2007

Merry Christmas 2007!

Merry Christmas! ‘Twas a little bit cooler than last year, and I have seen snow this winter, so we’re making some progress. Unfortunately, my hopes of nobody-getting-anybody-anything were dashed. Oh well. Maybe next year.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, my grandfather worked for Montgomery Ward. He was an architect, so I’m not certain what exactly his job was at a department store. Maybe he was designing a new building for them, or maybe he was moonlighting. Either way, one day, one of Grampa’s coworkers drew a picture of a reindeer. I don’t know whether it was part of a promotional campaign, or an attempt to develop a children’s story, or a doodle for his kids, but he drew a deer, and then placed a small red lightbulb directly on the deer’s nose. Turns out it was a magic lightbulb; a giant reindeer with a glowing nose and flames shooting from his eyes leapt from the page, burst through he wall, and let out a bloodcurdling roar as he flew away.

Well, the marketer/author/doodler knew he was on to something—and shortly thereafter Montgomery Ward would copyright his idea and turn it into a children’s song and Christmas special.

Growing up, my younger sister loved rabbits. She had all kinds of bunny merchandise, as well as a large, white, floppy-eared bunny who lived in a large pen in the backyard.

One long ago, somewhat cold Christmas morning, the telephone rang shortly after the Opening of the Presents. I answered the phone with a cheery “Merry Christmas!”

The woman on the other end of the phone said, “If you don’t bring that rabbit inside tonight I’m going to call the police. That poor thing’s going to freeze to death out there.” She hung up.

I returned the phone to its cradle and paused. It had been cold, but not freezing. The moron who’d called clearly knew nothing about rabbits, but was a moron nonetheless and could cause some trouble. So I told Dad about the call. He said not to worry.

It remained cold throughout the day, and every once in a while I’d look out the back window to see if the rabbit was okay. Each time I checked, the fuzzy white thing hadn’t moved an inch.

Night came, and I looked out the window again. The rabbit was still in the same spot. I was getting worried–not about the rabbit (after all, it wasn’t mine), but about whether the police would actually show up over a frozen rabbit. I asked Dad whether he was going to bring the rabbit inside tonight.

He said, “The rabbit’s going to be just fine.”

I said, “Well, I’ve been watching it, and it hasn’t moved all day.”

“Really? Why don’t you go check on it?”

So I turned on the exterior light and walked out back. I tried to step on the leaves as heavily as possible, hoping that the crunch would cause the rabbit to stir before I got there. Surely a dead rabbit would mean at least one if not both of my parents getting arrested. But the rabbit didn’t move. I was finally close enough to reach into the cage and touch it—

—and then I saw that the lifeless white furball wasn’t the rabbit at all. It was one of my sister’s stuffed bunny dolls.

I laughed out loud. The real rabbit had been inside all along, and Dad put a decoy out there to trick whatever busybody came looking for the real rabbit. Beautiful. I stood by the cage for a minute or two, highly amused but a little confused about what exactly would’ve happened if that busybody had shown up.

I heard the crunching on footsteps on dead leaves near the side of the house; someone was approaching. I thought it was Dad, and I turned around laughing. But it wasn’t Dad.

One of the neighbors had walked into my backyard with a flashlight, presumably to check on the rabbit. I said, “You’re not supposed to be back here.”

She said, “Young man, that thing is going to die if it hasn’t already. Now move and let me see, or I’ll get the police to do it.”

I said, “It’s not even a real rabbit, so just go away.”

She said, “Do you want me to call the police?”

Behind her, something rustled. I thought it was Dad, waiting for her. She didn’t seem to notice.

“The rabbit’s fine and you need to go or you’re in big trouble.”

She said, “When you grow up, I hope you take better care—”

Something snorted angrily behind her. She turned around and peered into the darkness.

