There is a necessary component of education courses that goes with practicing the profession. This comment will also come in handy further down.*

"Spoken like a true union socialist! Like out of the Saul Alinsky playbook.....spread fear to the populus! ALL OF US MUST MAKE REDUCTIONS IN SPENDING FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO THE PUBLIC CORRUPTOCRATS!!!!! They have liked hgh on the hog from the public trough! They can make the cuts but would rather scare the parents. This is evil! These union thugs want to keep their golden egg and not reveal all of the excessess in the budget like the travel to vacation conferences (what a joke)."

Yes, because we teachers are all about the travel to education conferences. In 23 years of teaching I've been to one. It was in Indianapolis and I had to provide my own transportation without reimbursement. They're onto us. Bwahahahahaha!

"(Governor Mitch) Daniels went to North Central High School in Indianapolis which is a public school. He knows the quality of education found in many of our public schools."

Governor Daniels graduated from high school in 1967. Things have changed a little bit since then.

"Everybody wants to nip here, and tuck there, but nobody is talking about the ultimate, and only real workable solution to a failed public school model. Like the politicians in Indianapolis and DC, THEY ALL GOTTA GO! Parents are responsible for the education of their children, always have been, always will be. But the EDUCATION-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX (EIC) has co-opted that parental responsibility over the past one hundred years, one small step at a time, so that it's now the mantra of the EIC "Only WE, the professional educators, possess the knowledge and skills necessary to educate children. Parents are incompetent buffoons who do not deserve this "highest" of callings." Besides hi-jacking parental authority, they (EIC) have also hi-jacked the curricula at all levels. Our kids have become goons to the progressive ideas of the past 100 years. Got a kid in school? Organize with other parents at your school and sue the corporation for funding to be paid directly to you."

Time to change the tin foil in which your head is wrapped.

"Make parents more responsible for their children by making them drive their children to school in the morning and picking them up when school is over. Just think if IPS got rid of the busing how much money would be saved. No more need for bus drivers, pensions and benefits; and no need to purchase buses, insurance, fuel charges, maintenance, parking lot facilities, and other sundry expenses with owning and operating the current system. How do the private school kids get to school? They do not have buses!"

They generally have two parents at home, one of which can drive them to school.

"There were 36 in my 6th grade class, and the teacher was 75 and wore a leg brace because of a childhood bout with polio. Somehow she managed to keep up with us, and we even learned, because there was nobody standing around telling us we couldn't possibly.Typical Ed Professional move here, hold the knife to the kids' throats till they get what they want."

And I walked to school in the snow, uphill... both ways!

"Just one real quick way for the State to raise MILLIONS of dollars each month is to outlaw the Teachers Union and take the money they are stelaing and put it ot good use. It's that simple!"

Um, I give my money freely to the teachers' union. They provide me with liability insurance in case I get sued for breaking up a fight. I think that's a pretty good use.

"I getting a little tired of the "hurt kids" angle from the educators. And educator I know pays 7 bucks a month for COMPLETE health insurance. I understand they don't want to lose cash, but the hurting kids angle is getting a little old."

Wow. I pay $5,000 a year in premiums and my school system kicks in another $8,000 for a policy with a $4,000 deductible. I want that guy's health insurance!

"A 10% across the board cut in teacher and administrator salaries and benefits would easily take of the problem with no impact on students."

Well, except for the people you will drive out of the profession because it's no longer feasible for them to work for such a pittance. Good luck finding those highly qualified people to replace them.

"Unfortunately, some teachers will suffer by any budget cuts, but that blame lays squarely on the shoulders of the Friggin union."


"Wish I could make $50,000 a year with summers off, Christmas break, Spring break, Fall break and every holiday off..."

Me, too. After 23 years, I finally make $50,000 but I have to work summers to do it.

After that, it started getting political:

"If we cut more funding for these libs, they will,,,well maybe possibly have a real job like most of us. I say we cut another 25% from school budget and give it to small business to help create local Indiana jobs. How's that?"

Sounds perfect. Who's going to teach your kids?

