Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The State of the Union Highlights Analysis

First of all, I'm pretty much only watching the State of the Union these days because I'm interested in all the people they want to focus the camera on and their stupid reactions. The speech has no merit, with a good idea becoming a political joke that holds no more true weight in terms of a solid course of action. However, I'm here as always to provide concise political commentary!

Highlight #1: Cindy Sheehan thinks that the House is actually in Crawford.
-Ms. Sheehan tried to do her protest thingy in the House Chamber and was arrested. Jesus God, talking about a woman who needs to go away. Your five minutes of fame are so up that it is unbelieveable that you still get any run at all. Yet, Cindy still pops up like a damn "whack-a-mole". Oh, last week she stated that she is considering running for the U.S. Senate in California. Want to know who her Chief of Staff is going to be?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Hugo Chavez!
Sigh.
You really can't make it up.

Highlight #2
We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline.

Interesting point and maybe the best quote in the speech, politically speaking. Bush set the tone that those people that want to pull out of Iraq are isolationists, and want to fall back from America's responsiblities. This is the only point in the speech were I thought he made sense and actually told the American people that the world is not simply about them, in their little towns, in good ole America anymore. But it wasn't strong enough.

Highlight #3
At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half -- in places like Syria and Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea and Iran -- because the demands of justice and the peace of this world require their freedom as well.

Screw "Axis of Evil", let's just call them all out! Actually we should, who the hell else is going to? These countries are embaressing examples of totalitarianism in the modern era, sly and still pervasive. Don't think so? Read up on Iran's new leader. We have a winner!

Highlight #4
Our offensive against terror involves more than military action. Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change. So the United States of America supports democratic reform across the broader Middle East.

...........which is almost entirely paid for by the American taxpayer...except that I'm asking for more tax reductions. Here's where the President becomes a spineless coward. If we are at war, starting funding is appropriately. You don't talk about the true financial burdon you put on the country.

Highlight #5
The Palestinian people have voted in elections. And now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace.

Hahahahahahahahahaahah!!!!! Sure they will.

Highlight #6
So to prevent another attack -- based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute -- I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected Al Qaida operatives and affiliates to and from America. Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have and federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed.

I dare you to impeach me. That is what he is saying. Since I have a much more realistic view of National Security, I'm inclined to believe him. And yes, his predecessors did this and alot worse.

Highlight #7
Because America needs more than a temporary expansion, we need more than temporary tax relief. I urge the Congress to act responsibly and make the tax cuts permanent.

This is where Bush comes off sounding like a fucking billboard for the GOP, and a person of absolutely no independent thought. In a time of war, with a massive defecit, with an impending Social Security disaster, with Americans wanting more services from Government than ever............and you want to cut taxes????????? Every economist in the world is starting to raise the eyebrow like "Um, you are really that dense?" Republicans are supposed to be fiscally responsible, not fiscally fucked up.

Highlight #8
I am pleased that the members of Congress are working on earmark reform, because the federal budget has too many special interest projects. And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto.

Yeah right. Like that wouldn't be filibustered.

Highlight #9
Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security.

Might be because Americans have trouble balancing a check book, yet you expect them to take on their own retirement? Again, fiscal responsibility?

Highlight #10
And we must have a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty, allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally, and reduces smuggling and crime at the border.

At this point, Rep. J.D. Hayworth called the Minutemen and had them prepare to blockade the White House.

Highlight #11
We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years. Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.

1) You blew about hydrogen years ago in the State of the Union. Nothing doing. 2) Good luck with the ethanol since it is expensive as hell to produce. 3) End dependence on Mid East oil by 2025? Ooooooooooooo such a massive effort for that one. How about a "Manhatten Project" style effort to end dependence in 8-10 years. Now that would perk up ears.

Highlight #12
First, I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. This funding will support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing and alternative energy sources. Second, I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit, to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology.

"And I propose funding all these projects by some magical method, since I refuse to raise taxes. In fact, I will personally ask the tooth-fairy to contribute money to the funding of this program. Her current asking interest rate is exceptionally low."

