Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rain, snow, and moving

Of course, it has to rain and snow while I'm packing for a move.

The high school is getting a well deserved face lift, and our building is the next to go into surgery. What this means is that teachers are being moved all over the place to different "open" classrooms, or in my case, going to classrooms to share with other teachers. Our department decided that room assignments would be given out by seniority, and being the second newest, I was one of the screwed ones. Not THE screwed one. That goes to the newest member of the department who has 4 or 5 different rooms. I only have two. Oh no, it wasn't by choice. The department discussion was basically "we are seniority and that's how it is". Great management technique. I'll survive, but not being involved in any kind of process leaves me with a bitter taste in a usually good situation.

However fear not. I'm kinda relishing the time away to really focus on my craft. Plus, although I have to share the room, it's with someone younger who I can talk with on a different level. I've also changed my final project from the labor intensive Economics Expo to a variety of other lessons that include a field trip or two, if I can pull it off. I'm also going back to being the hermit during lunch, unless someone comes into the classroom. The teacher has a small kitchen in there and I'm looking forward to really chillin during my break.

The really stressful thing is the moving of boxes upon boxes into my garage. Because I didn't get a classroom, I had two choices; 1) Let the school take all my possessions to a warehouse, 2) Take my possessions to my house. After talking to a number of teachers I chose the latter, as they stated that my possession were no longer mine once they hit that warehouse. I have way too much invested to let someone take my stuff. So, I'm taking trip after trip home and filling my garage to the max with file boxes and carts. The only thing going with me to the new classroom is a desk and a cart with a laptop. I'll live in boxes for a few months.

Moving sucks, but I'll just make do and come back to my new classroom more technically reliable and a better teacher for it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The State of the Union Highlights Analysis, the 2008 Edition

Yes folks it is that time again. In 2006 we watched Cindy Sheehan get bounced off The Hill on her ass for protesting the Iraq War. In 2007 we watched Freshmen congresswomen throw themselves at Georgey in some attempt to get noticed by the "Most Powerful Man in the World". 2008 is the last time that President Bush Jr. will take the stage at the House of Representatives and wow the world with his incisive commentary. Here are the highlights.

Highlight #1:
Ok, so here is the entry of Barack Obama into the House chambers before the President's State of the Union. Let's be honest, we will don't care about Bush's speech. We care about the reaction between Bush and Hillary Clinton. My hope is that Clinton is tackled by Obama sometime in the 35th minute.

Highlight #2:
Dick Cheney is rather disappointed that his reign as Emperor is over. No other American has impacted the ideal of the "Imperial Presidency" than this guy. He was the symbol of the power of the Executive Branch.

Highlight #3:

"Why yes George, I think you are pretty much fucked", Nancy comments.

Highlight #4:
"But in the short run, we can all see that that growth is slowing. So last week, my administration reached agreement with Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Boehner on a robust growth package that includes tax relief for individuals and families and incentives for business investment".

Ok, if you honestly believe that the "stimulus package" will do anything to the economy, you are a prototypical American fool. It's political, nothing more.

Highlight #4:

"Yo Ted".
"Er, yeah".
"Think Bill would mind if I hit that"?
"You want to 'hit that"?
"Well sure! Her negatives are so damn high, most Americans will applaud me for it"?
" mean hit THAT. I see. Damn, I need another drink. Hey Blama, have I ever told you about the time I went swimming....."

Highlight #5:
"Six years ago, we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and today no one can deny its results."

Yep. Thanks to this unfunded mandate we will be laying off teachers, assessing whether or not sports are an option, not buying technology that was created in this decade, and going to conferences where some shrill named Susie will talk about diversity and how teachers need to help ELL students by stroking the kid's nationalism to Mexico. The proof IS in the results.

Highlight #6:

Hillary is deeeeeeeeeeeeeeenied some lovin by the Senator from Illinois. The only reason Kennedy is shaking her hand is because he thought that she said, "Let me buy you a beer", when it was actually "Nice to see you here".

Highlight #7:

"We are winning in Iraq.......blah, blah.........blah, blah........patience young one.......blah, blah......."-As quoted in the State of the Union 2004.

"We are winning in Iraq.......blah, blah.........surge works......blah, blah........patience young one.......blah, blah......."-As quoted in State of the Union 2008.

Highlight #8:

"Hey Joe, think I can make Obama go away like Vince Foster"?

Highlight #9:
So the painfully boring and lame SOTU speech is over and the best line from Bush during the night?

"Hey Buddy! How's it going"?
(says Bush to Obama)

The real winner of the night was Senator John McCain, who was smart enough not to attend the dog and pony show and stay in Florida to fight for the primary.

Not something you see every day

I woke up this morning to a half inch of snow on my car, and drove to a school that was covered in a dusting of white.