An eleven-foot, forty-six-point buck with a glowing red nose and eyes of flame sprinted into my backyard. Without stopping, its fangs clamped down on the arm that my neighbor had pathetically flung up to defend herself, and bounded into the night sky. She hadn’t even had time to scream.

I watched until the silhouette of the reindeer and its prey had crossed the moon, then walked back in the house and congratulated Dad on his prank. He got me pretty good on that one.

2 Responses to “Merry Christmas 2007!”

Doctor Hmnahmna says: 
December 27th, 2007 at 11:03 am: And I like how you rocked the late 70s/early 80s moptop haircut. That is the requisite cut for the impossibly cute kid brought in late in a sitcom run to salvage one more year of ratings. It never worked, and cancellation was around the corner.

willburg says: 
January 15th, 2008 at 9:55 pm: i remember hearing the bunny story about 3 years ago but i dont remember the eleven-foot, forty-six point buck.

A good season.

This season turned out pretty well for the Bears after all: two games against the Packers, two wins against the Packers. Yesterday’s win—which was Green Bay’s worst loss of the year—makes up for the nine losses this year. I wish I could’ve seen the game yesterday instead of following it on NFL.com. Did Urlacher breathe fire after his touchdown? Did Farv-ruh cry again?

It’s time to abandon the conference system in the NFL. The Patriots are the best in the league this season, the Colts are probably second, and they can play no later than the conference championship. Never mind this season; the two teams with the most wins in any five-year period in league history are the Colts and the Patriots—and there’s no way they can play in the Super Bowl. That sucks. We’ve seen the same patterns several times in league history, most recently in the early 90s. The Niners and Cowboys were the best teams, and met in three consecutive NFC championships. God, those would have been incredible Super Bowls.

With the Iowa caucuses a little over a week away, I suppose it’s time to pick a horse in the 2008 election. Well, I can’t, yet. I’ve narrowed it down to two candidates, who I truly could stand to see in office for the next four or eight years. So I’ll endorse both of them:

I hereby announce, with great delight, that I would like our next President to be either the Democratic Representative from Ohio’s 10th District, Dennis Kucinich, or the former Republican Senator from Tennessee, Fred Thompson. Both are clearly men of great accomplishment.

Oops.

I somehow managed to delete my old journal. Fortunately, I copied all the entries and comments to disk, and I’ll have to figure out how to get them back on-line.

Here begins the new blog.

3 Responses to “Oops.”

  1. admin says:
    December 24th, 2007 at 4:23 pm: Test.
  2. Doctor Hmnahmna says:
    December 27th, 2007 at 6:13 am: Not only did you lose the blog entries, you lost your users. I had to re-register.
  3. admin says:
    December 27th, 2007 at 6:28 pm: Yup. You have to re-register.

“If you shoot him, you’ll just make him mad.”

This weekend I watched parts of two movies on race. One of them was Crash—forgive me for being a wee bit behind the times. I never saw it in the theater, figuring it’d be out on video or on television soon enough. I guess this weekend was soon enough.

I assume that the film was meant to spur nationwide discussions of the important racial issues of the day, in the hopes of bringing us all closer together. But at some point, a Best Picture winner has to be artistic, and Crash—at least the 15 minutes or so that I saw—was about as subtle as a public service announcement. Maybe one day I’ll have the patience to watch the whole thing and give it a fair shot, but it seemed like little more than an R-rated, heavy-handed after-school special.

The other movie was Mel Brooks’ visionary meditation on race, Blazing Saddles. Sure it’s hilarious, and most who’ve seen it love it, but I think it’s safe to say that it was far riskier to make Blazing Saddles in the racial climate of 1974 than it was to make Crash thirty years later. I think it’s also safe to say that Brooks did more for improving race relations than Paul Haggis did, even it wasn’t all that much. And yet Crash seemed so haughty and important. Oh well.

