Friday, October 30, 2009

On the Trail of... I-5!

Don't read my blog if you haven't driven I-5.

It's Saturday, but I'm up at my normal time as if I'm off to school. I'm about to drive down to southern California, only to drive back again tomorrow. I love nothing more than waking up early. Feels great.

I've written about how I do like taking super long drives, but I-5 isn't one of those long drives that I like. It was F'ed out for me in college. Going back and forth to San Diego, I saw my share of Buttonwillow.

I know pretty well at this point exactly how far each major stop is from home, or heading south, from my Grandma's house or SDSU, depending on the final destination. I can point out the spot just north of Coalinga (and still within smell range) where I was pulled over for doing 83. Lame.

But still, I'm looking forward to the drive. As I've written about before, I like the time inside my own head. The only sounds are the ones that I want to have in my car. I have a feeling that I'll be accompanied by Adam Carolla and his guests' voices for most of the drive, but I'll probably turn it off completely for a little while.

I'm not sure when exactly I'm coming back on Sunday, but I'll get to eat meat on the drive home. And honestly? It isn't that big of a deal. A month ago, I thought that I would be dying for meat a the end of the month. But the only cravings I've had have been really specific. For example, I saw a commercial for the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich at Subway, and I wanted that. But I haven't had a craving for just meat. (My reason why I think it's been true for me but not others doing Namaste It! is that I haven't been searching for "meat" substitutes. The only time I did was a single veggie patty on a burger. Other than that, I've just been eating foods that aren't meat.)

I had desired the convenience of meat, however. This is going to be one of those times, driving up I-5, where I'm going to want something fast and easy. A quick burger is more than appropriate here.

Tomorrow begins Haiku-a-day Month. I'm sure I'll be home in plenty of time to Haiku it. but I might have an I-5 themed haiku from somewhere on the road. How many syllables in Buttonwillow?

If This Be Their Destiny...!

Tonight was Concord High's homecoming game. Ever since my first year of teaching yearbook at Concord, I've tried to go to that game. It's cool to see some of my former students. Emphasis on some.

Many of the kids were dressed in green and gold, some even going so far as to paint their faces. In the lead up to today, I've seen several Facebook status updates mentioning that kids were excited for the game. I had to wonder how many of these kids actually have spirit or if they just want to be like their friends. I also had to wonder back to my high school days to think if I had that kind of school spirit.

I was a band geek, so that's the group I most closely identified myself with in high school. Many year, my lunchtimes were in the band room. I was in there before and after school. I even had my own key to the band room. Since our marching band was fairly successful, I think that most of my thought process was focused in that direction. I don't remember very much about homecoming at our school, other than helping rig the vote for junior prince.

I also like to think that during those days my mid was actually focused on real things. No, we weren't exactly debating philosophy on a regular basis. But I had a decent understanding of the world I lived in, as did most of the people I was hanging out with. In general, I was pretty happy. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I was generally sober, as well.

The topic of drugs came up more than once tonight, as so many of these kids are high on a pretty regular basis. And that's their life. They wonder why the rest of the world is so boring. It's probably because being on drugs is fun. That's why people get addicted. When you spend too much time in that world, the real world must suck.

While I don't want this to be an anti drug prudish message, in the end I think it needs to be. Allow me to clarify that I'm in support of the legalization of "soft" drugs, even though I don't partake in them myself.

The main reason is that I believe in personal freedom. I think that these things in moderation probably aren't bad. If I had the money, I would drink more wine. I wouldn't be drunk often, but I would have a glass or two on more evenings. If pot wasn't illegal, would I use it? I don't know. The only comparison I can make is that I was in Holland a few years ago and I never even considered stepping into a coffee shop. There was no appeal for me. I've also read a bit about mushrooms that make the idea interesting, but I never have and I'm not actively trying to find any. And then there's the failure and expense of the drug war and the lost income on taxation of these drugs, but only people with common sense realize that.

But I'm talking about adults here. People who have been through school and have learned to make good choices. Possibly more importantly, people who have something to lose if they overdo it.

Yes, drug abuse is a problem in adults. How many of those who abuse them as adults WEREN'T as kids? I'd guess very few. What if we were teaching kids about drinking in moderation when they are younger instead of prohibition? I'd guess they'd be less interested.

I wonder often about people who talk about their high school years as "The Best Years of My Life," and wonder how pathetic their lives have to be to think that. The best years out of your way by age 18? Do you realize that people live well into their 70s? 80s? 90s (Happy 90th birthday to Grandma, by the way)? 100s? 18 is nothing.

Sure. I'm the old fart who is going to turn 36 in a few month. Double 18, for the non-math majors. And things are always better than they were. Yeah, there are lows. But life's good. The kids who find life so boring today during their sober hours - what's their life going to be like at age 36? how much are they going to hate their lives?

I had a good friend who got herself hooked on pain killers because real life was too hard. And because she's hooked, she doesn't feel and therefore can't heal. I don't even know how she's doing these days because I haven't talked to her in over a year. The drugs were much more interesting than anything I could ever do or say. And it absolutely sucks.

I've had the "opportunity" in the past couple years to take a similar path. I know I've barely mentioned my depression to most of you, as it isn't something I enjoy talking about. But I spent a really shitty afternoon in New Orleans sitting outside a bar wanting to go in and disappear inside, possibly forever (and probably my lowest point). I've had potential access to painkillers that could have swept me away. I wonder if I would have gone down the road often traveled if I had become more comfortable with these drugs when I was in school.

But as I said, life is generally good. I have other, better options when things suck. For example, I haven't been as thrilled with my job the past couple years. But I'm not about to become the school drunk to change things. I have a feeling I'm going to need to make a change soon, but it's likely going to be a venue change, as I don't see my current venue making changes.

But that's an option I have. The idiot former students of mine who are high 24/7. Will they have the same options? Or, rather, will they even recognize them? And, the question I ask every day in my job, if they don't care, why should I? Really. Why should I?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Scott C. Harris Vs Scott C. Harris, the Strangest Foe of All Time...

Don't read my blog if you don't like narcissistic behavior.

For this blog, I decided to interview the most awesome person in the world, me.
Hey. If Clinton's would-be assassin can do it, so can I.