Highlight #13
Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs.

Math and Science teachers, make three times less than your current job, put up with kids that don't care, parents that blame you, and a public that places almost no value on education! Where do I sign up! (Whoops, I already did!)

Highlight #14
They are concerned about unethical conduct by public officials and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage. They worry about children in our society who need direction and love, and about fellow citizens still displaced by natural disaster, and about suffering caused by treatable diseases.

Or activists public officials who deny Americans equal rights.

And there you have it, the State of the Union in a nutshell!

Don't be shy, join in!

So Darren at "Right on the Left Coast" (check link right)presented an argument that I don't agree with, that those people that can't do algebra should not be teachers in our educational system. As a high school teacher that really can't do algebra (except for basic algebra, once you get to slopes I'm in deep shit), I decided to add in my two-cents worth that I thought that the assertion that math=good teachers is not only bunk, but I think that algebra shouldn't even be required as a graduation requirement. I find it ridicules that we try and teach students algebra, while not putting the mathematical focus on things that students really need such as personal finance. I got a "D" in high school algebra in my sophomore year, and took 3 years to pass Intermediate Algebra in college. I have yet, in any of my students since that last class, to use any of the information learned in those classes. The argument that algebra "creates a critical and logical progression of thinking" is something that can be properly taught in many, many classes, including many sciences, History, Economics, Psychology, Government, hell, Public Speaking could teach this.
So jump in on the conversation at Darren's blog. He's a good guy that really cares about students and the teaching profession.

Monday, January 30, 2006

No Mas!

Today was the day to whine and complain in two Intro classes. For some reason, these two classes did a number on trying their best to irritate me. While talking about choice and trade-offs, we asked the question about what you can do with one dollar. In true immature fashion, the answers became "roll it and smoke it", "buy a 40oz", "buy a can of Cope", "pay two bums to fight", etc, etc. It became a class of middle school students, which I simply detest. So, they had their little annoying day yesterday and I have no problems booting out a whole lot of them. I was about ready today, but I often hold back because sometimes it is simply a case of an off day. Nope. This was one of those days were I was being pushed, intentionally. Add with that the constant whining over too many quizzes, hating school, having too much work, and I was about have a culling in the classroom. I'm starting opportunity costs tomorrow, something that students must focus on. Therefore, I will put up with no garbage. There is no excuse for that behavior from a group of seniors, and I will not tolerate it.
On the other hand, College Prep is doing rather well with the Stock Market Simulation. I signed up for the simulation at the Stock Market Game for a competition against other schools. The kids seem pretty into it. Give it a look!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Continuing to miss the point

On a recent 60 Minutes, Morgan Freeman gave the greatest answer to the problem of racism, and in a larger aspect, any kind of prejudice at all.

He says he finds Black History Month ridiculous.

"You're going to relegate my history to a month?" asks Freeman. "I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history," he says, noting that there are no white or Jewish history months.

How can we get rid of racism?

"Stop talking about it. I'm going to stop calling you a white man," Freeman says to Wallace. "And I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You wouldn't say, 'Well, I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.' You know what I'm sayin?"


Of course, he doesn't mean that we don't address the issue of prejudice, he means that we start living as equals in the true sense of the word. This means we should treat each other with the respect and dignity that all people deserve. Comments that attack a persons character, their race, their nationality, their gender, their sexual orientation, their weight, and their intelligence should not be considered acceptable in society. This is even more true in an education environment, where young minds are growing and creating their "frames of reference". One of the best things our school did this year is create the poster "This is a Hate Free Zone!" to have hung in every classroom in the school. It is a very brilliant and simple phrase. Your hateful comments and remarks have no place in the classroom, so keep them out or you will face consequences.

