Monday, July 31, 2006

Do you shop at Trader Joe's?

I admit, I do shop at Trader Joe's, and I like it quite a bit. The food is interesting, yet simple and fresh. But what is little known is that the store has plenty of regular store items at excellent prices. Plus, the wine section is one of the best around!

However, I do get the "lefty liberal" feeling when I walk into the place. I would try to explain it, but David Brooks (Bobo's in Paradise, New York Times columnist) does an excellent job describing the essence of that particular retail establishment in his book On Paradise Drive.

Trader Joe's is for people who wouldn't dream of buying an avocado salad that didn't take a position on offshore drilling or a whey-based protein bar that wasn't fully committed to campaign finance reform. Someday, somebody should build a right-wing Trader Joe's, with faith-based chewing tobacco, rice pilaf grown by school voucher funded Mormon agricultural academies, and a meat section that's a bowl of cartridges and a sign saying "Go ahead, kill it yourself." But in the meantime, we will have to make do with the ethos of social concern that prevails at places like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

You get the impression that everybody associated with Trader Joe's is excessively good - that every cashier is on temporary furlough from Amnesty International, that the chipotle-pepper hummus was mixed by pluralistic Muslims committed to equal rights for women, that the Irish soda bread was baked by indigenous U2 groupies marching in Belfast for Protestant-Catholic reconciliation, and that the olive spread was prepared by idealistic Athenians who are reaching out to the Turks on the whole matter of Cyprus.

Yeah, but dammit I love their wine section!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Release him, trade him, make him "sleep with the fishes".............whatever..........



ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Update 7/30 at 11:03 p.m.

I jumped on to check my e-mail and found ESPN starting to bring up the baseball "f" sale. Yep, rumors are abound that Jason Schmidt, Moises Alou, Pedro Feliz, Ray Durham, and even Armando Benitez might be on the train out of here soon. Lots of Giants-Mets trade talk as of now.

End of weekend rambling

-My wife's summer is officially over as she starts the Willits High School Algebra Academy. The Academy is ran through the University of California with the intent to get 8th graders more prepared for high school, and get them more focused on being students. I really like the message that is sent by the University system. A presenter came to the orientation for students and parents, and really tried to get the kids focused on preparing for college now.
"It isn't like when you and I went to college", stated the U.C. presenter, "Kids need to be focused now and getting prepared now. Too many can't get into selective universities, and many that do can't do the Math or English required."

And one of the best messages I have ever heard from the mouth of someone from the University system was directed to the parents.

"Be parents! Don't ask kids to do their homework. Tell them that it must get done. Don't say 'please' do your homework. Hold them accountable and demand that they meet their responsibility."

-My wife and I graded Economics projects at the Mendocino College Entrepreneurship Academy, which is a two week course for high school and college students regarding business start-up. Involved tasks are financials, website, marketing, radio spots, commercials, and an overall business plan. Some of them were quite impressive. Unfortunately, on the way home from the college, we were passed by a young man doing about 80 mph on the downhill road that exits Mendocino. He didn't slow down, or stop as he approached the intersection of the exit and North State Street. I could only judge that he was going at least 65 when he flew through the intersection and hit the 3' high concrete barrier, tail end popping almost vertical into the air. My wife was already on the phone as we pulled up to his car about 5 seconds after the accident occurred. Amazingly, the young man was crawling out of the destroyed front end of the car and a couple of bystanders dragged him away as it looked like the car was smoking. I can't believe he survived. His airbags were the only thing that saved him. The super irritating thing about the event was the police response. My wife was on the phone seconds after it occurred, but two CHP cars arrived 7 MINUTES after the call! I could have driven to the damn station in three minutes! On top of that, they sauntered over to the kid, almost exactly like the two policemen acted during the home invasion scene in Boy'z in the Hood with Lawrence Fishbourne. It seemed like no big deal! Then, after they confirmed that he was injured (as if my wife explaining that he hit a fucking wall at 65 mph wasn't enough), then they called the paramedics, who arrived about 3 minutes later. But it wasn't over yet. The police officer was trying to get information from the witnesses and the victim/suspect. I tried to explain to him what happened.