For 600 ft elevation Ukiah, it was a very interesting sight.

I also looked at a CCTV camera just south of Klamath in the coastal Redwoods on Hwy. 101. It looked like a picture of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Update 9:30 am:

Here is Hwy 101 just north of Ukiah. It is the commute that my wife makes every day on her way to Willits. She is cozy at home with a "snow day" (the second in a week) while I'm here. It's still snowing.

Here is Willits.

Monday, January 28, 2008

CT Results

No hard or soft plaque in my arteries and the blood flow is normal.

That has made my relax a great deal from this near 5 month ordeal about what has been wrong with my body. One thing that is irregular is my heart beat. The whole reason that I had the CT Angiogram was because the irregular beat didn't go away when I exercised during the Stress Test. The doctor stated that running on the treadmill should have winded me enough to relax me. Well, the stress test didn't wind me very much at all and I was constantly anxious about the results, which apparently leads to the abnormal beat.

Bottom line, I need to lose about 40 lbs, exercise more, and monitor the beat. The more relaxed I am the better.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Results tomorrow

Had CT Angiogram a week ago last Friday. Results will be tomorrow.

I was feeling fine about everything, until I read this.


Steve humps technology a little too much

Thankfully Valleywag was on top of this story.

While speaking about his dislike for Amazon's Kindle, Apple emperor Steve Jobs made a couple of remarks that stated that Americans just don't read anymore.

Today he had a wide range of observations on the industry, including the Amazon Kindle book reader, which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading.

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

I'm pretty tired of techno geeks, including corporate CEO's, trashing the paper in the binding. I'll admit that the available amount of information in the world is much more accessible on the Internet than in the heavy sheets of old encyclopedias and almanacs. But the idea that people are putting down great novels just doesn't fly with me. I've yet to see a successful platform for reading books on computer, the closest thing being a Books-on-CD situation for those car trips. Our library is exploring the use of E-books for the computers in lab, but circulation of regular books has jumped over the last three years as the school has promoted Silent Reading.

Steve needs to stick with computers and not try to promote his technology into a realm that just doesn't really exist. With his more-than-subpar MacWorld showing and major concerns about Apple customer service, Jobby might put his focus towards his company.

Oh, and Steve. Did you happen to buy Harry Potter for your kids recently? Think reading is still dead?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm having a CT Angiogram tomorrow

I'm worried as hell and I probably shouldn't be. Still, I've been doing little at home but trying to relax.

Everyone is telling me that it is really nothing, but anything having to do with hearts concerns me.

I'd rather be worrying about Industrialized Democracies right now, dammit.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hey Govna, don't bother investing in the future

Some of you have already heard about the uproar over the Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to reduce the $15 billion hole that the State of California is in. First off is a 10% cut of state services across the board (including closing dozens of state parks). Second is 5% of cut in education, which will require 2/3 support of the state legislature to happen. That is only thing that will eliminate Proposition 98, the education funding guarantee that closes the door on strict cuts.

Proposition 98 is not going away. Stop even bothering getting enraged about it.

I'm still baffled how anyone, conservative or liberal, can think that Education is correctly funded and that the best way to deal with economic problems is to reduce spending on kids. It is so abundantly obvious that schools don't have the adequate tools to teach kids (try visiting high schools), yet the Cutinator can't order an audit of his education structure to figure out where the money is going? It sure isn't going into my pocket. It sure isn't going into the my classroom. It sure isn't going to my campus or my district. Yet the Ahnold feels that it is only right to stick it to a venture that is already drastically underfunded at the most basic of levels.

Apparently the Supers around California received a fax from the State of California basically saying that teachers are not getting a COLA (Cost of Living Increase) this year and probably not next year. Many categorical sources of funding are getting cut or eliminated, including programs that fund tutoring for elementary school students after school (something that is basically required for a school in Program Improvement), and Special Education funding, something that already massively encroaches on our General Funding. Oh yeah, and we are in Program Improvement, which has a variety of Federal and State requirements (including buying massively expensive books from the pimps at the textbook companies) that are not funded. See, people in schools really are familiar with the term "unfunded mandates", because that's how government has decided to run us.

So morale is pretty low right now, because on top of everything we are in negotiations for a variety of issues, and the Super came into her job with a hefty raise. Regardless of whether she deserves it or not (I've addressed before that I think the position is underpaid, as are we) the troops feel like they are getting table scraps. When you look at classrooms, technology, crappy pay and bogus benefits, it's easy to feel for them.

Me? I'm not worried about losing jobs (-crosses fingers-), losing my home, or starving. My wife and I didn't go into home ownership 2 1/2 years ago with a clouded mind. We didn't go sub-prime and we are stable with our situation in terms of income. Still, prices are going up and up, and our income is not even close to catching up with it. Worse is the feeling you get towards the government's opinion on Education. Its like the problem that nobody really wants to tackle with reasonable authority but everyone is willing to tackle with half-ass measure. The Governor's plan is a half-ass measure, pure and simple.

