Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

I was going to do a long post today about my Grandpa McClain, who would have been 100 years old today. I was going to post pictures of Grandpa, but whenever I start going through the family photographs I got from my late father, I end up seeing pictures of myself as a child, and it's a child I don't know. There are hundreds of pictures of me in these boxes, and 99% of them are from before my parents divorced and the abuse began.

One of the least pleasant things about suffering abuse as a child is that it features lingering effects. My brother and I call it the gift that keeps on giving. There are times when I still hear the voice of my stepfather calling me worthless, stupid, and lazy. The bad part is when I hear it coming out of my own mouth when I do something wrong. I know it's bad when my own daughter chastises me for calling myself "Stupid," when I didn't even realize that I had said it out loud. You want to know how lazy I am? I've worked 23 years in a profession where working in the summer is optional and I've taken exactly two summers off without working summer school; the first year I worked full time, and the fifth. So when I hear the word "lazy" in my head, I know it isn't coming from me. This is one of the reasons I was hesitant to even consider becoming a parent. I had serious second, third, fourth, and fifth thoughts about adoption when my wife suggested it. The thought that I might terrorize a child in any way like what had been done to me frightened me to my core.

Today is one of those rare bad days when I really do feel worthless, lazy, and stupid. It's an almost paralyzing feeling that I can't get anything done. Ordinarily, I am confident to the point of severe arrogance. Just ask any of my friends--the few who can stand to be around me for any length of time. I know I am intelligent, artistically talented, and I was physically gifted at sports, at least at an earlier time in my life. But there are days like today when I can look at all the award certificates I won in school for math competitions (and I didn't even like math), all-conference sports awards, competitive scholarships, etc. and still think of myself as a complete loser. It seems like all the stuff I have accomplished was just part of fighting a losing battle for self-esteem. Things will likely look up for me tomorrow, because this feeling never lasts for long, fortunately. But I can say definitively that I know firsthand what depression is, and I have to say that I could really live without it.

I'm not sure how long it will take for me to sort through these family photos, but at this point, I'm not sure how much that really needs to be done. They reminded my dad of better days, but for the most part they just remind me of what could have been, and innocence lost.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Heroic Age

According to Joe Quesada in USA Today, Marvel 's "heroes will be heroes again."

One might wonder why they weren't heroes in the first place.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Twist My Arm

Rock Band 2 has to be the greatest game in the world. When we picked up Sera from daycare on Friday, she said, "Daddy, when we get home you should play Rock Band."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Et Tu, Roger Ebert?

In Roger Ebert's new blog post, he blasts public education, tenure, and teachers' unions all in one breath:

"Tenure is a sacred concept in higher education, attained after years and
rigorous peer review. In primary and high schools, it comes automatically after
as few as two years. Tenured teachers have a job for life. They cannot be fired
for proven incompetence. The American Federation of Teachers and other unions
fiercely protect their jobs."

Here we go again. If Roger had bothered to do a five-second Google search, as I did, he would have found a dozen articles refuting this particular claim. I have been a teacher for 23 years and I can be fired for a thousand reasons as easily, or more easily than anyone else I know. He goes on to say that his eighth grade knowledge from St. Mary's Grade School surpasses that of most high school students. To that I say, hogwash. Roger was in 8th grade in about 1956. We do stuff in 8th grade math now that would have curled his toes like the Wicked Witch of the West. This is just another example of someone speaking out of complete ignorance about public education. I think it should be a requirement for someone writing on public education to at least go to a public school and see what the teachers face as everyday challenges. Better still, I think that a person writing on public education should have to be a substitute teacher for a day. Just one day is all it would take to at least give them a hint of understanding, which would be far more than they present right now.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I'd Like Mine with Missiles, Please

NASA's new personal flying suit:

My Man Mitch

The governor of my state is Mitch Daniels. I love Mitch. He's always good for a laugh. He recently said in his State of the State address that he wants an end to social promotion for third graders who can't read: "Sending an illiterate child on to higher grades is unfair to the next teacher, damaging to our state's future, but cruelest of all, disastrous to the life being blighted by that failure." If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that our governor is not concerned with what is fair to teachers.

