Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Life is cyclical and linear, rather like history itself. History builds on everything that has happened before this minute, while at the same time, many of the same type events reoccur. You never jump in the same river twice, but the river always has some similar characteristics.

I was born at 7 PM on Christmas Day, thirty-seven years ago. Christmas was my favorite season. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the projector display a colored light on our foil Christmas tree before the wheel spun, placing a different color in front of the lamp. Christmas meant special songs, and presents, and visits from my grandmother. Sometimes Christmas meant a trip to Texas to see my grandfather. I loved Christmas, though I did learn that Christmas was much more important than mere birthdays.

My parents are gone now, and I find myself about to part ways with my second wife. Life is change, though. This Christmas I am with my close friends the Zeanahs, sharing a house with the sweet, beautiful dog I got fourteen years ago in Mobile, Alabama. In a few days, I'll get a chance to camp and hunt with my friends Davis and Byron, and then, I'll start my new career as a high school teacher. Life is often not what we imagine it will be- but it's still good.

I hope each of you have a Christmas filled with laughter, and love. May this coming year be full of peace and new discovery, and may you be the absolute best you can. Since I've been blessed with such incredible friends, your best is awe-inspiring. Merry Christmas, everybody.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Neighborhood Crime Watch

I know, it's not actual content, but I still find it funny. William Shatner has found the role he was born to play. Oddly enough, there were a couple of senior sergeants in 3rd Group that were addicted to Boston Legal...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Time Runs Away

Just over two years ago, I was in a far away, desolate land, listening to this song over and over, and crying for humanity. For all we could be, and all that we are not. Tomorrow I'll be cynical and dry eyed again. Tomorrow I won't give a damn. But, perhaps I'll ponder on how great and small we really are.

Garth Brooks-"We Shall Be Free"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Goodbye, Mr. D.

Yesterday was the end of the semester for Buttress. During the past week, I've given the class several days during which they could do an in-class assignment to make up for work they had missed, or complete one of the two most recent tests. I was able to submit all grades from this semester before leaving Friday.

Most of the staff from the school met at the Road Runner Cafe after the work day ended. My mentor teacher is retiring, and we wanted to celebrate his many years of exemplary service. It must be a bitter sweet moment for many, but everyone seemed to have a great time, and with some reason: the place was clean, the food was delicious and reasonably priced, and drinks weren't expensive. I'm a bit apprehensive about teaching on my own this coming semester, but I'm excited about having a real job and making decent money again.

I really worked hard to let my students earn decent grades. I spoke with them all before the semester ended, letting them know their grade status, and what they needed to do to pull that up. Many of them managed to do that, and I also helped them by dropping some of the lowest daily grades and each student's lowest test grade. My metrics looked like this:

Class Statistics
US His Period 1
29 Scores
Mean Score: 82.571
Median Score: 89.041
High Score: 97.676
Low Score: 11.77

Class Statistics
US His Period 3
27 Scores
Mean Score: 74.972
Median Score: 84.824
High Score: 94.803
Low Score: 29.689

Class Statistics
US His Period 4
29 Scores
Mean Score: 85.650
Median Score: 91.103
High Score: 101.27
Low Score: 39.9

Class Statistics
US His Period 7
30 Scores
Mean Score: 86.380
Median Score: 92.9255
High Score: 108.38
Low Score: 19.616

Class Statistics
Augusta His Period 6
14 Scores
Mean Score: 93.151
Median Score: 94.3565
High Score: 105.04
Low Score: 83.41

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Waiting for the Sunrise

If you think
Come to me, sweet nepenthe
is a good line, you probably need to get over yourself, or get more sleep. That's all I'm saying.

In other news, I think it's bedtime. I slept one hour last night.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cheesy Goodness

John's Easy Queso Dip


1 lb 2% Velveeta Cheese (other cheese, especially sharp cheddar may be substituted)
14.5 oz can of diced, peeled tomatoes
2 to 5 jalapenos

Optional: garlic, other peppers, white or green onions, cilantro, crumbled meat

Empty the can of tomatoes into a small slow cooker and turn the cooker on high. I add a teaspoon of minced garlic at this point, but you can get by without it. Remove seeds from jalapenos and dice. 2 or 3, depending on size, is the right spice level for most people. Add them to your tomatoes, and cook on high about 45 minutes, then turn heat to low and add your Velveeta (I use the Kroger brand), cut into 1/2" cubes. Simmer about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 or so, and then turn your heat down to warm. Serve immediately or up to 2 hours later.

This is a really good party recipe, because it's easy to adjust your time if you're not certain when your guests will be ready to eat. If the tomatoes begin to cook down, just add a little water and turn them down to low until you're ready to add the cheese. Surprisingly enough, about 30% blue cheese is excellent in this recipe. If your like your food super cheesy, add about 20% more cheese (I think my starting ratio is a good one because the cheese doesn't overpower). Serve with tortilla chips, salsa, and sour cream, or add black beans and tortillas and make it a meal. I've had vegetarians at many past parties, but 1/3 cup of crumbled bacon or chorizo should make a nice addition.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Picture Worth 1K

Brigid at Home on the Range has posted an absolutely incredible picture. That is all.

Fly Away

The Icon A5 is a soon-to-be-released fun seaplane that "only" runs what a decent house goes for these days. Innovations include folding wings for garage storage and a simplified flight control layout. The A5 fits into the 2004 Light Sport Aircraft category, so only 20 hours of flight time are required to earn a license to fly her. The A5 has a 100 hp engine and max take-off weight of 1430 lbs.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Racist Gun Control

Larry Correia lays it on the line here: I do have some news for the people that take issue with me. I’m not just selling guns to racist stormtrooper hillbillies. I’m selling guns to everybody. My customer base looks more like America than Barack Obama’s cabinet. I’ve sold guns to people who don’t speak English. I’ve sold guns to Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Arabs, Mormons, Catholics, Muslims, Buddists, Wiccans, Lesbians, a Democrat state legislator, the head of a union that supported Obama, and your momma.

Self defense is a human right. Ironically it is the so-called champions of freedom and diversity and acceptance that want all of us to be defensless and dependant on the teat of government to protect our sorry asses. It isn’t just people like me that are worried about having guns banned. I’ve sold piles of guns to brand new people recently. People who have never in their life thought about it, but are worried now. I’ve sold guns in the last month to HIPPIES. I didn’t even know we had those anymore!

Everybody needs guns.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Life Marches On, Dec 08

Little Momma was born on a day which will live in infamy- but not because of her- over fifty years ago. Little Momma is often insightful and wise, and despite our very different politics, we frequently see fairly eye to eye. Perhaps the saddest part of breaking up a romantic relationship, to me, is the loss of family. Family is such a central and important part of even our modern lives, scattered though we are by distance and hurried and harried with so many things to save us time and improve our efficiency. When a couple parts, though some of the relationships with the in-laws may remain (my father stayed on excellent terms with his former MIL, visiting several times a year until his death), it is usually awkward and sometimes just painful being around those people.

Jordy took Little Momma out for a birthday dinner last night. I gave her a gift and a note to pass on:

We can never see the future
But I'm glad I can see you now

Happy Birthday!

We puny humans, with our tiny bodies and occasionally huge dreams, just keep on flying through space.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Budget Triple Feature

Vice is a 2008 movie starring Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah. It's a would-be gritty cop flick. It might not be a horrible choice if you want to feel there are no innocents, like Michael Madsen (who I have decided is properly relegated to supporting roles), and are drunk. 2.5/5 stars.

Dance of the Dead is a 2008 zomedy. (Yeah, Larry Correia, I just made that up.) It's a low-budget, frequently milked for laughs, teen reject vs. monster flick. And it's not at all bad, as those go. If you're in the mood for some laughs with occasional gore, this could be the way to go. It's rare for a movie to both have me laugh out loud and also shriek "NO!" at the screen at least once. 3/5 stars.

