Thursday, September 30, 2004

Dear Senator Kerry,

Please say this at the following debate. I'm normally against plagiarism, but you have my permission to take this comment without attribution. Just pull on your ear, and I'll know you're thinking of me when you say it.

"President Bush has repeatedly attempted to tie the war in Iraq to the war on terrorism. His repetition, however, has not made it true. The evidence tying Iraq to 9/11 may have been cloudy then. The 9/11 commission has made it clear that there was no tie between Saddam and al Qaeda. So, in March 2003 when we invaded, we did so on either poor intelligence, which the President and his men were responsible for gathering, or on false pretenses. However, there is now a tie between Iraq and terrorism. Where there was not a terrorist threat in Iraq before, there is now, and it is because of the President's decision to isolate ourselves from the world, especially the Arab allies his father brought into the 1991 Iraq war. Now terrorists are more eager to get us than ever. Arab nations who printed newspapers on September 12 with the headline "We are all Americans" now have record-low opinions of our morality and leadership. All of this happened on this President's watch. This is because of the President's shortsighted and arrogant foreign policy."

Jeopardy! Tryout coming soon...

On October 19, I will try out for Jeopardy! This is my second attempt to make it on Jeopardy!...I came up short in 1990 for the College tournament (didn't make it past the written round). Yeah, I'm a greedy bastard...I won $11,000 on Pyramid two years ago...but I don't care. It's not even so much the money I'm aiming for. Jeopardy! is about the pride.

A history teacher buddy of mine is also trying out. We've decided that cramming for the show is useless, but cramming for the test is sensible. So I need to figure out how to bolster my weaknesses.

I've been practicing while watching the show for most of the year now, and I'm analyzing my performance in various categories. Looks like I'm more or less unbeatable in sports (no surprise), but what I thought were my other strengths--US History, US Lit, and Shakespeare--aren't coming out as strong as I'd like. Easily the most common categories are vocabulary categories (like "starts with M" or "The 'IN' Crowd"). Need to see how I'm doing there.

I'm thinking of trying to memorize every Oscar-winning film since 1950. Hey, I know the score of every Super Bowl, and memorization isn't tough for me...might as well.

Anyway, in a couple of days, I'll tell you what exactly which categories I'm going to cram for. I've got the dictionary of Cultural Literacy, an almanac, a dream, and an intense desire to avoid grading papers and cleaning the house. How can I lose?

I should really be grading.

I'm falling way behind. But I'm eager for the debate. I'm actually nervous, like this is a first date or something. Weird. I think it's because I think this damned election is so damned important but I'm so damned pessimistic. Electoral-vote.com is now a slight Bush...but this is with Kerry winning both Ohio AND Pennsylvania. That's awful. Just awful.

The best part will be that, on CNN, last years NFL (that's National FORENSICS League, you troglodytic mouth-breathers) National Debate Champion will comment on the debate. I saw him win--he's pretty good. Now a freshman at Yale. I hope he says "You know, this wasn't a debate at all. It was sequential soundbites." And Bush will therefore come out looking better. I can just feel it.

But I just can't seem to get a paper graded right now. Tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow. I'll catch up. This weekend I'll both clean the house AND grade. Do I know how to party or what?

111 papers to go. And I want them done by Tuesday, 10/11. Out of my damn house.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Congrats to the pretend girlfriend

The Seattle Storm are in the conference finals, in spite of my pretend girlfriend sullying her pretty face! Check out the photo here (scroll down a ways) and the story here.

Two observations:

1. I'm true to Sue as pretend girlfriend. She's still my pretend girlfriend even though both her eyes are black and her nose grotesquely swollen. We can still go out on the town. She's plucky.

2. When I heard that the pretend girlfriend had had her nose broken in a game against the Lynx, I automatically assumed that Katie Smith did it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

I was polled.

And it was not a good experience.