This weekend I will drive to Chicago to see friends and relatives I haven’t seen in a year and a half. I’m looking forward to seeing my old roommate, various aunts, my favorite uncle, and my now-eight-year-old cousin–it doesn’t seem like that long since I saw her last, but to her it’s been roughly a quarter of her conscious memory. Happily Sadly, her cat has died since I moved, so I won’t have to worry about being clawedand I hope the cat has gone to Cat Heaven, and is now a Cat Angel.

Truth be told, I’m most looking forward to seeing my long-lost love. It’s been a year and a half with no contact—my fault entirely, I’m the one who hasn’t called. I was stupid, and I screwed up when I left. Now, I’m not in a position where I can just move right back up there, and marriage simply isn’t feasible, and things sweet to taste prove in digestion sour—but O, to taste once again!

Great commercial, if the Bears didn’t suck this year.

It was a pizza, in case your browser couldn’t call up the picture. A deep-dish pizza from Malnati’s. It wasn’t a woman; women are everywhere–there’s, like, billions of them. But Malnati’s—fresh Malnati’s—exists only in Chi-town.

One Response to ““If you shoot him, you’ll just make him mad.””

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    December 10th, 2007 at 7:11 PMAlas, the only Malnati’s I’ve ever eaten has been the variety shipped on dry ice to anywhere in the USA. Still great pizza. Maybe one of these years I can make a longer trip to the greater Chicagoland area than a run through O’Hare.

Two educational timewasters.

Because you could always be less productive:

“Eight letters in search of a word.” Make as many three-or-more-letter words as you can in the time provided.

“Know your world.” Locate cities, landmarks, et al on the map. Humbling at times, but fun.

One Response to “Two educational timewasters.”

  1. gatorbob Says:
    December 12th, 2007 at 10:40 PMOkay, I was up at 3 a.m. last night trying to plant my little flag within 2000 kilometers of Tenochtitlan and Easter Island. Thanks a bunch. Can I return the favor by pointing toward the following website:

    http://www.freerice.com/

    Here’s the set-up – you supply the synonyms for increasingly difficult vocabulary words – they donate grains of rice to charity. Good luck!

On turning 29.

Once upon a time, I was dining out with some good friends. They brought along a woman I didn’t know—let’s call her “Mensa”—presumably to try and set us up. What ensued was a perfect example of why I hate setups.

The topic turned to birthdays on holidays, or shared with celebrities and historical figures. I mentioned that I share a birthday with Boris Karloff, Billy the Kid, and R.L. Burnside (“All I did was shoot him in the head. Him dyin’ was between him and the Lord.”), and that last year, my birthday was on Thanksgiving.

Mensa asked, “What about this year?”

I replied, deadpan, “It’s on Thanksgiving this year, too.”

With, like, total seriousness, she said, “No it isn’t.”

Me: “Sure it is.”

Her: “It can’t be.”

Animals instinctively know that showing signs of weakness will get you abandoned or eaten. It’s for the best, as far as the species as a whole is concerned. We supposedly enlightened humans have to settle for mocking those worthy of natural deselection. My friends saw the humor, and saw that Mensa didn’t, and did not intervene.

Me: “My birthday falls on Thanksgiving every single year.”

Her: “Not every year.”

Me: “Well, maybe not every year, but every year since I’ve been alive.”

Her: “That can’t be! It’s always on a Thursday—“

Me: “So’s my birthday.”

Her: “But it changes every year. Are you stupid?”

Me: “I’m not going to argue with someone who has the audacity to claim she knows more about my birthday than I do.”

Her: “Do you have any idea what you’re talking about?”

Me: “All I know is, every Thanksgiving I’m a year older and I eat cake.”

Her: “This is stupid.”

That made my night. Whatever my friends had hoped to accomplish by bringing her along had safely been thwarted. We laughed about it later.

Should I tell people when I’m kidding? Or do they deserve to think otherwise?