Ghost House Pictures produced Dance of the Dead, so I thought I might take a chance on No Man's Land: the Rise of Reeker. I should have taken a hint from the title, 'cause, baby, this one stinks. After a somewhat atypical opening scene, the movie goes on to fumble badly by trying special effects that cannot be reasonably done within their $50 budget (and it had to be fifty dollars, because if they paid more than that, they got taken). And it has frequently horrible dialog. The best part of this movie was bagging on it, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style. 1.5/5 stars. I'm a little disappointed, because Michael Robert Brandon can manage to look innocent and morph to truly, intensely, creepy.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Goodnight and Goodbye

Civil rights activist and singer Odetta died Tuesday, 2 December. She released almost 30 albums, powerfully influencing American music. Here's to you, ma'am.

Teach This

Today my classes were supposed to have a guest who would lead them in battling each other in a civil war battle using miniatures to represent forces. I was happy at the thought of taking a bit of a break and maybe catching up on some grading. As I drove into work today, it occurred to me: I should have had a backup.

I was a little surprised that my guest wasn't waiting or at least showing up soon after I arrived at Buttress at 0630. After a few minutes, I looked at the chapter- fortunately it was over the beginning of the Civil War- and quickly made up six questions whose answers could be found in a 30-page range. I had already begun writing them on the board when the history department chair leaned in and told me my guest would not be teaching today.

Okay. No problem.

And it wasn't.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Buy This Book

Click here to order MHI. It's pure, distilled badassitude, and one of the most enjoyable reads ever. Assuming you like the ability to do something other than scream helplessly when the Things that go Bump arrive.

It's a great price, and it's written by one of my favorite people. Seriously. Buy.

From Under the Onus

It seems Blogger- without a word of explanation- has decided that my history blog, The History of Us, is not a spam blog. Thanks, random faceless net people!

Just an FYI, resources on The History of Us are free for any educational not-for-profit use, as long as I am credited.

John R. Shirley

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Civics Quiz

Civics Quiz

You answered 32 out of 33 correctly — 96.97 %

Average score for this quiz during November: 77.8%
Average score: 77.8%

You can take the quiz as often as you like, however, your score will only count once toward the monthly average.

Quiz here.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Yesterday at the dinner table I offered some things for which I'm thankful.

I'm thankful to be alive. I'm thankful to be an American. We have so much that we usually take for granted, like regular food. Even if it's not always our favorite thing, most of us don't go too hungry. We have places to stay.

I'm thankful for family and friends, for people who love me. I'm thankful for hope, and joy, and peace.

Happy Holidays, folks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Knives and Real Knives

My most excellent friend Matt G posted one of my favorite posters here.

As he mentions, I've been known to smile on occasion. And I like a BIG knife.
Here I am with Byron, Jen, and Tam.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Start of a New Week

I am for now the sole weekend supervisor at Fort Classified. We have a later shift that begins at 11:30 on Sundays. Yesterday, I cooked spinach omelets with lots of garlic and smothered in cheese, home fries, and biscuits for my Sunday shift. I made enough to feed everyone of my floor staff who wanted some, and still have enough left for the ticketing staff and security guard to eat breakfast, as well. I fed 10 people, and the food was very well received.

There's just nothing else quite like sharing food to build a sense of companionship, I think. Sure, there are other "team/relationship building" things you can do, but sharing food just seems to me to instill a sense of family. My mom and dad are gone, but I remember the breakfasts Dad would always cook on Sunday, and some Saturday mornings. He'd usually cook bacon, sausage or baloney, as well as grits, eggs, and biscuits.

I miss you, Dad.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Body "MPG"

40.5 miles per gallon

Created by The Car Connection

Endings and Beginnings

Last night I used clippers, first with a guard, and then without, to buzz my hair down to stubble. I got into a steaming shower with a tub of Noxzema and a Mach 3, and reduced the stubble to bare skin. It was time-consuming, and at times painful- I even cut myself once or twice- but I cut away all the old growth. It was time to let it go, and now it's time to let something new grow.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Doors

I finished my last day student teaching this afternoon. I used 3 web research task sheets that I developed for my U.S. History classes, and 2 for my History of Augusta classes. I also babysat a sub who was with me (in fairness, she did walk around and try to help a few students during the day). I was told to drive downtown and fill out some paperwork so I could be paid for time I cover for Mr. Damon, starting Monday.

I was almost downtown when I received a call, and was officially offered a position teaching at Buttress. I accepted. I'll try teaching on my own for a semester, and see how I like it. At the least, it'll be nice to finally be making decent money again, and not working the equivalent of 2 or more jobs. We'll see how the other areas of my life shake out.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Every minute is an eternity
Every second is a blow
Heavy on my defenseless shoulders
As I balance on the tension high-wire

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Note About Pop Feminists

If you say "that's what they get" of people who get drunk and pass out at parties having things drawn on them or pictures taken looking like they're having sex with someone, or other humiliation such as simulating or actually pressing bare erogenous zones against them, that's just not so far away from believing drunks "deserve" to be raped. And you sure as hell aren't a feminist. True feminists aren't just about smashing the glass ceiling and the right to abort. A true feminist is against exploitative behavior by anyone, towards anyone.

Another Big Helping

Of pure, raw belligerence and aggression. Don't click if vulgarity offends you.
This is Dope- "Die, MF, Die". But let me tell you how I really feel...

Long, Slow Day

I woke up yesterday in the very early AM and realized I had a bit of a sore throat. I called in and spoke with Mr. D, and then set my alarm for 10 AM and went back to sleep.

Jordy and I met for an early lunch, and after I swung by the school to pick up A History of the Low Countries (Paul Arblaster, 2006), I helped Jordy prepare for her presentation today. I'm afraid she was a bit stressed, but I still enjoyed hanging out with her for most of the day. She has an innovative game prepared: if a sheet with a question is answered correctly, it is flipped. The sheets together make a mosaic picture.

I also managed to get a decent bit of work done on my History of the Low Countries course Dr. vT was kind enough to allow me to take as an independent studies course. I am terribly behind in the class, but I hope to make that up in the next two weeks. As I worked, and began to make something out of how I interpreted the words in the book in front of me, I grinned. I love this, I remembered. I haven't been true enough to myself lately.

I will complete my classroom hours for my practicum Friday. I'm hoping to be allowed to substitute for Mr. D for some of the remainder of the semester, picking up some much-needed funds.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Idiots Running the Asylum

I received this a few minutes ago in my email box.


Your blog at: has been identified as a potential spam blog. To correct this, please request a review by filling out the form at

Your blog will be deleted in 20 days if it isn't reviewed, and your readers will see a warning page during this time. After we receive your request, we'll review your blog and unlock it within two business days. Once we have reviewed and determined your blog is not spam, the blog will be unlocked and the message in your Blogger dashboard will no longer be displayed. If this blog doesn't belong to you, you don't have to do anything, and any other blogs you may have won't be affected.

They say spam blog identification is "fuzzy". Perhaps a few of you can read through some History of US posts and let me know why it's showing as spam...

Monday, November 17, 2008

A bit embarrassed...

What dog breed are you? I'm a Poodle! Find out at

The Perversion of Feminism

There is a problem with many "feminists" in the United States today. Feminism has been co-opted and perverted by something it's not. There is a strong streak of misandry that has resulted in authentic feminism being discounted by popular culture. Feminism is the movement to eliminate sex-based discrimination. That's it.

There is a double standard I have seen in many women, even some women with whom I have been close. It is totally unacceptable for any man to deride all women as stupid, sluts, gold-diggers or bitches, and I absolutely refuse to do it, because it's untrue and unfair. I have often witnessed women refer to all men as assholes or dogs. This is hypocrisy. Equal is equal and fair is fair. It is wrong to demand fair treatment and then behave as a sexist. These man-haters are the ones who give authentic feminists the bad image.