There were three questions, all of them on abortion. I only remember one of them. This isn't verbatim, but it's close:

"A great majority of Americans are pro-choice. The believe that abortion is a personal decision to be made by a woman in consultation with her family, loved ones, doctor, and clergy. Given that so many Americans feel this way, do you feel that abortion should be outlawed in all cases?"

Gee! No bias there. Not with that half-hour pro-choice introduction and the nice little "in all cases" tacked onto the end. I answered no, but only after telling the questioner how ludicrous the question was. I wish I'd remembered the name of the group giving the survey. The only thing that bugs me is that the group will release a press release saying "Most Americans Favor Right To Choose" or whatever, without showing how loaded the questions were. Any of us could write a question just as biased and get a pro-life result. No matter where you land on the abortion issue, it seems clear that this survey isn't worth a shit and a half.

Speaking of polls, Bush is back ahead on electoral-vote.com. I've grown very tied to this guy's site because he talks at great lengths about the strengths and shortcomings of the latest polls in each state. And now that I've suffered through my abortion poll experience, I look at all polls with a mine of salt, especially after 2000 and Florida. Still, I watch--it must be the sports fan in me. Strange. I hate horse-race reports, but I can't get enough of 'em.

The net result is that I don't know who's gonna win. To quote Don Henley, "The more I know, the less I understand."

Sick day

When you get sick, how do you get sick? Is it a gradual thing? With me, it's all about the sore throat. In the normal course of health, I never get sore throats, and as soon as I discover the throat is sore, I realize "uh-oh, I'm getting sick." It's then followed by the muscle aches, and finally, that bizarre feeling that I've gained an extra skull and skin on the outside of my regular skull and skin. That's in chronological order, by the way, and it can happen within an hour of each other.

I was headed for church with my fiancee yesterday (who I am daily more thrilled to be with...even as the marriage thing continues to overwhelm me just a little, the woman I've picked continues to be a major, major winner). South on the freeway, when all at once I said "I'm getting a sore throat. I'm getting sick." Sho' nuff, by the time we went to church, checked out--and selected--a reception site (we'll be announcing our wedding date tomorrow over on the wedding blog), and made it home, I was officially just a tiny bit under the weather. Temperature of 99. Logy. Achy. Fiancee got me a half gallon of grape juice and a half gallon of orange. I'm trying to drown this sucker.

I have two policies about getting a sub when I'm sick:

1. Decide before going to bed. The notion of "well, we'll see how I feel when I wake up at 5:15 AM" is a very bad one because of one obvious reason (that I haven't felt good at 5:15 AM in my entire life, and therefore can't be trusted to make that decision then) and one less obvious reason (subs called after 5:15 have trouble making it to my distant suburban school in time for first period at 7:30).

2. Don't be a freakin' hero. I'd rather miss one day for being a little sick than go to school while a little sick and miss three later days for being a lot sick.

So here I sit. This is my first sick day since I became a blogger, so I may well be trolling y'alls sites today. Why hasn't anyone posted yet? And I'll read _1984_ for an upcoming discussion with my little cherubs. And I'll write that postponed letter to my favorite college professor. And I'll watch _The Fan_, a brainless sports-related movie I taped last night.

Anyway, feel free to say hi. I'm just sitting here, you know?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Racing Edgar--results

TeacherRefPoet ran from third to home in 5.04 seconds. Second and third attempts were far slower. In fact, toward the end of the third attempt, the track coach (who was timing us) stated with genuine concern "Oooh, he's pulled up. He might be hurt." I wasn't. My going full-on is equal to others' "pulling up." Oh well. I beat a few women...wasn't slowest.

Anyway, Edgar's time of 4.5 seconds beats me easily, as I suspected it would.

Math teacher buddy needed three tries, but just does nose out Edgar at 4.46 on the third try.

Fastest runner was a humanities teacher and a real jock--she was like fifth in the nation in the shot put back in HS. She nosed out two other Humanities teachers (if it weren't for me, we'd be the fastest department this side of Gym) in a time of 4.18.