It occurs to me that there’s nothing special about turning 31, or 32 for that matter. In some cultures, 33 is a big deal because that’s how old Christ was when he was crucified. So this year, instead of turning 31, I’m going to turn 29 again. That way, I can heighten the drama next year when I turn “30,” and then the following year I’ll just turn 33. I’ll turn 33 again the year after that, and then turn 35. I’ll hold at 35 for the next four years, then turn 39 so I can have the big buildup to 40. None of this Jack Benny nonsense where I’m 39 for the rest of my life—that’s just silly.

This Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful:

…for my job. When people complain about being teachers—when they complain about the conditions, or the stress, or the district, or the exhaustion, or when they poor-mouth–I think back to some of my other jobs, and am contented. I will take my job at my school over most jobs that are out there.

…for my closest friends. The father of one of those closest friends used to say, “If you can count your closest friends on more than one hand, you’re lucky. If you count them on more than two, you’re lying.” I’m lucky. Looking back at college, I was lucky to get assigned to overflow honors housing. I wouldn’t have met my best friends otherwise.

…that I am me. I can’t imagine the horror of being anyone else. It chills me.

…that radical eco-nuts are sterilizing themselves. For this, O Lord, I thank thee.

…that I met most of my grandparents’ brothers and sisters before they died. One more died earlier this week, and is reunited with her husband who died in France in WWII.

…for my health. Avoiding the doctor has worked out pretty darned well for me, for a good long time.

…that the red pen I accidentally left in my shirt pocket didn’t break, open or melt in the washing machine or the dryer.

3 Responses to “On turning 29.”

  1. gatorbob Says:
    November 26th, 2007 at 10:12 PMBest returns on your birthday, my friend. Interestingly, my better half turns 35 every year and somehow she pulls it off, whereas I look more and more like my old man every year. By the way, I’ve had dates like that. My favorite was the woman who compared me to Alexander Haig when I confessed that I preferred reading non-fiction books.

    Cheers!

  2. VDV Says:
    November 27th, 2007 at 6:13 PMAl Haig? You?

    I won’t mention to KC that you’ve caught on.

  3. Somesense91 Says:
    December 1st, 2007 at 5:09 PMWow, that is a funny story. She sounds like a keeper!

“Only in education.”

This year I was selected to represent my department at a six-day training seminar for a program that we’ll call “Not A Thing,” or “N.A.T.” This was not exactly an honor, because I loathe having to miss school days. The kids take advantage of the substitute, I lose a day of instructional time because I can’t trust a sub to teach the curriculum, and usually, no matter how idiot-proof I make the instructions, the sub manages to screw them up. These training days simply put me further behind my schedule.

So I try to look on the bright side of these affairs: it’s a change of pace, I’m getting paid to get away from my little cherubs for some time, and hopefully I can get some good ideas out of it.

The first two days of the training were in September; the next two days were this past week. I’d say that we’ve spent half the time so far discussing the need to get other teachers at the schools to “buy into” the NAT program, about a quarter of the time on useless miscellany, and about a quarter of the time on interesting ideas and suggestions. One day’s worth of useful stuff, three days’ worth of crap, and I’m four days off the pace I set for my curriculum.

Back in September, the presenters stated that you should not let students fail, that you should never give zeroes, that you should never stop trying to get kids to learn.

It’s a beautiful sentiment, but then the Dismal Science comes into play. The more time and effort you spend on trying to teach Student X, the less time and effort you have remaining to teach Students Y and Z.

I asked the presenters, “What do you do when you come across a kid who, regardless of ability, refuses to do the work, absolutely refuses to learn?”

The response was some variation on, “That’s a good question. I don’t have the answer.”

Thanks.

One of the presenters, in trying to convince people of the need to adopt the NAT, paraphrased a professor from Harvard. This is not an exact quote, but it’s close:

If I have to show you any more than one piece of evidence that this program works, then you’re just making an excuse to avoid it.

