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.