Our physics teacher filmed all of this on a digital camera, and plans to attach it to a clock to ensure the times were accurate. He'll then use it to teach some sort of physics lesson on momentum and resistance, I think. I'll be the example of the latter.

Glad I did it, though. Have a new respect for the speed of ballplayers.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Please count to six slowly...

It has come to my attention that 52% of visitors to this page leave in less than 5 seconds.

This hurts me. If you're reading this, please wait six seconds before cruising on. It'll make me look more popular. Thanks.

Edgar--The Big Day is At Hand

Friday. September 24. High Noon. My school's baseball field. I will try to run from second to third (running start and standing stop) within 5.08 seconds. I will try to run from third to home (standing start and running stop) within 4.5 seconds. This has become a huge deal at school...tomorrow is a teacher work day, so we'll head out at lunch in our sweats and shorts, warm up, and try to beat Edgar.

My math teacher buddy insists he can do it. I don't think he can. Pride cometh before a butt-kicking.

I'm even more sure I don't have a prayer, especially since Hugh pointed out that 90 feet in 4.5 seconds is the equivalent of a 15-second 100-yard dash. But, in the Olympic spirit, my joy will be from the glory of competition rather than from the result.

Results tomorrow night. Say a prayer for me.

Something's weirding me out

I've only been at this for a little while, but I'm at the stage where there are a few readers. There are some that are friendly strangers. Some are friends-of-friends. Some are people I've known for some time. Some are people I once knew.

But in one or two cases, there are people who I'm chatting with who I don't know whether I know them or not.

This does bizarre things to communication. Have I been treating friends like strangers? Strangers like intimates? Am I revealing things that I wouldn't reveal if I knew who was in the audience? I mean, I try to stay anonymous here, mostly so students don't run across this or butthead basketball coaches don't see me bitch about them. I don't even have my state listed here. I also know that anyone with a pulse and 5 minutes can figure out who I am with a few keystrokes and clicks.

I can solve this...I'll steal a page from Q's playbook.

If you're reading this, please hit the comments bar and tell me something you'd like to do with me someday. I will then have some sense who you are, and see what kind of reader/writer relationships I have here. Nobody is exempt...strangers and fiancees, parents and old buddies must respond.

Don't make me come and get you...

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Basis of my mood swings

Every morning (before driving to work, but after checking my regular blogs) I set my mood for the day by visiting a site that gives the 2004 Electoral College vote based on the latest polls. (It didn't take me long to get addicted to the site.) Lately, it's put me in a surly mood.

Today--suddenly, unexpectedly, inexplicably--it put me in an excellent mood.

Probably just toying with my emotions, this. I remain ever a pessimist. Karl Rove is just too much of an evil genius...he'll find a way to hurt me yet.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

My favorite college professor

was one of those larger-than-life figures. I guess you can classify college professors into two groups: those who are buddy-buddy with students and those who are a little more distant, seemingly a little beyond the rest of us, in an awesome (in the non-contemporary definition of that word) sense. I like both kinds, but for my money, the best professor from the first group can't hold a candle to the best professor from the second.

Professor G was so intimidating--he took absolutely no shit, tolerated absolutely no subpar work. But he had a right to demand greatness because of how incredible he was in the classroom. He combined his immense intelligence with some of the most engaging, inspiring, challenging lectures I've ever heard. His classes were so popular that they were always held at 8:30 AM to keep numbers down. Some of my best college memories are of walking across a mist-filled campus, getting a glass of grape juice from a deserted cafeteria, taking in the morning, and heading into Professor G's classroom a half hour early to review the reading and gird myself for the morning's lecture. I am not at ALL a morning person, and was less so then--I'd usually nap for two hours after his classes. But for that hour in the lecture hall, I was transported--completely rapt, utterly engaged in thought, wrestling with the very ideas that the best literature wrestles with. The class was a lecture--too big for real discussion. But for me, somehow, that made it better. While I would have loved to have heard Professor G's take on my literary interpretations or those of my classmates, part of me feels like that would have just taken time away from what I liked best--listening to him talk. My skinny, gawky, painfully earnest 19-year-old self liked nothing in the world more than 8:30-9:30 AM every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, listening to this man flesh out Emerson, then Thoreau, then Twain, Whitman, Dickinson, Fitzgerald...