Me: Ummm.. Hey.
Me: What's up?
Me: Just writing a little blog here.
Me: Yeah, me too.
Me: This interview really needs a soundtrack.
Me: I think I'm right. Open THIS in another tab and listen while reading.
Me: That should be good for a couple minutes.
Me: Actually, it's a minute 40.
Me: Yeah, but there might be an advertisement for the first 20 seconds.
Me: And then the music doesn't even start for like 30 seconds.
Me: True. Let's talk about the music.
Me: That is, quite possibly, one of the worst songs ever.
Me: Agreed. And I think this proves it. Nothing says shitty song like Cartman singing it, I know?
Me: Yeah. I know. But those lyrics. How about this one? "Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun." What does that MEAN?
Me: Using this logic, can't someone pick pretty much anything and take away its primary element and it sounds deep?
Me: I mean like "Soccer is not the same without a ball."
Me: Yeah, but soccer sucks.
Me: True, but totally not the point. How about "Smoking is not the same without a cigarette."
Me: Or "Sex is not the same without two golf clubs and a mini bagel."
Me: Let's choose to pretend that never happened.
Me: What happened?
Me: That Lady Gaga song, I think.
Me: Oh yeah. The lyrics.
Me: I don't know if I can really make fun of the gun lyric in a song where "Mum mum mum mah" is a real lyrics.
Me: Isn't that a Muppet Show song?
Me: Close enough, but that song is actually much more clever than any kind of Poker Face.
Me: All right, let's move on to the next question.
Me: Hey! Who'd doing the interviewing here.
Me: I am.
Me: Oh. OK.
Me: So what's going on with Blog-a-day month?
Me: We're winding down here. As usual, I'm in the lead.
Me: But wasn't my victory declared before the month even started?
Me: Yes, but it was likely conditional.
Me: On what conditions?
Me: I probably have to blog everyday. But even that isn't necessary.
Me: Yeah, I will pretty much win anyway, don't I think.
Me: I know.
Me: Me too.
Me: So tomorrow is Halloween.
Me: Isn't tomorrow the 30th?
Me: Yes.
Me: And isn't Halloween on the 31st?
Me: So am I wrong when I just stated that tomorrow is Halloween?
Me: Yes, but no. Since Halloween is on a weekend, all the little kiddies dress up at school on Friday.
Me: Does that mean they dress up twice?
Me: Don't know, don't care.
Me: Me neither.
Me: So am I dressing up?
Me: I'm getting dressed. Didn't I just read my nudity blog the other day?
Me: Yes, I did. I read it while I wrote it.
Me: So then I know that I'm not going naked. But clearly that's not what I meant.
Me: I will not be dressing in a costume this year. It's been a few years since I have.
Me: The last time I was Clark Kent just starting to change into Superman.
Me: Since Superman moves so quickly, clearly that was just a fraction of time I was representing.
Me: Yes, it was. And so many kids didn't get it.
Me: Didn't get the fraction of time?
Me: No. The whole costume. They couldn't figure out what it was.
Me: That's because kids are dumb.
Me: Yes. Yes they are.
Me: So no costume this year because that smacks of effort.
Me: I think I'm going to count the number of times that kids ask me, "Where's your costume?"
Me: I do realize that normal people would consider that a rhetorical/sarcastic question.
Me: Yes, I do. But I think a bunch of these kids really think that I have one somewhere but I'm choosing not to wear it.
Me: That sounds logical. So I think that's going to be my smart ass answer. I'm going to tell them that my costume is hiding.
Me: Maybe if they find it I'll give them a prize.
Me: I think that will be my stock answer tomorrow.
Me: Good thinking.
Me: What about kids who might read this blog? Could that change the tally.
Me: Kids don't read.
Me: I'm right.
Me: That's right I am.
Me: Moving along, what movies am I looking forward to seeing soon?
Me: A Serious Man is opening at CineArts this weekend.
Me: That's the new Cohen Brothers movie. The trailer looks interesting.
Me: But I won't be home this weekend. I might have to catch it after work next week or next weekend.
Me: I'm mildly interested in The Damn United, also opening at CineArts.
Me: I'll catch that if it sticks around long enough, but it isn't a priority.
Me: And the Men Who Stare At Goats looks pretty good.
Me: I'm not sure when that opens, but it has potential.
Me: Yeah, but a lot of movies I've seen this year have had potential.
Me: I'm right. I've been disappointed by a lot of movies that have been goodish, but not really great.
Me: True. I'll write about several of them in December.
Me: Any other movies?
Me: New Moon, of course.
Me: No.
Me: What about the Michael Jackson movie?
Me: If I wouldn't pay to see it when he was alive, him being dead won't change anything.
Me: How about 2012?
Me: F that S.
Me: Exactly.
Me: All right, so I'm winding this down now.
Me: Yes, I am.
Me: Let's see if there's anything I want to add before I end my interview.
Me: I just want to add that I have two days left of vegetarian eating.
Me: It hasn't been nearly as difficult as I thought.
Me: No, it hasn't. And I've found a few new cool foods to eat.
Me: That's right. Last night I made a kick ass pumpkin soup.
Me: Yep. It was awesome.
Me: So I heard a rumor that staying vegetarian on the 31st is optional since some months only have 30 days.
Me: Or something like that.
Me: Yeah, that's for the weak. Clearly, that was written as someone's concession speech since they came in second place in Namaste It! I won again.
Me: That's two for two this month.
Me: And I can't forget the Stan Lee Challenge!
Me: Yes, I'm obviously going to win that, as well.
Me: I'm surprised about that one, since I thought it would be more difficult than it was.
Me: I think I came up with a few clever titles that worked nicely.
Me: Yes, I did.
Me: So three for three. I won Blog-a-day month, Namaste It!, and the Stan Lee Challenge. That's amazing.
Me: Not really. It's expected.
Me: I'm right. I knew I would be victorious.
Me: And next month's Haiku-a-day month already has my name inscribed on the trophy.
Me: There's a trophy?
Me: The proverbial trophy.
Me: There's a trophy for proverbs?
Me: No.
Me: I didn't think there were any proverbs about a trophy either.
Me: Cram it.
Me: So there we have it. Let the cramming begin.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Buttcrack and... the Conchords!

Don't read my blog if you don't like two unrelated topics. I don't even know what that means.

I couldn't decide which of these to write about today, and since I don't really have enough about either to make a good full blog, I present two 3/4 blogs.

Public Nudity
No, I'm not talking about streakers or nudists. I'm talking about people who are just a little too comfortable being naked. At the gym in the locker room, to be more precise.

I have no problem with taking your shower naked or even walking back into the locker room. In fact, the only thing I really notice at that point is that they're walking around with bare feet. I've seen spit and worse all over the gym floors, not to mention the athlete's foot they are destined to enjoy.

But they stand next to the lockers and stare up at the TV with all of their junk hanging out. Usually next to the locker where I want to get my clothes from, so I have to stick my head next to some naked ass crack just to get out of there and head home.

Now I'm not a prude here who has problems with nudity. I believe, especially after my visits to Europe, that our society could do with a little more. Just not no close to me. I don't even like being near people who are fully clothed, so I certainly don't want the wind generated by your swirling schlong or the sweat dripping off of your sweaty balls getting near me. I would just like to point out that I didn't ask you to visualize that. You did that on your own.

Flight of the Conchords
I've got a Netflix recommendation for you, but only if you like stuff that's funny in a weird way. And as I've writing this, I haven't finished watching all of the episodes. I'm making my way through season 2. There were only two seasons, so I am approaching the end. And since that's all there is, it isn't a huge time commitment that other series might be.

Flight of the Conchords is the story of a band called Flight of the Conchords. It features two guys from New Zealand, Bret and Jemaine as they work on their two person band. They have a stalkeresque fan, who is also their only fan. But the real star, as I'm beginning to see in the second season, is their agent Murray. The episodes feature some cool and funny songs that weave into the plots. Here are three of my favorites so far.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Everything Can Stop the Sandman!