San Leandro High School (in the eastern Bay Area) is having a problem because this school is also demanding that posters be put up in classrooms, except they are these posters:

As you can see, the poster's focus in on issues having to do with gays and lesbians. Well, five teachers at San Leandro High School refuse to put the posters up in their classroom becausereligiousates reglious beliefs. The school is holding firm. You can read the details in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Two issues.
First, the whole "religious belief" excuse is bunk. If every teacher had the ability to manipulate the classroom accordreligiousheir relgious belief, then we would have a little problem with the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, and have less of a unified school. You can't say "no" to your employer simply because yoreligion your relgion says so. It doesn't work that way.
Second issue is not only the poster, but also the meeting at the beginning of the year that the teachers attended. I'm against the poster for the same reason teacher Robert Volpa is.
"I think it's outstanding. Any hate language is not permissible. I have a problem with the district mandating anything that could be political."

And yes, the poster is a political statement. If the real issue is the language and actions of "hate", then lets deal with the whole spectrum of the issue, not simply identify the gay community as the main focal point of hate speech. What about the issues of race? What about gender? What about the nerdy kid that gets constantly bullied? What about the fat kid that has to take verbal abuse over and over again? Are we really addressing the problems of prejudice? Or are we doing what Morgan Freeman said not to do, focusing on a group of people and demandireceive they recieve different treatment than everyone else, including others that are oppressed.
By all means, educate teachers about tolerance and acceptable behavior in classrooms. Demand "Hate Free Zones". Demand that everyone in the class be treated with the same respect, have the same opportunity, and be afforded the same education. But don't make tolerance a "gay and lesbian only" issue.
It doesn't solve the problem.

The bad part about basketball

So our varsity team got beat recently, 99-54. Simply put, the other team hit 8/9 from three in the first half and shot 65% for the game. It was a very impressive offensive display from a team we beat earlier in the year. Notice the score. Now, before I go on this tangent, let me explain that I think that this team's kids played very hard and did everything to deserve the win. It wasn't that we played real bad, it was that our opponent played real good.

It's the coaches that have a major problem.

Let's play a game. Can you name the signs that point towards a classless basketball program? Ohhhhh, let me think..........

1. With a 32 point half-time lead, you leave your starters in for the entire third quarter.

2. With a 45 point lead, you leave three starters in until 3:30 left in the fourth quarter

3. With a 45 point lead, you leave at least one starter on the floor for the whole game.

4. With a 45 point lead, your last player on the bench finally gets in the game......with 90 seconds left.

5. With a 45 point lead, you allow your team to full court press in the attempt to reach the century mark.

A couple of parents and myself were in the stands discussing how the players on that team must have felt with a 40+ point lead, and having no chance to play. Hopefully, the administrators in attendance were happy with the victory, and were taking note of how utterly classless their varsity coaches made their program look. About halfway in the 4th quarter, I yelled over to their head coach, "Hey, really using that bench their aren't ya". He looked at me with that idiotic smirk that showed that he was thoroughly enjoying running up the score. Goddamn I hate bad teachers and coaches.

Props go out to our team for working hard the entire game and giving up an inch in effort. We could have stalled the entire second half to deny the century mark, but the kids worked their butt off instead.

Props go out to our opponents players for putting on spectacular display of basketball. They played nearly every faucet of the game extremely well and deserve the victory.

For the opposing coaches, I little reminder of responsibility. You're supposed to be a teacher. Last night, you failed a lot of kids which your scoreboard message and you embarressed the coaching profession.

The good part about basketball

We started our league season 2-1. Since then, we have lost four straight. Two games were loses by teams that were pretty darn good. Two were losses that we should have won, but instead played pretty poorly. With half the season over, many teams would fold up and cash it in, thinking about the spring sports that start in a week or two.
Not these guys.
Our practice on Thursday (after a really bad loss) was intense. I was getting the feeling that some players were finally getting "it", meaning that motivation to constantly play hard and compete to win. I was pretty excited about Friday's game at Rancho Cotate, a school that beat us by 19 three weeks ago.

