Posts Tagged education

The interstellar educational chili pepper

This week, I set sail on the Pequod towards the South Seas with my trusted friends, Ishmael and Queequeg. After a week of recovery, I set back to work on Monday morning where my students asked incessantly, “What did you do?” As if I didn’t tell them the week prior to surgery that I was having my ankle worked on?!?! Better yet, one student, commenting on my knee scooter, asked, “Did you buy that?”

“No…I leased it. It was $1,899 down, $189 a month for 72 months”

“Wow! You’re going to need that scooter for 72 months?!?!?”

Hmmm. These are the same students who are complaining about Moby Dick having too many pages and using big words. Perhaps I should lower my expectations for eleventh grade to include Highlights magazine. We could do word searches and read short stories with life lessons in them.

Seriously, though. Son is learning faster than we can teach him. He spelled his name yesterday at school without help or those little guide-dashes on handwriting worksheets. He can recognizes every letter in the alphabet. A few weeks ago, I was driving toward the gym (natch’) and son and I passed a national chain food restaurant. Son exclaimed with excitement, “Daddy, I know what ‘S’ starts with…a pepper.” Thanks, Chili’s, for the educational signage.

Yesterday, I participated in market research regarding pizza. I sat in a bleak room with a two-way mirror along one wall as women dressed in laboratory coats brought me several slices of pizza to evaluate. But, they didn’t just bring them out. First, we were told to examine the appearance. Out of a blank wall, a door appeared and a young woman brought out a pizza with a specified number atop. After five or so seconds she moved on to other participants and I set out to answer several questions about how appealing the pizza was. Seriously, of the three pies, I couldn’t tell you which was which were I asked to go back and compare. Maybe they were turning the oven hotter or cooking it longer; they seemed the same to me.

After the general appeal questions, we were told to cleanse our palettes with saltine crackers and spring water, making sure to thoroughly rinse the entire cracker from our mouths prior to tasting the pizza. We took two bites from the front, two from the crust, and, heck, one from the middle just for kicks. More questions; more pizza. Finally, when we left, we received some dough for our troubles.

Much needed money, mind you. Today, the computer repairman explained to me that both the battery and the hard drive failed on my Macbook Pro (mid 2009). For Christmas 2012, I will receive a brand new (used) computer with no data on it. I am concerned because our backup drive is the only thing separating me from meeting an untimely death were it to fail as well. 60,000 photos from 2002 until last week reside on two backup drives, a cloud-based storage system, and were on the laptop itself. The computer will be ready on Tuesday when I can then begin the laborious task of rebuilding the computer with its backup. One note, because I had to replace the drive anyway, I doubled the size for only $30 more. I thought the battery drained fast.

Anyway, today I had the stitches removed from my ankle where three, 1 inch incisions barely stand out upon examination. I am not completely recovered, though, so my wife will still have to get my beers for me. Tomorrow during the Bulldogs game, maybe I’ll ask for wings as well. I better get something, though, because she and several friends are sharing a limousine to the Madonna concert  (Must. Count. Blessings. Not. Asked. To Go.) tomorrow night. She deserves a night out, but did she have to do it with such style?

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Is the iPhone 5 an iPhony

On September 14, 2012, along with millions of other crazed consumers, I pre-ordered an iPhone 5 so that I would not have to wait in line or tell wife. What?!?!? I always assumed it’s easier to ask forgiveness then permission. Wife, upon being notified by UPS a delivery from FoxConn was on it’s way from China, sent me a simple, yet clear email, “Did you buy an iPhone 5?” Nothing else in the email, no anger, happiness, or sadness, just 6 words. I replied in an ever-succinct manner, “Yes.”

After missing the first delivery attempt (you mean I have to wait another day?), I came home to find a small rectangular box, opened and surveyed the new purchase. It is thinner, yes; and it is lighter, yes; it has a bigger screen, yes; but, so what? I want it to accomplish tasks my previous phone could not achieve. It has Siri and a better resolution screen that I actually find beneficial. Wife turned off Siri because every time her fingers were texting, they brushed the microphone in the lower left corner. Wife doesn’t watch movies; so, for her, it added little to the iPhone experience.

Except Speed. The monumental increase in speed dwarfs the abilities of my previous phone. I imagine as new apps are created specifically for the bigger screen, it will add to the visual aesthetics. The one key improvement I find most beneficial are the earbuds. They sound fabulous and actually stay in my ears where the older generation fell out with the slightest head tilt.

Where I teach, students wear their headphones between classes, even having conversations with them on. Some teachers allow them to be worn in class. Today, I think I’ll put my earbuds on and tune out the 140  “special” students I teach every day. I may even ignore them when they speak to me as if my earbuds were too loud. Better yet, actually, I will put the earbuds in and leave the sound off to overhear any juicy comments made by the students. Not really, I probably DON’T want to know too much.

I love the iPhone 5 I purchased but I don’t see it as the greatest invention ever. After all, it’s hard to improve on an already successfully designed product. Don’t believe the hype, but I don’t think its an iPhony. I do find it funny that as soon as people find out I have the new iPhone, they want to share how much they like their phone; insecure anyone? Really, though, Apple has the world by the proverbial balls. Whatever they do, people want to have it, copy it, or wish they’d thought of it. Now, I’m counting the days until the iPhone 6.