But when confronted with the reason that it happens, the governor was stunned:

"Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was stunned that his proposal to hold back third-grade students who can't read well came with such a large price tag that a key lawmaker said it shouldn't pass this year. Daniels told reporters Thursday that his proposal to end so-called social promotion shouldn't cost a cent. He and state Superintendent Tony Bennett, a fellow Republican, say schools are already getting paid to teach students how to read, so the plan shouldn't require more cash. 'The fiscal (impact) of that bill is zero dollars and zero cents,' Daniels said. "

That's right, Mr. Daniels. We've only been passing them along because we're flush with the funds to give them the extra time outside the normal schedule to get them to where their parents should have had them before they ever started school. That was before you cut our budget by $300 million. In virtually the same breath, Daniels has asked teachers to take a pay cut and take an increase in class sizes and then to do more with less. Make that a lot more with a lot less. How are we supposed to accomplish this?

In the same article, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett "suggested schools could provide that 90 minutes (for extra help with reading) during the existing school day by having students skip recess or fine arts classes or by making other arrangements. He said parents, volunteers or community mentors could help teachers working with retained students and that local principals and superintendents could find creative solutions."

If we had sufficient numbers of "parents, volunteers, or community mentors" to pull this off, the kids wouldn't be illiterate in the first place! And cutting recess has already been done in several elementary schools, and guess what? Studies show that kids do better with recess.

The thing that really burns me about this is that I read to my daughter every night. She loves reading with Daddy. She is motivated to identify words and is already sounding them out (reading phonetically). She will be reading when she is four years old at this rate, long before she starts school. Why does it fall solely on teachers to motivate students to read? Because we can be legislated and parents can't. What happened to that personal responsibility that we're always hearing about? Do you really think that it's teachers who are sending their kids to school unable to read?

About eight years ago, my school system made a new policy that any middle schooler who didn't pass all of their four core subjects (math, language arts, social studies, and science) would be held back unless they passed their failed subject in summer school. Those were the two best years of my entire professional career. Everyone tried to pass and additional help was given to the few who just couldn't manage it with reasonable class sizes in summer school. Why didn't we keep that policy? Was it because it wasn't working? No, because it cost too much. We really need to take a good look at how much that program cost now, and see if we're going to be paying more by losing students to transportation costs, moving them to "successful" schools, while penalizing the schools that need the funding the most.

This constant attack on teachers and public education in the media lately is going to drive a lot of good people out of the profession. It's going to drive out the very people whom the profession needs desperately. It's going to drive out the innovators, the people who go above and beyond the call of duty to inspire their students to learn. Quite honestly, I would be making plans to leave right now if I didn't have so many years invested in my retirement plan. My only question is who in their right mind is going to be lining up for these teaching jobs that are going to be vacated? I'll tell you who. The positions will be filled by people who want to follow cookie cutter guidelines and recipes. The profession is going to be filled with line cooks who love to follow unimaginative instructions to the letter. It will be filled by people who have not one creative thought in their heads. It will be populated by people who don't push the envelope and don't try to use the most current technology. It will be loaded with folks who don't rock the boat. Well, I'm done with waiting for the boat to sink. It needs to be rocked. Something needs to be said, and I'm going to say it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Superhero Movies about Superheroes

What she said.

I don't have to say another thing except that I agree wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The New Batting Practice Caps are Here!

Very exciting news in my e-mailbox today, as the new MLB batting practice caps (left) are here! For those of you who don't know, batting practice caps are made of a moisture-wicking material that keeps the wearer's head cool. I really love the feel of the BP cap, especially when I'm active outdoors, but did not like the Tigers' design for the past three years (right). It featured a half-moon gusset that became discolored very quickly after just a few wearings. Looks like we have a winner here!


I usually don’t like to write reviews of a movie until after a second viewing, but in the case of Avatar, I think I should have written one immediately afterward. I don’t have any unique insights to add about the plot of the film or the perceived weakness of the storyline. Yes, it’s the story of Pocahontas or Dances with Wolves. There really aren’t that many new plot ideas under the sun. But what I do want to talk about is something that I have never seen done so well before and was the highlight of the film for me. Never before have I been so thoroughly convinced that I was seeing an alien world.

The weakness of creating good science fiction has always been that budgets and technology limit how alien a setting can be. The original Star Wars trilogy featured desert-like Tattooine, shot on location in Tunisia; Hoth, an ice planet that could have been at our own poles; Dagobah, a swamp; the cloud city of Bespin; and the forest moon of Endor, which has the same redwoods I’ve seen near San Francisco. Even the new trilogy gave us but glances at truly alien landscapes, and most of them had entirely earthlike appearances. A few of them, only seen in glimpses, looked truly alien, and they looked like the setting in Willy Wonka. But in Avatar, we see a truly alien environment and it’s entirely believable.