Years ago, someone I know who unfortunately is a misandrist (though she often has backed up and said "except you" after unleashing an insult towards all men) saw singer Nellie McKay on a TV show, and found her delightful. Here are some of McKay's lyrics from "It's a Pose":

Fellas can't you see I'm pissed
Tryin' to enjoy my readin'
But you insist on interpretin' text
Oh go on @#$! off I'm pleadin'
Every sentence is a pretext for sex sex sex sex
God you went to Oxford
Head still in your boxers
But you're male so what should I expect?
"what the hell do you mean?"
Well for instance
You've committed every rape
"and what else?"
I won't heed your insistence
Mr. copulatin' populatin' masturbatin' denigratin'
Birth of a Nation instigatin' violator of my escape
But hey hey hey, that ain't nothin' to do with you
You're a sensitive Joe, I'm forgettin'
But every woman knows
It's a pose, just a pose

If any of you need help interpreting this, it says that all men are rapists with nothing but sex on their minds. A feminist didn't write this, a disturbed sexist maniac did, and if you think this song is great, you have a serious "reality challenge". Such hypocrisy sickens me. I wrote this in reply:

"The Protest Song" John R. Shirley 22 December 2004

Pretend you're victimized; I'll pretend I'm pissed
That you actually could believe or pretend to buy the bullshit
That gets fed, spoon fed, shoved in your head
Every god damned way
You can imagine tons of difficulties to clog your hard-fought day
And your fight for suffrage will be here to stay
So you'll never be an equal: you'll always be a slave
You'll fight for your rights, long days and empty nights
Until you're cold in your grave

And I'll never be a hero. Hell, I'm just a man
I have no class, my touch is hard, and I kill puppies for fun
But I can do the bleeding even though you swear it's not for you
I'll catch the bullets and till the soil
And cry tears over my children that no-one will ever
Because I'm just a man

You know, I AM "just a man". Mostly good, with my own flaws, but I'm okay with that. I don't hate myself because of the color of my skin or my biological makeup. I came programmed to look as I do, and I as a human largely get to choose how I will behave. This is true for all people of every sex (there are more than two), color, religion, and group. End the hypocrisy. Embrace genuine feminism, or as it could be even better described (to embrace combatting other prejudicial ideas) equalism.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Favorite Things

When I remember to think about it, I am always deeply thankful. All of us in the United States, 2008, have so much. Recessions and economic downturns and stresses that we have, we still have so much more to be greatful for.

I had dinner with a few friends last night at PF Chang's. I had fairly high hopes, but moderate expectations from Chang's, but my Spicy Eggplant was practically perfect, the company was great, and our waitress was lovely and very nice. I was headed back towards the house when I got in touch with Jordy, and asked if she'd like to wander the mall with me for a bit, and get some coffee. I remember how much fun I had as a child walking through the malls in Mobile, Alabama, looking at all the Christmas displays and lights. I seem to have lost something, there, though I think I have gained much more.

It seemed Jordy and April were already at the mall, so I turned around, and we met a little later. We ended up at Barnes and Nobles before going our seperate ways. I found myself still in the bookstore after 9 PM. As I stepped outside, I realized the mall was closed, and I was a decent hike from my car. And it was chilly. I can use the exercise, but as I walked, I thought, cars: they're one of my favorite things. Compared to our ancestors of just over 100 years ago, we can go further, at speeds unthinkable not so long ago. Hopefully we can use that extra time profitably.

Love Hurts

(Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke)

Love is funny, or it's sad,
Or it's quiet, or it's mad.
It's a good thing, or it's bad,
But beautiful...

Beautiful to take a chance
And if you fall, you fall,
And I'm thinking,
I wouldn't mind at all.

Love is tearful, or it's gay,
It's a problem, or it's play.
It's a heartache either way,
But beautiful...

We humans have emotions. Sometimes those emotions, those feelings we have evolved to take the place of raw instinct, are painful. But that's okay. It's just means we're human, and we're still alive. We can still feel, we can still participate in the totality of life. Good, bad, or indifferent- life happens, and we decide how we'll interpret it. So, yes, love hurts, but it also soothes, and fulfills, and help us understand what it means to live fully. That's a good thing. Here's to love.

"But Beautiful" has been sung by various performers. Here is a version from one of my favorites, Nat "King" Cole.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Morning Rough and Ready

I like to make omelettes and scrambles with potatoes in them. Getting the right texture is somewhat of a challenge. I deal with this by partially cooking my potatoes in the microwave. They are then diced, and browned.

This morning, I heated my pan, and added some peanut oil. Rosemary went in next, and then a diced potato. (If you like a bit of spice, 1-2 fresh jalapenos or half a poblano pepper would be a nice addition at this point.) I crumbled a grilled Bubba Burger into the pan (if you are in a bit of a hurry, this is a great time to make coffee), and waited a few minutes before adding four eggs. I reduced the heat after adding the eggs, and then drizzled a bit of sesame oil around the edges before flipping. 2% Velveeta was laid in strips across the top, and after the whole affair was cooked and in a container for transport, I poured a generous serving of chunky salsa on top.
This was delicious and hearty. I had plenty, and it fed two of my coworkers, as well. A great start to a weekend morning.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Beautiful Wreck

Sometimes a song just says something so perfectly...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's Day to all my fellow veterans. Your service, whether you were drafted or volunteered, is appreciated.

If I read the scales correctly when I went to the gym last night, I weigh the lowest I've weighed in some years. I got in a brief but fairly intense workout at the ASU gym, and then Jordy and I enjoyed watching Get Smart.

Today, I'm going to try to get my CRX up and running. I think I have a bad battery, and may also buy some new tires. Byron is coming over. I'll cook a late breakfast for us, and then we'll take care of the car stuff.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Save us From Your Followers

Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks competed today for the title of "fastest fists at the Holy Sepulchre".

Clear and Cool

It's a beautiful autumn day, clear and slightly cool. It's dazzlingly bright, with just a hint of wind.

It's good to be alive.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Into the Light

The past two months have been hard. (Hell, much of the last 18 months has been hard.) I drove towards Buttress this morning, with my mountain of uncompleted school work, and relationship, economic, employment and other issues on my mind. I was somber and somewhat sad, but my eyes lifted from the road towards the sunrise. The deep purple of the horizon gently blended into the pure light of the dawn, over which a clear blue, almost cloudless sky rose.

And I knew everything would be all right.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dust in the Wind

Someone I love now has "single" listed as her status on her online profiles. I mean, hell, it's been eleven days since the big fight. Totally understandable, right?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Just a note

My 401K, small as it is, has lost 43% since January.

That is all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Accounting Time

Go vote. As always, do the right thing as you understand it. Unfortunately, every politician seems to be at least a few shades of wrong...

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Point of Living

When I was younger, as a Christian, I found irony in what "the wisest man to ever live" had to say about life.

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
3 What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?
4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full: unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
8 All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

Could be one of the reasons why I'm a Buddhist. There is pain in life.

There is beauty, too, if we can find it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Marching Through Georgia

I've been on and off with what I've been able to eat this week, ranging from one day in the reasonable 1800 calorie range, to 30 calories last Sunday. I hope to make it through this patch without serious physical injury: at least, I'll be lighter.

My pens are broken

Jordy ordered some pens to give out at our wedding as favors. The pens are blue or burgundy, and have "John and Jordy" and the year underneath. I really like these pens. They look nice, and write beautifully in a medium point.

I have recently discovered they tend to fall apart, unfortunately, and usually when it's least expected.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Grand Guignol

Jordy had been wanting to see Le Chat Noir's production of Grand Guignol: Theater of Horror. I was pleased to accompany her, and also wanted to see my friend Doug and coworker Dana, who were both featured in the production.