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I’ll sleep when I’m dead

Indian Seats

Looking out over North Georgia

I swam a mile in a 60ft deep lake, I rode 21mi, ran a 5k, and, oh yeah, climbed a mountain. A small mountain, but taller than a hill. The family went to the pool four days in a row where I watched son learn and grow as a swimmer (perhaps too fast!) Daughter danced and went to TWO parties; wife ran 12mi; this was my relaxing weekend. I need a vacation from my vacations. Then again, I find sitting on the beach ten hours a day over a week extremely tedious. I secretly look forward to coming in for son’s nap where I can read, watch TV, or actually write, which is what I am supposed to do.

Write my dissertation, that is. Today, I planned to come into school on the last day where I have several hours slotted to work on it. So, I emailed it quickly to myself this morning. The wrong one. Typically, this is not a problem. I could find a place to start and go from there. But this one is 3 months old. My primary goal today was to fix the table of contents issue I was having. Thankfully, this version works fine. It’s the new one that is screwed up and I am left with bupkis  to fix. See, everyone thinks that teachers have so much free time because of the breaks. I agree, we do waste a considerable amount of time on our professional development day waiting for things to happen. These ceased to be Teacher Workdays since someone thought we didn’t need any extra time. You know, because of all those breaks.

When you get right down to it, most people don’t spend all 60 minutes per hour working diligently on something without a break. Sure, many people do work hard; but, if you’re reading this at work…shouldn’t you be doing something else? I think the water cooler has been replaced by the internet. When someone needed a mental break, he headed toward the proverbial town center amid the cube farms and had a chat about sports, the weather, and other stuff people said just to hear themselves talk. Now, our breaks include staring at a computer screen reading blogs, commenting on news articles, or setting your baseball lineup…hmmm, I gotta get to that.

No movie captured the essence of life in a cube farm than Mike Judge’s Office Space. From the scene where Peter tells his boss that he’s not coming in on the weekend to when he is cleaning a fish on his desk, no one sticks it to the man, Bill Lumburgh, better than he does. Whatever you may think is the climactic point in the movie, I believe it is when the trio of co-workers take the fax machine into the woods and beat it to death with baseball bats and boots. Some days, I wish I could take the technology that everyone wants me to fix and bash its brains in, simply stating, “I guess it’s really broke, now.”

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Planting the Seeds of the Knowledge Tree

Money does not grow on trees. A ubiquitous cliché that people with money often say to show how hard they worked to get some; we know money doesn’t grow on freaking trees or we all would have money trees in our front yard. But, what if only certain people could afford money trees? Forbes identifies 1154 people that have over $1B,( Read it here) I bet THEY could afford a money tree. Then again, why would they need one when they’ve already got money?

As an educator, I must realize that I’ll never be the wealthiest guy on my block; I’m okay with that since I know that my income is well above the United States poverty line for a family of four, $22,350. With one working parent, that adds up to $71/day for a six-day work week. Most of us complain about working five days. So, educators claim they’re not in it for the money, but I think most of them wouldn’t do it for free. I don’t.

Last night, I was on the phone with mom as she was explaining she needs to see a financial advisor to help her with her IRA disbursements and what to do with them. I offered her my bank account number; alas, she said, “Not yet.” Granted, I want my parents to enjoy the limelight of their lives; they earned it raising me, but free cash? I’d love it; but, nah, nothing is ever free.  As I was browsing yesterday, I saw a editorial cartoon where a financial advisor was informing an expectant mother and shocked father that according to the rising rates of tuition at colleges and universities, they would need to save $4B over the next eighteen years.

That is why I support Georgia’s lottery! It pays for two key programs that all citizens of Georgia who work hard can benefit from. The first one is the Pre-Kindergarten program offered to all students. Daughter loved her Pre-K teacher as did wife and I. Son will soon be in the program at his nursery school. The other program is the Hope Scholarship where students who meet rigorous academic requirements can go to a state college for free. I think I’ll tattoo “Property of the University of Georgia” on son and daughter with the expectation that both will earn the scholarship. If it stays around, that is.

In dystopian futures, the central focus revolves around the widening gap between the lower and upper classes, the dissolution of the middle class. In H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, the Morlocks were originally sent to work underground by ancestral Eloi. In Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Freder discovers a working class hidden below the city from the upper echelons of wealth and power, highlighting the upper class as wearing all white while being filmed with a diffused lens. The lower class marches in time to the ten hour clock wearing droll gray clothing. Freder is the messiah figure that saves humanity from itself.

Is money the root of all evil, or is it a necessary one? If society eventually does away with money (a la Star Trek), what then will be the new currency? I believe it will be knowledge as one can never have enough of it.


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Ring the school bell, Summer is here!

In Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Bells”, He writes about the ever-ringing bells signaling the future:

How it dwells
On the Future! -how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

Bells are signals in our lives. We have alarm bells, school bells, church bells, wedding bells, clock bells, orchestral bells, stock market bells; heck, we even have a liberty bell, albeit cracked. The structure of our life is indicated by sound. No bell sounds clearer than the one indicating end of the work day on Friday, where some can enjoy a three day weekend, and the kids get their summer break from school.

