Wednesday, March 26, 2008

1,000th Post: A Look at the Future

We could've spent our 1,000th post talking about the pregnant man in Oregon, Olympic boycotts, or even Hillary's GI Joe fantasies where she and her daughter are being shot at by sniper gorillas who can talk, have lasers for eyes, and drink human blood while they're on a trip to Bosnia to stop Cobra Commander and his Howling Commandos. Instead, we're going to do something a little more upbeat.

For our 1,000th post here are Hurricane Radio, I thought I'd share with you a look at the future. The article has been sitting around for a while and we're just now getting to it. Yes, the linked article will show us the wonders of life in the year...
2008
Okay, maybe it's been sitting around a LONG while. It's only 40 years old. 250MPH cars, TV screens as big as your wall,... it's all there. Even the looney ideas like shopping using a computer, using a computer for your taxes, and cash being displaced by credit cars and newfangled cards that take money directly out of your bank account are in there.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Politics and Beer

Two of my favorite subjects.

We're discussing the 'beer drinkers more likely to vote for McCain' angle over at DADvocate. Though I'd be forced to agree that beer drinkers (I reckon this means folks who have more than 4 beers a week or something) taken as a whole population would favor McCain if the election were held today. Probably by double digit percentages.

I can say this with some certainty because of the high populations of Bud and Coors drinkers who will likely vote for the Republican candidate. Also, since Bud and Coors drinkers make up such a giant swath of the beer drinking population, this absolutely skews the numbers to the Republican side.

But I want to see a break down of who the voters are more likely to favor, and cross reference that with the brand of beer they are likely to consume. I think that would be a fascinating study.

For the record, I qualify as both a likely Democratic voter and a likely beer drinker. When you see me out, there is close to an 80% chance you will see me with beer in my hand as opposed to liquor or wine. When you see me with beer (between March and October) there is a 40% chance that beer will be a PBR (95.5% likely to have a lime in it - the now infamous "Redneck on Vacation" beverage), there is a 40% chance that beer will be an Abita of some variety, there is a 10% chance of it being either a Miller Lite or High Life, and a 10% chance it will be something else. When the temperature is over 85 degrees F, there is a statistical 100% chance that the beer will be some variety of pilsner or IPA. Especially if I am eating spicy food at the time.

I don't know how that would add up to the national statistics of beer drinking + likely voters, but that's about where I'd stand, statistically. Again, I'd love to see a study like that (so if you know of one, let me know). What' I'd love even more is to hold (since Michigan and Florida can't get it together) a Beer Drinking American Primary Vote.

And what I'd love the most is for all the Beer Drinking American to just get together and apply for non-geographical statehood so we can get our 2 Senators and 232 US House members and electoral votes. That would just be awesome, because the campaigns would have the best ads (and they'd all be positive), we would have only one political party (called, aptly, The Party) and we'd have the best environmental record (being 100% recyclable). Let's make this happen.


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Monday, March 24, 2008

They're Just Now Noticing?

"With candy sales banned on school campuses, sugar pushers are the latest trend at local schools. Backpacks are filled with Snickers and Twinkees for all sweet tooths willing to pay the price."

Um... Excuse me? I hate to break this to the folks covering this article but students selling candy at school isn't exactly a new thing. You're just now noticing it because the school-sanctioned candy sales have stopped. If you set the wayback machine to the early 90's, you could spot Dante selling candy, comic books, baseball cards, etc to fellow classmates. I made an easy $30 a week just off candy. That's a lot of money for a middle schooler. I would undercut prices on candy you could get at school and marked up the ever livin' heck out of things the school didn't sell. Those sour gums were the rage back then and I could get $.50 apiece for them while only spending $7 on a bag of 250. Kids weren't happy about the price but they'd pay it. Here's a sample conversation I'd have at least once a week:

Buyer: "How much for a sour gum?"
Me: "$.50"
Buyer: "That's a ripoff! I can get them for $.15 at the store."
Me: "Then do it."
[Wait a few minutes...]
Buyer: "Here's $.50."

People would give me their lunch money every day for 2 pieces of gum (or 20 Tootsie Rolls). I started by filling a brown bag up with candy to sell each day and that eventually grew to a plastic grocery sack per day mostly selling out. Sure there were slow times. From Nov 1 all the way to New Year's there was a glut of supply from Halloween but I still cleared at least $10 per week in the rough times from candy. I barely broke even on comic books and baseball cards but I was mostly just dumping stuff I had either already read or lost interest in.