Le Chat Noir is a cozy little place. When watching a deliberate gore-fest like Grand Guignol in such a small venue, theater-goers may choose to sit a foot or two from the stage, waiting for the inevitable spatter of theater blood. We sat a little further back.

The plays were well acted, and engaging enough, though I was always on the edge of my seat waiting for that AIGH! moment. Which did happen in both shorts we saw. Jordy pleased the staff and actors immensely by laughing delightedly during the gruesome parts. Except for the two (well, three. Maybe four) turn-my-head moments, I enjoyed the performances.

Afterward, we talked with Doug and Dana for a while, stepping outside with Doug so he could light one of his hand-rolled cigarettes. I heard something briefly, but it was not repeated. When we stepped back inside, several excited stage hands were coming into the bar from the back.

"I just got held up at gunpoint," one proclaimed wide-eyed, holding out a bloody hand.

Okay. This is in a place that specializes in blood and gore.

"Really?" I said skeptically.

"Yeah, this guy was outside with a gun, and he hit me..."


One of the other guys was heated.

"Look, M----------r, that just happened!"

Okay, I believed him. Mostly.

For once, I was not armed. I suppose it's a good lesson. In all, it was a lovely evening, though Jordy was stressed when we returned because she couldn't find a key. Hopefully, it'll turn up today.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Creature of Chemicals

"You've lost weight."

"One kind of stress puts it on, another takes it off. I am a creature of chemicals."

I was reminded of this quote from Ender's Game this morning, as I reflected that I ate one bite of food and some sugar-free gum yesterday, without any deliberate intention not to eat. Well...I can stand to lose 10 lbs or more, even though I would prefer to do it another way.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Party's Over

When I was younger, I went through a phase of listening to a lot of Nat King Cole. One of my favorite songs was "The Party's Over". It's sad and wistful, leavened with Cole's honeyed voice. Here are the lyrics:

The party's over
It's time to call it a day
They've burst your pretty balloon
And taken the moon away
It's time to wind up the masquerade
Just make your mind up the piper must be paid

The party's over
The candles flicker and dim
You danced and dreamed through the night
It seemed to be right just being with him
Now you must wake up, all dreams must end
Take off your makeup, the party's over
It's all over, my friend

The party's over

It's time to call it a day

Now you must wake up, all dreams must end
Take off your makeup, the party's over
It's all over, my friend

It's all over, my friend

Change is on the wind here at Shirley Ground Zero. It remains to be seen whether what grew here will remain, grown stronger and better, or whether that tree must be replaced with something else.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Life and Death

A friend of mine, close to my age, has an attractive wife he's been with for 16 years and beautiful children. His life seemed in many ways to be where I would have wanted mine to be.

Life can seemingly change in an instant.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Seizing the Reins

I have taken over all teaching for the next 2-3 weeks. Today was hard because first 9th, then 10th, and finally 11th graders were called out of sequential classes. Students were wound up because of the change in their routine, and many of them were resistant while I used some techniques they hadn't seen before.

If I can just keep my head above water for three weeks, I should be okay. If you don't hear from me again, I just couldn't keep kicking.

Biden/Palin debate

The transcript of the debate is up. Capable leaders aren't always incredible orators, but Sarah did a good job of seeming capable while folksy. We'll see how the pundits rate it and Americans receive it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008


Mr. D and I let students sit in our classroom during the lunch period. We'll take turns eating and helping students with work on most days.

During lunch today, some little twit seems to have grabbed my binder. It held my logs detailing all the days I've attended Buttress, various handouts, and school information. I'm not saying I'm not happy, but I am saying, I'm not happy about this.

On the Blessings of the Cow, I

I like cheese, but it sticks to things
Bowls, forks, plates,
and presumably,
My arteries.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Seasons Still Change

I walked out of Kroger tonight, and the cool breeze hit me, both soothing and invigorating. I ached for a rifle in my hands and the deep woods.

Someday. Someday soon.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Alternate Beginnings

I dash
Into the early morning chill
My mind shrieking in fear
And my soul, in exultation

My long strides eat up the dawn


I must find my pace again

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I don't know if I've taken this particular test before...

You are a

Social Liberal
(80% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(78% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

and The Walls Came Tumbling Down!

We had a field trip Friday. Thirty-one students and Mr. D and I went to the oldest house in Augusta, and then to the local history museum. Our time was cut somewhat short by discovering that our bus driver had to be at another school by 1430. Still, the day was lovely, sunny but with just a tiny, beautiful taste of early Fall cool.

There was a faculty meeting after school. Dr. R. had the dubious privilege of finding he was being transferred in the Augusta Chronicle yesterday morning. The Richmond Country superintendent spoke after Dr. R. announced to us that he was being moved. Doctor Super reminded everyone that Buttress hadn't made any of its academic goals last year, and combined with the numerous fights this year, he claimed there had been many calls for action. DS also apologized for what he characterized as an unintended leak to the press.

I really have to say: if I were in the Super Shoes, if I was forced to confirm that one of my employees was being moved in this manner- and that employee hadn't been notified yet- you'd better believe I would be on the phone to that employee as soon as the press hung up. I suppose that's just too Super Simple.


Every day I expect less,
But still too much, I guess

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Coming

A Gray Day
A cool day
Autumn's soft embrace begins
And I am glad again

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Veteran's Thoughts

I usually avoid talking a lot of politics here. I also rarely surrender to flag-waving emotionalism. The following is an obvious political plug, but the creator of the video earned the right to speak his mind about the subject.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lizard Licks

Lest anyone think the previous was just an iguana story, here's the proof.

After securing the iguana.

Ready to ride.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Long Arms on the Lizard

I had arrived back at the house after work, and was sitting in my car listening to the radio for a minute. As I climbed out, movement caught the corner of my eye, and I turned and looked to see a 3 foot plus lizard stalking slowly through the grass of the lawn across the street! I walked a little closer and was bemusedly looking at it when a red Ford pulled up to the house. I waited until a middle-aged gentleman got out, and called over:

Hey! Did you know there's an iguana in your yard?

He looked confused, and walked closer. "What?"

An iguana. There's an iguana right here.


Look at the base of that tree.

"Holy $%^."

Well, iguana aren't apex predators, so I felt fairly safe from the big guy, who actually looked to my eyes to be about 3'5". I called my brother Randy and spoke with him for a few minutes to be sure I wasn't looking at something like a monitor. I told my neighbors that the iguana wouldn't hurt anything, and that I would probably just wait until he came down the tree he had just climbed and then call animal control before it got too cold this Fall, but they'd already called the cops.

I went across the street, and inside. A few minutes later, there was a knock on my door, and when I stepped outside, a sheriff's deputy from the Augusta County Sheriff's Department was there.

"Sir, do you have an iguana?"

I spoke with the deputy for a couple of minutes, and then offered to pick up Iggy for him. I snagged a handy piece of PVC to hold his head down, and was slowly sliding it over and past his head to hold him down when the deputy told me that animal control wasn't actually on its way, and that he wouldn't be taking the thing out of his car! I stopped my efforts until another, very young little deputy showed up.

We were told animal control was indeed on its way, and I helped Deputy Wilkerson catch the iguana, and then he carried it to his cruiser and made the call:

"10-31 to dispatch. I have one iguana in custody."


I had a lovely conversation with Roberta X today. She has been added to my blog links.

On a somewhat connected note, it's wonderful to find people who actually love English.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin's Speech

I had not been at all excited about this election. This changed with the selection of Sarah Palin for VP candidate.

Here is the full text of Palin's speech to the RNC last night.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Georgia vs. Russia

In-depth analysis of the causes and start of the Georgia-Russian conflict from Michael Totten here.

Long, but worth reading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

U.S. Persecutes Mexicans

Marxavi Angel Martinez just wanted to use the local health clinic. Local law enforcement discovered she was in the U.S. illegally because she was using the Social Security number of a deceased individual, according to the Los Angeles Times. This has raised quite a furor.