Upon arrival on Pandora our anchor, Jake Sully, sees a vast jungle that looks entirely earthly. But when his avatar starts exploring the place, we are introduced quickly to the unique plant life, as well as a few of the predators that roam freely. The dangers of the planet become all too clear. Everything is different. The trees have a bioelectrical network that rivals the human brain. The tendrils that come out of the Na’vi’s hair interact with the tendrils of the animals they use for travel and hunting. They live with a spiritual connection to their environment that is (I loved this line) “measurable.”

I think that no matter the weakness in the story, the setting gives us a sense of immersion that gives the story more credibility. The viewer more easily identifies with the Na’vi because the nine-foot tall blue people seem to really belong to the world that they defend. It’s not just another Earthlike environment that harkens back to Civil War-era America with Native American allegories. There’s only so much suspension of disbelief I can muster when I see a famous actor like Kevin Costner running around with Graham Greene. I know their faces too well and know that they don’t belong in the 19th century old west. But in Avatar, Pandora really feels like it belongs to the Na’vi. And so it does.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


As I grow older, I fear becoming the curmudgeon my dad was later in life. Heck, what am I saying? All the time I knew him he was a curmudgeon. When we went to see what I still consider the finest superhero movie of all time, Superman the Movie, he left the theater grumbling, "Well I still don't believe a man can fly." This, from a guy who thought that George Reeves hanging on wires was perfectly fine in the 1950s!

At this stage in my life, I begin to question whether my age is beginning to make me equally grumpy. There are many comic books I've given up on, including my favorite character, Batman. I was watching a History Channel show on comic book superheroes today, and when Frank Miller was describing how former Batman writers claimed that for them, he had ruined their character with his popular work, The Dark Knight, I literally shouted at the screen, "They were right, Frank!" Maybe it's that Batman has evolved past the point where I really liked the character or maybe I consider my childhood memories of the character sacred. But whatever Batman is now, he ain't my Batman. People who know that I love the Batman character can't help but ask me about what I think about Batman movies when they come out. I always have to say that I don't care for them. When they make the mistake of asking why, I trot out a laundry list. I don't think that makes me a curmudgeon, but someone who has a strong idea of what a hero is, and knows that the character as portrayed in the movies is not that guy.

This hits me especially hard at the comic book store, too. I see my childhood heroes acting completely out of character from how I know them. I understand that the target audience is much older than it was when I really enjoyed comics, but I would argue that sophisticated stories don't necessarily have to include rape, on-panel eviscerations, and psychotic, amoral behavior. I can accept those things more easily from creator-owned characters, but not from characters whose moral standards I looked up to as a kid.

Besides the Batman movies, I have lately had difficulty accepting some other film adapations. The Spirit was absolutely offensive to me. Director Frank Miller put some elements from Will Eisner's seminal work in his film, but trampled over the entire story with what we could call Millerisms. There was Nazi fetishism that he previously used in the Dark Knight, and he even stole one of his own lines from Daredevil. The style of cinematography was straight off the pages of Sin City, which he created. The Millerisms overpowered the classic and original storytelling techniques that made Will Eisner a true master of the visual form.

Last year's Star Trek movie had lots of stuff I liked and even some stuff I loved (Michael Giacchino's score, for example) but I still have a lot of problems with it. Does that make me a curmudgeon or just someone who loves the original Star Trek series so much that nothing would have been good enough?

When I start to think that I just hate everything, I have to remind myself that I absolutely adored the Watchmen movie. I didn't expect to, but I thought the makers of that film not only did the graphic novel justice, but improved the ending considerably by not teleporting a giant, telepathic squid into New York City.

So what is it that is making me fear being a curmudgeon? I sure don't want to be. I really wanted to love the Dark Knight, especially when I saw the reviews, but I thought it was horrible. I even bought it on Blu-Ray (on sale) and gave it another chance today. I got to the first scene where Batman drives the tank--sorry, Batmobile through the parking garage barrier, then explodes the corner stairwell, which one would assume is next to the elevator, and causes more property damage than he needs to, and I just have to think that if this is our hero, we deserve better.

I guess what I'm going to have to do is start writing something of my own, and see if I can do better. I'll have to see if I can make a story with internal consistency. I want a story that would appeal to my students and give those who are like I was at that age something to look up to, and ideals that they can respect. If I can do something like that, then I will feel justified in being a little cranky when I see Superman leaving thugs to die in Superman Returns.