Those who found Professor G unapproachable clearly never tried to approach him. He had more office hours than any other professor I encountered, and the door was wide open. To be sure, students who visited needed to bring their A game. I would rehearse my question for Professor G repeatedly on the walk across campus to his office, my Nikes sloshing on the wet gravel, rain speckling my glasses, trying to ensure that my question was intelligent enough for--was worthy of-- Professor G's office hours. In retrospect, I know that he was a good, caring teacher who would have helped me with anything from basic grammar through heavy-duty philosophy...a lot of his intimidation stuff was for show. But to me, those office visits presented a challenge--an imperative--to show him I was sharp, alert, and curious, hitting the literature on all cylinders. Of course, as soon as I would enter his office and his imposing presence, I would never get the question out properly. During those visits, I felt like English was my third language. I frequently would kick myself the whole rest of afternoon and into the night, recounting my bumbling exchanges to my buddies who understood the Professor G experience. But no matter how inarticulate my questions, he would help me for as long as it took, even as the line of students who sought him out waited past the door, each rehearsing their questions in their head, each knowing they'd get as much help as they needed, each working on that next paper, hoping that Professor G's typed page of comments on the back would show that he approved, that their thought and communication skills impressed the professor I called The Big Guy #1. (Who was The Big Guy #2? God.)

But that's not why I'm writing.

I got to know Professor G a little better when he was my honors advisor--frequency of conversation made it easier to talk to him. Our conversations frequently turned from Emerson to matters such as baseball and life at the small college we shared and loved so much. I got him a gift at the end of the year and was surprised to see him nearly in tears upon receiving it...geez, me impact him? After graduation, we exchanged letters a few times as I lurched with starts and stops into the world. I still write him a letter every year, usually at the beginning of the school year. He hasn't written back in 8-9 years, but I've never written him so that he'll write back. It's more like I just want him to know what I'm up to, want him to see that I'm teaching literature as best as I can, want to stumblebum my way through another set of explanations in his office, knowing I'll be better for having gone through it.

I've been back to my alma mater to visit friends every couple of years since graduating twelve years ago, and each time I've tried to meet up with Professor G. The first couple of times we were able to get together--he made steaks on the grill. The last couple of times, he's called me to say he was ill and couldn't make it. Bummer.

Then, last summer, I got scuttlebutt that Professor G had a year right out of a public service announcement. Apparently his alcoholism had become too serious to ignore. Two autumns ago, his department held a dramatic intervention, requiring him to check into an inpatient facility. He did. By the end of that school year, he was invited to give the Baccalaureate address at the college, and my friends back there told me it was immensely dramatic--he essentially apologized for the pain his alcoholism had caused the entire college. Now, a year later, my curiosity has finally gotten the best of me, and I have sleuthed out a video copy of the address. I watched it this morning. It moved me immensely. As I listened to the cadence of his voice and the excited tension of ideas in the air, I was transported back to his classroom, but this time, his own life and sadness were the text, and I have to say that I had a hell of a time reading it. Professor G told about his alcohol problem of the past 30 years, of how he went from functioning well to functioning less well, describing how he enjoyed getting to the end of his early-morning class so that he could get home to have his first drinks of the day. I don't know which was worse for me--the discovery of how serious his problem and pain were, or what surely was the difficulty of Professor G saying this to a large group of people. Given that I didn't even know about his alcoholism, this was a lot to sort through in one sitting. He said he has a new understanding of why Dante had to take a trip through hell to change his life, of Thoreau's knowledge that heaven is all around us, and of Milton's God's descriptions of grace.