Yawn. I have no problem with people from anywhere who want to come to the U.S. and work hard to better their life. What I do have a problem with, are people who are here in the U.S. illegally, especially when these individuals siphon social services. Martinez committed a felony. She was breaking the law while attempting to get county or state-sponsored medical services. If she had been paying for services in a doctor's office, she wouldn't have this problem.

I've had family who have had issues with the automatons in Immigration, until they found one who could actually do his job. I don't see that Martinez or her family attempted to legally stay in the U.S. when her legal status expired 20 years ago. She gets no sympathy from me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Movies, Movies, and more Movies

I haven't reviewed any movies for a while, so I'm going to blow through these.

The Bucket List
Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Both funny and touching, but more touching than funny. 3.5/5 stars.

What Happens in Vegas.
I have often thought that Ashton Kutcher was kind of an idiot, but I've liked almost all of his movies (except the horrible The Guardian). This is a romantic comedy that is often VERY funny, helped quite a bit by Rod Corddry. 3.5/5 stars.

Harold and Kumar escape from Guantanamo Bay. This is a sequel to Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. If you like your humor stupid and over the top, this is the movie for you. Neal Patrick Harris and a gifted performance from Rod Corddry as an uber-stupid Homeland Security agent add to the fun. 3/5 stars.

The Incredible Hulk
. This is an enjoyable way to waste an afternoon, but just one. Ed Norton is always good, and Liv Tyler contributes to the most disappointing mixture of white shirt, beautiful woman, and rain that has probably ever graced the screen. A lot of money apparently went into this movie, but the Hulk CGI looks like a cartoon. 2.5/5 stars.

Baby Mamma
is a comedy from Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. This is another touching/funny movie that is often surprisingly funny. 3.5/5 stars.

Blind Horizon is a 2003 movie starring Val Kilmer and Neve Campbell. Interesting and unpredictable. 3/5 stars.

Eastern Promises
is a very carefully crafted tale starring Vigo Mortensen and Naomi Watts. If you can handle graphic violence, nudity, and language, watch this film. 4.5/5 stars.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blows and Woes.

Our classes have been somewhat reduced, which is a big relief for two reasons. The first reason is that it's just easier to keep order with a more reasonable number of students. The second reason is that our workload of gradable material will be reduced to something less insane. It was originally something like 150 kids. We hope to have our class rolls reduced to their final version by Friday.

Second period was about to end when I went into the hall to get some water. I saw the assistant principal, who was standing in the door to the bus dropoff, call for help, saying her radio was broken. The BOE cop charged out of the door, and I followed. Two guys were struggling, with one of them basically just beating the other. Two or three females were active participants, as well.

The school cop got between the two males, and other staff dealt with two of the females. I grabbed the nearest unsecured female, and pulled her away from her attempts to hit the male who had been taking the beating. I let her go when we were well clear, and stayed between her and the action while she screamed for me to Get the $%^& away from me! And continued trying to get back into the fight.

It seemed that someone had been sent home- perhaps for fighting earlier, and as they were preparing to leave the school, a rival group of students ganged up on that student. One of the parents almost got arrested a little later, as well, when she felt the need to scream at the BOE cops.

Fun stuff. I was sad to see that one of the involved parties was one of my students, who's carrying a pretty high daily GPA. I hope she's not gone for good.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Word on Ethics

We humans have an imperative to Do The Right Thing. Sometimes we can differ on what Right Action may be, but we each have an obligation to do the right thing as we understand it. Doing right is more important than anything else. It is more important than people. It is more important than possessions. It is the Most Important thing in our lives.

Even when we disagree about which specific course of action is correct, certain types of actions are obviously NOT it. Self-serving actions at the expense of friends and cherished goals are clearly wrong. The end does not excuse the means.

Do the right thing.


I finished my first week of apprentice (student) teaching this week. I assist in four U.S. history classes, and one History of Augusta class. All of the classes except Augusta have over 25 students. Our largest class period had 39 students! In a classroom which only held 26 desks, this was an obvious problem. We have added three more desks, and our classes have lost a few students, but we still have more students than desks.

I am working to find the right balance with my students. I would prefer for them to have a healthy respect for me while also believing that I want to help them if I reasonably can. Our first graded assignment was a blank U.S. map. Many students overlooked Alaska and Hawaii, and confused Oregon and Washington and left out Maine. (In fairness, both Maine and Washington were relatively indistinct on most of the maps.) I gave extra credit for the students who wrote in Mexico, Russia, and Canada in the appropriate areas. I also gave two extra points for students who went to the extra trouble of locating and labelling the state capitals on the map. I am telling the students that it's great if they want to put in extra work, but just like in a job, they'll get paid extra if they work extra.

Mr. Damon and I have also been grading notes. I suggested that we also show students how to identify and record just the most pertinent information, not every word written on our PowerPoint presentations. We have done this, and I have also begun giving extra credit for students who manage to capture all essential information in the most concise formats possible. I believe this will help students learn how to choose just the most important information, and that this selection process will help them begin to remember vital facts. I also want to help them become better students, both for my classes and for the future.

Mr. Damon is very happy with me. I began co-teaching lessons with him on Wednesday, and actually handled several classes entirely by myself Thursday while he visited the local BoE. He says I am ready for my own classroom, and I believe this is true. So far, teaching is a lot of work, but it's not hard.

A Warm Welcome

A new blog has been added to my blog links. Welcome Geek with a .45.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Falling Down

The summer is slowly evaporating, and soon we'll be back to decent weather. Last week I spent Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday working with my mentor teacher at Buttress. I helped organize and clean the room, attended two meetings with Mr. Damon, and wrote descriptions of both classes I'll be assistant teaching. U.S. History is taught for four periods, and History of Augusta is taught during one period. After writing the descriptions, I posted them to Mr. Damon's Buttress high school page. I also helped Mr. Damon modify and upload our teaching plans for the first week.

I had planned on seeing my friend Mike Friday evening, but his group had to pick up some gear Saturday morning. I drove down from Augusta, and picked him up a little before noon. We drove back to Atlanta, checked into our hotel, and then looked around for places showing the UFC fight. After visiting the Cracker Barrel, we tooled around for a while until time to hang out at Buffalo Wild Wings Cafe. Good food, entertaining fights and great company helped us have an excellent time.

Sunday we visited Six Flags for a couple of hours before heading back towards Fort Benning. It was a great day for a visit, with only mildly warm weather and almost no long lines. We rode the mine train for a warmup, and then moved straight to Goliath. We probably waited longer to ride Goliath than any of the other rides, and still waited less than 20 minutes. We also rode the Mindbender, Georgia Scorcher, and ended the day with Superman. Superman has the rider hanging horizontally beneath the car, so you look straight down at the ground if level. After we started moving at speed, I really enjoyed it, but couldn't help thinking about how I would choose some other way to die than being slung into the ground at seventy miles an hour. The jostling from Superman seemed to have bothered both Mike and me, as our stomachs were hurting on the drive back to Columbus.

We made a few stops, at Commando's outside Fort Benning and got haircuts from the barber shop nearby, and then went looking for food. We enjoyed some good Chinese food before I took Mike back. I then hit the road for the 270 mile drive back to Augusta.

Mike seems really glad to be back in uniform. It was good to see him, and there wasn't the strangeness or stiffness you might expect when you haven't seen a friend for four years. I'm hoping to see him some more before he ships out. I guess we'll see.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Days of our Lives

Yesterday I went to a meeting with all of the Richmond County Board of Education's employees. It was long. VERY long.

The featured speaker was quite inspiring, but she had this thing she called "Eye hugs", which was mostly an exaggerated squint. It seemed to be her answer to exasperation, endearment, or anything. "And then, she did a backflip...Eye hugs!"