I've lost my voice in the world

Seriously, I lost my voice.

Wednesday morning I woke up hardly being able to breathe because I'm so congested. By 11 a.m., by speaking skills went bye-bye and I became the "booming voice" with no vocals. Needless to say, it was an experience. My students took full advantage of saying "huh" and "what" every other time something came out of my mouth. It was all in good fun. Luckily, Thursday was the day that that counselors came in and showed the students how to fill out FAFSA forms, access FastWeb, and other general tips about getting money for college. That means four out of the five periods were prep time for me to keep my mouth shut, drink tea, and down plenty of throat lozenges. One period of International Studies, where we talked almost all period, of course.

The games Wednesday and Friday were interesting. How does a coach known for his loud voice call motivate from the sidelines? The answer is that he doesn't. He does a whole lot of clapping and when dissatisfied with something, foot stomping. At least I don't have to worry about technicals. Oh, and get this, some of my old parents came out of the stands and teased me as well. "Wow, how come this game seemed so quiet?" Again, it was nice that it was all in good fun.

Speaking of basketball, we are 13-2. On Friday we played the perfect storm of a bad game (over a dozen missed lay-ups, allowing 17 free throws in the first half, one player in double figures, shooting 11-29 from the free throw line) and still won. I have some kids of excellent character on this team, and in situations where some would roll over, these kids are finding ways to win. It makes the season very enjoyable.

Anyway, my voice has returned. I'm back to it tomorrow.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Kinda figured

I decided a few weeks ago, just before we went on break, to grow a goatee. Don't ask why, I just felt like doing it and the summer months are just too damn hot to have extra hair on my face.

Boy did my students just focus right on the result.

"What the heck is growing on your face?!"

"Do I really have to look at that for another 4 months?"

"Did you forget to wash your face this morning?"

"Mr. Brown, you look mean."

"Brown's looking manly!"

Um, I don't already?

It is a short time experiment that might or might not last. I'll ditch the facial hair when it annoys me enough, which could be awhile or could be tomorrow.

The day went very well, with the exception of the nagging pain that I have in the upper left side of my chest. I had a heart stress test recently (had palpitations). The doctor said that I have an irregular heart beat but that the overall blood flow looked good. Of course ever since that visit I've had a nagging pain in the upper left side. It goes away some with a good burp, but it still stresses me. I'm supposed to go in for a test where they inject me with dye and check out the pretty radioactive blood pumping in my heart. Thrilling.

More, and actually real, thrilling is the prospect of finally getting a Teacher's Assistant. Actually, I know officially have one and I might be getting a second if I decide to take her on. With my classroom move on the near horizon (building remodel), it will be very nice to have a couple of extra hands doing some of the labor while I teach, instead of working for more hours.

On a seriously bad note, I heard a rumor that the Governator was planning to use emergency powers on the budget and planned a 10% cut across the board, including education. Rumors from a Supes meeting was that county offices are going nuts over how to cope with the cuts, and that teacher salaries might be frozen or even reduced. I also heard that the CTA was denying that Arnold was going to go this far, but regardless, the $15 billion shortfall is not looking good.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Drying off

Those of you that have heard, California took a pounding from a series of storms that did a nice number on the North State. While my home was fortunate to be spared any situations, much of Northern California was saddled with wind damage and rain problems. There are still plenty of communities on the coast without power and plenty of roads with trees blocking them. Locally, the Russian River flooded a frontage road about a mile away from us, but never threatened the neighborhood like it did two years ago. My wife and I just sat inside and relaxed during the storm, reading and watching plenty of movies from Netfilx.

School starts tomorrow. I spent today doing some spot grading and doing some serious reading on my AP Comparative Government class, which begins now.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

On New Year's Eve, my wife and I........

...........drove to the Anderson Valley...........

...........bought a fresh apple pie from Gowan's Oak Tree.........

...........sipped wine (with huge tastes) on a deck overlooking the entire Anderson Valley in 60 degree sunshine at one of my new favorite wineries.........

...........ate a picnic deli lunch and munched on Scharffenberger chocolate with Port............

...........bought an insanely good bottle of wine at a price that is absurd, but still worth it........

...........and then drank the entire MAGNUM while watching the Bourne Trilogy with my wife and celebrating the East Coast New Year's...........

Call me a wuss.

Actually, call me a very relaxed and spoiled wuss because the last day of 2007 proved that sometimes you just have to go enjoy yourself and spend a little mulah. Remember, you work hard. Treat yourself.

Here's to an excellent 2008!
L'Ermitage 2000