We came out of the gates against Rancho exactly like we had come out against the last four teams, flat. Shots were short, we were getting out rebounded, we played with our hands instead of our feet, etc. Before you knew it, it was 17-0, Rancho Cotate. At the end of the first quarter, it was 18-3. We does a coach think about when his team is down 18-3 in the first quarter? Honestly, you think that 15 points is a manageable deficit that can be worked on, but it will take a very strong effort to pull out a win.
Suddenly, the score started to change. 18-5. A kid comes off my bench like a spark plug and starts to hassle the point guard down the floor. 18-7. I get the feeling like some of the kids can start smelling blood on the floor. I scream out "FIVE FULL", which means "full court man-to-man". The response was great! All of the sudden the Ukiah freshmen are flying all over the floor with an intensity that hasn't been seen all season. 18-9. Steal. Run the floor. Lay-up. 18-11. One of the players that I have been waiting for all season to gain confidence starts to look for his shot more. He nails a short jumper. 18-13. Then a three pointer. 18-16. With a minute left in the second quarter, a Rancho player hits an off balance jumper with a defender in his face. The score at half: 20-18, Rancho.
I hoped that the intensity would last, that it wasn't a fleeting moment that the kids luckily had, but couldn't produce at will. The kids came out of the locker room more than ready to play. We trade baskets in the third quarter, but our kids know that this win would be very special, since we were down 17-0 to start the game. We are down 31-30 at the end of the third. Once again, would the intensity be there? It actually got better. The press started to wear down Rancho, as Ukiah players started getting more and more aggressive. Guys dived into the bleachers, dived on each other, and showed an enormous amount of heart and pride in their defense. Then the spark plug comes in again and starts attacking the basket on offense. He scores twice and the defense starts to compress. Then he drives and dishes to the newly "confident" player, who nails a three. We take the lead halfway into the fourth quarter. The Ukiah section is going nuts. Rancho comes down and forces a shot. For the remainder of the game, our post men make sure it's "one and done" for rebounds. The point finds another player in the corner. He drops another 3. The Varsity boys are going bananas across the court and my players are feeding off of it. Their big guy makes a shot and they feel like they can stem the run. But the ball is swung around the court by our offense to perfection and the new "confident" guy is wide open at 19' 9". He nails his fourth three of the game! Ball goes out of bounds and we set up an inbounds play. Usually we run it for two other guys, but I call the name of the hot hand. They run the play perfectly and Rancho doesn't cover the corner. "Confident" nails another 3. That's his fifth and now we have a six point lead. The toughest thing in basketball is keeping a lead, but we did it. Their defense expanded to cover the perimeter and that left the "spark plug" to attack the hoop, which helped maintain the lead. The final was 47-41, Ukiah.

My pride for this team was expanded after the game with their reaction. They did some fist pumping and high fives, and they were obviously happy. However, they didn't celebrate like they had won the NCAA title, acting like they hadn't won before. They acted like classy winners, shook the hands of their opponents, and went to the locker room for post-game. When I got in the locker room, I noticed that the players were not jubilant, not egotistical with the victory, and had not lost focus. They were hungry. They had that look of a basketball team that wanted more. And I'm excited.

I was real nice to see great kids become ball players.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Super Freak?

Well, with the new administration has come the policy that is starting to comb the nation. The elimination of "freak dancing". For those of you that haven't been inside the gym of a high school dance, "freaking" is essentially rubbing up against each other to emulate sex while dancing it up. Regardless of what you hear, it is a form of fore-play, and a little cat-and-mouse game to make the opposite sex really want each other. Ukiah High School banned this style of dancing because, to put it simply, parents demanded it. Apparently some of the chaperones were shocked at what they were seeing and complained to the school to make it stop. Well, it is now stopped. Now, for something real shocking, those same parents might want to check out their kids on a Friday or Saturday night while they ARE NOT dancing.

Anyway, the damage is a lot worse than that, at least according to the kids. Many kids told me that hip-hop music was totally outlawed because the language was too explicit and sexually provocative. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Got any music suggestions?

Check out the Contra Costa Times for more on the Freak Show.