I did not care for the eye hugs. The rest of her speech was good, though. I met my mentor teacher, who bears a considerable resemblance to George Carlin. He had 13 years in the Army, and served in Vietnam in 1968. Mr. Damon was an NCO that went through OSS and became an officer. He said the Army had lots of L-Ts after 'Nam, so he got out. He's been teaching for over thirty years. I think I did pretty well for a mentor. :-)

After lunch, I went back to Buttress High School, and met the rest of the school team. My heart sank a little when I saw Buttress had a crumbling exterior, but a rebuild is ongoing, so it's not quite as bad as I thought at first glance. The practicum program is going to take a good bit of my time, but at least I have a good mentor.

Speaking of the practicum...I'm going to apply to use the Reserve funds (REAP) I earned when I was deployed to Afghanistan. Despite the immense time requirements of the teaching practicum, it's only worth three credits. Three credits is less than half time, so I'll only be reimbursed for the actual cost of tuition, instead of receiving the monthly stipend I would be illegible for if I took more credits. Applying for a lesser amount now instead of more later seems a better idea for two reasons: first, I really don't want to go any further into debt than I can help; second, I don't know how long I have to use these reserve funds. The VA site says IRR members who don't enter the Selected Reserve after returning for activation don't have 10 years to use the option to use REAP, as other members do. When queried how long these individual do have to use REAP, it repeats that they don't have the 10-yr option to use it. Thanks, big government! Efficient and clear as usual.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Buy a Ticket

My friend Larry Correia over at Fuzzy Bunny Movie Guns is raffling off a pink rifle to fund Breast Cancer Research. Buy a ticket.


I have two new posts up at The History of Us. One is a paper written for an instructional technology course, so I apologize in advance if some parts of it are pretty stupid. Hopefully, other parts will redeem the stupidity.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hearing Voices

I guess this is my weekend to talk to knifemakers. I spent a few minutes talking to Tom Krein, who's going to make a sheath for a great little knife I recently acquired from Larry A. Tom makes great knives and excellent sheaths.

I then spent a really long amount of time talking to Eric Draven. And then, more time talking to him tonight. You may see a cooperatively designed tool from us in the future.

From my recent trip

My nephew and niece from when I went to Mobile in June.

Beautiful kids, aren't they? I'm not jealous in that I'm glad my brother has beautiful children, but I really want children.

Hopefully it won't be too long.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Drum Roll/Me Too

Yet another one I'm only really posting because of Don. Sheesh...

Your results:
You are Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)

Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)

Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)

Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)

Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)

River (Stowaway)

Inara Serra (Companion)


Derrial Book (Shepherd)

Wash (Ship Pilot)

A Reaver (Cannibal)


Honest and a defender of the innocent. You sometimes make mistakes in judgment but you are generally good and would protect your crew from harm.

Click here to take the quiz...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Confused City Folks

I'm really just posting this for Don...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Razor Sword contd

Here is a link to my review of the Razor Sword.

Curt Koehler is back in Wisconsin. Last I talked to them, Byron and Derek were hanging out with our favored merchants of death in Statesboro. Good times.

Razor Sword

Today I am testing a belt sword. How cool is that? I also get to see friends Derek and Michelle Zeanah and Byron Quick. I also met Curt Koehler.

This is not of the belt sword, but here's one of my favorite pictures so far (using my baby, the Himalayan Imports WWII 16.5" kukuri).

The Razor Sword conceals completely in a fairly ordinary-looking belt. We'll see tomorrow how it fairs against tougher stuff.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Riding into work

On Calhoun Expressway, I saw a suicidal 'possum on the overpass, looking pensively downward.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Life is funny

Friday I completed a prehiring training/assessment for the security company that I worked for in 2004-2005. This was a computer program that gave a lesson, followed by a series of practice exercises, followed by practice quizzes, and then a final quiz. Two tries were allowed to complete the final quiz, which had to be passed with an 80%. I don't remember exactly what the first section was about. I know the training session talked about main ideas and topics.

I eventually figured out that I could skip to the assessment part, and not waste most of my time. I made 100% on the first section. I also scored 100% on the second section, which was about mathematics. The third section was on observation. The final quiz had the trainee watch several grainy videos of someone working with a copier, and then describe what would happen next in a series, say of 10 double-sided, collated copies, barely darkened. I scored 87% on this.

The final section was about writing. The ending quiz forced the trainee to listen to some sentences on an audio track, and then choose the best of four sentences about the audio selection. Most of the sentences were bad, even the ones that had correct punctuation. I scored a 75%. Twice.

This is especially ironic, considering this will primarily be for close to minimum wage positions, and the job I almost accepted instead of working security in 2004- was as a writing tutor at Augusta State. Go figure.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This was a man

They don't seem to make 'em like Uncle Jake anymore.

History of Us

I have created a new blog that will dedicated solely to history (and perhaps education: undecided). It is The History of Us.

What Would You Think

if I showed you this picture? Could it- nah, it couldn't be...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Hero I Am

(Stolen from Holly, who stole it before me)

What Kind of a Western Bad-Ass are You?
created with
You scored as Clint Eastwood

Names aren't important as you dish out steaming bowls of piping hot brutality to your enemies. You also enjoy a good spaghetti dinner once in a while.

Clint Eastwood


John Wayne


Charles Bronson


Lee Marvin


Lee Van Cleef


Of course...I think John's Wayne was a total wuss. Poser.

and now, Jalapenos

Not content with mucking up our tomatoes, God is screwing with the jalapenos. You know, of course- this means war.

Friday, July 11, 2008


We're not moving far, but Doug...I hate moving.

Wedding Pics Galore

Derek has some incredible wedding shots up. View the slideshow here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How to Make John Crazy

but In A Good Way.

This is a picture of me and my second cousin, Matthew. In the midst of the worst of times, family reminds you of the beautiful things in life.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bad Nuke Bad

In From the Cold explains in detail why Iran could be visited by the Israeli bomb fairy sometime soon.

Check it out, and then you can get back to carping about gas prices.

Death Race

Jason Statham is back in Death Race.

Fortunately, the trailer shows everything important about the movie, and it's free.

This will probably be a mediocre movie, but it will certainly be better than Wanted.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Motorcycle Madness

Actually, not so much. Much more practical than the two previous monsters, and priced at a reasonable 1/10 the price the Tomahawk sold for, the Campagna T-Rex is one of the few vehicles continuing the natural evolution of light, nimble, and fast cars such as my "new" Honda CRX.

You can cry or drool here. Whichever.

Redefining Terms

You just think that ole Hog you've got is huge street machine! These guys have dwarfed even the 1500-lb Dodge Tomahawk "rolling sculpture". I guess if you have a spare tank engine, and copious amounts of free time, the thing to do is build a motorcycle.

I am absolutely certain the Tomahawk kicks its ass, though- and if you factor in the value of the time to build, the approximately $100,000 US build cost of the Tomahawk may still be less than the German monstrosity.

As always, demand drives price. The nine Tomahawks sold went for $555,000 each, which is a tad on the steep side for something not street legal.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My favorite bird

One of the best things about living in The Nook has been the abundance of birds. Most mornings, several Mourning Doves and Mockingbirds bolt from the yard as I walk outside, though often Mockingbirds will perch on the power line or hedge and curiously watch me. I usually say hi.
The deceptively named Northern Mockingbird- so named to differentiate from the tropical mockingbirds- is my favorite bird. The Mockingbird eats insects and fruit. Its range is expanding. A brassy little character, the Mockingbird will make attack runs on predators, but is celebrated for its wide repertoire of songs, most of them borrowed from other bird species and even human mechanisms like car alarms. I find Mockingbirds beautiful.

One of my least favorite birds is the Blue Jay. B. Hilton says they're actually great for various reasons, but I prefer my Mockingbirds to those bullying, nest robbing, raucous damn Blue Jays.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Life and Hard Times

I know I haven't posted much recently. A little over two weeks ago, my Uncle JC died. I didn't find out until Saturday. I left Sunday morning, and made it down to Mobile by evening. I spiffed up a bit, and went to the wake.