"But then techers would have to work hard and teach because the money would not flow as freely for them to spend and waste. Schools and Obama have the same liberal/Progressive agends, 'make others pay for me'Any one refuting my feelings can just go pound sand."

Well, I can't argue with that logic, except for the part where I spend and waste money. As a teacher I have no control over what money is spent or wasted. I guess I need to go pound sand.

"My kids are grown up now, but I remember the ridiculous mindsets of most of the educators. The teachers somehow believed that all parents held jobs like theirs----you know, where you get off work well before 5p.m. and get three months of paid time to get refreshed over the summer months. I'm not sure teachers are in touch with the real world of work. I wish they'd just quit pretending to know what it's like to have professional work demands."

Yes, I get off work well before 5 p.m. I also get to work before you even wake up to go to your 9-to-5 job, you pompous idiot. Three months of paid time in the summer? In what universe do you live?

"Simple solution to education costs. Treat teachers like sales reps.Base pay $10,000 per year. Maximum bonus to $40,000 per year.To achieve bonus to get to $50,000 per year, teachers must graduate a certain number of students to the next grade level or from school at graduation.So many kids equals so much bonus etc etc The state ( only Republican/Conservatives in power) assigns monitors to judge testing of the kids to assure that they were given an education.If the teacher graduates 85% of kids, they get a small portion of the $40,000 bonus. The maximum bonus of $40,000 kicks in when 100% of kirs are graduated to the next level.I bet there would be a MASS EXODUS of teachers who are lazy and Liberal because they can't teach,(like it is now). Easy solution, budget cut is effective and Indiana saves money and property taxes go down. How's that?"

Well, as long as it's only us lazy liberals leaving, that's okay then.


Can't argue with that and wouldn't try to.

"All Children, no matter what their Religion should be taught the truth, the Bible, Sara Palin understands this and will be our next president. We need more Conservatives in the school system!"

I agree. There are too many of us liberals who think that poor people should have the same access to education as the wealthy.

"I think pro-creation by anyone Liberal should not be tolerated. They have mucked up our government, mucked up our schools and mucked up out Constitution. I declare open season HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA"

I feel safer already.

"So? Who cares WHAT fund it comes from?If you don't have to budget $50 million to build a football field that's $50 million you can allocate to a different fund, or $50 million YOU DON'T HAVE TO SPEND IN THE 1ST PLACE.Saying it comes from a different fund is just an attempt to muddy the water."

No, the law says that the money in the general fund and the money in a capital projects fund cannot be mixed. *Sorry, that's just those unnecessary education courses I mentioned above kicking in.

This is just a sample of the backlash we educators are facing every time an article on education is published in the newspaper. Yikes.

UPDATE: Here's a new one this morning:

"increasing class size is what the teachers already did to damage the kids. we need to disban this evil teachers union and allow the thousands of great school teachers to get jobs who now can't. cut teaching pay to be market rates, which would be 50% of their current costs. subs today are paid 75 bucks a day and they are thrilled with it. union teachers doing the same days work get 400 a day in pay INCLUDING BENIFITS !! the benifit package for a union teacher, is more per day than the wage cost of a sub teacher !!!! this is a horriable waste of our kids resources. teachers have driven the cost up to 10,400 bucks for a 180 days of teaching. end the union and help the kids, our kids suffer because of these teachers."

Let's see, $75 x 180 = $13,500 per year with no health insurance. With health insurance and taxes withdrawn, I would make about -$2,500 per year. Bonus!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fly, Fatass, Fly!--Updated

Go, Kevin!

Kevin Smith is one of my favorite filmmakers, so I am clearly biased. If you haven't heard about his situation this weekend, he was asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight because of his size. He claims that he fit between the armrests and was buckled in without a seat belt extender. Southwest claims that he has purchased two seats in the past, but on this standby flight, with only one seat available, he was a safety risk. He took the next flight and flew in one seat, even though he had purchased two.

I know how I think the situation probably worked, but I wasn't there. I can't honestly say that I know for certain who's right. But the comments section of every single website I have seen covering this story has innumerable comments insulting fat people, saying things like they all smell because they can't wipe themselves, they're rude and inconsiderate, and that they should just eat less and exercise.