My immediate reaction was, “If that professor was in the law department, he should be stripped of his tenure.” I wrote it down as quickly as I could, but it was so absurd on its face that I thought I must have misheard him—but the next day, the other presenter referred to that same Harvard professor:

Asking for more than one piece of evidence means you’re looking for an excuse.

Try that “logic” in a court of law, or a physics lab. If the first piece of evidence or data supports a claim and the next ten pieces do not, was I merely “looking for excuses” to reject the claim? Or was it reasonable to believe that the claim might be no good?

This is not to say that the NAT program is bad—but it suddenly reeked of hucksterism. They were trying to pitch a program without letting anyone look behind the curtains.

One of the presenters examined problems with the structures of various academic grading systems. His biggest complaint about the traditional grading system was that a grade of zero could destroy a student’s chances of passing a course—and because the student knows that, it destroys his incentive to perform better.

He ignored the fact that the very difficulty of recovering from a zero also provides an incentive to avoid zeros in the first place.

He then went on to attack the idea of using averages. He complained that the most commonly used grading systems do not have equal intervals—for example, using intervals of 10 percent for A’s, B’s, C’s and D’s leaves a 60 percent interval for F’s (i.e., a grade below 60% is an F). He went so far as to call it “ridiculous,” “absurd,” and claim that “mathematicians know this is invalid and unreliable.”

Well… no. It’s not invalid and it’s not unreliable. It’s a simple statement that you want your students to learn at least 60% of what’s taught to them.

He complained that averages are used as measures of performance “only in education,” and that nobody else “in the real world” used them. He said to imagine that that in football, you had to run four consecutive plays from a particular line of scrimmage, and at the end of the four plays you could advance the line of screimmage by the average gain. For instance, if you started from your 20 and ran plays of 8, 10, 12, and 14 yards, you’d take the average gain (11 yards) and begin the next series from the 31 yard line.

Football coaches would call you crazy, he claimed, because it’s absurd to use averages! Which is absolutely true, unless you’re looking at completion percentages, rushing averages, kicking averages, punting averages, receiving averages, average yards-after-catch…

Can anyone provide examples of using averages “in the real world”?

His solution to the problem of averages was to use a total points system with a twist. For instance, if there were 1000 points to be gained in a quarter and there are five possible letter grades, you divide 1000 by five to get 200 point grade intervals:

A: 800 to 1000 points
B: 600 to 799 points
C: 400 to 599 points
D: 200 to 399 points
F: 0 to 199 points

So a student earning 500 of a possible 1000 points would earn a C. Think about that: 50% is a C.

His justification: “If I’m taking a class in Chinese, and I get a 50%, that means I learned 50% more than what I knew at the beginning. How can you call that ‘failure’?”

Now, never mind that he’s still, in a sense, using averages, except that in his system you can average 20% and still pass the course. The first flaw in his reasoning is that if he knew nothing at the beginning, then “learning 50% more” would mean he still knew nothing. Half of zip is still zip.

The other flaw in his reasoning: that 50% figure doesn’t mean he learned “50% more than before,” it means he learned 50% of what he should have learned. And maybe in his courses, he’s willing to pass kids who learn less than half of the material. That’s his business.

If there are better grading systems out there, systems that are better at encouraging student learning, I’m all for them and I want to hear about them. But to attack the concept of using averages, and to attack 60% (or 65%, or 68%) as a minimum passing grade is a red herring. It leads us nowhere. Worse, it’s not like he was leading us toward a solution—we have to find those on our own—so it was pure, meaningless nonsense.

I have two more days of this to look forward to in January.

7 Responses to ““Only in education.””

  1. Gerton Says:
    November 15th, 2007 at 8:17 PM: A substitute teacher deserves so much more credit than what they receive currently (if any). For the simple fact that anyone who can be fairly dim, unskilled, and untrained and still maintain a sense of order in the classro… actually nevermind.But as far as the grading system goes, its a great idea… Just imagine if all the teachers at Paxon adopted it, most of the students could finally pass those mentaly challenging courses (@Paxon *gasp*). Notice the use of the word “most”, you know you will still have the few handfull of students that just …don’t try.