And cried. At these affairs, Dad would always be leaning over, explaining which of our many relatives was walking in, or that we were seeing an old friend of the family. Uncle Jake would always be stiffly leaning in the corner, laughing in that rough but good-natured way of his. I kept looking around, half expecting to see them both.

When I saw Uncle JC, it didn't look like him. Evidently, he'd gone down since I last saw him, to the point where he actually didn't look so bad in the casket. Comparatively.

After a couple of hours at the wake, all my siblings and their children who were present went to eat at a local Mex restaurant. I had a vegetarian meal for once. I stayed up later than I would have expected that night because of a domestic dispute that, unknown to Little Bro and I, was occurring a couple of rooms over. I can hardly relate my anger and sadness that a relative of mine was abused when I was close, and not realizing it was happening, I did nothing to stop this.

After the funeral Monday, I socialized with the family for a while, and then hit the road, chewing caffeine gum and drinking from a full gallon jug of water. Heavy rain slowed my trip, but I made it back a little after midnight, EST. I took a short walk with Jordy, took a sleeping pill to ensure the caffeine didn't keep me awake, and got into bed after a shower.

I got up about 0400, in considerable internal distress. I thought that my caffeine load and Quick Trip sandwiches had made my body unhappy, but I wasn't sure in which manner that unhappiness would be displayed first.

I guessed wrong, and was facing the wrong direction when the first expulsion hit. When that horribleness was over, I relaxed- and once again, found myself facing the wrong direction as the other end fired.

After the first half an hour, as I sat, dizzy and still obviously sick, on the toilet, I realized that it wasn't just my dietary habits that were bothering me. Except for showers and water, I stayed in bed dozing all day.

At first, I thought I would try to make my class, which started at 1230. With this goal in mind, I made the mistake of taking Immodium AD. I realized by 1100 that there was no way I could safely make it to class, as I could often not stand unsupported. I slept all day until that night, and then slept all night.

I stayed up the next 24 hours, trying desperately to make up for the time I'd missed while traveling and in bed. I was still dizzy, and studying was extremely difficult. I experienced at least occasional dizziness for the next week. Several of us who ate at the restaurant became ill, though I had symptoms the longest.

I seem to be better now, but this whole process may have derailed my mostly stellar graduate GPA. My Assessment teacher has given me a B, which means either I didn't add my points correctly, or she hasn't.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I looked at the CRX today.

It definitely isn't refined. It's a little go-cart with a squirrel motor on steroids. It has more vibration than most modern cars, and fewer amenities.

I like it. :)

I gave the young lady selling the car my best offer ($2700), which will still put me pretty tight on funds for a week, and with a decent bit to pay back to a kind brother and sister-in-law. She says her mother was still waffling on whether to actually sell it, and had messaged her today to "not sell it for less than $3000". So, I'll get it or I won't.

But it surely was fun to drive.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dreams and Schemes

I'll get around to posting other stuff soon, but you know, of all damn things, my dream car is a B16-engined CRX. I mean, dream, to the point where I've often fantasized about building a Ferrari-killer CRX after I'm rich.

The CRX is essentially a chopped-short little Honda Civic. The B16 versions actually have enough horses in rein to go, while still getting excellent gas mileage due to the low weight of the vehicle. I got the light/nimble car bug when I was at Fort Lewis, and had a Honda briefly, but sold it before I left Washington state.

I've been thinking about the CRX a lot lately. There are a few locally, and at least one I've seen a couple of times at ASU, which looks to be in pretty good shape. I kept my eye out for it as I rolled into ASU tonight. Nowhere in sight, but as I walked inside, I saw a sign posted.

1989 Honda CRX!
$3000. Oh, man...if this is the car I think it will be, I'd trade my Grand Am for it in a heartbeat. Here's hoping it meets expectations. And I can dredge up the funds.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Guest Editorial: Immigrants, Care, and Resolutions

A while ago I wrote two cynical pieces about my wife's struggles with immigration:
The Saga Begins and The Saga Continues.

I have a update I'd like to share with those of you that took the time to read my diatribes.

The 7th was a weird day. I found out my uncle JC died. I'm not sure if we ever had a conversation of more than a few words. I'm fairly certain I know more about him than he knew about me (not that I can blame him, I couldn't even name most of my many relatives). He was a memorable character, tough, the product of a rough neighborhood and the type of man you wouldn't want to mess with, even in his later years. He served his country in the Korean war and if I will remember him as anything it is as a man's man. He also had a neck injury which gave him a stiff appearance. I still wouldn't want to mess with him. I am sure there was much more to him than that, I just never got to know him well enough to comment. I don't like dwelling on the loss of others and I'd probably like not to care. It's hard not to though, even if the death of others just serves as a reminder of our mortality.

One can draw their own conclusions; I was in a rather bad mood that Saturday. My wife was pestering me to contact the congressman again and I didn't think it would help to annoy them. It didn't make matters any better when my shower was interrupted by a phone call from her. So, dripping wet I answer the phone with sharp words on the tip of my tongue. My wife silenced them by saying that she got a call from immigration and they had reopened the case. I'm not usually at a loss for words but that put me close to it. I finished my shower and called my wife's voice mail to hear the message for myself.

The man on the phone had a name I can't pronounce or decipher. His accent was heavy and if I was to make snap judgment it would be to question why someone that can't even speak English correctly is leaving messages on people's phones. From what I could tell he had good news. After all this trouble we have someone leaving a voice mail message on a Saturday? He even left a return number and when he would be working. This was astounding. We couldn't get anyone on the phone before, we couldn't get names or numbers or returned phone calls and here's a guy working on a Saturday leaving a message? Wow...

He said he would be working Monday and we decided to give him a call then. We didn't have a interview date yet and we were wary of something going wrong. Monday was my Uncle's funeral. It was a hectic day following a late night. My brother John arrived in town Sunday. After attending a wake, going out to eat, visiting our brother's, then a little domestic dispute (not involving us) at our next stop John and I went to bed late. We went to the funeral on Monday and shortly afterwards my wife and I remembered that we wanted to give Mr. unpronounceable name a phone call. At a family gathering we borrowed John's phone and made the call. He wanted to do something involving the interview over the phone and asked us to call back in around a hour. We said our goodbyes and rushed home. I paced back and forth until 5 minutes after he said we could call back and we made our phone call. He talked to my wife and then spoke to me. From what I could tell he wanted to see what time was good for us to go to the interview. Good for us? Doesn't he know he works for the government? I said as soon as possible, we'd get a hotel room if needs be. He didn't want us to have to do that (we did anyway). He then asked if he could send us a fax and I gave him our number (that fax machine was the best 0 bucks I ever spent, gotta love rebates). A few more minutes of pacing and we had a interview date in hand for the 12th. I called him back to verify we had it and the first thing he said on answering was "The 12th, right?". I could get used to this whole communicating thing.

We raced back to the family gathering (literally, we got a speeding ticket). Later that day, I fired a email off to our contact with the congressman. For the record I believe I wrote my two rants after our last letter to the congressman. Since then I had called and once I knew exactly who was handling our case I wrote a email of a more personal nature. Perhaps this worked because when I updated them on what happened they stated that they'd talked to a supervisor earlier that week. Why this took a couple of years to happen I have no idea but better late than never.

My wife managed to shuffle her off days (and someone canceled a BBQ) to get her off days on Wednesday and Thursday. We picked up our red Sebring rental. It was supposed to be a economy class but who knows, perhaps my wife enjoyed riding in John's (technically Jordy's) Sebring on Monday so much that she wanted to drive one. In either case I appreciate coincidences. Less amusing was the food poisoning or virus that was plaguing me. There are upset stomachs and then there's the whole food won't stay with you for more than a few minutes thing. It really isn't very much fun, the prospect of 700 miles in a car in that condition is daunting. Slightly more ironic and not quite as unpleasant was waking up Tuesday with my neck bothering me great deal. So, I found myself walking about as stiff as my uncle JC (my wife called me a Meerkat) and contemplating the timing of this all.