Don't read my blog if you sleep.

i've had my fair share of insomnia over the past few years. I've never been very good at falling asleep. But there's a real difference between having trouble falling asleep and insomnia. When you got four or five straight days without closing your eyes for longer than a blink, it's not good times. Drugs don't work either. I've had some high power prescription strength sleeping meds that I've stayed awake right through.

Daylight Saving Time ends this weekend. That's an extra hour of sleep, kids. For those of us with various sleeping disorders, it's a good thing.

I know that lots of people enjoy that light in the evening. They like the lights on as long as they can get it. But not me. I enjoy it getting dark sooner. I love the nightlife. I got to boogie.

But it's really about the morning with me. I'm not a morning person. I never have been. I've accepted that I never will be. Yeah, I've tried every technique in the book. I've read just about every source and theory possible about sleep. I'm never going to be the guy up at the butt crack of dawn ready to face my day. I would much rather ease myself into the day.

But that light in the morning helps. Even if it isn't light when I'm waking up, I need there to be some light by the time I leave. I still look back on the four years of zero period yearbook with amazement. I don't know how I got out of my car and walked to class while it was still dark outside.

Honestly, I would be much happier if school started and ended five or six hours later. And i know for the other non-morning people, it would work better for them as well. Would it be as convenient? Not always. But kids would have a place to be until their parents got home. I would love to see a school split so that some started early and some started late. For some of these kids, they don't wake up until halfway through the day. It would help them, too.

I have a feeling that my new career as an international jewel thief is going to serve me much better as I don't see the early morning heist as being profitable.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Thrill of the Workout!

Don't read my blog if you don't like music.

I wrote about listening to podcasts earlier, but a few weeks ago it was time to amp up my gym workouts. I'm getting too comfortable on the elliptical, so I'm on the treadmill. My legs are killing me. So the podcasts had to go and I brought in the music.

Here's a nice little set list that can work for YOUR workout or housecleaning or whatever it is you want to accomplish. These aren't necessarily my favorite songs or anything, though I do like several of them and listen to them outside of the gym. But mostly they are songs that I can drift off into and ignore the burn. THE BURN!!! If nothing else, enjoy the tunes.

A while back, I remember Sean Bristol mentioning to me that he and some roommates used to use South Park's What Would Brian Boitano Do? to jumpstart the housecleaning (or the story goes something like that). I've used this for some cleaning as well, and it's equally effective to jump start some gym time.

I took a few art classes a few years back, and I two of the different art teachers played Iggy Pop's Lust For Life. It was a great song to get my pencil or brush moving, and it's also great for a nice jog.

I'm not as big into lyrics on this list. It's mostly about the music and rhythm. But Don't Stop Me Now by Queen is too much on the nose. You might want to use it later in your workout if the words inspire you not to stop.

I'm not sure how That Thing You Do! by The Wonders even made it onto a workout list long ago. I remember the movie being OK, but forgettable. I don't think I ever listen to this outside of the gym, but the song is catchy and works.

Somehow Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream became my absolute favorite workout song. The beat keeps driving throughout, and I really dig it when this song hits. It energizes me for the rest of my workout.

While 12:51 isn't my favorite The Strokes song, it's probably in my top 5. Honestly, I just play all of Is This IT sometimes, and it's pretty awesome for the gym. But 12:51 from Room on Fire is my favorite at the gym.

OK - time to start cooling down. That sprint is now a slow jog or a fast walk for the last two songs. Weezer's Burndt Jamb has a cool groove that let's me catch my breath. And still rocks enough to keep me moving for a few more minutes. Off topic, if I took karaoke more seriously and wanted a cool, different, and challenging song, I would pick this.

I enjoy the entire Once soundtrack in the gym, but not every song helps me move. When Your Mind's Made Up is the perfect song to finish a workout. This is where I hop off the machine and walk just a bit more to finish cooling down. One complaint I originally had about the movie is that they played this song twice. Now I love the song enough that I'm cool with it.

Note: I know that bold isn't the correct way to list a song, but I wanted it to be easier to see titles and artists here. Also, I had to get a lot of unofficial youtube versions since a lot of official versions don't allow embedding.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Haiku-A-Day month is coming!

November is Haiku-A-Day month. Here are the rules.

1. As there is no prize or reward for following the rules, you may bend all rules. But because if you break the rules you aren't playing the game, no breaking the rules. Example of bending the rules: You go to bed at 2 AM, so before you go to bed you haiku for the previous day. Breaking the rules: Skipping four days and haikuing five times to make up for it. EDIT: Feel free to preload some haiku for Thanksgiving vacation. But do them before, not after.

2. Every day, a haiku must be made. More than one haiku a day is encouraged.

3. Suggested format is 5-7-5 syllables.

4. Be original. Duh.

5. Don't be ordinary.

Preeeeeesenting... the Gimmick, and its Masters of Menace!

Back in the last 80s, comic books went through a really bad trend. They started trying a bunch of gimmicks to sell the books. For awhile, it even worked.

They would print books with multiple covers. If you wanted a complete collection, you HAD to buy both. Or all three. Or four. Or five. They still do this every once in a while, but it's usually presented as one "real" cover and one alternate.

I admit that I fell for this one a time or two myself. But I will slightly defend the only time I remember buying more than one cover. It was the release of the new X-Men title to go alongside Uncanny X-Men. But the only reason I did was because the artist and co-writer Jim Lee was coming to Flying Colors to sign comics. I had all four signed. And hey - if you put all four together, it makes one image, as you see below.

But almost 20 years later, I feel like I was ripped off. I don't remember anything about the interior or the story, but I remember spending more money than I should have. I'm just glad that I didn't try to buy them an an investment, as many people did at that time. I just wanted them because they were cool and I could get them signed, which was cooler.

This wasn't the gimmick that really hurt, though, as obviously I had a choice in whether to buy more than one copy or not. They started putting out foil covers. And covers with holograms. And fold-out covers. all of these choices came with a higher price tag. I like a nice simple cover which is some sweet art and shows what's in the comic. No gimmicks.

At first, they started with some "special" issues, like multiples of 100. Then it turned to multiples of 50. 25. 1. And in most of those cases, I didn't have a choice. Well I did, but the choice was "Buy the foil cover or don't have that issue." And in the end, I chose not to have that issue, or any others. I took about five years off from reading and buying comics.

Yes, these gimmicks sparked sales and gave more money to the companies. But it left a bad taste in my mouth. As I stated, I stopped buying them completely for awhile. And now I'm worried because I'm seeing a similar trend in the NFL. Throwback uniforms.

NFL teams change their uniforms every now and again for whatever reason. Often it's because their look is associated with a bad era. In recent memory, both the Broncos and Buccaneers completely changed their jerseys and won the Super Bowl within a few years. The Rams slightly changed theirs, going from yellow to gold. Sometimes teams tweak their jerseys slightly and you don't even notice until someone points out the change.