Earlier this week, I found a letter that I kept where a student wrote I was an asshole that nobody likes. Hmm, maybe someone should ask wife about that. The real treat came, though, when a student brought me a gift card to a Smoothie King.  I drink a protein shake every day and this particular student noticed and thought I might get use out of the gift. Teaching is about always looking forward, preparing students for the next phase in their education and life.

Daughter loves her teacher; son adores his. In fact, wife and I feel very lucky about the two instructional leaders in their lives. See, what makes them special is their ability to demonstrate that they care about their students. Daughter feels like she has a friend; son feels safe to express himself and try new things. Teaching high school is different, of course, than the primary grades. Some teachers still try to win popularity contests but the “nurturing” stage is gone. In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Mr. Hand forces Jeff Spicolli to give away the pizza he ordered that disrupted class and my favorite of all time, he went to the student’s house to make up for all the missed time Spicolli skipped.

Everyone says the world is going to hell, that the next generation of youth is paving the proverbial road. Truthfully, Poe saw this 150 years ago. Granted, he was a bit disturbed, to say the least. Kids today are the same as when I was their age; all I thought about was myself and where the next party would be held. Now that I lead children, I find myself wondering: if I spend every year teaching and get only one complaint (that I at least know about) countered with one praise then how can I be unhappy?

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Summertime is not all rainbows and popsicles

rainbow in the '05

Still searching for that pot of gold…

Summertime is not a vacation for me. Yes, I am away from my professional job, but I work harder for my family. See, Son is a nutjob. He giggles and laughs and runs up to you when you see him; but boy can he scream. “I waaant something to EAT!”, “NO!”, “I doooon’t have to go POTTY” are three of my favorites. Daughter is a drama queen. She has an artistic, albeit moody, sensibility that wife and I can never figure out. Wife wants to constantly schedule me; she suggested putting a weekly calendar up on the refrigerator so that we (she) can write down all of the activities we are to accomplish. I have said before, structure is key to my happiness and the well-being of those around me (I get cranky).

To prepare for my restful vacation, I need at least a week of nothing to do but relax. This, of course, means we are going camping, participating in Vacation Bible School, and working on my dissertation in a mad attempt to get it mostly done by mid-June. Daughter has camp, son has camp. Heck, daughter has dance twice a week. The family is extremely lucky and I am very glad to help raise son and daughter; I even try to help wife to lessen her stress. Except for laundry. She does not want me to wash, fold or even get near HER clothes. The kids’, yes- hers, no way. I really didn’t mess them up that bad, she just likes them done a certain way.

Every morning I make the bed to my high-quality standard. What I didn’t know is that every day wife goes behind me to neaten it up. This is not attempting to say she is doing anything wrong; Far from it; I think, though, that it could lead to me being able to avoid ALL chores simply because I am too inept to accomplish them with any quality. Men, do your least and you may be rewarded; do your best and you’[ll have to do it again. One of my goals this summer is to exercise frequently; a task I have not been able to do previous summers. Son likes the kids’ center at the club and daughter can deal with it. If only she could babysit. One day…

That being said, I look forward to summer where barbeque grills fire up and the pools open; even a seaside journey to the beach lies in our future. The only dislike I have about summer time is that it has to end. I’m still working on that independently wealthy status. I’ll let you know when I win the lotto, or maybe not…

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Why some books make lousy movies

Sam, I am

Green Eggs & Ham: The Sequel

I love watching daughter read; she reminds me of wife. Both voraciously devour the words on the pages as they turn at a frantic pace. I used to read every chance I could as I was growing up. From Edgar Rice Burroughs ( a la John Carter) to Stephen King (The Green Mile), from All-Star Squadron (DC’s Avenger knock-off) to X-men, I would open the pages and smell that woody, clean and fresh flavor knowing and I knew I’d enjoy it. Lately, though, I have been an English instructor and always have a new book that I am teaching. Currently, I am teaching Ender’s Game to one class and The Alchemist to another. A month ago, we were reading Lord of the Rings and The Chosen. Combined with reading student papers, a beleaguering task, Reading at home loses priority. Currently, I have three books on my iPad, The Dome by Stephen King and Championship Triathlon Training by George Dallam on the Nook reader, as well as Rodale’s Going Long on iBooks app. Finally, my copy of Tucker Max’s I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell is on top of the bookshelf away from younger eyes. Either I am a multi-tasker or suffer from an attention deficiency.

Music lovers go through favorite singers and bands like water through a colander; people tend to be more reserved when picking a favorite author. I think they prefer genres of certain types, i.e. Detective, SciFi, Romance. Of course, when my students are assigned a new book, the first thing they want to know is whether a movie has been made from it. Some movies offer excellent screen adaptations while others suffer from worthless, mind-numbing dialogue . What do you think? What is the best or worst movie adaption from a book you’ve read? Add your comments and someone will be picked at random to get a mention in tomorrow’s blog (random really means that I agree with you the most).

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