I was slightly better on the ride up to Atlanta. I could hold food in and if I didn't stop seeing how far I could move my neck right and left my neck might have been better too. We tried to make the most of our evening. You know, considering my wife had a sick Meerkat accompanying her. We scouted the immigration building's location, visited a mall nearby and I couldn't tell my wife not to go to Dave & Buster's because she had her heart set on it (it is a cool place that we don't have down here). I nibbled on my food and grumbled at the arcade machines and at closing time we headed back to our room and got some rest.

John, pocket knives are great. They are not great in federal buildings. Next time you give Michaela a knife please make sure it does not find it's way through a hole and into the inner workings of her purse. The poor security people had to study it for a while before they figured that one out. A while later Mr. name I can't say had us in a interview room. He asked intelligent questions and things went smoothly. My wife got a stamp in her passport, the green card will be in the mail and even our forgetting a photo for the green card was only a minor issue (he told us where to get it and greeted us, with lunch in hand to receive the picture). He also, without prodding answered a major question we had, which was that my wife could apply for citizenship now. He said she had been able to for a while now, a question we had been repeatedly asking and could not be sure of since no one would tell us her status. This all came at a good time since my wife's license expires this month she would have been unable to renew it. We left and visited the area John and I lived in Duluth and after our second trip to Racetrac (why can't we have those around here?) we headed back to Mobile.

I wish I could say the guy's name, even when written down on a form it becomes a mess in which I can not tell the first name from the last name. The efficiency and care he took in handling my wife's case stood in stark contrast to the ordeal up until that point. Years passed, phone calls, letters and trips were taken with no success. In less than a week from the time our case crosses his desk the entire matter is resolved. Not just resolved, but resolved with a level of care and attention I've never received from any government official. We left our phone number in letters and emails and forms at every chance. We asked for numbers and were refused. Then we end up with this guy that's made himself completely accessible to us and it's amazing the difference something as small as a phone call can make. We didn't even get the letter he sent the 7th until we got back last night. Why on earth can't we hire more people like him? I don't care how hard he is to understand, we need to go into what ever Asian country produced him and get about a million more of him. He's a example of immigration working correctly and I'd take one of him over a thousand people sneaking over a fence.

So, that is part three of the saga. I sit here with a better but still stiff neck and a relatively calm stomach. I can now focus on other matters, like why on earth Obama would say Social Security is one of our country's most successful programs..

We Need Meat

We need meat, not an incredible amount, but reasonable quantities, to go along with our eggs, dairy products, nuts, vegetables, grains, and fruits*. The diversity our transportation and network lines allow us are the only reason vegetarians don't completely die off in the West in two generations.

I'll be back with more deeply meaningful posts in the next few days, but for now, here, from The Other Side via Tamara, is the story of a girl whose life has been turned horribly wrong by idiotic parents who don't understand that humans are omnivores.

*I am actually listing these in approximate order of the ones most necessary to keep you alive, if food is in short supply.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gina Says

I'll give in more detail later, but I was talking to a fellow student tonight. I explained that my uncle had died 500 miles away, and when I was down for the funeral, I contracted food poisoning at a Mexican restaurant. I'm in a two-week course, and I'm now behind at least three days, and dizzy and weak.

She: So, what did you do that God hates you?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

...and Taxes

I'll probably be scarce for a few days. I'm going to try to drive down to Mobile to attend my uncle's funeral.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Warms the Heart

Last week, I was enjoying one of my last semi-vacation days before my next class kicked in (only one class, even during the summer usually sounds like a vacation to me), when I heard an alarmingly loud thump outside. On opening the door, I discovered a package.

In the package were two smaller boxes- each containing five pounds of Haribo gummi strawberries! Sent from Little Bro.

It brought a righteous smile to my face. If you know someone who might like some delicious chewy candies, click here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ripping and academic faux pas

I really got into the most recent essay in my Philosophy of Education class. Maybe it's the ill effect of having recently taken another literature class, or maybe it's just the general silliness of most so-called instructional technology courses, but I really lit into the authors. After reading this bloated, wordy, pretentious and often ill-considered piece of crap, before submitting my response, I thought, you know, I should really look at the author's backgrounds.

Fifteen seconds of searching gave me a real Doh! moment. I was about to publicly post a savaging of the course's teacher. I edited it. Slightly. Here is the original piece:

John R. Shirley
EDUC 7004
Thomas Deering and Steven Jones have written a sometimes thoughtful article about competing schools of thought and focus in education. They say, “Psychology…understands itself as a science: it uses the methods of science…” (4). While this is true of psychology research, it is not necessarily true of psychological application. Applied science focuses on repeatability, and it is in this area that psychology has always struggled. In other scientific fields, inability to duplicate a result in, say, cold fusion production, means that the research of the original scientists is flawed. Inability to (re)produce a certain result in humans, however, can be simply due to the complicated nature of the human psyche.

Deering and Jones are on the right track with an urge towards a more humanities-based approach instead of more purely psychology-driven one, but they do not go far enough: good teaching is still more art than science. Methods that work for one teacher may not be well applied by another teacher with as much skill, or may be misapplied towards students who need yet other methods. In other words, teaching- like parenting- is indeed a “knowledge and skills” set (6), but the correct application of these skills is so subtle that it cannot truly be taught. A teaching technique can be demonstrated to aspiring students, and the outward formality of the form of the technique can be tested, but this is not at all the same as a deep understanding of how and when to use such a technique.

Deering and Jones struggle against a trend of “pop psychology” (7), ironically enough as they use “pop instructional technology”. They “wonder”

about what is at stake in the act of parenting or teaching, about what it meant to provide for another human being's needs [sic], about what those needs are…about the question of self-identity, about how to nurture this emerging identity… about what it is to have a self-identify in the world…what it is we owe to the others we find living in the world with us… what is truly meal1s [sic] to educate another human being… about the purposes of education, indeed the purposes of life (7).

Deering and Jones “contend these are the kinds of questions with which our prospective teachers should wrestle” (8), “because the true nature of teaching is to be sensed in them.” Deering and Jones have overstepped their bounds. It is commendable to have a social conscious, and to work to instill a sense of justice in students, but Deering and Jones have embarked upon some questions that really have little to do with the type of education children in lower education need. Is it really the teacher’s job “to nurture this emerging (self) identity” (7), or is it the teacher’s job to teach? Is there some potential use educators and future educators can conclude when Deering and Jones continue their statement with “this new, insistent will that has come into being” or should we rightly conclude that Deering and Jones have become lost in their own rhetoric, and this piece is now an attempt to create pure literature instead of a valid instructional tool aimed at teachers?

Deering and Jones go on to suggest a broad humanities approach instead of a more psychology-based teaching approach, though the reasonable reader wishes they could contain their editorial philosophizing and disdain for “narrow-minded, elitest…(dead) white male author(s)” (9). Deering and Jones are still using psychology, only their approach centers around giving the students appropriate reading material and letting the students arrive at proper conclusions themselves. This is a good approach in general. It is sad that Deering and Jones make statements such as “We do not want our students to believe that to be a teacher requires nothing much more than a collection of skills” (12), which is both a true and a false statement. All types of social interaction are indeed skills. What Deering and Jones actually mean is that teaching is more than stringing together teaching techniques.

Ultimately, Deering and Jones suggest a reasonable approach, though their attempt to be seen as great minds, writers, and educators shows instead the inverse. Psychology can give teachers insights about certain aspects of students and teaching techniques, but use of these techniques must be carefully fitted into a broader contextual framework that ultimately will be more successful in teaching young minds the skills they need to succeed.