    On a serious note when dealing with “0″s and when/how to give them out, the teachers discretion should be used on a student to student basis. If you see a student struggling but he turns in his homework daily and participates in class fully (adding to the overall educational value of the lectures), the student should receive more points (or have less deducted) when submitting a “subjective” assignment.(not turning in work always = “0″) This of course will instill hope into the sad hearts of that handfull students…

  2. Andrew Jackson Says:
    November 16th, 2007 at 3:42 PM: I really hope all public high schools adopt this NAT program. Kids these days are getting smarter and smarter. (My baby nephew has already developed a sense of sarcasm.) I don’t want to have my steady job in 10 years taken away from me by some young, brainy product of a good public education system. I say, let my generation be the last smart one!
  3. BluePairJeans Says:
    November 19th, 2007 at 6:07 PM: Personally I believe kids these days have it too easy as it is. I’m appalled by some of the students we unleash on society with high school diplomas. I remember a time when an A was 94 of higher and below 69 was an F.
    The The Florida Department of Education, with all of its infinite wisdom, has had quite an effect on our rising youth. Teachers nowadays seem forced to teach for the sole purpose of passing FCAT and similar tests, while little or no real life instruction is given.
    So basically what I’m getting at is: change is needed, but this guy’s ideas are plain lunacy…
  4. BluePairJeans Says:
    November 19th, 2007 at 6:08 PM: hmmm, it doesn’t appear as if my last post actually posted…
  5. VDV Says:
    November 19th, 2007 at 8:25 PM: I have to approve the posts before they are posted, to ensure as much anonymity and as little profanity as possible.
  6. xion09 Says:
    November 20th, 2007 at 8:05 PM: Well as BluePairJeans says kids do have it easier now a days compared to past generations but shouldn’t that be thought of as a good thing like progress towards a better society. Just because todays kids don’t have to worry about war and poverty as much as past generations doesn’t mean their going to turn out as pompous idiots.
  7. Que si Says:
    December 5th, 2007 at 11:52 PM: I don’t really have much to say but since everyone else was posting I decided to conform. Maybe now people will like me…

Ragione.

Last weekend, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson went up a few notches in my book. He proposed that congressional and presidential pay raises be linked to the federal budget deficit, echoing my probably-not-too-original proposal to link congressional salaries—never mind pay raises—be proportional to federal budget surpluses. That’s right, nearly two years ago I wrote about what was probably originally someone else’s idea to finally get the budget under control, putting me if not way ahead of the curve, then at least further ahead of the curve than Richardson and the rest of the presidential field. I should be President. But Richardson might not be too horrible in my stead.

Also last weekend, there was a minor kerfluffle over Barack Obama not putting his hand over his heart during the national anthem. Naturally, this reminded everyone who wants him to lose of his decision not to wear the flag lapel pin after 9/11, and caused everyone who wants him to win to search for video and pictures of other candidates failing to salute the flag properly.

I am embarrassed to admit that for years, I thought that you weren’t supposed to put your hand over your heart for the anthem. So I finally looked up the Flag Code.

UNITED STATES CODE
TITLE 36
CHAPTER 10
§171. Conduct during playing
During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.

Whoops.

I think Obama deserves a pass on that one—as long as he’s smart enough to remember that he’s trying to get elected President and needs to salute the flag when appropriate.

In other presidential campaign news, I attended a Halloween party last night. I ran out of time to think of a costume, so I tore a sheet of college-ruled paper from a spiral notebook, wrote the word “COSTUME” on it, attached it to a lanyard, and hung it around my neck. “Lame” according to my dates. “Awesome” according to everyone else.

Anyhow, as the night went on, and people made their ways home, the few of us left over chit-chatted about a number of topics. The deepest one: “Would you rather have a lover with empathy or with compassion?”