But over the past few years, teams have occasionally featured some throwback uniforms. For a game, the teams sport a jersey from their past. And occasionally has become frequently. This season is the 50th anniversary of the 8 original AFL teams, so the games those teams played are called "Legacy" games. They wear their throwback jerseys. In most cases, they are hideous.

I don't even like the ones that other people seem to like. The Chargers started wearing their old powder blue throwbacks a few years back, and now that's their regular jersey again. To me, powder blue doesn't display the edge that a team needs. It's weak. And ugly.

And why are they doing this? They get to sell the throwback jerseys to make some extra cash. When they play the games with some of the abominations, I don't want to watch. It hurts my brain, especially watching in HD on my 62 inch screen. Even more atrocious. Then again, I don't get to see most of these games because NFL rules prohibit the showing of competitive football games.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

In the Clutches of... San Francisco!

Don't read my blog if you don't like San Francisco.

I spent the day in San Francisco, as I mentioned I would in my last blog. for the most part, it was pretty cool. I really don't get into SF nearly enough, and I wish I could get there more often. However, I never seem to find the more personal, intimate parts of SF. I see some touristy stuff, which is nice. In fact, there's one major tourist thing that I've never done, Alcatraz, and I think about going to do a couple times a month.

I had a few technical difficulties as well. I went with my camera, Blackberry, and mp3 player. I usually enjoy walking around with a soundtrack. But last night I apparently left my mp3 player on all night. I didn't notice until I was in the city. My A battery recharger doesn't seem to work anymore. My battery notification on my camera popped up quickly. The batteries did last, though, and I got some pictures that I've posted below. My Blackberry gives me regular problems. This time it locked up for about 15 minutes - and drained the battery.

But living this close to the city, I should know it better than I do. I was very tentative everywhere I went. I wasn't sure where to eat or which way to go. I remember some of the only times I've been comfortable and really enjoyed SF were when Lance E. Kisses was living in SF. I was hoping my Blackberry would help a bit, but it died. I need someone who knows SF to be my tour guide in my own backyard.

Here's some pics, then a pretty awesome video. I hope you enjoy Biker Rapper Guy - you'll wish you had been there.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Coming of Movie-A-Day Month!

Don't read my blog if you hate movies.

I was really into music in high school and college. I have always been pretty happy with my diverse taste in music. But somewhere in my twenties I stopped buying a lot of music. Around that time I started getting more and more interested in movies. For the past few years I've been a bit upset with myself for getting away from music, but that's because I hadn't realized that movies had taken their place.

For me, my interest in movies really grew when I watched the AFI top 100 movies. the American Film Institute put our their list of the best 100 American movies. That seemed like a great starting point, as there were plenty of movies that I had heard about but never seen. As these were the days before Netflix, it took me several years to get though the list. i kept track of watching them on my website. I placed a copy HERE for your perusal. You'll even notice my Livejournal icon that I made from ten of my favorite movies.

As I mention at the top of that list, something clicked when I watched Citizen Kane for the third time. The third time was immediately after the second time. I watched it with the commentary from Roger Ebert. I saw the movie in a whole new light.

A few years back I started going to movies more often and keeping track. Then at the beginning of every year I try to post a top 10 list, which allows me to reflect back on the films I really enjoyed. In previous years I've tried to go to 20-25 movies a year. This year I've cranked it up a notch. I saw my 25th movie last weekend (which many critics loved, but will not make my top 10 list). I've gone out of my way to see a few smaller films that haven't shown in Concord, and tomorrow I'm planning to head into San Francisco just to spend a cool day in the city and watch a movie that isn't showing around here.

So that all brings me to my next -A-Day challenge. No it isn't in November. November is haiku-a-day month, as that's usually pretty easy. I'll give more details on that in a few days. But for December, I'm creating Movie-A-Day month. Each day, write about a movie. It doesn't need to be a full critique. Just pick a movie and write about it.

For me, I'm going to try to write about as many movies I can that I saw in the theaters that won't make my top 10 list for 2009. But I want to write about a few others that I really like. I'll probably put together some kind of list of rules so that we can all ignore those as well. But for now the only rule that I know I want to have is "You have to have seen the movie from beginning to end OR if you stopped early it has to be because it was that bad."

I've wanted to write about a couple movies already for Blog-A-Day month, but I've skipped them knowing that I was going to drop the gauntlet for December. for many of you who have avoided Blog-A-Day month because it's too hard, you were right. A new topic a day is tough. But have you seen at least 31 movies? Yes, you have. Can you write a few lines about it? Yes, you can. You're in.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

From the Depths of Defeat!

By the time I had first gotten into fantasy football, I had been a part of a few season long pools. I've never been very good at picking games. I'm never the worst, but usually not near the top. I tend to take too many chances picking underdogs. Or I won't believe in a team for too long, then when I finally do they have a crappy game. So while it was another fun way to enjoy football, and I am still in some pools, it was nothing until fantasy football.

The summer of '99, I took my first big road trip. I drove up to Seattle and spent a few weeks there, then headed east to the coast and back again. The last stop before heading home was San Diego. While I was there, I went to a fantasy football draft. I was told that it would be pretty boring, just watching some people drafting football players. But it was an eye opener. I knew while watching this thing that it was awesome and I had to do it myself.

So when I got back home, I got some people together to try out this thing. I basically copied all the rules from the league I had watched. We held our draft in an office in Walnut Creek. Five of the owners got their strategery in order a the coference table. I was in another room on the computer. Another owner was on speaker phone. One of the owners never made it inside. It was like magic.

I learned a lot from that first draft, though not right away. I had a disastrous first season. While I had a team that looked good on paper at the beginning of the season, some of the key players didn't work out. I look back on my decision to go with Jake Plummer instead of Peyton Manning as one of those errors, though in 1999, I wasn't the only person to do such a thing.

In my league, EDSFFL, my team is Sharks With Frickin' Laser Beams Attached to Their Heads. Here's my team logo. Not very Sharklike, but it really works.

I greatly improved over the next couple seasons, winning the championship in season three. That year I owned Marshall Faulk. And in 2001, that's pretty much all I needed. I've stayed competitive ever since until last season, when I missed the playoffs for the first time since season 1.

I won the championship one more time in 2003. In that championship game, I went through Sunday looking like I was a lock to win. the only thing standing between me and victory was the Monday Night Football game with my opponent's QB - Brett Favre. Many of you will remember that game. It was the one Favre played right after his father died. But I had enough of a lead to overcome that performance.

I've been to the championship game without winning a couple times. A few seasons back I would have won if the week before I hadn't started Michael Vick instead of Carson Palmer. Palmer was supposed to be out that week, but instead scored 20 something points. Vick scored a negative three, and I lost by five. Another learning experience.

A couple years after starting EDSFFL, I became an owner in the league that I had visited. I haven't consistently had the same success in that league, but I did win a championship. That season I owned Ladainian Tomlinson, and that was pretty much all I needed. I went to the championship another time and lost a heartbreaker. I always seem to have a solid draft and start the season with a great game, but it often falls apart.