Black markets always exist when you restrict supply. There's a lot of money to be made selling things that are scarce. It should be no surprise that even young children understand the concept.

I do have one other nitpick with the article:
"This has become a lucrative business, Nason said, and those kids are walking around campus with upwards of $40 in their pockets and disrupting class to make a sale."

If you're smart about it you won't ever disrupt class to make a sale. Most teachers who find out think it's sort of cute and that the candy sales make you a sort of aspiring businessman. If you cross the line and disrupt their time to make a sale, that attitude will change very quickly.

As far back as 1st grade, my brother made money off of renting crayons. I was a sucker and sold things. He got his crayons back and re-rented them over and over again. He asked $.10 per crayon or 8 for $1. Yes, kids rented 8 at a time often. He got in trouble for it when his teacher found almost $100 in dollar bills and change stuffed in his desk. The lousy pinko teacher took the money and spent it on a pizza party for the class.

For those of you like Pat who are currently involved in school systems across our great country, how much "black market" activity do you see in your school? By high school I had competition from the aerobics teacher and was pretty much put out of business but even as late as college you hear stories of guys running a bar out of their dorm room...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

State of the Union

Most of you may not have heard it, or if you did, you only heard snippets of it. I waited until all my work was done and went online to read it.

Words matter, and these words matter most of all. Everything I've learned and thought about race after 30 years on this planet, and he sums it up in just over 30 minutes.

I have not dared to dream I would hear or read or live to see someone offer such a genuine estimation of what this country was, is and could be. Less so did I dare to think anyone would give such estimation based on the subject of race. This was more important, more pressing and more cutting to the heart of this nation than any State of the Union speech I've ever heard.

Because, unlike all the others so titled, these words actually dealt with the state of our Union.

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Garfield Minus Garfield

You really have to see this to understand it. Note that there are multiple pages.

I Have Two Better Words for You...

My original reply to Pat's article about management was a bit of a tangent so I decided to give it its own space. On the subject of the falling dollar, I have two words for you: Helicopter Parent. That's what the Federal Reserve has become, and it's hurting us all. Here's a short description from the Wiki:

"A helicopter parent is a term for a person who pays extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly at educational institutions. They rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling them or letting them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes. They are so named because, like a helicopter, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach whether their children need them or not."

Tell me that's not what the Fed is doing right now with all these rate slashes. We as a country have borrowed WAY beyond our means and now that we have to pay for our mistakes, the Fed is swooping in to try and save us all from ourselves. I don't particularly mind them trying to prop up businesses like Bear Stearns because the Fed, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac have a lot to do with the current predicament and because of the way the Fed is handling it (basically co-signing loans from other companies instead of directly throwing cash their way).

But all this rate slashing in the face of a failing dollar? The Fed is so busy trying to stop a recession that they're not even looking at how the recession would play out. We're in this mess because of our borrowing, not our earning or unemployment. A recession now would force us to tighten our belts and likely jack up inflation. The second item is key because without inflation, all that money we borrowed is going to keep hurting us. If inflation were to catch up, it would be a bumpy ride but at the end of the tunnel we'd be left with manageable debt.

You can dislike Bush all you want, but the MBA from Harvard is in his element here and he's very right: "one of the worst things you can do is overcorrect." Inaction from the government is indeed the solution to our problem right now. Of course every time the Fed does something, he'll publicly applaud it because he has to but he's firing a public warning shot to the Federal Reserve that I hope they take notice of. The linked article reminds me of why I voted for him. Unfortunately, it also reminded me of why I rarely vote Democrat:

""Wages and home values are down," [Harry] Reid said, "but prices for everything from health care to tuition to energy are up. Just this week, oil and gas prices reached record highs while the value of the dollar reached historic lows. I hope the president, who has been slow to acknowledge this problem, joins us in recognizing how urgently we need a solution.""

We have a solution. Don't spend money you don't have. Now go out there and make it happen. Let's save the economy! After all, despite the howling you hear, we're not even in a recession.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Get On Your Job

I've been reading Dilbert comics for a long time.

I am the product of a public education in Georgia.

I have worked for three state governments.

I have worked for a large, private corporation.

I have worked for many small buisnesses.