Looking back, I should have answered, “Either, as long as I’m having her,” wiggled my greasepaint eyebrows and tapped the ash off my cigar. Instead, I answered, “Empathy. I don’t want a girl who’s going to keep bringing home all kinds of g*******d stray animals.” Actually, I’m not sure which answer was worse.

Later on, the topic turned to which presidential candidates we wouldn’t vote for. At one point, someone said, “I can’t vote for Giuliani. He’s gotta be in the mob or something.”

I bristled, almost certainly because of my own ethnicity. I hesitated to say anything, because I don’t like to see the Race Card (in this case, the Ethnicity Card) played, and didn’t want to be accused of defending him simply because he was paisan. But I also didn’t like the insinuation that because he’s Italian-American, he must be a “friend of the friends.” People who think that my ethnicity dictates a link to the Mafia can no longer be reasoned with.

So I spoke up in his defense, pointing out that though his father was a convict with mob connections, Giuliani made his career as a United States Attorney by prosecuting the Five Families of New York. That’s not exactly a cakewalk, and it ain’t safe. The Families went so far as to discuss putting a contract on him.

In short, there are more than enough reasons to dislike him, or to vote against him—but the mob isn’t one of them.

The Patriots are ridiculously good. They’re on pace to beat the all-time season scoring record by over 100 points. But their success reminds me of why the 1985 Bears were so good, especially the defense. The Great Buddy Ryan, Defensive Coordinator of the 1985 Bears, proceeded from a fairly simple assumption: if you murder the other team’s quarterbacks, they can’t win. I think there’s a lot of truth to this assumption: most teams need a quarterback to hand off the ball or throw it to receivers–but if they’re dead, or at least maimed, they can do neither.

In short, when is somebody who really, really wants to win the Super Bowl this year going to suck it up and accept the penalties and fines for hammering Tom Brady on every single play, even the spikes and the kneel-downs? When? It’s like no one else wants to win.

The Bears suck this year, period.

A good day.

I woke up alive, which is always good.

I remembered that Clemson played yesterday but I had no idea what the score was. Clemson 70, Central Michigan 14. That’s the most points I can remember Clemson scoring since the year they won the national championship.

I had lunch with my sister, which was good, but it was at a restaurant with very slow service and the food came out cold, which was bad, but at least I know never to go there again, which is good.

I bought two wide soup bowls and a paperback copy of Ulysses, which was good. I mean the buying part, not the book. I haven’t finished the book yet.

I had two games scheduled for today. I decided that I felt like scoring five goals. It doesn’t seem that you can decide to feel a certain way, but I believe you can. And I believe you’d better do so in the case of athletic competition, or academic assessment, or in plently of other areas of performance.

We won the first game 8-0, I scored the first (and therefore game-winning) goal, and scored a left-footed volley near the end of the game. I played the last five minutes in goal—the first time I’ve played there in any sort of even remotely official game—and made a totally unnecessary save. It was awesome. We won the second game 4-1. We were tied at one, and then I scored a hat trick. Five goals and the game-winners in both games, which was good.

The cutest of my female teammates got a strawberry on her rear end from a slide tackle last week. Evidently it’s healing. That was good.

Then I got in the car to drive home, and the first words over the radio were “Chicago Bears 19, Philadelphia Eagles 16.” All four of my teams won this weekend. That was good.

Good night.

These last coupla weeks.

It’s been a while since my last entry. You can stop shivering with anticipation. Here goes:

I received a large bonus in my last paycheck. I don’t know exactly why I got it. None of my coworkers can explain how the district awarded the bonuses, and those who have called the district to find out can’t get a straight answer. I think it might have to do with the fact that my students earned the highest pass rates on the AP US Government and AP Microeconomics exams last spring, but who knows? Maybe the district used their equivalent of the grading die.

