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.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Found on Net

I just had to share...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Red Wine and German Beer

You know you're bombed when you find the smoke curling from your cigar incredibly interesting. And you know you're a geek when you think about the silliness of this.

We had a nice little grill-out with friends last night, with chicken breasts, pork ribs, and bratwurst. I had salmon patties, too, but those were never brought out. I added lemon juice and honey to a Korean barbecue sauce we had, and added hot sauce and Worcestshire sauce to some barbecue sauce. The brats were simmered in German beer before being tossed on the grill, and then accompanied with sauteed onions and bell pepper. Yummy.

If you're considering having more than a single serving of alcohol, always start with a large glass of water, and try to drink a glass of water for every serving of alcohol you consume. Your body will thank you.