"He passed us on the Mendocino College road going about 80, then didn't stop and he must've hit that wall at around 60-70 mph." The others around me (bystanders, some of my ex-students, another colleague from school) agreed.

"No he didn't.", stated the CHP officer.

"Yes, he did. We were right in front of it."

"If he hit that barrier at 60 mph he would have gone through it. He was probably going 30-35."

We were looking at each other in grim amazement. I'd never heard of a police officer who wasn't at the scene of the crime tell a witness that saw the crime that he was wrong, except maybe in mob movies. I have to say, I did get really testy.

"Ok, well, we were only standing right in front of the damn thing and you would figure that since we were here we would know what we saw."

He took down some names, the ambulance took the young man away, and my wife and I, pretty shaken, went home.

Today I found out from my colleague that the kid was 18, and it wasn't mentioned why he didn't stop. What she did find out is that the investigation by the auto wrecker determined that the car had way too much damage for 35, and the report stated that he was at about 70 when he hit the wall. The kid also has internal injuries, and is in the hospital.

So much of that situation is wrong that I wished I was five minutes sooner and not even seen it.

That what is not to be said

Polski has an excellent post over at his site regarding the failure of bilingual education in California, and the real reason for it.

Check it out.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Carnival of Education

Yes, the musical chairs continues at the Carnival of Education, this week stopping over at Text Savvy, who must be a whole hell of a lot better at this text thing than I am, because I refuse to ever host a carnival. Why? Well, that whole "lazy" thing comes to mind.........

Go check out the Midway!

Monet's Normandy and Pillow Pants

Today was a good day.

My wife and I decided to have a day of sophisticated leisure, so we headed on down to San Francisco to take in the new Monet in Normandy exhibit at the Legion of Honor. The reviews of the showing had been excellent, and being fans of Impressionism my wife and I decided to take in the splendid paintings.

First off, if you aren't doing some art history in your History courses, then you are doing a total disservice to your students. I had no comprehension about how neat that art history was until I started using Impressionism to enhance the Industrial Revolution. That was 6 years ago, and now when I teach World History, I do a whole week on Impressionist artwork and artists. The kids love it. About three years ago, while in Las Vegas, my wife and I took in a Monet exhibit at the Bellagio Hotel, which was on loan from the Boston Museum of Modern Art. Holy God, is it ever an experience looking at these works! The vision that Claude Monet had to create something so exquisite, so truly is moving. I highly recommend viewing some of his work if you have the chance.

This collection was from different collectors, but focused on Monet's work in Normandy. The 60 paintings varied with seascapes, haystacks, coastline geography, and of course, the water lilies at Giverny.

This is my favorite from the exhibition, and the picture does not do it justice. The painting is called
The Seine at Giverny, Morning Mist
. There is a calmness to the painting, but the image is not totally serene. I feel like the mist brings a tad bit of apprehension, tranquil apprehension, to the oncoming day. All in all, the painting moved me the most.

I highly recommend the exhibit, and it is a great place for a beginner to get a wonderful taste of Monet's work. If you do decide to go, I also recommend that you purchase the Teacher Membership. You get the usual do-dads (magazine, special viewings, 10% off the store), but you also get unlimited access to the Legion of Honor and the De Young Museum for a full year. Plus, you can take in a friend for free! Teacher Membership price? $45!!! Hell, my wife and I would have forked out $30 ($15 a piece) for Legion of Honor alone! Now we can come back for the next year and observe other great works!

We were going to go to the De Young today as well, but it was 2 p.m. after we left Monet, and didn't want to hit traffic going north on Highway 101 (one of the worst stretches in the Bay Area). We weren't quite ready to go home yet, and decided to complete the day with fine cinema to go with our fine art.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Jay and Silent Bob have returned!

Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay & Silent Bob Strikes Back) is one of my favorite directors. His humor is witty, crude, and he takes my generation and opens up our culture with a controlled and chaotic zealousness. Well, on Friday, Smith released Clerks 2 to the viewing public, and my wife and I were in line today to get our fix of the "Counter Culture". How does it rate? Well, if you don't like crude humor, don't go see it. It is truly a Kevin Smith style film. I would rank it better than Jay & Silent Bob, slightly behind the original Clerks, but not as good as Mallrats or Chasing Amy, the latter of which is one of the best films ever produced. Seriously. What that means is that there are scenes that are laugh-out-loud hilarious, and Kevin Smith has made a sequel that is damn good. Many of the regulars pop up in the movie in little cameo roles; Ben Affleck, Wanda Sykes, Scott Mosier, Jason Mewes, and of course, Kevin Smith himself. The dialogue is snappy, funny, and quite a bit more refined than his last couple of efforts.

However, the highlight of the show is newcomer Trevor Fehrman (far left), who plays a geek named Elias who is obsessed with Jesus, Transformers, and Lord of the Rings. A scene with Elias, well known "Clerk" Randall, and the evil "Pillow Pants" could be considered one of the funniest in Smith's film history. Yes, it is THAT funny! Oh, and Rosario Dawson is very easy on the eyes as well. But remember, non-Kevin Smith movie fans need to be aware; this film is definitely not for everyone!

Ahhhh, the feeling of a cultured and productive day............

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury.............

Mr. Silva-Brown had jury duty yesterday, and boy did it suck.

Normally I'm really into being on a jury. Simply put, you are taking part in the criminal justice system using every variable in that jury room to decide the fate of someone's life. It is an amazing experiment in human action and analysis. I was last a juror in 1999 when I was a foreman for jury that was trying to convict a young man for beating up his girlfriend. In the end, it was a hung jury. It was 8-4 that the man was innocent. I voted that he was innocent, but not because I didn't think he did it. I was fairly sure that he beat up his girlfriend, but the reasonable doubt was very "there", especially when the girlfriend testified that he didn't beat her up. That, and the fact that the police did a horrid job gathering evidence, gave me the "reasonable doubt".

This case was different. I was actually chosen as one of the 50 jurors to go into the court room for jury interviews. A court room with no air conditioning. Ahhhhhhhhhh, Ukiah, 112 degrees outside, and 60 people in a tiny court room with no air conditioning. Sounds great, doesn't it. After the first 24 jurors were questioned, and 13 were let go, I was called in the next batch of 10. I found out that the case was an embezzlement and tax fraud case. Borrrrrrrriiiiiiiinnnggggggggg. Then the judge stated that the case could last up to two weeks, with lots of witnesses about accounting. ARRRRGGGGGG!!!!!! Fortunately, I had a valid excuse. I have an English Language Learner conference I have to attend next Monday and Tuesday which was assigned by my principal. I explained that to the judge and was promptly excused. Awwwwwwww, too bad.

Don't get me wrong, I like serving on a trial, but this kind of case will require loads of paperwork, and a whole hell of a lot of boring ass witnesses. Yuck. Hopefully, in another two years, they call me for something a little more interesting.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Oh deer

Imagine that you are a janitor arriving at the local high school. You head to the main office to grab Old Glory and prepare to hoist the magnificent flag as dawn strikes the eastern skies.
Then you look up the flag pole to find a skinned and gutted deer carcass hanging from it.
No I'm not kidding, and yes, that would be my high school. The article is here.

I can think of a million pranks and plays to do to your high school, but hanging a dead deer from the flag pole is just plain disturbing. I really wouldn't have a problem with serious prison time for the sickos that committed this crime.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Traveling Silva-Brown

It's all the rage, so I'll jump in.

create your own visited country map

create your own personalized map of the USA

Driving in a heat wave

I left for awhile to visit family in Southern Oregon while the wife was at an AP Economics conference in Sacramento. I have come back to this, 109 degree heat in little Ukiah. Ouch!