My team in the San Diego league, CFFL, is Clobberin' Time. I can only find a tiny icon of my logo right now, so here's that.

So now I'm headed into week seven of the 2009 season. I'm 3-3 in both leagues. In one league, I just had to deal with all of my running backs having a bye. And I don't even have a quality starting RB in that league. In the other, I have three great RBs. Unfortunately, I can only start 2. So I still haven't figured out a lot of things. But in the end, it's probably 80-90% luck anyway.

"I just added a unicorn to my fantasy football team." Joel McHale

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If This Be My Homeowners Association...!

Don't read my blog if you run my homeowners association.

I'm fairly certain that my condo's homeowners association is a spammer. Over the past couple years, I've received random charges being added on to my account. I've disputed them, and they've quickly taken the charges away.

The first (or so I thought) was a little over a year ago when I was remodeling my bathroom. While turning off the water outside, the spigot broke. Luckily it wasn't a break which was causing water to go all over the place. This is homeowners association property, since it's outside my house. So a little after noon, I called them to let them know, and they told me that a plumber would be in contact shortly.

At 4:45, fifteen minutes before the homeowners assn closes, I called again to see what was up. They told me that they had taken care of it and that they were sure he would call soon. He called about five minutes later. My guess was that they forgot.

So he came out a few hours later. It was summer and it was already dark, so it must have been 8:30 or so. He made a temporary fix, then came back the next morning to make a permanent fix. A month goes by and I received a bill from the homeowners for $50.00. Why? Because while I had called the homeowners after work hours with an emergency call that was due to me making cosmetic repairs after hours. Uhhh... no.

I sent an email letting them know that I had my detailed cell phone invoice showing the time I first called them. A couple days later they emailed me back dropping the charge.

So the newest thing is that I received a bill for several late charges on my account. these late charges went back over two years - even though this was the first time they were telling me about it. My credit union pays my bills on time automatically. So, of course, I went online to my credit union and checked the date these payments had been sent. Every payment was made in plenty of time.

I sent them an email explaining this. A couple days later they emailed me back dropping the charges.

In both cases, they never asked me to send them any of my documents showing my side. It was just a message letting me know that the charges were removed from my account. I think they're fishing for more money. I think they just send out these bills expecting some people to pay, and any dispute they will just overturn before anything happens.

While I hope to be moving out soon, I'm still going to have to pay the company every month. And while that's going on, someone else will be living in my condo. It might make it easier for them to charge me for something. I'm a bit worried about it.

How many other companies are doing this? Or am I just getting paranoid?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The End of My Voice!

Last year, I had to take off a full week of work. It's the first time I've missed that much work or school pretty much ever. I wasn't too comfortable with it, especially the idea of leaving my classes with a week's worth of substitutes.

I've got some kind of fun problem with my voice. I had a pretty constant sore throat from October through about February. It was in and out, with my voice getting stronger then weaker again. I finally a went to see the doctor, and said that it had something to do with my allergies. I was caught in a cycle where every time it would start to heal, my allergies would take over and mess it up again. So I went on some pretty strong medications for about four days. It was supposed to fix it quickly. the fun thing is that this is a medication that's so strong that I can't really ever take it again or else there will be some pretty gnarly side effects. Good times. It mostly worked, but I haven't really felt 100% yet.

This year, because I have deaf and hard of hearing kids, I have the wireless microphone headset again. It's saving my voice a bit, but I feel it going again. I had a sore throat after the first couple days, but that seems to happen at the beginning of the year when I get back into it. The past week or so, I feel it going again.

if my voice were to get bad enough, teaching wouldn't exactly be a possibility anymore, at least in the way I do it now. So it's times like these where I start to think about what other career I would have if I had to give it up. But now I have to think about what jobs I could have that wouldn't require a whole lot of talking. I often come back to the idea of writing. But Blog-a-day month, which is supposed to encourage me to write more to get into the habit, is making that idea more and more frustrating. Here we are, only day 20, and I'm totally dreading writing every day. Yeah, it's a different type of writing. Perhaps if I were writing a continuous story it might be different. So since that's out, I think I'm going to become an international jewel thief.

Monday, October 19, 2009

To Squash a Dumb Reply!

Don't read my blog if you failed eighth grade history.

Yesterday I discussed health care, and I received one reply from someone who challenged what I had to say. They threw out this argument: If health care were meant to be one of our rights, the founding fathers would have added it to the Bill of Rights.

Ummmm... huh?

First of all, allow me to discuss the concept of health care in the late 1700s. It involved bleeding. Many historians believed that George Washington died because his doctors went with drawing too much blood instead of allowing his system to heal itself. The concept of surgery was different. You had surgery if you were definitely going to die without it. With surgery, you were only probably going to die. Many things that we would consider bad today, such as mercury, were common medicines a the time. Prior to the medical revolution of the early 1900s, health care was a whole lot of guessing and short term death delay. Today, we're much better at death delay. So yeah, the Founding Fathers weren't big on their health care.

But luckily for us, as everyone should have learned in the eighth grade, the Constitution is a living document. This means that it changes over time based on what's going on. You see, the framers of the Constitution were smart enough to create a contingency plan for problems and situations that they could not forsee (that sentence lifted almost directly from my Constitution Test). They created the elastic clause, which means that Congress can pass any law that they see as necessary. Now the definition of necessary is certainly up for debate, and that concept has been hotly debated over the past 200+ years. With people dying and suffering due to health care issues that Congress CAN address, it seems like it might be necessary.

But beyond that is an understanding of the Bill of Rights that some don't have (once again, because they don't remember their 8th grade history or have a little common sense). At the Constitution Convention, they didn't add a Bill of Rights. That's why they are the first ten Amendments. Duh? In fact, they chose NOT to add such a thing. It was only after the Constitution was introduced to the public that others insisted on a Bill of Rights. The idea of adding it was a concession to the Anti-Federalists in exchange for their support.

But the Bill of Rights DOES possibly offer the right to heath care. The ninth Amendment states that just because the Constitution doesn't name a specific right doesn't mean you don't have it. Once again, they weren't sure that they added everything that was needed, and this was another way to allow for events to happen in the future without being blocked by the Constitution. That's the Amendment that gives you the right to write, to learn, to think, to fart, to marry, to travel, and to paint with mayonnaise. I have a feeling that if the framers of the Constitution (or farmers, as too many students write every year) knew that we had a way to cut open people, give medicine, or advise people so that they could live longer and in more comfort, they might have been in support of that. Certainly Washington, if we could tell him that instead of sucking five pints of blood out of him, we'll let him live a few more years.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

In the Hands of the Health Care Debate!

Don't read my blog if you are totally against health care reform.

Health care is a tough topic. I'm not even sure exactly where I stand on it. But while I don't know exactly where I am on the spectrum, I'm sure that I'm more in support of reform of some kind. And to be honest, the reason seems to be more selfishly because the Republicans are against it.