That was this morning. Tonight, I started to write my annual letter to Professor G. I got two sentences in (hello, professor, the weather is cold and rainy, and I'm starting my sixth year teaching) before I stopped cold. I want to say something about what he's been through, but predictably, my thoughts are getting hopelessly jumbled. Hallmark doesn't make "Congratulations You've Completed Substance Abuse Rehab" cards (I checked), so I'm left to my own devices. Do I ignore this event in his life? Do I gloss over it? (I heard about your Baccalaureate speech. Congratulations.) Yes, he's the one who, as AA recommends, made his admission/apology public, but still, how can I talk about the struggles of The Big Guy #1 to his face?

I think I know what's stopping me. It's that this is a writing assignment that I don't feel equipped to get right. I'll offend. I'll lapse into cliche. I'll be insipid and shallow. I'll disappoint. I'll be The Alumnus Who Holds On Too Long. I'll fucking get it wrong. And for him--for this guy who's impacted me as much as any teacher I've ever had--I want to do better. I want to do more. More than I feel capable of right now.

Racing Edgar--update

I took a stopwatch to the M's game last night to time Edgar running the bases. I then timed him again on the TiVo. Here's what I have to beat.

Home to first (on a groundout when Edgar slows up a good deal after being thrown out): 5.78 seconds.

(As a point of comparison, Ichiro Suzuki, one of the fastest guys in the game, made it to first from home in 3.85 seconds. Although, to be fair, this was a tight groundout that he had a serious chance at beating out.)

Later, after an (untimed) single, Edgar advanced from first to third on a Bret Boone single (I know...Edgar NEVER does that!). I was able to time him from second to third. I have him at 4.94 seconds...stopping standing up at third.

Finally, Edgar tagged up and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jolbert Cabrera (I know...Edgar NEVER tags up!). I have him at approximately 4.50 from third to home, running across the plate rather than stopping.

The table is open, and your bets are welcome (although I will not collect or pay any money). Can I beat Edgar in a footrace?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Headline:

From yahoo.com this afternoon:

"Judge orders U.S. to find Bush records"

I never had a Bush record. I've had friends put "Wuthering Heights" and "Running Up That Hill" on mix tapes, but I certainly can't help the judge find any. And if I did have one, what would the judge want with it?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Am I faster than a professional athlete?

Edgar Martinez is retiring this season. Over my nine seasons as a Mariner fan, Edgar has become my favorite baseball player, probably of all time. I'll be there on Sunday, October 3, to see him play his final game, and I hope that his incredible lifetime numbers get him into the Hall of Fame...although I'm not optimistic...the voters are brutal with DH's, and since Edgar won't make 3000 hits, I don't think he'll be joining fellow DH-er (and current Mariner hitting coach) Paul Molitor.

But the thing about Edgar is that he's slow. Painfully slow. Laughably slow. Slower than the cable guy on the day you took off of work. Slower than frozen molasses. And I love it. In Edgar's defense, he is not only 41 years old, but he's had such awful problems with his hamstrings that they've basically fossilized inside his skin. This means Edgar can't afford to run at all hard. The risk is too great...any burst of speed, and his hamstrings might snap like harp strings between wire cutters. As a result, Edgar runs sort of bowlegged, barely bending either knee. You have to see it to understand it--right about now, every baseball fan from Anchorage to Portland and out east to Cour d'Alene is nodding in understanding. I can't think of a slower professional athlete in the entire world, except maybe sumo wrestlers.

At the game on Monday night--and I swear I don't know how this came up--a math teacher buddy and I started wondering aloud whether we were faster than Edgar. The math teacher--a guy in reasonable shape, in his mid-40s--insists he'd beat Edgar in a footrace to first base. I think, as much as I've just made fun of his speed, Edgar would beat both of us. After all, he's a pro athlete.