I started off Monday with a little trip to Ashland, home of my grandmother. She is an ex-teacher from Hayward, California where she taught English and Art. Now she is retired in Ashland, teaching at Southern Oregon State, working at the Shakespeare Theater, and working on more projects than I am. For those of you not from around here, Ashland is in southern Oregon, about a 4 1/2 hour drive north of Sacramento. The town's main attraction is the Shakespeare Festival, home of some of the greatest theatrical productions in the world, and not just Shakespearean. I'm seen a few plays there, including King Lear, Taming of the Shrew, A Raisin in the Sun, and a variety of smaller plays. This visit was short and sweet, with the only production I watched was An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's foray into global warming. The movie was actually fairly good, with information presented clearly and accurately. The only complaint I had was the two times that Gore bitched about losing the 2000 election. How many times do we have to tell Al, "Get over it!".
I left Tuesday for the town of Burney, which is located about an hour east of Redding, California. In my opinion, one of the prettiest drives out there is Highway 89 between Mt. Shasta City and Burney.
The route has spectacular views of Mt. Shasta, picturesque meadows, sprawling forests, and right now, lots of Caltrans workers. Minus the last scene, everything else makes for a wonderful drive.
My father lives in Burney, which is famous for Burney Falls and closely located Hat Creek (lots of good fishing). He owns and operates Peter Brown's Pest Control, a business that he started from the ground up and is now very successful. He did it in only 4 years. Talking about the American dream.... But his motto says it all, "Where the owner does your service". Like any good business owner, he works hard, takes pride in his work, and therefore, retains a lot of customers. While I visited good old Dad, we decided that a golf game was in order, so it was off to Fall River Mills Golf course, home of the #3 606 yard par 5 that kicks everybody's ass. I shot a 62 on the front 9, and a 52 on the back nine. It must have been the morning dew on the greens.
Yesterday I met with my wife in hot as hell Sacramento, and now I'm home.......baking ass in this heat.
Not a whole lot going on regarding school. I'm working on my Intro to Business case studies for my college class, but I'm still hanging away from doing any work related stuff until next week. Whoops, I mean, unless I don't get picked for jury duty, which I was called for.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Help Wanted for International Studies

During my interview for my current position at Ukiah High School, I told the panel that one of my future goals was to create and teach an International Studies class. Last semester, my class was approved and this fall, I'll start teaching International and Global Studies.

I have my textbook, International Politics on the World Stage. From my investigation, it is quite a bit better than the next candidate. The reading level is challenging, but I think that a college prep Junior or Senior should do just fine.

I'm also using the State of the World Atlas, something that was used in the class that I took in high school. There are excellent activities you can use with the atlas, plus it is an invaluable resource.

Interact Simulations has some very interesting resources that I'm going to be using regarding International Relations, nation building, and terrorism. I tweaked the activities to meet my needs and I think there is an excellent chance that the simulations will be a big hit in the realm of interest based learning.

TCI (Teacher's Curriculum Institute) has some excellent simulation and interactive activities that will do very well for International Studies. There is a couple of great Israel/Palestine Problem Based Learning activities, and a simulation that makes half the class Middle Eastern countries and half "Western" countries dealing in oil negotiations. I highly recommend it!

Finally, I have all the different media that I'm going to be using. Obviously the Newshour focus stories (link right) will be a big part of class, as is the excellent news magazine Frontline (also linked right). Articles from Newsweek and Foreign Affairs will supplement all the text material and classroom instruction.

All of this leads up to a participating role in the Berkeley Model United Nations.

Even though I have plenty to work with, I want more. If you have any materials, any recommendations, no matter how small they are, I would love to hear from you!

World War III

Newt Gingrich, a man I used to dislike, but have came to respect as of late, stated in an interview that we are in the midst of World War III.