And is that really such a bad thing? After all, Republicans seem to pick their side based on one of two things: Jesus or greed. With health care, the right clearly isn't taking the side of Biblical Christianity. With that term, I mean the Christianity that exists in the words of Jesus, not current Christians. As Ghandi said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

So people who can afford health care want to keep their health care. And they don't want to pay for anyone else's. And I can dig that. Especially in this economy, and when I'm trying to save every penny, I'm not interested in paying for your health care. I don't really want to pay for your education. I don't want to pay for your roads, either.

But yet, I understand that I'm in a society and that I need to be a part of that. Plus, I also have a better understanding of the concept of health care reform than the average Tea Bagger. That's probably because I got my information from reading excerpts of the bills and analysis from a variety of sources including many that are more neutral on the topic. If all I did was watch Fox News and get all of my details from that, I would also assume that I was going to start spending hundreds of dollars a month for everyone else's health care.

There's also the concept of the public option. As I've mentioned in a previous blog, I don't believe that conservatives understand the concept of the word "option." In fact, I'm not sure if a lot of people do anymore. Last year, I wanted to offer some optional extra credit to my classes. I wanted to show Amistad after school. Parent permission was required. It was OPTIONAL. Yet one parent had it shut down. Sure, plenty of other blame to go around here, but it all comes down to the word OPTION.

The best argument I've heard against it is that if you like your current plan but your employer decides to go with the public option, you'll have to go with that. So here's my response to that. First, the idea behind the option actually doesn't allow for that. The public option was only going to be available when the business couldn't afford another option or if one wasn't available. If you already had a plan in place, this means that your employer might not be eligible for the public option.

But even if that wasn't the case, I have another argument for you. I have a degree in Social Science. That means I had to take a few economics classes. I'm far from an expert in economics, but I do have a basic understanding of supply and demand. So here's a mini lesson for you. If YOUR business were to choose to take on a different health care plan because of the lower prices, your previous health care provider would have to deal with the competition and lower their prices, putting them back in play. Chances are, this would happen BEFORE the changes were made,leaving you with the same health care provider.

Here's a question I do have: It's about your insurance plan. That means that someone different might be paying your bills. But it's also likely that you would keep your doctor. That isn't always the case. For example with a system like Kaiser, the insurance company and the hospital are joined together. So that might not be the case. But across America, it's more about the insurance company. How accurate am I in this paragraph? I ask because I actually don't know.

So what is our responsibility as a society? Are we the greatest nation on Earth? Are we the nation that cares the most about its people? In this issue, clearly not. It seems to me that the best would make sure that its people are healthy. After all, aren't we founded on the idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Life seems pretty straight forward in this case. That's what health care is all about. Liberty is the dividing issue here, as we might be asking some people to help others. So those who already have might lose their freedom to keep every penny. but tell you what: Let's end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to save that money, giving more liberty to our soldiers AND putting more money into the system, meaning you get to keep more money while we pay for health care. and pursuit of happiness. How much pursuit can you handle if you're dying? For sick people, having proper health care IS how to pursue happiness.

Something that makes this debate complicated for me is the idea of innovation and advancement through capitalism. The reason why drug companies make breakthroughs, such as the current medications that have changed HIV so it isn't a death sentence, is profit. They want their money. If they are denied that money, they won't be paying for the research. So honestly, I want them to make a bunch of money. The same goes for doctors. They should be rich so that when they are diagnosing me, they aren't worried about paying the bills. But insurance companies? Nah, not interested. Harsh honesty - these are replaceable people who should make a living wage, but don't need to get rich, unlike the doctors and scientists who are actually adding to the health of people.

But Bill Maher deserves a lot of crap for the statements he made about vaccinations, since they DO save lives and you probably shouldn't, in general, be on the same side as Jenny McCarthy in an intellectual debate, he is right about a few things. People do have a lot more control over their health than we acknowledge. Personal nutrition and exercise is preventative care - your fast food is cheap now, but a fortune in health care later. Drinking and smoking in moderation, or cut out all together, can save health care costs. It seems like the major vice that doesn't seem to cause the same health care problems is illegal for some stupid reason.

However, a tasty burger is nice. While I'm not much of a drinker and not a smoker, I hope you enjoy yours. That's the liberty part of the Declaration of independence. And that's what makes the issue so confusing and difficult to wrap around. I didn't even mention a lot of the problems that we need to solve in order to find a way to reach a solution. Unfortunately, this isn't the debate we are having. Our debate is how people want the government to keep their hands off of people's Medicare or whether Barack Obama is a Nazi-Communist-Fascist type of Socialist or just a Muslim.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Never Settle on a Topic or... You think it's Easy to Dream up Titles like This?

Don't read my blog if you like well thought out topics.

You know, it seems like I can't go 24 hours without someone asking me, "How did you get to be so awesome?"

But that's not what I'm writing about today.

First of all, that's the last time I say, "I guess I'll write this blog as soon as this game is over." This game kept going through 13 innings. And it was even slower than that because of the rain and several pitching changes. And they kept saying how exciting the game was.

Stupid baseball.

But I'm not really interested in writing about that today.

This whole kid in a balloon thing is lame. Why? Because the kid wasn't in the balloon. And it turns out that the father just wanted publicity, which he got. And the kid's name is Falcon. For a fictional character? Cool name. For a kid in Colorado? Nerd.

But that's not a topic I want to focus on here today.

I'm curious to try a Deep Fried Pepsi. I do prefer Dr. Pepper as a soda, but I've never seen one offered. I'd try it myself, but I don't know how to deep fry any soda, and I don't have a deep fryer. Or the desire. I've had a Deep Fried Twinkie. It was like a warm cream filled donut. I also tried a Deluxe Deep Fried Twinkie. That's one covered with an ice cream sundae. It was simultaneously awesome and disgusting, but not in a good way like a Jack in the Box taco. I don't have a need to have another one ever again.

But I don't want to write about that today.

It's the anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. I wish I had a good story to tell for the sake of this blog, but I guess it's a good thing that I don't. I was pretty much just sitting on my bed doing homework. It shook for awhile. Nothing fell off my walls or anything. It was obviously the biggest earthquake I've been in, but on the ground floor inside a small bedroom wasn't a spectacular experience.

But I'm not going to continue with that subject.

So I won't.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Once Upon a Time, There Was a Vacation...! pt 2

After my day and a half in Tallinn, I took a boat ride, about an hour long, north to Helsinki, Finland.

As it turns out, I didn't do enough research when planning. I was there on a holiday in which most of the tourist attractions, restaurants, and stores were closed. I was there just for one evening and then half of the next day. I didn't connect well with Helsinki simply because I didn't get to do enough.

I dig the variety of architecture, though I probably had to since I saw most things only from the outside. My favorite might be the train station, simply for the figures on the outside. That's in the first two pictures I have here. Also pretty cool is the Temppeliaukio Kirkko, or Church in the Rock. I have two videos of that, one inside and one outside. Take a look at the roof made of copper wire at the end of the first video. Pardon my camera work. It's pretty much what the name implies. It was built into the rocks.

Also pictured is the Sibelius monument. That's the thing that looks like wind chimes and the metal face that looks like Jean Sibelius, for all you fans of Finnish compositions. The other three videos are 360 shots of a few places. If you want to know what any of the videos or photos are, just ask.