But now, I'm terribly curious. I want to know how I'd stack up to Edgar.

Make no mistake--I'm slllooowwww. In elementary school gym class, I was always second-to-last in footraces. The kid in last went on to become a drug dealer and dropout. (I sometimes wonder if my life would have been different if he'd beaten me in those races.)

Even when I ref basketball, I am slow. Evaluators repeatedly told me that I "run wrong," so I hired a personal trainer to teach me proper running form, a sweet female Russian marathon runner. My form was so bad that, during an early lesson, this sweet Russian woman actually laughed at me. But she helped me out a lot. I remember her advice every time I do a game...her heavily-accented voice echoes in the back of my head shouting her most common advice, which I reproduce here verbatim: "Run on your balls! Run on your balls!"

Net result: I have a new, tangible physical fitness goal. I must beat Edgar.

So I'm TiVoing every Mariner game for the rest of the year, and I'll time Edgar going from home to first every time they show it. (Tonight, they did not...a strikeout, a popout, a forceout at second, and a single...but never did they show Edgar touch first base). I'll get back in shape for my return to the court (after a three year absence) in two months. I'll get back up to speed. I'll get back to my 2001 weight. I'll run on my balls. And in the next couple of months, I will defeat Edgar.

The greatest hitter of the last decade--he's going DOWWWWWNNNN.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Dirty Dancing

Friday night, I chaperoned a dance at school. Not a formal affair--one that the kids call "junior-high style." I don't normally get within a billion miles of a school dance if I can help it, but this one raises money for the team I coach, so I chaperone it every year. It's not terrible. The music is played at Get-Manuel-Noriega-Or-David-Koresh-To-Leave-The-Compound volume, sure, but that was true back in my day as well (not that I attended too many dances--just two homecomings and two proms, plus a couple of post-play parties).

In the years since I got my groove on as a HS student, dancing as most certainly changed. As best as I can tell, there are two basic styles of current (non-slow) dancing.

1. Students grind on each other. In other words:

1a. Students straddle each other's thighs and rub crotches on each other. Yeah, a bit of a dry-thigh-hump. Or:

1b. Students stand back to front and rub on each other, often forming trains.

As chaperone, since 100% of the folks dancing are dancing this way, it's not like I'd stop it. And I'm not sure I should--criticizing this dance style feels akin to my elders criticizing the Twist. But then there's the other dance style:

2. Students mime sex.

I'm talking here about a girl getting in front of a guy, bending over, and maneuvering her legs, butt, and torso in a manner that indicates she is, getting, um, well, sexual relations from the man (or woman) behind her. Up and down, towards and away, legs opening and closing...then run on to the next guy and repeat.

I'm not prude, but I'm not comfortable with the 15-18 year olds dancing like this all night. But again...can't stop all of them...the alternative is not having a dance. The only dance I've stopped in seven years of doing this dance was last year--a lap dance. Guy sitting, girl bouncing on him. Too much.

This observation would be fairly unremarkable, except something a fellow teacher said while chaperoning the dance has been sticking with me since that night. After watching this for a long time, after even seeing a couple doing the grind-dance while periodically grabbing each other's butt-cheeks, he said the following (very loudly so I could hear him above the hellishly-loud music): "This is healthy. I'd rather they do this than actually go out and have sex."

Healthy? I beg to differ.

Teenage sex? Gonna happen. Can't stop it. That's why I'm required by the district to teach kids how to put on a condom every year, and why I'm happy to do those lessons. And I don't think teenage sex is in and of itself unhealthy, although I wouldn't recommend it.

But even though surveys show that not too many more teens are sexually active now than were in the 1980s (here are the numbers for this and every other teen sex stat you might want to know), when I see this dirty dancing happening, it looks to me like the specialness has evaporated from body-to-body contact. A good chunk of the fun of making out, especially when it's all new in the teenage years, is the anticipation of it all. A simple slow-dance was enough for me, or watching someone move their body to the music. Watching my partner move, imagining/hoping there'd be a kiss or more later...that was wonderful...or feeling her body heat in my arms...that was great. Even racier stuff...like one girlfriend who grabbed my tie, pulling me over to her to sing a particularly racy line to a song. Or my sexy fiancee, who has a way of shaking her hips to silly songs. She thinks she's being wacky, but I kinda like it.