Update on 1/29/06

Uh, oh.
Now Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa has become the next "no freaks allowed" style dance school. The only surprising part is that Ukiah nailed the "no freak" rule before Montgomery did (we are in the same league, and sometimes we feel that Monty has quite the ego). Actually, the other new thing that I found a little disturbing is "The Thizzle", a dance that impersonates a person on Ecstasy. That's a little disconcerting. Check out the Santa Rosa Press Democrat for more.

Government is finished. On to Economics!

Well, one subject is done and a new one begins!

Finals week went fairly well, and I have yet to hear any problems regarding the grade that the students earned. I'm not totally surprised for two reasons. First, report cards will not be going out for another week. Second, a massive power surge zapped our phone system, which was totally out during Thursday and Friday of Finals Week. Awwwwwww.

Here are some highlights for the week:

-The finals went off without a hitch. I made one embarrassing error on the College Prep test in that I had two #96 questions. That is my single largest weakness in teaching is my proofreading of my own work.

-The failures about normal again. All failures had to do with excessive absences and not turning in work. Now there is a surprise.

-What do you do if you are student with a few cuts and a dozen tardies? You beg Mom for a note that's what! If I went to my father for a note to excuse my choices in school, he would have laughed at me. And people wonder why this generation is unprepared for the real world.

-I'm in the midst of planning Economics, so I'll write more later.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Finals week starts off with a bang!

Or a boom anyway.

We were the recipients of a pretty nice thunderstorm today that sounded like a train was coming through our building. It happened during lunch (thankfully no finals disrupted) and had us teachers a little puzzled at the force of the thunderboomers. Once in a great while, I real nice one rolls through this area. Three years ago, lightening it a lamp post up the street from the school and made it sound like the world was coming apart. It was rather impressive. I love the thunderstorms, but the rain is a little cumbersome at this point, as you can imagine.

Finals week is not the fairly easy time that many students and parents make it out to be for teachers. Today I only taught one two hour final, but the remainder of the day is full of grades, grades, finals, make-up work, student complaints, preparing for Economics next week, oh and grades. I don't really mind the work at all. To me, its the perfect time. I get to work in my own little environment with Imus on in the background, looking at great projects; like a video presentation about James Polk that was informative, entertaining, and detailed. How many people can say that a Senior made Polk "informative, entertaining and detailed"?

More finals are coming this tomorrow, with 2 two hour class that are taking the final exam. Some final grades will be ready tomorrow, along with the problems that failures will bring.
Blah!

The Big 5-0!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Education Carnival is now in its 50th edition, and it is going stronger than ever. If you are an educator, you must read the stories from other educators at the Midway, it really is THAT good.

Read it for the following posts, that were good:

-Alpha Shrugged discusses the recent issues regarding Belgian vs. U.S. schools.
-Scheiss Weekly deals with an interesting way to find the top of the class.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Settled law?

By the way, since I'm discussing stuff at a ranting pace, I'd like to know what the hell Ted Kennedy and Diane Feinstein are talking about when discussing Roe vs. Wade as "settled law". Besides the fact that Samual Alito's Senate confirmation was a huge dog and pony show to show idiot partisan support (same with Roberts), this term "settled law" keeps coming up. Last I remembered, the Senate's job in deciding judges is "advice and consent", meaning that the Senate makes sure the judge has somewhat of a moderate position on judicial issues. This doesn't mean that the Senate brings the circus into committee and slam the Presidential nomination to pieces. Oh, and let's remember that one of the perks of an election is nominating Supreme Court judges.

As for Roe vs. Wade, let me explain two things.

First, the concept of "settled law" is crap. Any law can be overturned if the Supreme Court finds that the Constitutional grounds are there. Plessy vs. Ferguson was law for decades and no matter how much Monday Morning Quarterbacking you want to do, that is fact. When the Court found a Constitutional problem with the case, it was overturned with the Brown Case in 1954. Roe vs. Wade is not an untouchable case, no matter what the Democratic leadership wants you to think.