We can only hope.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The 300

All my adult life I have struggled trying to control my weight. It seems like when I turned 18, my metabolism came to a screeching halt. When I played sports in high school, and that was all the time, I never even gave a second thought to staying in shape. We did a calorie counting actvity in one of my classes, and with all the sports and work at home (cleaning the barn, splitting wood, etc.) I was burning 4500 calories per day. All that changed when I went to college. My one PE class that I was taking twice a week was nowhere close to enough activity to keep me in shape and I really didn't have time to do anything else. Between classes, studying, and work, I didn't even take the time to learn what I could do to exercise without organized sports.

Gaining weight was a slow process, and I wasn't really aware of the problem until my 10-year class reunion, when I weighed in at 307 pounds. I was the only one in my entire class who had "let themselves go," so to speak. When I returned home, I started looking for something I could do to exercise. As an avid comic book reader I had always been interested in martial arts, so I looked into taking Karate. I threw myself into Karate, going to classes four days a week and traveling to tournaments on weekends. I actually won a couple of trophies for forms and sparring. I enjoyed the competition and the discipline. I won the most dedicated student award in 1994, having not missed a class for an entire year. I even went to the kids' classes to help out with them. That appealed to the teacher in me. When one of the school's black belt participants returned after a long absense, I was the one who gave him his refresher course on the required kata (memorized techniques in sequence) so he could participate in class. All told, I did karate for two and a half years, until I moved away from Michigan City, where I lived at the time. I ended up at sankyu, or the lowest of the three degrees of brown belt in my school's system. I would have been a black belt in about one more year had I stayed. At the end of my Karate experience I was down to about 250 pounds, and felt great. But after that, the weight came back, and then some.

Now, years later, I am bicycling. I don't have time (or the cartilege in my knees) to do Karate. With a lot of work last year, I dropped from 340 pounds down to a low of 282. I love biking. I really do. I love how the wind cools me no matter how hot it is and that I actually go somewhere as a result of the exercise. I will ride for miles outside and shoot for an average speed as a goal. I typically aim for 16 mph and try to maintain that speed for at least 30 minutes. I ride around the neighborhoods and subdivisions around us where there is little traffic. It's what I look forward to when I'm sitting in my summer school classroom.

But now that it's winter and there's snow on the ground, I'm stuck on a trainer that elevates my rear wheel and resists it magnetically. I can watch TV while I pedal, but I don't get the same level of workout. My speedometer is on my front wheel, which is fixed, so I have no idea how fast I'm going.

The holidays are fun, and I take an occasional break from dieting so I don't just quit altogether. This year, Christmas, combined with vacation and enjoying the food and drink took its toll. Chocolate Mint Truffle coffee creamer really got me at 45 calories per tablespoon! I slipped back up to 299.6 despite still working out 3-5 times a week on break and was not happy. I swore to myself that when I lost that weight, I would never be 300 pounds again. So now, I'm working out even harder while watching action movies on DVD, so I get caught up in the excitement and work harder. My only measure of how hard I work is how much I sweat. I may have to get a pulse monitor so I can have numbers to work with. The good thing about numbers is that they don't lie, and they keep me honest as well.

Wish me luck in my battle against the 300.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good Day for Comics

I saw a couple of good items today in comic book news. First, the Marvel Adventures titles are being rebranded and relaunched. There is a definite call in my household for all-ages comics that aren't just based on cartoon shows and these will fit the bill nicely.

Second, Gail Simone will be writing a new Birds of Prey series, with Ed Benes doing the art. I really like Gail Simone as a writer, especially of female characters, so this is even more good news. It's another monthly book I can read, which brings my current total to something like five.

I hope that this trend continues and the big two companies figure out that grim and gritty titles with multiple rapes and eviscerations only takes a company so far before long-suffering potential readers simply give up and walk away.

On the other hand, I've read that in the Titans book from DC, the team will be led by Deathstroke, the Terminator. That's sort of like George Lucas saying that in the new Star Wars television show, the rebellion will now be led by Boba Fett. I'll be quiet now. I wouldn't want to give him any ideas.

The Late Night Controversy

I could not possibly care less about who goes on at what time. Virtually every show I watch has been recorded and I watch it when I want to. That's why people invented DVRs, Hulu, and Netflix.