My colleague's comment got me to thinking about whether miming sex on the dance floor is likely to lead to sex. The numbers indicate not. We were abstaining at about the same rate back when we were jumping up and down to the Scorpions. If pretending to have sex prevented sex, the numbers of sexually active teens would be way, way down. But healthy????

What happened to modesty? Modesty is sexy. It is sexy because, well, it makes sex sexy. How would necking and trying to get to second base have any excitement when there's already been a dry-hump against the crotch--a few dozen times with a couple dozen girls all night long?

And that's when it occurred to me--these dances bugged me not because they were sexual, which they were. It's that they were sexual without being even remotely sexy. And as best as I can tell, they're missing out on something. Not innocence. Worse. They're missing out on real sexiness--the sexiness of a partner who makes eye contact with you on the dance floor--sharing a secret she'll tell you louder, later, when you're alone.

This generation doesn't get that. And even though they're just as virginal as we were, I think that's a shame.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Hungry?

Anyone want to head out to Clearfield, PA with me for lunch?

But we'd better hold the fries on the 6-lb. burger, especially if we want to finish it in under 90 minutes for some special prizes.

Snopes.com (one of my all-time favorite websites) has pictures. Check it out here.

And those are damned disturbing and disgusting pictures. According to the restaurant's website, nobody has ever finished the burger.

In a related story, I've now lost eight pounds in the last month. I could dip under 200 before basketball season. The ultimate goal is to be back to 190. This even though I've misplaced my pedometer for the third time.

The weekend.

Saddest moment of the weekend:

I was having a cool time with my 10-year-old nephew at the Mariners game today. (M's won 2-0. Gil Meche pitched a shutout. Gil Meche stopped to pet my college buddy's golden retriever three years ago during spring training in Arizona, so I like him.) My nephew mentioned the previous night's M's game. I said "I didn't get a chance to see it. Hmmm. What was I doing last night? Oh yeah. I was grading papers."

Not that I'm complaining. I get plenty of stress-free summer ballgames.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

College sweatshirts

Three Bed Two Bath posted a link to this very good and thought-provoking article about students' and parents' obsession with getting into a "gotta-get-in" college. The article, which I recommend you read from top to bottom, points out that there is almost no difference between the "elite" schools and the merely "excellent" schools, so all of the student and parent angst is a bit overblown when one considers the minimal difference between the top 50-75 colleges and universities.

The part about this that bugs me is the way it impacts my job teaching high school. I teach at a very good (and, in a related story, very affluent) public high school, and the pressure these kids feel to get into a name school is incredible. The net result (as I see it) at the student level is that they believe that the purpose of high school is to get into an elite college. This irritates me. I mean, I like the kids and admire both their and their parents' drive, but still, I'm bothered. The purpose of high school, I believe, is not to get into any college. Rather, it is to get an education. More specifically, the purpose of my class is to teach the lil' cherubs to read thoughtfully, write clearly, and think critically. I'd like to think that is valuable in and of itself, regardless of which (if any) colleges my students wind up attending. Also, according to too many kids, the purpose of a school club or activity is not to enjoy and challenge one's self, but to get into a good college; the purpose of community service is not to help one's neighbors out, but to get into a good college; the purpose of taking a particular class is not interest in a subject matter, but...and on and on...It just doesn't feel right.