My brother is getting married in about a year, and said I was his best man—but I didn’t hear the “his” and responded, “Ever? Probably.” Anyhow, the wedding’s going to be on a beach up in New Jersey, and the wedding party will be barefoot. Sounds nice, right? Well, think about those conditions:

New Jersey.

Beach.

Barefoot.

Any two of those conditions would be perfectly acceptable for a joyous wedding. But all three? There’ll be all sorts of ungodly medical waste washing ashore from New York. Hopefully they’ll rake the beach a day or two ahead of time, to get the hypodermics out of the sand.

The Bears’ offense has been atrocious, the special teams have been mediocre, and the defense has held on as long as it can—but there’s only so much you can do when the offense keeps going three-and-out or turning it over. The good news is that with the win against Green Bay, they’re halfway to a successful season.

…the Cubs’ season ended just a little bit later than usual.

My family dined at a new-ish restaurant called Tommy’s Pizza. It’s a New York-style Italian restaurant near Tinseltown. The pizza is good, though I’m not sure it’s sloppy enough to qualify as true New York-style. The caprese salad is very good (though I’ve never had any other to compare).

The lasagna was okay, but there was a very odd flavor in it that I couldn’t quite place. It was distracting enough that I couldn’t enjoy myself. It was like bland cinnamon—we thought it might be fennel from the sausage. We asked the chef what was in the lasagna. He responded, “If I told you… I’d have to kill you!”—which was hilarious! I’d never heard that one before, so to show him how funny he was, we cut off his thumbs and put his head in a vise. He still didn’t know what the flavor was.

Maybe it was anise.

I heard a gentleman on a political show suggest that a particular party should drop its stance on abortion in order to attract more people to that party—meaning the people who would vote for that party but for that one issue.

The problem with that logic is that if there are voters who refuse to vote for a party because of its stance on abortion, there are probably just as many voters who vote for that party only because of its stance on abortion. The same would go for the other party. I don’t think either party would gain much from changing its position on such a core issue.

The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spoke at Columbia University a while back. Many were upset that Columbia gave him a forum, especially after one of Columbia’s deans “Godwinned” the situation by saying that they’d have allowed Hitler to speak. The little man marched into the heart of the Great Satan, New York City itself, gave a speech, denied the Holocaust, asked the usual nutjob questions about who was really behind 9/11… and then claimed that Iran did not have homosexuals.

Think about that, think about what you’d expect the political leader of Iran’s government to say: perhaps a denial of the fact that the Iranian government persecutes homosexuals, or perhaps a condemnation of homosexuality as an abomination before Allah. Nope. He flatly claimed that Iran simply did not have homosexuals: “In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I do not know who has told you that we have it.”

The audience burst out in laughter, right in his face. Simple laughter made this Holocaust denier, this tool of the Supreme Leader, this man attempting to defeat the “Great Satan” in Iraq, this thug into a joke.

Sometimes history is made by accident as much as intention. That round of laughter may end up doing more to weaken the Iranian dictatorship than any armies, diplomats, or sanctions ever could. I hope that the video of Ahmadinejad being ridiculed is shown repeatedly in Iran, and that it emboldens the Iranians, that it gives them strength and courage to laugh at their dictators, and march and act against their dictators, and end the rule of the Ayatollahs.

Some Iranian students protested an Ahmadinejad speech this week in Tehran, chanting “Death to the Dictator.” We’ll see.

One Response to “These last coupla weeks.”

  1. Que si Says:
    October 16th, 2007 at 5:58 PMI don’t think I would go so far as to say the combination of New Jersey and Barefoot would qualify as “perfectly acceptable”. Actually, I’m not sure Beach and New Jersey would be an acceptable combination judging by your description of the lovely gifts drifting in from NYC. I’m even considering denousing New Jersey as “perfectly accpetable” but I’m sure you have some friends (and contributors to this blog) in NJ and I don’t want to risk offending them. Now, if YOU lived in New Jersey, well I wouldn’t know WHAT to do.