Gingrich said in the coming days he plans to speak out publicly, and to the Administration, about the need to recognize that America is in World War III.

He lists wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, this week's bomb attacks in India, North Korean nuclear threats, terrorist arrests and investigations in Florida, Canada and Britain, and violence in Israel and Lebanon as evidence of World War III. He said Bush needs to deliver a speech to Congress and "connect all the dots" for Americans.

He said the reluctance to put those pieces together and see one global conflict is hurting America's interests. He said people, including some in the Bush Administration, who urge a restrained response from Israel are wrong "because they haven't crossed the bridge of realizing this is a war.

If you look back to my July 7, 2005 post, you will see that I stated that the country is in a World War, and that I mentioned this same thing to my colleagues back in 2002. I wasn't taken seriously back then, but hopefully the situation will be looked at in a more serious light.

Look, this situation in Israel and Lebanon is not very much of a surprise to those that understand the region. History shows that Israel wasn't going to sit around while Hezbollah launches attacks from Lebanon, and history also shows that the Arab locals (Hamas, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah) were going to constantly blame the actions on Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories. It was never a matter of "if" this crisis would happen, it was "when". However, it is simply another battle against Muslim extremism, this time a group that is based in the Bekka Valley in Lebanon (a notorious haven for Hezbollah) and supplied by Iran. It isn't isolated in the realm of the current political climate in the world, it is simply another event in a war that many choose to ignore as global.

If you haven't noticed, this country is nowhere near considering itself in a wartime situation, even though we have troops committed on nearly every continent in the world. The enemy thinks of the war as global, but the American public doesn't grasp the realization, yet. Again, I ask anyone to take a look at the Islamic extremism around the world and tell me that this isn't a global war.

By the way, this makes next year's new International Studies class curriculum change dramatically. The focus will have to be the Israel-Palestine issue to get the students truly knowledgeable about the subject. Throw in Iranian nationalism, Islamic extremism,, the class is going to be interesting!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Education Carnival in SoCal

This weeks Education Carvival is at School Me, which is the education blogging portion of the Los Angeles Times. I will not be reading the Education Carnival this week because it is based in the hated city of Los Angeles, home of the damn Dodgers. May they burn in hell!

All kidding aside, sort of, School Me is a very informative and entertaining site. Go check out the Midway and link on up!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Generation Y having difficultly keeping a job

You would think that I'm talking about a generation of young adults who can't remain employed, but in actuality, I'm talking about a generation of young adults who choose not to be employed if they don't get what they want.

Joanne Jacobs (check right links) found an article in the Los Angeles Times that states that Generation Y is taking on the attitude of a spoiled little employee, appropriate for the so called "entitlement generation". Apparently, companies are spending massive amounts of money trying to recruit and train employees, only to find that the Y'ers split town the second they don't get what they want. This is irritating the corporate world, so says the L.A. Times.

I call this the Market Economy.

While teaching Economics, I explain to kids that the reason that you get a good education and a lot of experience is so you have that opportunity to become a marketable product. If the company can't meet the demands of a good labor, then the company loses out on that labor. I understand that the article seems to insinuate that this generation doesn't want to start down on the low rungs of the ladder. Really, who does? However, if potential employees are leaving jobs and easily acquiring new ones, that simply means that there are a lot of jobs out there, and that is good for the economy. Also, let's not ignore the productivity numbers that are coming out regarding the American labor force. Americans are working longer, harder, and are creating more productivity than ever. This generation will learn that they have to start at the bottom to work their way up, just like every other generation had to learn. Hell, Generation X was called "The Slacker Generation", and they started the Internet Revolution!

Saturday, July 08, 2006


I am nerdier than 25% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Sorry Gilbert (Revenge of the Nerds for you movie nerds), no real nerds here. I'm a little surprised since the only computer thing that I didn't know was my own IP Address. But I had no clue on the science questions, and I really didn't find my academic subjects that interesting in high school, and I didn't get great grades in college (3.6). I loved P.E. in high school, and I still can't believe that people fail that class.