As I see it, this perspective of so many students (and a disturbing chunk of parents) leads to all sorts of consequences that are bad for education. For one thing, many parents are dying to track their kids rather than taking steps to ensure all kids get a good education. After all, if only one of the top 25 schools will do, getting an excellent education isn't the goal--instead, the goal has to be getting an education just a little bit better than the rest of the kids on the block. The next step is terrible pressure for grade inflation. I believe there are parents who wouldn't care if I showed movies and ate popcorn every day, never having the kids read or write or think, as long as there was an A on the report card. Not kids, parents. Yes, these are a minority--I don't want to sound like I'm overgeneralizing or whining. But I do get the feeling that, after the kids graduate, the name on the college sweatshirt is more important to many parents and students than the quality of education they received on the way there.

Why was I ever an optimist?

At the start of this election cycle, before Kerry was picked, I was convinced that Bush would find a way to win. I figured that the Democratic nominee would step forward, and as soon as he did, Bush's Lee Atwater Memorial Hatchet team would go to work slamming him until he was burned beyond recognition, and Bush would cloud the issue enough to win.

Then Kerry came forward and I started changing my mind. I actually started believing that he could win. It was mathematics, really: the 2000 election was a de facto tie, and I believed a chunk of people who voted for Bush in 2000 would be voting for Kerry this time around, where I didn't think it possible that anyone who voted for Gore in 2000 would vote for Bush this time. I actually was optimistic for a brief while.

But dammit, Bush's smear tactics worked. I mean, who buys this crap? Why don't we actually debate? I do believe Bush is the 43rd-best president we've had out of the 43, and I'll argue that with anyone. But it's hard to argue about his record when we're talking about Vietnam.

And now, the worst part. Cheney is strongly hinting that a vote for Kerry makes it likely that there will be a terrorist attack. This is a ludicrous argument even on its face. Al Qaeda attacked under Clinton, and it attacked under Bush. Bush has warned they may attack again to disrupt the election--so that'd be under Bush's watch. They will attack again regardless of who wins. So Cheney's "vote for us so that nobody gets hurt" argument is so ugly and specious that it's really brought me down. I try very hard to say "they're not bad people, I just disagree with them." But Dick is doing everything he can to change my mind. It's Willie Horton again, only worse.

I was right the first time. Republicans' dirty campaign tricks work. That's why they keep doing them. The moral question for me is this: should the Dems be equally dirty to give them an equal chance to win, or should we lay back, be civil, and lose? Believe it or not, I'd rather do the latter.

The Fiancee' and I are thinking of honeymooning abroad. If Bush wins, we may stay there.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The start of the year...

I'm always worried about starting out by talking too much, but don't want to give kids too much leeway right at first...set a tone of seriousness...but I don't want to dominate. I think they're not doing enough talking yet, and I worry...but still, I feel like these kids are sooooo scared. I'll draw them out eventually. They've only been in HS for a week now.

I analyze my classes so much early on. Analyze myself so much...Anyway, I get to teach today's lesson three times more tomorrow. It always gets better with time.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Oh. My. God.

Did anyone see The Daily Show's send-up of Bush's "vote for me" video? "George W. Bush: Words Speak Louder than Actions." AMAZINGLY funny. It perfectly encapsulates the major problems of this president and the last four years. I want to show it to a Bush supporter and challenge him/her to tell me what's inaccurate about this portrayal of Bush's last four years. Of course, I'd probably just be called unpatriotic if I did that.

Please click on the link and check out the video. It's stupendous because it's so on-the-money.

New Poet in my life

David Berman.

I looked at "Actual Air" for a good long time at Powell's Books over the weekend. After every single poem, I was thinking "Goodness, I don't understand this in the least. But I sure am struck by emotion and interested."

Maybe I'll buy it. But I'm forcing myself into fiscal responsibility for the next 11 months.

Wedding stuff...

Hey, y'all...

The Fiancee has had a very good idea. We've set up a wedding blog. This way this nascent blog won't be overwhelmed with wedding planning and such, and those of you who want to see The Fiancee and me kvetching about 11 months of wedding planning fun/hell can take a look at that over there.

We welcome you over there!