I have friends that have worked in many fields and many professions and told me about it.

I have family that have worked in many fields and many professions and told me about it.

I currently work in public education.

I currently reside in the city of New Orleans.

Having stated all the above facts, and without getting any more specific, all I have to say is two words:

True, true.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Crazy Talkin' Preachers

Are there seriously any other kind?

I was talking to my own father and reading this post by DADvocate, and the conversation centered around the same thing.

Apparently, to the shock of many people, Barack Obama attended a church that had a preacher who could say some pretty crazy stuff.

Sorry if I'm not nearly as worked up by the "crazy talking preacher 'issue'" as some folks apparently expect me to be. I tend to chalk the "crazy talking preacher 'issue'" in the same part of the flowchart as the "water = wet" stuff.

I'm surprised by how much common ground can be found between conservatives like SAWB, DADvocate, my own pops and liberals like myself. But this is one area where the path diverges rather pointedly.

To this end, I will copy and paste my reply here, for your perusal and commentary:

"Southern women like their men religious and a little crazy, that's why they fall in love with preachers."

90% of the people I know that go to a Church anywhere will at some point be subjected to messages they do not agree with. I don't know a single Protestant who goes to Church without a Preacher who sounds crazier than a sack of rabid weasels about something.

And I'm Catholic and we have a whole dogma of brickabrack that they find just as ludicrous.

Some of them leave the church and look around for a new one. Sometimes it takes them a while. Others stay in their church for long periods of time because they are involved with the social and fellowship aspects of the church more than they are a part of the sermon every Sunday.

That's what caused the Reformation, Protestantism, and then the disentigration of Protestant churches into more protestant churches. Our entire religious makeup as a nation has to do with crazy preachers and the people that are either driven to another church or stick around regardless.

It was these kinds of disagreements that drove me away from my Church long ago, and getting back has not been easy. But Church is a part of my culture, my family, my community, and my very being - so I can't get away from it so easy, and I'm much less invested than most.

I just think this whole thing is really the most ridiculous denunciation of a candidate I have ever seen. Maybe it is because, down in Georgia where I came from, I knew a lot of folks who would judge others very harshly based on what Church they belonged to and what preacher they listened to on Sunday. I used to do that to, but I realized that a person is more than the sum of their parts. A person is more than just the church they belong to, crazy preachers and all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Moving to Canada

On a recent day, I was speaking to another 'educator' like myself about the state of affairs in U.S. Public Education. I admit, I had a lot of ideas, and some of them may have been making me sound a little unbalanced. I may have prattled on for longer than the appropriate time to spend on such subjects, and the other individuals' response was that when things got really bad, they were thinking of "moving to Canada."

In related news...

This evening after waking from my nap, I was reading this rather excellent post at EDSBS (and we need "Bulldog People" and "New Orleans People" threads started, stat).

By following the links there, I was directed to the site Stuff White People Like, where I found the following link about, you guessed it, Threatening to Move To Canada.

Having encountered my share of white people who threaten to move to Canada in my life, I thought this was good information to share.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brick By Brick

But I wonder if we're building something or taking it apart.

Got some news tonight that some teacher people I know were out tonight talking to higher-ups about the situation in the schools. Grapevine has it that they were "off script." I mean that only in the good, truth-to-power type way. So that's good news. We'll see if the higher ups listen or do anything about it.

Got other reports from folks running the big exam this week. Some places are running like well oiled machines. Others not so much. We'll see where those pieces fall when the week is out.

Story time.

I was standing outside one day this week, watching some of the students do what they do. About fifteen of my minutes had been spent trying to convince several individuals to stop a mostly-harmless-while-intensely-bothersome behavior they were engaging in.

It involved several larger individuals heaving an oblong leather object through the air at both a high velocity and arc. This oblong leather object was landing somewhere near another small gathering of individuals, who would shout loudly, run and jump and reach up to catch this object, usually in an unsuccessful manner. Due to this lack of success, it was loudly and rather profanely explained to me, that the oblong leather object was landing near what appeared to be fragile glass squares situated precariously inside holes in the walls of the buildings. Every once in a while, this object or the associated larger individuals in pursuit said object, would happen across other individuals who did not expect the sudden appearance of either object or individual in their personal space.