Also, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" is consistently funnier and smarter than Leno, O'Brien, Letterman, and Fallon combined.

You Know it's Love...

...When your daughter leans over to give you a hug and say, "I love you, Daddy" while she's sitting on the toilet going #2 while you get her bath ready.

Technical Difficulties

Please excuse the technical difficulties I experienced starting yesterday. I posted my math class blog post to this blog. I didn't realize my mistake until I did the same thing this morning and hit "View Post."

Please stand by.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teacher Evaluation and Test Scores

Bob Herbert talks in his column today about what is becoming more and more common: "The president of the American Federation of Teachers says she will urge her members to accept a form of teacher evaluation that takes student achievement into account and that the union has commissioned an independent effort to streamline disciplinary processes and make it easier to fire teachers who are guilty of misconduct."

I don't have a problem with firing teachers who are guilty of misconduct. It's the other part that is not going to work.

I'll accept my evaluation and pay being based on standardized test scores when dentists are compensated based on the collective health of their patients' teeth. Dentists can clean their patients' teeth regularly, repair faulty teeth, send them home with a free toothbrush, and when the patient fails to do their part, their teeth are going to rot no matter what steps the dentist takes.

It's pretty much the same for teachers.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Green Lantern Oath FAIL

It's a nice marketing strategy for their big news today, but someone needs to remind DC how the Green Lantern oath goes:

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Ken Burns to Update "Baseball"

Best news I've read all year.

The week before spring training begins, I'll start my annual viewing of Ken Burns's documentary on the greatest game ever invented. It's ten volumes of pure poetry and history about baseball. This is welcome news and I'm very excited about it.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

I See You

My 20-year old niece, Theresa, is an amazing artist. She is living a life I can only enjoy vicariously, but it sure is fun watching her work and grow. We saw "Avatar" a few weeks ago, and I think it had an impact on her. The picture to the left is done from a photograph of her, modified with Photoshop. Just to show you what she worked with, I am including the side-by-side picture from her deviantart site.

All I can say is, wow. And go to her site to see more!

Statistically Speaking...

"Well I hope this experience hasn't put you off flying. Statistically speaking, it's still the safest way to travel."--Superman

I get tired of hyperbole. When President Obama started sternly lecturing our intelligence agencies for a "systemic failure" in Detroit on Christmas day, I just rolled my eyes. Another politician takes advantage of bad math to make political hay.

This may not be politically correct, but I thought that the Columbine incident was pretty much overhyped, too. This is not to say that the loss of life was not tragic; of course it was. What I'm saying is that we pay far too much attention to tragedies where the loss of life is high because it all happens at the same time. I worked in a school back in the 90s where at least as many students died from gunfire on the way to, from, and even at school, but nothing was ever done or said about it. No national news media covered the violence. No crisis plan was initiated nationwide to prevent the deaths. It wasn't until a lot of people died all at the same time in a school did the idea of bullying or student violence even make the headlines.

Why are plane crashes covered in the news? Because the loss of life all happens at the same time. Superman was right. Statistically speaking, it's still the safest way to travel. It's just that you don't see 300 lives lost all at the same time on highways that makes those kind of accidents not as newsworthy. It's far more dangerous to drive on the highways than to fly, so where is the outrage? Where is the president, sternly lecturing about impaired driving? There are 13,000-14,000 alcohol-related driving deaths per year in the U.S. alone. Someone would have to blow up a whole lot of planes to compare to that, and once again, no I am not saying that those types of deaths are any less tragic. I'm saying that the tragedy of terrorism in the air is a relatively small problem.

I've got a great idea. Why don't we stop spending billions while nickeling and diming air traffic threats and start taking equally bold steps to save as many lives as possible. That would be worth a headline or two.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Gosh, I'm Old

I was playing "Rhiannon," by Fleetwood Mac on my iPod while the kids were coming into class. One of my students looks straight at me and says, "Is this Creed?"

Monday, January 04, 2010


That was the first word my little girl sounded out for herself. We were working on sounding out words from Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear and she worked out "what" when I made the "wh" sound. I could hear her whispering the "a" and the "t." And then it happened. She may have had help from the context of a book she's heard 10,000 times, but I heard the letters one at a time. Not bad for three years, eight months old!

Sunday, January 03, 2010


“Daddy, what’s that?” my daughter asked, as I held the round, black vinyl disc by the edges.

“A record,” I replied.