Oh well.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Highlights of the NEA National Convention

Courtesy of the Education Intellegence Agency:

-Guess what teachers, dues for the NEA will be going up $1 a year for the next two years. Where does your dues go? Well, NEA staff pay and benefits will be going up over 9% over the next two years. Are you getting a 9% raise any time soon?

-A resolution was passed stating that the NEA is against any form of voter ID, something that is needed if you happen to vote in NEA elections.

-A resolution was passed donating $10,000 to injured striking teachers in Mexico. Regardless of how brave I think striking teachers are, I don't remember this being the Mexican Teachers Union.

Any of you memebers remember a ballot for these measures?

Education Carnival

The Education Carnival is still around, despite it being summer and the teacher's time to relax. Check out the Midway at NYC Educator, who is doing this weeks carnival with a Superman flair, a movie I have yet to watch in its new format.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I'm back from vacation!

My wife and I had the vacation planned for months, and for once, the well planned vacation was really excellent. We left Sunday, June 25, got back this afternoon, and capped it all off with the usual excellent fireworks display that Ukiah has done a marvelous job producing.

We went to a little town in the Sierra Nevada mountains called Downieville. The town holds only about 300 people, but is a serious summertime destination for campers, backpackers and mountain bikers. The cabin we stayed at was a "resort" called The Lure, a place where families came to show their kids "the woods", and fisherman have real cabins on the other side of the "resort". Our cabin was rather plush, and it should have been for the amount that we paid for it.

The Good:
-The reading. I must have sat on the deck of my cabin for hours and did nothing but read. I read mostly pleasure books, but I did do a little homework and school work reading. Still, it was nice to focus on reading that was easy and fun!

-The beauty of the Sierra Buttes. Located on the northern most end of the "High Sierra", the Sierra Buttes are a wonderful sight to behold. They are majestic amongst such small mountains. On the east end of the Buttes is Lake's Basin, a haven for glacier-made lakes that will fill you with images of Yosemite and Mammoth Mountain.

-More books. We got stir crazy one day and ventured into the used book stores in Grass Valley. Not bad at all, but the gem was Hospice Thrift Stores of Grass Valley, which was a book bonanza. Really good, and recent, books were available at the Hospice for .10 to $1 a book. It was a serious score.

-Bryant's Rare Books and Documents. If you are a history buff at all, then you must stop by this magical store that is located in Old Town Truckee. It is a shop that is filled with old maps and first edition printings of classics. My wife and I had a favorite map from a Spanish explorer in 1557 that showed a huge Florida, and Baja California as a large island in the Pacific. I highly recommend stopping there.

-49 Wines. 49 Wines is a small wine shop owned by a retired man and his wife in downtown Downieville. The wine selection is exclusively "Mother Lode Wines" (Sierra County south to Calavaras), some of which (zins, sav blancs) are very, very good. But the store is like a wine shop is supposed to be. The owner is very friendly and will talk at length about wine and the world at large. We spent a good hour in there enjoying his company, and bought a little vino of course.

The Bad:
-What the hell is the new fad of bringing your dog everywhere. We could not go on one hiking trail, or visit one lake, without a half dozen people letting their dogs run loose all over the area. Leave the damn mutts at home and let people enjoy the backcountry without having to listen to barking all afternoon.

-Mountain Bikers are rude and think they own the town of Downieville. You can't hardly walk anywhere without someone screaming down the street or some wannabe Yuppie scum glaring at you because you walk instead of riding.

-Skeeters are crazy right now. With the late rain and the snow run off, mosquito's are everywhere. The first three days were humid and we had to take shelter in the cabin to not get eaten alive.

-I lost my favorite pair of Nike sandals while fishing the Yuba. Dammit!

Overall, it was an excellent vacation. Yes, I did think about school on occasion, but in that good way that gets you pumped for the next school year. My mind is clear, my body is rested, and I still have over a month left!