Mostly harmless while intensely bothersome. I was attempting to convince several of the larger individuals to attempt to throw and catch the oblong leather object in a more direct, more successful and far less bothersome manner.

My petitions fell on deaf ears, and I was roundly ignored. So far extends the reach of my authority. My position had been reduced to a lookout, making sure no one exited the facility without permission or engaged in more directly harmful behaviors. The gathering of individuals did not seem interested in rasing the level of behavoir past 'intensely bothersome', but they showed no signs of ceasing such behavior of their own accord.

Impasse.

It was that part of almost every school week where, despite the adults having a good, workable plan, the gathered individuals had discovered a small loophole or unfolded corner of the veneer and were now gleefully exposing the rift. Elsewhere, the overall plan was still in action and because of this, I knew it would be several minutes before other haggard adults would realize that a weak link had been exposed and exploited. This is not a good piece of knowledge to realize in front of a group of gathered individuals. So long as I look like I know what I'm doing, they have no way to really know deep down that this isn't part of the plan as well. It is a delicate balance.

This is where having an excellent poker face can literally save human lives.

I guaged the situation quickly and realized that there were two other adults in the surrounding environs. They were engaged in that long honored waste of time I like to call "arguing with children." This, however, would leave the gathered individuals distracted by both the heaving of the oblong leather object and the incessant prattle of adults yammering about "respect."

Seeing them so distracted, I changed my location slightly, to better view the gathering and surroundings, waiting for some means of letting other adults know of the situation.

I hate Mondays.

Just as I was considering my options of distraction and mobilization, another haggard adult happened to be walking past. Adding this adult to my conversation would bring several advantages to my negotiating position. First, numbers, as the ratio of adults to gathered individuals now dropped to about 1 to 5. We have now reached acceptable levels. Second, my negotiating position gains respect because of the new adult's sheer size and prowess on the football field. The adult is massive compared to the gathered individuals, and his assistance emboldens me. The third addition this new adult brings to the table is credibility. His appearance on the scene seems a planned event, and my conversation with him appears "on script," at least to the gathered individuals watching me for signs of weakness.

His appraisal of the situation is the same as mine: mostly harmless while intensely bothersome. We begin a quick vernacular conversation covering all the salient points I have mentioned here.

In the course of this conversation, yet another haggard adult comes walking past. Both Large Adult and I are not pleased with this development. The appearance of this other adult does not help our negotiating position based on this other adult's generally bizzare appearance, highly pitched and complaining voice, and uncanny ability to agitate the gathered individuals with said loud and complaining voice. Said adult is not in a good mood.

This mood does not improve when the aforementioned oblong leather object lands near her personal space "by accident." I sense a loss of control on the way, and the situation will need to be repaired.

Luckily, new adult is content to use the loud and complaining voice against me. The gathered individuals love this and listen intently.

"Can't you do anything about them doing that???" Loud and complaining. Gestures.

What follows from the now fully agitated gathering of individuals is a loud and profane debate about what specific things I can and cannot do about them doing a wide variety of strange and hypothetical activities. But I hear some bigger words and proper grammar usage seeping into their vernacular. Education has taken place.

Ignoring both this and the loud and complaining adult who, having nearly boiled a mostly harmless while intensely bothersome situation into something more, walks away to complain loudly to someone else, I start thinking deeply about exactly what I could do to the gathered individuals, should I have cause. I discuss this with Large Adult.

I can not ask them to stop their behavior. They will ignore me.
I can not yell at them about their behavior. They will ignore me, become agitated, and start arguing with me about mind bogglingly unrelated topics.
I can not threaten to take away their recess time. They will ignore me because I cannot physically stop them from going to recess.
I can not physically stop them from doing something without having to hear about possible future litigation or having to hear about how they are bigger and faster than me.
I can not give them detention because I would have to drive them home.
I can not give them in-school suspension because that room is being used for higher and necessary purposes this week.
I can not give them out-of-school suspension because this is testing week and they are mandated by the state to be here in a seat.

I can make fun of them. The worst thing you can do to one of the gathered individuals is make their friends laugh at them. I have a quick wit and many adults think I am funny. To middle schoolers, I am f*****g hilarous.

I can bribe them with candy. Also effective. This is the reason I have the cleanest room in my building. By investing in breakfast pastries, I have subcontractors. This gives me an idea...

So, NO, Loud and Complaining, I literally cannot do anything to stop this mostly harmless but intensely bothersome behavior. But I can see salvation in a silver wrapper.