“What’s it for?”

I laughed first, then reminiscing about my own childhood with records, I said in my best Bill Cosby voice: “Riiiiight.”

My friends Rob and Eric bought me a USB turntable for Christmas. This is a wonderful gift, because I have a number of records on vinyl that will likely never see the light of day on CD or even as downloadable files on iTunes. I have some commonly known comedians like the aforementioned Bill Cosby, who has CD’s of his classic comedy, but I also have Homer & Jethro. I have Steve Martin, but I also have Jonathan Winters. Among the otherwise unreleased records I have are the soundtrack for “Song of the South,” several PowerRecords, including one from the Six Million Dollar Man, as well as one of famous monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman (with Neal Adams art, no less). But my favorite old record is probably Buckingham Nicks, the album that Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham did before they joined Fleetwood Mac.

I think, though, that digging through that treasure trove of comedy is going to be a blast. It’s easily what influenced my own sense of humor more than anything else. Bill Cosby was a heck of a lot funnier as a standup comic than he ever was on television. My brother and I used to listen for hours at our grandparents’ house to his recollections of growing up in Philadelphia. That’s where I first heard of Fat Albert and Bill’s brother Russell. It wasn’t from any kind of cartoon.

The Smothers Brothers were well ahead of their time when they recorded “The Golden Hits of the Smothers Brothers, Volume 2 (there is no Volume 1, reads the blurb on the record cover).” Combining their brand of folk music with constant interruptions of fraternal bickering was always good for a laugh. I still remember my grandfather saying, “I’d like them a lot better if they just kept playing their damn music!”

It’s going to be fun listening to records I haven’t heard since about 1995, which was the last time I owned a working record player!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Font

Oh, and here's the new font I bought this year from Comicraft's annual font sale. It's called Long Underwear, but it's clearly adapted from the lettering style that was used to create the Superboy logo. I was hoping this one would eventually see the light of day. I was always a big fan of Superboy. I was quite delighted to find that in the new origin of Superman, Clark Kent was Superboy again, though only when he was interacting in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Sketchy Saturdays

Some of the blogs I read are by comic book artists who try to include a daily sketch. Mike Wieringo used to post his daily warmup sketches as blog posts, and I followed them every day.

I know I simply don't have the time to do one every day, but I think I'm going to try to do one per week. I haven't drawn in I don't know how long, and this will at least force me to keep track of my pencil box better. It took 10 minutes to even find it. That's how long it's been since I drew something.

So, here's Dr. Sheldon Cooper from "The Big Bang Theory," one of my favorite TV shows. It's about geeks and I get every joke, so I feel like the show was written just for me.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy (Yawn) New Year

You know, I really don't care about New Year's Day. It's just a Hallmark holiday as far as I'm concerned. It's about as exciting as watching my odometer turn over every 10,000 miles and I don't go out and party when that happens, either.

Last night, my wife and I were reminiscing about New Year's in 2000 and how I was a grump when everyone around me was celebrating the new millennium. I said then, as I say now, was it really the new millennium? When you learn to count to 10, do you stop at 9 and say you're done? Do you stop at 99 and go, "Whoopie! I counted to 100?" Seems to me a millennium should be complete when the 1000th year in it is complete, not when the 999th year is at its close. Do people realize that the Gregorian calendar was adopted in different parts of the world at different times? Do they know that to change over from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, 10 days had to be skipped to make it consistent? That's right, when the Gregorian calendar was adopted, the four countries who adopted it first jumped from October 4 to October 15, 1582. This transfer wasn't adopted across the board, though. As each country adopted the new calendar, they had to skip days to catch up with the rest of the world. When Alaska was purchased from Russia by the US in 1867, they had to jump 11 days, repeating one of the days of the week because the International Date Line was moved. Holy Groundhog Day!

I guess my point is that it's not that big a deal to celebrate a new year for me, because it's really a contrived holiday based on math corrections. That said, I think it's kind of fun to whip out old calendars and post them in my classroom. Kids will start freaking out on Monday at school, wondering why the calendar says 1993. That's because 2010's calendar is identical to 1993's. There's even a cool little website, that can help you determine when your old calendars can be used again. Just hang on to them. The new year is so unexciting that identical years come back pretty often. I think it's more important to celebrate every day instead of picking some arbitrary point in the Earth's trip around the sun to have fun.

Now, I wonder what they'll think of my Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog calendar in 2021 when I can reuse it?