Second, Roe vs. Wade isn't going anywhere, anytime soon. I find it interesting that pro-choice groups get in such a tiff when states start discussing age restrictions for minors and abortions, giving idiotic reasons like "what if the father rapes his daughter" excuses. Let's be honest, the vast, vast majority of girls are not getting abortions because Dad raped them, and most laws that restrict abortions for minors have exemptions for situations like these. Then pro-choice groups scream that Roe vs. Wade is crumbling before the eyes of the nation because laws are being adjusted like they are supposed to be, away from the extreme. You don't think Roe vs. Wade is too vague? Well, I don't think it appropriate for a 15 year old to need parent permission to get a tattoo, but not need it for outpatient surgery. And I'm pro-choice, by the way. Not that it matters in the long run, at least here in California. Let's say that the Doomsday Scenario comes (the end of Roe vs. Wade) and the states regain the power to decide abortion laws. California is never going to make abortion illegal. In fact, I couldn't see most states making abortion totally illegal because the country still wants that option around. However, I could see restrictions on abortion from a few states, mainly regarding frequency and age limits. But just remember, even your Freedom of Speech has restrictions, so stop freaking out.

Thanks to "Going to the Mat" for starting me on this rant.

A Foursome

So I've been memed, and since I'm having trouble sleeping, I'll do it.

Four jobs I've had:
1. Teaching: Obviously the single greatest job I've ever had, and one in which I will happily do forever. It also helps to be at a great school.
2. Ice delivery: In Sacramento I worked for Mid-Valley Ice, and drove a truck around to different businesses who begged for the frozen water when their machines broke down. I was "comped" a ton of stuff and the job was a blast!
3. Parking cars: I parked cars for snotty doctors at San Juan Hospital in Sacramento. The job was ok, the hours were shit and the people I worked for were idiots that thought that parking cars was better than sex.
4. Office assistant: Yes folks, I was worked in a dentist office in a little town called Durham. It was simple work, but the conversation was excellent, the staff was great, and I know enough about teeth to keep mine intact!
5. Security guard: When I was scrounging for any money I could, I worked at night with a security outfit. Get this, I sat in my car overnight at an orchard and airfield in the middle of the Sacramento Valley. After harvest, people often had the harvested items stolen. It was easy money and allowed me time to get homework done.

(Honorable Mention: Burger King, Cutting pipe, factory worker, dishwasher)

Four places I've lived
1. Ukiah
2. Chico
3. Sacramento
4. San Jose

(Honorable Mention: Live Oak, Paradise)

Four websites I visit daily:
1. The blogs listed on the right.
2. Sacbee.com
3. Dark Horizons
4. Drudge Report

(Honorable Mention: NorCalPreps, SFGate, Ain't It Cool, Yahoo)

Four television shows I love to watch (I'll consider this as currently):
1. Battlestar Galactica: If you are still stuck in the sci-fi stereotype that Galactica is 70's nerd candy, then you are missing out on the best show on television. Get over it and watch.
2. Lost: Second best show on television. The back stories make the series, while the mysteries add to it.
3. West Wing: The return has been excellent and the loss of John Spencer is a major blow to the future of the show. Watch it while you can!
4. Imus in the Morning: Every day in my classroom, I listen to the I-Man on my prep in the background while I work. Then I listen to the rest after school.

(Honorable Mention: Amazing Race, 30 Days, Rescue Me, Gilmore Girls, Sportscenter)

Four of my favorite foods:
1. A good steak
2. Chips and salsa
3. Angel Hair with almost any red sauce
4. New England Clam Chowder

(Honorable Mention: Pizza, Sushi, Pot Stickers, Burritos)

Four albums you can't live without:
1. Public Enemy, "It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back"
2. Tracy Chapman, "Live at the Fillmore, June 2003"
3. Metallica, "Master of Puppets"
4. Beastie Boys, "Licensed to Ill"

(Honorable Mention: "Only Time, The Total Collection" by Enya, "Immaculate Collection" by Madonna, "The NWA Legacy" by NWA, "Hard Again" by Muddy Waters)

Four places you'd rather be:
1. Munich, Germany
2. Lake Tahoe
3. Seattle
4. In bed