Well, I'm here to tell you that's a load of nonsense. After I lost a lot of weight last year, I hit a dead end. In the past year, I have worked out hard at least 300 out of 365 days, and have been very careful about what I eat and haven't lost any weight since May. I simply don't have the time to do more than my 30-minute workout each day, because then it's followed by a15-minute cooldown and a five minute shower. After getting dressed again, the better part of an hour is gone. I simply don't have more time than an hour in a single weekday.

There are also people who have medical conditions that prevent them from losing weight. But it doesn't matter to some of these people making comments. We're all just fatties. One of the reasons I stopped watching "Real Time with Bill Maher" last year was because of his constant ranting about overweight people. He's a pot smoking womanizer, but that's apparently okay with him. The real offenders are people who are overweight. I'd like to meet him so I could challenge him to a 10-mile bike race. I guarantee I would literally beat him by a mile.

The simple fact of the matter is that some of us are going to be built like this no matter what we do. Being overweight, I seem to belong to the last class against whom it is acceptable to discriminate. It'll be interesting to see how this whole thing plays out.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sera's First Snowman

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Now THIS is an Education Blog!

Here is one of the cleverest ideas for an education blog I've ever seen. This teacher eats the school lunch every day for a year and writes about it. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Days

I officially hate snow days. I used to look forward to them when I was a kid, but that was back in the day when schools didn't have to make them up. We have to make up any days that we miss in our school system, but fortunately we have three days built into our calendar in the spring to use as makeup days. If we don't need to use them, we have those days off. Those are days off without pay, by the way. I'm not saying that to try to get sympathy where none is deserved, it's just that I always feel the need to correct public perception that teachers have all these days off and still get paid for them. The snow makeup days are typically Fridays and Mondays and this year, they are April 2, May 7, and May 17. They make for nice three-day weekends when the weather is warm, but I was really looking forward to having April 2 off so that we could extend our spring break by a day. I was thinking last year when I was lying on the beach in Gulf Shores how much I would have liked that extra day in the Alabama sun rather than having an unscheduled day off in the middle of a snowstorm.

This morning, school was called off, but not before Magi was already showered and dressed and I was in the bathroom getting ready to shower. It's always remarkable to me that the decision to close school is made so late. Were road conditions significantly better 30 minutes before it was called off?

It's also amusing to watch the game unfold on the bottom of the screen on the morning news. Little schools in the area close all the time but the Big Three, as we call them, check to see who will blink first. Elkhart, Penn, and South Bend are the major school systems in the television viewing area, with thousands and thousands of students each. And each morning following a snowstorm, we watch to see who's going to call it off. This morning, Elkhart went first. After we went back to bed, we watched for a while, and our local school system (Penn) called off at 6:45. I did not envy those poor teachers. We would have already been dropping Sera off at daycare by that time!

So, I guess we'll make the best of it. Magi and Sera are going to bake a King Cake today to celebrate Mardi Gras. I'll shovel the driveway (again) and maybe do some drawing. I haven't had the chance to do that in a while!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

We Have a Winner!

La Porte's Michael Beach gets it. Most of the commenters at the bottom of the section clearly do not:

"U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Indiana Superintendent of Public
Instruction Tony Bennett's visionary plans for improvement and accountability in
education have far-reaching possibilities for effecting positive change in other

Although the education of our children is of utmost importance,
what could be a greater priority than our own health? It's a life and death
issue. I propose a Race to the Top for health care.

National standards already exist for individuals' weight, blood sugar,
cholesterol and blood pressure.

Physicians would be evaluated every year, with
more than half their annual review based on how well their patients met their
health goals. Physicians would be sorted into four categories, from highly
efficient to inefficient, with bonuses for the best performers.

Physicians in the lowest categories could be targeted for dismissal. New
physicians who are still rated inefficient after six years would lose their
medical licenses. The plan would allow Indiana to take over the lowest
performing physician groups, give them to a private management company and
eventually offer them the chance to return to their original medical groups or
become a charter group.

Under the plan, medical schools could risk
losing their accreditation if their graduates don't perform well.

The same process of measured performance and accountability through consequences could be applied to other vital areas as well, such as social services."