One fun thing that you too can experience, should you go to Helsinki, is the awesome seagull experience. they sell soft serve ice cream in a few places along the harbor. They have signs telling you to watch out for the gulls while eating your ice cream. I figured this meant that they will go nuts if you drop it or will go for it if you hold it out for them. Nope. They'll swoop on down and grab it mid lick. You don't want anything grabbed from you mid lick.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Coming of the Update! Or: Scott Battles His Fat Gut!

Don't read my blog if you don't know me.

Today, as it's about the halfway point in October, is just a Namaste It! update. And considering I'm not really allowed to write about the stuff I really want to, this will have to do for now.

My previous post about it is HERE, so use that to catch up if necessary.

My biggest problem with going veggie so far is the variety. It seems that while I know plenty of things to make, most of them take some time. The only two quick and easy things I really know are eggs and pasta. So I've had plenty of both this month.

I did make a pretty sweet pot of vegetarian chili. But it did take some time. Last weekend I had time to put it all together, then put aside a portion for dinner that day and the next, then freeze a couple more portions for later.

With a lot of the things I can make that are vegetarian, it's the same thing. So coming home from a day of work then cooking? Not my bag. So this weekend I need to plan ahead and made a ton of food and throw it in the freezer for the next couple weeks.

Last Friday night I tried the vegetarian patty at EJ Phair. I had a BBQ type burger. I'm glad I picked one that was smothered in BBQ sauce. The patty itself didn't taste great, didn't taste bad. It was just there. In the future, when I'm not in a vegetarian month, I think the only time I would choose a veggie patty is if I had to eat out several days in a row or often, or perhaps on vacation where I'll already be eating lots of crap. Another option was to have a portabello mushroom cap. I think I would like to try that.

I've saved a bunch of money as well, since I haven't been buying junk food or meat. I'm also pretty much off drinking anything other than water and chocolate milk, so that's saved cash.

I was worried at the beginning of the month that I wasn't going to lose my 5 pounds this month. Over the past week, I amped up my gym workouts, changing cardio to interval training instead of just distance. I jog for 2 minutes, sprint for 2 minutes, and repeat for 20 total minutes, then jog the rest. All the reading I've been doing says that this burns fat faster. I've now lost 4 of the 5 pounds with over 2 weeks in the month, so I hope to be ahead of schedule when November starts. If I can actually get this house purchased, the last couple months of the year could get hectic.

So there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Their Final Chapter!

Don't read my blog if you mourn for celebrities.

I should have written this blog a few months ago, but I was busy. But the death of Captain Lou Albano reminded me that I need to write it.

I was in Europe when Michael Jackson died. More specifically, I was in Denmark. We had lunch in Roskilde when I saw a tabloid sized newspaper with his picture and the words, "Michael Jackson Død." Since it was tabloid sized, I wasn't sure what it meant. My best guess was dead, but it didn't seem likely. I didn't really think too much about it.

That night I had my first internet access in a few days. Since Yahoo! pops up as my first page, I saw the news first thing to confirm. I became curious as to what the reaction was. When I left the United States, we weren't too big on Michael. He had been seen dangling his child off a balcony. His face had things dangling from it that hadn't previously been dangling. He had been accused to playing with boys' dangling parts.

Somehow, his death made us forget the all of the dangling.

But here's the thing. Michael Jackson isn't dead.

What? Am i implying some kind of conspiracy theory? He's alive somewhere? Jackson's head was frozen until sometime in the future?

No. You didn't know Michael Jackson the person. His death had no impact on you whatsoever. The Michael Jackson you knew was on an album or tape or CD or mp3. His image was on your TV. And all of that is still there.

Oh, some of you might be be concerned that now he can't make new music. Really? Do you want more of Michael's music? Have you heard any of the new stuff? He has some pretty good older stuff. I dig listening to the Jackson 5 every now and again. I listened to Smooth Criminal just the other day at the gym. But his better days as a musician were behind him.

Some might be sad that you'll never get to see him in concert. I guess I feel the same way about Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley or original Paul McCartney (I did see the fake stand in many years ago.) But it can't be that big of a deal for me.

I actually have seen Michael Jackson, just not in concert. I was at Disneyland many years ago waiting to travel across to Tom Sawyer's Island. On the island, I could see a huge group of people. It looked odd, since there usually aren't that many people on the island. It's usually a great place to get away from everyone.

Coming back from the island was a raft with only three people on it. That seemed strange, since so many people were waiting to get back. On this really hot day, two of them were dressed in suits. The other in a heavy fur coat. As they got closer and started to get off the raft, I saw that it was Michael Jackson in the fur coat.

So really, I feel like I have more reason to mourn him than most of you. I practically knew him as a kid. Though... that's not something most people would want to admit to...

See? Funny. Definitely not too soon.

You could also argue that you feel bad when any person dies. Ok, sure. On a planet with almost 7 billion people, thousands dying every day, you must be a really sad person.

Yes, that's callous. But it's reality. The Michael Jackson I knew (outside of Disneyland) is still alive, and I still don't really care. Britney Spears in rehab? Don't care, same thing. Mel Gibson calls a cop "Sugartits?" Funny. But I don't care. Michael Vick fights dogs? Don't care.

Except for Phil Hartman. He would still be making me laugh today if he were alive. How about we all take a moment to think about the memory of Phil Hartman?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When Falls the Rain!

Don't read my blog if your status had anything to do with rain.

Obviously, one of the benefits to living in California is the kinder, gentler weather. But that also means that when the weather changes, it's time to freak out. How many Facebook updates did you see that let everyone know that it was raining today?

I just don't care about it nearly as much as everyone else for some reason. the only real impact it had on me was the traffic this morning. It usually takes me 5 to 10 minutes to get to work, 15 on heavier traffic days. Today it took more than 25 minutes. But I was still there in plenty of time and I got to listen to music for another 10 minutes.

I don't really get a kick out of running around in the rain, for the most part. But I think that's because I'm more practical. Yeah, it feels kinda nice while you're in it. But then you go inside and you're still wet. Then it SUCKS. I guess I might like it if I then have the chance to go change afterwards. Or at least put on some dry shoes and socks.

I remember the snow outings that we used to go on in Boy Scouts. One was to go snow tubing. I remember going the first time and being absolutely miserable afterwards because I was still soaked. The tradition was to stop for pizza at Mountain Mike's afterward. I was soaked the whole time. The next year I planned ahead and had a completely dry set of clothes including shoes. It made all the difference in the world. Another trip was snow camping where we had to build a snow shelter and spend the night inside. Hated it. I didn't go back the next year, and I think that was one of the few outings I didn't go on.

This morning when the first kids walked into my room, they asked me what I thought of the rain. I said it was fine, but I didn't like that my feet were wet. That's about the extent of it. Also, the gym was less crowded, and the heater was on downstairs to it was like working out in a sauna.