(Honorable Mention: San Francisco, driving around Alaska, driving anywhere with my wife since we travel excellent)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The missed devastation

When looking at the damage regarding the Great Northern California Floods of 2005, the primary media focus has been on the Napa Valley (local and nation wide) and a little town on the lower Russian River called Gurneville (the "e" is silent). However, missing from the vast media attention was the southern Mendocino town of Hopland, known for being the home of both Red Tail Ale and Fetzer Vineyards. During the storm, the Russian River and little Feliz Creek overflowed their banks and created a massive flood through the entire south end of the town. Four to five feet of water destroyed a gas station, a bar, a market, several apartment buildings, and dozens of houses that dotted this quaint little town.
However the greatest impact was felt with the destruction of Hopland Elementary school. Four feet of water surged through the school in what was called a "total loss" by some of the teachers that I talked to that helped in the clean up. The 152 students and 11 staff members are now being bussed to Ukiah to attend school there. Interesting statistic from the article; that Hopland Elementary suffered the worst damage of any school in California. Another interesting tidbit, FEMA has already visited Hopland to survey the two to three million in damage to the school.
Our insurance adjuster is coming tomorrow. Right now, our material goods losses look to be around $2,000. That's not including the fence, the heating ducts, and the mold we found today in the baseboards of the garage. We had hoped to avoid the mold, but we didn't quite make it.

Ukiah Daily Journal

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Exhausting week, yet fulfilling

It seemed like it was one of those weeks that didn't seem that hard, but I was always exhausted at the end of it. Do you ever get one of those? I believe that a lot of it has to do with the lack of a vacation and the deal with the flood. Not much mental relaxation.
The other part was the bad preparation on my part, as I didn't realize until about the second week of December that the semester was ending a week sooner than I planned for. Oops. That meant that this week was a cram session about the workings of the Supreme Court and important court cases. For my college prep classes, I require that the students can match 26 important Supreme Court cases with the precedent that it set. The students actually enjoy the lecture because I give a small story about how the case came about (some are very entertaining) and then the kids want to know deeper about the case. For instance, many people don't know that Roe vs. Wade did not make abortion totally legal. Check out the issue of a pregnancy after 3 months in the majority opinion. In the end, we get into good legal discussions that some of the kids find very fascinating.
Because this is the week we returned from vacation, and it is the week before finals, the stress is starting to impact some of my students. Decisions are being made by both the students, and the parents, that are becoming detrimental to their education. Parents are taking their kids on vacation during finals week and some Mexican students are signing up for entire months off during the beginning of the second semester. No warning is fazing them at all because most have the opinion that Mom and Dad will save them, as probably was the case in the past. This leads us to another theme of the week, pleading. The begging for extra credit is now to the point that I'm about to post a huge sign in my classroom that reminds students to do the work in the first place. This grade stress has also began to show itself in terms of the first phase of Senioritis. In this phase, some students will start to complain that the school and other classmates are too juvenile, and that education is a complete waste of time. The new term that floats the school is "high school drama", meaning the usual backbiting and infighting that most high school students go through, though it is more prevalent with the girls. The funny thing is that most girls that say "I hate high school drama!" are the ones that create the most of it. Ahhhhhhh, the Senioritis has begun!
The basketball team is 2-2 in league play. While I'm not totally showing it, I'm very satisfied with the current league record because the players are slowly figuring "it" out on the floor. When I say "it" I mean that some players are developing "court sense", the ability to understand the game better. We lost on Friday night to a very good team, but many of the kids showed better understanding of the game than at any previous point during the season. Besides man-to-man, my teams run a match-up zone that is difficult to grasp if you don't "feel" the game very well. I found a couple of players that ran the match-up very well against a good team. We keep progressing and we'll be fine.
Speaking of basketball, that good team we played was Cardinal Newman High School from Santa Rosa, a smaller school private school that, um, doesn't, well.....never mind. Anyway, the varsity team was impressive to watch. They are big, quick and have the right guys playing at the right position. If I had to analyze the team, I would consider it one of the better teams I've seen in the five years I've been in this area. Saying that, our varsity team scratched and clawed during the game and did a very respectable job in competing. They hustle, they scrap and they work together as a team pretty well. Plus, a couple of guys have that "mean ass" court demeanor that seems to be missing in a lot of today's player. I remember that ability to be a fun guy off the court, then turn into a competitive SOB when play started. Fortunately, a couple of our guys have that little chip on the shoulder that's gives a little edge in the game. Although some losses are appearing on the board, the team works hard and is fun to watch.
Once again, I'll work on regular postings. Be patient!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Not much

