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