But really. How many status updates about the rain did you read before posting yours as well? Please don't move anywhere that has actual weather or else you'll never stop updating. Read this and this. And it certainly isn't worth writing a blog about.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Uncanny Threat of the Terrible Thinkers!

Don't read my blog if you're a teacher or a student or have ever been either.

President Bush said, "Rarely is the question asked: is our kids learning?"

Today in class we worked on a worksheet about the Declaration of Independence. It requires reading a page of information about the background of the Declaration, then correcting some deliberate errors on the worksheet. I've used this same sheet for about seven years now. I know that it gives the information that I want and has the kids think about it a bit. It doesn't ask for any creative new information, but it does go one step beyond information regurgitation.

It's also an assignment that I know pretty well. I know which questions they are going to ask. I know which questions are the most difficult. I know exactly how to point them in the right direction. But I refuse to do the work for them. I'll point to the correct paragraph if they need it, but I won't give them the answer.

I also know that this is an assignment that I can give on a day when I have a few other things to do. Back in the days of teaching English, I could workshop writing with students. I can grade notebooks or quizzes, all while being available to help. I've had to give more attention to some students with certain needs, but for the most part, it was an independent assignment. Most students would finish within a period with just a few that had to take it home to finish.

This year, it was different. These kids couldn't handle it. I was requiring them to think, and they couldn't. Barely half of the kids finished in each class. And to be honest, a bunch of those cheated. Their totally wrong answers were exactly the same. I never had more than a few minutes (until 7th period, my mostly GATE class) to do anything else.

Before I continue, I'm not complaining that I had to help students. I'm complaining because so many of them are helpless.

So I've thought about this all day, trying to come up with a reason why.

I want to blame it on their previous teachers for not helping them, but doing the work for them. I want to blame them for teaching too much through nothing bur regurgitation worksheets. I want to blame them for not challenging these students to think. While I know this IS true in some cases, I know that it isn't generally true. So I can't blame them.

I want to blame the students for being so lazy. They've learned to ask for help without trying first. They can't concentrate through reading a full page. They have learned to fake reading by just reading the words aloud instead of paying attention to what the words mean. They read too quickly to catch all of the meanings. They read too slowly to put the ideas together. They have never seen or experienced any benefit of thinking. While much of that is true in specific cases, I just can't believe that it's true of the entire group. So I can't blame them.

I want to blame their English teacher, but he's teaching them the alphabet right now. So I can't blame him.

Whose fault it is? Standardized testing. These kids have now been through the majority of their schooling being taught to the test. The test requires no actual thinking skills.

So is our kids learning? No. Thanks a lot for NCLB. You've created a nation of drooling vegetables.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

They Might Be Giants!*

Don't read my blog if you don't like They Might Be Giants

Here's a play-by-play of how I got to know my favorite band They Might Be Giants.

Nickelodeon used to have a music video show called Nick Rocks. This was probably right after the You Can't Do That On Television days. I think it aired right before or after The Monkees. I'm guessing that I was probably in 7th grade or so. They Might Be Giants hosted, and I remember digging a few of their songs. While I don't remember for sure, I think they played this video:

They Might Be Giants - Don't Let's Start from They Might Be Giants on Vimeo.

Move ahead to sophomore year in Chris Berry's car (AKA Jupitwo. Chris, not the car). I spotted a couple They Might Be Giants tapes and remembered seeing them on Nick Rocks. Flood had just come out. I remember immediately liking Particle Man, though I liked the whole album. I think we listened to some TMBG while camping overnight in Downtown Concord for Paul McCartney tickets. A lot of people were introduced to Particle Man by the Tiny Toons.

Music Videos by VideoCure

The first time I saw them in concert was in San Francisco in the summer after I graduated high school. I went with Moshe and Eric. I wore the Kaboom shirt. While we were waiting outside, there was a homeless guy who made the kaboom hand motions. In the concert, the did something called Request-A-Song, where you can request ANY song. Someone requested YMCA. that was the Apollo 18 tour.

They Might Be Giants-The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)

They Might Be Giants|MySpace Music Videos

I was living in the dorms in San Diego when John Henry came out. I listened to it for the first time in my dorm room in the middle of the afternoon, cranked up pretty loud. Nobody else was around. It was cool until halfway through the album when someone did come around. O, Do Not Forsake Me was playing. Loud. For those of you who know the song, you'll understand.

It was later that year when I saw They Might Be Giants for the second time, still in San Diego. I went with one of the guys in my dorm, Frank, and his friends. Frank Black (Black Francis from the Pixies) opened for them with an acoustic show. I remember it being cool. He sang Duke of Earl. We were right up front on the stage. At one point, John Flansburg knelt down and spoke to one of the people in our group. He said, "Hey, blkas laksj lkj alsfj lasdj and asdl asdlkj dslkj. I appreciate it." All any of us heard was "Hey" and the last three words. We don't know if he was scolded for something or what, but we assumed he told him something like, "Hey, thanks for rocking so hard. I appreciate it." All during the concert, he girl behind me sang loud and out of tune. I sometimes still hear her voice when I listen to Birdhouse in Your Soul. Someone kept yelling out "She's An Angel!" They never played it. But because of that, it has become one of my favorite TMBG songs.

The next time I saw them was in San Francisco with Lance. I remember puppets during Exquisite Dead Guy - they were a bit creepy but mostly cool. I don't think they are the smae puppets they use now as pictured. I remember being asked to do the congo during No One Knows My Plan, which you might know as one of the themes to Cartoon Planet starring Space Ghost. I remember Lance deciding that after the concert, he needed to buy condoms while be bought a pack of pear cider in a grocery store in San Francisco.

I remember watching Malcolm in the Middle for the first time and realizing right away that TMBG was doing not only the theme music. Then they played another TMBG song later on, and it was cool. I didn't recognize TMBG on the theme to The Daily Show, but wasn't surprised when I learned it was.

The last time I saw They Might Be Giants was in San Francisco, again with Lance, this time with Kirsti as well. We were in the front, and because of that we got to play the guitar. Well, sort of. Flansburg held out the guitar and we strummed it. You can totally hear us on the recording, and we rocked. I remember that if we hadn't caught a taxi to the BART station afterwards, we would have missed the last BART train. I don't think we knew that when we caught the taxi. I was disappointed that they didn't play Experimental Film.

They Might Be Giants - Experimental Film from They Might Be Giants on Vimeo.

I always seem to be disappointed with every new They Might Be Giants album the first time I hear it. I always think that this is the one where they finally lost it and they suck. But there's always one catchy song. So I listen to that song again and give the album another chance. And I usually find another song I like. And on and on until I realize that they release very few songs that I don't like.

My current favorite TMBG song is Am I Awake? (the video isn't TMBG, just the music, so close your eyes.)

While I was typing this, lots of other cool TMBG memories came back, such as seeing a James Ensor painting in Belgium, playing James K. Polk in class, playing No! in class, "Please Pass the Milk" while kids were working on maps after school, and driving around listening to Dr. Worm after a doomed job interview and before a wedding. All Damn Good Times.

*While this title isn't a homage to a specific Stan Lee title, I think it certainly sounds like one.