I'm getting ready for the end of the first semester, which means a lot of test prepping and getting review ready. Otherwise, not much going on because the end of the semester is so hectic.

I'm loading four new albums on my Music Jukebox:

Madonna- Confessions on the Dance Floor
Enya- Ameritine
Run-DMC- Togther Forever: Greatest Hits
Public Enemy- New World Odor

Talk about your eclectic tastes :)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

It could have been much worse.

The shock of viewing it for the first time is the real killer.
Our New Year's Eve trek from Discovery Bay to Ukiah was an adventure in itself (101 North of Cloverdale to Ukiah was closed. Had to take bad roads), but the sight of our metal gate blown open, our lawn furniture wedged underneath my wife's car, and everyone in the neighborhood looking in stunned disbelief was the real nasty shocker.
However, with inventory taken and all things considered, we were very lucky. Our damage looked like this:

-Garage had 5 inches of water in it, and left two inches of mud.
-1/3 of back fence and part of the side fence are gone.
-Mud in in our heating ducts
-A couple thousand dollars of books and materials were destroyed.
-My Spawn and X-Men comic books were destroyed (damn!)

I'm bummed about the comics, but that is nothing compared to the many houses on hour street that are total loses, or even those that had an inch of water in their house. We lucked out. I know that it sounded bad in the beginning, but neither my wife nor myself have gone through something like this, so we were pretty stunned. But a little time has shown that those that live down the street, or those that live down the highway in Hopland have it much worse.

The last week has been a matter of clean up and damage assessment. We did have flood insurance, although this type of event has never happened in this area. We talk to people that ask why we didn't have sandbags for this type of storm. Um, we could have had 500 sandbags and it would have made no difference. Basically, the Russian River created a 3/4 mile extension of itself and ran down our streety. One of the most annoying thing about this ordeal is the lookers that crawl down our little street showing the family the damage, like we are some kind of zoo exhibit. Many of us started to get angry by the end of the second day of constantly being on display. I was ready to put up a sign in my driveway, "Help clean up or fuck off!". Seriously, we had people stopped with families in their car watching us clean out our garage. "Dad, why is that muddy man giving us the middle finger?". Well, it might be because your daddy is a rude prick that needs a hobby.

Although the police were totally useless on the day we came back ("We have no information, the emergency office is closed"), the city has been excellent helping the people otherwise. A half dozen dumpsters have been brought in to help with clean-up, and city workers have been checking up on us a couple of times this week, not to mention the fire department (very helpful) and PG&E. We've been declared a local disaster area and the city is doing pretty well in helping out with the clean-up.

Otherwise, I've been trying to prep for school, relax, and coach basketball (1-1 so far in league) while dealing with all this mayhem. Blogging should be better now that things are a little more under control.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

It's pretty bad

I came home to a flash flood that roared down my street while I was gone. Garage had 5 inches of water, now has an inch of mud over everything. Back fence was totally destroyed, and a gapeing hole is in my side fence. Water is under the house and silt in in our heating ducts. Garbage cans and lawn furniture were 1/2 mile down the road in an orchard.

Fortunately, the water was 1/8 inch from coming into the house (the water line is clear against the house. Everything inside is ok, including the cats. We are the lucky ones. Two houses down, and the rest of the way down the street, many people lost everything, including their cars that floated down the street. More when things settle down.

Here's a better summary. I live on Washo Dr.

Ukiah Daily Journal