We've been outside for almost 25 minutes. Elsewhere, other haggard adults must be realizing how quiet it is right now. I can almost feel them on their way. At the same time, I notice that most of the gathered individuals have run out of candy and snacks. Soon, their fixation on junk food and sugar will begin to take over their thoughts, and there is absolutely no junk food or sugar available in our present location.

I see my chance.

I wait a few more minutes, just enough time for them to rummage through their belongings and finish off any crumbs or last vestigates of empty calories in their possession. They appear forlorn and lost, and have yet to realize why. This is the moment I wait for.

I holler, "Alright, time to go back to class!!" I watch their desire for more junk food mechanize their legs to move towards their classrooms. At this point in the day, the only way to get more junk food is to go to class and beg that room's haggard adult for a treat of some sort. The associations have been made. Without knowing why, the gathered individuals become a herd moving towards where they are supposed to be. Education has taken place.

Like clockwork, the haggard adults we have been waiting for appear around the corner to help manage the transition back to the plan adherence. I dap up Large Adult, he goes on his way, and I follow the herd back to my building, shooing stragglers along the way.


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Monday, March 10, 2008

Rage Against

It is amazing how sometimes you can go for a long time in a funk, and it only takes one event to absolutely re-inject the energy of the old life into you. Since I started working at my latest job, I have literally lost so much of what I was. I no longer cook. I rarely play music. I hardly ever write. It is difficult to keep up with news and popular culture the way I used to. I never get to read blogs anymore. I sleep a lot. I rarely speak with old friends. I don't speak with new friends about anything other than work. I don't get a lot of things done. I can't see far into the future.

It is like watching one of those "you may be depressed" commercials, and I hate pity parties. It was said at dinner several weeks ago that if anyone did a study, you'd find a high percentage of ArrEssDee teachers were clinically depressed. That got a big laugh.

64 school days left until this experiment is over and I find my way back to a real life. I distinctly remember leaving the service industry for this because I thought it would be more mature and more like a 'real job' than cooking.

I got to tell you, having seen the elephant now, I think the "teacher shortage" has waay more to do with the fact that teaching is kind of a shitty job rather than about shitty pay. I mean, yeah, there's a lot of 'bleeding heart' bullshit about 'doing it for the kids' and 'making a difference,' but when it boils down to it, teaching is a profession. The bottom line is: treat it like one and you will start to see results.

It is hard to think we could see results with the system we have now, no matter how many well intentioned individuals with better hearts and more politically correct mouths than me get invovled at the teaching level and are doing it "for the kids."

And I work at a great school, situationally speaking. Our teachers are all-in. The administration is amazing. The staff is so chock-full of amazing people, I've literally never worked with a better group at any time in my life. And when the folks who know me hear that, they know that's saying a lot. I've told other teachers from other schools where I work, and their response to me has been, and I quote: "f*** you."

And that floors me. It floors me because I don't have what it takes to handle this kind of thing at my good school (situationally speaking) with my amazing team and these other folks are making it work at rougher schools and in more desperate situations. But that's part of the problem, too.

You can hope for a miracle, but you gotta plan for a disaster.

So what set this off was a football game on Friday. Just a little backyard-style, bragging rights only, two-hand touch football game. I played rather well for someone my age, and I guess the excitement reminded me of the life I used to have. It has been a banner 4 days since then, and some of that old swagger seems to be back. I hope it will stick around. These rants can be fun.

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Oh, and if anyone is wondering about the score from the football game Friday, the result was Them 14 - We 21.

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Setting and Mood

This evening's soundtrack supplied by the new songs from Levi Lowrey. Nice work, fellas. I can already feel the wheels rolling north on Spring Break...

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

O'L School Democrats

Say what you want, I miss having civic leaders like former Athens Mayor Gwen O'Looney around. I mean, when you look at the current leadership...well, almost anywhere, it makes me yearn for the days of my youth when there were still governors like Zell Miller and mayors like Gwen out there trying to tweak the system so that life could be a little better for everyone.

The Clarke County Democrats just had a roast of Mayor O'Looney and it went a little something like this. I wanted to rip some of the best content for teaser-material here (and the reference to Island City), but I would just end up posting the whole thing. It's that good.

Go and read and dream of a time back before the droughts and floods.